Archive for Books

Orwell on Broadway?

poster_1984_lrgToday, I read that George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four is coming to Broadway.

Man, just think of the musical possibilities:

  • Come for the angst of Winston Smith journaling while singing “The Minitrue Blues” and “Won’t Someone Please Send My Ex-Wife to the Memory Hole?”
  • Stay for Winston and Julia’s heartfelt duet “Who Says We Can’t Discuss Goldstein’s ‘The Theory and Practice of Oligarchical Collectivism’ While Carrying on an Illicit Affair in an Antique Shop?”
  • No one will remain seated for the rousing ensemble number “Two Minutes Hate”
  • You’ll alternately weep and heave during the ending Winston numbers “Heading to Room 101,” “Do It to Julia! Please!” and the finale “He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Big Brother”

Book Review: Howard Odentz’s Wicked Dead

It’s been a few years since Howard Odentz’s novel Dead (a Lot) came out. It turned out to be a nice surprise in a genre that can sometimes be a bit predictable. There are only so many ways you can present the zombie apocalypse, after all, and it’s easy to think just about everything has been done. Of course, the same could be said about stories in general. In the end, what makes them different is the way they draw us into their characters.

Since Dead (a Lot) in 2013, Odentz has been busy, writing and releasing two other horror novels, Bloody, Bloody Apple and Little Killers A to Z. It had been about three years since I’d read Dead (a Lot), so for continuity’s sake, I decided to re-visit it before tackling Wicked Dead. I’m glad I did, because it made me realize how Odentz hasn’t missed a beat. In fact, it’s like he never left.

In a nutshell, the Dead (a Lot) series takes place in a world much like ours except for the roaming hordes of zombies, which are known in the story as Poxers. This name is a reference to Necropoxy, the human-created disease that brings on the apocalypse. Some people are immune to the virus, and, as might be expected, scientists are interested in finding and studying them. The premise is certainly interesting, but what makes the series so readable is Odentz’s masterful character development and brilliant pacing.

Wicked Dead picks up right where Dead (a Lot) left off, and our main character Tripp Light’s narration is just as sharp, witty, and engaging as it ever was. Most of the characters have returned for this one. Tripp and his twin sister Trina are back, as are Tripp’s sort of girlfriend Prianka and her brother Sanjay. Trina’s boyfriend Jimmy is here again as well, and now the twins’ mom and dad are on hand.

There are a few other new players, the most notable being an elderly bus driver named Dorcas Duke. Without revealing too much, I’ll say that Tripp’s scenes with Dorcas are some of the finest in the novel. They’re funny, scary, and touching. Humor and horror are two of the most difficult things a writer can pull off, but Odentz makes it seem like a breeze in Wicked Dead, many times in the same scene.

At the risk of generalizing, if Dead (a Lot) was a story of searching and staying alive, Wicked Dead is a tale about being on the run and growing up. And yes, it’s still about staying alive. Come on, it’s the zombie apocalypse. Above all, it’s fast-paced, and it keeps the reader flipping pages, probably way past his bedtime. Not that I would know anything about that, mind you.

I’m just over here waiting on the next book.

A Book Review: Howard Odentz’s Little Killers A to Z

LittleKillersAtoZ200Continuing in the creepy tradition of his earlier books, the novels Dead (a Lot) and Bloody Bloody Apple, Howard Odentz’s new effort, Little Killers A to Z, is a project that may seem more innocent than what’s come before, at least superficially. It’s no children’s book, though. Once you start reading, in fact, you start to realize just how expertly this author is able to plumb the depths of weirdness and horror.

Each story in this collection introduces us to a new character, with rhyming titles like “A is for Andy Who Watches His Dad” and “B is for Boris, and Rifka, and Vlad,” then, almost immediately, we discover the terror that lies beneath the surface. For instance, in “O is for Oz Who Has Piss Poor Genetics,” there’s a young boy whose controlling mother is determined to correct all the biological disadvantages he’s inherited; “M is for Maura Who Builds a Partition” gives us a girl who really, really wants to be alone; and in my personal favorite, “E is for Emmett Who’s Always Behind,” we meet a boy who just can’t seem to co-exist with his twin brother, no matter how he tries.

Essentially, Little Killers A to Z is a book of stories about children who do bad, bad things. Anyone who’s read horror or watched scary movies knows there are few things more terrifying than creepy kids, and Odentz takes this premise and runs with it for all its worth. For lovers of the genre, there’s a bit of everything here: killers, stalkers, chasers, revenge seekers, apocalypse survivors, evil twins, serial killers, supernatural critters, you name it. This collection employs many of the go-to tools of the horror story, but it manages to defy expectations at every turn. And be warned, it’s habit-forming.

Some of the stories in Little Killers A to Z will leave you with your mouth hanging open, a few will make you laugh (even as you hope no one hears you), while others have endings that will immediately make you want to re-read them. One or two just might even give you an excuse to mosey by the front door and check the lock. (You know, just in case.) And even when you think you know what’s going to happen, it turns out you really don’t.

Edgar Allan Poe once said that the ideal short story should be readable within one sitting. The tales in Little Killers A to Z fits this standard perfectly, with one significant drawback: You won’t want to stop at just one. Trust me on this.

Book Review: Howard Odentz’s Bloody Bloody Apple

Here’s a link to a book review I wrote at Court Street Literary Collective for Howard Odentz’s Bloody Bloody Apple.

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Just Finished–The Age of Radiance: The Epic Rise and Dramatic Fall of the Atomic Era

18144088Just finished reading Craig Nelson’s The Age of Radiance: The Epic Rise and Dramatic Fall of the Atomic Era, which deals with the evolution of all things atomic, from the Curies to the Manhattan Project, the unbelievable number of nuke tests from the 1950s through the 1980s, all the way up to the disasters at Chernobyl and Fukushima, also featuring the scads of twitchy, bomb-obsessed dudes in between, not to mention the real-life Dr. Strangelove, Edward Teller.

It’s truly amazing that we survived.

My October Reading List

Here’s what I’m working on for October. Close readers will notice that some of my September books are still on the list.

Vampires in the Lemon Grove by Karen Russell

The Waking Dreamer by J.E. Alexander

Doomsday Book by Connie Willis

The Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes

Lungs Full of Noise by Tessa Mallas

A Thousand Perfect Things by Kay Kenyon

Thank You, Jeeves by P.G. Wodehouse

Parasite by Mira Grant

The Delphi Room by Melia McClure

The Stench of Honolulu by Jack Handey

Unsoul’d by Barry Lyga

The Incrementalists by Steven Brust

The Heavens Rise by Christopher Rice

Dreamcatcher by Stephen King

Duma Key by Stephen King

 

My September Reading List

So here’s what I’m working on right now. What are you reading?

John Connolly’s The Gates

William Meikle’s The Hole

John Connolly’s The Infernals

Connie Willis’ Remake

Karen Russell’s Vampires in the Lemon Grove

Lauren Beukes’ The Shining Girls

Tessa Mellas’ Lungs Full of Noise

Kay Kenyon’s A Thousand Perfect Things

Mir Grant’s Parasite

Melia McClure’s The Delphi Room

 

A Book Review at Court Street Literary Collective

Here’s a link to a review I wrote of Helen & Troy’s Epic Road Quest, an excellent and funny modern fantasy novel by A. Lee Martinez.

Linkie.

Good Post-Apocalyptic Sci-Fi: A Canticle for Leibowitz

If you’ve not read Walter M. Miller’s A Canticle for Leibowitz, you should do so. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a science fiction fan or someone who’s on the fence about genre fiction. In fact, if you are on the fence, this could be the one to make you fall off.

This is one of the best sci-fi novels out there, on top of being an excellent post-apocalyptic book from a time when they weren’t as hip and cool as they are now. Don’t get me wrong, though. They were still hip.

Here’s a nifty A Canticle for Leibowitz page at Worlds Without End with reviews, an excerpt, a history of the book’s publication, and pictures of some of the novel’s truly amazing covers (the cover included here is one of my favorites).

Link here.

For Your Edification: A List of Banned Science Fiction & Fantasy Books

Here’s an interesting list from Worlds Without End featuring many banned science fiction and fantasy books.

Now, since we know that banning a book exponentially increases its sales, the question becomes “How can I write a bannable book?”

Link here.