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2017 Reading Jubilee
Posted 30 March 2017 - 08:28 AM
Completed in 2017:
1. The Dragon Reborn (WoT #3)
2. The Shadow Rises (WoT #4)
3. The Fires of Heaven (WoT #5)
The Fires of Heaven dragged for a good long while, with three major characters just tagging along for a road trip with a traveling circus. It was painful. Then plot actually kicked in and it wrapped up fast. I'd say at least a third of the book was just filler, that could've been replaced with plot following one major character who never even appears.
Still in progress:
4. China: A New History by John King Fairbank
5. Lord of Chaos (WoT #6)
6. Collapse by Jared Diamond
Posted 01 May 2017 - 10:20 AM
Posted 01 May 2017 - 08:10 PM
8. George R. R. Martin, ed., Wild Cards: Suicide Kings. Soon to be a TV series someday maybe if I'm lucky! I've been following the long-running shared-world super-hero prose-novel series since ninth-grade, but I'm running a few years behind. The 20th novel in the series follows different groups of superhumans as they're drawn into their alt-universe war-torn Africa, ruled jointly by horrid dictators trying to create an army of deformed kiddie super-villains and an evil Superman type with quite a body count to his credit from past books. R-rated and hyper-violent, but a vastly different take on the genre than any comics have ever attempted.
9. George R. R. Martin, ed., Wild Cards: Fort Freak. Book 21 shifted gears to the Manhattan district of Jokertown, home of all the most mutated, misshapen humans around. Crime drama and murder mystery mix with a host of old and new characters and authors alike. Bonus points to Paul Cornell's "More!" about a weird detente between an aging fugitive who can duplicate objects and an off-Broadway actress who can duplicate superpowers.
10. David Rodriguez and Sarah Ellerton, Finding Gossamyr, v. 1. All-ages fantasy about a teen girl with an autistic brother, Mom 'n' Dad out of the picture, who get shanghaied into an alt-fantasy universe where math is magic and vice versa...which makes her li'l savant brother one of the most powerful people in town. Two parts Disney to one part real-world relationship struggle as Our Heroine finds herself crushed by the burden of trying and failing at surrogate parenting, not to mention keeping them from getting killed by the swordsmen and monsters in their path. Fun adventure and weighty emotion in equal measure, this deserves an actual audience.
11. Michael West, The Wide Game. Horror novel set in an Indiana small town about adults having a book-length flashback to that time in high school when all the kids were in on a secret game that turned out unexpectedly fatal for some of their classmates at the hands of a creepy Native American cornfield god. I know the author offline, so this is me recusing myself from review mode for the rest of this paragraph.
12/13. Trevor Mueller & Gabo, Albert the Alien v. 1: New in School; v. 2: The Substitute Teacher from Planet X. All-ages science action fun about an exchange student who comes to Earth from beyond and tries to learn our strange ways through everyday classroom life. Hilarity ensues, packed with pop-culture in-jokes, cute running gags, and a decent number of laughs. It's like a Nickelodeon series but for the above-average kids.
14. Derf Backderf, My Friend Dahmer. Soon to be an indie film, though I had no idea till after I'd finished it and then saw a photo in Entertainment Weekly a couple weeks later. A graphic novel based on the cartoonist's true story about how he knew Jeffrey Dahmer in high school and was among the few kids who hung out with him despite his off-putting social skills, whacked-out sense of humor, alcoholism, dead animal collection, and increasing air of creepiness about him that didn't fully take form until after graduation. Backderf unknowingly had a front-row seat to the making of a serial killer, but could only add up the signs in hindsight. The story ends when their interactions do, before the deaths began, but their increasingly disjointed exchanges brings a dread that looms more intensely with each passing page. Disturbing, insightful, and a very rare instance of me finding a book impossible to put down.
15. Frank Conniff, Twenty Five Mystery Science Theater 3000 Films That Changed My Life in No Way Whatsoever. Essays by TV's Frank himself about the gig that made his TV writing career possible. Some are behind-the-scenes tales about how he was in charge of screening and picking the movies from seasons 2 to 6. Some are random stand-up comedy tangents. One has him apologizing profusely to us all for Manos: The Hands of Fate. A couple of brief political diatribes didn't do much for me, but since he didn't actually contribute to The MST3K Amazing Colossal Episode Guide, this is fans' first chance to get his take in writing on some of the show's most well-known episodes.
Posted 15 May 2017 - 02:14 PM
I finally finished Lord of Chaos (WoT #6)! What a drag at times! I was skipping whole paragraphs at a time, and only going back if there was clearly something that I missed. I tried to just read the dialogue, as RJ was really starting to embellish the characters' clothing and features for no apparent gain. I was trying to stick to one WoT novel a month, but that schedule is shot now! At least A Crown of Swords is shorter, and I hope to have more time over the summer to get back on schedule.
Completed in 2017:
1. The Dragon Reborn (WoT #3)
2. The Shadow Rises (WoT #4)
3. The Fires of Heaven (WoT #5)
4. Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman
5. Two Plays for Voices by Neil Gaiman ("Snow, Glass, Apples" and "Murder Mysteries")
6. Lord of Chaos (WoT #6)
Posted 04 June 2017 - 07:51 PM
16. Warren Ellis, Normal. A bizarre sort-of mystery set at a special mental health facility exclusively for futurists and other theorists who went mad when they tried too hard to imagine humanity's ultimate destiny and/or doom. It's like One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest except all the patients are geniuses and none of them is there by mistake. It's borderline sci-fi, but rooted in pessimistic humanism and grim sarcasm that make it all the more disturbing.
17. Zack Kaplan and Giovanni Timpano, Eclipse, v. 1. In a world where Earth's atmosphere is so far gone that exposure to sunlight instantly disintegrates flesh, humanity has gone underground and somehow excavated entire new living spaces under previously existing infrastructure without buildings collapsing and without explaining how they got cranes underground to finish their upper levels and roofs. One cop must solve the killings perpetrated by a dude armed with either superpowers or extra protective clothing, all while being surrounded by a bunch of inconsistencies as to what's flammable and what's not, to say nothing of the part where apparently moonlight is not lethal even though it's just reflected sunlight. My head hurts.
18. Matt Hawkins, Bryan Hill and Isaac Goodhart, Postal, v. 1. In a small town whose deep dark secret is that they're all convicted criminals living there as part of their weird sentence, the town mailman -- a young guy with Asperger's syndrome who was born there -- tries to solve a horrible murder while negotiating life with his oppressive mom and doing what he can from within the boundaries of his condition. I know someone who was once diagnosed with Asperger's, and the protagonist here resembles him in so many ways that...well, one of the creators knows what they're doing. The crime-drama stuff was kind of secondary to that.
19. Marky Ramone with Rich Herschlag, Punk Rock Blitzkrieg: My Life as a Ramone. The autobiography of one of the few living members of the quintessential American punk rock band. From the streets of Brooklyn to the wild world tours and back again, Marky the drummer expounds candidly about what it was like working, playing, and putting up with Joey the severe OCD sufferer, Dee-Dee the unrepentant junkie, and Johnny the money-minded Republican. (Tommy gets occasional friendly mentions early on and then left behind; CJ doesn't show up till fifty pages from the end; Richie's two paragraphs are so scant that the words "Richie" and "Ramone" never appear side-by-side, and he's not even listed in the index.) Sex, drugs, and rock-'n'-roll go hand-in-hand, including his own bout with alcoholism that took him to darkest places and got him kicked out of the Ramones for several years until fate reunited them when he and they were both ready. Now a couple decades into sobriety, Marky and his co-writer serve up a detailed retrospective of life in the Manhattan club scene, as well as frank insight into what it was like negotiating with record labels and producers in the '70s and '80s. But the overall portrait of the band's 30-year career is so dark and littered with unhappy endings that now I'm kind of afraid to read the other Ramones' autobiographies.
Posted 18 June 2017 - 08:57 AM
33. The Great Hunt, by Robert Jordan
34. Forever Free, by Joe Haldeman
Forever War is good, but don't bother with Forever Free. Total garbage
And I'm definitely into WOT. I can see already how it can get long winded and meandering, but I'm liking it so far.
Posted 26 June 2017 - 09:59 PM
20. Brian Azzarello, JG Jones, and Lee Bermejo, Before Watchmen: Comedian/Rorscach. A double-shot of cash-grab prequel stories by one of my two least favorite writers in the biz, but it was a library find, so I figured why not since my money wasn't involved. Both were as nihilistic and unnecessary as expected for prequels starring the two least sane, most brutal characters of the bunch. Rorschach at least has the benefit of fantastic art by Bermejo, but the Comedian's ugliness has him gallivanting through 20th-century American history, playing football with JFK on the White House lawn, turning down Jackie's flirting but then murdering Marilyn Monroe because she asked nicely, helping start the Watts Riots, single-handedly making Vietnam worse, and then personally assassinating his other BFF RFK. It's Forrest Gump meets No Country for Old Men. Hopefully the worst thing I'll read this year.
21. Marv Wolfman and George Perez, New Teen Titans: Games. This 2011 hardcover graphic novel, a story 22 years in the making, was the last original tale by the writer/artist duo who relaunched the team when I was 8 and made it one of the cornerstones of my comics-collecting childhood. Set in late-'80s continuity, it has everything an old-school fan could want: a complicated plot that drags Our Heroes all over Manhattan, a new super-villain team, supporting characters from way back when, Perez' dynamic yet ornate art, upsetting casualties, and a firm classic-comics reminder that Super-Heroes Don't Kill. Except for the part where they let Danny Chase live, it's like Wolfman and Perez peeked inside my brain decades ago and kept the notes around ever since.
22. Derf Backderf, Trashed. The most recent book from the creator of the autobiographical My Friend Dahmer (recently adapted into an indie film) dives into another project that's one part research, one part personal experience as Derf explores the less-than-wonderful world of garbagemen, which was his actual job from '79 to '80. Learn the workaday awfulness, the smells, the dumb bosses, the dumber coworkers, the objects that are the worst to pick up, the dangers of wintertime routes, the mechanics and schematics of landfills and garbage trucks (the latter have basically been the same design since the '30s), what happens when you toss an upright piano into the truck, the twin scourges of disposable diapers and doggo leavings, the sorrow of abandoned foreclosure piles, and the amusing ineffectiveness of families that routinely throw out three dozen trash bags a week, then toss three (3) milk jugs into their recycling bin and consider themselves "going green". Also included are tons of stats and trivia about American residential waste in general that are at least as frightening as you'd expect. Another solid dose of behind-the-scenes education and nightmarish reality, not unlike the Dahmer book.