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