Saturday, September 29, 2012

Future Foundation - Volume 1: Tomorrow

Future Foundation - Volume 1: Tomorrow (FF, #1)Future Foundation - Volume 1: Tomorrow by Jonathan Hickman
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

In the wake of the Human Torch's death, the remainder of the Fantastic Four, plus Spider-Man and some others, form the Future Foundation. Their first goals: restore Doctor Doom's mind and defeat the Council of Reeds...

Here we are again, Jonathan Hickman throwing around some big ideas and whetting my appetite. As I said before, I love the idea of the Council of Reeds. In this volume, the FF join forces with The Wizard, The Mad Thinker, Diablo, and others to try to outwit the Reeds and their plan to combat the Celestials.

It's a good story so far but this volume has no sense of being complete or self-contained. I have a feeling I'll need to read the next two volumes to achieve any sort of payoff or literary orgasm. Still, Hickman keeps me interesting and Steve Epting and Barry Kitson do a great job on the art. Hickman has all of the character's personalities down pretty well. I just wish he would have given me some kind of payoff to hold me over until the next volume.

View all my reviews

Spider-Man: Big Time Ultimate Collection

Spider-Man: Big Time Ultimate CollectionSpider-Man: Big Time Ultimate Collection by Dan Slott
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Spider-man leads the Avengers into battle against Dr. Octopus and gets a job. A new Hobgoblin rears his ugly head. The Spider-Slayers and the Scorpion return. There's a new Venom in town. Spider-Man's wardrobe expands to include three or four new costumes. Spider-Man joins the Future Foundation in the wake of the Human Torch's death. Spider-Man teaches a class at the Avengers Academy. A lot other stuff happens too...

Confession Time: I haven't read Spider-Man regularly since Mike Wieringo was the artist. In fact, most of my favorite Spider-Man tales are from the original run of Marvel Team-Up. I briefly took an interest in JMS's run on the book but didn't like taste. Plus, Civil War was coming and the revolting amount of hype put me off comics for five years.

However, once I heard Dan Slott was writing Spider-Man, I had to give it a shot. I was not disappointed in the least.

This book contains something like 24 issues of Spider-Man and tells a wide variety of stories featuring the Web-Slinger. The humor and fun level is way up from the last time I read Spider-Man and Slott and the rest of the creative crew did a fantastic job. I particularly liked Marcos Martin's retro-style art, though Humberto Ramos has come a long way since his days on Impulse. Slott really gets what makes Spider-Man work. I caught myself laughing out loud at Spidey's antics quite a few times.

If there's one thing I've learned from Spider-Man: Big Time Ultimate Collection, it's that sometimes making a deal with the devil to save your 150 year old aunt's life at the expense of your marriage sometimes isn't all that bad. This is the best Spider-Man has been in years.

View all my reviews

Thursday, September 27, 2012

The Corpse-Rat King

The Corpse-Rat KingThe Corpse-Rat King by Lee Battersby
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

When battlefield scavenger Marius mistakenly winds up in the Kingdom of the Dead, he's given a chance to win his life back. All he has to do is find them a king...

After a series of disappointing books, The Corpse-Rat King is just what I needed. Marius is from the
Cugel the Clever/Drake Douay/Rincewind school of loveable cowards and his quest had me smiling a great percentage of the time.

On the surface, the plot doesn't seem all that complicated, and it isn't. What makes the Corpse-Rat King such an enjoyable read is that Lee Battersby is nearly as hilarious as a Monty Python marathon. He's like a mean-spirited Terry Pratchett. He's also Australian. I lost count of hilarious one-liners. "As mad as a ferret in a bucket of honey" was one of my favorites. I also love that one of the more colorful locales visited was The Dog Crap Archipelago.

Marius's semi-dead condition lends itself to a surprising amount of comedy. The bit with the old fortune teller was one of my favorites. The humor is a combination of Monty Python and Terry Pratchett with some of Sam Raimi's Hercules: The Legendary Journeys thrown in. Bruce Campbell could easily play Marius if this was made into a movie.

The supporting cast was an interesting bunch. Gerd, Marius's dead and dimwitted sidekick, Nandus, Scorbus, the pirates, all of them were fairly memorable. The story came to a satisfying conclusion but was open-ended enough to allow for a sequel. Please, let there be a sequel!

I don't really have anything bad to say about The Corpse-Rat King. The ending wasn't what I was expecting. I was thinking it would end in a cliche with Marius becoming King of the Dead but it didn't go down that way. I guess my only complaint is that I wish it would have been longer. Four easy stars.

View all my reviews

Monday, September 24, 2012

Doctor Who: The Coming of the Terraphiles

Doctor Who: The Coming of the TerraphilesDoctor Who: The Coming of the Terraphiles by Michael Moorcock
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

In the far future, The Doctor and Amy fall in with a group of historical reenacters, the Terraphiles, and join them in their competition to win the Arrow of Law, an artifact that may be the key to saving the multiverse. But what does the Arrow of Law have to do with the notorious space pirate Captain Cornelius or the theft of Mrs. Banning-Cannon's hideous new gargantuan hat?

On the surface, this looks like slam dunk for me. Michael Moorcock, author of The Dancers at the End of Time - Good. Doctor Who - Good. A strong P.G. Wodehouse feel remniscent of The Code of the Woosters - Good. Too bad it wasn't.

The ingredients are all there. At the core, this feels like a P.G. Wodehouse book set in space. Bingo Lockesley is a lot like Bertie Wooster and Mr. Banning Cannon could easily be someone that puts Bertie up to a hare-brained scheme. Moorcock even writes this more like a Wodehouse book than his normal style. It's very remniscent of Dancers at the End of Time in that respect.

The Arrow of Law is a lot like the maguffin in many of Moorcock's Eternal Champion books and the Cosmic Balance winds up playing a big part. Captain Cornelius is likely an aspect of the Eternal Champion and one of the more interesting characters in the book. I like what Moorcock's done with the 500th century and its denizens. However...

My main reason for 2-ing the hell out of this is the lack of The Doctor and Amy Pond. The Doctor and Amy are barely in it and don't do a whole lot. It reads like Moorcock had a novel set in the future already written and just crossed out two of the character's names and changed them to The Doctor and Amy Pond. As a Michael Moorcock book, I'd give this a high three. As Doctor Who book, it's barely a two. When I read a Doctor Who book, I want to see the TARDIS in action and the Doctor using his sonic screwdriver in every chapter, not playing some nutcracker game and looking for a missing hat.

To sum up, it's a case of the ingredients not coming together properly, like stirring the missing eggs and vanilla into the rest of the cake batter after it's already baked for ten minutes. I will think hard before I pick up another Doctor Who tie-in. Unless Neil Gaiman or John Scalzi should happen to write one.

View all my reviews

Sunday, September 23, 2012

The Rock of Bral

Rock of Bral (Advanced Dungeons & Dragons/Spelljammer Accessory SJR5)Rock of Bral by L. Richard Baker
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Every adventuring group needs a place to fence plundered goods and heal grievous wounds sustained during adventures. For the Spelljammer setting, a setting where players sail wooden ships through the fantasy equivalent of outer space, the Rock of Bral is the best they can hope for.

I have to confess that back in the day, my fourteen year old brain only scratched the surface of what the Spelljammer setting had to offer. It quickly devolved into Space Dungeon at times, using the setting as a way to have dungeons in asteroids. However, the Rock of Bral was something I quickly wrapped my head around.

The Rock of Bral is one of the most detailed fantasy settings in all of Dungeons and Dragons geekdom. The setting is detailed from it's early days as a mind flayer outpost, to a pirate headquarters, to a thriving fantasy city catering to all the needs in wildspace.

Due to the fantasy physics of the setting, both the topside and underside of the city are detailed. While the underside is little more than a prison, the topside is fleshed out to a fantastic degree, detailing the noble houses, the neighborhoods, the underbarons, and much more, giving the Dungeon Master everything he needs to run a long campaign without the PCs ever leaving the confines of the city.

For running a Spelljammer campaign, two resources are essential: the Spelljammer: Advanced Dungeons and Dragons Adventures in Space and this book.

View all my reviews

No Hero

No HeroNo Hero by Jonathan Wood
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Homicide cop Arthur Wallace gets recruited by British intelligence agency MI37 and plunged into a secret war against alien horrors called the Progeny. But one member of his team is a mole and is actually working to bring the unspeakable cosmic horror known as the Feeders into our reality...

This book was almost good. Let's examine the good points first before I tear it a new orifice.
- The core concept was well thought out. I love the idea of neighboring realities and horrible maggot like things that live inside people's heads working to bring Cthulhu-like monsters into our reality.
- The electricity-based magic system was great. The phrase "Electricity is the universal lubricant" will stick with me for quite a while.
- The characters Clyde, Tabitha, and Kayla were quite memorable. You've got the nerdlinger wizard, the angry goth researcher, and the killing machine, all with quirks that make them more than stereotypes.
- Copious Kurt Russel references. Come on, the man played Snake Plissken AND Jack Burton!
- British humor. No explanation needed.

And here comes the rant:
Arthur is a veteran homicide cop but acts more like an insurance agent for most of the book. One of the supporting characters tells him to grow a pair at one point. Arthur apparently needed to grow an entire squadron. He spends most of the book bemoaning that he's not a hero. Like most urban fantasy heroes, he spends most of the book out of his depth and takes a tremendous shit-kicking.

Basically, if No Hero had a lead who wasn't so passive, it probably would have been a four star book. All the winning ingredients are there. It's magic system is very original and I love lot of the cast. It's not a bad book but the fact that it took me three attempts to get all the way through it should be an indicator of how many problems I had with it. I enjoyed the hell out of a few parts of it but not enough to read the next book in the series.

A phrase that is repeated quite a few times in the book is "What would Kurt Russell do?" Well, he probably would have quit reading this book after fifty pages.

View all my reviews

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Shade, the Changing Man, Vol. 3: Scream Time

Shade, the Changing Man, Vol. 3: Scream TimeShade, the Changing Man, Vol. 3: Scream Time by Peter Milligan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Shade's conflict with the American Scream and Wisor of Meta comes to a brutal conclusion. Also, Shade saves Christmas.

In the third volume of Shade the Changing Man, the American Scream's origin is revealed, Kathy deals with some things, and Shade brings the first arc of his series to a close. This volume was the best of the three so far. Chris Bachalo's art has improved in leaps and bounds since the first issue and all the seeds Peter Milligan planted in the first 18 or so issues bore fruit.

Shade was always overshadowed by other books like The Sandman and The Doom Patrol when it was being published but I'd say it's more original than either series. Milligan's weirdness is more purposeful than that of the Doom Patrol and I think his writing is on par with Gaiman's.

I love that this volume has a Western theme, part of it taking place in a bizarre version of the old west. Another thing that I thought was really cool was that this volume felt more connected to the Steve Ditko Shade the Changing Man series of the 1970's, with mentions of Meta, Shade's fiancee Mellu, and Shade's body floating in the Madness Zone, still wearing the M-Vest. Heck, Milligan even reveals the origin of the M-Vest.

That's about all I have to say. I'm hoping DC reprints the rest of Shade so that I may read it.

View all my reviews

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Batman: Heart of Hush

Batman: Heart of HushBatman: Heart of Hush by Paul Dini
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Hush returns and begins striking at Batman however he can. But when he attacks Catwoman and removes the heart from her chest, has he gone too far?

The Heart of Hush further fleshes out the childhood relationship between Bruce Wayne and Tommy Elliot, aka Hush, as well as that between Batman and Catwoman. It also cements Hush's place in Batman's Rogues Gallery along with legends like The Joker, the Penguin, and the Riddler.

Much like in his initial appearance, the big draw with Hush is that he knows Bruce Wayne well enough to strike him close to home, where it would hurt the most. In this case, it's Catwoman, who is used to show that Batman is still just a man. Hush continues to pal around with Bat-villains like Scarecrow and Mr. Freeze in order to achieve his goals. One thing I really liked in this volume was the Scarecrow juicing up a kidnapped, bat-fearing kid with Venom and unleashing him on Batman.

At the end of the day, however, it's not as remarkable as Hush or The Black Mirror, other recent Batman favorites of mine. Three stars, edging toward four.

View all my reviews

Fantastic Four by Jonathan Hickman Volume 4

Fantastic Four by Jonathan Hickman Volume 4Fantastic Four by Jonathan Hickman Volume 4 by Jonathan Hickman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Thing becomes human for a week. The Silver Surfer discovers the corpse of the future version of Galactus and comes looking for answers. Valeria makes a deal with Doom. Susan Richards gets caught in a conflict between Namor and the other Atlanteans. The Anti-Priest hatches a scheme that will see one of the Fantastic Four dead...

Over the course of the past three volumes, I've mentioned that while I like Jonathan Hickman's ideas, everything seems like set up. Not so with this one. The foreplay is over and the penetration has begun!

All the seeds Hickman has sown thus far come to fruition. Annihilus, Galactus, the Council of Reeds, Nu-World, the Future Foundation, all of it. It feels like a summer blockbuster. Everything that can go wrong does, and while it all works out eventually, nothing is the same.

Super hero deaths are so frequent that they barely register with me any more. The Human Torch's death was different. The issue was largely silent, showing the reactions of Johnny Storm's death through the super hero world. Franklin Richards' chat with Spiderman and The Thing brawling with Hulk and Thor were by far the most touching parts. How often do you see Thor shed a tear and the Hulk trying to comfort the Thing?[Super hero deaths are so frequent that they barely register with me any more. The Human Torch's death was different. The issue was largely silent, showing the reactions of Johnny Storm's death through the super hero world. Franklin Richards' chat with Spiderman and The Thing brawling with Hulk and Thor were by far the most touching parts. How often do you see Thor shed a tear and the Hulk trying to comfort the Thing? (hide spoiler)]
I had my doubts about Hickman's run all the way up until this point but he has completely redeemed himself.

View all my reviews

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Fantastic Four by Jonathan Hickman - Volume 3

Fantastic Four by Jonathan Hickman - Volume 3Fantastic Four by Jonathan Hickman - Volume 3 by Jonathan Hickman
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Reed Richards assembles promising young minds and forms the Future Foundation. The Human Torch takes Franklin and Leech shopping. The various versions of Nathaniel Richards, Reed's father, are hunting one another through the time stream until only one remains...

Hickman's guiding of Marvel's First Family continues. This time, he plays with B-list Fantastic Four foils like Arcade and Impossible Man. The formation of the Future Foundation sows the seeds for the Future Foundation's own title down the road, as well as giving The Thing something to look forward to every year.

By far, my favorite storyline in the collection was Nathaniel Richards snatching college-agedReed, Ben Grimm, and Victor Von Doom for a jaunt through time to combat another version of himself. Maybe it's because I've been watching a lot of Doctor Who lately but I really dug this story.

Still, it wasn't all peaches and gravy. Dale Eaglesham is gone, replaced by the not-quite-as-good Neil Edwards. Just as with the previous two volumes, it feels a lot more like setup than standalone tales. While I know Hickman's got something huge brewing, I don't know if I have the patience to stick around long enough to see it.

All that being said, I love the sheer amount of ideas Hickman is throwing at me. Even if the pace isn't as fast as I prefer, the man knows the Fantastic Four. 3 stars.

View all my reviews

Run Man Run

Run Man RunRun Man Run by Himes
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I went on a quest for some Chester Himes not to long ago, hearing that he was an influence on Joe Lansdale. This was the first of his books I stumbled upon. The blurb on the cover says "Lush sex and stark violence, colored Black and served up raw by a great Negro writer." How could I not buy it?

A drunken cop, Matt Walker, is stumbling around Harlem and can't find his car. He wanders into an automat where three black men are working as porters. He immediately accuses them of stealing his car. While he's pointing his gun at one of them in a drunken rage, the gun goes off "accidentally." Seeing the trouble he'll be in, Walker finishes off the man he shot, kills another porter, and wounds the other, Jimmy Johnson. Johnson survives, but Walker is on his trail...

The suspense in this thing is unbelievable. It's not hard to empathize with Jimmy, what with the psycho cop Walker stalking him at every turn. You also feel for Detective Brock, Walker's brother cop and brother in law. And though some of her behavior is horrible, you even feel for Linda, Jimmy's girlfriend who's not sure what to believe.

You can definitely see how Himes influenced Lansdale. It's not hard to believe that Lansdale's Texas and Himes's Harlem exist in the same world.

I'd recommend this to all crime fans, especially those of the pulp and Hard Case variety.

View all my reviews

The Real Cool Killers

The Real Cool Killers (Harlem Cycle, #3)The Real Cool Killers by Chester Himes
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Ulysses Galen is shot down in the streets of Harlem and Grave Digger Jones and Coffin Ed Johnson are on the case. The prime suspect is a member of a gang calling themselves The Real Cool Moslems. After an incident with the Moslems, Coffin Ed is suspended. Good thing, since one of the girls that runs with the Moslems is his teenaged daughter...

It's a crime that Chester Himes isn't more well known than he is. The writing in The Real Cool Killers is gritty and straight to the point. I can see Himes's influence in not only Joe Lansdale's writing but also James Ellroy's. Himes's Harlem isn't a nice place to live, that's for sure. The revelation of who actually killed Galen is fairly surprising.

I think I'll be tracking down the rest of the Harlem Detectives series. Coffin Ed and Grave Digger Jones are ass-kicking machines and I'd like to see them on another case where they can fully cut loose.

View all my reviews

Hot Day, Hot Night

Hot Day Hot NightHot Day Hot Night by Chester Himes
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

When a pantsless man with his throat cut dies at the feet of Coffin Ed and Grave Digger Jones, it's up to the toughest detectives in Harlem to find out who killed him. But can they solve the murder and figure out who's causing the riots that threaten to destroy Harlem?

Hot Day, Hot Night, aka Blind Man with a Pistol, is more than a pulp detective story. Like Himes's other books featuring Coffin Ed and Grave Digger Jones, it's a commentary about racism and racial equality. You can definitely tell by reading it that Himes wasn't planning on writing another Harlem Detective book. This one is bleak, chaotic, and even the baddest detectives in Harlem seem to be getting tired.

Chaotic would be the best way to describe the narrative. There are riots, murders, and all kinds of crazy shit. Coffin Ed and Grave Digger were just as in the dark as I was for most of it. The ending pretty much sums up the point Himes was trying to get across in the whole book: violence doesn't make sense.

It's a shame Chester Himes isn't very well known. He was definitely ahead of his time.

View all my reviews

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Fantastic Four by Jonathan Hickman - Volume 2

Fantastic Four by Jonathan Hickman - Volume 2Fantastic Four by Jonathan Hickman - Volume 2 by Jonathan Hickman
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The High Evolutionary's abandoned subterranean city will soon rise and the Mole Man comes to the Fantastic Four for help. A lake beneath the Antarctic ice cap is threatened by AIM, who wishes to exploit its secrets. And what are the Inhumans up to on the Blue Area of the moon? All of this and more will be addressed in Fantastic Four by Jonathan Hickman - Volume 2!

I wasn't completely sold on Hickman in the first volume but I thought I'd give him another chance. The Fantastic Four have been my favorite super hero team for decades and Dale Eaglesham's art is the alligator's Adam's apple. I'm happy to report that this volume is more like what I was expecting from Hickman.

The four issues contained within are all throwbacks to early Fantastic Four tales, tales of exploration and not a lot of super heroics. The FF visit exotic locals such as Subterranea, the Blue Area of the Moon, the Negative Zone, and an undersea realm beneath Lake Vostock.

The interplay between the characters was well done. I liked that The Mole Man has moved beyond his one-dimensional hated toward the surface world. I felt slightly lost during the story of the Inhumans but I was up to speed by the end.

Any gripes? It still felt like a lot of setup is about the only black mark against this one. I'm hoping some of the seeds Hickman has been planting bear fruit in the next volume. Regardless, it was a fun read and hearkened back to the days of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby in some respects. 3+ is the final verdict.

View all my reviews

Monday, September 10, 2012

Camera Obscura

Camera Obscura (The Bookman Histories, #2)Camera Obscura by Lavie Tidhar
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A man is found dead in a locked room on the Rue Morgue, the mysterious object he was transporting cut from his abdomen. Milady de Winter investigates and uncovers a fiendish plot. Can de Winter figure out who killed the man and still retain her sanity?

In this sequel to The Bookman, Lavie Tidhar crafts a steampunk noir tale with many wrinkles. As with the first book, Les Lizardes are in the background the entire time. De Winter follows a trail of clues and battles other agents of The Council as she tries to piece together what happened.

Honestly, I have mixed feelings about this one. While I liked it, I don't think it was anywhere near as good as The Bookman.

The stuff I liked: Milday De Winter was a much more compelling protagonist than Orphan from the first book and kicked multiple truckloads of ass. The ninjas from the Far East were cool and I liked the intrigue involving the Council. Viktor Frankenstein was an interesting supporting character. The villain of the book and what he does to de Winter about two thirds of the way through the book was really unexpected. As with the last book, it was fun trying to spot the Easter eggs in the text. The plot involving the lizards advanced a bit.

The other bits: It just wasn't as good as The Bookman. There weren't as many Easter Eggs, the plot was a little out of control, and it just wasn't as engaging. I found myself a little too eager to do housework or watch Doctor Who instead of reading.

Closing remarks: While I didn't enjoy it as much as The Bookman, it was still a fun read at times. I'll definitely be buying more Lavie Tidhar books in the future.

View all my reviews

Friday, September 7, 2012

The Action Hero's Handbook

The Action Hero's HandbookThe Action Hero's Handbook by David Borgenicht
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Need tips on disarming an attacker? Investigating a crime? Trying to land a plane? Then this is the book for you!

The Action Hero's Handbook is an invaluable tool for action heroes everywhere. In its wisdom packed pages can be found the tactics to use in any situation, from winning a gunfight to fighting a large group of people, from using the Vulcan neck pinch to confusing someone's mind with the force, and from catching a great white shark to turning sexual tension into passionate sex. Who doesn't need advice on that last one?

So if you're any man of action, be it organ smuggler, cat burglar, or forensic investigator, this is the book for you. At only $14.95, it's a steal!

View all my reviews

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

City Primeval

City PrimevalCity Primeval by Elmore Leonard
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Career criminal Clement Mansell killed a crooked judge and the only witness to the crime, the judge's girlfriend. Now, detective Raymond Cruz is trying to pin the crime on Clement but Clement is the slipperiest of worms. Cruz and Clement are heading for a showdown that only one of them will walk away from...

As of this writing, I've read 15 Elmore Leonard novels. Many of them have the same sort of rhythm. The bad guys are slick, the good guys are slicker, and you wind up liking most of them to some degree. This one doesn't quite fit in that mold.

The characters drive the story in City Primeval. Roger Cruz, the divorced detective trying to make his squad take him seriously, and Clement Mansell, the career criminal who might just be too slick for his own good, contrast one another nicely. The interaction between the pair make this cop story feel more like a modern western than anything else. Unlike a lot of Leonard antagonists, I couldn't wait for Mansell's has to get settled. He was a reprehensible worm and I had the literary equivalent of a screaming orgasm when he finally met his fate.

The supporting cast was a little light on personality but the two lead female supporting cast members contrasted one another almost as well as Cruz and Clement. Sandy was a pothead who lived in fear of Clement while Carolyn was a tough lady lawyer who was reluctant to let herself need anyone.

The writing was still Leonard's standard style but with a coldness where much of the humor would normally be. Of all the Elmore Leonard's I've read, this one would be the only one that I could see being at home in the Hard Case Crime series.

No complaints on this one. It was quick and breezy and a slight departure from Leonard's normal fare. Four easy stars.

View all my reviews

Blood and Tacos #1

Blood & Tacos # 1Blood & Tacos # 1 by Johnny Shaw
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The inaugural entry in what I hope is a long series, Blood & Tacos # 1 is bursting with manly pulpy goodness straight from the 1970's. Five cheesily awesome stories are barely contained between its formidable virtual covers.

Much like Black Dynamite, the tales within are true to the source material, intentionally cheezy but played almost deadly serious.

The five stories are drawn from the full spectrum of men's adventure novels. You've got the Russian dominated WWIII future Battleground USSA, the paramilitary group Tiger Team Bravo, blaxploitation bad ass The Silencer, the alcohol-fueled ass kicker The Albino Wino, and Chingon, the world's deadliest Mexican.

I have to admit, Chingon's tale is by far my favorite. It's like watching Machete if the last thirty or forty minutes didn't suck. How could I not like a story with this quote:
“Many have been curious about Chingón’s deadliness, gringo,” Chingón said, “Most of them are muerto. Dead and buried. Because I killed them. Killed them until they were dead. Dead and buried.”
Plus, he uses grenades and a bull whip. A bull whip!

Blood & Tacos # 1 also contains reviews of three classic Men's Adventures. I'm almost ashamed to admit I want to track down Penetrator #14 to experience it for myself.

It's only a buck for the Kindle or free on the website so if you like 70's inspired pulp, your cheap ass has no excuse but to pick up Blood & Tacos # 1!

View all my reviews

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Ready Player One

Ready Player OneReady Player One by Ernest Cline
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

In the dystopian future of 2044, the world is going down the crapper and many people spend most of their free time playing OASIS, an online virtual reality game, sifting through every minute detail of the creator's life, for whomever unravels a series of riddles James Halliday left behind inherits it all. Will teenager Wade Watts be the one?

As I've said in the past, every once in a while a reader will unearth a book that feels as if it was written especially for them. For me, Ready Player One is one of those books.

I wasn't completely sold at first. OASIS reminded me of The Metaverse from Snow Crash and Wade wasn't all that interesting to me. Then he referenced The Last Starfighter and I suddenly became more interested. By the time the Tomb of Horrors was mentioned, I was completely hooked.

The plot's structure isn't that revolutionary. It's pretty much your standard hero's journey. As the story unfolded, the characters are what made the book unputdownable.

I hate to admit it but I was feeling some kinship with Wade as the book progressed. Is spending most of your free time in OASIS really that much different than reading for hours on end? Also, the book explores the nature of people and their online avatars. The revelation of Aech's true identity illustrates the difference between perception and reality quite nicely, just like the time when I met Kemper and discovered he wasn't a gun-toting chimp in a suit. Apparently, he left his guns at home that day. Or the time when I met Stephen and discovered he WAS a book-reviewing robot.

A large part of the appeal of Ready Player One is the astounding amount of pop culture references. While most of them are from the 1980's, a few are not. The Matrix and Monty Python and the Holy Grail, for example. I suspect younger readers won't get as many of the reference and not enjoy the books as much. However, as a child of the 80's and a dyed in the wool geek, I enjoyed the book very very much.

As I said earlier, the plot isn't revolutionary but it's still an enjoyable read. A single man-tear threatened to escape my eye during the epilogue but I fought it back. Five easy stars.

View all my reviews