Sunday, January 31, 2016

Book Review: Futuristic Violence and Fancy Suits by David Wong

Futuristic Violence and Fancy Suits by David Wong

Hardcover, 384 pages

Published October 2015 by Thomas Dunne Books

He may not be a part of the bizarro movement but David Wong (a pen name for the editor of is without a doubt a bizarro author. Known for his once serialized first novel John Dies At the End. Wong injected his dark bizarro horror tale with plenty of humor and ended up making a truly original novel. It was nice to see Wong break away from the series that made him popular. In this novel FVFS takes that same tongue and cheek approach to cyberpunk near future noir.

I had mixed feelings about the first David Wong Novel John Dies At the End. I loved lots of things about it when I read it but my writer's brain had a hard time dealing with the crazy all over the place structure and lack of editing. The version I read was compiled from a serialized blog, and it showed in lots of ways. For that reason I liked the movie a little better.

It was good enough with enough interesting ideas that a whim I checked out the new Wong novel at library. Futuristic violence and fancy suits is pretty gonzo but not nearly as Gonzo as his debut novel.

The story of Zoey Ashe and her cat Stink Machine, although Stink Machine is not in the novel as much I thought he should have been. Zoey is the daughter of a single mom and former stripper. She only met her father twice who is a wealthy mobster in the pop-up wanna-be vegas of the future called Tolba Ro$a. The story starts as Zoey suddenly has killers and hitmen chasing after her. Eventually she learns that her father left her his empire. This rags to riches techo thriller cyber-noir is not as funny as I expected after reading JDATE. From there we get super-humans, high tech battles and chases and much more.

Kinda bugged me Stink Machine didn't play a bigger role and kinda gets ignored in the second half. Don't get me wrong I laughed a few times and it was interesting enough to finish but I felt the first act was the strongest. That said the opening line of chapter 4 is one of the best laughs I got in the book. Also a speech given by the lead villain (p.264) at the end. Besides a few moments like that I was a little disappointed.

I have seen alot of comments online about the editing of this book. Perhaps this a sore subject for me as my novels have not received the most intense editing, and I for one don't have a great eye for grammar. I catch many of these typos when I read books, but that to me has nothing to do with a story. If the story is good I will over look nitpicks. Was I entertained? Sure I was and typos aside this was better edited to me in the sense that it felt more structured like a novel. To me the big issue with editors in relation to Wong's work is the structure. I felt John Dies at The End didn't flow as novel. It felt like the chapter were pulled out of different books, sometimes it felt like a different writer. It distracted me while reading. I felt that book needed another draft.

I think some will be disappointed by this book, I think it was a better novel than his debut, but I think it is not as fun a experience.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

When Susurrus Stirs by Jeremy Robert Johnson read on This is Horror.

One of my favorite authors and former neighbor in Portland reading his short story that will soon be a short film! The story appeared in his amazing collection We Live Inside you. You should buy it.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

My video for San Diego Love Letter Challenge

This legacy is what we are fighting for:

KUSI News - San Diego, CA

So we are challenging all Chargers to write a love letter explaining how they fell in love with the Chargers. Here is mine:

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Book Review: King Space Void by Anthony Trevino

King Space Void by Anthony Trevino

paperback, 104 pages

Published October 2015 by Eraserhead Press

New Bizarro Author Series

"When you love someone, sometimes they can mean the whole world to you. Or several worlds.

King Space Void is a planet-eating entity whose consciousness resides in the body of a gargantuan machine made to look like a man and powered by thousands of people. Dane Shipps is one of the best workers of in King Space Void, until the day he finds a mangled woman named Scarlet still alive and intertwined in the machine's ductwork who convinces him to step outside of his routine. Together they plan to take down King Space Void and everyone inside."

Starting in 2009 Eraserhead press has had a series of first time authors publish novellas in this series. The series has seen alot excellent writers get their start and move on to big things. Styles as different as the absurdist hyperbole of Vince Kramer's Gigantic Death Worm to more literary works like Muscle Memory by Steve Lowe. Authors have gone on to have bestsellers like Patrick Wensink, or respected horror novels like the work Nicole Cushing who seemed to never return to bizarro. In seven years I have had mixed feelings reading these books. My favorite before this year was Daniel Valasty's Church of TV as God.

I admit I am bias as this author Anthony Trevino is a friend. A San Diego author we hang out often, go to movies together and talk about the craft of writing all the time. That said I am not required to like his work, and believe me if he put out a turd I would tell him that it smells. So believe me when I say I happy and impressed by this book.

Thankfully the only thing I have to complain about is the short length of this book. I could have spent easily twice as many pages reading about this world. This surreal space opera reminds me of Snowpiecer at times. The contained world of Dane who lives and works inside the body of person shaped giant space vessel that eats worlds is vividly drawn.

In the short page count Trevino uses sharp prose to paint a surreal world and fills it with vivid characters. That balance is the key strength of King Space Void. The action is fun and you can see hints of the action and crime influences I know the author brings to the table.

Like many books in the NBAS the biggest reason to get the book outside of the entertainment you'll get from reading it is knowing that you were there at the start of a awesome career.

Book Review: The Surgeon's Mate by Alan M. Clark

The Surgeon's Mate by Alan M. Clark

Paperback 242 pages

IFD Publishing

You probably know Alan Clark's award winning work, but not his name. His amazing artwork has been paired up with Jeremy Robert Johnson, Cody Goodfellow, Brian Keene, Edward Lee and Stephen King to name a few. If you look at his list of his credits for cover art your mind will be blown. Most serious genre readers know his work. In the last few years Clark has shifted little by little from art to prose writing a series of novels. The transition started with the Bram Stoker award nominated novel Siren Promised (Co-written with Jeremy Robert Johnson). That horror novel about addiction features wall to wall paintings and drawings. A must see, a must read.

In the last few years Clark has devoted much of his output to a series of novels about the victims of Jack the Ripper. I reviewed The second book in the series Say Anything But your Prayers here. "I would consider this novel to be horror but the historical elements are what make this piece so interesting. You can’t escape the main character’s fate as you go through her life, tension builds because you know how she will meet her end." I also did a interview with Alan right here on the blog.

The Surgeon's Mate is not in the ripper victim series but it has serious connections to every painting and story Clark has created. As a fan of mind bending concepts, inter-related plotting across multiple stories and media The Surgeon's Mate is a masterpiece. This novel has a plot that bobs and weaves like a boxer, when that punch finally comes you will have trouble staying on your feet.

Part memoir part fiction the lines are blurred from beginning to end.The tale of a artist/ author named Aiden Clark who struggles to survive after a brain abscess almost kills him. In the wake of the crisis he is haunted by visions of a man named Frederick who in the 19th century fought the desire to explore violence against women. As a assistant to a Surgeon traveling the world on ships he progressively explores the darkness. At the same time Aiden is trying to enjoy the light of his family when his career is to explore the darkness.

The final act of The Surgeon's Mate is like woven tapestry being pulled tight. The ending is both thrilling and heartbreaking. This is a horror novel that balances a dark bizarro high concept with a emotionally rich character study that is clearly written infront of a mirror. Really Fantastic. Big Thumps up.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Book Review: Consumed by David Cronenberg

Consumed by David Cronenberg

Hardcover, 308 pages

Published September 2014 by Scribner

It's a generally a mixed bag when filmmakers write novels or novelist directs a film but in the end story telling is story telling. When it comes to off beat weird movies few do a better job than David Cronenberg. The Canadian one time master of horror broke out of the genre ghetto with films like Spider, History of Violence and Eastern Promises. I was not a huge fan of Dangerous Method but his last film Map to the Stars is very underrated. One thing you have to understand is he is a gifted writer. He has been writing films for a long long time. I was not surprised by the strength of Consumed.

I have heard some lament that it was not as weird as they had hoped for, not like A modern Videodrome as some had hoped. In many ways it is a return to form, in the sense that classic DC themes are explored and mined. I am not sure why DC choose this to be a novel and not a film, but this story is pretty Cronenberg. I mean it is a super bizarro erotic thriller that involves violence and disease. How is that not Cronenberg enough for anyone? that I don't understand.

The story starts with a mystery, our lead is a journalist Naomi who uses photos to investigate crimes investigates a murder. A famous french philosopher has murder and decapitated his wife. She heads to Japan where the man is hiding from the french government. There are reports that he actually cannibalized her body. Namoi's lover Nathan is also a photographer, who studies medicine and disease. Across the globe he is studying a man ravaged by new and strange disease. Over time they discover their cases are related.

It should also not be a surprise that this book is a slow burn. It was the sharp edges that Cronenberg told stories with in his early years that made him a cult film icon. Those edges are there but you are in the hands of the storyteller that evolved into the man who made Spider. It is not as slow of a burn as that film. This is carefully crafted novel that has many touches of DC's personality that come out in the descriptions of Technology and how we interface with it, and of course the bizarre sexuality.

It didn't blow me away and I am sure I would rather have more Cronenberg films than novel. None the less it is worth a read. If you are a serious Cronenbergian don't miss it.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Book Review: Three Body Problem by Liu Cixin , Ken Liu (Translation)

Three Body Problem by Liu Cixin , Ken Liu (Translation)

Hardcover, 400 pages

Published November 2014 by Tor Books

(first published in China January 2008)

Hugo Award for Best Novel (2015),

Nebula Award Nominee for Best Novel (2014),

Locus Award Nominee for Best Science Fiction Novel (2015),

John W. Campbell Memorial Award Nominee for Best Novel (2015),

Prometheus Award Nominee for Best Novel (2015)

My history with Chinese fiction is deeper than most American science fiction readers given that I am a junkie for Asian film and Kungfu movies. That has given me a natural interest in Chinese history and culture, I have bought and read many Wuxia Chinese fantasy novels. It comes down to this, my first novel Hunting the Moon Tribe was a horror Wuxia cross over so I studied the genre, researched the culture a fair amount. That might give me a bias towards the novel I think I need to be up front about. Bottom line as a Sci-fi nerd also when I heard there was an award-winning Chinese science fiction novel, well I had to read it.

3BP is a really interesting novel, and not just for the fact that it is a rare that a Chinese science Fiction novel published here. That is very significant. The story can't take place in an American setting with the main character losing parents to a Chinese work camp.

It is hilarious that the novel is marketed as having "The scope of Dune and the commercial action of Independence Day," anyone reading this novel hoping for that will be disappointed. It has more in common with Asimov's "The Gods Themselves." This is a true SCIENCE fiction novel of ideas that doesn't ignore characters but I feel the Chinese form of storytelling and character development might be lost on some readers.

3BP is the story of Ye Wenjie a scientist who witnessed the murder of her father as a part of the cultural revolution. This first act surprised me and had me wondering if the author had trouble with censorship. When she gets older she becomes a part of a SETI like project. The novel presents a very interesting way of having first contact communication. The aliens are called Trisolarians and they live in a system with three suns that is dying. Their advance civilization is in the process of escaping, and communicating with the chinese scientists through a virtual reality game.

This novel explores the concerns with sending out a signal into the universe, maybe we don't want to meet other intelligent species. It is not for everyone, but I really enjoyed it.

Friday, January 1, 2016

My Top Ten Movies of 2015

So here are the rules, had to be released this year, or at least in north America this year. This might be the first year that I don't have a single Asian film on my list. As a lover of Hong Kong, Korean and Japanese cinema that is bizarre. The Assassin was great but not top ten for me. I didn't see Yakuza Apocalypse, and The Golden Cane Warrior both look awesome. IP Man 3 is still on my to see list. All films marked * were seen in theater the other on VOD. I also have not seen the Revanant yet. That looks amazing.

10 - Maggie

This low budget zombie movie actually hinges on the acting of it's star Arnold Schwarzenegger. Is it perfect no but I really felt for Arnie here and think the movie is worth seeing. It personalizes the genre in a way that we have seen in novels but rarely on film. Zombie movie with a heart.

9 - Tales of Halloween*

One of the most fun experiences I had at the theater this year was seeing Tales of Halloween around said holiday at the digital gym in North Park. With directors of one of the segments (This means War)Andrew Kasch and John Skipp doing a Q and A hosted by Miguel Rodriguez of the horrible imaginings film fest. This anthology movie has 10 or so segments of loosely connected short horror films. My favorite was Sweet Tooth. Were they all good? no but they were all fun.

8 - Creed*

I don't have to say much here do I? It's basically Rocky 7, with Sly passing the torch to the great and talented Michael B. Jordan. I enjoyed watching how they updated the classic story, and planted seeds for a new franchise. Stallone deserves a supporting actor trophy.

7 -Sacario

Better than Traffic this crime thriller about the border drug war was beautifully shot and well told. Emily Blunt and B Del Toro were great. One revenge scene in this movie made the whole movie worth it. Denis Villeneuve is a great director, he won me over with the underrated Prisoners. He is doing the new Blade Runner, I went from worried to excited when I heard that.

6 - Man from Uncle*

First off I am not a Guy Ritchie fan, but I grew up a huge MAN FROM UNCLE fan. Better than this year's Bond movie I LOVED Man From UNCLE. First off genius and fun movie to go back to the 60's for a spy movie, can't believe it took this long. Second it was excellent plotted, well cast and a respectful updating of the classic series. I think this would make an excellent franchise sadly I don't think it did well enough at the box office. If you like classic Bond movies check out this trailer...

5 - Hateful Eight*

This movie is not for everyone, it is long, entirely focused on dialogue, and asks you be sit still and be patient with the story. QT often makes two seperate movies that shift tone half way through so it is funny that his film with a intermission actually was the most consistant he has made since Jackie Brown. I loved it and the gimmick of him narrating the screenplay in the second half was awesome. I wish that would become a thing.

4 - Bone Tomahawk

Hateful eight is only the second best Kurt Russell western of 2015. Bone Tomahawk is a great western, a great horror movie and melds the genres in brutal fashion. There are some really hard to watch scenes. To casual western fan you might not realize how much the genre depends on dialogue, character and suspense. This movie gets all those aspects right. It may suffer from over-hype but it is really good. You're better off watching the movie without the trailer, but if I have not convinced you watch it for yourself.

3 - Ex-machina*

We always need smart intelligent psychologically motivated science fiction. Alex Garland wrote Dredd and Sunshine which I both loved. I was excited to see his first film as director. It delivered.

2- Star Wars: The Force Awakens*

JJ nailed it. The tone was perfect, the story was great. I laughed, I cried and I kissed 30 bucks goodbye between multiple viewings. I don't think I have to say anything more.

1- Mad Max Fury Road*

It came out a long time ago, but Mad Max is hands down the best movie of the year. With lots of action and limited dialogue George Miller made a arthouse action blockbuster. The movie was exciting, beautiful, disgusting, terror inducing, thrilling etc., etc., This was the most fun I had at the theater all year by a nose hair.

BTW best action movies of the 21st century The Raid, Fury Road, Rambo IV, The Raid 2.

2015 Count Aggies

Best Director: George Miller (Mad Max)

Best screenwriter: Quieten Tarantino (Hateful Eight)

Best producer: Kathleen Kennedy (Star Wars)

Best actor:‎Alicia Vikander (Ex-Machina)

Best supporting actor: Stallone (Creed)

Honorable mentions: Best use of metal: Deathgasm (Trick or Treat meets Evil Dead 2)

Movie I got made fun of for liking the most: Jupiter Ascending

Out of nowhere underrated Nic Cage movie:Pay the Ghost