Thursday, December 31, 2015

The Sandman: Overture

The Sandman: Overture (The Sandman, #0)The Sandman: Overture by Neil Gaiman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A star has gone mad and has infected others with its madness, threatening all of creation. Dream of the Endless must put right something he left undone years ago. With him are a girl named Hope and another version of himself in the form of a cat...

Confession time (I've been confessing a lot this week): In my late teens/early twenties, most of the comics I read were Vertigo or Vertigo-esque. The Sandman was at or near the front of the pack. I started in trade paperbacks and read the last ten or so issues as they appeared. For me, they hearken back to my days of wasting time majoring in art and drinking with my friends and playing Dungeons and Dragons.

Who was it that said you can't go home again? Thomas Wolfe, maybe? Well, that fucker was wrong, whoever he was. While I didn't know I was getting the first big honkin' Sandman omnibus for Christmas when I bought this, it feels like the perfect way to kickoff the reread.

The Sandman: Overture is the prelude to the entire Sandman saga. Ever wonder why some two-bit magician snared Dream in the 20's? This book takes the long way around but explains things pretty well.

Like most Sandman stories, lots of concepts and ideas are thrown around, and the power of dreams proves to be pretty powerful. A star goes mad and Dream comes a-callin'. Along the way, he encounters a lot of old characters, along with some previously unseen ones. Curious about who spawned The Endless? Wonder no more!

Gaiman successfully captured the feel of his earlier work and this fit pretty seamlessly into the Sandman mythology. His partner in crime for this endeavor, J.H. Williams, more than pulls his share of the weight. I can see why it took two years for this series to be completed. Williams packs unbelievable amounts of detail into every page. I especially loved the artwork when the various aspects of Dream convene to figure out what happened. It ranked right up there with multiple versions of The Doctor or the Eternal Champion meeting himself/herself/itself.

That's pretty much all I want to say for fear of spoiling things. Most prequels suck but, for my time and money, this one succeeds beyond measure. Five out of five stars.

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The Sleeper and the Spindle

The Sleeper and the SpindleThe Sleeper and the Spindle by Neil Gaiman
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

As a sleeping curse hits the kingdom, the queen postpones her wedding and sets off with three dwarves to free the sleeping princess and end the curse...

Neil Gaiman and Chris Riddell team up yet again to present this short fairy tale, a dark combination of Snow White and Sleeping Beauty.

As dark fairy tales go, it had its moments. I loved the sleepers talking and eventually sleepwalking after the heroes. I've said it many times before but Gaiman's tales for kids are way creepier than the ones for adults. The art by Chris Riddell added to the tale and reminded me of old woodcuts at times.

I liked the ending quite a bit, not nearly as pat as I was expecting. However, at the end of the day, this was pretty average. It was a little too short and not as fleshed out as I would have liked. I guess I expected more from Neil Gaiman this time out. Three out of five stars.

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Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Writing the Novel From Plot to Print to Pixel

Writing the Novel from Plot to Print to Pixel: Expanded and Updated!Writing the Novel from Plot to Print to Pixel: Expanded and Updated! by Lawrence Block
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Writing the Novel from Plot to Print to Pixel is a book about writing by the legendary Lawrence Block.

Lawrence Block sent me this in an email a couple weeks ago, asking me if I was interested in reviewing his upcoming book about writing. Once I changed into pants that weren't as soaked in my urine, I eagerly agreed to read and review it before getting stuck in the holiday quagmire.

I've often said that reading a book about writing is like asking a psychic for lottery numbers. If they can already predict the winning numbers, why are they offering them to me? However, Lawrence Block clearly has had the winning lottery numbers in his pocket for years and his books on writing are the only ones I take seriously.

This particular volume, WTNFPTPTP, is a revised, expanded, and cybernetic version of his writing book from yesteryear, Writing the Novel from Plot to Print. Instead of taking the lazy route and changing references to typewriters and the library to computers and the internet, present day Block tacks his thoughts on the end of his past-self's chapters. After all, the man has learned a thing or two in the decades that have passed since writing the original version of this book.

In addition to old reliable topics like developing plots and characters, rewriting, developing your style, and breaking into the business, Block also addresses the increasingly important topics of self-publishing and all the pros and cons that go with it.

If you're looking for a new book on writing, this is it. The odds are good that none of us are going to be the next Stephen King but Lawrence Block gives you enough tips to at least get a book written, if not published. The man is responsible for the Matthew Scudder series and once wrote a porno novel over a weekend so clearly knows his stuff. Four out of five stars.

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Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Hell's Bounty

Hell's BountyHell's Bounty by Joe R. Lansdale
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A bounty hunter named Smith is given a second chance at life. The only catch is that he has to stop an outlaw named Quill from bringing the Old Ones to our reality...

I got this from Netgalley.

The champion mojo storyteller, Joe Lansdale, is back, this time, with his brother John sharing the writing duties, with Hell's Bounty. Hell's Bounty is a weird western tale about redemption. Also, it's about wise-ass flesh-eating ghouls, a demonic outlaw, and the Old Ones of Lovecraftian infamy.

The characters are vintage Lansdale, complete with colorful remarks. The writing is in the trademark Lansdale front-porch or tailgate style, making it an easy yet gripping read. The deck is stacked against Smith, Payday, and the rest, and the ending is far from happily ever after, unless you consider a colossal orgy of violence happily ever after.

The Lansdale boys wove an entertaining yarn with Hell's Bounty. 3.5 out of 5 stars.

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