Library Haul

I ran out of books that I wanted to read, so it was time for another trip to the library so I could wander around the lonely aisles and try to make sense of the shelving. This time, I had a couple of books on my list to keep an eye out for.

Station Eleven, Emily St. John Mandel

I rushed down to my library after noticing that it had a copy of this book available on its shelves and restricted from being held (there were hundreds of holds) and sent to other libraries. Score. Station Eleven has been getting a lot of praise and people seem genuinely disappointed that it didn’t make the Hugo ballot. It has to be good… right? {“Eh,” he says, writing this a week after having returned from the library.}

Mort(e), Robert Pepino

I saw this mentioned somewhere before I went to the library and there it was on the same shelf as Station Eleven, so I figured that I would give it a go. I have to admit that I am wary of any book that features a cast of animals (even evolved and anthropomorphic), but it has been a pretty decent book so far. Considering that this book just came out a couple of months ago and I have seen no one talking about it, it may have flown below the radar.

A Visit from the Good Squad, by Jennifer Egan

I had a chance to pick this up as an ARC back when it was release, but waffled about too long and missed the window. I was disappointed, but I was sure that I would get around to it eventually. Four years isn’t that long… is it?

The Compleat Terminal City, by Dean Motter and Michael Lark

Tired of wandering around the aisles trying to pick something out from the mix-n-match hell of my library’s shelves, I decided to just give up and check the graphic novels section before leaving. This one looked interesting, but I’m a quarter of the way through and find myself incapable of giving a shit about the rest of it. Probably won’t continue.

Daytripper, by Fabio Moon and Gabriel Ba

Another graphic novel. I know nothing about this one, but the blurbs suggest that it is something wonderful. Actually, the art is appealing and the story sounds like it will be right up my alley, so we’ll see how this one turns out.


Reading Log (04/08)

It is hard to get back on track after taking so much time off. I may have been away from the computer and then distracted by this whole Hugo awards fiasco, but I haven’t stopped reading. Here’s what I’ve read since last posting my reading log—about a month and a half by this point:

  1. The Dog Stars by Peter Heller
    Verdict: Painful slog. Reason: God-awful prose (backed up by the narrative, but still a nightmare to read), sex scenes that must be a product of the author trying his hand at comedy, and an ending that eliminated the significance of any of the changes or progress made up to that point by returning to the status quo. I give the book points (in the Whose Line tradition) for having an interesting setting–the US years after a vague super-flu wiped out the majority of its population, now suffering from the effects of climate change–but it wasn’t explored enough and ultimately rang hollow.

  2.  The Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes
    Verdict: A pleasant surprise. Reason: I was expecting the worst when I picked up this book. This is my introduction to Beukes, so all I had to go on was my bias against her former publisher, Angry Robot Books, and my growing bias against her current publisher, Mulholland Books. I don’t want any weird looks for having issues with publishers… my tastes do not align with the people buying fiction for these places.As it turns out, my worries were for nothing. Lauren Beukes is a strong writer and she does a bang up job blending genres and tropes to create a simple, effective story. Her book is populated by compelling characters, the atmosphere is downright creepy at times, and the time travel remains blissfully free of the unnecessary complexity that often drags such stories down.

  3. City of Stairs by Robert Jackson Bennett
    Verdict: Deserving of any recognition it gets. Reason: Had some puppies not run amok with the Hugo awards, I expect we would have seen this book nominated. Well, I hope we would have seen this book nominated. There are few books that offer a little something for everyone and City of Stairs is definitely one of them. You might go into this book for the cool and competent spy who inserts herself into the murder investigation of a friend, for her mysterious and epic secretary Sigrid (some have complained that he is out of place in the book, but I personally loved him and his exploits), for the intrigue, the action, the stairs… I fell for this book because the city and its dead gods, for the world-breaking magic they left behind and the  monstrous creations that still lurk in the shadows.

  4. The Orphan Master’s Son by Adam Johnson
    Verdict: Unbelievable. Reason: I would probably love this book if it wasn’t for the loudspeaker scenes in the latter half. The propaganda narrative of this book was novel for all of a few pages and then it kept going, interrupting the story at the worst times and wearing down my patience to the point of translucence. It stuck out like a sore thumb in an otherwise very strong book. The story it has to share is great, if brutal. There are a lot of bright moments and there is humor and fun to be found in its pages.

  5. Broken Monsters by Lauren Beukes
    Verdict: 😦 Reason: I am not fond of this book. It is an improvement over The Shining Girls in terms of pacing and the integration of genre elements. The story appeals to me and so does the brand of supernatural that eventually emerges, but I disliked all but one of the characters and I am pretty sure he was only spared because he was rarely around. I should stress that there is nothing bad about these characters and that my feelings toward them are not borne out of poor writing. Were these real people that I might possibly interact with at some point in my daily life, I would go out of my way to avoid them. I can’t blame the author for writing characters that inspire such a reaction. I also can’t blame her for my apparent dislike of social media representation in fiction, which was something of a surprise.


  1. Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
    Why?: I was undone by the endless asides and nonsense conversations that seemed to crop up every other paragraph. The sad thing about this is that I sampled the book about a decade ago and loved what I read but I was wrapped up in the books I was reading for my blog and put it aside for later. It seems I waited too long to get back to it.

  2. On the Road by Jack Kerouac
    Why?: The first lines hooked me–“I first met Dean not long after my wife and I split up. I had just gotten over a serious illness that I won’t bother to talk about, except that it had something to do with the miserably weary split-up and my feeling that everything was dead.“–and the lines and pages that followed ripped out the hook, threw me back, and sped off to another part of the lake.


I haven’t been posting and I have a good reason this time. Two good reasons.

The first: I moved at the beginning of the month. That was a while ago, I know, but between moving and work there isn’t a lot of time left to fiddle around on blogs. There is also the matter of not having a desk, which makes working at the computer more than a little uncomfortable. I currently have a box. It is not a large box.

Second: My computer’s hard drive failed and because all of my money went toward getting an apartment and moving… there is no fixing it. I was able to rig up a working solution with my old laptop, which had no working screen and an obsolete version of Ubuntu installed (still better than Vista). Of course, I put that all together and then broke it with my meddling, which prompted an infuriating week and half of winged solutions.

It is all working now though, so hurrah to that. I have a ton of stuff to write and post and we’ll see if that ever comes about. For now, I’m in pain and tired and I’m heading back to bed.

Movie Log (2-25)

Both work and life has been stressful lately and I have been desperate to avoid thinking about things. That way lies a dread spiral of past mistakes and bad choices that I prefer not to revisit. I have turned to Netflix and Redbox to keep my mind off things. Mind you, I know jack all about reviewing films so don’t expect much from me.

The Brothers Bloom is almost one of my favorite films. I have seen it four or five times now and I am very fond of it, but I often forget that it exists between viewings. Better that than not knowing that it ever existed in the first place.

It is a quirky adventure romp, a Wes Anderson film that has been dialed back several notches so it isn’t quite as out there and awkward. There is plenty of humor to go around, but the narrative also dips into darker, more serious territory on occasion. Those worried that it might cut into the quirky fun of the film need not be as so little time is spent on these scenes that one can easily ignore both the elephant in the room and creeping realization of just how troubled one of the characters is (something that I did not get until I this viewing).

It is absolutely fine if you just want the funny ’round-the-world con flick. You aren’t alone. I haven’t done a search, but I doubt there are many people going on about the hidden depths of The Brothers Bloom. Though I would be interested in reading that article if any of you happen across one.

Adrien Brody’s Bloom mopes through the majority of the film but the rest of the cast and their characters are a charming, likable bunch. Mark Ruffalo makes for a convincing con man and manipulative jackass. Rinko Kikuchi gets like one line of dialogue and a song, but does wonders with body language and is fucking hilarious. Rachel Weisz’s Penelope, is a rich, lonely shut-in who collects hobbies as a hobby and essentially drives the film forward out of the sheer excitement of being free from the house she’s been confined to her entire life. She and Rinko Kikuchi stand out as the best performances in the film… these are the interesting characters. Fuck the brothers Bloom, I want to see Penelope and Bang Bang tearing across the world having adventures and blowing shit up.

It is a good film. Watch it. You can find it on Netflix US. While you are at it, watch Rian Johnson’s first film, Brick. It is nothing like The Brothers Bloom, but it is Joseph Gordon-Levitt in a high school neo-noir murder mystery. Both of these films are leagues better than Johnson’s third film, Looper, which I am sure everyone has seen by now.

I took a few chances on movies this time around, deciding on films that got some pretty poor reviews and plenty of bashing from the general audience. The vocal minority of that general audience that plays on the internet, at least. One of those films was Lucy, which I have been looking forward to since the first trailer.

Faulty premise? Oh yeah, it has that. Thing is though, that doesn’t bother me. I am not going to go apoplectic just because a science fiction film decided to fuck up the science. I just don’t have it in me to care that much. I like that the film took the notion that we only use 10% of our brain’s capacity, ran with it, and just kept on running all the way through the concept.

I enjoyed it a lot. Lucy’s constant evolution had me hooked. I wanted to see what came next, how she changed, the reactions to her change, and what dumb ass plan the bad guys would hatch to try and take her down. I don’t even mind Scarlett Johansson’s robotic delivery, one of the things getting tons of hate, because it ties into the narrative and makes sense.

Lucy isn’t necessarily deep and basing your science off of a fallacy probably disqualifies you from being labeled smart, but it is an entertaining film and manages to be entertaining all the way through. I’d watch it again in a heartbeat.

Deep in the depths of Netflix’s SF section was the new RoboCop, the second movie on this list with a hate parade marching after it. I understand the hate behind this one… I don’t agree with it at all, but I get it. Being a reboot is sin enough. Being a reboot of a cult hit is an affront to all that is good in the world. Even if the movie was brilliant, people would hate it for existing. I like reboots. So whatever.

Here’s the thing. I am not a fan of the original RoboCop. I saw it when I was a kid and enjoyed it, but it didn’t leave an impression on me then and it didn’t leave an impression the other times I watched it growing up.

I am biased against Paul Verhoeven because of Starship Troopers, which spawned an entire franchise based around a shit adaptation. However, that came later and doesn’t really have anything to do with this film. I just wanted to throw it out there.

The movie was what I expected it to be and, yet, not. The movie is nothing special, a generic piece of entertainment that you’ve seen time and time again even if you have never seen the original. It has flashy good looks, the acting is competent, and to its credit, the film does try its hand at satire for a while before ushering it out of sight.

I did not expect to see the sort of generic superhero origin story that has become tradition for comic book adaptations since Raimi’s first Spider-man film. I noticed the pacing issues right away, but I didn’t realize that this was the cause until later on. The set up is there:

The movie introduces the main character and then takes its sweet time turning him into the hero so we get some training scenes and proper motivation and conflict can be established. After that, a bunch of action is thrown in, the baddies get taken down, and the hero suits up again for the sequel. The good news is that it isn’t as bloated as your typical superhero movie. Unfortunately, the pacing goes a long way toward making it feel like it.

The new RoboCop is competently made and mediocre. I doubt that anyone would favorably compare it to the original, but it isn’t a bad movie. It could have been much worse. Much, much worse.

Have you seen 21 Jump Street? 22 Jump Street is the same thing, different movie. There’s an abundance of meta humor, which I love, and some very awkward humor, which I don’t. I liked it. You’ll probably like it if you liked the first one. That’s all I can really say about it.

Nebula Short Fiction Links

This is what I could find:

Blomkamp Confirmed for Next Alien Flick

Considering that this confirmation is based entirely off of Blomkamp’s Instagram account, I do wonder if this “announcement” isn’t somewhat premature. I don’t doubt that the film will happen, but you know… Instagram.

That said, the only surprise here is that it took so long for the news to break. Blompkamp appeared to be waffling about whether or not he even wanted to do the film in a recent interview (despite Fox’s apparent interest and all the work he put into it already), but I didn’t expect any other outcome.