28 October 2012


With Frankenstorm bearing down, and 500 itsy-bitsy chocolate bars safely hidden (from whom, I'm unsure) in our large kitchen cupboard,  my mind is on Halloween.  When it comes to horror my readings run as far as the two typical giants: Stephen King and Edgar Allan Poe.     From these authors there are a couple of books  that freaked me out.  Way back in the 90's It, the miniseries aired.  Like most I was glued to my set, firmly entrenched behind a mountain of pillows with my fingers firmly pressed into my ears, too terrified to actually hear half of the dialogue.  Once the fear of Pennywise  dissipated I read the book.  Like most  King books there is some random sex thrown in that makes little to no sense, thankfully the really weird crap happens at the end making it somewhat easier to ignore.  The book that made me a Stephen King fan though, was  Bag of Bones.  Wonderfully written, a real step beyond the typical formulaic King style, this book has a Gothic element while still being firmly grounded in Maine.  

I wonder what Poe's perception of this century would be if he was aware that most people know of him through  The Simpsons .  I predict something similar to Hop-Frog being composed.  Of all Poe's short stories, it is this little revenge tale that has captured my imagination so completely.    But of all the tales, it is The Murders in the Rue Morgue that truly highlights the genius that is Edgar Allan Poe.   

As you can see, horror books are not my thing.  Horror films though, now we are talking. My top 5 horror films are:

Number 5:  Hellraiser
(upon seeing Pinhead) Oh, shit....
No shit, indeed.  Hellraiser goes just to the point of gross that I can stand, apparently I can stand a lot but not Texas Chainsaw Massacre a lot.  If you know what I refer to, then you are one sick puppy with some pretty good taste in gore.

Number 4:  Dawn of the Dead
Every dead body that is not exterminated becomes one of them.  IT gets up and kills!  The people it kills get up and kill!
My brother brought home a VHS copy of this bad boy and voilĂ   a zombie fan I became.  The thought of being locked in a mall, with free reign to all that is in there, plus the extra bonus drama of zombies trying to break in is, well, awesome.

Number 3:  Rocky Horror Picture Show
Frank-n-Furter it's all over.  Your mission is a failure, your lifestyle's too extreme.  I'm your new commander.  Your are now my prisoner.  We return to the Transylvania.  Prepare the transit beam.
Yes, I know not really scary but come on!   There are so many reasons why I love this film that it is resulting in an overload of words blocking me from expressing myself.  Basically the film exemplifies my inner desire to be a sweet transvestite from Transsexual, Transylvania.   I do hope that while reading parts of this, you were singing.

Number 2:  Halloween  
He came home!
Good lord, he did.  Get the hell of out of that town people! I don't know what is more frightening, hearing this or seeing this. If ever I were to see and hear both at the same time while walking down the street I would die right there on the spot.  

Number 1:  Amityville Horror
Kathy Lutz:  I just wish that...all those people hadn't died here.  I mean...ugh!  A guy kills his whole family. Doesn't that bother you?
George:  Well, sure, but...houses don't have memories.
My life took an unfortunate turn for the terrified today when, while researching for this post I discovered that this film is based on real life events.  I have spent over 25 years trying to ignore that this movie ever existed.  To be truthful, I have never  been able to watch it through to the end.  Ever.  Thus is the consequence of a little girl's first horror film viewing while at her first Halloween sleep over party at the age of 9.  My Daddy had to rescue me that night and take me home.  I remember not sleeping for a week.

19 October 2012

Beam me up: A Review of Red Shirts, John Scalzi

A while back I expounded  on my love for John Scalzi.  As is the case with almost all writers with a growing body of work there is going to be a book or two that lacks appeal. So be the case for Red Shirts

Trekkies or should I say Trekkers  (still unclear? read this and become more so) are familiar with the term "Red Shirts".   Please be advised that this post contains reference to Star Trek.  While I cannot bend you to my way of thinking I strongly recommend you embrace your inner fan.  The term red shirts refers to the crew of  the Starship Enterprise on the television series Star Trek who would tragically die on away missions.  In practically every episode of the original and the newer versions (The Next Generation, Voyager, Deep Space Nine) the lead cast members lives would be put into jeopardy (this is called drama).  Rather than killing Spock or Kirk and thus having to go out and cast a new lead to the show Roddenberry would kill one of the Enterprise's crew.  As it so happened those crew members seemed to wear red shirts.  

I feel like we should all do a shot right about now....or have a beer.  You do click on the links right?

Using the premise of the red shirts,Scalzi superimposes it into a " real life" spaceship that so happens to be connected in a "twilight zone" parallel universe kind of way.  A universe that results in the lives of this ship's fate being  impacted by a TV show's weekly scripts that are consequently being aired in the U.S.A during the 1990's.   What?...come again. Let's try this again... There is a spaceship that exists in the future whose crew are killed off during away missions because the ship is linked to a 1990's science fiction television show that so happens to resemble Star Trek.  What ever is written for the script ends up occurring in real life to the crew of this ship. Come again?....Okay, so there is.... you know never mind.

Now to be fair, there is a very sound idea here. One that would have been great if a little more effort on the part of the writer and a little more editorial review had been invested. This book has been rushed.  Frankly, I am amazed that in its current state it was even sent for publication and then so widely supported by the publishing house with a full book tour put behind it. Either Scalzi was pushed to produce a new book or has gotten too big for his own good. In any event, I did not like this book.  I did not. The rambling end to the book is so annoying that I just wanted to read the darn thing to be done with it and move onto something with thought behind it.   

14 October 2012

Not the Droids You're Looking For: A Review of the Thrawn Star Wars Trilogy, Timothy Zhan

Unless you count my brother's The Empire Strikes Back's pop-up book he got from Santa when he was 7 and I 9 I have not read any type of Star Wars book. This little fact has slowly over the years been bothering me and thus in June I made a conscience life-altering decision to become a more rounded Star Wars fan. Please note that I used the word fan not fanatic. While the idea of dressing up my family in bounty hunter outfitters (Bossk, IG-88 and Boba Fett) for Halloween may be my most ultimate idea ever this is really just a dream and not an active item on my to-do list. I am okay being consider a geek. I am not okay with being viewed as a threat to my neighbourhood.

The Star Wars book universe is immense.   Therefore rather than blindly grabbing the first book with a wookie on it, I decided to do some research. It didn't take too much effort to find what I was looking for.  

So you've seen the Holy Trilogy so many times you can recite it from memory. You have the soundtracks on infinite loop on your MP3 player. But have you read the best Star Wars books and graphic novels? Below we've narrowed down the Star Wars books to the ten that are absolute must-reads for fans of the saga.   If you’re a Star Wars fan who hasn't read the Thrawn trilogy, we feel sorry for you. Heir to the EmpireDark Force Rising, and The Last Command launched the entire Star Wars Expanded Universe book series and are responsible for the resurgence of Star Wars in the 90s. This year marks the 20th Anniversary of Heir to the Empire, so it’s a perfect time to start.

Before I go full Star Wars on you I am assuming you have some working knowledge of the franchise. I have only met one person who has never watched the films. Because this person happens to be my darling sister-in-law I have let this huge error in her ways pass.  Once in awhile I sneak little glances her way to see if she is living fine outside the world of Star Wars and miraculously she is okay. I've decided she closet drinks, it is the only explanation of how anyone can avoid all the ways of the Force.   

The review of The Thrawn trilogy is dependent on how you view yourself; a fan or a fanatic. As a fan, reading this trilogy is a fun, little snippet into what may happen to the New Republic and the Empire after the destruction of the second Death Star. I really enjoyed jumping into this time-frame. To think that all would be fine once the Battle of Endor is a child's vision. Zahn's books matures the series bringing in more complex, adult problems to a very idolized film world. Ackbar, Mon Mothma and in turn Leia all have political depth to them making them more interesting to follow. Internal power struggles distract the Republic from properly governing the worlds now under their domain.  

No discussion of Star Wars would be complete without the Empire. Zahn does not disappoint. Allowing the reader to understand the motivations and problems facing the Empire and more importantly presenting it as a political dynasty rather than a singular evil entity was fascinating. Above all, Zahn's biggest accomplishment in these books was Grand Admiral Thrawn. I love bad guys. It was so satisfying to finally read a new character within the Star Wars universe who could have easily been a part of the original three films without having any ties to Darth Vader.

If you are simply a reader interested in new things, these books are okay. If you are looking for literature, move along, these aren't the droids you're looking for.  However if you are a fanatic who happens to have Han and Leia action figures in their original bubble cases stored in your china cabinet (this is my entire retirement plan) then these books are for you. Honestly, I have no idea how I feel about these books. Yes, I like the idea of them but because of the weak (extremely so) writing cannot decide if  the  Star Wars universe works beyond the genre of film. My instinct is telling me they do.  What is needed is a better writer who is up for the challenge. I wonder what Connie Willis is up to nowadays?

6 October 2012

Awesome Sauce

Being that it is Thanksgiving weekend, I've decided to mark the event by highlighting a few books that  merit a big ole' awesome sticker slapped onto their covers.  I don't know about your family but we don't sit around the turkey expressing our thankfulness to one another.  Frankly, we eat, we drink, we argue about politics and then dream about turkey sandwiches.  In fact the turkey sandwich is such a hit in my Norwegian side of the family that you sit down for dinner at 1 in the afternoon for the sole purpose of then having turkey buns at 6p.m.  on the same day.  Okay, it may have more to do with the prairie/farming history my family tree is rooted to but I digress.  Actually I seem to have digressed a lot.  If only we could skip right to pumpkin pie and turkey buns....I think I just went cross-eyed from anticipation.

Thanksgiving is big here in North America.  So is being awesome.  Hence my combination of the two.  You know we all have books we have read that are great.  We love them.  We read them over and over again.  But then there are books that are for some reason straight up amazing, awesome if you will.  The odd thing about these books is that you may never read them again.  The book's hold on you is brief, a weekend or two even a month (how long does it take you to read a book for goodness sakes?). But during that time you are transfixed, glazed over, zombie-like as you immerse yourself in the world found in those pages.

To give some context to what I mean when I type the word awesome,  please keep this in mind.

Ready Player One, Ernest Cline  It goes without saying that this book is awesome, wicked in fact.  Stupid ass great.    If you spent your childhood fighting over the Atari controller, believe neon to be a colour, and, feels an intimate connection to Zelda then you must read this book.  Ready Player One is a homage to our gaming childhood.  Plus the book has that world within a world, within a world element to it that I just love. 

American Gods, Neil Gainman  Most of us have been introduced to something that Gainman has either written, produced, scripted or created.   If  Burton, Depp and Gainman were locked in a room together, and told that the person who created the weirdest, darkest piece of creativity would survive I am  unclear to who that would be.  I am quite aware that Depp does not write. This is my blog and my post and I like to keep a small part of my brain thinking about Depp at all times.

American Gods is an old tale of religion wrapped into an all American road trip.  We follow Shadow an ex-con released from prison after three years of incarceration.  As he struggles with his wife's tragic death and seemingly adultery he meets Mr. Wednesday,  a self-proclaimed aging God that accompanies him on his journey.    Way back I had (Canadian Lit) to read Fifth Business by Robertson Daves. It wasn't until I read American Gods that I found a book so wonderfully rammed with symbolism as Fifth Business.  (Yes, that is a good thing.)

Wicked, Gregory Maguire  Technically not a SF book but at the time I was locked to this book and feel the need to acknowledge my old obsession.    I am betting that you have read this one so I won't bore you with the details.  If for some unknown reason you missed the bandwagon that was Wicked, it is the story of the Wicked Witch of the West.  Guess what she was greatly underrepresented and misunderstood.