Friday, May 6, 2011 | By: Natalie

Review - The Terror, Dan Simmons

This book was *freaking amazing* until about the last quarter, where it just fell apart into a big pile of wtf?.

I spent the whole book battling my crush on Captain Crozier (who, in the movie, is played by Justin Louis.) In the end, it's a battle I won, but only because the author took a jagged, incomprehensible knife to his own plot and stabbed it until it was nothing but a quivering heap of rapidly freezing crap.

For the three quarters of the book that made sense, the suspense was utterly gripping. I hated putting this book down every night. The plight of the men on the HMS Terror and HMS Erebus is vivid and heart-rending. The freezing cold they endure a major character for much of the story. The first hint of the creature is terrifying, its first incursions on the crew blood curdling. And you're desperate to know, What the hell is this thing?! And Simmons teases us for a long time, and the teasing is so good. It makes you gasp and gnash your teeth and beg for more. Unfortunately, when the big reveal comes it's so gigantically retarded and contrived that, were it an actual lover, you would have kicked them out of bed and demanded they change the sheets to remove the taint of what had just happened.

It's a supernatural book and I love supernatural stuff. Maybe the relentless realism of the first three quarters of the book did a grave disservice to the last quarter. Maybe had the first three quarters not been so mind numbingly awesome, the last quarter wouldn't have hurt so much. But it that really something you want to wish for? Can't I have such literally (honestly, I felt physically cold despite it being June) amazing, realistic chills mixed in with my equally chilling monsters? Did the story have to completely derail for me to get my monster? Crozier, the ultimate pragmatist and benign racist, went completely off the rails at the end. His shift was so discombobulating, such a 180 from what he had been, so far adrift from where you'd expect him to be at the "end" of his trials, that I spent all the time I was supposed to be awed at the great history of the monster and those that communed with it, being like, wait, what?

I love this book. The unmitigated tragedy of the last 100 pages can't undo the unmitigated fantasticness of the rest of it. Do I wish it had a different/better ending? OMGYESWITHMYWHOLEBODY. Will it stop me from recommending this book to friends? Probably not, but I'll always have to qualify the recommendation. And that makes me sad, not for the qualification itself, but because this book deserves and unqualified recommendation. It also deserves a decent ending.
Monday, May 2, 2011 | By: Natalie

Review - Dust, Elizabeth Bear

Title: Dust
Author: Elizabeth Bear
Publisher: Spectra
ISBN: 9780553904420
Rating: 3 baseball bats
Favorite thing: Lesbian and genderqueer characters
Least favorite thing: I didn't care about the lesbian and genderqueer characters

On the zombie how-to shelf?: Nu-uh

I got about half way through this book before I realized I actually couldn't care less about the characters. I pondered why, because I found the book interesting and it was filled with queerness, which I love in my sci-fi, and the court intrigue was convoluted, as it should be... but as our heroines found themselves in danger I had no sense of urgency. I just felt ho-hum.

So, as I finished the last bit of the book I tried to decipher why I felt like that. I finally decided that the book is not visceral enough for me. Everything, even our experience of the characters' own emotions seem filtered through the intellect. The language was formal as well, which served to distance me from Rien, Perceval and the rest.

I had been thinking that I wouldn't bother with the rest of the series. I read to live a fantasy life and this book just didn't have an emotional pull, so I was going to move on to something else. Then the last 15 pages or so happened. I couldn't even tell you what it was that changed, but I suddenly found myself considering that I might like to know how this turns out. Those last few pages drew me in, felt urgent, and I'd wished there were a few more to read.

So I probably will read the second book in the series. I can only hope that Bear relaxes into her character and her world a little more.
Tuesday, April 26, 2011 | By: Natalie

Meme: Teaser Tuesday

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following:

  • Grab your current read
  • Open to a random page
  • Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
  • BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
  • Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!
"Bella sat down at her desk and breathed in deeply. Here it was, she thought: that cusp, that moment of maximum crisis she had always know would visit her at some point in her career."

--Pushing Ice, Alastair Reynolds

Review - Boxer Beetle, Ned Beauman

Title: Boxer Beetle
Author: Ned Beauman
Publisher: Sceptre
ISBN: 9780340998410

Rating: 5 baseball bats
Favorite thing: The hilarious awkwardness of Erskine
Least favorite thing: Sinner Roach

On the zombie how-to shelf?: No, but it'll be on some other shelf somewhere.

When I'm browsing in a bookstore, I give a book approximately one paragraph to capture my interest before I move on. This book passed that test with flying colors.

In idle moments I sometimes like to close my eyes and imagine Joseph Goebbels' forty-third birthday party. I like to think that even in the busy autumn of 1940, Hitler might have found time to oragnise a surprise party for his close friend - pretending for weeks that the date had slipped his mind, deliberately ignoring the Propaganda Minister's increasingly sulky and awkward hints, and waiting until the very last order had been dispatched to his U-boat commanders on the evening of Tuesday, 29 October before he led Goebbels on some pretext into the cocktail lounge of the Reich Chancellery. A great should of "Alles Gute zum Geburtstag!', a cascade of streamers, some relieved and perhaps even slightly tearful laughter for Goebbels himself as he embraced the F├╝hrer, and the party could begin.

Part scientific exploration (ish), part love story (ish), and part treasure hunt, the real meat of this story was in its utterly deplorable yet strangely lovable characters. "Fishy," who is imagining the birthday party mentioned above, is a modern-day lock-in, stricken with a condition that makes him smell like week-old fish; Seth "Sinner" Roach, a vertically challenged, strangely handsome, alcoholic, Jewish boxer; Philip Erskine, an utterly ridiculous entomologist, fascist, and Hitler admirer.

I'm guessing Sinner was supposed to be the star of this book, but for me it was Erskine. Sinner was angry, mean, vindictive, self-destructive, and utterly unrepentant. Erskine was a fascist and eugenicist and you don't want to like him, but he's so bumbling, so awkward and uncomfortable in his own skin that you can't help, at the very least, be amused by him. As it was, I grew to have the same affection you might have for a slightly retarded dog that continually ran into walls; that is, pitying. And despite the gravity that becomes very immediate in his relationship with Sinner near the end of the book, I could never quite take him seriously.

Several times, this book made me laugh out loud. The style of writing is simultaneously flip and evocative which makes for a very engrossing, very fast read. Watching Sinner's and Erskine's relationship--I almost want to put quotes around the word--develop is like watching a train wreck. Following Fishy's present day treasure hunt (did I mention the Welsh hitman?) lent an extra sense of mystery to what was happening back in '34.

This is definitely a book I'd recommend to friends... as long as they have a well-developed sense of humor.
Saturday, April 23, 2011 | By: Natalie

Horror & Urban Fantasy Reading Challenge!

So I figured, what better way to get things rolling than to join a challenge! And this one here is right up my alley!

I don't really have a clue what I'm going to read for it yet, but that's why the internets exist. Soon it will tell me what I want to read.

1. The Devil You Know, Mike Cary
2. The Infection, Craig DiLouie
3. The King of Plagues, Jonathan Mayberry
4. The Fall, Guilliermo Del Toro, Chuck Hogan
5. Flesh Eaters, Joe McKinney
6. The Pilo Family Circus, Will Elliott
7. ...
Friday, April 22, 2011 | By: Natalie

The Friday 56

The Friday 56 is a weekly meme hosted at Freda's Voice.

If you want to play along, here are the rules:

Grab a book, any book.
Turn to page 56.
Find any sentence that grabs you.
Post it.
Add your (url) post in the Linky at Freda's Voice.

Page 56:
He tapped back: "I love it when you compare people to food."


This page really works better as a unit with its other sentences...

The Silent Land - Graham Joyce

Rating: 3 baseball bats
Favorite thing: Two words. Unlimited. Wine.
Least favorite thing: Not being able to taste the unlimited wine.

On the zombie how-to shelf?: Nope

The cover of this book is totally fantastic. If you slip the dust jacket off, you're left with different letters of the title on the book and different letters on the dust jacket. I puzzled over the letters on each for a while, hoping to find a word hidden, scrabble-like, in the letters, but even my scrabble dominating life couldn't find anything interesting.

As for the book itself - it had atmosphere, I'll give it that. Unfortunately, we're stuck in our atmospheric setting with two two-dimensional characters. You'd think that with only these two in the book we'd get them flushed out a little more than they were, but what we get is a lot of them being scared and bickering. Which, fine, they're in a confusing, terrifying situation, but if I'm to care at all about the ending I need to care about the characters, and I didn't, really.

I did have a night, right in the middle of the book, where I was loathe to put it down. Things were finally happening! Creepy things, and I wanted more! Unfortunately, the book lost a little of its momentum in the latter third and came to a stumbling halt at the end, which was pretty predictable. I just wish it had had a little more oomph into the ending, rather than just dribbling away.

A minor pet peeve of mine was tweaked every page of this book. Dialogue with no indicators of who's speaking for lines. Sometimes, if you have two characters that are well drawn and different enough from one another, this works. But our protagonists aren't different at all, especially at the beginning, and several times I had to go back and count the lines off - him, her, him, her... Which, annoying.

Overall, I did enjoy this book and I might think to pass it along to someone if they mentioned they liked ghost stories. Other than that, I think it's going to be somewhat forgettable.