Tag Archives: Books

So There’s a Book I Really Enjoyed

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If you’re into great writing, flawless pacing, and horrifying subject matter that may or may not destroy your faith in humanity, you’ll probably like it, too. It’s called “The Wish Doctor“, written by the most likely pseudononymous G.R. Sabian.

 

The book follows the exploits of a crazily rich and seemingly soulless man who, for no discernible reason (other than a near-supernatural compulsion that I suspect is rooted in a traumatic past) randomly grants violent wishes to miserable people – regardless of whether the misery is warranted, the person is good, or the wishes are deserved. As an example, he burns one family alive to satisfy the wishes of a disgruntled young scion.

 

On to other things.

 

Somehow, he crosses paths with a child prostitute named Jamie. (Can you guess where this is going?) Her deepest wish, naturally, is that the pimps and offenders all die. Our hero, Harry, accomplishes this and assumes his work is done.

 

Only it’s not.

 

First off, the child refuses to let him leave. Second, she (understandably) has many issues that make her a danger to herself and others. By necessity, she is a master manipulator and basically, they end up in a twisted, if mostly sincere, approximation of a parent/child relationship. On top of that, the two have some kind of weird, understated psychic connection.

 

I’ll be honest. First, this is most definitely not a book I wish I’d written. Second, I definitely did not write it (just want to throw it out there – I am a professional writer, but I do things like ad copy, product descriptions, and blog posts for small/midsize businesses. I want to be a novelist, but I’m too chicken as of now to put my work out there).

 

Third, the entire novel is extremely disturbing on several levels. Think graphic violence and a lot of implied abuse and memories. It isn’t for everyone. In fact, the entire book is basically one giant trigger. As good as it most certainly is, as fantastic as the writer him/herself is, I can sort of understand why it’s retailing for $1 USD.

 

That said, I’ve been trying to talk people into reading it since I first read it in July of 2014, but my efforts have been in vain (and I can sort of see why, after reading the above endorsement). So, after this, I’m honestly giving up. I just couldn’t let it go without a cursory post on my very own blog. G.R. Sabian, whoever she/he is, is a stunningly fantastic writer. Think the pacing and spare, impactful sentences of Dean Koontz with the eerie lyricism of Cormac McCarthy wrapped around Tarantino-level violence (without the absurdity) and the true-to-life, hard-to-stomach grit of “Taxi Driver”. It’s cinematic and oddly literary at once.

 

If you can tolerate this, please read it – mostly because it’s supposedly part of a series and I want to make sure it continues.

 

In case you missed the link the first time, here it is: The Wish Doctor by G.R. Sabian.

 

It’s just $1, folks. Pleeeeeeeease do this. For me.

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Beautiful, Heartbreaking, and Hopeful: Sarah Porter’s “Waking Storms” (#2 in the “Lost Voices” Trilogy)

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I do not typically find myself captivated by mermaid fiction. I love folklore, mythology, science fiction, urban fantasy, and horror, and have given most of the mermaid reboots a shot. Each novel left me disappointed, however, either in characterization, depth, writing prowess, or story itself.

Sarah Porter’s “Lost Voices” trilogy has none of these flaws, and is, in my opinion, the best new Young Adult series to be published in the last five years. The only contender I can immediately think of is Lauren Destefano’s “Chemical Garden” trilogy, and even then I think “Lost Voices” has the scale tilted slightly in its favor.

“Waking Storms” opens with Dorian, the boy Luce could not bring herself to kill at the end of “Lost Voices.” Dorian lost his family in the shipwreck Luce’s tribe brought about. He is depressed; he is terrified that he is insane (he did see mermaids sinking their cruise ship, after all); he is furious at the creature he believes killed his parents and sister, and on top of all of this, he is horribly sickened with himself for being attracted to the mermaid despite this. He now lives on the Alaskan coast with two distant family members who do not particularly care for him. He is very alone.

Unable to tolerate this any longer, he runs to the beach on a bitter night, yelling for the creature–the mermaid–to face him.

Luce, for her part, has had Dorian on her mind, as well. Not that he’s the only thing on her mind. At the end of “Lost Voices”, (book 1) she and her friend Catarina left their mermaid tribe. Catarina, once queen, was violently ousted by the sociopathic new mermaid, Anais. By the time “Waking Storms” opens, Catarina has abandoned Luce, swimming off early one morning with no explanation or farewell.

Despite her crushing loneliness, Luce can’t bring herself to beg mercy from Anais and return to her tribe. She hates Anais; she is appalled and sickened that the other mermaids follow Anais so willingly; and Luce herself is wracked with guilt over the mermaids’ proclivity to destroy humans. Every mermaid has a beautiful, unearthly voice that literally drives mankind to destroy itself when they hear it. All mermaids were once human themselves, but turned to the sea as a result of horrendous abuse. Thus, most mermaids not only kill humans when they can, but love to do it. (Don’t the abusive monsters deserve it, after all they’ve done to these girls and countless others through the centuries?)

Luce, who herself became a mermaid as a result of attempted rape and a vicious beating, still can’t bring herself to continue killing people. She and her friend Catarina deserted their old tribe for many reasons, not least because Anais wanted to kill both Luce and Catarina. But Luce also dreams of beginning a new tribe, a tribe that will use their incredible song to build rather than kill.

Luce, swimming alone one night, is stunned to hear Dorian’s voice: he is singing, in his poor human imitation, her own mermaid song. It is the song she used to destroy his ship months ago.  Stunned, she swims to the shore to see what is happening–and meets Dorian.

Much to Dorian’s surprise, they bond quickly, their attachment eventually blossoming into a relationship. As their relationship develops, however, it becomes is just as well that Luce abandoned the tribe; as both she and Dorian learn, Anais has been killing people and sinking ships in such a frenzy that the government is aware that something is wrong. Worse, the FBI itself is aware that the continuous loss of life is likely not of natural origin.

“Waking Storms” is gorgeously written, with amazingly deep characters that tug at the heartstrings. It is unusually dark for a young adult release, but not overwhelmingly so. The take on the mermaid myth is different, refreshing, and painful. The quandaries and moral dilemmas faced by Dorian, Luce, and other characters are genuinely distressing. While there are clear answers to most of these dilemmas (though not all), the solutions are never simple, never easy, and bear worse consequences for the people who make those right decisions than the selfish choices would. The relationship between Luce and Dorian is wonderful, yet stressful and ultimately heartbreaking while carrying on a bright beam of hope–just like everything else in the novel.

This is not an easy book, it is a gorgeous one, and highly recommended. I’m already counting down to the release of the third novel.

 

**Because a) so many people are asking; b) it isn’t like a huge spoiler or anything and c) I love spoilers, here you are: CATARINA DID NOT KILL LUCE’S FATHER. Seriously, think about it. Can you imagine a writer as talented as Sarah Porter taking such an easy and maudlin out? I didn’t think so.

“Embassytown?” Hard Sci-Fi Emphasizing the Power of Language? Yes, Please!

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I’m not actually a China Mieville fan. The entire “New Weird” genre just sort of confuses me, and I’m rarely impressed (to be fair, he’s a fantastic writer). “Un Lun Dun” and “Kraken”, particularly, didn’t really leave favorable impressions. Still, I did love “King Rat” and “Perdido Street Station”, and his other books were enjoyable. Also, it’s stupid to not read anything else by a prolific author simply because two books weren’t your thing. Add to that the fact that “Embassytown” is, at least superficially, hard-core science fiction…well, it was enough for me to take the plunge.

“Embassytown” is told through the eyes of Immerser Avice Ben Cho. She first chronicles her childhood on the planet Ariekei, giving us glimpses of Mieville’s multi-layered world: most children don’t grow up with their birth parents. They live in communal homes with multiple parents (much like counselors.) Humans share their world with “extos”–aliens. But this isn’t some two-dimensional Star Wars or silly Futurama-type melting pot. Extos are screened. With one important exception, extos can only settle on Ariekei if their sociologic and, to an extent, genetic makeup (they must have language, move comfortably in a human-run world, have similar thought processes, et cetera) is similar enough to allow integration with humans.

Humans do not own Ariekei, however. We are settlers, only living on the planet because beings known only as Hosts permit us to.

The Hosts protect themselves. While benevolent, especially toward children, they have a part of the planet only they can enter; humans can’t breathe in their area. They circumvent the human similarity, as well (it’s their planet, after all.) They speak a language only genetically engineered linguists can comprehend (these people are called Ambassadors.) They are not at all humanoid in appearance; they do not communicate like humans; and their sociologic match-up is questionable at the very best.

However, the human and exto population of Ariekei long struck a balance. They are always problems, but Embassytown is an almost diturbingly cordial society. The Hosts do their best for Ariekei, and the Ambassadors keep the peace and essentially run the society.

But when a new Ambassador arrives, the entire balance is thrown into jeopardy.

Now, the writing in “Embassytown” is fantastic. It does start slowly. There are pages and pages of childhood memories, but that serves two purposes: extensive, and subtle, world-building; and an understanding of a narrator who often takes a back seat to the story to follow.

The writing is lyrical and descriptive. During its leaner moments, Mieville recalls Ray Bradbury (which is only a plus as far as I’m concerned.) Some readers will probably describe it as “long-winded”, but I think it matches the story perfectly. The narrative doesn’t stop or bog itself down. There is simply a lot to tell, and Mieville tells it all.

The characters weren’t as deep as I prefer. But again, this matches the story. While a very bleak, hard-core science fiction novel, the crux of “Embassytown” is the beauty and power of language. It wasn’t a parable, but the theme overtook the plot. At the same time, it doesn’t wham you over the head. You’re not having “language is a beautiful thing” screamed at you from every page. It is subtle. The story doesn’t have a weak spot, and it doesn’t stop. I think one of Mieville’s greatest achievements is this flawless weaving of a theme and moral into the fabric of a novel.

This novel is also very bleak. While it starts off comfortably as Avice describes her childhood, “Embassytown” swiftly darkens.

I’ll be honest. This is my favorite of China Mieville’s books. It is traditional science fiction infused with enough originality to make it unqiue. It carries a theme that is actually very dear to my heart. The writing is Mieville at his best, and the story itself is very different. I can already tell it isn’t to everyone’s taste, but I adored it, and eagerly suggest you give it a try.

Everyone Needs to Read “Rotters”, and Here’s Why

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Back in March, I was lucky enough to get a review copy of “Rotters”, by Daniel Kraus. Initially, I wasn’t all that excited, but that changed about nine words in. It’s about grave robbers. For me, of course, that happens to be a deal breaker. I love scary, macabre weirdness. And oh boy is it weird.

Now, on the surface, “Rotters” is a simple story. Joey Crouch lives with his mom in Chicago. They’re very close. Sometimes it borders on smothering, but he’s all right with that. He’s never been out of Chicago, but that doesn’t bother him too much, either. He’s basically a normal kid living a mostly normal life.

This changes when his mother dies. Crushed and shocked, Joey is even more horrified when he finds out he must go live with his father. A man he’s never met, a person his mother never even spoke of. Someone he’s barely heard of, the reason his mother refused to leave Chicago.

And Joey has to uproot and live with him.

Life is harder for Joey than he had ever imagined. For no reason, he is immediately ostracized and tormented at the school. Joey has no room there, no bed. There isn’t even any food. When, several days into his stay, he desperately searches a classmate’s purse for lunch money, a teacher catches him. Rather than pry and see what the trouble is, the teacher takes it as an excuse to torment Joey as terribly as any classmate.

As for Joey’s new home: the house reeks. The rotten stench infiltrates everything.

Joey’s father Harnett is a mystery, and a mean one at that. He has a reputation in this new town. He’s known as the Garbage Man. Yet it’s obvious he doesn’t have any part in public service. He disappears for days at a time. Joey doesn’t mind too much, though.

But this shaky peace dissolves when he finds a container full of gold teeth in his father’s room.

The awful truth tumbles out swiftly. The stench, the absences, the strange behavior of his father–it all comes togeter. Ken Harnett is a graverobber.

To my surprise, “Rotters” was stunning. Lyrical and poetic even in the midst of its darkness, it broke my heart and made me laugh just as often as it disgusted me. High school cruelty and teenage pettiness mixes perfectly with meth-head graverobbers and ongoing tragedy. All through the story, Joey’s character develops beautifully, and so does that of his father. In fact, all of the characters are fantastic. The plot is by turns delightful, shattering, triumphant, and, as so many others have noted, demented. Don’t let the subject matter turn you away. “Rotters” is a gorgeous piece that is ultimately about one young man’s plunge into the abyss and his struggle to climb out.