Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Graphic novel review: Scalped Vol 1. by Jason Aaron, R.M. Guéra,

Scalped Vol 1.

by Jason Aaron, R.M. Guéra, Brian K. Vaughan (Introduction)

Paperback, 126 pages

Published August 1st 2007 by Vertigo

I just finished reading a Star Wars graphic novel that I thought was super above average and thought I wanted to check out the author, when I was looking at his titles in the about the author Scalped sounded interesting for sure. When I looked at a short blurb on my library's website I was hooked.

Dashiell "Dash" Bad Horse is one of the coolest comic characters I have encountered in a long time continuing a tradition of anti- heroes that DC's vertigo line has brought into the world that includes John Constantine. Bad Horse does not make a friendly first impression. If I had to make a comparison to explain what this book is I would say the story is like a crazy combo of the TV show Justified, Thunderheart and native american gangster tale. The political edge to the story gives something different.

Excellent dialogue, plotting and pace I was hooked 30 pages in and I hope the quality keeps up because I will keep reading. Best graphic novel I have read in years. Would make an excellent TV show but in the mean time don't miss out on this amazing story. If you like political/crime/ noir fiction you will love this book.

Book Review: States of Terror Vol. 1 edited by Matt Lewis & Keith McCleary

States of Terror edited by Matt Lewis & Keith McCleary

Paperback, 150 pages

Published November 2014 by Ayahuasca Publishing

"At the intersection of cryptozoology and folklore, the legendary local monster finds its place in the American landscape; feared and desired, hunter and hunted, unbelievable but believed. In this collection of new fiction, 18 writers and 23 artists have dragged these beasts from the relative safety of remote rural hollows and fetid swamps, re-imagining their mythologies for the 21st century."

This is a really cool book. Don't let the 150 pages fool you this pretty looking magazine sized paperback that is jam packed with stories and amazing art. This is a San Diego project. Editors and writers all from San Diego despite the national focus of the stories. Featuring a story based on a local legend from each state in the union this book is a neat tour of 18 states with a literary flashlight signing into the darkness.

There are varying degrees of skill at work here in the horror department, So authors so clear chops for the genre and others don't. Some don't try with poetry influenced pieces, experimental and comedy. Reall this is a trait of many of the best horror collections. Each writer brings skills to the table, there were only a few stories I didn't like at all, which in a collection with that has this many stories is impressive. The idea of doing stories that are based on folklore and urban legends lends itself to a campfire tone, some stories captured that atmosphere better than others. In that way High Desert Climate by Ryan Bradford, Somewhere between A Gas Station and the American Frontier by Keith McCleary and my personal favorite of the collection Old Foukey by Alex Bosworth captured the campfire tone best for me.

States of Terror has a real well done cover, interior and the majority of the stories are interesting and thought provoking. this is the very best of what indie publishing can do. The crew behind it produced a unique product, a book like none I have ever seen and it presents a wonderful showcase for young writers who by the way are all from San Diego.

San Diego Represent!Excellent work by editors Matt Lewis and Keith McCleary

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Book Review: This Census-Taker by China Miéville

This Census-Taker by China Miéville

Paperback, 210 pages

Published January 2016 by Del Rey

China Mieville is one of the most talented author of weird fantasy and high literature of our era. each time one of his books comes out it is a cause for celebration. A true genius writer who creates universes and tells stories are unique on a level that is hard to explain to people who have not experienced it for themselves. If there is any short coming to his work is that sometimes it is just a little too weird, and a little too long winded. If you love his use of language which I do it is times where you feel like the 600 or so pages is not enough. China Mieville is one of the most talented author of weird fantasy and high literature of our era. each time one of his books comes out it is a cause for celebration. A true genius writer who creates universes and tells stories are unique on a level that is hard to explain to people who have not experienced it for themselves. If there is any short coming to his work is that sometimes it is just a little too weird, and a little too long winded. If you love his use of language which I do it is times where you feel like the 600 or so pages is not enough.

My first reaction was that is was not that impressive of a book, then I spent time thinking about and in time the story grew on me. Days later I would myself thinking about it.

There are times with Mieville's work where I felt like it went over my head and I felt a little stupid reading it. You wont find many readers admitting to that but I do. I could see someone reading this short novel and saying what the fuck was that about. Like many of Mieville's more recent works this books is like a iceberg with alot below the surface. If you want the author to do all the work for you this is not the book to read.

That said if you give this weird atmospheric novel a chance and realize that you are in hands of very unreliable narrator you are in for interesting tale. Like many books by this author the setting is strangely beautiful. Less in your face but still realized. There is no real sense of what time or world we are living in during this story.

The setting and the structure is what makes the novel strange, but the fear and concerns of the young boy at the center of the story ground it. Our narrator, who I don't remember being named fears his father, but his father seems to love him. The relationship between then gave the story a suspenseful core that kept me engaged.

The atmosphere is unsettling and the story zigs and zags like a San Francisco street on hill side. Mieville makes the setting vivid with tiny little touches and are easy to miss. You can't skim and expect that you are getting this story. This is not a good book to read if you are looking for light easy breezy read, but if you are willing to challenge yourself with the novel of amazing depth then you need to check it out.

My first reaction was that is was not that impressive of a book, then I spent time thinking about and in time the story grew on me. Days later I would myself thinking about it.

There are times with Mieville's work where I felt like it went over my head and I felt a little stupid reading it. You wont find many readers admitting to that but I do. I could see someone reading this short novel and saying what the fuck was that about. Like many of Mieville's more recent works this books is like a iceberg with alot below the surface. If you want the author to do all the work for you this is not the book to read.

That said if you give this weird atmospheric novel a chance and realize that you are in hands of very unreliable narrator you are in for interesting tale. Like many books by this author the setting is strangely beautiful. Less in your face but still realized. There is no real sense of what time or world we are living in during this story.

The setting and the structure is what makes the novel strange, but the fear and concerns of the young boy at the center of the story ground it. Our narrator, who I don't remember being named fears his father, but his father seems to love him. The relationship between then gave the story a suspenseful core that kept me engaged.

The atmosphere is unsettling and the story zigs and zags like a San Francisco street on hill side. Mieville makes the setting vivid with tiny little touches and are easy to miss. You can't skim and expect that you are getting this story. This is not a good book to read if you are looking for light easy breezy read, but if you are willing to challenge yourself with the novel of amazing depth then you need to check it out.

Comic review: Fruitation Written by Anthony Trevino and illustrated by Kai Martin

Fruitation Written by Anthony Trevino and illustrated by Kai Martin

Issue one

(Self Published) 2016 The history of horror comic anthologies is a long one. It is a great way to showcase talent. When you read independently produced comic it is a crap shoot. What you look for is a showcase for talent. The cover alone shows a cool visual style and artistic talent. Kai Martin is a talented artist I never heard of before. In fairness Anthony Trevino the author is a good friend and a partner on a few writing projects. In that sense believe me when I tell you that I believe in him as a writer.

As a concept the comic is a weird tale/ horror anthology. Slickly produced for a indie. The story is interesting, with creepy and disturbing moments. I hope people will support this project as I am excited to read future issues. I know this is a short review but it is a project worth supporting. If you have not already read Anthony Trevino's King Space Void, you must get that as well.

Book Review: Dungeons & Drag Queens by MP Johnson

Dungeons & Drag Queens by MP Johnson

Paperback, 150 pages

Published April 2014 by Eraserhead Press

Literary Awards: Wonderland Book Award - Best novel

This novel is set partly in a strange and totally bizarro land, so weird that it is like nowhere else on this earth. The author of this novel grew-up in this realm known as Green Bay Wisconsin. MP Johnson is a one in a million person/ author who grew-up a punk rocker and an aspiring drag-queen in this small town that is known as the Vatican city for american football. It was worthy of winning the wonderland award for the best novel because it is personal and empowering.

Johnson is a talented writer, and has been for a long time, even early in his career when he was prolifically releasing his zine freak tension or writing for the well known punk zine razorcake. I first discovered his work when he submmitted a short story to an anthology I co-edited called the Vault of Punk Horror. This was pre-bizarro movement, but the story (Gone to Seed) while closer to mainstream horror was crazy weird enough to get my attention.

With this novel Johnson is getting well deserved praise. The story of SLeazella La Ruse, Green Bay's top Drag Queen who is pulled by a wizard into a high fantasy realm. You see the wizard was looking for a super glamorous queen for his king and really who is more glam than Sleazella? The only problem is the proposed future queen has a dick. Once there she hooks up with warrior women Blada Femma, and that leads to an amazing training sequence.

This is high concept Bizarro that really delivers on the concept while telling an important story. Only Johnson could have brought the quality story telling and sensitive portrayal to it. You see this author is not tourist, I think that is important. this book developed an audience already but it deserves a bigger one. If I have any complaints with the book is it's short length, I almost never say this but another 50 pages or would have helped the story breathe a little.

Word is Johnson is working on a sequel. Can't wait.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Graphic Novel Review:Captain America: Hail Hydra by Jonathan Maberry (Goodreads Author), Sergio Cariello (illustrator)

Captain America: Hail Hydra

by Jonathan Maberry (Goodreads Author),

Sergio Cariello (illustrator)

I read Captain America when I was kid, and as great as the movies have been I probably would not read this if it was not written by San Diego's own Jonathan Maberry. The bestselling author and host of the three guyes with beards podcast hosts our local San Diego Writer's coffeehouse that happens monthly at Mysterious Galaxy.

I'll be short here, what is cool about this story line is that Mabbery tells a zombie story set in the Cap universe that includes the history of Hydra and involves all the avengers. That is cool. What I didn't dig was that the art was all over the place. Sometimes using an old school sixties look and sometimes modern.It took me out of the story a bit.

Maberry tells a really cool story, and kudos to Marvel for hiring a horror guy to tell this story. Fun read. Need to read more Maberry in general.

Book Review:Aftermath (Star Wars: Aftermath #1) by Chuck Wendig

Aftermath (Star Wars: Aftermath #1)

by Chuck Wendig

Hardcover, 366 pages

Published September 2015 by Del Rey

Like many Star Wars nerds I was stoked by the job JJ Abrams did on Episode 7. When the mouse house bought star wars I was not worried becausee they seemed to making some good calls. JJ, Lawrence Kasdan, Kathleen Kennedy. All good calls. While I was bummed that all the time I spent reading EU novels got ejected, I understood. You have to relaunch the stories.

I had questions after finishing Force Awakens. Mostly they were in relation to the dynamic between the New republic/ First Order/ resistance. So I intended first to read Alan Dean Foster's novelization. I listened to that one on Audio book and was disappointed that it brought very little to table that was not on the surface of the film.

The book I needed to read was Wendig's Aftermath. The answers were there in this extremely well written an smart re-boot of the SW universe and how it connects between Jedi and Awakens. It answers my questions on what happened in between. As a plotting and narrative structure geek there is alot to get excited about.

Wendig has one through story that follows a set of characters he invented and peppered through out are interludes that take place around the galaxy and give the novel an epic scope. It felt to me that the interludes were setting up novels that will make up the entire re-booted EU. Some like Han and Chewie's interlude just have to be novels. Has to be!

The actual prose was fantastic and will cause me to read more Wendig for sure. His invented characters from rebel fighter Norra Wexley and her son, to imperials like Admiral Slone and the bounty hunters in between are all solid. A fun read that weaves together with perfect pacing. an Excellent Star Wars that bodes well for the EU.