Saturday, September 21, 2019

Review: The Man Who Folded Himself

The Man Who Folded Himself The Man Who Folded Himself by David Gerrold
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

When Daniel Eakins's Uncle Jim dies, he inherits a belt that allows him to travel through time...

I haven't had a ton of time to read since my son was born. In fact, I'm typing this with him asleep in the crook of my arm. The two or three weeks it took me to finish this are no indication of the book's quality. It was pretty fucking good.

In The Man Who Folded Himself, David Gerrold uses Daniel Eakins to explore the nature of time and of man himself. The way he handles time travel has been used by other writers since this book's original publication: changing the past creates a parallel universe and the time traveler is the only one who knows of the existence of the previous timeline.

Daniel travels through time, meeting other versions of himself, and sometimes having sex with them., sometimes with multiple versions at a time. Is it gay if you're having sex with another version of yourself? Joking aside, Daniel goes on a journey of self discovery and ultimately winds up back where he started, as I suspected he might.

The Man Who Folded Himself may be the best time travel story I've ever read. 4.5 out of 5 tribbles.

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Sunday, September 8, 2019

Review: Life Is Short and So Am I: My Life in and Out of the Wrestling Ring

Life Is Short and So Am I: My Life in and Out of the Wrestling Ring Life Is Short and So Am I: My Life in and Out of the Wrestling Ring by Dylan "hornswoggle" Postl
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Life Is Short and So Am I is the autobiography of Dylan Postl, aka WWE superstar Hornswoggle, aka independent wrestler Swoggle.

Shortly after the birth of my son, someone from ECW press hit me up to read this. I said I would and forgot about it until my wife and I were watching Swoggle wrestle Jordynn Grace on IWTV. It was damn good.

Dylan had a rough start, being born with achondroplasia, a form of dwarfism, in addition to family problems. He overcame it all and became not only a pro-wrestler but a WWE superstar.

I have to admit that most of the time Dylan was wrestling, I was on a wrestling hiatus. Still, I found his biography fascinating. His early life was terrible, even without taking his dwarfism into consideration. His journey from the independents to the WWE and beyond held my interest even through my lack of sleep. His account of the inner workings of the WWE was entertaining and informative. A lot of wrestling books skimp on the road stories but this one had a lot of them in it.
Since he's no longer with the company, he was a lot more free with information than current WWE employees. Dylan also isn't afraid to bring his own bad behavior to light, like cheating on the mother of his son.

I almost balked on this since Swoggle is younger than me by a few years but he's got a wealth of great stories. I highly recommend this to wrestling fans. Now, I'll have to track down that Swoggle vs. Joey Ryan match. 4 out of 5 stars.

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Tuesday, July 2, 2019

Review: Song of Susannah

Song of Susannah Song of Susannah by Stephen King
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

In the aftermath of the battle with the Wolves, Susannah disappears with Black Thirteen to go have her baby. Can the rest of the ka-tet find Susannah and secure the vacant lot where The Rose grows before the Tower falls?

This is my third time reading Song of Susannah. It's still in my Dark Tower bottom three but I come at it from a different perspective since my wife and I will be greeting our chap in just under a month.

In my re-read of Wolves of the Callah, I said I thought that book could have been a hundred pages shorter. The same goes for Song of Susannah. There is so much extraneous crap in this! Talk, talk, talk. The Beams holding up the Dark Tower are in danger but let's waste a lot of time with chitchat. Susannah is my least favorite member of the ka-tet and this one is very Susannah-heavy.

That being said, I still enjoy it. While I logically know the Tower isn't going to fall, King has me frantically reading to make sure this is still the case. The man knows how to ratchet up the suspense when the characters aren't talking everything to death. Eddie and Jake seem like bonafide bad asses in this book, even more than the last. There were also quite a few references I didn't catch the first time through, like to blind bluesman Reverend Gary Davis and to The Quincunx.

I found it somewhat off-putting when Stephen King wrote himself into the series when I first read it but it seems like a normal part of the story now, like a scar that's faded so much it's almost invisible.

Not a whole lot else for me to say, I'm afraid. This was very much a transitional book. I think maybe Stephen King wanted the Dark Tower to go seven books and padded Wolves and this one to make it so. Trimming the fat and combining Wolves and Song into one would probably have made a better reading experience.

Okay, back on the Path of the Beam for me. Let's see if I can get to the Dark Tower before my wife gives birth to our chap.

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Sunday, June 23, 2019

Review: Soulman: The Rocky Johnson Story

Soulman: The Rocky Johnson Story Soulman: The Rocky Johnson Story by Rocky Johnson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Soulman is the biography of wrestler Rocky Johnson.

Rocky Johnson was on his way out when I first became a wrestling fan so I don't know a ton about him besides his tag team with Tony Atlas and that he's the father of the most electrifying man in sports entertainment, The Rock. ECW Press offered this up for review so I jumped on it pretty quickly.

The book starts with Rocky's humble beginnings as Wayde Bowles, a poor kid from Nova Scotia. The book takes a little longer than I'd like to get to the wrestling but fortunately Rocky's childhood was interesting. Imagine hitchhiking from Nova Scotia to Toronto with only two bucks in your pocket?

Rocky initially trains to be a boxer but gets wrapped up in the wrestling business. From there, Rocky bounces back and worth to every territory on the map for decades, reaching the WWF and gradually sliding into retirement as injuries piled up.

This book has a lot going for it. Rocky comes off as a humble guy. He doesn't make himself sound like the greatest wrestler of all time and is honest about all the mistakes he made along the way. Outside of the chapter devoted to him, he also doesn't spend a lot of time talking about The Rock.

I had no idea Rocky Johnson was as well-traveled as he was, nor how he tried to run a promotion in Hawaii with his father in law, Peter Maivia. Their relationship was touching at time. I also have to wonder what Rocky would have accomplished in the WWF if he hadn't been saddled with making sure Tony Atlas got where he needed to be. Hell, if Rocky wasn't so agreeable for a lot of his career, he might have been world champion at some point.

Speaking of Tony Atlas, the only time Rocky comes across as angry is when he refutes some things Tony Atlas said about him in his book. Rocky didn't care for Mike Graham either but I imagine a lot of wrestler did.

Soulman made me a bigger fan of Rocky Johnson than before I read the book. That's a sign of a great wrestling biography. Four out of five stars.

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Sunday, June 16, 2019

Yes!

Yes: My Improbable Journey to the Main Event of WrestlemaniaYes: My Improbable Journey to the Main Event of Wrestlemania by Daniel Bryan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Yes is the biography of WWE wrestler Daniel Bryan.

As I've mentioned in pretty much every wrestling book review I've ever written, I've been a wrestling fan off and on for most of my 40+ years. I was surprised when Bryan Danielson, now Daniel Bryan, was signed by the WWE and even more surprised when his popularity caught fire like it did. I found this on the bargain table at B&N yesterday and devoured it on a quiet Sunday afternoon.

Yes is told in two threads: one detailing Bryan's life and career, the other focusing on the week before he won the WWE belt at Wrestlemania 30. Since this is a WWE-produced book, too much non-wrestling stuff was included at the beginning and it feels a little sanitized.

However, it's the best book the WWE has put out in years. Bryan Danielson makes the pilgrimage from Aberdeen, Washington to San Antonio, Texas to train. From there, he's all over the place, from the WWE developmental system to FMW to the ECWA Super 8 tournament to Ring of Honor. Ring of Honor is where I first noticed him. He wasn't big or charismatic but was impressive in the ring.

Anyway, Danielson goes to England, Japan, the West Coast, and back to Ring of Honor before finally getting signed by the WWE and then fired a few months later. After another stint on the independent circuit, he's back in the WWE and eventually becomes champion.

Even though he has a co-writer, it feels like Daniel Bryan played a big part in putting this together. The tone feels like his, a humble guy with blue collar roots. He never goes out of his way to make himself sound great. In fact, quite the opposite. Just like in his wrestling career, I felt myself wanting him to succeed, even though I know he already has.

The Ring of Honor stories in particular make me want to seek out some of his old matches. Unfortunately, a lot of the ROH stuff is out of print so I'll have to make due with what I already have down in my man cave.

Like every WWE book, I wish there were more road stories, particularly from the decade before he joined the company. Thankfully, he's not a kiss ass and doesn't paint the WWE as a great place to work like a lot of people. He's open about his frustration at some of the decisions and things of that nature. He even mentions Chris Benoit, whom the WWE has tried to erase from history for the past decade.

Yes is well-worth what I paid and a must for any Daniel Bryan fan. Four out of five knee strikes.

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Monday, June 10, 2019

Review: A Book of Rather Strange Animals: Highlighting the Wonders of Evolution and the Extraordinary Diversity of Life

A Book of Rather Strange Animals: Highlighting the Wonders of Evolution and the Extraordinary Diversity of Life A Book of Rather Strange Animals: Highlighting the Wonders of Evolution and the Extraordinary Diversity of Life by Caleb Compton
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I'm a follower of @StrangeAnimals on the Twitter. Unlike a lot of internet turned book projects, this one was really enjoyable and didn't feel like a waste of money.

The book is a collection of one-pagers about bizarre animals, be they insect, mammal, reptile, or any other motile life form. There are pieces on the hagfish, tuatara, and penis snake, among other things.

The articles read like much longer, more elaborate pieces than @StrangeAnimals posts on twitter so it's a worthwhile read, not just a collection of repackaged and recycled tweets. I highly recommend it for bathroom reading, bedtime reading, or lunchtime reading when you can avoid your co-workers long enough to get some reading done. 4 out of 5 stars.

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Sunday, March 24, 2019

Review: The Elephant of Surprise

The Elephant of Surprise The Elephant of Surprise by Joe R. Lansdale
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

When Hap and Leonard run across a mutilated albino girl on a dark and stormy night, they soon have some unsavory characters on their asses like a dog on a pile of cat shit. Can Hap and Leonard save the day, even as LaBorde becomes a flooded ghost town?

The baddest mother fuckers in east Texas are back and balls deep in trouble, like always. I was actually on the fence about reading this one. The last couple Hap and Leonard books haven't been up to snuff, in my opinion. However, I'm pleased to say this one had a little more substance to it.

In The Elephant of Surprise, Hap and Leonard go up against the Dixie Mafia, a hurricane, and old age to protect Nikki, an albino girl who knows too much. Helping them is Manny, the take no shit lady cop minding the LaBorde PD while Marvin Hanson is out of town.

There's a sense of desperation in The Elephant of Surprise that has been lacking in Hap and Leonard's adventures lately. There aren't as many quips and the guys aren't as confident as they once were. A martial artist gets the better of them and Hap even misses some shots. While Hap and Leonard never pull a Danny Glover and say "I'm too old for this shit," the subtext is flashing like a neon sign. Without spoiling too much, there are a couple siege-like scenes that drive home the fact that while Hap and Leonard are still capable, they aren't the super heroes they once were.

Joe Lansdale's writing is as great as it ever was with colorful similes and great dialogue. While I've found some of his recent works not quite up to snuff, I've never felt that way about his writing. I'd read a cookbook if Joe wrote it.

The Elephant of Surprise was a notch better than the previous two or three Hap and Leonard books. I hope for the sake of the characters and the reputation of the series, this is the last one. 3.5 out of 5 stars.

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