Skip to main content

Posts

Showing posts from December, 2012

CBR4 #47: Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter by Seth Grahame-Smith

I'm not sure why it surprised me to find out that the guy who is responsible for Pride & Prejudice & Zombies is a graduate of my alma mater. To be honest, it actually makes perfect sense--that kind of weirdness is one of Emerson's keystones. In Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, the author once again turns preconcieved notions on their ears.

This story is about a side of our sixteenth president that is rarely spoken of: his lifelong quest to hunt and destroy vampires. Beginning as a child when a vampire killed his beloved mother, young Abraham trains for what he sees as his life's purpose: to be a hunter of the undead. He joins up with a moral vampire, who helps him reach his potential and seek out the most ruthless bloodsuckers to slay. He also begins his political career, starting his rise toward the highest office in the land.

In AL:VH, Grahame-Smith takes on a more difficult task. Instead of inserting new things into a pre-existing work, he's written somethin…

CBR4 #46: The Hotel New Hampshire by John Irving

There are some books that I read and by the time I'm finished with the final page, the tale is already slipping out of my head. I intellectually know I read it, and if prompted I could probably give a reasonable summary of the action, but that's about as far as it goes. Then there are other books that stick with me. Books that I find myself thinking about days, weeks, months, or even years later. Books whose characters become like old friends, about whom I find myself thinking at the oddest times.

The Hotel New Hampshire falls into the latter category.

It's the story of the Berry family, a group of odd ducks led by patriarch Win. Win is a dreamer, who leads his family on an epic journey from rural New Hampshire, to Vienna, to New York City, and back again. The family consists of Win, his wife, his father Iowa Bob (football coach and weight-lifting enthusiast), eldest son Frank (lover of uniforms), spitfire Franny, narrator John (who is in love with his sister), gentle soul …

CBR4 #45: The Good Soldiers by David Finkel

I really should stop reading these books about troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. They only seem to make me feel angry, upset, and hopeless about the situation there.

David Finkel spent the majority of 2007 and part of 2008 following a battalion of Army Rangers as they participated in the "surge" in Iraq. It focuses mostly on their commanding officer, Lieutenant Colonel Ralph Kauzlarich (by the end referred to by his troops as "Lost Kauz") and his struggles to try and be successful at a task that seems doomed to fail. They are tasked with improving the situation in Baghdad by patrolling, setting up outposts, and making inroads with the local people. Instead, they spend most of their time avoiding IEDs, being shelled, and trying to navigate the bureaucratic nightmare that accompanies trying to accomplish anything.

Meanwhile, soldiers--ones we have been introduced to and have followed for pages or even chapters--die. Or are horribly maimed. Or are psychologically broken…

CBR4 #44: The Road to Madness by H. P. Lovecraft

This book was my first experience with Lovecraft, and I'm not sure I'm all that thrilled with him. It consists of a number of short stories, spanning the length of his career. They're all supposed to be dark and spooky, though some are more successful than others.

There were a few stories I liked. "Herbert West: Reanimator" was pretty good--it's a tale of an experimental scientist gone made--but it was clearly originally published as a serial, since at the beginning of each section the author goes back and recaps everything that JUST HAPPENED which gets a little annoying. However, a lot of the stories were either unnecessarily long ("At the Mountains of Madness") or not very interesting. He also, earlier in his career, had a tendency to pull the "Up the tension, up the tension, up the tension...AND THEN IT TURNED OUT HIS MOTHER WAS AN ALBINO GORILLA THE WHOLE TIME! The End" bit more than was acceptable. I mean, I like a good twist ending, …

CBR4 #43: The Wind Through the Keyhole by Stephen King

Remember what I was saying about how I love Stephen King, but I sometimes wonder why I bother?

Stories like The Wind Through the Keyhole are why I keep coming back, no matter how many times old SK burns with with terrible endings or ass weasels or giant spiders. This is a good, solid fantasy novel. There are no tricks, no nonsense. Just a really great story.

This book takes place during the events of the Dark Tower series, in betweenWizard and Glass and Wolves of the Calla. It's not really tied in to the plot of the series--it's more like an interlude within it. Roland the Gunslinger and his ka-tet find themselves trapped in a building, waiting out a very bad storm. While they wait, Roland tells Eddie, Susannah, Jake, and Oy a tale of his youth. Then, within that story, he tells a scared young boy another story, the tale of Tim Stoutheart. All the stories are reflections of the larger through-lines of the series, but this is also probably the only one that could be read as a s…

CBR4 #42: Dreamcatcher by Stephen King

Oh, Stephen King. I love your work so much, but there are times when I wonder if you're worth it.

Dreamcatcher is not an utterly terrible book. It is not nearly as painfully dull as The Tommyknockers, but it is not good either. While it has its moments, there is also a lot of unnecessarily gross gore, and the plot is...not good.

The book is the story of four friends--Henry, Pete, Jonesy, and Beaver--who come together once a year at a remote hunting cabin to spend time together and celebrate their childhood friendship. Although they've grown apart, they are also bonded by more than just the times they spent together as kids--they have a fifth friend, Duddits, who is very, very special. Although Duddits appears to be just a man with Down's syndrome, he is actually a LOT more. While the group are spending time out in the woods, a man wanders into their camp, displaying some very odd symptoms. Pretty soon, the four find themselves involved in a situation that could have effects…

CBR4 #41: Sandman Slim by Richard Kadrey

Eleven years ago, James Stark's friends cast him into hell. Unfortunately for them, he's escaped. Now he's roaming the streets of Los Angeles--armed with supernatural weapons, hellion spells, and the skills picked up from spending more than a decade doing battle in hell's arena with the worst the underworld had to offer--looking for revenge on the people who cast him down and in particular the ones who killed the woman he loved.

With the help of an immortal alchemist, a literal talking head, a mysterious man who sells very mysterious things, an angry angel, an underground doctor, and a video store clerk, Stark discovers that he's not the only one with an axe to grind...and that the fate of the entire world may just hang in the balance with only him to save it.

I like this book a lot. It reads like a Jason Statham movie--blood, guts, action, magic, fights, and funny one-liners. I enjoyed all the characters, though some were not fleshed out as well as I'd like, s…

CBR4 #40: Coffin County by Gary Braunbeck

The town of Cedar Hill is one of those places. It's a place like Derry, Maine or Bon Temps, Louisiana or Sunnydale, California; it's a place where things are not quite right, nor have they ever been. The town--since its founding--seems to draw tragedy and death like a magnet. From a massacre of the early settlers right up until the explosion and fire at the coffin factory that destroyed an entire neighborhood a few years ago, the people of Cedar Hill have become accustomed to bloody surprises.

Police detective Ben Littlejohn finds himself chasing another one of Cedar Hill's deadly mysteries when he's called to the scene of a mass murder in a diner. The murderer has left his fingerprints all over the scene, and Ben hopes it will be an open-and-shut case. Of course, that's not how it works out. The fingerprints are but the first of many indications that things have gone wildly askew. Soon, Ben is confronted by inexplicable new tombstones appearing in the cemetery, an…

Life Lessons: 2012

I recently celebrated my 31st birthday, and late in the festivities, I was asked for five life-lessons I have learned in my 3+ decades of living.

Here's what I came up with:

1. Don't make terrible decisions. Of course, not every terrible decision is obvious in its terribleness at the time it's made. But let's admit it: some of them totally are. If something seems like a terrible idea, DON'T DO IT. Or at least think it over further. A lot of the stupid things that have happened to me over the years were preventable, and at the time I was doing them, I KNEW they were bad ideas. So, you know, stop doing that.

2. In the words of the most fabulous RuPaul, "What other people think of me is none of my business." I'm still working on this one, but it's an important step. Learning to live without constantly worrying about how other people perceive me is not easy, but it's definitely been beneficial. As we all know, haters gonna hate. The trick is to sa…