Monday, October 31, 2011

Just Finished: "Flaming London" by Joe R. Lansdale

Just Finished: Flaming London by Joe R. Lansdale, 2005, 1596060255.

This library copy looks to be signed by the Kung-Fu-Ness himself. This was short at 176 and 1/2 pages but still filled with Lansdale goodness.

Flaming follows Zeppelins West with a freshly sobered Mark Twain leaving North Africa for Spain to visit Jules Verne. On the way to Verne's house Twain discovers a seal with a metal box on his head. This is Ned the Seal from Zeppelins. He survived a shark attack and washed ashore covered in shark bites and wishing for fish to eat.

Twain brings Ned to Verne and they get him healed up. Ned wants fish. Simultaneously, cylinders fired from cannons on Mars, and filled with green, tentacled Martians, are landing across the globe. The Martians emerge from their cylinders and start driving around tripod robots and killing people. Ned wants fish.

Twain, Verne and Ned flee. The trio escape in helium balloon. Ned is hungry for fish. Trio land on island. Trio free Sitting Bull and Cat (both from Zeppelins) and a few others from pirates. Rips in time have parallel worlds exchanging people and beasts. Including a huge ape man name Rikwalk. They all escape and land in England. Trio and a few others decide to look for HG Wells. Ned looks about for fish.

Martians have killed most and destroyed most. Ned needs fish. Fighting ensues. Group is separated. Group reunites. Martians are dying from infection. Ned wonders if the octopus like Martians taste like regular octopus. Ned prefers fish. Even rotting fish.

HG Wells builds time machine and group prepares to set off and fix rips in time and space.

1. Ned likes fish and seal sex.
2. Many mentions of assholes. Both literal and figurative.
3. This Halloween candy I am eating as I type is not very good. What mass produced candy is?
4. Not as much dick talk as in Zeppelins.
5. Silliness and humor like all Lansdale novels I have read.

Read a Few Days Ago: "Beat to a Pulp" edited by David Cranmer and Elaine Ash

Read a Few Days Ago: Beat to a Pulp: volume one edited by David Cranmer and Elaine Ash, 2010, 9780615388243.

This is a well rounded list of pulp with more than just crime stories. There is science fiction, pirates, stuff I don't recall. 27 stories off the online magazine I never read. Bill Crider wrote a foreword and I skipped it. Ha! I'm done being your dancing monkey, Crider! (Except for compulsively checking the blog and reading about Sheriff Rhodes.)

I suppose I should list a few favorite stories. Let me take a quick flip through the pages.

Hell, I don't know. One story had a guy trying to stimulate a dead man's prostate while his girlfriend tried to get pregnant. I don't recall the author.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Finished: "Choke Hold" by Christa Faust

Finished: Choke Hold by Christa Faust, 2011, 9780857682857.

I was hesitant to read this novel because it's predecessor, Money Shot, was so damned good. Faust has written plenty of novels before so I wasn't worried about a sophomore slump. But, Money Shot was so damned good. This was just as good.

Angel Dare is working in a roadside diner near Yuma when an old porn boyfriend walks in. Boyfriend - with a huge schlong - recognizes her right off. Angel had been in witness protection after the last novel but skipped when the evil Croatian guy tracked her down to Massachusetts.

Boyfriend With Huge Schlong is in the diner by chance; he is there to meet his long lost son. Boyfriend With Huge Schlong is soon shot down by young Latino gangbangers. Angel, Boyfriend With Huge Schlong's son, Cody, drag Boyfriend With Huge Schlong out to the SchlongMobile and take off. Boyfriend With Huge Schlong dies but not before getting Angel to promise to watch after 19 year old Cody. Cody and Angel head to friend of Cody's, Hank. Hank is Cody's MMA trainer and sort-of-foster dad. Hank has dementia pugilistica and suffers migraines and frequent memory lapses.

Angel is afraid for her life and thinks the shooters may have been from the Croatian. Or were they after Schlongster? Who were they? Adventures ensue.

Angel and Hank head to Mexico to rescue Cody who seems to be kidnapped by illegal fight organizer and drug smuggler Cody has been working for. Shoot-outs happen. Blood sprays. Angel rides Cody's own Huge Schlong. Hank is told by smuggler to kill Cody With Huge Schlong. Hank doesn't Smuggler and others arrive. Violence ensues.

Cody With Huge Schlong, Hank, and Angel head to Vegas and the hoped for safety of an MMA reality tv show Cody With Huge Schlong expects to be on. Bad Croatians track them down. Violence ensues. Cody With Huge Schlong bangs stripper while sucking her toes. Trio arrive in Vegas. Croatians follow. Violence ensues. Angel, Cody With Huge Schlong and Hank captured. Only Angel survives.

1. Angel still has emotional issues. She is great at fucking but the before and after emotions are alien to her and she does not want to explore them. Angel prostitutes herself to a couple times. Tto her that is self-preservation and work and nothing to be ashamed of.
2. Issue of porn stars and self-hatred addressed. Angel enjoyed her work and the porn business and the friends she had before she went into protection. But, Angel is also blowing smoke because she is a bit damaged from her own rough family past and inability to love someone.
3. Plenty of MMA detail and information. Training, vitamin supplements, pain killers, ugly t-shirts. Faust wrote before about the research she did on this and she put that information in here.
4. Faust keeps the action rolling along in what is - if I remember correctly - a 72 hour period of time.
5. Angel gets hard for Hank but pushes herself away because she 1- Wants to get away and hide again, 2- Unwilling to try a relationship. Hank is also very clingy and unable to get erection.
6. Schlong, schlong, schlong.
7. Great line by Angel that explains her actions and the whole book, "Look, there are no good guys here," I said. "You do what you have to."

Friday, October 21, 2011

Listened: "The High King" by Lloyd Alexander

Listened: The High King by Lloyd Alexander, date - heck if I know, download.

Finale of the Prydain series and the longest and most dramatic novel of the five. Many deaths in this novel but Alexander continued with the lack of blood and detail.

Taran is traveling home to Caer Dalben after the events of Wanderer when his crow arrives to tell him Eilonwy has returned. He rushes home, eager to propose. Proposal is delayed when Fflewddur arrives with an injured Gwydion. Fflewddur and Gwydion were ambushed by a Arawn who was disguised as Taran and beset by huntsmen. Gwydion enchanted sword [whatever] is stolen.

Gwydion must regain the sword, it's power cannot be used by Arawn. Arawn is also building up for an invasion of Prydain. All of them including Gurgi and Carl, but excluding Dolben, must travel to help. Mag from Castle of Llyr reappears as Arawn's employee who thinks he is a partner. Group is reunited after defeat of Mag. They must all travel to other kingdoms to recruit troops. Fighting happens.

Things happen. Journeys are traveled. Taran travels back to the Free Comots to recruit troops. The Comot men follow Taran because he is Taran. After recruiting through the winter Taran meets up at Gwydion's castle. Another king has turned traitor and allied with Arawn. Fighting happens, castle is taken.

The resulting attack splits the troops. Taran is to follow and harry Arawn's living dead soldiers, the Cauldron-Born. Meanwhile Gwydion will approach Arawn's kingdom from the sea. Much fighting happens. Animals join the fight. Comot character from Wanderer dies. Carl dies. Many more die. Arawn defeated.

Taran is very happy, happy, joy, joy. Gwydion annoucnes all the Sons of Don must now leave Prydain for the Summer Country since Arawn is now defeated. Taran has mixed feelings. Taran announces he will stay in Prydain. All others are leaving and will never return. Eilonwy renounces her inherited powers of enchantment and stays to marry Taran.

1. Much more of an adult novel. The novels have progressed in topic matter as Taran has aged from about 13-years-old until the end of High King when he is about 20.
2. Still no detail about battles and violent death. Little word about blood and screaming.
3. Very chaste romance between Taran and Eilonwy.
4. [Incisive comment comparing the Welsh origins of Prydain versus Lord of the Rings.]
5. I've never read Lord of the Rings.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Finished: "The Girl on the Fridge" by Etgar Keret

Finished: The Girl on the Fridge by Etgar Keret, 1992 and 1994 (2008 first edition US), 9780374531058.

What is it about these stories that are so interesting? So entertaining? So oddly compelling? Keret packs all sorts of unpleasantness into the stories. Unrequited love, spousal abuse, drug abuse, suicide, depression, horrible parents, casual violence, sudden tragedy.

Each story could make me feel like a black hole but don't. Some stories end without any happiness but Keret's black humor almost always overpowers the depressing bits. These stories do not have as many fantastical elements as those in Nimrod Flipout.

These are earlier stories, some are probably over twenty years old. Keret even then wrote very pithy tales. A couple pieces in here are no longer than half a printed page. His stories are poetic in length and their concise and perceptive views of events, people, and situations.

Listened to: "Taran Wanderer" by Lloyd Alexander

Listenend to: Taran Wanderer by Lloyd Alexander, 1967, download.

Fourth in the series. Taran has matured and so has the story. The first novel had Taran at about 14 years old. Taran must be about 17-18 now and is yearning to find his true parentage. Eilonwy is still gone at "finishing school". Taran asks the wizard Dolbin of Taran's parentage and Dolbin says he has no clue. Taran still deeply wishes to be of royal blood, to be worthy and acceptable to a princess like Eilonwy. Taran decides to start searching (figuratively and literally). Taran and Gurgi hit the bricks. Or they would if the roads were paved.

Taran and Gurgi travel to swamp with witches from Black Cauldron. Taran is thinking to ask if the witches can tell him who he is. One says the only hope is a enchanted mirror in the mountains that shows people who they are. Taran sets off.

Adventures ensue. Taran and Gurgi meet up with the bard. Taran and company come across the dwarf who has been turned into a toad. Taran and company defeat the wizard who had enchanted the dwarf. Taran is no longer an Assistant Pig-Keeper and, since he has no name for his father, calls himself Taran the Wanderer.

Taran meets a farmer at a beaten down farm who claims he is Taran's father. Farmer says Taran's mother died in childbrith amd, unable to care for a child and operate a farm one-handed, the guy gave Taran to Dolbin as Dolbin traveled through.

Turns out farmer was lying to get Taran to stay and help with run down farm. Guy dies. Taran feels awful. He never wanted to stay. He did not want to be a farmer's son. He stayed anyway and when the farmer's life was in danger Taran still stayed rather than fleeing the farming valley at the first opportunity.

More things happen. Adventures are adventurous. Taran briefly apprentices at three trades in an effort to find what he wants to do in his life. Taran helps town fight off a bandit who bested him earlier. Taran finds mirror and sees himself. Mirror was a still pool of cave water and nothing more. Taran accepts who he is.

1. The core of the story is personal identity and value of each person as an individual. Taran runs across people who judge others based on wealth or class. He then meets people who care for none of that and are content to be themselves.
2. The concept of freedom and government. That a king who imposes his will gets nowhere and has to be wanted. Other communities have no king and cherish their freedom.
3. The value, or not, of possessions and labor. Of friendship and loyalty.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Quit: "The Ice Master" by Jennifer Niven

Quit: The Ice Master: the doomed 1913 voyage of the Karluk by Jennifer Niven, 2000, 0786865296.

I read a recent review about a new Niven book and did an author search and found this. I really enjoyed the Arctic setting of The Terror and tried this.

Niven did a lot of work and research on this but the story was taking too long to get anywhere. There were many elements for a good story in here. Conflict between the crew and scientists. A negligent Norwegian heading the expedition. A capable and stout captain. Rebellious scientists wanting to strike out on their own. Awful weather conditions and dangerous ice that quickly breaks apart. So on. So forth.

One interesting part of the story is when the crew and scientists - almost all of which had no Arctic experience - have to traverse the massive ice flow they are stranded upon. The men have to bring everything of value and are doing so on heavy wooden sleds. Jagged pressure ridges of ice as high as 70 feet have to be crossed. Ice leads cause long delays as teams would try to find paths around.

Improper gear hampers their efforts and leaves their clothes wet from sweat and freezing as they cool. The dogs are highly valuable as labor and possible emergency provisions but are vicious and kill one another. The cold leaves men with frozen feet, fingers and faces.

The story just drug on too long. I quit a little before halfway. Niven did some fine research with primary and secondary materials. She relies on several diaries and after action reports by those involved.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Raptly Listened To: "The Sentry" by Robert Crais

Raptly Listened To: The Sentry by Robert Crais, 2011, Overdrive download.

Very, very good. I made time to listen to this rather than just walking to home or work. I enjoy the Pike novels more than the Cole novels. This one is more 65% Pike and 35% Cole and that was an excellent mix.

Pike is gassing up his jeep when he sees a couple gangbangers strolling along. Pike uses his Pikesense and knows they are up to no good. Pike interrupts a beatdown and pounds one of the gangbangers. Rescued restaurant owner wants Pike out and cops out. Owner's niece is hot. Pike digs her. Restaurant is vandalized. Pike asks Niece out. Pike says everything will be okay. FBI get involved as part of gang investigation.

Everything is not okay. Niece and Owner disappear and are assumed abducted by the gangbangers. Pike is hot for the girl. Rescueing people is something Pike does. Pike goes forward. Cole helps out.

Pike is tough. Pike is smart. Pike goes jogging at 3 AM. Pike has night sweats. Pike loves his Colt Python. Cole drives his Corvette. Cole sweet talks women. Cole cracks jokes. Cole worries over Pike. Mysterious bad guy named Daniel is hunting Owner and Niece and hears voices in his head. Crais wears ugly shirts.

Pike and Cole figure things out. Niece and Owner were not kidnapped. Niece and Owner are not niece and uncle; not unless they are incestuous. Niece and Owner have mysterious past. Niece and Owner stole $16 million from Bolivian drug lords. Daniel is an unknown wild card killing people. Daniel kills many gangbangers and kidnaps Niece. FBI are not really FBI. Showdown between Pike/Cole and Daniel leaves Owner dead. Niece wants to split with the money. Niece raises gun at Pike. Cole shoots and kills Niece.

Cole is sad. Pike is sad. Pike kills fake FBI guy. Cole and Pike solidify bromance. Cole and Pike have ro-man-ce. Cole and Pike stare at hawks in sky.

1. Pike engenders respect and admiration from many. Pike is scary but respectful of people and who they are. Pike is zen-like with little that bothers or concerns him. He's not a dick but he is a dangerous guy.
2. Pike is the name of a guy inducted into Corvette Hall of Fame. Is there is a connection?
3. Los Angeles street name love.
4. Los Angeles geography love.
5. I recently read how many authors have a secondary character who takes care of all the "bad" stuff. Characters like Pike, Hawk, and others I have never read. In Cole novels Pike is a mysterious killer for good. A dark angel of death. A [something else overwrought and dramatic]. Crais made a good decision to show Pike from Pike's POV.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Finally Finished: "The Spirit Box" by Stephen Gallagher

Finally Finished: The Spirit Box by Stephen Gallagher, 2005, 9781596060173.

Meh. I had to force myself to finish this. Gallagher drags things out into 276 pages and could have cut this down quite a bit.

John Bishop is an Englishman in North Carolina who has spent the last three years working to develop a large company that does medical and biological research. Bishop's three year commitment is finished and he and his family are packing up to return to LimeyLand. Bishop's wife is already overseas and his daughter announces she just swallowed a bunch of pills. Bishop rushes her to the hospital. Daughter dies anyway.

Bishop gets a message that bio samples have been stolen. Included is a message from one of the suspected thief's phone in a voice Bishop thinks is his dead daughter asking for help. Bishop knows he is being irrational, he knows his daughter is dead. Bishop also knows he is avoiding reality and running from grief. Bishop chases after the thieves anyway and finds out the girl from the message is in a bad way. Girl thief stole samples by swallowing them.

Bishop avoids his wife's phone calls. Bishop searches for the drudge work employees who worked together to steal the samples. One drudge guy, Cyrus, is convinced the stolen samples are not just a fire sale, bulk buy from the the Russians probably worth nothing Cyrus is stupid, convinced and violent. Cyrus kills a co-conspirator who takes girl to hospital. Cyrus kidnaps girl from hospital. Bishop follows.

Blah, blah, blah. The book took even longer than the damn recap and I did not even give a full recap.

1. Skip it.
2. There are good parts but not enough of them.