Sunday, February 28, 2010

CB II Book 12: Neverwhere - Neil Gaiman

I''m having a bit of a conundrum. I like Neil Gaiman. I think his writing is great, he descriptions of people, places and items of note is fantastic and his imagination is brilliant. I've read three of his books now; Good Omens, American Gods and now Neverwhere. I really enjoyed American Gods but, upon the completion of the other two, I found myself with a feeling of "well that was...alright." It seems that I just don't connect with some of his writing like I do with other authors. Is it him? Is it me? I just don't know. Nevertheless, Neverwhere is a perfectly fine read for those that are fans of Gaiman's other works and I'm sure that I may be in the minority with my less than stellar impressions of the book.

Neverwhere is the story of Richard Mayhew who, on the eve of leaving for London to begin a career in securities, receives a warning from an old woman as he's lying on the sidewalk outside the pub about to be sick. "I'd watch out for doors if I were you." she states. Typical of young men preparing to venture to the big city and with a liver full of liquor, Richard promptly disregards her warning and even more expediently, forgets it. After living in London for a while, Richard finds himself engaged to a woman who is out of his league, in a job that seems to be plodding along but not really taking him anyhwere and just kind existing day to day. One evening, as Richard and his fianceee are about to have supper with her boss, they come accross a girl laying on the sidewalk who is obviously hurt badly. His finaceee admonishes Richard to leave the woman where she is as this supper is extremely important to her carreer. Richard, being a person with a soul, stops to help the woman and takes her back to his apartment to care for her. Eventually she recovers enough to tell Richard what happened and her name, Door. Soon thereafter, two men appear at Richards door asking about the woman he had rescued. These men obviously have bad intentions towards the girl so Richard tries to provide cover as best he can but when he goes back into his apartment, the girl is gone.

The next day, things start to get very strange. People he's known for years have trouble remembering him, his bank account seems to be missing and some people come to look at his apartment while he is still there but don't even notice him. Richard sets out to find out what the hell has happened to him and what happened to the girl which leads him  to the underground of London with the help of a street bum. He meets the rat people and is taken to the Rat King who aids him in finding Door again. Door tells him of her family's murder and her talent for opening, well, doors. what follows is a harrowing adventure through the underground to bring the killers to justice and to remove an ancient evil from the underground of London.

That's not a very good description so let me just say this: Neverwhere is yet another re-telling of Alice in Wonderland. It's far more sinister than the versions that I'm familliar with and certainly isn't out of place amongst Gaiman's other works. All the characters you're familiar with are here in some form or another. The Cheshire cat, Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum, The Mad Hatter and of course The Queen of Hearts. Gaiman is in fine form as he weaves his imagination in and out of the classic tale. There's blood, there's horror, there's the supernatural and it's definately an excellent book. So what's the issue I had with it? Well, I've read it before. That is, the story of Alice has been told, told and re-told many many times. While it's interesting to read Gaiman's take on the adventure, you always know what's coming next. I just didn't connect with this book like I do with most others. As I said, it's a perfectly fine tale, but it's a tale that you've all read before. If your a fan of Gaiman's, you're sure to love it. If you're a fan of Alice in Wonderland you'll probably enjoy it. For me, well, I've been down that rabbit hole before and I don't feel the need to go back.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Observations Pt. 3

I know, I know...I'm late. Not in that good "Hey, I'm knocked up!" way, but in the "sorry, I had to stop and steal candy from orphans" way. Funny thing, when you're not at work, nobody does it for you. God damn Cheerio fuckers. Anyhow, I'll have an epilogue up some time with some murderous wisdom to share about "The American Experience". Until then, suck on these:

Dill pickle chips:

Do Americans not have these at all? Is there some sort of law against pleasure in America (don't answer that, I know) How can you people possibly survive without these, tasty, savoury, salty, pickley slices of deep fried love? It baffles the mind! Look, I'm a potatoe chip connesiur, so I am completely confident when I say that bbq, salt n' vinegar, regular, jalapeno, sour cream n' onion all suck a diarrhetic ass in comparison. I honestly pity you poor, chipless Americans.

Yellow Lights:

It's a universally accepted rule that a yellow light means speed up, because the light will turn red soon. I have no issue with that. I compensate for it. But in America, it would appear that a yellow light means "Hey! The light is going to turn red. You only have another thirty seconds to go through the intersection. Yeah, it's illegal and your fucking up the people who actually have the right-of-way but, you know what, fuck them. You're special." It would appear that there are a lot of special people in America.

Airport Security:

Hey, Lady, there are three hundred people in line! Would you mind helping your kid pack his backpack, tie his shoes, put away his toys and put his things through the scanner? Not that I'm in a hurry, but I do have a whole fuckload of stuff that has to go through that electronic raping and I'd rather not  hold everybody else up. Yes, our shoes are tight (we had the same sneakers).

To the US security people: you were excellent. You didn't feel me up once. However, requiring me to remove the padding from the car seat, maybe a little much.

American Beef:

 I'm going to give Armourica a pass on this one. I bought the best steaksI could find in the supermarket which is something I generally don't do. But even when I buy supermarket beef, I can perform magic. It wasn't tough, but the taste was...there? Was this the vaunted American beef that I've heard so much about? Was this "grain fed"? Was this going to make me swear of bovineian deliciousness for the rest of my days? No. Of course not. I realize that you people have suffered since you restricted out beefy imports. It's not your fault, blame the gubment. Really, people, You shouldn't be able to see the ribs on a cow. Ever.

American Cigarettes:

Yes, I smoke. Deal with that shit. I'll quit when I fucking feel like it. I'll tell you though, I'd quit a hell of a lot sooner if I lived in America. American cigarettes are fucking disgusting. "But D" you're saying, "all cigarettes are gross." Not like this. American cigarettes act like they want to be cigars but really just don't want to put in the effort. I'm really wondering if the camel shit and boot leather rumours are true? I brought five packs of Canadian cigs with me to moderate the blurgh, but I knew that I would have to give in eventually. But I honestly have to wonder how these lawsuits against the tobacco companies were successful because the fucking dirty pimps pretty much tell you you're going to die with the taste.


Let me just say that, after having three kids, my wife's modesty has pretty much been tossed out the window. It takes me both hands, both feet and an abacus to count up just how many people have seen my wife's slippery valley. For real, ask Trouble and Tracer, if baby's hungry; she'll whip that shit out in front of total strangers. However, you won't see a thing. She's a tiity ninja! You'll all be sitting there talking and suddenly there will be a booby on the boob. I can't help but think that this could be a marketable skill.

So, the day we fly out of FLA, the rest of the family decides to hit the IHOP (I voted for The Waffle House). We're seated in a booth by a bubbly used-up thirty year old woman but the booth is too small for the car seat. This causes some serious issue as the poor lass can't figure out what to do. I tell her it's no big deal and put the car seat in an adjacent booth (it wasn't busy) which only leads to more confusion. I spend the next five minutes convincing our lovely waitress that it will all be okay. We proceed to peruse the menu while listening to the delighful banter between the kitchen and the serving staff when the baby gets hungry. True to form, my lovely wife slaps a titty in her face. Note: This also works on men. Our waitress comes along to take our orders and as my father starts to speak she says: "Sorry, wait a minute." looking at my wife she continues, "I just want to say, that I think that is the most beautiful and natural thing ever. I'm glad that you're comfortable enough to do that in a restaurant and I just think that's beautiful."... Cue silence.

We're all a little bit speachless and my wife responds with the appropriate awkward courtesy. The waitress continued to fire questions at The Mrs. and The Mrs. continued to respond in an affable manner.  We weren't upset or mad because the waitress was totally sincere about it. She honestly thought that this was the greatest thing ever! She was cordial, friendly and we enjoyed her quite a bit. But, can I have my pancakes now?

StabbyMart: Tossing Titty To Troublesome Toddlers.

Monday, February 8, 2010

CBII Book11: Pride and Prejudice and Zombies - Jane Austen & Seth Grahame Smith

I have an admission. I've never read Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice and, as such, I don't think it would be fair to either Austen or Smith to give an honest review without having the comparison. I'll admit, I'm kind of on the fence about the whole thing and I'm not sure whether it's due to the original work or the additions that Smith has made. Therefore I'm going to cop-out on this one and review both of them together upon completing Austen's original work. I want to like it but there's just something nagging at me and I need to know who's going to get a taste of my wrath. I have my suspicions, but I would rather be accurate in my critique as 'classics' tend to be a fairly contentious issue.

Her Fooshyness may see fit to call me on this "review" but I promise that the dual review will more than make up for it.

Back In a Bit...

Sorry all. After the vacation, shit has gotten busy again. I've got some projects that are taking up my time in the evenings so, while I've got three different posts on the go, I've not had a chance to fully write them. I've got the last two of the 'Murica series and a special Valentines day post. Unfortunately I haven't had the time to view most of yours either. Does that make me a bad internets pal? Yes. But I'm a bad, bad man. I'm hoping to have all three done by the end of the weekend. Oh, and those three posts don't include the four book reviews I'm behind on for the CBII.

Stay frosty. (Minus 34 overnight? Fuck you Saskatchewan.)

Saturday, February 6, 2010

CBII Book 10: Boneshaker - Cherie Priest

Boneshaker was my first foray into the steampunk genre so I wasn't really sure what to expect. Of course, I'm mostly aware of what steampunk is, but I wasn't sure how it would translate into the written word. Nor was I sure how I (a devout science fiction fan) would enjoy what is essentially modern and/or futuristic technology with an old school twist. I was rewarded with a reading experience which was enjoyable, if not exactly exhilarating.

The story takes place in Seattle during the Civil War and gold rush and the country is in dire straits. Not only is America battling itself, but there is a kind of cold war going on with Russia to find the best technology for mining gold. As such, Russia has a contest to find a machine that can mine the gold from the glacial fields in the frozen north of Alaska. One Mr. Leviticus Blue (who lives in Seattle) enters the competition and wins so the Russian government gives him an advance to build a prototype of the Boneshaker. Upon the first test of the machine, in downtown Seattle, something goes horribly awry. The Boneshaker malfunctions and levels several blocks of Seattle into rubble. Not only that, but it has caused a mysterious gas to rise up from the ground that turns people into zombies (the fast somewhat intelligent kind) The area is eveacuated and to deal with the threat they construct a 300 ft. wall to contain the zombies and the gas.

The Story moves to Briar Wilkes and her son Ezekiel who are Leviticus' widow and son respectively. Briar and her son have been outcast by the rest of the city for the mistakes of her deceased husband and live poverty in the city as they were evacuated after the Boneshaker calamity. They have a strained relationship as Briar is convinced that her husband didn't destroy part of the city by accident but on purpose. Ezekiel, in contrast believes his father was a scapegoat and is bound and determined to prove his innocence. Ezekiel decides to do this by entering the walled portion of the city to find evidence that will exhonerate his father and restore his family's honour. He sneaks out one evening and enters the ruins to do so faceing more dangers than the zombies and gas. As Ezekiel is all that Briar has left, follows him into the danger to bring him home and hopefully prove once and for all his fathers nefarious designs were purely intentional.

I found that I did enjoy my first try of this particular brand of science fiction and, make no mistake, when done properly; steampunk is definately science fiction. Preist did a decent job of explaining why weapons were the way they were, why the city was destroyed and why the science of the day had progressed past the point it was at in the 'real world'. She justified many of her explanations with history and also actual landmarks in thecity of Seattle. I do think that she could have done a bit more to explain the workings of many of the machines and such but, as the story is told from Briar's point of view, perhaps that isn't a fair criticism. I'm just a details kind of geek. It did take away some of the immersion factor for me though.

I did also have issue with the repetativeness of the plot though. I know there are zombies but, run-run-fight-hide only works for me for so long. Otherwise, it was an enjoyable read for me and I will definately look further into the steampunk genre. Mind you, I'm a little hesitant as I can see that if this particular genre is done badly, it will be an absolute disaster.