Thursday, December 29, 2011

My Top ten reads of 2011

I read 73 novels, short story collections or fiction anthologies during this year. As a sometimes reviewer for the website Monster librarian I get free copies of new books. Not all of them are great, but as a perfect reviewing the book I have to finish it. As a writer that is not such a bad thing, you can learn a lot from a book that totally fails. I am also exposed to a lot of books by genre authors as many of them are my friends. That being said I am brutally honest and would not put a book this list if I didn't think it deserved to be there.

I read a lot of books that were new books this year but I decided to rate my favorite reads this year despite when they released instead of last year when I only did books released during the the year. So if the title has a * by it then it means it is a older book.

10.Through Darkest America* By Neal Barrett Jr. (Issac Asimov Presents)
259 pages (Out of Print)

This might be one of the most important works of speculative fiction I have ever read and it's only dumbluck that I read it. The story works as a coming-of-age story, it works as a post apocalyptic epic and most of all it is a gritty tale of the wild west. More than anything it is a slap in the face that explores many issues.

This novel takes place after a devastating war, and in this future a class of humans are bred to be “stock” as food. You see Stock are not human – they are just stock something less than human. It explores issues of speciesm better than any PETA leaflet I have read in a long time.

9.The Five by Robert McCammon Subterranean Press $26.95

The Five is the story of a struggling rock band who the novel is named after. The Five is a thriller, and road novel about rock and roll but it's subtext comes to the surface about 375 pages into the book. At that point the message becomes a little heavy handed, but that doesn't matter one bit. McCammon is so skilled at pacing and characters that you are so invested in the story that you'll realize the subtext was peppered through out.

There is a moment when the message is pushed to the surface. But I liked it. The Five is a novel about the tapestry of Rock and roll, the universe of live music, what it all means. The Five works on many, many levels. It's a masterpiece written by a man who has a few of those.

8.The Fall by Guillermo Del Toro And Chuck Hogan

The second in a Trilogy of Vampire novels finds the vampires wiiining and ending the world as we know it. I knew I would dig this book, I love a great end of the world apocalypse novel, McCammon’s Swan Song is perhaps my favorite and while it’s not as sprawling as Swan Song or as intimate as I am Legend the strikes perfect balance. Not too long, not a lot of wasted fat, the story cooks along at a great pace. The film editing and writing influence GDT brings to the table works really well in this novel.

7. Jim and the Flims By Rudy Rucker 247 pages $24.99
Nightshade books

While Rucker is not thought of as a bizarro author or apart of the bizarro lit scene this is to me me the best bizarro novel I read during the year. This novel is weird, funny and above all smart creative Science Fiction. The story of a surfer slacker scientist who travels to the afterlife to try and find his wife may not sound that original but once Jim gets there it gets super weird.

What we end up with is a novel that is kind of like Matheson's What Dreams May Come' meets Slacker. I can hardly do the novel justice in this review. In Flimsy water flows across the sky, flying intelligent beets, and blue baboons run amok. The characters travel across the land on a cruiser couch that Jim makes with his mind out of a material called Kenessce which all flimsy is made out of. Along the way the book also has has one of the most bizarre sex scenes between Jim and a woman also discovering her astral body. Loved this book.

6. In Extremis: The Most Extreme Short Stories of John Shirley 320 pages
Underland Press

It's no secret John Shirley is my favorite author. The extreme nature is found the unflinching peek into the dark realms of the human condition. Opening this book is like staring through one of the worst peepholes you can imagine. There is no author working in the horror genre today that does a better job of shining light of the horrendous human condition while maintaining a moral center.

5. We Live Inside You By Jeremy Robert Johnson 188 pages
Swallowdown press

We Live Inside You is the long awaited followed to Johnson's amazing first collection Angel Dust Apoclayse. It is dark bizarro horror literature at it's sharpest point, sharpened enough to enter through the temple and worm deep into your brain. JRJ comes from the same scene but doesn't rely on dildo jokes or B-movie tropes like a lot of bizarro writers do. The insane ideas are still there, but it's like crème filling in a fancy donut. At the same time it's hard for me to advise anyone to take a bite of a book written by a guy who keeps a list of parasites above his desk, but this book is a must for lovers of all literiture that is weird and dark.

4. Fathers and Sons: Blackguard (Book one) By Edward R. Morris 242 pages
The Borgo Press

Morris wears his influences on his sleeves like patches sewn on on punk rock leather jacket. What we end up with is an edgy novel that is not quite cyberpunk, military sci-fi, First Contact story or distopia. It is all those things and more. This is the first in a series that blurs the many sub-genres of speculative fiction in to a potent cocktail. A work of high literature that explores characters forced into the chaos of an all to possible future. Like a Portlandia dystopia sci-fi readers here in rip city will enjoy seeing the dark but possible future for our city.

3. Ex-heroes * Permuted Press 274 pages

It would be easy to describe this novel as Watchmen with Zombies but that sounds cheap, it's not. To me Ex-heroes is the best serious zombie novel I have read since the explosion of zombie trendy madness. The suspense beats work and there are true moments of terror in the novel, not an easy thing to pull off when most of your characters are super humans. Clines also manged to disturb me in a scene where a zombie mother drags her living dead infant down a street with a rope tied to her waist. He left that to our imagination, and for me I shuddered at the thought of the dying mother not wanting be separated from her child even in death. Brutal. Excited to read the sequel.

2.Should Have Killed The Kid by R. Frederick Hamilton 300 pages $12.95
Legume Man Books

This book is filled to the brim with very unpleasant situations, but if your a fan of good creepy unsettling horror fiction then that is what you are looking for. Should have killed the Kid is a supernatural Apocalypse thriller which has both Lovecraftian vibe (without direct connection to the mythos) and an extreme horror feel. At first I thought of it as Stephen King's The Mist with A Quentin Tarantino structure, but after the first 100 pages the structure smoothes out into a linear fashion. I always say that great suspense novels feel like climbing a very tall unstable ladder. And that is what I felt like I was doing when I read this novel.

Is it the second best book I read of the year, probably not but I only enjoyed reading one book more this year...

1.Old Man's War* by John Scalzi

Last year while writing my novel Goddamn Killing Machines I swore off reading novels that were in the same military-action Sci-fi Drama. After I finished it author Nick Cato mentioned this novel to me. So I picked up a used copy and started reading it on a flight home to Indiana. I could not put the book down, reading half of it in the air.

The most perfect and solid piece of Military Science Fiction since Handleman's Forever War. This novel is Star ship Troopers meets the Twilight Zone's Kick the can episode. Old Man's War seems to be taking a stab at American exceptionalism.

Once at War the novel goes crazy with fantastic science fiction concepts and ideas. I was pleased the universe was not populated by humanoid standard fill in the blanket human like aliens there is a great gee-whiz factor to this novel but it all works and Scalzi has created a world I am excited about revisiting in the next three books that continue the story. Infact I liked it so much I am saving the sequel for the right time. Sure sign that I loved it.

NFL week 17 picks

For this week's picture I decided upon a pic of the chargers coaching staff after the Nightmare before Christmas in Detriot.

David 152-84
Larry 160-78

Det @ GB: Lions
Ten @ Hou: Texans
Ind @ Jac: Jags
NYJ @ Mia: Phins
Chi@ Min: Vikings
Buf @ NE: Pats (Brady does not pass Brees)
Car @ NO: Saints
Was @ phi: Eagles
SF @ STL: 49ers
SEA @ AZI: Seahawks
TB @ATL: Falcons
BAL @ CIN: Ravens
Pit @ CLe: Steelers
KC @ DEN: Chiefs
SD @ OAK: Chargers 31-17
DAL @ NYG: Giants

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Favorite films of 2011

I didn't see as many movies in 2011 I have have in most years. I also went to see alot of old kungfu movies playing through Grindhouse film fest screenings at the Hollywood theater here in Portland. It's amazing thing to have here and thankfully the dude who runs grind house is bringing lots of movies. I tried to come up with the ten I thought were amazing or had a ton of fun watching my list is here with some trailers and reasons.

1. I Saw the Devil:

So a couple years back Korea unleashed one of the greatest revenge movies of all time by way of Director Park Chan Wook called Oldboy. Funny, brutal and heartbreaking I didn't think Korea would ever top Oldboy. Leave it to director Jee Woon kim (A Tale of Two sisters) to say I can out do that. With the help of the star of Oldboy this film is dark, unrelenting, hard to watch and filled with plot twists that actually work. I have been watching extreme horror and gore drenched films my whole life and this movie made me squirm. It honestly made Oldboy seem like a PG-13 movie. I know it was released in 2010 in Korea, but 2011 here.

Stars: 5 /5
Saw it with:Vince and Magik at the Hollywood theater.

2. Detective Dee and the mystery of the phantom flame

Another made in 2010 released in America in 2011. So Tusi Hark directed or produced probably more than 100 classic Hong Kong films. Since his 2000 action masterpiece Time and Tide has not had good luck with films. Zu warriors was pretty mess, and Black Mask 2 was MSTK worthy. While I enjoyed his film Seven Swords it wasn't until this film that audiences and critics agreed Hark was back. Based on a book in a wildly popular series of chinese detective novels( think Hong Kong's answer to Sherlock Holmes) Andy Lau is fastastic as the title character.But this is Hark making a goth looking cool as hell Wuxia mystery. Right up my alley. I think I might watch this again today, I have the novel it's based on as well. Looking forward to it.

Stars: 5/5
Saw it with: Ordered the DVD import from china, then Fox Tower on the big screen

3. Midnight in Paris

Yeah I know the director is a creep but every five movies or so he makes a gem. The last two I liked were Match Point (maybe his best in 20 years), and the Sweet and Lowdown. Midnight in Paris is a cute movie with a clever time travel theme. Is it Science fiction no, not really but it creates a great atmosphere. Thankfully Owen Wilson didn't go overboard trying to be Woody Allen. Why was it my number three movie. Because it did what movies do best transport you to a different time and place.

Stars: 4/5
Saw it with: Cari at Cinemagic.

4. 13 Assassins

Takashi Miike Is known for making some of the weirdest and most brutal films to ever come from Japan. That is really saying something, I am personally hit or miss with the guy. This remake of a 50 samurai classic is long time coming for Miike who has mad elots of gangster and horror movies but never made a true samurai movie. If you watch this on video you might be tempted to quit after 45 minutes of slow carefully crafted character development. that would be a shame because it builds nicely into what might be the best cinematic battle of all time. That may sound like hyperbole but I stand by it.

Stars: 4/5
Saw it with: Crazy Shawn and Vince at Cinema 21

5. Shame:

I never heard of this movie before we saw it. We went to see Melancholia, but because of a mistake on the Portland movie times website Shame was playing for the first time. It was a long bus ride and the movie sounded interesting so we stayed. What we got a was a powerfully written, directed and acted film. Shame is to sex addiction what Requiem for a Dream was to drugs. If Michel Fassbender doesn't get an oscar nod I'll be shocked.

Stars: 5/5
Saw it with: Cari at Cinema 21

6. Captain America

I don't think I need to post the trailer. I know it makes me a bad radical to love a movie called Captain America but it was awesome. A great near perfect comic book movie that captured the comic and as a near perfect action movie. George Lucas did you see this? Let Joe Johnston make the Bobba Fett movie he has been dying to make.

Stars: 4/5
Saw it with: Opening day at the Loyd Center, who suppsed to go with Magik he couldn't make so I was big enough nerd not to wait and go by myself.

7. True Legend:

Yuen Woo Ping directs more than just the action for the first time in 15 years. I was super excited for this one. It was a shame it didn't get released in 3D here, it looks like it would have been amazing in 3D. The lack of 3D and the weird extra 20 minutes at the end really hurt this movie in my opinion. It was a perfect and over the top amazing Wuxia epic until they tacked on the 20 unneeded minutes at the end. I can only give it 3 out of 5 stars but I still loved seeing it on the big screen.

stars: 3/5
Saw it with: Vince at Fox Tower downtown.

8. Ip Man 2:

Donnie Yen and Sammo Hung fighting on screen is always a good thing, fighting each other even better. Great period kungfu epic about the man who trained Bruce Lee. Donnie Yen just rules what else can you say.

Stars: 4/5
Saw it with Vince and Magik Hollywood theater

9. Bridesmaids:

I don't think I need to post the trailer. I love Kristin Wiig, she is funny, smart and doesn't eat animals. So of course I totally love her. I don't understand people who didn't laugh at this movie. maybe I'm biased.

Stars: 3/5
Saw it with Cari at Cinemagic.

10. Legend of the Fist:The return of Chen Zhen

The character made famous by Bruce Lee, Jet Li and already Donnie Yen. thsi film creates great action pieces. It was super fun and worth seeing if your a kungfu, action or Donnie Yen Fan. I had a great time. I saw it for free because Vince and I won Tickets at a Dark Horse comics party by filming a "kungfu move" that involved me beating Vince with my backpack. Even though the movie was free Vince didn't stay for the movie because he missed the first two minutes. He has a a thing about that.

stars: 3/5
Saw with: myself at the Hollywood theater (See above)

The best time I had at the theater this year was the Hunting The Moon Tribe release party at the Hollywood theater. Captain Hyperole AKA the author of Gigantic Death Worm AKA Vince Krammer Superfan created a two horror kungfu and horror movie Trailer part that started with a Sammy Terry introduction! It was the greatest thing ever. Here was the promo we made for the event:

Monday, December 26, 2011

Book Review: Pontypool Changes Everything by Tony Burgess

Pontypool Changes Everything by Tony Burgess
280 pages
ECW press

I discovered this novel from watching the film based loosely on the novel. The film Pontypool was released a few years back and quickly gained a rep for being a well written and composed low budget zombie film. When I saw it I thought it was a creative spin on the tired genre, most interesting at it's core was a original concept of the the zombie virus being transferred not by blood or bites but trhough human language. I was interested in novel because it was written by Burgess who also wrote the screen, and during the commentary track he said the novel had a larger scope.

Probably due to it's thin budget the movie takes place at a small radio station in Ontario, and focuses on the main character an aging former shock jock named Grant Mazzy. Mazzy keeping his career alive by doing weather reports on backwater radio. The film gets a lot of of it's rich tones by Stephen McHattie's performance as Mazzy. Since the setting is confined mostly to the station the actors have to carry a lot of the story. It's a character driven horror film, that manages to transcend it's budget like a lot of great low budget horror films.

So I was excited by the idea of reading the book. This is a rare case where I think the movie is a lot better than the source material. They are very, very different stories and while they share Grant Mazzy as a main character and plot device the novel lacks the vivid strength of character which drove the film.

Burgess is an excellent word smith, I can honestly say it's some of the smoothest and interesting prose I have read in a long time. That being said writing pretty paragraphs and telling a good story are two totally different things. I spent a lot of my time reading this novel confused, and according to some of the online reviews I was wasn't alone.

I don't mind being confused if the story is exciting and it's important that the confusion is paid off with answers. There are some intense and powerful moments in this book that's why I kept reading even though I was often frustrated and confused by the lack of clear narrative. Since the zombie outbreak is transferred through the language there are some very well composed moments of suspense that happen inside the mind of the infected. I also enjoyed the moments where some characters tried hard not speak at all.

This novel is clever, perhaps a bit to clever for it's own good. Could the novel itself spiral into maddess of disrupted language like the victims in the story. Maybe, but I didn't really see that either. It's an interesting experiment, one I don't think worked. I'll admit many I didn't get it, but I am a pretty savy reader, who has personally played with experimental narratives, so if I don't get it then it is a good chance most readers will be lost.

So here is the hard part for me, I respect the well written inventive prose but can't make much sense of the story. This made the book a slog, and I can't say I enjoyed much of it. The movie expressed the idea in a more clearly, and succeeded as a story.

Friday, December 23, 2011

NFL picks week 16

Larry 148-74
David 144-77

11-5 for both of us last week.

David's picks:
HOU @ IND: Colts
DEN @ BUF: Broncos
MIA @ NE : Pats
CLE @ BAL: Ravens
JAC @ TEN : Titans
OAK @ KC : Chiefs
NYG @ NYJ: Giants
MIN @ WAS: Redskins
TB @ CAR : Panthers
ARI @ CIN: Cards
STL @ PIT: Steelers
SD @ DET : Bolts 31-24
PHI @ DAL : Cowboys
SF @ SEA: Seahawks (upset special)
CHI @ GB : Green Bay
Atl @ NO: Saints

Larry's picks:

MIA @ NE (W)
OAK @ KC (W)
TB @ CAR (W)
SD (W) @ DET 41-20
SF (W) @ SEA
CHI @ GB (W)

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Book Review: The Gods Themselves by Issac Asimov

The Gods Themselves By Issac Asimov
Classic printed in several editions

So I named my cat Asimov. I consider Asimov's Lucky Starr novels as the books that got me excited about writing and story telling, and Azzy just sounded like a robot when she walked in our back door. I have a soft spot in my heart for the man that almost published a book in every part of the Dewey decimal system. Besides being the geek's geek Asimov was also a committed environmentalist before he died in 1992 having written a non-fiction book on the topic ( of course he did) called "Our Angry Earth."

Being a militant environmentalist and Asimov fan it's strange that I have not read his Hugo and Nebula award winning environmental novel (released in 1972) The Gods Themselves. I thought I had read it before but I had confused it with Nemesis one of the last novels the grandmaster of Science Fiction wrote.

I enjoyed this novel, but this is a hard science novel that is for serious Sci-fi or environmental nerds. I can't tell you this is must read, but it presents interesting ideas. Is it worth the time you'll put into the book. Not sure.

The story is split into three separate novellas. Each could stand alone, but they are not really meant to. So read them together if you plan to. The first Novel is about a scientist who accidentally creates an unlimited power source, eventually one of his rivals discovers that the energy comes from a transfer between our universe and a alternate dimension. The trick is you'll have unlimited power but it's a good chance you will cause the death of the sun. Kinda important to life on earth. Opps.

The second novella is about that alternative universe. This part is really interesting, instead of just adding a beard and diabolical plans to the people of this para-universe Asimov goes super bizarro. The society of this universe and the people in it are not human in the least. Society is divided into three units and their families are super different from ours. Part of it is some of the people are not physically solid in the world. You see there are hard ones, and the soft ones who can travel threw matters. The third unit are emotionals which is only really important in my eyes to how the characters and the fictional society operate and effects the plot less.

This second part is a reaction to Asimov's early 70's critics who called him a prude so there is tons of of para-dimension sex just because. The important point to the story is how these very different people react to the impending doom created by the energy transfer.

Both of the first parts end with Twilight zone-ish twists that lead directly into the next part so the third kinda ends with a dud. It comes back to the future on a moon base in our future. I can't really talk about it without spoiler. So stop reading if you plan on reading this novel. The end is a ho-hum anti-climatic solution to the crisis created by the energy transfer. When I say it's ho-hum I when it is not the twist of the first to parts but it is thought provoking. Because in order to off set the problems created by the energy transfer the scientists effectually create another big bang, perhaps they have started a new universe. They don't really know, but maybe they did.

I think Asimov was trying to say the answer to environmental problems can be found in science, that we need to look for creative solutions. Life comes from life, and there is a universe of possibilities.

Book Review: The Eye of Infinity by David Conyers

The Eye of Infinity
by David Conyers, Mike Dubisch (Cover Illustrator), Nickolas Gucker
(Illustrator), Cody Goodfellow (Introduction)
84 pages perilous Press

Probably my favorite thing about this thin little novella is that David Coyners while firmly writing in the Lovecraftian mythos is not trying to write like Lovecraft or setting this novel in 1930's Rhode Island. This modern take is the kind of mythos I enjoy. Probably the thing I liked the least about the book was how short it was. There are some serious major cosmic themes going on and all we get is 84 pages? I could taken another 150 at least.

I am not asking the guy to over write, and certainly this book is well written. The art and the general presentation is well done and looks cool. I am glad I bought this book. That being said it reminded me of my reaction to Quintin T.'s Inglorious Basterds. I loved that movie, but really only got twenty minutes of the WW II men on a mission movie that was sold to me in the director's interviews.

In Cody Goodfellow's introduction we are promised a James Bond meets mythos like spy vs. soggoth Lovecraftian show down. The books delivers in lots of ways. I was little bummed because there is a format to a Bond story, and I was looking forward to seeing that format/formula set against a cosmic horror back drop.

Right now alot of you are probably glad the author didn't take the path I'm talking about, this is a better less predictable story because of that. I think I might have enjoyed a traditional more predictable by the numbers spy thriller poltline, but that doesn't mean it would have been better.

None the less this is a short, but jam packed title that left me wanting more. That is a sign of a good read. Cool book, I am first in line and excited for the further adventures.

NFL Week 15 Picks!!!

On the season:
Larry: 137-69
David: 133-72

David's Picks:

Jac@ ATL: Falcons
Dal @TB: Cowboys
Cin @ STL: Bengals
Car@Hou: Panthers
Sea@ bears: Seahawks
Was@ NYG: Giants
Ten@ Ind: Titans
Miami @ Buf: Bills
NO@ Min: Saints
GB @ KC: Packers
Det@Oak: Lions
CLE@ ARI: Cards
NE @ Den: Pats
NYJ @ Phi: Jets
Bal@ SD : Bolts 28-24
Pit @ 49ers: 49ers

Larry's picks:
DAL (W) @ TB
NO (W) @ MIN
GB (W) @ KC
NE (W) @ DEN
BAL @ SD (W) 24-34
PIT @ SF (W)

Saturday, December 10, 2011

NFL Week 14 picks!

Larry 125-65
David 121- 68

David picks:

Browns @ steelers: Steelers
TB @ Jac: Bucs
KC @ NYJ: Jets
Hou@Cin: Bengals
NE @was: Pats
ATL@ Car: Falcons
Phi@ Miami: Dolphins
No @ Ten: Saints in close one.
IND @ BAL: Ravens
Min @ Detriot: Lions
Chi @ Denver: Broncos
SF @ ARZ: 49ers
Buf @ SD: 35-14 (100 yards for Mathews, another Weddle pick)
OAK @ GB: Pack
NYG @ DAL: Giants
STL. @ Sea: Seahawks

Larry's picks:


TB (W) @ JAC
KC @ NYJ (W)
NE (W) @ WAS
NO (W) @ TEN
SF (W) @ ARI
BUF @ SD (W) 38-13
OAK @ GB (W)

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Book Review: We Live Inside You by Jeremy R. Johnson

We Live Inside You By Jeremy Robert Johnson
188 pages
Swallowdown press

Thanks to an insanely cool book cover and equally intriguing title
Jeremy Robert Johnson's book "Angeldust Apocalypse" became a cult hit.
The blurb from Fight Club scribe Chuck Palahniuk calling him a dazzling writer didn't hurt either. Perhaps the best marketing accident came when very few people who bought it realized that it was short story collection and not a novel. Ok, that might not have been an accident because the reality is collections never sell close to the units that novels do.

That's OK because once people ripped open the package from amazon they were treated with one of the most insane over the top dark bizarro collections all time. If you have not yet read that collection I'll give you hint you'll want both these books up on your shelf keeping each other company.

Johnson is the Bram Stoker award nominated co-author (With artist Alan
Clark) of the amazingly dark illustrated anti-drug novel Siren Promised. He is also know for having written a short story about a dude that makes a suit of cockroaches to survive a nuclear war which was spun off into a separate novella called Extinction Journals. After a hypernation period where Johnson hung out with his human spawn and complied a list of germs and parasites Many of us wondered if JRJ would write again.

He came out of hiding first to publish a collection and novel by bizarro horror berserker Cody Goodfellow and rumors of a new collection by Johnson himself were rumored. I saw a few of the stories here and there in magazines like Dark Discoveries and Cemetery Dance but it was not until I had We live Inside you in my hands that I was totally sure.

I am so glad he did. Angeldust was a strong collection but the growth in the writing between the first and his second collection is like a out of control virus. The best horror writers chase their fears and in this collection Johnson rolls around in his worst fears. It is no surprise that Johnson has a list parasites and viruses on his
wall. If I have sold you and are worried about spoilers, click off this page go to Amazon and buy it.

The collection is separated into to two sections, the second being short pieces Johnson wrote with co-authors and a extended version of a story that appeared earlier. It's funny two of my favorite pieces are one page flash fiction type stories that pack amazing punch into bare number of words used. My favorite being “Cortical Reorganization,” which was a super powerful one and half pager about a spare changer. Other favorites include a dark Sci-fi piece called “The Oarsmen,” a Portland crime piece called “Persistence hunting,” but my favorite is a horrific tale I first read in Cemetery Dance magazine called “ A flood of Harriers.”

Flood of harriers, created a stir when it was first published, despite being semi-autobiographical and based on real events Johnson was accused of being borderline racist. Frankly I laugh at that, the story which happens to include a a few native American thugs is far from racist, and leads me to believe the people who were upset didn't read the entire fantastic story. It is my favorite in the collection because it starts off as a realistic and effective suspense tale before shifting seamlessly into a surreal body horror Karmic revenge direction. Well done.

We Live Inside you is dark bizarro horror literature at it's sharpest point, sharpened enough enter through the temple and worm deep into your brain. JRJ comes from the same scene but doesn't rely on dildo jokes or B-movie tropes like a lot of bizarro writers do. The insane ideas are still there, but it's like crème filling in a fancy donut. At the same time it's hard for me to advise anyone to take a bite of a book written by a guy who keeps a list of parasites above his desk, but this book is a must for lovers of all literiture that is weird and dark.

NFL week 13 picks!

Larry 113-61
David 112-62

Celebrating the last 5 Norv games in SD!

Larry's Picks:
KC @ CHI (W)
CAR @ TB (W)
IND @ NE (W)
GB (W) @ NYG
STL @ SF (W)
DET @ NO (W)
SD (W) @ JAC 27-17

David's picks:
> Eagles @ Seahawks: Seahawks (in close one)
> Titans @ Bills: Bills
> Chiefs@ Bears: Bears
> Falcons @ Texans: Falcons
> Raiders @ Dolphins: Dolphins
> Broncos @ Vikings: Vikings
> Colts @ Patriots: pats
> Bengals @ steelers:steel
> Panthers @ bucs: Bucs
> Jets @ Redskins: Jets
> Ravens @ Browns: Ravens
> Cowboys @ Cards: Cowboys
> Packers @ Giants: packers
> Rams@ 49ers: niners
> Lions @ saints: Saints
> Chargers @ Jags: Chargers 28-17

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Book Review: Bioshock: Rapture by John Shirley

BioShock: Rapture by John Shirley
430 pages

If you have followed my blog at all you might have picked up on the fact that my favorite author is cyberpunk legend John Shirley. I am not a fan of the video game, infact I really never ever play modern video games. Infact the first time I ever heard of Bioshock was when Shirley let the cat out of the bag on this project. I really wanted to look at this as an original Shirley piece. It's not that at all, the characters and setting are not really in a Shirley vibe. That is not to say that he wasn't the perfect choice for this book because he really was the best possible author to write this novel.

Rapture is the name of the underwater city that is the haunted house type setting of the the video game. This novel is the prequel that tells the story of how the dream of hyper-capitalist right wing tycoon Andrew Ryan rose and fell. Considering the political upheaval in the story I see why Take-Two thought John Shirley was the person to write this.

Andrew Ryan saw Rapture as the libertarian dream, a nation under the seas hidden from nuclear war(this was in shadow of WWII and the coming cold war) and a chance for the free market to reign. This is the theme of Shirley's upcoming novel “Everything is Broken.” So Shirley does a great job of exploring the challenges that the “free” market of hyper-capitalism would go through in such a packed intense environment.

As someone who never played the video game those are the most interesting parts, not to mention the variety of characters that Shirley had to create to populate this world. The character who becomes the major point of view is the city's plumber (turned bar owner) Bill Mcdonagh who Ryan trusts long after Bill has lost his faith. By that point such a spirit of fear and mistrust has over taken the city.

The weak point for me, probably wont bother anyone who plays the video game. Once the genetically engineered worms that give people super powers showed up I realized Shirley was having fun setting the stage for a video game. I am sure that back story will be fun for anyone who has spent hours playing the game. To me it seemed left field, but like I said I never played the video game.

It seems that Bioshock:Rapture will deepen the understanding and texture of the world created by the video game. That game is considered by many to be one of the smartest out there and the creators of the game found the right author and I think they have done the fans of the game a favor. If your not a fan of the game already I suggest sticking to John Shirley's original cyberpunk like City come a walking or Black Glass.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Judge one of my favorite bands ever!

Favorite touchdown of the year so far.

Week 12 NFL Picks!

Larry 103-55
David 100-58

Week 12 picks:

GB @ Det: Pack
Miami @ DAL: Cowboys
SF @ Bal: Ravens
Min@ ATL: Falcons
Cle @ Cin: Bengals
Car @ Indy: Panthers (I thought about it, because Indy had a bye)
Hou @ Jac: Texans
Buf@ NYJ: Jets
ARI @ STL: Cards (what an awful game)
TB @ Tenn: Bucs
Chi@ Oak: Bears
Was @ Sea: Seahawks (tough one)
NE @ Phi: Pats
Den @ SD: Chargers 36 -21 (big lead quick Tebow rallies more than he should)
Pit @ KC: Steelers
NYG @ NO: Saints

Larry's picks?

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Count Agranoff's Holiday Capitalism lite shopping guide

The worst part of the holiday season is the hyper-capitalism of Christmas. Personally I do give or receive gifts during the holidays, but over the last two years something weird happened. I have had books for sale, and honestly I really need people to think of my books (Vegan Revolution...With Zombies and Hunting The Moon Tribe by the
way) as gifts. So I started to think that while I want to promote these items are gifts I wanted to promote other products, stores and organizations that deserve our support.

Holiday capitalism sucks, but their are ways to get gifts more ethically. Non-profits, independent artists,Writers DIY musicians, and local vegan restaurants. It is all based on my opinions and taste but
I hope you find some ideas. I tried to focus on stuff you can do from anywhere online, but I admit this is focused on places in my own country not England and Europe.

Non-Profits: How about a shirt from a local or national farm sanctuary? How about a Sea Shepard Tote-bag? Merch from a non-profit is double gift because it supports the organization is a cool gift.
How about a donation. I would suggest out to pasture Sanctuary here in Portland or Peaceful Prairie in Colorado.

Gift card to a Vegan Restaurant: One the the best tools for vegan outreach( and helping animals) is a great 100% vegan restaurant. Here in Portland we have several that you can get gift cards for. Here in
town I suggest gift cards from Blosoming Lotus, Portabello, Red and Black cafe or Sip Juice cart. Sip is great because they sell amazing healthy green smoothies, they are health game changers so I think that is great gift. But if they hold on to it until summer if you don't want healthy because you can get a vegan milkshake at Sip.

Not in Portland? Try the Loving Hut who has locations in 15 states, or chains like Native Foods and Veggie Grill are growing. You can also use (Worldwide guide to veg- friendly eateries) to look up local restaurants in your area.

DIY Music labels: I'm talking real DIY as in one person doing the label our of they home. I am a Straight Edge hardcore kid so my only example is Kurt and Catalyst records, a label coming up on it's 20th anniversary. Don't like straight edge hardcore? That's ok Kurt makes really cool Meat is Murder shirts, Veganism is Compassion shirts. You can do a gift card if you have a friend who likes Catalyst stuff.

Cool stores and Vegan stores:
I want to highlight a couple cool stores who have really cool gifts or would be a great place to get gift certificates.

Food Fight: Portland's only entirely vegan grocery store is an amazing place. Run by activists this store collects all kinds of vegan odds and ends under one roof. From rare cheeses to candy bars, cool T-shirts and tote bags to Animal Rights books. We often get online and send friends and family care packages. (Yes this is the real store I wrote about in Vegan Revolution...With Zombies – it's real)

Herbivore clothing: Portland based(also in the vegan mini-mall) celebrates cruelty-free culture and fashion with all vegan belts, wallets, clothing, and accessories as well as the biggest collection of vegan cookbooks I've ever seen. Check out their shirts buy one for somebody you love. If you really love them get a hoodie.

Dark Delicacies :So for horror nerds I have a big treat for you. My favorite bookstore in the world is in LA. Dark Delicacies is the horror nerds paradise, the best selection of new and used horror fiction on the planet. They host signings all the time so you can also bet a number of the books are signed. They also sell horror shirts, posters, movies and much, much more. Come to think of it getting me a gift card to Dark Del is great idea. Really great.

Authors you should support. Buy these authors with your gift cards after the holidays or buy them for friends who like this type of thing. I'm a horror and bizarro fiction fan so I have listed some authors who are some of my favorites. Check them out! I also listed some other favorites. The quotes are from reviews on my blog. Now some of these authors are hard to find besides ordering on Amazon. I understand why supporting amazon is hard for some. If you feel that way write down the info of the book including the ISBN and your local bookstore should be able to order the books. Just realize that amazon pays out well to the independent artists. Amazon has also leveled the playing field making a situation where odd books (like say The Vegan Revolution...with Zombies could exist). So don't totally hate on Amazon.

Lisa Morton- three time Bram Stoker winning author and one of my favorite short story authors. On her first novel The Castle of Los Angles: "Lisa Morton takes a familiar riff, tuned slightly to her
pitch and the result is a near perfect traditional horror novel."

Jeremy C. Shipp - (A vegan author) On his novel Cursed: "A first rate surrealist who is assured enough in his craft to throw out the rules completely. It takes amazing skill to weave a horror tale the way he has without the benefit of a standard structure. Disturbing and funny all at the same time, this is a first rate piece of bizarro as literature."

Cody Goodfellow
- When in a short lived and entertaining writers group together in San Diego, but he has become one of my favorite authors. about his short story collection I said "More than Lovecraft on acid, this is Lovecraft after a smack bender in Tijuana, one where he wakes up handcuffed to bed and covered in someone else's blood. Goodfellow's fiction has the otherworldly-ness of Lovecraft, the sarcasm of Joe R. Lansdale, the mojo of a Motley Crue tell-all and best of all it's wrapped together with prose that would satisfy fans of high literature in horror.”

Gina Ranalli - She is vegan feminist horror and bizarro writer. Her range is crazy from dystopia satire (Motherpuncher), Wall of Kiss (absurdist humor) to straight horror. on her masterpiece House of
Fallen Trees. "HOFT shows mastery of pace and deep knowledge of genre that Gina has never had chance to show off in her many bizarro books. A Creepy story with strong characters and a little early
Stephen King influence."

Forrest Armstrong
- on His novel Deadheart Shelters: "A surreal novel filled with poetic prose that is disturbing and beautiful all at once. This story of an escaped slave is like a journey on a spiral staircase
into another world, Armstrong creates a surreal landscape that is vivid, and the prose itself has to be savored like fine chocolate that slowly melts in your mouth."

Edward R. Morris- Ed is one of the most genius weird fiction spinners currently spinning. I am in a local writers group with him, and we hope to write a novel together someday soon. On the first book of his Blackguard series (Fathers and Sons):"Morris is a gifted writer that never wastes a word. This brilliant work blurs the many sub-genres of speculative fiction in to a potent cocktail. A work of high literature that explores characters forced into the chaos of an all to possible future. A punk touch on a gritty style makes this novel a MUST-read. Portlanders take note this novel is very much about the rose city."

Isa Chandra Moskowitz- Giving a vegan cook book can encourage people to experiment, and easy has some of the best around. She is also opening a vegan restaurant in Nebraska. Her site

Other great small press authors I enjoy include(sorry if I missed alot of you awesome authors)

Horror: Greg Gifune (Lord of Chaos),Bryon Morrigan (The Desert),David J. Bell (the Condemned),James Chambers (Resurrection House), Robert Devereaux (Slaughterhouse high),Peter Clines (Ex-Heroes), Garret Cook (Archelon Ranch), R.Fredrick Hamilton (Should Have Killed the Kid), James Newman (Midnight Rain), and Jason Brock(Bleeding Edge Anthology)

Bizarro: Carlton Mellick( The Faggiest Vampire), Cameron Piecre (Lost in Cat Brain Land), Mykle Hansen (Help a Bear is Eating Me), D.Harlan Wilson (Dr. Idenity), Bradley Sands (Rico Slade will fucking Kill You), Duncan Barlow (Supercell Anemia), Jeff Burk (Shatnerquake),
Douglas Lain (Fall Into Time), and Jordan Krall (Fistful of Feet),

Independent Press: and last is a list of a few of my favorite small, independent and DIY publishers.

Kurodahan Press: A Japanese press that does English language translations of Science Fiction and horror from Japan.
Swallowdown: Portland based DIY Horror Lit, Bizarro crime fiction.
Eraserhead: My publisher - totally DIY punk Lit, weird bizarro fiction, with Sci-fi (Forbidden Planet), YA (Spunk Goblin) and Horror Sub (Deadite) imprints.
Raw Dog Screaming: High class bizarro lit publisher.
Dark Regions: Great indie horror publisher.

Ok sounds good huh. Buy some cool stuff.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Book Review: Ex-heroes by Peter Clines

permuted press
274 pages

It helps that I read a novel right before this one that I could not stand, but either way Ex-heroes is one of the best novels I read this year so far. It would be easy to describe this novel as Watchmen with Zombies but that is cheap. To me Ex-heroes is the best serious zombie novel I have read since the explosion of Zombie trendy madness. I know I wrote a Zombie novel myself, but if you noticed it was a satire and most of the modern novels make my eyes roll just in concept alone. The reality is that the concept of this novel probably would have caused the same knee-jerk reaction from me if I had not had this book recommended to me by someone I trust.

It would be easy to look at Clines Bio and think that the author was thinking of Hollywood pitch session when he came up with the story. "It's superheroes with zombies," while not a ground breaking concept (see Marvel Zombies), and sure it sounds like a cheesy Hollywood pitch but it doesn't matter. Why? For starters this story is so well told nothing else matters. Clines organized the plot and told the narrative so well that the novel crackles with story telling intensity. Clines told the shit out of this story.

The Story is set in post zombie Apocalypse LA, where a group of former super heroes help a group of survivors live on inside the walls of a Hollywood studio complex. Instead of zombies the walking dead are referred to as Ex's, as in ex-human. Secret identities lose meaning, and the struggle that is life after the end of the world takes a turn for the worst. Could it be that ex's are getting smarter or is their a super villian out there ready to fight the heroes.

The story is told in a non-linear fashion set up in “Then” and “Now” structure. The now chapters are told in third person and the flashbacks revolve between separate first person narratives. In the hands of weaker authors the first person narratives switching voices would not work, but they are perfectly placed in the story so they make sense. Depending on what the story needs the flashbacks either explain previous chapters or set up the chapters ahead in the story. This is all done with a drummer's perfect rhythm.

This is a strong novel so what could possibly make it stronger? “Stealth. Gorgon. Regenerator. Cerberus. Zzzap. The Mighty Dragon. They were heroes, vigilantes, crusaders for justice, using their superhuman abilities to make Los Angeles a better place.” The characters are original and interesting superheroes, which considering how many have been done in the last century is saying something. They are also rich and written with emotional depth.

The suspense beats work will and there are true moments of terror in the novel, not an easy thing to pull off when most of your characters are super humans. Clines also manged to disturb me in a scene where a zombie mother drags her living dead infant down a street with a rope tied to her waist. He left to our imagination, and for me I shuddered at the thought of the dying mother not wanting be separated from her child even in death. Brutal.

I could nit-pick some of the dated humor that comes with cheap jokes about celebrity zombies, but really I laughed most of the time. This really is a near perfect genre mash-up novel. Everybody who knows me, knows I am hard sell as this is a genre I have mocked in my own novel. I am excited for the sequel, and intend to follow the author in the future.

This novel needs to be a movie. Paramount or Warner bros should be in octagon fighting for this one.

Week 11 NFL picks:

Larry's Picks:
TB @ GB (W)
ARI @ SF (W)
SD (W) @ CHI 26-23
KC @ NE (W)

David's picks:

NYJ @ Den : Jets
Car @ Det: Lions
Jac @ Cle: Jags
TB@ GB: pack
DAL @ WAS: Cowboys
Buf @ Mia: Bills
Cin @ BAL : Ravens
Sea @ STL: Seahawks
ARZ @ SF : niners
SD @ CHI: Chargers 31-28
PHI @ NYG: Giants
KC @ NE : Pats

Season score: Larry 93-51, David 91-53

Saturday, November 12, 2011

NFL Week 10 picks!

Week nine:

David 6-8 (80-48)
Larry 10-4 (87-41)

Week Ten:

Ray-turds @ Chargers: Yeah I picked the bolts. Whatever.
Saints @ Falcons: Saints
Titans @ Panthers: Panthers
Steelers @Bungals: Pit
Rams @ Browns: Rams
Bills@ Cowboys:Cowboys (I don't feel good about it)
Jags @ Colts: Jags
Broncos @ chiefs: Chiefs
Redskins @ Dolphins: Phins
Cards @eagles: Eagles
Texans @ Bucs: Texans
Ravens @ Seahawks: Ravens
Lions @ bears: Bears
Giants @ 49ers: 49ers
Pats @ Jets: Pats
Vikings @ pack: Pack

Book Review: That Which Should Not Be by Brett J. Talley

That Which Should Not be by Brett J. Talley
259 pages
Journal Stone

There must be something wrong with me because I really did not like this book. Apparently a lot of other people disagree with me. so keep this in mind when you read my review. This book has forty-eight almost perfect reviews on and over two dozen on amazon. I hate to say this because I love to support new authors and certainly I can imagine the hard work Talley put into this book. I have to be honest...I really didn't like this book. Worse I struggled, I mean struggled to follow it or get to the last pages.

It is the story set at Lovecraft's fictional university Misatonic and is told by four revolving characters. So one of the main characters is Carter Weston, he is asked to search a nearby village for a book called the Earth, Incendium Maleficarum, (The Inferno of the Witch). Along the journey he is exposed to several myths and legends that relate to the book.

I should point out that I am not ethically opposed to the use of Lovecraft's mythos by modern authors, and I also have read and enjoyed plenty of period horror by Lovecraft, Smith and Blackwood. So it's not that I don't get it. Talley has been praised for perfectly grasping and using the period voice and and writing in that style. That is the root of the problem for me, and I admit when it's a first time author it will cause my eyes to roll more than ever. People complain about vampires and werewolves becoming derivative and they are, but come on it's the 21st century and writing like you are Howard Phillips Lovecraft at his typewriter and using his characters to me is every bit if not more derivative.

The best mythos stories I have read in the last few years comes from authors like Cody Goodfellow and Michael Shea who explore the themes and ideas of Lovecraft in their own unique voice. Not to say that writing in Lovecraft's voice never works - I enjoyed Edward Lee's mythos novel "The Innswich Horror" and he was clearly doing the same thing as this novel. Talley a talented guy Probably even captured the period voice more effectively than the long time pro Ed Lee, the difference is when Ed Lee doesn't I know he can write a novel without cloning the voice of a long dead master.

Doesn't matter in the end I just didn't think it was a well done narrative. The novel really is a series of stories that breaks one of the writers most often repeated mantras "show, don't tell." Well this novel is all told, and a first person narrative told by several different people telling stories with in stories gets confusing to me. A great first person narrative is told in a voice so strong it can carry you through the whole thing. I was constantly lost on who was telling the story at any given time.

For me this experiment might have worked better in third-person. If you didn't want to lose the story telling aspect of the piece, it could have still been done in dialogue.

Maybe I'm totally wrong about this book, others seem to like it. for that reason it should be considered for library collections. If you can't get enough of stories from that period, then this is the book for you. If your ready to see the mythos evolve into the 21st century this is not the book to do it. Talley is talented and did enough in this book if he ever releases a book written in his own voice I will pick it up.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

NFL Week nine picks

David 74-40
Larry 77-37

David's picks:
Dolphins @ Chiefs: Chiefs
Sehawks @ Dallas : Cowboys
Bucs @ Saints: Saints
Niners @ Redskins: 49ers
NYJets @ Bills: Bills
Browns @ Houston: Texans
Falcons @ Colts: Falcons
Cincy @ Ten: Bengals
Broncos @ raiders: Raiders (only because of Tebow)
NYG@ Pats: PAtriots
Packers @ Chargers:Chargers (31-28)
Rams @ cards: Rams
Ravens @ Steelers: Steelers
Bears@ Eagles: Eagles

Larry's picks:
MIA @ KC (W)
TB @ NO (W)
SF (W) @ WAS
NYG (W) @ NE
GB @ SD (W) 31-40

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Book Review: Heaven's Shadow by David Goyer and Michael Cassutt

Heaven's Shadow By David S. Goyer & Michael Cassutt
398 pages
Ace Hardcover

The Big Dumb Object sub-genre of Science fiction was the cornerstone of Arthur C. Clarke's fiction(although his best novel Songs of Distant Earth was not in it). He was the master because he was a great storyteller who was not afraid to tell a story with a mystical mystery component but he also knew science. I think it takes some serious nads to get in this ring and try to tell this kind of story in a novel form. The science and details are far more forgiving in a film so I was surprised when two writers known more for film and TV set out to do it.

Goyer is known as a Screenwriter (Blade, batman begins) and director (The Unborn,Blade 3) and his Partner Cassutt (Twilight Zone) had developed the story as a film treatment. I don't work for NASA or know a lot about that world so I can only say that the details seem well researched, and with that element in place I was ready for a wild Sci-fi ride.

The story takes place three years after a Near Earth Object (thought to be a comet or space) is seen heading towards earth. Two space programs are competing to land on the object first. Once they get there the mystery slowly unravels and we discover that of course it's some kind of starship. Don't worry these are not bumpy headed Trek aliens, the authors do a good job of not anthropomorphizing the alien life forms or their technology which is thousands of years beyond ours.

The characters are well defined and introduced with a economy of story time, I would myself caring for them and generally being concerned. I am trying to be general about the plot because I think you are better served going in as blank as possible. I had one small nitpick with the novel that I will address in at the end of this review.

I am a fan of Goyer's writing, enjoyed a talk he gave at a screenwriting conference (in 2003) and was excited to see what he did with the novel form. In much the same fan his one time collaborator Guillermo Del Toro did when he wrote his strain trilogy. You can sense the film just under the surface, mostly in the way the stories cut and weave. The no non-sense approach to the story telling. Heaven's shadow doesn't waste a lot of time with internal monologues and the cuts in the action are pure screenwriting.

That's not a negative. Perhaps the only book I read recently that flowed the same way was Hogan and Del Toro's second book the Fall. The chapter breaks are perfect, and the the various plot threads are paced apart to keep tension high. I saw a review where a reader complained that after a cliffhanger end to a chapter they had to read through four chapters to find out what happened next. Of course the other four threads will building at the same time. That is on purpose ding-a-ling. That's why you read sixty pages of this book without realizing that time flew by.

This is an excellent addition to the the Big Dumb Object genre and my favorite Sci-fi novel I have read so far this year. The authors have built groundwork for a trilogy that cannot stay in the same sub-genre. That's great I am excited to see these characters again and the different direction the story will have to go into. The only real flaw with the novel is something I can see them fixing in the second or the third book. I was thinking it was spoiler, but frankly it's on the dust jacket of the book so...

Like many others who read the book I have a hard time excepting the fact that the aliens feel they need to contact humans for any reason. I am hoping the second book will explain why in the second book because to me it's still mystery. Is that a nitpick or not? I can't tell until I read book two, and that is already on my list.

Week 8 picks!

David 66-35
Larry 68-33

Larry and I tied again at 7-6. We picked different games. It was a rough week for picks.

Cards @ Ravens: Ravens
Vikings @ Panthers: Panthers
Jags @ Texans: Texans
Dolphins @ Giants: Giants
saints @ Rams: Saints
Titans @ Colts: Titans (Closer than people think)
Bills @ Redskins: Bills
Lions @Broncos: Lions
Pats @ steelers: Pats
Bengals @ Seahawks: Seahawks (don't feel good about it)
Browns @ 49ers: niners!
Cowboys@ Eagles: Eagles (in a close one.)
Chargers @ chiefs: Chargers

Chargers are banged up with a key defensive player, and O line out. They need this game and the pressure of the loss to the jets will help. It will be tough on the road, but the chiefs 3-3 record is smoke and mirrors. They only beat the Ray-turds 28-0 because the Raiders threw six interceptions including two pick six scores. Cassel didn't play great, neither did anyone else on the offense. Another week of practice for Gates, and Jackson getting healthier will help rivers get comfortable. Big game for Mathews and Hestor in the backfield with Tollbooth out.

26-14 Chargers over chiefs.

Larry's picks:
NO (W) @ STL
NE @ PIT (W)
CLE @ SF (W)
SD (W) @ KC (27-21)

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Donnie Yen! Bodyguards and Assassins!

Finally saw this...Wow. Great concept for a kungfu movie. Check it out. Donnie Yen gets to do a little more acting in this. I have heard people complain that it is slow to start, but in my mind they did a great job of building tension. the first hour is like a fuse burning down.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

NFL Week 7 picks!

Last week I went 10-3 and Larry went 9-4.

So far I'm 59-29

Redskins @Panthers (Panthers)
Seahawks @ Browns (Seahawks)
Falcons @ Lions (Lions)
Broncos @ Phins (Broncos - win a horrible game - phins fire coach)
Chargers @ Jets (Chargers)
Bears - TB - London game (Bucs)
Texans @ Titans (Titans)
Steelers @ Cards (Steelers)
Chiefs @ raiders (chiefs)
Rams @ Cowboys (Cowboys)
GB @ Vikings ( GB)
Colts @ saints (Saints)
Ravens @ jags ( Ravens)

Chargers 35 Jets 17 (Jets will get a defensive TD, and go at least 4 - 3 and outs. We will win turn over battle and fix redzones problems

The Eleventh Son by Gu Long (Translated
365 pages
$19.95 Trade paperback

I have wanted to read this novel for years, but for one reason or another I just never got around to it. Wuxia films are some of my favorite movies of all time and I have always wanted to read more of fiction which many of my favorite kungfu movies were based on. Gu Long considered one along with Jin Yong (The Book and the Sword) and Liang Yushen (Bride with White Hair) as the "three legs of the tripod of wuxia". I have also published my own Wuxia horror crossover (Hunting The Moon Tribe) that was more influenced by film as until now I have only read Yong's The Book and the Sword and the Chinese literary classic Three Kingdoms.

So yeah, I was super overdue in reading this novel. It was written in the late 60's, and I am assuming it was published as a serial in newspapers like most Wuxia novels in the era. The chapters take on a serial feel, and it is hard to comment on the writing style because you always wonder how much is a product of translation.

The Eleventh Son is tangled story indeed as characters weave into and out of the story. Some even drop out of the story altogether. The main character Xiao is not even introduced until a few chapters in. It would seem at first that the novel is about Xiao battling for a famous sword called “The Deer Carver.” this maguffin is quickly forgotten as Xiao and a sinister female villian known as Little Mister battle over the Chinese countryside. The main story here is a messy love story between Xiao and a noble woman named Shen. Little Mister who is truly awesome villian frames Xiao for the murder of Shen's entire family. She knows better as Xiao is the one who saved her.

It is said that Long was more influenced by western writers than his competition and I only have Jin Young to compare him too. I can see a little more western influence in the structure of the novel, and the way he tells the story.

Some really cool and weird stuff happens along the way and you would expect in a Wuxia novel, there is a cool chapter where they encounter and battle gods of lightning and thunder. Perhaps my favorite part was a chapter called Doll manor, this super weird chapter finds Xiao and Shen tapped in a doll house worried that they have been shrunk and chaptered a kungfu magician. I was totally surprised by their escape and it was a super neat surprise. The coolest and most inventive part of the novel.

My biggest problem with the novel is that it ended with a set-up for sequel. That is not translated into English. Here is hoping the translator and publisher do this again. We need more Wuxia novels in print!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Book Review: Host of Shadows by Harry Shannon

A Host of Shadows by Harry Shannon
Dark Regions press
280 pages

I have read a few of these stories before, some in cemetary dance, various anthologies and I have always been impressed by Shannon. It's one thing to read a story here, or story there. To read the stories back to back in one collection something totally different. You pick up themes, you learn stuff about what is crawling around in the gray matter of the writer in question. If you are a fan of horror in short fiction then please take my advice and move this book up to the top of your list.

In a blurb on the back cover author Brian Keene said "Shannon is a writer not afraid to walk into the shadows and drag things there kicking and screaming into the light." I know it's cheap to quote a blurb but I tried hard to think of a way to say the same thing, too bad I'm quoting him because it is the best description possible.

Shannon is a master at details, tiny details that paint a dark and vivid picture. The atmosphere he builds leaves the reader with a feeling like they are turning away from a horrible sight, just keeping it in the corner of their vision so they wont lose it. The style ranges from traditional horror, dark noir and a few with experimental prose. All done with skill.

My favorite stories included the WW II story "and the worm shall feed" that takes place in the pacific. The iraq war story "Thus was His Death," and the darkly comical mortality tale "Violent Delights."

This is above average horror fiction that should be included in any serious horror fans personal library. Shannon is a very talented writer who deserves to be on library shelves everywhere. I was not super impressed by the novella Pain that he wrote(reviewed last month), but based on the strength of this collection I will be seeking out his novels.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Donnie Yen plays a character that is in Hunting The Moon Tribe

The story of legendary Guan Yu crossing five passes & slaying six generals. He played a major role in the civil war that led to the collapse of Han Dynasty & the establishment of Shu Han of the 3 Kingdoms, making Liu Bei its first emperor.

Guan Yu is known in Chinese mythology as the god of Martial Power. In the final battle of my novel Hunting The Moon Tribe, the heroes go to the underworld to end the vampire bloodline and are aided by several Chinese mythological characters(He battles the god of thunder Lei Gong). One of them Guan Yu. It's cool to see Donnie Yen playing him in a origin story.

Hunting the Moon Tribe is of course available on Amazon.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Week 6 NFL picks!

Chargers bye week picks!

David's score so far: 49-26
Larry Hall: 52-23

Panthers @ Falcons: Falcons.
Colts @Bengals: Bengals
SF @ Detroit: Lions (in a good game)
Rams @ Packers: (Packers in a slaughter)
Bills @ NYG: (giants) Note: The Bills have been INT machines and Eli has been throwing them, I just think Giants have to win)
Jags @ Steelers( Pitt)
Eagles@ Redskins (Redskins)
Texans @ Ravens (Ravens)
Browns @ Oakland (raiders)
Cowboys@NE (pats)
Saints@ Bucs (Saints)
Vikings @ Bears (Bears)
Phins @ Jets ( Jets)

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

New Jet Li Wuxia Pan movies

As the author of a Wuxia Pan novel (kungfu fantasy called Hunting the Moon Tribe)I am super excited about two new films starring Jet Li. One of my favorite movie stars I have not enjoyed his american movies as much so how rad is it that he has returned to making films in china with style. He is also working with the masters of Chinese cinema.

First up is a new film by Ching Siu Tung director of two of my favorite movies and the most profound influence on Hunting the Moon Tribe - those films were the Chinese Ghost story and his 1982 masterpiece Duel to Death. but now he returns with...

and next Jet Li worked with the Steven Spielberg of Hong Kong Tusi Hark. He is coming off a bad decade, with lots of films that were supposed to be his comeback movie. Well I enjoyed a few of those like Seven Swords, it wasn't until last year when he released Detective Dee and the phantom of the Holy Flame, that critics and fans agreed. Hark was back. To follow up he drafted Jet Li for a 3D remake of the 1967 King Hu classic Dragon gate Inn. (Hark produced a remake in the 90's with Bridgette Lin and Donnie Yen that was OK)

Time to order some import DVD's or hope the Hollywood theater here in Portland makes them happen.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Book Review: Bible Repairman by Tim Powers

Bible Repariman by Tim Powers
192 pages
$14.95 Trade paperback

I have long been a casual fan of Tim Powers and his work. I've always found his science fiction to balance grand idea with excellent writing and strong characters. I have read only novels in the past. I was a huge fan of his novels Three Days to Never' and "The Abunbis gates". The Bible Repairman is a collection odd surrealist borderline bizarro speculative fiction. No space opera or generic sci-fi themes this book is really one for highly literate and patient fans of high quality weird literature.

I really enjoyed the stories "Soul in the Bottle," a tale centered around a book collector and his fascination with Jean Harlow's star on the walk of fame, and "Hour of Babel" a neat time travel story inspired by the pizza joint that Powers worked at in the 70's. The writing in all the stories are high quality, Powers has master's level talent. The only story I could do with out is "Time to cast away stones" the final story in the collection, that bored me to tears. The subject matter about Bryon and Shelly did nothing for me personally, I understand this is a postscript to a novel Powers wrote called "The stress of her regard." Perhaps if I read that book I might have been more interested but to me that was a weak point in a otherwise perfect collection.

I think this is a good book for librarians to stock in their collection and to display, as I am hoping it more attention. It's neat collection. I am not so sure I would tell readers they need to rush out and buy it but that is why it's perfect for the library.

Book Review: Embassytown By China Mieville

Embassytown by China Mieville
Del Rey
352 pages

I was very much looking forward to this book. China Mieville has got to be one of the smartest genre authors out there. I saw him speak at a book signing at Powells promoting his book City and the City a few years back. Just as I had when I listened to interviews I found myself thinking, wow this is one smart dude. He is in fact one smart dude, and like many of his other novels Embassytown is themed somewhat around the multi-dimensional life-form that is a city. (Another great sci-fi novel about a city is John Shirley's Classic 'City Come a Walkin')

I was excited because the idea of Mieville who has written mostly steampunk-ish fantasy or otherwise surrealist new weird fiction doing hard Sci-fi sounded great. From page one Mieville creates a strange landscape of the far future in way that reminds me of 'Left Hand of Darkness' by Ursala Leguin or 'Crucible of Time' by John Brunner. Were talking seriously speculative fiction, all three novels are in such alien worlds it is sometimes easy to forgot a human wrote the book at all.

It is the tale of a city know as Embassytown on a planet colonized by humans. The planet is home to a species called the Ariekei who speak a unique language that only a few genetically altered humans are able to speak. To speak it they have to be cloned and two doppel humans have to speak it together, these ambassadors eventually because a important part of the Ariekei culture. The hosts become addicted to the sound of their voices, and some ambassadors die, others come into power and the novel explores the social fabric of this alien society.

Some of the things I respect about this book are the very things that frustrated me about it. I am a quick reader and I slogged through this 352 pages over weeks. I often had to re-read paragraphs over and over, especially during the first quarter of the book that felt more like a anthropologist's memoir that a narrative. Of course in the universe of this novel, thousands of years into the future with humanity spread out across the universe Language and terminology itself would be alien to us. Mieville throws us in to the deep end without swimming lesson here. I learned those terms quickly enough, as a brief example deep space is referred to as “The Out,” and space Travelers are “Immersers.” The novel is written as if you already know that, I am not complaining I liked that choice and to a serious genre reading this is not that new of a concept.

Unlike Leguin's Left Hand of Darkness I felt the “gee-whiz” factor of the ideas constantly got in the way of the story. I felt like I was so busy trying to figure out what the author was trying to say about language and decipher the ideas that I had trouble following the narrative.

It would be easy to read this novel and think that it was simply a exploration of the power of language. It is that, but the novel also explores the concept of the relationship between the colonizer and the colonized. I think there are amazing elements to this novel, but I can't give it more than three stars out of five because of what a struggle I had keeping my interest. I respect China Mieville enough that I think there is a strong possibility that I am just not smart enough to follow some of the concepts, but I feel he could have kept the story closer to the surface and it would have been a better novel.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Week 5 NFL picks

Eagles at Bills (Bills)
Saints at Panthers (Saints)
Raiders at Texans (Texans)
Chiefs At Colts (Colts)
Bengals At Jags (Bengals)
Cards At Vikings (Vikings)
Seahawks at Giants (Giants in a slaughter)
Titans at Steelers (Titans)
TB at 49ers ( 49ers)
Chargers at Denver (Chargers) 42-17!!!
Jets at Pats (Pats)
GB at Atlanta (Falcons)
Bears at Lions (Lions)

Larry's picks...
Kansas City Chiefs W
Indianapolis Colts

Arizona Cardinals W
Minnesota Vikings

Philadelphia Eagles
Buffalo Bills W

Oakland Raiders
Houston Texans W

New Orleans Saints W
Carolina Panthers

Cincinnati Bengals W
Jacksonville Jaguars

Tennessee Titans W
Pittsburgh Steelers

Seattle Seahawks
New York Giants W

Tampa Bay Buccaneers
San Francisco 49ers W

New York Jets
New England Patriots W

San Diego Chargers W
Denver Broncos

Green Bay Packers
Atlanta Falcons W

Chicago Bears
Detroit Lions W

Sunday, October 2, 2011

NFL week 4 picks

Score through week 3:

Larry - 31-15
David - 29-17

DET @ DAL (Larry -Lions, David- Lions)
SF @ PHI(Larry - Eagles, David- Eagles)
MIN @ KC(Larry - Chiefs, David - Vikings)
WAS @ STL (Larry- Redskins, David - RedSkins)
NO @ JAC (Larry - Saints, David - Saints)
TEN @ CLE (Larry - Titans,David - Browns)
PIT @ HOU(W)(Larry - Texans, David - Texans)
BUF @ CIN (Larry - Bills, David - Bills)
CAR @ CHI(Larry - Bears, David- Bears)
ATL(W) @ SEA (Larry - Falcons, David - Falcons)
NYG @ ARI(Larry- Cards, David -Giants)
DEN @ GB(Larry- pack,David - Pack)
MIA @ SD(Larry - Bolts, David - Chargers!!!!!)
NE(W) @ OAK (Larry- NE, David- Pats)
NYJ @ BAL(Larry - Ravens, David Ravens)
IND @ TB(Larry - TB, David - TB)

Friday, September 23, 2011

NFL Week 3 picks

David Agranoff 19-11
Larry Hall 21 -9

David's picks:
Pats At Bills: Patriots
Jags at Panthers: Panthers (in a close one)
49ers at Bengals: Bengals
Dolphins at Browns: Dolphins
Lions At Vikings: Lions
Texans At Saints:Saints
Giants at Eagles: Eagles
Broncos at Titans: Titans
Jets at Raiders: Raiders ( thought alot about this one, Jets starting 3rd string center- would be surprised if the raiders screw this up)
Chiefs at Chargers: BOLTS!!!!
Ravens at Rams: Ravens ( both need this one, this will be a tough game)
Packers at bears: Bears (in a close one)
Cards at seahawks: Cards (awful game)
Falcons at Bucs: Bucs
Steelers at colts: Steelers
Redskins at Cowboys: Cowboys

Larry Hall's picks:

Houston at New Orleans(W)
NY Giants(W) at Philadelphia
Jacksonville at Carolina(W)
New England(W) at Buffalo
Miami(W) at Cleveland
San Francisco(W) at Cincinnati
Denver at Tennessee(W)
Detroit(W) at Minnesota
Baltimore(W) at St. Louis
NY Jets(W) at Oakland
Kansas City at San Diego(W)
Arizona(W) at Seattle
Atlanta (W)at Tampa Bay
Green Bay(W) at Chicago
Pittsburgh(W) at Indianapolis
Washington(W) at Dallas

My Chargers Prediction: 48 - 10. Huge game for Ryan Mathews. This will be the chargers first flawless game. No turn-overs and forcing at least three. We need to beat the chiefs while they are down. for real.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

I have a story in this charity anthology!

228 pages
$9.99 Kindle
$15.99 Paperback

75 authors from 11 countries came together to collaborate on a mixed-genre anthology of short stories to benefit the orphans of the disaster-stricken Tohoku area. Ninety percent of which is all original work written for this book.

Horror, humor, human drama, science fiction, fantasy, absurdist, bizarro, weird, new wave, bugpunk, Cthulhu, Sherlock Holmes, historical fiction,

Complete author list (in index order): Katherine Govier, Ken Asamatsu, Lee Pletzers, Joseph S. Pulver, Sr., S.A. Gambino, Michael Allen Rose, Nickolas Furr, Garrett Cook, Touya Tachihara, Jess Gulbranson, Alvin Pang, Robert M. Price, Kevin Lovelace, Junichi Ashikawa, Dan Ryan, Adam Joffrain, Moxie Mezcal, Andersen Prunty, L. Christopher Bird, Minoru Inaba, Richard Wright, Kirk Marshall, Davide Mana, Show Tomono, Jon Courtenay Grimwood, Christene Britton-Jones, Philip Overby, Yuusuke Tokita, David Agranoff, Bradley Sands, Naohiko Kitahara, Michael John Grist, Edmund Colell, Trent Zelazny, Riri Shimada, Made in DNA, Glynn Barrass, Fulvio Gatti, Nirnara, Melissa J White, Fumihiko Iino, Curt Seubert, Elizabeth Black, John F. Rice, Hiroshi Yamamoto, Volker Baetz, Andrew Freudenberg, Terrie Czechowski, Lucía González Lavado, Mie Takase, Stephen A. North, Ran Cartwright, Ukyou Kodachi, Danilo Arona, David Naughton-Shires, John Shirley, Jonathan Moon, Tadashi Ohta, Richard Salter, Midori Tateyama, Grant Wamack, Massimo Soumaré, Yufuko Senoh, Berry Sizemore, Ash Lomen, Adam Breckenridge, Yasumi Kobayashi, Jason Wuchenich, Ryuto Hijiri, Vittorio Catani, Joji Hayashi, Kevin David Anderson, Tamao Kanroji, Michael Moorcock, and Shinya Gaku.

Book review: Pain by Harry Shannon

Pain by Harry Shannon
Dark Regions press
121 pages

Harry Shannon is a talented writer, I have yet to read any of his novels yet, but I have always looked forward to his stories and and appearances in various magazines and anthologies. Pain is a novella, the first in a series of novellas published by Dark Regions press. It is a zombie tale that to me shares much in common with the Crazies(the Romero original more so than the excellent remake). It is the story of a small mountain town besiged by zombie like folks infected by a chemical weapon known as pain.

The book starts with a introduction by Bram Stoker award winning bestselling Author Jonathan Mayberry, I respect the man's work but frankly this intro was pretty worthless to me. The intro serves as a "Zombie genre for dummies," but honestly do we really need that? In my case it almost set the bar too high by reminding me what makes a great zombie movie/novel. More on that later.

Nine times out of ten horror writers who grew up reading Stephen King,Peter Straub and Clive Barker have the problem of over writing, as taught to those by those masters who sometimes could stand to be edited back. Here in Pain, I experienced the opposite. My biggest complaint with this novella was that I felt like we were just seeing the tip of the iceberg with this story. That is good sometimes, we don't want the whole mystery revealed all the time, but I felt rushed through this story and the characters.

It is obvious that this book began life as a screenplay, if you have ever read a screenplay they are like skeletons and they are covered in blood, guts and clothes by an entire production team and director. In this case Pain feels like a skeleton with a very cool looking robe on it. You cane still see bare bones, which is too bad but because the seeds are there.

Lots cool moments of suspense, obviously cool story telling, but in the end I felt like alot was missing. Remember when I talked about the intro. Mayberry pointed out that the best zombie movies/novels are not about zombies. We got a hint that Shannon was trying to make a statement about the military contractors but again I think there was more material just beyond the surface. I almost never say this but Pain is neat little zombie book that could have been even better with another 50 to 100 pages of depth...