Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Book Reviews: Africa Zero by Neal Asher

Africa Zero by Neal Asher

Paperback, 169 pages

Published 2006 by Wildside Press (first published 1994)

Neal Asher is one of my favorite modern Science Fiction writers and this lost novella is a work of his that I read once before. It takes a short story and a novella and marries them together into one piece. The best thing about this novella is how batshit crazy it is. I mean this is early Asher and has not been re-issued probably because it was before Asher polished his skills. That said I really enjoy how weird it is.

The main character is a Cyborg named "The Collector" who is all machine at this point except his brain. This hints of Sable Keech the amazing character from the novel I consider Asher's best "The Skinner." The Collector roams Africa a thousand years after a human exodus collecting and DNA and re-seeding lost species of plants and animals. Sometimes he tinkers including a time that he gene spliced A Human-vampire species Great African Vampire.

So yes you have a post human earth with a mostly machine cyborg fighting post civilized African cults and genetically engineered vampires. Way weirder than that. It is short but Asher fans should check it out for sure. If you are new to Asher start out with The Skinner or Gridlinked. You can find reviews on this blog if you search Neal Asher in the blog search window.

Book Review:Yamada Monogatari: To Break the Demon Gate by Richard Parks

Yamada Monogatari: To Break the Demon Gate by Richard Parks

Paperback, 288 pages

Published December 3rd 2014 by Prime Books

From the back cover: "Yamada no Goji is a minor nobleman of ancient Japan who has lost everything - except a single purpose: keep a promise to the woman he loved. In order to fulfill his vow, all he has to do is fight a horde of demons and monsters, bargain with a few ghosts, outwit the sinister schemers of the emperor's court, find a way to defeat an assassin who cannot be seen, heard, or touched - and change the course of history. Fortunately, Yamada specializes in achieving the seemingly impossible, so he is sure in some way to succeed...if he doesn't drink himself into oblivion first"

On the surface this book is exactly my cup of tea. A historical Asian dark fantasy novel that includes demons, ghosts and the mid evil Japanese imperial court. When I first read the back cover description I assumed this was a Samurai demon hunter but this is before even that time in Japan. As a fan of far east fantasy I picked this book up the moment I saw it on the shelf at a book store. I knew nothing about the author or the fact that this character had a book earlier. That book was a collection of stories and novellas, this is the first novel.

Yamada is an interesting character and in the history of supernatural investigator characters he fits right with a Japanese twist. Disgraced from the imperial court I like how he fits the mold of the character trope in the context of the setting. It is clear that Parks does his research and unlike many historical novels the details doesn't get in the way of the story, he doesn't geek out on details.

If there is a main fault with this novel is that it doesn't always feel like a consistent story to me. Something didn't flow, I am not sure what it was. I found my mind wondering when I was reading it at times. Most times I found moments engaging. I wanted to feel like I was reading a book cousin to the Zatohchi movies and shows, like the feeling of classic samurai movie. Some feeling that wasn't there. Perhaps that is user error.

It wasn't a bad novel, I liked it just didn't fall in love with it like I had hoped. None the less I will go back and read the other stories about Yamada at some point.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Documentary about Chargers fans (that I am in!)

Thanks to Jimmy and Marisa for making this happen!

Book Review:Long Lost Dog of IT by Michael Kazepis

Long Lost Dog of It by Michael Kazepis
Paperback, 250 pages

Published April 2nd 2014 by Broken River Books

From the Back Cover: “June 5th, 2011. The streets of Athens are draped in a thick fog of tension. Hundreds of thousands of activists line the streets to protest the bankrupt government's austerity measures. Riot police patrol the crowd and set up barricades across key intersections.

A toothless vagrant scrambles to stay ahead of his past, a young couple struggles to piece their relationship back together, and a killer realizes too late that his number is up. Over the course of 48 hours, they will navigate a labyrinth of sex shows and dive bars, mob fronts and punk shows, fighting both their inner demons and the very real demon stalking the streets with a machine gun in his bag: a sociopathic hitman dressed to the nines and obsessed with JFK.”

Political climate, punk rock in a foreign exciting setting, A serial killer and a hard boiled narrative. Yep all there and then some.

I really like hearing author's read their work live. I like to hear the artist telling the story in their own voice. Often that will sell me on reading a book or checking out an author. I might not have been interested in before. I was lucky enough to see Kazepis read from this novel twice. Once at the Hour That Stretches reading series in Portland, and once at the World Horror Convention. In this case it served to personalize the experience for me. I saw the author in every page of the book.

That can sometimes be a negative, but it was a strength in this case. The Long Lost Dog of it is a book about a time and place. It is almost entirely world building. It is clear it was a time and place Kazepis was trying to capture and he did a fantastic job of doing that.

It's strength is a a gritty crime setting think Elmore Leonard, but way more weird and bizarro world of the Greek underground scene. I can't tell you if it is a realistic look, as I never hung out there but the author did. The best thing I can about this novel is it felt like a place I had been to by the end of it. This was a setting Kazepis spent time in. Junesong the main female character was most vivid to me.

The plot is twisting and some times hard to follow but well worth it. I can tell you there is nothing like it for me to compare it too. That said it might not be for everyone. You like well written weird crime I think you’ll be happy.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Book Review: Hissers by Ryan C. Thomas

Paperback, 256 pages

Published November 2011 by Permuted Press

I know at this point in the wave of zombie movies, novels comic books, video games and TV shows it is easy to dismiss another zombie tale. Even though mine was satire I still faced that promoting the Vegan Revolution...with Zombies. I know how hard it is to separate a zombie story from the crowd. Certainly reading another zombie novel is not high on my list. Something really has to scream out to me this is something special or different for me to break with my hesitation. In this case Hissers got bumped on to my TBR based on the strength of Ryan C. Thomas's debut novel "The Summer I Died."

I can't say enough about that novel. You can search for it here on my blog/ Goodreads and read the full review, and I think you'll find that you'll want to read it. One of the strengths of that novel was the strong characters throughout the story. Thomas clearly has a gift for writing young characters.

One thing that separates Hissers is how young the characters are. I don't remember a zombie story focused on middle school aged kids. RCT does bang-up job getting to the fears and hopes of kids this age and is expressed in a fantastic scene where the kids end hiding for a night in the high school they were dreading going to at the end of the summer.

The zombie aspect of the novel impacted me less, but that is not to say the RCT does not deliver. The zombie story line is suggested more than it is fully explained and several moments of suspense show off the skill the author is working with. It takes a weird-turn and lets just say without spoilers these are not typical zombies.

I enjoyed this novel, but if you are going to introduce yourself to this author start with the superior Summer I Died, then make your way here. there are few moments towards the end that were both sad and brutal a combination I see now is a part of the Ryan C. Thomas M.O.

Recommended for zombie fans and people who like character driven horror.