Sunday, December 30, 2018

Book review: Memory of Water by Emmi Itäranta

Memory of Water by Emmi Itäranta

Paperback, 263 pages

Published June 10th 2014 by Harper Voyager (first published January 24th 2012)

Arthur C. Clarke Award Nominee for Best Novel (2015)

Philip K. Dick Award Nominee (2014)

Kalevi Jäntin palkinto (2012)

Nuori Aleksis -palkinto (2013)

Tähtivaeltaja Award Nominee (2013)

The Kitschies Nominee for Golden Tentacle (Debut) (2014)

James Tiptree Jr. Award Honor List (2014)

Memory of Water is a beautiful and tragic book that is one of the most lyrical and beautiful works of fiction I have read in some time. While this novel is clearly speculative fiction and inspired by deep fears of climate change I suspect it will be one of those books shelved in literature. There is plenty of beautiful prose in the genre but it is books like this that cause marketing headaches like Mary Dorian Russell's the Sparrow or the many works of Brian Evenson. It is OK for copies the book to shelved in both the genre sections and high literature.

The most impressive thing about this novel is the fact that author Emmi Itaranta wrote the book in both her native Finnish and in English. That in itself is quite an accomplishment to be celebrated. The prose is, in fact, gorgeous, so pretty in fact that it flirts with poetry while setting the stage for the story. “We are children of water, and water is death’s close companion. The two cannot be separated from us, for we are made of the versatility of water and the closeness of death. They go together always, in the world and in us, and the time will come when our water runs dry.”

I know many readers will find this work to be a pretty picture lacking depth, thin on story. I knew this would be the judgment of many readers but I don't agree. The book is short and the story is sparse. In a longer work this would have been a problem but at 266 pages I enjoyed it quite a bit. Set in a future Scandanavia ruled by China the global power of the time. Noria is a Tea Master a job she learned from her father, one she is able to do because of a secret. A water spring deep in a cave. This is super Illegal in this water-strapped future.

This book is very similar in many ways to my top read of the last year Carrie Vaughn's brilliant Philip K. Dick Award-winning novel Bannerless. Vaughn brings to that novel more knowledgeable of Genre and skill for world-building that makes it a more commercial novel. In this case I think it makes for a better read. Overall I would suggest Bannerless first, but I think both books are amazing and worth reading.

Memory of water is a powerful piece of work. An important work of Cli-Fi that uses the power of lyrical prose to express the deep sorrow of a world that is quickly losing the foundation of life. It is not for everyone, this is not a commercial easy-breezy read but it is one of the best works of Climate Change fiction you'll find.

Book Review: Stand on Zanzibar by John Brunner

Stand on Zanzibar by John Brunner

Paperback, 650 pages

Published February 1983 by Del Rey Books (first published September 1968)

Hugo Award for Best Novel (1969)

Nebula Award Nominee for Best Novel (1968)

British Science Fiction Association Award for Best Novel (1969)

Prix Tour-Apollo Award for Best Novel (1973)

John Brunner was a leading voice of the 60's new wave of Science Fiction. I have wondered why other authors of the new wave like Leguin, Ellison and of course Philip K Dick are better remembered or respected. Ellison, it was his insane personality and with Dick, it was the films made after his death. John Brunner like PKD has a career that balances corny pulp novels in Brunner cases he did man books about space slavers and laser guns. For every one of those Brunner had as many works of pure genius as any of the giants. Novels like Shockwave Rider (proto- Cyberpunk), The Sheep Look Up (eco-horror), and Crucible of Time (A truly weird novel about alien civilization)to name a few.

Stand on Zanzibar is without a doubt his ultimate masterpiece and even though I have been a Brunner fan for decades I had saved read this book until now. Beyond what it means in this author's catalog this is one of the greatest science fiction novels of the 20th century. There are many elements that make this novel so good and important. The novel is intensely political, and there are so many levels which the story exists on it is a challenge to explain it all. The novel is about environmental issues, colonialism, social-political interactions and more.

The story is told in an experimental format that switches between traditional narrative and various weird sub-chapters. This is done with chapters that are just in world ads, Newspaper articles, speeches, poems and excerpts from fictional textbooks like Hipcrime Vocab by Chad C Mulligan. This style was apparently inspired by (or lifted from) a famous series of books called the USA Trilogy by John Dos Passos. This will turn off easily distracted readers but there is a narrative throughout the novel that follows two main characters. The main POV is a corporate spy and assassin named Donald Hogan and his roommate Norman who is a Muslim businessman. They are forced to live together in an over-populated domed New York part of the future 2010 controlled by a supercomputer. There are mass-shootings everywhere, unending war in this effectively scary dystopia that has lots of elements of the world we live in now.

Donald and Norman find themselves at the center of battle over two small fictional nations of this future. Mass marketed drugs and eugenics are the solution that many feel is the only answer to a better world. That narrative is OK, but it is all the elements of the snapshots combined with the story that makes this novel so amazing and worth the 650 pages.

It was 1968 when John Brunner sat down to write this and it is amazing how was able to predict about our future. Let's get something clear about Science Fiction, the ability to predict the future is not the job of the genre. Telling stories about possible futures is as much about exploring current affairs as anything. Ray Bradbury famously said he didn't write Farrenheit 451 to predict but prevent the future. That is what is amazing about SOZ. Certainly, this weird world is not like ours but goddamn it if many elements mirror our modern world 50 years later.

So New York is not covered in a dome, and the Vietnam war is not in its 50th year in 2010, but the point is not to get things exactly right. There are however mass shootings including schools (p.247). The ghost town that Detroit would become because automation happened much like Brunner predicted (p. 230). That is not all the way young people date, the way cigarettes are viewed, The European Union probably two dozen other things are pretty goddamn close here.

Probably my favorite part of the novel came on page 422 with the transcript of a speech by a lunar colonist entitled "Pros and Cons of Lunatic Society." Brunner here not only doubles on the Lunatic pun PKD made in Second Variety but here he lays out the mission statement of the novel when a person living on the moon basically explains why they are better off on the moon. Speaking of life on the moon "More Important than that, though, you know that you're in an environment where co-operation is essential for survival."

Stand on Zanzibar is Brunner's best and one of the most important novels of the 20th-century science fiction or otherwise. It is not for everyone as the style makes it a challenging read. Too bad because it deserves to be studied and understood.

“The book has one of the scariest mise-en-scènes in all of science fiction: a world that is a smothering, riotous tangle of human arms and limbs. Stand on Zanzibar is an information overload on topics that sensible people would never want to learn about. Even the characters fear what the book’s world is direly telling them: as the brightest among them rather pitifully remarks, “Whatever happens in present circumstances there’s going to be trouble.” Their world is a kaleidoscope of whatever. Its darkly troubled whateverness oozes from its walls with lysergic intensity.” ― John Brunner

Thursday, December 27, 2018

Top Ten Movies of 2018!

M:I Fallout: It is amazing that this movie written as they went, and broken up by it's star busting his ankle. The youtube video of Tom Cruise doing all the stunts is almost as exciting as the movie itself. None the less it was a spectacle on the big screen. Super fun.

Leave no Trace: The story this is based on was big in the news in Portland when it happened and I remembered it being on the news. It was cool to see Forrest Park where we liked to hike back when lived there. The two leads were great, this was a a really moving film at times. Simple but powerful film.

Annihilation: I was a huge fan of the novel coming in, and this might have been at the top of my list if they had cut 10 seconds out of the opening and cut the last two minutes. I am glad I saw this very sacry sci-fi surreal horror film in the theater.

First Man: Powerful movie and well made. I thought this movie did a great job of capturing the insanity of early space travel. I also like the score.

Upgrade: Sci-fi meets dumb 80's style action movie, this is like spiritual cousin to the first Robo-cop or Total Recall.

BlacKKKlansman: Spike Lee's best movie since Malcolm X. Funny at times, heart breaking you could hear a pin drop during the final scene.

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse: There is a reason it has 100% on Rotten Tomatoes so don't sleep on it. The story is cute, funny and sweet at times. It is a excellent example of fantastic writing that appeals to all ages and the animation itself is worth seeing.

Hereditary: It might be a better movie than the two I have listed above it, but I did have some nitpicks. This movie was a a totally amazing theater experience. It was a horror movie anyone who says differently is not thinking clearly. Toni Collette is getting robbed not getting nominated for this movie.

Mute: It is my least favorite Duncan Jones movie of the three I have seen, and I know many people didn't like it. Mute worked for me. It was a weird sci-fi film with lots despicable characters. Jones said the movie was inspired by MASH (the movie not the TV) and it is weird movie, and if you can't tell that is what I like best.

Mandy: I understand why some don't like this movie, some accused it as style over substance, but I personally found it to be a perfect balance of insanity, story and pure weird. The visuals are amazing, Cage and the cast were great and it is the only movie I have ever seen where a character forges a sword that is shapped like the logo of Celetic Frost.

Monday, December 24, 2018

Best Reads of 2018!

Top 10 Reads of 2018!

Best short story: Folding Beijing by Hao Jingfang

Best Non-fiction read of the year: The Big Picture: On the Origins of Life, Meaning, and the Universe Itself by Sean Carrol

Best book read for Dickheads: Eye in the Sky.

Biggest Disappointment: The Outsider by Stephen King

These are just of new releases in 2017-18 that I read. I read 100 books this year if you include the graphic novels which I reviewed on goodreads but not the blog. About half of those were new releases.

10. Cross Her Heart by Sarah Pinborough

Cross Her Heart is a masterpiece of parallels and reversals. I should say that this is a twisty turny narrative that is better if you know nothing going in, and that is how I did it. If you like stuff like Girl on the Train and Gone Girl this is in that vein.

9. How to Set Yourself On Fire by Julia Dixon Evans

This novel by San Diego Writer Julia Dixon Evans is an excellent character study tied to together subtle but powerful prose. This is somewhat of a coming of age novel even though the main character is an adult.

8. Dry by Neal Shusterman, and Jarrod Shusterman

Stephen King said he couldn't put it down. Dry is an effective horror novel, YA or not it is an important novel for our time. It deserves to be on the shelf next to eco-horror classics like The Sheep Look Up. I feel it is the orange county cousin to my San Diego based Cli-fi novel Ring of Fire.

7. Blood Standard (Isaiah Coleridge #1) by Laird Barron

This is a masterpiece of tough guy crime, and that has everything to do with an author who clearly is intelligent with the ability to write highly literate prose,a stylist, but also with the experience and bravado to write effective macho-ma-cheese-mo. It is the balance that makes Tarantino great in film and Elmore Leonard great in any format. It is weird at times but there is nothing supernatural. If you didn't think Barron could write a book with a different bag of tricks think again.

6. Blackfish City by Sam J. Miller

This book balances lots of things I love in a novel. Miller has lots of plates spinning from world building, well drawn characters and clear but not heavy handed messaging. If you look at the issues he is able to address from the climate horrors,post-scarcity culture, classism, refugees and at the core the many ills of capitalism. It might seem like he was writing a political paper but it is all subtly slipped into the story naturally. You end up with a super smart politically driven neo-noir novel that reminded me of a urban Snowpiercer with plenty of PKD influence for my Dickheads.

5. UBO by Steve Rasnic Tem

Set in a weird as hell surreal prison maybe in space, maybe out of space time? The first half of the book has a mystery as powerful as the setting, and that is saying something. When you mix the "I want to shoot myself" grim tone of Macarthy's The Road, with the political concepts and sheer "what the fuck is real?" of Philip K Dick you earned the word masterpiece.

4. Cabin at The End of The World by Paul Tremblay

Anyone who thinks of this novel as a simple horror are missing the point. This is a multi-layered novel that packs massive amounts of entertainment and meaning into a book that is less than 300 pages. Written just after the election Cabin at the End of the World is horror novel that builds scares in part from that disconnect. Comedy is often built on a foundation of set-up and punch-line. Effective horror novels are built on a foundation of tension, suspense and placing the reader in fear for the characters. The set-up of CATEOW is genius because it not only sets up those elements but explores the themes that plague our nation every time we watch the news.

3. Burning Sky by Weston Ochse

Burning Sky is masterpiece that I am more impressed by the longer I think about it. Burning Sky is very much about PTSD, but Burning Sky takes that theme and goes beyond. This novel is about what drives war. It explores the deep trauma not just of the warriors but society. The book points to key moments covered by the news in the last few conflicts that lead to Trauma that we felt collectively. The theme is expressed so beautifully in some of this novel's most horrific moments.

I interviewed Weston for Dickheads about this book:

2. The Freeze-Frame Revolution by Peter Watts

The Freeze-Frame Revolution is a mind bending science fiction novel that packs in more ideas and story into it's 192 pages than some novels three times its length. One of the hardest parts of space based hard sci-fi is for the writer to express the scope and size of the universe. When we look into the universe the distance and amount of years are beyond what most stories can contain. We can talk about distances that stretch thousands of light-years and journeys that would last thousands if not millions of years but it is a a different challenge to create a narrative with such scope. That is the cool thing about this novel - it doesn't shy away from this reality.

1. Bannerless/ The Wild Dead by Carrie Vaughn

Winner of the 2017 Philip K. Dick Award and the sequel make my list at number one! While very worthy of the Philip K Dick award the author's work that Bannerless reminds me more of in tone and subject matter is Ursula Leguin. While Vaughn has her own voice I mean this with the upmost respect. The coast road is a future post end of the world novel and there is a fine tradition of novels like this set in California from Leguin's Always Coming Home, Gene O'Neil's Cal Wild books and Kim Stanley Robinson's Three California trilogy. Bannerless is a strong entry in this sub-genre.

This post Climate Change apoclayse novel is a murder mystery that deals with issues related to reproductive rights, ecological and social justice issues. But hey check out my interview with the reigning PKD award winning author herself - the first Dickheads interview.

Books read in 2018:

* New Releases (2017 & 2018)

Defy the Stars (Constellation #1) by Claudia Gray*

Perchance to Dream by Charles Beaumont

Artemis by Andy Weir*

Usurper of the Sun by Housuke Nojiri

Infernal Parade by Clive Barker

Escape From Baghdad by Saad Z. Hossain

The God Gene by F.Paul Wilson*

Origins of Creativity by Edward O. Wilson

Aftermath by Levar Burton

Mean Business on North Ganson Street by S. Craig Zahler

Another Way to Fall by Brian Evenson and Paul Tremblay*

Lagoon by Nnedi Okorafor

Radio Free Vermont by Bill McKibben*

Shaker by Scott Frank

The Wave by Walter Mosley

Star Wars: Lost Stars by Claudia Gray

The God Problem by Howard Bloom

Solar Lottery by Philip K. Dick

Cobalt Squadron (Journey to Star Wars: The Last Jedi)by Elizabeth Wein

UBO by Steve Rasnic Tem*

The Dispossessed by Ursla K. Leguin

The Unnoticeables by Robert Brockway

The Listener by Robert R. McCammon*

The Night Masquerade (Binti #3) by Nnedi Okorafor*

Fall Down 7 Times Get Up 8: A Young Man's Voice from the Silence of Autism by Naoki Higashida*

Bannerless by Carrie Vaughn*

The Coldest City by Antony Johnston (Goodreads Author), Sam Hart (Illustrator)

Where the Dead Sit Talking by Brandon Hobson*

Austral by Paul McAuley*

Star Wars The Last Jedi by Jason Fry*

Corpse Paint by David Peak* After the Flare (Nigerians in Space #2) by Deji Bryce Olukotun*

The World Jones Made by Philip K. Dick

Han Solo at Star's End by Brian Daley

Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi*

Ghost Boys by Jewell Parker Rhodes*

The Outsider by Stephen King*

Chasing New Horizons by Alan Stern & David Grinspoon*

The Long Tomorrow by Leigh Brackett

The Wild Dead (The Coast Road #2) by Carrie Vaughn*

The Man Who Japed by Philip K. Dick

The Hematophages by Stephen Kozeniewski*

Star Wars: Last Shot: (A Han and Lando Novel) by Daniel José Older *

Blood Standard (Isaiah Coleridge #1) by Laird Barron*

Future Home of the Living God by Louise Erdrich*

The Soldier by Neal Asher*

The Cosmic Puppets by Philip K. Dick

It Can't Happen Here by Sinclair Lewis

Invisible Planets: Contemporary Chinese Science Fiction in Translation by Ken Liu (Editor, Translator)

Burning Sky by Weston Ochse*

Now That You're Here by Amy K. Nichols

How to Set Yourself On Fire by Julia Dixon Evans*

Eye in the Sky by PKD

Cabin at The End of The World by Paul Tremblay*

The Freeze-Frame Revolution by Peter Watts*

All Hail the House Gods by Andrew James Stone*

Exploring Dark Short Fiction #2: A Primer to Kaaron Warren*

Ball Lightning by Liu Cixin*

Cross Her Heart by Sarah Pinborough*

Nightflyers by George RR Martin

That Which Grows Wild by Eric J. Guignard*

Halcyon by Rio Youers*

A World Of Horror edited by Eric J Guignard*

The People’s Republic of Everything by Nick Mamatas

Blackfish City by Sam J. Miller*

Dr. Futurity by Philip K. Dick

An Ocean of Minutes by Thea Lim*

The Big Picture: On the Origins of Life, Meaning, and the Universe Itself by Sean Carrol

Vulcan's Hammer by Philip K Dick

The Overstory by Richard Powers*

Dry by Neal Shusterman, and Jarrod Shusterman*

Elevation by Stephen King*

Florida by Lauren Groff*

The Man In the High Castle by Philip K Dick

Hoosier Hysteria: A Fateful Year in the Crosshairs of Race in America by Meri Henriques Vahl

Someone Like Me by M.R. Carey

Stand on Zanibar by John Brunner

Memory of water by Emmi Itäranta

Sunday, December 23, 2018

Book Review: Someone Like Me by M.R. Carey

Someone Like Me by M.R. Carey

Hardcover, 500 pages

Published November 2018 by Orbit

I have been a fan of Mike Carey long before The Girl With All the Gifts was released and his pen name M.R. Carey suddenly became a better seller. Carey had me with his amazing runs on Hellblazer where he wrote some of the best arcs in the Constantine story. The reason Carey has established such loyalty and sales goes back to his Masterpiece "The Girl With All the Gifts" that breathed fresh air into the tired genre of zombie fiction. The movie with Glen Close is pretty solid too. While none of the follow-up novels under the name M.R. have been nearly as good that has more to do with the high bar that first novel set.

Carey is a great writer, he does an amazing job in this novel with setting and characters. This story does come with a very slow burn, but it worked for me. I have had the opposite reaction to many readers in that I enjoyed the build up of the first 2/3 more than the eventual confrontation and action at the end.

The main character Liz was a great character, former punk rocker now mother of two. Liz is divorced trying to co-parent but her ex is still abusive. Her son Zac helps her and and has become close to a neighbor Fran who survived a kidnapping. The thing that connects the characters and binds them to the story is the trauma they survived. I went into this book cold on the plot based on the strength of Carey as a writer. I suggest anyone interested in this horror fantasy go in knowing as little as possible.

This is a horror novel explores domestic violence and Trauma. Heavy stuff, and I feel Carey does the topic justice. Liz is a sweet and loving mother who wouldn't hurt a fly until her ex-husband pushes her to fantasize about revenge. Beth was her alter ego, the one that helped her to pick up a guitar and live another life. It is Beth that is willing and eager to fight back. This novel is about giving that part of your soul too much power.

In Fran's case it is her imaginary hero a talking fox named Jinx. This part should not work but somehow Carey mostly takes this silly concept and makes it solid.

So why only three stars? This novel starts strong, but the last one hundred pages kinda lost me I found the events a little confusing. I was also a little over the story and felt like 350 might have been a better page count than 500. Over all I liked this novel, and think it is more proof that a new M.R. Carey novel is one I will read each time.

Sunday, December 16, 2018

Book Review: Hoosier Hysteria by Meri Henriques Vahl

Hoosier Hysteria: A Fateful Year in the Crosshairs of Race in America

by Meri Henriques Vahl

Paperback, 336 pages

Published July 2018 by She Writes Press

When this review is over you might not believe that I was rooting for this memoir. The fact is that I wanted to like this book and I made it to the last page. The thing is I just don't think it is a good book. I understand why it is marketed as "A Fateful Year in the Crosshairs of Race in America." Certainly, it is a better hook than "An awkward year in a college freshman's life," but that subtitle would have been more accurate.

Look Bloomington is my hometown, my father was a professor at IU, without that connection to the history of the community I grew up in I would never have made it through this book. This could have been a very important look at a historic moment in a turbulent time at Indiana University. You see Bloomington is now a liberal and progressive center of a very red state in Indiana. The transformation that happened since this author arrived at a very racist college town to what it would become is interesting. The problem is we don't see that transformation, we just see a freshman find a bunch of problems and not return. In fact the story doesn't even really give an arc to the person at the heart of the story. I suspect that the author found herself while at Berkley but we are kind of just told in the bio, not in the actual story.

Meri Henriques Vahl came to Bloomington in 1963 and became the first white student at IU to be roommates with two black students. She also got involved in the protest of Alabama governor and ultra-racist George Wallace. Sounds interesting right? Yep, that would make a fascinating book, instead, we get page after page of her day to day life like signing up for classes, bad dorm food and awkward dates with an asshole radical and her crush on the head of folk music club on campus.

WHAT?????

Look I get it that she was writing a memoir, but she had to know that her observations and what she saw around her were more interesting and important to history than how nervous she was about music school auditions or the hunky graduate student she had a crush on. Her roommates had the far more interesting experience and I found myself wishing that I was reading Pixie's memoir instead. After a year the author left IU and missed out on the very radical activism and change that came in the years that followed. Now that is a story I would like to read...

Good thing there is a non-fiction book called Dissent in the Heartland by Mary Ann Wynkoop, that is the book I think people interested in the history of race relations and Indiana should read. I admit I was hoping for a memoir from someone in that position. I am certainly not upset I read this book, I got a good picture of this woman's experience. It just seems a little bit of unintentional white privilege and hubris that she spent so much time on her dating life and not the fascinating story she was so close to. I understand she might not have known many of the details but that is what you do research for.

In the acknowledgments, the author points out that many publishers passed on this book and I see why. Whoever wrote the back cover description did a great job selling this book, I just wish we got to read THAT book.

Book Review/ Podcast episode: The Man In the High Castle by Philip K Dick

The Man In the High Castle by Philip K Dick

Paperback, 259 pages

Published June 1992 by Vintage (first published October 1962)

Hugo Award for Best Novel (1963)

Tähtivaeltaja Award (1993)

Multi-episodes series of Dickheads coming soon dedicated the Man in The High Castle. The novel and the Amazon series.

Part 1 The Novel:

Part 2: the interviews:

This time around David has a conversation with two professors, Gavriel D. Rosenfeld, and Bruce Krajewski, on the continued relevance to our modern world of both the novel and the Amazon Prime series The Man in the High Castle.

Part 3: The TV Show:

Coming in Feb. 2019

Sunday, December 9, 2018

Book Review: Florida by Lauren Groff

Florida by Lauren Groff

Hardcover, 275 pages

Published June 2018 by Riverhead

National Book Award Finalist for Fiction (2018)

Kirkus Prize Nominee for Fiction (2018)

OK this book is a tad bit out of my wheelhouse as I am a horror and Science Fiction critic and writer. I like to read genre and while I consider myself a consumer of the smarter end of that spectrum I don't generally read "literature." By that I mean the stuff that is put on the literature shelves in Powell's books. In the eight years, I lived in Portland and shopped at Powell's I only bought Brian Evenson books out of that section. So let's face it I am not the target audience here.

I picked up Flordia because Dan Bloom the Cli-fi Blogger mentioned it on his blog. As an author of a Climate change novel myself, I was interested to read the state of the art by authors writing about it. I knew nothing else about it or the author. I went in so cold I thought it was a novel as I started reading it.

First thing I can say is that Lauren Groff is a great writer I can tell already. This book took a little bit to hook me but once I got into it I was sold on her ability. Her use of language is so strong and evocative that I am positive I never want to live in Florida. I don't think I could pay this book a higher compliment. The heat, the humidity, the snakes, the mold the dipping uncomfortable swamp living dripping off the pages.

as with any short story collection, there are stories of varying strength and weakness. The first story was not the best opener in my opinion. It was a great example of how to write a setting, but the vague character that seemed to be an author stand it didn't work for me. That said at that point I thought I was reading the first chapter of a novel. The second story was one of the strongest of the collection. "At the Round Earth's Imagined Corners" is a great vivid tale that could have sustained a novel. The setting and characters were rich and stick with you like something that doesn't quite wash off your hands.

I don't know if it was an intentional theme but Groff appears to share my fear of the creeping effect of climate change. That is what interested me in this book and so it should not be a surprise that the stories that focused on such impacted me the most. My other favorites "Flower Hunters" and "Snake stories" were favorites. I don't remember the title of the story set in the storm but that one showed that Groff knows how to add suspense something, not all MFA literature types can do.

Overall I liked this book and the best thing I can say is that I intend to track down her novel at some point. Climate change is a horror as great as the nuclear threat my generation lived with as children. The difference is it is a slowly creeping up on us. It is a monster in the shadows reaching out to grab up. It is not a jump scare but a building suspense. Lauren Groff captures this with subtly through most of the pages of this book.

Mostly she is doing this surgery with a scalpel, but a couple times the hammer comes out. "She is no longer frightened of reptiles, she who is afraid of everything. She is afraid of climate change."

Don't miss out.

Saturday, December 8, 2018

Book Review: Elevation by Stephen King

Elevation by Stephen King

Hardcover, 146 pages

Published October 2018 by Scribner

I was surprised by this one. Normally there is a lot of build up for the release of a new Stephen King novel. considering King is known for doorstoppers like Under The Dome and IT that top 1,000 pages this will get called a novella. It is technically beyond the novel word count. So this kinda slipped out and SK fans were given a late 2018 treat.

The reviews so far are pretty mixed but I was surprised to see a few negative reviews from serious constant readers on twitter in the early days of this release. I tried to go into with an open mind and judge for myself. I am not sure why there were so many negative comments about this short novel, it is not really amazing or anything like that. No one is going to accuse it of being groundbreaking.

I really did not like The Outsider, I am not one to give Uncle Steve a pass just because I love him as a human being. I mean I watch all the interviews, I love all his tweets. I greatly respect the man but write as much as he does, take the risks that he does you are going to put out a stinker or two.

This story is dedicated to Richard Matheson and it has that feel. I enjoyed it. I didn't love it but I also thought some critical comments were a little overblown. sure it was sentimental, that is a strength of the story. I thought it was unfairly the goodreads choice for horror novel of the year. Not just because it should have been Tremblay's Cabin at the End of the World, but this is pretty light horror. I mean it is horror, it would be scary to be the main character or his friends, but this novel is more in the vein of the Green Mile or Shawshank. I mean we need Darabont on this movie right away.

Elevation is the story of a man named Scott, an older gentleman who lives in Castle Rock and discovers that he is losing weight quickly. His body is not changing, nor is doing anything different. He is simply wasting away slowly. You might be thinking this is like Thinner, but it is a very different story. The B story centers a Lesbian couple that moves to Castle Rock to open a vegetarian restaurant. Scott is the first to break the ice and really accept the couple for who they are.

I know some thought the liberal political stuff was heavy-handed. I have read some reviews that found this unnecessary, but I think they are overestimating the progression of rural Maine, and suggest that King is probably right to send this message. Subtle or not. It comes off heavy-handed to those who live in liberal areas, but I don't think Castle Rock is super liberal. Scott's compassion towards Missy and Diedre is a core to the book that gives weight to the story. (Pun intended)

I understand how some readers might be annoyed with stereotypes that the characters fill, and that is a valid criticism. I certainly had that problem last year with Sleeping Beauties (co-written with his song Owen)that novel reinforced so many patriarchal stereotypes it really hurt my experience. If you want to talk about a novel with cringe-worthy generational tactless politics Sleeping beauties is much worse. The number of times Scott the POV character pointed out how great Deidre's legs were hurt worse each time.

I read many comments that the characters were one-dimensional, while they are cookie cutter characters who fulfill silly stereotypes they at least growth in multi-dimensions. I think most people are not getting that this story is about what it feels like to fade away with age. Scott as a character also learns quite a bit about himself and in the short pages all the characters have an arc, a simple one but they all grew.

I know I already mentioned Tremblay's Cabin at the End of the World. Not only is it a better horror novel, but it carries some of the say Trump-era desire to humanize marginalized people and does it with more subtly. It feels natural in that book. Far be it for me to tell King what to do but it seems this book was banged out, perhaps sitting on this draft for a bit and coming back to would have made it better.

I liked the story, I liked the metaphor for old age but the book lost two stars in my ratings for all the cringey stuff. I know it ruined the experience for many readers. It didn't ruin my experience but it certainly hurt it. I think if you go in prepared for it, it might not hurt as bad. The thing is there are at least 20 books in the genre alone this year I would suggest you read before this one. recommended for Stephen King completionists only.