Torment – THE VOODOO

Sorry for the subheading. That was just the most absurd line, among quite a few absurd lines from the Todd Mcfarlane penned and drawn story. There was a time when Mcfarlane was famous for his artwork and not his toys. His work on Venom comes to mind and his Spider-Man run in general is beautiful

The writing, not so much. Everything that could be bad about individual lines seem to have hit their marks. If you don’t read a word of dialogue, thought bubble or anything else, you can have a much better experience with this story.

The story is that the Lizard has gone crazy and started killing people. It doesn’t seem to be doing this in an attempt to draw out Spider-Man, the aforementioned VOODOO brings the two together without too much trouble. The Lizard is being controlled by VOODOO and is in the thrall of Calypso, who is a former lover of Kraven the Hunter.

Why is this happening? Spoiler, we don’t know. The fact of not knowing something and not finding out is pretty novel and it makes this a fairly affecting Spider-Man horror story. Bad things happen because they can.

Book 5 is down.

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/418149.Spider_Man

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Splay: to move (things, especially your legs, fingers, etc.) out and apart from each other

A strong word thrown out over the cover of a Rorschach that at times looks like a pelvic bone, an oncoming battleship, antlers or an explosion – and these are just the images my addled mind can bring up. The images of the cover become stronger once you take the time to read Chris McCurry’s debut chapbook. The intimacy that is created through the words allows us to inhabit the space between the characters. In poems like “Tanning” we can laugh at the magic tricks the character uses to make it sunny, an innocent act envelopes us with the energy and the hope that each snap of the fingers might clear away the clouds. In other instances, like when something beautiful is angry, we feel like intruders, like moths caught in the daylight, and try to shrink away as much as our narrator. In the end, the poems leave the reader feeling -as Leigh Anne Hornfeldt noted on the back of the book- splayed, by the mirror that is held up to our own conversations under blankets, by having to work out our own order of operations but, mostly, by the beauty of what we had just read.

That was my Amazon review, in which I think I was very professional and didn’t let personal feeling get involved at all. For my own blog I will tell you that reading this book really was a pleasure, even when the subject matter was not the most pleasant. Chris is one of the best and most active voices, not just in the Lexington literary scene, but he goes out of his way to be a good citizen of the overall literary community.

I usually try to tell myself to exercise some sort of partiality in these things. Like I would tell you that if you like geek stuff read Ready Player One, if you like apocalyptic stories, read Kingdom Come, but for this – if you like words that form phrases, read this book.

Book 4 – the best book with Antlers on the cover that will show up on this, or any list.

http://www.amazon.com/Splayed-Christopher-McCurry/dp/0615948383/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1390660435&sr=8-1&keywords=splayed

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Kingdom Come – Superman vs. Everybody – for some reason

The problem with being a fan of the Big Two, Marvel and DC, is that their universes will go on into perpetuity. Even if you think you’ve seen the end of a character, you can rest assured that they are going to be resurrected in some form later on. Alex Ross has worked on two series for each that are dedicated to showing us a possible end to the worlds.

Superman has gone into retirement and the world is being run amok by super humans fighting each other. This new generation is made up of many children and heirs to former heroes, while their parents followed Superman into the sunset. They have no regard for human life, and Wonder Woman goes to Superman, who has withdrawn from his own humanity as well, to try and get him to come set the world to rights.

When the breadbasket of the United States is irradiated by a meta-human fight gone out of control, Superman finally comes back. He reassembles a version of the Justice League and enforces his will onto the super humans. This leads to conflicts with Batman, Lex Luthor and the human leaders of the world.

The artwork is breathtaking. The story… eh. It’s one of the more popular graphic novels and I suppose that is deservedly so.

One thing, a stray line of dialogue says that the new breed of heroes have pretty much eliminated the old supervillains, but that leaves the question what are these people who fight each other? Are they meant to be gangs fighting out a turf war? It bothers me now as a flawed premise. That the human leaders suddenly having a problem with Superman acting like an autonomous unit on the world stage seems off to me as well. The heroes had their own space station above the earth. Superman has a literal fortress (of Solitude, I grant you).

Still, it is a quick read. It is a satisfying imagining of the end. Like many great endings, it also gives you hope for the future.

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Ready Player One – I Was Born Twenty Years Too Late

Book 2

“I felt like a kid standing in the world’s greatest video arcade without any quarters, unable to do anything but walk around and watch the other kids play.”

I suppose this should start with some confessions. I don’t really care for the eighties. I wasn’t around for them and in now way love the eighties. The things I love from the eighties just happened to be made in the eighties, they don’t really define the time period the same way Rambo does. The second confession is that I’m not good at video games. I am, and always have been, very bad at them. Because I’m bad at them – and the older they are, the worse I am – I never did much with the arcades.

With those confessions out of the way, I can say that I was just casual nerd enough to get most of the references in Ready Player One. In a book widely touted for its references, you shouldn’t let those stop you from picking up the book. There were times when they delved deep into the early video game culture and I didn’t get the references, but I trusted them. I trust that Ernest Cline knows everything he’s telling me about. I in no way doubt him when a major plot point involves exploiting a glitch in a particular model of an arcade game. I only bring it up because trust is important.

One of my initial problems with Justified was that I didn’t believe that anybody involved with the show had ever actually been to Kentucky. I’ve since gotten over that problem and have been binge watching the second season in an attempt to catch up. Now I just revel in the little Easter eggs I do see (like bottles of Ale 8, or arguments about basketball) and ignore the idea that Harlan is 5 seconds or 50 miles from Lexington, depending on what the plot needs.

Sorry, for that tangent. I’m just really into Justified right now.

Ready Player One tells the story of a Dystopian future where the world is so shit that everyone lives inside a Secondlife-esque world. The virtual world has expanded so that those inside can live out the lives they’ve always wanted. They can go to alien planets, they can explore the landscapes of their favorite videogames or television shows. The entirety of human knowledge is public domain in the Oasis.

The problem is that the owner of the Oasis has died and left a quest, an Easter egg for the dedicated to find. Whoever finds his egg will become the inheritor of his will, which is to say that he will become the richest person in the world and have control over the Oasis.

Some independents called “gunters” are trying to find the egg, as well as a big brother corporation that wants to take control of the Oasis so that they can charge money for it, which would force many to have to deal with the real world, because the virtual world is free to access in its current form. We also learn early on that, as big brother corporations tend to be, this corporation will try to cheat and kill their way to the prize.

The book is a niche book, it’s not so well written that it will blow you away, but it is done well. Many of the references start to get tiring, but it is interesting how many of the things early on do end up tying back into the plot.

The book is most interesting when the lead character, Wade, has to deal with the real world (excluding mech battles, the mech battles are clearly going to be the best part of any book). For someone who grew up in a drug flophouse with a junkie aunt, Wade is surprisingly well adjusted. His addiction to the virtual world makes a lot of sense. We get the impression from Wade that the world is supposed to be like this, but the real world is mostly glossed over. This choice makes sense. The world where you can make yourself into anything you want to be makes an affecting picture in picture when put in the corner of the real world.

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Mere Anarchy – An Open Thesaurus Book

Mere Anarchy – An Open Thesaurus Book

 

“To a man standing on the shore, time passes quicker than to a man on a boat — especially if the man on the boat is with his wife.”

 

Among most people I know, I’m the one who is prone to bouts of verbosity. Occasionally, I can concoct a series of words that are meant to create a feeling of superiority through the synchronicity of their five-dollar wordiness, but my attempts usually come out clunky.

 

Woody Allen writes the kind of prose that toes the line between genius and hackney. You can usually tell how the story is going to go by how well you relate to the name of the character. Sometimes the character name just fits, like when a character named “Endorphine” is talking about the cult he’s joined to gain superpowers. I don’t think any of the stories are particularly flawed on their own, but they do get repetitive. Allen visits the well of down on their luck show business persons frequently, and many of the characters throughout the story feel like they are the same one.

 

The biggest barrier against the book is the language. This was my first foray into audiobooks, and having Allen read the stories is probably the only thing which kept from hating the worst of the stories outright. There are some lines in the story when you just want to yell at Allen to use a different word. Many of these stories appeared first in The New Yorker, and these stories do well to reflect my image of what kind of items would appear in the New Yorker. I’m not sure if there’s a cultural gap, well, I’m sure there’s a cultural gap between a mid twenty something WASP for Kentucky and Woody Allen, but I don’t know if it is any wider than that.

 

I think that the prose it at its worst when it is telling stories set as knock off pulp fictions, noires in a parody of Phillip Marlowe. It is at its best when it is exercising the language (contradictory review, I know) a story about the world being explained through physics was delightful. Most of the show business stories don’t really strike much of a chord with me, but a stories that consists of the epistolary conversation between the owner of a film camp and the father of a boy who completed a film at the camp was the clear highlight. The two trade vitriolic barbs back and forth while arguing where credit for the film ultimately should go.

 

As much as I may have badmouthed the style, I would say that there are times when the lines jump off the page was absolute joy, when you can feel the same satisfaction from reading the words as the writer must have felt from putting them down.

 

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/comment/personal-view/3601046/When-the-universe-is-expanding-it-can-make-you-late-for-work.html

So Book 1 is down. I guess I should be happy I’m caught up on A Song of Ice and Fire.

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Choke – The Story of a Man With A Literal Messiah Complex

“The minute something better than sex comes along, you call me.  Have me paged.”

That’s the sentiment from our flawed protagonist, Vincent Mancini, at the start of Choke. Vincent, a former med student, and current Sex Anon member, works minimum wage at a colonial recreation village, where he gives lectures on disease to the students who come field tripping there.  His best friend, and co-worker, Denny, is a chronic self abuser who is constantly in the stocks for being caught with anachronistic  material.  Every few nights Vincent and Denny go out to restaurants where Vincent purposefully chokes on his food, inviting one of the other patrons to save him, and in saving him, to feel responsible for him.  He does this so that he can use the checks that he is sent to keep his mother in the expensive medical facility she stays in.

This will be the  third Palahniuk book I’ve read I think.  I honestly don’t remember.  They’ve felt the same, I don’t mean that in a bad .way, but they’ve got his stamp on them.  The skeezy protagonist who you manage to overcome the knee jerk reaction to dislike.

Vincent gives people a purpose by letting them save his life, he does it as much as a service to them.  He hears about how the change that comes over a person saves a marriage, just because they gain new confidence in getting to act like heroes.  Vincent’s mother was in and out of prison, and a significant portion of the book is given to Vincent criticizing how he acted as a kid when his mother would abduct him from his foster parents.  Every time he chokes Vincent adds another surrogate family member to make up for the ones he didn’t have when he was growing up, right down to the faceless meetings in random places that read so much like small family reunions.

This couldn’t just be the story of a sex addict dealing with his dying mother. The element introduced to manipulate Vincent’s world is the idea that he was a biological experiment used from a ground up piece of Jesus Christ.  Vincent has to adjust to the idea that he was made with a piece of divinity. Initially, he does this by rejecting it altogether, then he becomes comfortable with the idea, and starts trying to make small miracles, so that he can prepare himself for the big ones.

It’s his desire to start working miracles that leads to his inability to accept it when his friend Denny starts to become self sufficient.  Denny begins the story as slovenly self abuser, progresses to a collector of rocks and then becomes a builder.  In seeing this transition, Vincent begins to feel unnecessary and we see that what a messiah needs is to be needed, otherwise is sacrifice won’t be noticed.

“Choke” is book 61 in this series, and I wouldn’t be surprised if another Palahniuk book sneaks in.  They’re pretty quick reads and I’m way behind schedule.  That’s the superficial reason.  He also totally shifted the modern landscape of writing and, for awhile in my life, not a week went by where “Fight Club” wasn’t referenced in some way, and he’s a great writer.

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Book 60 – The Fainting Room

http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/16057408-the-fainting-room?from_search=true

The summary for this book would have you believe that that it’s a mystery.  The beautiful cover art would have you believe it’s sexy.  The adult characters would have you believe that their actions make sense.  I would have you believe that you shouldn’t believe any of that.

The story centers around an odd married couple.  Evelyn, who was a former circus performer on her second marriage, and Ray, a successful architect for a Boston firm who isn’t feeling challenged by his work.  The opening chapter lets you into the marital strife by showing that Evelyn is feeling put out by Ray’s successful friends, that she’s afraid that at any moment she is going to be found out as a former circus performer.  Evelyn’s character creates conflict where there is nothing, this is her character trait.  Ray tries to help her, he doesn’t understand why she puts the pressure on herself.  Ray appears like the sympathetic character in the relationship, don’t worry, that goes away.  Evelyn leaves the house at the end of the night in a rage and throws a rock through the window of her house, she finds out later that she almost killed her husband.  It would be unfair to say that the text strongly hints that she killed her first husband, it all but says it.  The audience now knows the mystery that is supposed to be unravelled.  Without spoiling anything, the big reveal requires no research, it basically consists of Evelyn going “How did you know I did that? let met tell you exactly what happens.”

While this is going on, we are introduced to Ingrid, a sixteen year old doomsday obsessed pseudo-punk rocker who is suspended from her boarding school, but refusing to go live with her father’s girlfriend in California, because teens are fucking difficult.

For awhile there, I thought the book had a lot of promise.  The prose is first rate, the descriptions vivid.  Sure, Ingrid’s secret had been telegraphed, but that didn’t mean that there wouldn’t be a twist to it, and that we could find out something about the straight laced Ray, something from his past that might explain what drew him to Evelyn.  We can’t believe that the reason for these two being together is no more than, just because Evelyn is hot and new, while Ray is rich, but no, that’s what it amounts to.  That’s not fair.  You realize that, for Evelyn, Ray is what she needed, someone to care for her.  For Ray, well, the earlier description applies to Ray.

The prose is excellent, the character of Ingrid is wonderful, but that only carries the book so far.  The characters jump back and forth in their relationships constantly.  The adults refuse to act like adults, once Ray falls in love with Ingrid, which I was really hoping wouldn’t happen, and Evelyn doesn’t recognize that Ingrid is in love with her, which I was okay with happening.

Nobody in the book is what they appear to be .  Ray turns into a hon dog.  Evelyn is an emotional wreck, who randomly becomes strong when it is convenient to the story, and then immediately folds up again.  The only person who should be allowed to behave so mercurial, and still be believable, is Ingrid, and she is believable, because she is a child.  The sections involving Ingrid are where the prose really starts to shine, her retreats into her Detective Slade character are used well, showing her disconnect from reality.  Unsurprising then that the character is used more and more as Ingrid gets passed around from her own feelings for Evelyn, and Rays feelings for her.

Except that the story ends with a “Everything’s going to be alright, we didn’t damage this minor too bad” wrap up which lets everybody, except Ray, going to a bright and possibly better tomorrow.

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