Sunday, November 16, 2014

It's Only Death

Its Only DeathIts Only Death by Lee Thompson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

When he was a teenager, Elmore James Jackson killed his father, a cop, in an attempted bank robbery and has been on the lam ever since. When his sister contacts him, saying their mother is dying of pancreatic cancer, James heads home to find a number of people want him dead...

I got this from the fine folks at DarkFuse via Netgalley.

This is one of those books that's hard to quantify. Is it a noir tale at redemption? Is it about family and loss? Does it emphasize that we all make our own choice and life is a circle? Or is it about a bunch of fuck-knuckles doing each other dirty?

Yes. I'd say it's all those things.

When James rolls into town, it sure seems like he's going to be rolling out in a pine box. Killing his father six years earlier threw his family life off the rails. His once angelic sister is a stripper. His father's old partner is gunning for him. His sister's douche bag boyfriend and his biker pals have it out for him. His only ally is the guy whose been pining over his sister since they were kids and even that's not on solid ground.

It's hard to root for a screw-up sociopath but Lee Thompson does a great job making me feel sympathy for James. When almost every character in the book is a gaping asshole, James is the least assholish, I guess. It would have been easy for Thompson to use the tale's setup to do the Jack Reacher-style tough guy rolls into town and becomes a gun-toting super hero on all the bad guys but it doesn't go down like that. It's Only Death is more or less a bleak tale about facing the music and getting what's coming to you.

That's not to say there isn't bloodshed. I'm pretty sure everyone is dead or dying by the end apart from one or two characters. There is gunplay, brutal fisticuffs, knives, and even an alligator. It wasn't a long book but I was pretty worn out by the end of it.

It's Only Death is a bleak dysfunctional noir tale that only someone with the last name Thompson could write. Four out of Five Stars.

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Friday, November 14, 2014

The Art of Growing a Beard

The Art of Growing a BeardThe Art of Growing a Beard by Marvin Grosswirth
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Art of Growing a Beard is a book about the history, selection process, and maintenance of beards from throughout history.

I got this from Netgalley.

This book was written in the 1970's and has been reissued. It is also a hilarious text on all aspects of bearded life and essential for the bearded or wannabe bearded gentleman.

Did you know we haven't had a bearded president in over a century? Or that it's perfectly acceptable to draw beards on photographs of oneself when selecting your beard? Or that the perfect accessories for a goatee are a string tie, mint julep, and a pillared mansion in some state of decrepitude?

Grosswirth also covers the impact growing a beard will have on your life, be it increased attention from the opposite sex or giving you an air of authority.

The Art of Growing a Beard does show it's age a bit. It was written in the 1970's and 70's slang and attitudes are prevalent, which makes it even more hilarious, in my opinion.

If you have a beard, know someone with a beard, or want to know someone with a beard, you will find this book both informative and hilarious. Four out of five stars.

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Macaque Attack!

Macaque Attack!Macaque Attack! by Gareth L. Powell
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

In the wake of the Gestalt's defeat, Ack-Ack Macaque is now the leader of an army of uplifted monkeys and wandering the multiverse. When cyborgs from Mars launch an asteroid at earth, which foul-mouth cigar chomping primate are they going to call?

I got this from Netgalley and it was damn sweet!

Here we are, the thrilling conclusion to the Macaque Trilogy. When the backup consciousnesses of Celeste and her minions wake up on Mars, they send Earth a present in the form of a giant asteroid. Sure enough, Ack-Ack is up to the challenge of going Armageddon on its ass, once he finds his way back from a different reality, that it.

I find it amazing how Gareth Powell took a fairly ridiculous premise, that of a cigar-chomping macaque fighting in WWII and turned it into a three book cyberpunk epic featuring parallel worlds and things of that nature. What could have been a hilarious novella about an ass-kicking simian morphed into a fantastic trilogy featuring such heady topics as quantum physics, nanotechnology, virtual reality, and what it means to be alive.

For a book featuring an ape with a mouth like a sailor, this bastard is a pretty serious tale. Entire timelines are destroyed, lots of shit blows up, and a certain woman has to say goodbye to her husband. The increasingly world-weary Ack-Ack finds he'll be facing the most brutal battle of them all: Fatherhood.

It's hard not to like a series book that prominently features a super-intelligent, gun-toting, chain smoking macaque. Not only that, the Macaque trilogy also features such winning ingredients as clones, cyborgs, parallel universes, nanomachinery, personality backups, homages to pulp sf, hive minds, and uplifted primates, most of which have foul mouths. Even though it was left open-ended, this fuck-knuckle was a very satisfying conclusion to the tale of Ack_Ack Macaque. Four out of five stars.

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