Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Savage Season

Savage Season (Hap Collins and Leonard Pine, #1)Savage Season by Joe R. Lansdale
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

When laborer Hap Collins' ex-wife Trudy pops back into his life with a story about retrieving unrecovered money from a bank robbery, Hap's up for it. In tow is Hap's best friend, Leonard, a gay black man who happens to be the toughest son of a bitch on the planet. Will Hap and Leonard finally make the big score that saves them from a life of backbreaking labor or is Trudy leading them to their deaths?

2014 reread: Since nothing on my unread pile looks appealing at the moment and a Hap and Leonard TV series is in the works, I thought it would be a good time to revisit the Hap and Leonard books I read pre-Goodreads. One of the perks of getting older is that old books magically become new books after seven or eight years. I remembered the basic plot of this book but forgot most of the wrinkles.

Savage Season introduces Hap Collins and Leonard Pine to the world. Hap is an ex-hippy who spent a year and a half in prison for dodging the Vietnam draft and Leonard is a gay black Vietnam vet who is the toughest man on Earth. Together, they coast through life on crap wages and make a lot of smart ass remarks.

Since originally reading this, I've read a lot of other crime books. It seems to me that Hap and Leonard owe something to Robert Parker's Spenser and Hawk characters, transported to Lansdale's rural east Texas setting. No matter how you slice it, though, Hap and Leonard are one of the most entertaining duos in crime fiction.

The plot of this one is pretty straight forward. Some money from a bank robbery was stashed on boat and sunk in the Sabine River. Trudy, Hap's ex, with some other radicals in tow, want Hap's help in retrieving it. Funny quips and bloody double-crosses ensue and Hap and Leonard wind up in the hospital for the first of many times in the series.

It always surprises me how funny Joe Lansdale's books are without lessening the impact of the violence that often follows. There are some pretty brutal images in this one.

While Savage Season isn't the best book of the series, it's a great beginning. Even in their first appearance, Hap and Leonard are very much the losers I've come to love over the years and I'm excited to be experiencing their adventures once again. Four out of five stars.

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Friday, August 22, 2014

The Sisters Brothers

The Sisters BrothersThe Sisters Brothers by Patrick deWitt

When the Commodore orders the Sisters brothers to kill Herman Kermit Warm and take his mysterious formula, they have no idea the series of misadventures they will endure in the undertaking.

I've been interested in this book forever and nabbed it on the cheap when it popped up on one of my ebook newsletter things. It may have been that my expectations were too high but this didn't live up to the hype for me.

I liked the characters of Eli and Charlie Sister, natural born killers in the old west. They were funny at times and brutal at others. I also liked the overly-formal Western dialog with few contractions, much like the Coehn brothers version of True Grit. I suspect the novel has the same style of dialog but I've yet to read it. It also reminded me of Richard Brautigan's The Hawkline Monster at times.

The book is described as being a picaresque adventure, which it is. It's also not a very interesting one for long stretches at a time. I loved the writing but I kept getting drowsy while reading it. I've never before been torn between my admiration for writing and my desire to toss a book back on the unread pile for something more interesting.

I did like it more than I thought it was bland, though. There were enough twists and reversals of fortune to keep me from drooling on my Kindle. There were a few close calls, though. Three out of five stars.

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Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Doctor Who: The Crawling Terror

Doctor Who: The Crawling Terror (New Series Adventures, #55)Doctor Who: The Crawling Terror by Mike Tucker
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

When the TARDIS takes The Doctor and Clara to a seemingly sleepy English town, they are stunned at what they find: giant, mutated insects and arachnids. But what does that have to do with townsfolk wandering around in a zombie-like state, the stone circle at the edge of town, and something mysterious that happened during WWII? That's what the Doctor intends to find out!

I got this from Netgalley.

This is the third Twelfth Doctor novel I've read and it's a pretty middle of the road Doctor Who novel. Clara rings true and, as with the previous novels, I can't be too sure how accurate Doctor Capaldi's characterization will turn out to be. I will say that he doesn't feel like the Tenth or Eleventh Doctors, though.

Much like Silhouette, this Doctor Who had all kinds of plot elements that eventually converged. However, it may have had a little too much going on. There were some chapters that didn't feature Clara or the Doctor.

I did like how Mike Tucker managed to bring everything together in the end. What could have simply been a giant monster tale turned into quite a bit more. It was a fun Doctor Who adventure but by no means was it one of the better ones I've read. 3.5 out of 5 stars.

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Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Doctor Who: Silhouette

Doctor Who: Silhouette (New Series Adventures, #53)Doctor Who: Silhouette by Justin Richards

When the Doctor and Clara visit a carnival in Victorian London after the Doctor detects a power spike, they cross paths with Madame Vastra, Jenny Flint, and Strax. Vastra and Jenny are attempting to solve a locked room mystery while Strax is on the trail of someone who murdered a friend of his. How are the cases linked with the mysterious power spike the Doctor detected and what do they have to do with origami birds and the carnival?

I got this from Netgalley.

This is the second Twelfth Doctor novel I've read and it's pretty damn good. Since we haven't seen much of Doctor Capaldi so far, I can't vouch for the accuracy of Richards' portrayal but it didn't feel like a book written for a different version of the Doctor that was hastily modified. Clara rang true to character and the Paternoster Gang were well done, especially Strax, not surprising since Justin Richards also wrote Devil in the Smoke, a novella featuring the trio.

Orestes Milton proved to be a good foil for The Doctor and company, as did his weaponized carnies. Without a doubt, my favorite part was when the shapeshifter tried to distract the Doctor by assuming the forms of past Doctors, which the Doctor ignored.

The plot was like a greased pig at first. It took me a little while to grab hold of it. When you combine a carnival, a weapons dealer in hiding, a shapeshifter, and a creature that drains emotions, you've got a certain amount of fiddling to do to get everything into the proper place. Richards proved himself a good fiddler. Everything game together in the end and it was a pretty satisfying Doctor Who adventure.

However, it wasn't without a minor hiccup. I thought Madame Vastra made a stupid mistake around the midpoint of the story, funny considering she's The World's Greatest Detective.

Anyway, Doctor Who: Silhouette is a worthy addition to any Doctor Who fan's library. Four out of five stars.

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Monday, August 18, 2014

The Rain Dancers

The Rain DancersThe Rain Dancers by Greg F. Gifune
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

When Will and Betty Colby are at her recently deceased father's house preparing it for sale, an old man shows up out of the rain. Bob Laurent claims to be a friend of the family. But why can't Betty remember him? And why is he putting his hands all over her...

The Rain Dancers is one creepy little novella. It's basic premise reminds me of Joe Lansdale's Mr. Weedeater a bit. Bob Laurent shows up, undermines Will, and has some pretty sinister intentions. In addition to Mr. Weedeater, The Rain Dancers reminds me of Stephen King's It as well.

Gifune's writing conveys a growing feeling of unease from Will very well. The story goes down a dark path and events Betty herself can't remember come to light.

Since it's a novella, that's about all I'm prepared to reveal at this time. The Rain Dancers is a worthwhile entry in to the DarkFuse novella series and will likely prove to be a very memorable read. Four out of five stars.

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8-Bit Apocalypse

8-Bit Apocalypse8-Bit Apocalypse by Amanda Billings

When Jimmy was seven, he was one of the best video gamers in the world until he choked during a Donkey Kong tournament and his dreams died. Now 35 and working at Chuck E. Cheese, Jimmy's life is going nowhere until a giant irradiated Atari cartridge invades Denver. Will this be Jimmy's last chance at redemption?

To paraphrase Forrest Gump, the New Bizarro Author series is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you're going to get. Sometimes, it's chocolate, sometimes a crunch frog, and sometimes it's a story about a giant video game cartridge trashing Denver.

Back in the 1980's, Atari buried some cartridges in the New Mexico desert, mostly ET but some others and Amanda Billings builds her tale around this event. Jimmy, the Chuck E. Cheese loser, is the only one around who realizes what is happening and how to stop it. Imagine playing Centipede but shooting at a train instead of a pixelated insect. Or dodging real cars to play Frogger.

The story reminds me of The Last Starfighter a bit but what it really reminds me of is the episode of Futurama where Fry has to fight the aliens from the planet Nintendoo 64. It's a fun story with equal measures of video game nostalgia and wholesale carnage.

If I had to complain about something, I'd say I wish the book was at least twice as long. At 90 pages in the print version, there's not a lot of meat to it. Still, it was a lot of fun while it lasted. Four out of five stars.

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Sunday, August 17, 2014

Doctor Who: The Blood Cell

Doctor Who: The Blood Cell (New Series Adventures, #54)Doctor Who: The Blood Cell by James Goss
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

When Prisoner 428 shows up at The Prison, the Governor knows he's going to be trouble. But what does Prisoner 428 have to do with the mysterious power fluctuations? And will Prisoner 428 make good on his promise to escape? Of course he will. He's The Doctor...

I got this from Netgalley.

Since I'm a dyed in the wool Whovian, I was pretty excited when this popped up on Netgalley. Should I have been? Meh...

On the surface, this had the makings of a good Doctor Who book. The prison asteroid setting had a lot of potential, as did the prisoners who were mysteriously vanishing. I even enjoyed the paranoid feel sometimes, wondering what was behind everything.

Too bad this book is deeply flawed for a Doctor Who book. First off, it's narrated in the first person by the Governor of the prison planet, making us detached from the Doctor's antics. When I read a Doctor Who novel, I want the Doctor and whomever his companion is at the time center stage, not have their exploits relayed to me by some schmoe. Secondly, it's also not really exciting. It took forever to reveal why the Doctor was in the clink in the first place and also reveal the background of the Governor, something I could have safely gone the rest of my life without knowing.

My third objection is a litty iffy. As of this writing, all we know of the Twelfth Doctor is from the seconds of footage from Day of the Doctor and his regeneration sequence from Time of the Doctor. Apart from some remarks about his age, this very much felt like the Tenth Doctor was paired with Clara.

It wasn't a terrible book but I was very ready for it to be over by the 75% mark. Two hard-earned stars.

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