Friday, May 31, 2013

Right As Rain

Right as RainRight as Rain by George Pelecanos
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A white cop kills an off-duty black cop and the black cop's mother hires Derek Strange to get to the bottom of things. Strange stumbles into a world of drug dealers and dirty cops, and the only man who can help him is Terry Quinn, the white cop who shot the son of the woman who hired him...

Right as Rain kicks off the Derek Strange series. Strange, a sixty-ish black PI, is a pretty smooth character, a former cop who is fond of westerns. Terry Quinn is a white disgraced former cop who works in a used book and record store. Pelecanos uses their contrasting characteristics to explore race relations in Washington DC while they tackle the case of Chris Wilson, the off-duty cop Quinn killed.

Sound like Lethal Weapon? It's not, although Strange and Quinn poke fun at the Gibson and Glover action comedy a couple times. Strange and Quinn are both very well developed characters. Quinn's an intense guy and isn't sure if he shot Wilson because he was brandishing a gun or because he was black. Further complicating Quinn's feelings on race are Juana, his half-black, half-Puerto Rican girlfriend. Strange has been in a casual relationship with his secretary for years but won't commit despite feeling fatherly toward her son Lionel.

The friendship between Strange and Quinn grows naturally, first over westerns and boxing, and seemed pretty believable to me. I found myself caring about their relationships with their women and with each other more than the eventual gunplay I knew was coming.

The villains of the piece, the drug dealers, aren't as developed as I would have liked but the story is more about the interactions between Strange and Quinn anyway. Although I did like that Pelecanos had them leave DC for the country a bit. Both men emerge from the story changed men to some degree. Strange's case turns out well and Quinn learns a few things about himself.

4 stars. I'll be reading more of Strange and Quinn in the future.

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Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Shame the Devil

Shame the DevilShame the Devil by George Pelecanos
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

When a pizza shop robbery takes a violent turn, the thieves are never caught and the lives of several people are torn apart, most notably Dimitri Karras when his young son Jimmy is struck and killed by the criminals as they make their getaway. Years later, Dimitri is trying to put his life back together when he runs into an old acquaintance, PI Nick Stefanos. But what connection does Dimitri have with that fateful robbery...?

The DC Quartet goes out with a bang and it's my favorite George Pelecanos yet. The stories of Dimitri Karras and Nick Stefanos intersect and the whole is even better than the sum of its parts.

When we catch up with Dimitri, he's divorced and can't escape the memory of his dead son. He's in a support group with the other friends and relatives of the murder victims from the pizza shop robbery. Nick's still working at the Spot and still taking on PI work but is staying away from murder and drugs. He's still battling his considerable drinking problem.

The story comes together very organically. By now, the denizens of Pelecanos' DC are pretty real for me and the interactions between Nick and Dimitri were my favorite parts of the book. When Nick got Dimitri a job at the spot, I had a feeling how the end would shape up. I was nearly right and I'm glad the ending didn't mirror The Big Blowdown.

It was cool to see Boyle working with Karras and Stefanos. I missed Marcus Clay and Clarence Tate but it was cool knowing how they ended up after The Sweet Forever. Good for them!

The book has a slow build as the killers return to DC and Nick and Dimitri eventually cross paths. While I didn't think the gun fight at the end was as good as the one in The Sweet Forever, I liked the ending a whole lot more. The greedy part of me wants to read another book about Nick and Dimitri but I'm glad Pelecanos is leaving them behind for now. They've earned it.

Shame the Devil brings closure to both the DC Quartet and the Nick Stefanos trilogy. Like I said above, it's my favorite Pelecanos so far.

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Sunday, May 26, 2013

The Sweet Forever

The Sweet Forever: A NovelThe Sweet Forever: A Novel by George Pelecanos
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A drug runner's car crashes outside of Marcus Clay's record store and someone steals a bag of money out of the back of the car as it burns. Will the stolen bag of money destroy all that Marcus Clay has worked to build?

The third book in George Peleanos' DC Quartet catches up with Dimitri Karras and Marcus Clay in the 1980s, years after the events of King Suckerman. Marcus now owns a chain of record stores and Dimitri owns an impressive cocaine habit. Complicating matters are a pair of crooked cops, a local crime lord named Tyrell Cleveland and his goons.

Tension slowly builds in this one as Karras sinks deeper into addiction, one of the crooked cops grows a conscience, and the stolen money seems to be the cause of all the troubles in the world. In addition to music, Basketball plays a big part in this book, notably Len Bias, who would die of a cocaine overdose after being drafted before ever playing for the Celtic, an event I remember from when I was a kid.

Nods to other works in the Pelecanos-verse abound, notably appearances by both Big Nick Stefanos and his grandson, Nick, who has just begun his self-destructive was.

Without giving away too much, this one ends with one of the best gunfights in crime fiction, right up there with Matthew Scudder and Mick Ballou taking down the bad guys in Everybody Dies. 4.5 stars.

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Friday, May 24, 2013


iD (The Machine Dynasty #2)iD by Madeline Ashby
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

After being forced to poison his wife Amy, vN Javier goes on the run to find her backup. Can he find it before his enemies find him and shut him down permanently?

Disclaimer: I got this ARC from NetGalley in exchange for reviewing it.

iD takes place in a future where men and machines live side by side. While it's the first book in a series, following vN, it didn't take me long to get up to speed. I love the concept of self-replicating androids. Hell, there are a lot of great concepts in this one, like 3D printers capable of printing organic matter, for instance.

Javier lies and fornicates his way around the world, looking for his wife's backup, all the while avoiding the legions of vNs looking to kill him. From what I gather, Javier was some kind of sexbot before he settled down with Amy and he uses his talents quite a bit in his info-gathering.

The writing was really good. Like I said, I knew this was the second book in a series by Ashby did a good job of helping me keep my head above water. She also knows how to write some reprehensible characters, like Powell and LaMarque.

iD was a really cool read, full of action, sex, and interesting sf concepts. Now I'll have to get vN and read about all the events that were hinted about in this one.

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Thursday, May 23, 2013

Growing Up Humming

Growing Up HummingGrowing Up Humming by Mike Spinak
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Growing Up Humming is a children's non-fiction book about some hummingbird chicks growing up and leaving the nest.

I got a PDF of this in exchange for reviewing it from the author. It took me all of twenty minutes to read. It's written in a suitable style for kids, simple without being patronizing. And the photos...

The photos were by far my favorite part. They are spectacular, showing every last feather. Since I've spent quite a bit of time over the past few years trying to take acceptable pictures of hummingbirds, I am pretty jealous.

If this book had been available when I was a kid, I would have read it until it fell apart. Four stars.

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Tuesday, May 21, 2013

The Cambodian Book of the Dead

Cambodian Book of the DeadCambodian Book of the Dead by Tom Vater
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Maier, a German reporter-turned-detective goes to Cambodia to find the heir to a coffee fortune. Maier's quest gets him entangled with a beautiful woman who's lovers inevitably die horribly, a Khmer Rouge general, and a Nazi war criminal called the White Spider. Will Maier return from the killing fields or die trying?

First, the official business. I got this ARC from Netgalley in exchange for reviewing it.

This book and I did not really get along. It's supposed to be a thriller but aside from a man being torn apart by a tiger shark, there aren't many thrilling bits in the first 50% of the book. The story started taking off after that but by then, I had already soured on it.

The book felt to me like Tom Vater has a great fascination with Cambodian history and culture. While that's fine, some of it felt really out of place in a thriller and slowed the story down considerably. By the time things picked up, I was ready for bad things to happen to Maier.

Speaking of bad things, the second half of the book salvaged things a bit as Maier had people gunning for him and wound up drugged a couple times. Another thing this book had going for it was the characters. While I didn't think Maier was anything special, I loved Clarissa, and thought Les, Pete, and Kaley were multifaceted characters and very nicely done. I also loved the little girl assassins. The White Spider's background was also really good.

Two stars. It was okay but the pace in the first half killed it for me.

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Penance: A Chicago ThrillerPenance: A Chicago Thriller by Dan O'Shea
Dan's rating: 3 of 5 stars
Publisher: Angry Robot/Exhibit A
Available: Now
Price: 14.99

When an old woman is shot by a sniper just after leaving confession at Sacred Heart church, Chicago cop John Lynch is on the case. But what does the case have to do with one in 1971 that saw his father murdered? And what will the shadowy government organization that has also been tapped to bring in the sniper do if Lynch gets in the way?

First off, the official stuff: I got this ARC from Exhibit A in exchange for reviewing it. I'm a huge Angry Robot fan so when I heard they were launching a crime line, I sprung into action and nabbed print ARCs of their first two books.

Penance is a hard animal to classify, kind of like a dinosaur. In this case, it's not bird vs. reptile but hard-boiled detective vs. police procedural vs. espionage thriller. It's an exciting chimera to behold.

The protagonist, John Lynch, was the biggest selling point for me. A second generation cop, Lynch has been living in the shadow of his father, murdered when he was a kid, most of his life. He doggedly pursues the sniper despite being shot at, stonewalled, and eventually blackballed. He's no superhero, either, getting wounded over the course of the book and not being comfortable with taking a life. His relationship with Liz was a little abrupt but not outside the realm of believability once it got going.

When the book first jumped to Weaver and his black ops crew, I rolled my eyes a bit, military fiction not being one of my favorite genres. While Weaver's segments had a few too many tactics and weapons descriptions for my taste, it managed to steer clear from gun porn territory and actually meshed pretty well with the more detective-y sections featuring Lynch. It also didn't give me Brad Thor flashbacks, something else I am thankful for. Weaver, Ferguson, and the rest were believable antagonists, adhering to the rule that the best villains are the ones that think their actions are right and justified.

The sniper, while not getting a lot of solo time, was pretty believable and made a chilling threat. I found myself avoiding windows when walking to the bathroom to keep from getting shot by an unseen assailant a few times. I also really liked his reasoning behind shooting people just after they left confession.

The two plot threads, the one in the past with Lynch's father and Lynch's tale in the present day, intersected where I thought they would. There were some twists near the end that brought this above the level of most thrillers.

One thing that I thought was really odd was this bit from Lynch's point of view:

Colleen Lynch-Ketteridge stepped out of the car in a Hillary Clinton-type pant suit, except Hillary didn't have Collie's ass.

The phrasing is a little creepy to me but I don't have a sister. Maybe if they have nice asses you say things like this?

3.5 stars. I'll read another Dan O'Shea (or Exibit A) book after this.

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Wounded Prey

Wounded Prey: Introducing Detectives Farrell and KearnsWounded Prey: Introducing Detectives Farrell and Kearns by Sean Lynch
Dan's rating: 4 of 5 stars
Publisher: Exhibit A/Angry Robot
Available: May 28th
Price: 14.99

Rookie cop Kevin Kearns witnesses a child abduction and gets his ass handed to him by the perp, one Vernon Slocum. The girl winds up dead a short time later and Kearns finds himself the scapegoat. When a retired cop with a history of his own with Slocum, Bob Farrell, shows up offering him a chance at redemption, Kearns jumps at the chance. But will even two lawmen be enough to bring in a remorseless killing machine like Slocum?

First off, the official stuff: I got this ARC from Exhibit A in exchange for reviewing it. I'm a huge Angry Robot fan so when I heard they were launching a crime line, I sprung into action and nabbed print ARCs of their first two books.

Wounded Prey is the tale of a deranged psychopathic ex-marine and the two men bent on stopping his killing spree... permanently!

Sean Lynch's debut effort is quite something. This is one brutal book. The good guys don't walk out smelling like roses and the bad guy winds up smelling like something else altogether. Damn never every member of the cast goes through the meat grinder, some multiple times.

The two protagonists, rookie cop Kevin Kearns, and retired cop Bob Farrell are at opposite ends of their respective careers and complement one another nicely. I thought Kearns was a little light on personality but Farrell won me over after only a couple pages. Farrell was part mentor, part bad influence, making for an enjoyable read whenever the two were on stage at the same time.

And the villain, oh, the villain. Vern Slocum was one scary bastard and the idea of someone like him freely wandering around instead of being locked up was pretty chilling. He was rotten to the core but, given his background, didn't have much of a chance to be otherwise. On my all time list of deranged killing machines, he has to be near the top. It's pretty easy to hate a guy that's tougher than the heroes, a better shot, and a child rapist/killer to boot.

The FBI are caught in the middle. Scanlon's an asshole but he's trying to do his job. I was kind of hoping he'd join Kearns and Farrell in putting down Slocum but it wasn't in the cards.

The writing was pretty good, especially when Lynch was writing Farrell. Can you tell Farrell was my favorite character? I'll be interested in further books about Farrell and Kearns.

I do have a minor gripe. If A Farrell and Kearns thriller wasn't displayed above the title, there would have been a lot more suspense. Since Wounded Prey is the first book in a series, I knew neither of the leads would be taking the dirt nap. Other than that, not a gripe to be had. Four stars!

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Sunday, May 19, 2013

The Double

The DoubleThe Double by George Pelecanos
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

While trying to clear a man for the murder of his mistress, Spero Lucas takes on another case, the case of a painting stolen by a woman's former lover. Further complicating things is a love affair Spero is having with a married woman. Can Spero recover The Double and survive his new lady love with his health intact?

First, the official business. I got this ARC from Netgalley in exchange for reviewing it. This new Kindle is quickly paying for itself.

The first Spero Lucas book, The Cut, was also my first George Pelecanos. Since then, I've read the Nick Stefanos trilogy and the first two books in the DC Quartet. Pelecanos really does like his heroes damaged, doesn't he?

As in the first book, Spero Lucas is a Gulf War vet with some trouble adjusting to civilian life. He makes his living recovering stolen property for people in exchange for 40% of the value. The Double, the painting of the title, will net him 80 large should he manage to recover it. That's a thick slice of pizza. The addition of his love affair with Charlotte really sets this one above most other detective stories. When a ladies man like Spero falls for a woman, he falls hard. I found myself empathizing with him while he was waiting for her to call him.

The villains of the piece, Billy Hunter and his cronies, were reprehensible pieces of garbage and I couldn't wait for Spero to catch up with them. The thing that keeps this from becoming a mindless actionfest is that Spero has a lot of soul searching moments and a lot more baggage from his time as a marine than originally displayed. Not that he can't dish out the violence. The final fist fight in this one is among the most brutal I've ever read.

The Double was a little lighter on musical references but it still hit all the sweet spots for me and my unconventional tastes, namely Ernest Ranglin and numerous mentions of dub records. I like that Pelecanos brought back much of the supporting cast of the first book. I'll be sad once he starts picking them off.

To sum up, I liked this just as much as the The Cut. It's top notch and I'm ready for another Spero Lucas novel. Get writing, George!

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Tuesday, May 14, 2013

The Marching Dead

The Marching DeadThe Marching Dead by Lee Battersby
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

When Marius don Hellespont finds himself dead for a second time and his girlfriend missing, he goes out into the world seeking answers. It seems Scorbus, the king of the dead he helped crown, is bent on waging war against the living. Can Marius find Keth and stop the king he put into power?

At the end of the Corpse Rat King, I was hoping I'd read about Marius again. Lee Battersby must have heard my prayers, as he has served up another adventure of that loveable miscreant.

The Marching Dead picks up not long after The Corpse Rat King left off. Marius' idyllic retirement is shattered and he ventures out seeking answers with sometimes hilarious results. Battersby's writing is somewhere on the Terry Pratchett-Joe Abercrombie spectrum, funny without detracting from the seriousness of the story. Here's a quote that I loved about the dead mingling with the living:

The natural order had not simply been overturned. It had been bent over a barrel and sodomized.

See what I'm talking about? There were a lot of lines of this caliber peppered throughout the text. Battersby falls right between Terry Pratchett and Joe Abercrombine on the fantasy humor spectrum.

While Marius has changed a bit from his initial outing, his fundamental tricksy nature has remained unchanged. His relationships with Keth, Bryn, and the others kept the story going. I really liked his talk with Billinor, the boy king.

The ending was a little more predictable than the ending of the Corpse Rat King but it was really the only way it could go at that point.

Four stars! When is the third book coming out, Lee?

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Saturday, May 11, 2013

The Moonshine War

The Moonshine WarThe Moonshine War by Elmore Leonard
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Bootlegger Son Martin has 150 barrels of whiskey his dad made stashed away somewhere and his old war buddy, Frank Long, now a crooked prohibition agent, has his sights set on them. Will Son cave in under the pressure and hand over the whiskey or will he put Long and his cronies into the ground?

Reading an Elmore Leonard book is like bullshitting with an old friend on their front porch. In this case, it would be whiskey we'd be drinking instead of a couple frosty beers.

Rural Kentucky in the 1930's is far from Elmore Leonard's usual haunts but after watching several seasons of Justified, I figured he could handle it. I was right.

The Moonshine War plays out like a lot of Elmore Leonard books. The promise of violence keeps building until the glorious shitstorm at the end. Frank Long trying to strongarm Son Martin out of his valuable whiskey is more of the same. It went a little differently than I thought it would near the end, which is always a plus for me.

The country dialog is very well done and drives the plot forward. Like in most Leonard books, Son Martin is just a little slicker than Frank Long and the others.

Son reminds me of Raylan Givens a bit of Raylan was running moonshine instead of being a US Marshall. He's a conflicted character, his young wife dying from the flu while he was in the army leaving him somewhat directionless. He's got a bit of that Givens inner rage going as well. When his neighbors started turning on him when he wouldn't roll over for Long and the others, I knew the violence was coming. The Moonshine War actually feels like a western more than anything else.

Any gripes? Not a one besides wanting to read more about Son Martin. 3.5 stars.

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Friday, May 10, 2013

Faster Gun

Faster GunFaster Gun by Elizabeth Bear
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Doc Holliday and some ladies investigate some mysterious wreckage in the desert near Tombstone...

I saw this was one of the nominees for the Locus award for best short stories. Since it was free on Tor.Com, I figured I'd give it a read.

Since it's a short story, there isn't a lot I can say without giving away the best bits. All you need to know is that Doc Holliday is the main character and there are time traveling magic-using ladies and a wrecked alien ship in it. Oh, and it's a damn good story.

On a side note, will I ever be able to picture Doc Holliday looking like someone other than Val Kilmer?

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Wednesday, May 8, 2013

The Big Blowdown

The Big BlowdownThe Big Blowdown by George Pelecanos
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Joe Recevo and Pete Karras were friends since they were kids, until their boss decided he didn't like Pete and had him badly beaten, giving him a crippling knee injury. Three years later, their lives will soon intersect when their old boss decides he wants Nick Stefanos, Karras' employer at a diner, to start paying him protection. Who will be left standing after the Big Blowdown?

Here we are. Another great book by George Pelecanos, the first in his DC Quartet. In the Big Blowdown, Pelecanos paints a picture of life in DC, with two vets, Karras and Recevo, as the main characters, taking them from their teens to their thirties. As with Pelecanos' other books, the Washington DC setting is a character unto itself.

The crime elements in this one aren't as pronounced as in the previous three Pelecanos book I've read, the Nick Stefanos trilogy, Nick being the grandson of the Nick in this book. The crime elements stick to the sidelines for most of the book, namely Florek looking for his missing sister and the hooker murders. Everything comes together at the end, just in time for the Big Blowdown.

Much like Nick Stefanos in his trilogy, Pete Karras is a conflicted character, not really sure how to act with his family. Or his mistress, for that matter. I think it's partly because of his experiences in World War II and partly from his upbringing. It sure goes a long way toward explaining why Dimitri Karras acts the way he does in King Suckerman, the next book in the DC Quartet.

Reading this right after reading the Stefanos trilogy, it's amazing to see what direction Pelecanos' writing was going, from a hardboiled style to a more literary one.

Four stars. I will continue to preach the Pelecanos Gospel.

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Tuesday, May 7, 2013

The Merkabah Writer - A Few Questions More

Way back in June 2011, I interviewed Edward Erdelac, author of the Merkabah Rider series.  Now that the series has come to it's conclusion, I've posed a few more questions to the Merkabah Writer himself.

How much forward planning did you do for the Merkabah Rider series? Once Upon a Time in the Weird West seems like you had a clear picture of how the end was going to shape up even in the first book.
I think I figured out the ending about midway through writing the second book. The character progressions almost wrote themselves. There was one last minute change. Belden was supposed to die at the end of book three, but I decided I liked his secular interactions with the Rider and Kabede, and it made sense to have him there at the end.

Were there any Westerns in particular that inspired Once Upon a Time in the Weird West? 
Definitely the titular Once Upon A Time In The West had an impact. I think I got the idea for the train's inaugural run as a central event from that. Blue Moon Fugate probably came from Henry Fonda's character a little bit too, as well as a character in Richard Matheson's Journal Of The Gun Years. There is a scene in the cantina when the mariachis are playing, I had characters from maybe half a dozen different westerns and movies that had an influence on the series pop up in the background.

Was there a reason you decided to ride solo and publish through Createspace for the final volume in the series?
I wasn't really happy with the quality control of the publisher. Things I had caught in editing kept making it through to the final product as well as plenty I missed. The second book, I edited almost entirely myself because the guy they assigned me just flaked. I also wanted to regain all the rights to the series. The first book's contract expires next year, and then the other two in subsequent years. I didn't want to tie up the rights to the last installment with a brand new contract. I don't know that I will self publish again if I can help it, but a couple different authors I really respected suggested I go that route if I wanted to finish the series without waiting three years for the other contracts to expire, so I gave it a shot. I ran it through two editors besides myself, so hopefully it turned out alright. It was originally supposed to have eight interior illustrations but the artist pulled out on me the month before it was due.

Any plans for a return to the Merkabah Rider universe?
I've thought about writing prequels that have been alluded to in the series - the Rider's war years with Belden, his adventure with Misquamacus which is plotted out and could probably make a novel or novella, and his first meeting with the Rev. Mr. Goodworks, but I'm not in a rush. I was approached by somebody about pitching a modern day version of Merkabah Rider to a major publisher and I came up with a way to pick up the story in the same universe with different characters (mostly - some of the immortal characters might return) in the present, but I probably won't write that unless they go for it.

What's next for Edward Erdelac?
I've got a very very dark themed western novel called Coyote's Trail coming out from Comet Press in July. It's about an Apache kid who survives a massacre and enlists the aide of a Mexican prostitute to lure out the soldiers responsible and kill them en flagrante delicto. Kind've a psycho-sexual revenge story, almost noire-ish, with no fantasy elements. I'm finishing up a novel set in World War II involving the Holocaust and Frankenstein. A couple other short story projects, and I'll be in three different Mythos-themed books this year. Nothing else really definite yet.


NOS4A2NOS4A2 by Joe Hill
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

When Victoria McQueen was young, she had a unique gift: she could summon an old covered bridge that would take her wherever she wanted to go. After an encounter with Charles Manx, a Rolls Royce Wraith-driving kidnapper with a similar ability, her life is torn to pieces. Twelve years later, Charles Manx comes looking for the girl that got away and not even death is an obstacle...

First off, I think the title, NOS4A2 (Nosferatu, get it?), while clever, is very misleading since Manx isn't a vampire. Fortunately, that's the only complaint I have about this awesome book.

The lead, Victoria McQueen, is a broken woman whose life is thrown into further chaos when Charles Manx thrusts himself back into it. She rises to the occasion and does what any mother would do when her son is kidnapped: kick ass and take names!

Charles Manx, the villain, is like an even creepier version of Willy Wonka, abducting Children and taking them to another world, Christmasland, where it's Christmas every day and the children become feral little monsters. His Wraith is a pretty chilling car, with its inescapable back seat and mind of its own. I couldn't wait for Manx to get what was coming to him.

The supporting cast is also well drawn. Victoria's baby-daddy Lou, son Bruce Wayne, FBI agent Hutt, and Bing are all fairly memorable characters. I loved Maggie Leigh and hated to see her go out the way she did.

There were some Easter eggs in the text, references to It, The Stand, The Shawshank Redemption, and my favorite, the tie in to the Dark Tower when Manx mentions the doors to Mid-World. Heck, Derry is mentioned so I think it's safe to assume Hill's stories are part of the King-verse and thus the Dark Tower.

This was my first Joe Hill book and it won't be the last. While he writes like his father, he doesn't seem to have many of his father's bad habits. His prose reminds me of Stephen King from back when he was still in touch with his Richard Matheson/John D. MacDonald roots: chilling, evocative, and not long-winded or over-written. Even the fates of the characters reminded me of King from his heyday.

Five stars. That is all.

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Merkabah Rider: Once Upon a Time in the Weird West

Merkabah Rider: Once Upon a Time in the Weird WestMerkabah Rider: Once Upon a Time in the Weird West by Edward M. Erdelac
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

With a bullet lodged near his heart and the Hour of the Incursion just days away, the Rider and his small group of stalwart friends do everything in their power to stop Adon from rousing the Old Ones and ending existence. But whose side will Lucifer take in the conflict? And which of the Rider's friends is fated to betray him...?

Here we are, the ultimate volume in the best weird western series since the big daddy, The Dark Tower. Erdelac pulls out all the stops in this one. We are treated to such wonders as a steampunk cyborg created with Yithian technology, shoggoths, a scientist with an alien mind, an angel from another universe, and a golem made of pieces of dead gunfighters. Couple this with the Rider dying of a bullet wound, a sigil-covered train, and the manure hitting the windmill on every page and you have one book that is impossible to put down.

All the seeds Erdelac planted in the previous three volumes are finally bearing squamous, cyclopean fruit. Unlike the previous three volumes, this one is a single story, not a series of linked stories. It's the biggest book in the series by a hundred pages. Any doubts I had that Erdelac could weave a novel length tale have been put to rest.

Faustus Montague, Kabede, Dick Belden, The Reverend Mr. Goodworks, and Yates made worthy allies for the Rider on his final journey. As with the previous volumes, Erdelac does a fantastic job tying together elements from Christianity, Judaism, and the Cthulhu mythos.

The ending of the saga was all I could hope for. All the big payoffs were there, from the true nature of the onager, the tzadikim and the Tzohar to the final conflict between The Rider and Adon. I'd say it was the best volume of the series.

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Monday, May 6, 2013

The Shining

The ShiningThe Shining by Stephen King
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Recovering alcoholic Jack Torrance takes a job as caretaker of the Overlook Hotel, bringing his family with him. But can even his son Danny's special gift, The Shining, stop him from going mad and butchering his family like other caretakers before him?

Yes, I'm several decades late to the party in reading this but after reading Joe Hill's NOS4A2, I had to read my first non-Dark Tower Stephen King book in years to see how the old man did horror back in the day. I'm not sure this was such a good idea.

This book isn't very long but felt like it took a few ice ages for anything to happen. Sure, there were some creepy parts, most of them involving Jack or Danny and the Overlook's ghosts. I think if I hadn't seen the movie first, the book would have been much more enjoyable for me.

I think the advantage the movie has over the book is that a third of the time isn't spent delving into Jack Torrance's past. In the movie, we know he's balanced precariously on the razor's edge of madness the first instant we see him and no one in their right mind would want to spend any length of time locked up with him. In the book, we witness the downhill slide for hundreds of pages. The biggest advantage the book has over the movie: the mom is hot and not played by Shelley Duvall.

That's all I have to say about that.

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