What a book!

August 27, 2010

Review: Blockade Billy

Blockade BillyBlockade Billy by Stephen King
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

An enjoyable non-horror-ish novella from Stephen King.

King is a baseball nut, but he doesn’t bog down the story in too much baseball detail. If you aren’t into the sport, you might feel a little disinterested, but, as usual, King drops enough juicy tidbits to keep you reading. And, as usual, King drops enough vulgar colloquialisms to keep you laughing throughout. You feel like you’re really listening to an old baseball codger in a rest home eager to talk to somebody about something, anything, as long as he doesn’t have to join the virtual bowling group.

I listened to this as an in-between-books book. It was short, light and fun. Craig Wasson is a great reader, although I felt his voice sounded a little too young for the character who was narrating. But it’s a minor quibble. He does a terrific job otherwise.

I did not listen to the other story in this edition, ‘Morality’, as I had read it when it was originally published in Esquire. I didn’t like it as much then and so was ready to move on to my next audio book.

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July 26, 2010

Review: Blood Oath

Blood Oath (The President's Vampire, #1)Blood Oath by Christopher Farnsworth
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I know there’s a lot of vampire fiction out there, so despite not wanting to take one of those books on, I read this one anyway. Boy, am I glad I did.

I liked the idea of President Andrew Johnson actually having done something other than come up for impeachment, and enlisting a vampire in the service of the United States sounded like fun. And it was. Farnsworth starts the book off with the old set piece that reveals our hero/anti-hero without being connected to the story, a la James Bond, in Kosovo with the U.S. military, and then takes the story from there, incorporating terrorism, the war in the Middle East and plenty of trotting around the U.S.

Also refreshing, not too many gouts of blood and gore, but nary a pale face or loads of hair product in sight for this vampire. Nathaniel Cade is badass, a little funny and has his own flaws and quirks (like despising blasphemy for some reason, which I have never seen in a vampire). Yes, there’s angst, but not the annoying kind.

I should also mention that by Page 19, you’ve not only had as much action as a Bond film, but you’ve also had references to such diverse fantasy literature as H.P. Lovecraft, Edward S. Ellis, Frank Aubrey, Edgar Allan Poe and W.W. Jacobs. If that’s not enough, a page later you get a Batman reference.

The villain is a bit disturbing, but he is a villain after all. The characters that get introduced weren’t quite as fully developed as I’d like, but it’s clearly the first book in a series, so there’ll be time for that.

If you like: Secret agent thrillers, spy thrillers and books about Washington intrigue, particularly ones by Brad Meltzer with weenie little 20-something protagonists who do a lot of growing up fast, you might like this. Also, vampire books about real vampires.

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May 7, 2010

Give me the brain … and the tea and crumpets

Filed under: Authors,Horror,Jane Austen,Zombies — mike @ 7:07 pm
Tags: , , , ,

I tend to agree with the movie critic Richard Roeper about zombies: They just aren’t interesting villains because they “just zombie ahead.” But I will make an exception if there are other elements that are image interesting. Examples: “Night of the Living Dead” was a lot like “Fort Apache” and about the people involved, than zombies. And despite the gimmicky take on zombies in “28 Days Later,” I’m always interested in what Danny Boyle is going to do with a genre. And my wife actually liked “Resident Evil,” so I was all WTF about that one.

But on the page, zombies are even worse for me. They just bore me; I don’t care about the allegory that people insist zombies effect, they just bore.

Jane Austen has always left me cold, too, until recently. But I have to admit, when all the buzz started about “Pride and Prejudice and image Zombies”, which features a mix of the original Austen text and new text by Seth Grahame-Smith, I wanted to read it. But much like when I made sure to watch “Bad Boys II” and “28 Days Later” before I watched “Hot Fuzz” and “Shaun of the Dead”, I listened to “Pride and Prejudice” before listening to the zombie mashup.

I have to admit, I got into “Pride and Prejudice” and, like so many others, came to be annoyed and frustrated by Mrs. Bennet, root for Lizzy and generally think Mr. Darcy really wasn’t as bad as the modern romantic comedy makes him out to be.

Because Austen’s original text is included here, for long stretches even, the overarching story still guides the plot. The added text dealing with zombies (sometimes just a word changed and no more) is mostly there for laughs. The story remains about characters and doesn’t revolve solely around brains and gore and cannibalism (although there is lots of that, but not too graphically so).

One particular passage had me laughing out loud. A very pompous noblewoman, Lady Catherine de Bourgh, scolds Lizzy in the original about how common she is because Lizzy’s parents raised five girls with no governess. What follows is a tirade with the constant repetition of the word “governess.” In the mashup. Lady Catherine is one of the most feared zombie killers in all the land and the same rant is repeated, except where it originally said “governess”, the text substitutes “ninjas.” Believe me, in the context of the story, this is very funny.

So give this tandem a try. You’ll get a classic under your belt, at the very least, and you may have a little fun along the way. The audio versions had narrators with a good grasp of proper English speech, which only added to the fun.

You may like this if: You like zombie books (because you’ve already got a twisted sense of humor); you’re an Austen devotee who happens to have been born with a sense of humor.

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