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Book Review: The Troop, by Nick Cutter

inverarity
Boys' Life meets Stephen King.


The Troop

Gallery Books, 2013, 358 pages



Once every year, Scoutmaster Tim Riggs leads a troop of boys into the Canadian wilderness for a weekend camping trip - a tradition as comforting and reliable as a good ghost story around a roaring bonfire. The boys are a tight-knit crew. There's Kent, one of the most popular kids in school; Ephraim and Max, also well-liked and easygoing; then there's Newt the nerd and Shelley the odd duck. For the most part, they all get along and are happy to be there - which makes Scoutmaster Tim's job a little easier. But for some reason, he can't shake the feeling that something strange is in the air this year. Something waiting in the darkness. Something wicked...

It comes to them in the night. An unexpected intruder, stumbling upon their campsite like a wild animal. He is shockingly thin, disturbingly pale, and voraciously hungry - a man in unspeakable torment who exposes Tim and the boys to something far more frightening than any ghost story. Within his body is a bioengineered nightmare, a horror that spreads faster than fear. One by one, the boys will do things no person could ever imagine.

And so it begins. An agonizing weekend in the wilderness. A harrowing struggle for survival. No possible escape from the elements, the infected...or one another.


This is a writer who knows what Stephen King did best and does it almost as well.Collapse )

Verdict: A little scary, and very disturbing, The Troop is an almost perfect horror novel. The plot never slows down, the extras like interviews and news articles all add to the story, and the writing is polished, detailed, and descriptive without ever going off-course. Characters are real and engaging, and they act like real people. While the content may not be to everyone's taste, it gets my highly recommended tag.




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inverarity
A rippin', bloody bottom-of-the-sea thriller, for fans of monster movies of indifferent quality.


Deep Black Sea

Permuted Press, 2014, 284 pages


It's October, and time to read a few of the horror novels that have been sitting on my shelf!

A gory monster movie in a book - cheap, dump, and entertaining.Collapse )

Verdict: Page-turning story with monsters who are freaky and gross, buckets of blood, and an atmospheric, scary, and isolating setting. Unfortunately marred by very mediocre writing, cardboard characters who are too dumb to live, and some suspensions of disbelief that are harder to swallow in a book than a movie. 5/10.




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Book Review: Persuasion, by Jane Austen

inverarity
The sailor she rejected when he was poor is now rich, and she's unmarried at 27.


Persuasion

Originally published in 1817, 236 pages. Available for free on Project Gutenberg.



Anne Elliot has grieved for seven years over the loss of her first love, Captain Frederick Wentworth. But events conspire to unravel the knots of deceit and misunderstanding in this beguiling and gently comic story of love and fidelity.


Perhaps the most outright romantic of Austen's novels, with torches carried for seven years, and an Austenian heroine married off more happily than the author.Collapse )

Verdict: Not my favorite Austen, but not my least favorite either. Austen's prose is as flawless as usual, and Persuasion is finely plotted. It loses points for missing the humor and poignancy I found more abundantly in Austen's other novels. 7/10.

Also by Jane Austen: My reviews of Pride and Prejudice, Northanger Abbey, Mansfield Park, and Emma.




My complete list of book reviews.
inverarity
Apparently acrackedmoon (of Requires Only That You Hate fame), formerly "winterfox," has been outed.

I can't say I've ever heard of her (the real name who is apparently an up-and-coming author), but I'll probably check out one of her stories.

I think outing people who are trying to remain pseudonymous is generally a pretty shitty thing to do. I am quite aware that I'm not really anonymous - someone who really wants to know my real identity can figure it out. If someone posted to Twitter: "Hahahaha! Inverarity is really Stephen King*!" I would be annoyed, but I would not freak out about it. I would consider that person to be an asshole, though.

Right now, no one cares who I am, and the number of people who dislike me enough that they'd find it amusing to post my real name just because it would annoy me is small enough that I don't really care. If I ever actually get published, I expect at that point it would be a matter of time before I got "outed," if I didn't out myself.

So, I think the people involved in outing acrackedmoon (exactly who these people are seems to be debatable, as there are those who have apparently known for a while, those who've been dropping hints and threatening to out her, and then the one(s) who actually first publicly posted her real name) are kind of dicks. I've read various justifications from "It was coming out anyway and this put an end to the drama" to "Bwahahaha, karma's a bitch!" And I still think that absent some reason more compelling than "She deserved it," it's wrong to post someone's real name if they don't want their real name posted.

That said, apparently this up-and-coming author also adopted a sweet, friendly, and mild persona when interacting with the very people she was shredding on her ROTYH blog. And the point at which she stopped blogging and tweeting coincided with the point at which she started getting published. So I find that profoundly disingenuous and cowardly. If you're gonna say it, own it, and if you're gonna say it anonymously, be prepared to own it when you inevitably get outed.

I've generally tried to be pretty much myself and not say things I'll regret here. Supposing that I became famous (for some small value of "fame"), I'm sure someone could scour all my LJ posts and find something objectionable I've written. But the reason I don't worry too much about being outed (besides the fact that I'm a nobody) is that I'm fairly confident that the worst thing that would come of it would be some mild embarrassment. ("Oh, he's that guy?")

So anyway, be yourself and own your words. acrackedmoon is no angel, and she went out of her way to antagonize some of the people who are now celebrating her little moment of notoriety. But what I find most objectionable is the fact that she wasn't prepared to face down her critics when this day came and say, "Yeah, that was me, and yeah, I said those things."

In the long run, though, I doubt this will really hurt her. If she goes on to become a Big Name Author, she will always have her remora-like enemies hanging around reminding everyone that she used to be winterfox and that she once said she wanted to punch Paolo Bacigalupi in the face and that U.S. soldiers are all mass murderers, but editors and publishers really don't care about this kind of thing. If Orson Scott Card, Marion Zimmer Bradley**, and Harlan Ellison haven't lost any sales, a writer once known for incendiary reviews and vitriolic tweets will be able to live this down just fine.

* I am not really Stephen King

** Yes, she's dead. She probably still outsells most living authors.
inverarity
I'm not one of those prudes longing for a pristine, wholesome Golden Age of Comics when superheroes were morally unambiguous and nobody swore or died.

I liked it when superheroes first started getting a more "adult" treatment. Now there are numerous superhero novels. Like 'em or hate 'em, they have made it a distinct if niche sub-genre. Some authors treat the genre and its conventions at face value, others try to be subversive. But it's cool and interesting to explore questions like "What if Superman wasn't so nice?" or "How would the world really deal with superpowered people?"

I do, however, believe that the heart and soul of the superhero genre is heroes being heroic. And villains being villainous. And a generally optimistic tone in which we have reason to believe that Good will eventually triumph over Evil.

It's not terribly realistic, and it's not terribly nuanced, and a lot of people don't like superheroes, or think the whole idea is stupid, for precisely that reason. Fair enough. I don't get the appeal of paranormal romances or steampunk. We all like what we like. But I think what draws fans to the genre is the expectation of tales of heroism.

According to some, superheroes are modern myths retold, and there's some truth to that. But I think they are mostly power fantasies. Specifically, we look at a deeply dysfunctional broken world with mostly insoluble problems, injustice and atrocities that cannot be easily fixed with individual action, and imagine how satisfying it would be if we could just run around punching out bad guys.

Mix it up a bit with some moral dilemmas, the occasional "anti-hero," sure. I was as big a Wolverine fan as anyone, back when he first became the hot new icon that everyone copied and parodied. And while Alan Moore's Watchmen is an ugly, cynical deconstruction in a lot of ways, it's also clever and it respects the conventions it's deliberately breaking. And it was a limited, self-contained story, not an ongoing bloodbath in which all the tropes of superherodom were repeatedly shat upon.

Which brings me to the "Free Comic Book Day" issue of DC's The New 52 Future's End:

Future's End

Basically, the whole issue is a bloodbath in which all the DC heroes are hacked apart and assimilated by some Borg-like Big Bad who's taken over the world. Bruce Wayne, mortally wounded after having his arm graphically chopped off, sends his protege back in time to fix it.

First of all, Marvel has already done this. Repeatedly. It was even made into the most recent X-Men movie.

Once again, DC is trying to capture what has been a winning formula for Marvel without any sense of what makes it winning. Some people did not like the "Days of Future Past" or "Age of Apocalypse" storylines in the old X-Men. They were kind of grimdark. I liked them, but in the 80s and 90s when they were first published, Marvel was experimenting with their most popular and contemporary heroes, and they did, unfortunately, then go through a long dark period of X-Force, X-Factor, X-cetera, and the completely worthless character Cable. I know this legacy is still around, but notice the winning Marvel movies, even Days of Future Past, were "darkness before the dawn," not darkness all the way through.

I assume that DC, also, intends for "Future's End" to end with the heroes victoriously hitting the reset button. But everything I have seen in their new line indicates that they're just kind of clueless about what draws readers to superhero comics.

"Free Comic Book Day" is supposed to attract new readers to the genre. So what the hell makes DC think the best way to do that is by putting Wonder Woman's head on a spike?

New 52 Future's End Cover

Book Review: Osiris, by E.J. Swift

inverarity
This futuristic story of haves and have-nots was a post-apocalyptic let-down.


Osiris

Night Shade Books, 2012, 400 pages



Nobody leaves Osiris. Osiris is a lost city. She has lost the world and world has lost her...

Rising high above the frigid waters, the ocean city of Osiris has been cut off from the land since the Great Storm fifty years ago. Most believe that Osiris is the last city on Earth, while others cling to the idea that life still survives somewhere beyond the merciless seas. But for all its inhabitants, Citizens and refugees alike, Osiris is the entire world--and it is a world divided.

Adelaide is the black-sheep granddaughter of the city's Architect. A jaded socialite and family miscreant, she wants little to do with her powerful relatives--until her troubled twin brother disappears mysteriously. Convinced that he is still alive, she will stop at nothing to find him, even if it means uncovering long-buried secrets.

Vikram, a third-generation storm refugee quarantined with thousands of others in the city's impoverished western sector, sees his own people dying of cold and starvation while the elite of Osiris ignore their plight. Determined to change things, he hopes to use Adelaide to bring about much-needed reforms--but who is using who?

As another brutal winter brings Osiris closer to riot and revolution, two very different people, each with their own agendas, will attempt to bridge the gap dividing the city, only to find a future far more complicated than either of them ever imagined.

Osiris is the beginning of an ambitious new science fiction trilogy exploring a near-future world radically transformed by rising seas and melting poles.


400 pages about a sea-themed city of the future and a rich socialite's parties.Collapse )

Verdict: Well-written but melodramatic characterization more suitable for a romance novel than a dystopian drama. Nice worldbuilding and evocative writing, but too much of the latter and too little actual plot. 5/10.




My complete list of book reviews.
inverarity
An allegorical critique of British nativism that almost got Rushdie killed - Ayatollahs have no sense of humor.


The Satanic Verses

Random House, 1988, 576 pages



One of the most controversial and acclaimed novels ever written, The Satanic Verses is Salman Rushdie's best-known and most galvanizing book. Set in a modern world filled with both mayhem and miracles, the story begins with a bang: the terrorist bombing of a London-bound jet in midflight. Two Indian actors of opposing sensibilities fall to earth, transformed into living symbols of what is angelic and evil. This is just the initial act in a magnificent odyssey that seamlessly merges the actual with the imagined. A book whose importance is eclipsed only by its quality, The Satanic Verses is a key work of our times


In which the reviewer recalls learning that Muslims take themselves very, very seriously.Collapse )

Verdict: Salman Rushdie is a talented writer, but the Ayatollah made this book a bestseller. By itself, The Satanic Verses is a multilayered if confusing modern, mystic fable about love, lust, identity, alienation, post-colonialism, faith, jealousy, and redemption. Add in a loose religious allegory and you get death threats and one of the most famous books of the 20th century.

Also by Salman Rushdie: My review of Midnight's Children.




My complete list of book reviews.
inverarity
Belle dames and battlecruisers: a Neutral Good Thief in a sci-fi setting.


The Stainless Steel Rat

Sphere, 1961, 158 pages



Jim DiGriz is caught during one of his crimes and recruited into the Special Corps. Boring, routine desk work during his probationary period results in his discovering that someone is building a battleship, thinly disguised as an industrial vessel. In the peaceful League no one has battleships anymore, so the builder of this one would be unstoppable.

DiGriz' hunt for the guilty becomes a personal battle between himself and the beautiful but deadly Angelina, who is planning a coup on one of the feudal worlds. DiGriz' dilemma is whether he will turn Angelina over to the Special Corps, or join with her, since he has fallen in love with her.


In a civilization that's grown too civilized, only criminals have any fun.Collapse )

Verdict: The Stainless Steel Rat is humorous, light-hearted space opera that will cause readers of a certain generation (ahem) to recall classic Traveller games of yore. Particularly recommended for fans of Keith Laumer's Retief or A. Bertram Chandler's John Grimes series.




My complete list of book reviews.

AQ fanfic - Worry, by Agogobell

Anna Chu
AQ fan agogobell has written an Alexandra Quick fan fic called Worry.


Their freshman year at Charmbridge is over, and Alex has been expelled. Anna is nonfunctional in Little Wuyi, and probably depressed.


It takes place between the end of book four and the beginning of book five, and is basically an examination of Anna's mental state, which I found quite true to the character. Something to tide you all over while I (slooooooowly) work on AQATWA.

Thank you, agogobell! It is so cool when people write fanfic of my fanfic. :)

(Also - I am sorry I did not respond sooner! LJ spam-filtered your PMs because they contained external links. In the future - this applies to everyone, actually - you'll get a faster response from me if you email me at inverarity dot author at gmail dot com, rather than using LJ PMs, which I only check occasionally.)
inverarity
What might have happened if George R. R. Martin had decided to take over Urban Fantasy instead of Epic Fantasy.


The Skin Trade

WSFA Press, 2013 (originally published 1988), 143 pages



Randi Wade's world is spiraling into a dark labyrinth of secrets and lies. Her only friend is keeping something from her. Innocent victims are being savagely attacked and left for dead, all but their skins. There is an eerie connection between the crime scenes and her own father's murder nearly twenty years before, unsolved to this day. Despite this, Chief of Police Joe Urquhart, her father's former partner and best friend, beckons her to drop the case, drop everything. Is he protecting her, or something else?

As the case unfolds, Randi is pulled ever closer to realizing her darkest fear: that werewolves do exist, and they'll do anything necessary to keep their secrets safe in this once quiet town... Even if it means killing their own. All the while, an eccentric but powerful family watches closely from inside the black iron gates of Blackstone Manor, as the horrendous truth behind it all begins to bubble toward the top.


You'll be waiting a lot longer than Game of Thrones fans for GRRM to finish this series.Collapse )

Verdict: Recommended for all horror and urban fantasy fans. As a stand-alone novella, Skin Trade doesn't quite fully develop its world and its characters, but if you like urban fantasy that is not paranormal romance, it might make you wish George R. R. Martin hadn't gotten distracted with that little epic fantasy series of his.




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