Skip to main content

Posts

Showing posts from May, 2011

CR3 #44: Kaboom by Matthew Gallagher

(Please excuse any mistakes in military terminology--I am woefully ignorant when it comes to the differences between squads and platoons, or which rank is higher. Therefore, I am going to try and use generic terms whenever possible.)

Matt Gallagher's Kaboom has a lot in common with Evan Wright's book Generation Kill. They are both stories that involve a small, young, tightly-knit military group trying to stay alive in Iraq. However, there are also many differences.

1. Generation Kill is a story about a group of Marines who are one of the first groups to enter Iraq. They face the difficulties of overthrowing the current regime and figuring out exactly who the enemy are. Gallagher's group is Army, and they are there in 2007 - 2009, doing more of the clean-up and maintenance work. The Marines spend their time driving around hostile countryside throughout Iraq, constantly meeting with enemy fire. Gallagher's group are for the most part stationed in one city, and spend their …

CR3 #43: Velocity by Dean Koontz

I wish I enjoyed Dean Koontz's books as much as I want to. They've got most of the elements that I usually enjoy in books: murder mysteries, characters making tough choices, sometimes some supernatural stuff is involved. His writing is tidy and the plots are tied together relatively coherently. I guess my issue is that his work is...workmanlike. Stephen King's books might be over-wordy and the endings are almost universally stupid, but his writing seems to have more passion--his characters seem to have more life. You could say that--in my opinion, anyway--Dean Koontz's books follow the letter of the law, but not the spirit.

In Velocity, we find (seemingly) average bartender Billy Wiles faced with a choice: Someone has left a note on his car, saying that if he contacts the police, an elderly woman heavily involved with charity will die, and if he does nothing, a young red-headed school teacher will die. Billy is a person who normally keeps to himself and tries to get thr…

CR3 #42: The Walking Dead 1 - 11 by Robert Kirkman

I've been trying to figure out if these are worthy of being part of the Cannonball Read, and have finally decided that putting them all together as one entry is probably okay. And if it's not okay, who exactly is going to stop me?

So I'd heard of The Walking Dead graphic novels before the show debuted on AMC. One of The Boyfriend's co-workers happens to be an avid comic fan, and one evening when we were all out, I asked if it might be possible to borrow the books from him. The next day, issues 1 - 4 arrived.

The beginning of this reminds me very much of the beginning of the movie 28 Days Later, in that it is one man (in this case, police officer Rick Grimes) waking up in a deserted hospital and staggering outside to discover that the entire world has fallen apart while he's been unconscious. He's not sure where his wife and young son have gone, and also...it turns out that the dead have risen to walk the earth.

The books follow Rick and his journey, first to find …

I pity the fog!: The A-Team and The Fog

So I thought it might be nice to take a break from my never-ending onslaught of book reviews to talk about some movies I watched recently. Yes, I know, it's just yet more "What did the Caustic Critic think about things?" but since this is a blog, and therefore nearly the pinnacle of self-involvement anyway...I figured it would be okay.

Last weekend was gross and wet for the most part, so I had plenty of time to sit on my butt and watch movies. I FINALLY got to two of the three Netflix movies that have been sitting on the TV table for about a month (whimpering "Watch us! Watch us!" as they collected dust).

First off, I watched the new film version of The A-Team. I figured it would be right up my alley, seeing as I love movies that are made up almost entirely of wisecracks and inexplicable explosions. Mind you, I've only ever watched about 3/4 of one original A-Team episode, so I wasn't really bringing in any prior baggage. But I had some questions:
Liam Nee…

CR3 #41: When the Women Come Out to Dance by Elmore Leonard

If it weren't for Timothy Olyphant, I never would have picked up this book.

Let me clarify: I started watching Justified on FX because Timothy Olyphant is basically sex on a stick. It turned out the show is actually pretty awesome, and not JUST because of Olyphantastic, there. It's a well-written show with some truly fascinating characters, set in an unfamiliar but richly detailed world.

I noticed recently while watching a note saying the show was "Based on the short story 'Fire in the Hole' by Elmore Leonard." I figured that since I enjoy the show so much, I should give the source material a chance.

Lucky me!

This collection of short stories by Elmore Leonard is exactly what a short collection should be: each piece is a small, detailed, stand-alone world. The characters, though briefly sketched, definitely come alive. We find the first run-in between Marshall Raylan Givens and his childhood friend and current target Boyd Crowder (basically the pilot episode of J…

CR3 #40: Sweet and Deadly by Charlaine Harris

Six months ago, Catherine Linton's parents both died in a suspicious car accident, leaving 23-year-old Catherine to fend for herself in her small hometown. After she has finally gotten her life back together (more or less) she goes out to do some target shooting one morning and finds a horribly mutilated dead body. Things go downhill from there. There follows another dead body, some romance, some intrigue, and the usual mystery story tropes.

This is CharlaineHarris's first published novel, and although it's definitely not up to her later work, you can see where she is headed. The small town, the quirky heroine, the budding romance--all of these are things that will show up later in her other series. The character of Catherine most closely resembles RoTeagarden, in that she is nothing more than a petite and often frightened woman. However, she uses her brains to solve the murders and catch the perpetrator. However, she can be just a tiny bit too nervous and whiny for my tast…

CR3 #39: Eight Cousins by Louisa May Alcott

Eight Cousins is a fairly typical Alcott tale. It touches on her themes of teaching good behavior by example, sacrificing for others, and not over-taxing children's minds while neglecting their bodies and spirits.

Rose is a twelve year old whose invalid father recently passed away. Since her mother died when she was very young, the young girl is sent to live with her elderly aunts under the care of her Uncle Alec. Rose is weak and ill, having spent many years tending her father and living without the companionship of people her own age. Uncle Alec thinks that the best thing to do with Rose is to build up her constitution with exercise, fun, and frolic. In this, he engages the assistance of Rose's seven male cousins who live nearby. The story takes place during her first year at "Aunt Hill," and covers all the little adventures of the group.

There are some bits that can be rather patronizing and preachy. Although I think Alcott's basic philosophy about how children …

CR3 #38: City on Fire by Bill Minutaglio

Nearly every book I've read about disasters has had a common theme: They were probably preventable. Most of the non-natural disasters were directly caused (or at the very least helped along) by greed, negligence, or a combination of the two. Cutting corners to save money or time has been the cause of an untold number of deaths in our nation's history. And yet very rarely is anyone at the top ever punished--on occasion, a lower-level middle management type will end up as a scapegoat for whatever happened, but almost never does anyone who actually made the decisions wind up taking the heat. I thought I had almost reached a point where I could no longer be surprised.

Well, I was wrong. City on Fire: The Forgotten Disaster That Devastated a Town and Ignited a Landmark Legal Battle is the worst of the worst. It is both the worst disaster I think I have read about thus far AND the worst example of the danger of corporate (and governmental) greed and neglect I have encountered. This b…

CR3 #37: Dead Reckoning by Charlaine Harris

Dead Reckoning is the eleventh book in CharlaineHarris's Southern Vampire (aka True Blood) series. I pre-ordered it as soon as the option existed, and it arrived last week, much to my delight.

Did any of you see the third Pirates of the Caribbean movie? If you did, maybe you'll understand my feelings about this book. I LIKED the first PotC movie a lot, and I liked the second one quite a bit, too. I was invested in what was going to happen to the characters I cared about. The third movie had bits that I really really enjoyed. I got to find out the continuing story of Jack Sparrow and Elizabeth Swann. However, the plot was a complete disaster, and it was as if the writer accepted some kind of dare to wedge in as many old AND new characters as possible. Even though I mostly enjoyed it, the whole thing was a sloppy, wildly overdone wreck, saved only by the main characters' sheer presence, the exit of several unpleasant and/or boring characters, and by the fact that the set-up f…

CR3 #36: American Gods by Neil Gaiman

There is something about Neil Gaiman's style that I really really enjoy. His work is fantasy, and it's often got some dark humor to it, but it's neither obnoxious nor unbelievable.

The main idea of American Gods is that when people came to the United States, they all brought versions of their own native gods (or legends, or mythological beings) with them. As time went on, however, the people began to stop worshipping--or forget entirely about--those ancient gods (for example the Norse god Odin, Mad Sweeney from Ireland, the Zorya from Russia, or the ancient Egyptian gods). The gods were left to try and fend for themselves as personified, but still magical beings. Even worse, they now much compete with the modern gods of Media, the Internet, and the other things that Americans tend to worship. The main character of the story is Shadow, an ex-con who suffers a tragic event and then finds himself mixed up with the mysterious Mr. Wednesday. Mr. Wednesday is preparing for an epi…