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book review: locke and key (complete series)

Last year I tried reading Joe Hill’s first novel Heart-Shaped Box and couldn’t finish it. It was horror but to me felt like an Eli Roth movie or part of the Saw franchise where it was just sort of unremittingly shitty to its characters, kind of revelling in the power that the writer has to play god with the shits under their command. I hated that book.

I love Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez’s Locke and Key.

Maybe there’s a bit of a softening to how Hill portrays people, but damn did I ever give a shit about the Locke family and their myriad not-great decisions that let terrible supernatural things happen to them.

The story starts off with the violent death of the father of the Locke family. He dies trying to protect his wife and kids from a murderer. He’d always said though that if anything happened to him the family should move back to his family home in Lovecraft County.

In the first volume (which I’d read a few years ago without following up) that kind of cutesy naming thing (“See, it’s in New England and it’s horror, so the county is Lovecraft! Like the writer! Get it? Eh?”) bugged me. Everything felt very on the nose and wink-nudge nerdculture nodding (the gym teacher named Whedon and stuff). It was a little less annoying this time (especially after having recently dealt with all the Dark Tower self-referential bullshit) and once you get past the first volume the story really settles into itself and gets good.

The hook to the story is that in this family home there are all these magickal keys and locks and doors that the kids find and have to protect from nefarious forces. It’s a great hook and as it goes along the “stupid rules” make sense. The villain has an actually interesting endgame and uses one of the traditional horror tropes that gives me the screaming habublies to achieve it.

So yes. It won Eisners and all that so the book isn’t some undiscovered gem; it doesn’t need my praise but it has it.

book review: the dark tower (complete series)

Last July I began reading Stephen King’s Dark Tower series. I finished it last week. I’m glad I read it but there were definitely aspects I liked more than others.

I came to the series through Jon Rosenberg’s Scenes From a Multiverse‘s Gunshooter strips and the upcoming movie. I like to know about these big event pieces of fiction that people will talk about even if I haven’t been to a movie theatre since Fury Road (no wait, I saw The Force Awakens in the theatre). In this case I wanted to get a bit of my own opinionating underway before the flood of other people’s thoughts overwhelm me. Casting Idris Elba as the gunslinger pissed off racists (Rosenberg’s second wave of Gunshooter strips reflected this casting) so that’s cool, but I wanted to have more of a reason to care about this story, and that meant reading it.

There are seven books in the series and they range unevenly between post-apocalyptic western and alternate-universe-hopping Sliders knockoff and self-indulgent hamhanded metafictional pastiche. I liked it best when it was doing the western thing (The Gunslinger (Gunshooter interpretation), the middle 3/4 of Wizard and Glass and the non-priest-focused parts of Wolves of the Calla), and the ending was pretty great. I hated the Doombots and the Harry Potter references and the “Stephen King: maintainer of the universe” bullshit. The way things were kludged together in terms of timelines and reinventing how timetravel worked with a handwave about a keystone world annoyed me, as did most of the dialogue.

But. I’m glad I read it. I like it as a frame for reading the rest of Stephen King’s work through. It felt supremely self-indulgent but that’s what you trust an author with, right? If it had ended worse I’d have been pissed off, but it ends well (deus ex machina note from Stephen King aside).

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book review: y: the last man (complete series)

I read the first couple of trade paperback collections of Brian K. Vaughan and Pia Guerrera’s Y: The Last Man years ago, and I think the only reason I didn’t continue reading it was the usual library dance of the next volume not being on the shelf when I wanted it and blah blah blah laziness. At my new library, all five volumes of the omnibus edition were just sitting on the shelf when I was wandering by and I decided it was time to fill in that gap.

Y: The Last Man is pretty good!

I knew I liked the premise but in my head since I’d never completed the series it was just a cool premise. I didn’t remember much else about it. I was a little worried it was going to feel very heavy-handed or that it was going to devolve into bullshit (which is my impression of what happened with Fables, though I may be wrong about that). But Vaughan writes really good dialogue (and you can totally hear how Saga is by the same writer). There’s a lot of good weirdness and I like how the story isn’t a slave to its premise. Other males are born; there’s acknowledgement that all sorts of species will go extinct; there’s jokiness through the action scenes. It gets a bit more globe-trotty than I expected in the later volumes and I like the eventual sidelining of Yorick as the key to everything and focusing on how he’s dealing with his very changed life as the object of humanity’s quest. I’d also say it stuck the landing.

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book review: machine moon (descender vol. 2)

I like space operas. They are a very comfortable kind of fiction for me. Assembled families in space ships going around and having adventures is all I really want in life and is actually one of the things I’m saddest will never be a real thing I can do. Since I’ll never get to live in a spaceship I make do with making this kind of thing my favourite kind of RPG scenario and read comics that follow the path.

Dustin Nguyen and Jeff Lemire’s Descender is one of those stories. The main character is a companion robot who is the key to robot evolution and was missed when the majority of robots were exterminated after turning on humanity.

Machine Moon is the second volume in the series and it remains pretty good. Nguyen’s watercoloury art makes it feel more serious than it might otherwise. The dialogue is good and I like the characters and the big problems they’re facing. The main problem is just one of serialization; I’d like to read the whole story in one go but can’t.

This isn’t better than Saga, but I like it.

And I haven’t ever written about Saga on here? What? We talked a bit about it in an old episode of Librarians on the Radio if you’re interested.

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book review: mooncop

Tom Gauld’s Mooncop is beautiful. The quietness of the police officer’s story on a gradually emptying satellite matches Gauld’s art-style perfectly. I can’t really say much more about it besides that it is good. I read it on half a lunch break and spent the rest of the break thinking about it.

If you like Jason‘s work — I do — you’d find Mooncop very similar.

Day #032 - Monkey Reader by Daniel Antunes CC-BY-NC-ND via flickr https://www.flickr.com/photos/danielantunes/8435705107/

i used to review books here

I know my book reviews were never very in-depth or insightful, but they were here and were some content for the site for a big chunk of its existence. I don’t know exactly why I stopped doing it, but obviously, I did.

There’s part of me that feels a bit bad about not reviewing each book I read. These days it feels a little bit too much like my only purpose for reading is to consume content rather than letting things affect and change me. The sitting down and at least making a paragraph about each book does help to consolidate thoughts I have. But it takes so much energy, and I probably have another book a flick away at on my screen.

I could argue a big chunk of my “making stuff about library adjacent topics” energy went into the radio show over the last year, but I’d let the reviews trail off well before that. Now with the new job and not doing the radio show any more, maybe there’s room to come back at this again.

In any case, I have been studiously tracking what I’ve been reading even if I haven’t been spewing my thoughts on it at whatever reading audience I still might have. Here’s the list of books I read in 2016. I might finish another Dark Tower book and this little treatise on crime in Canadian football before the year is up but whatevs. (formatting key: ebooks comics rereads)

  1. Elric of Melniboné (The Elric Saga, #1) by Michael Moorcock
  2. Delta Green: Dark Theatres by Benjamin Adams (Ed.)
  3. A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms by George R.R. Martin
  4. Delta Green: Through a Glass, Darkly by Dennis Detwiller
  5. The Meaning of Human Existence by Edward O. Wilson
  6. Oblivion by David Foster Wallace
  7. Carry On by Rainbow Rowell
  8. The Weird of the White Wolf (The Elric Saga, #3) by Michael Moorcock
  9. The Vanishing Tower (The Elric Saga, #4) by Michael Moorcock
  10. Stormbringer (The Elric Saga, #6) by Michael Moorcock
  11. The Bane of the Black Sword (The Elric Saga, #5) by Michael Moorcock
  12. Trashed by Derf Backderf
  13. This Census-Taker by China Miéville
  14. Slade House by David Mitchell
  15. Engraved on the Eye by Saladin Ahmed
  16. The Teleportation Accident by Ned Beauman
  17. The Death of Bunny Munro by Nick Cave
  18. The Kraken Wakes by John Wyndham
  19. Doomsday Book (Oxford Time Travel, #1) by Connie Willis
  20. The Givenness of Things by Marilynne Robinson
  21. Schild’s Ladder by Greg Egan
  22. Quicksilver (The Baroque Cycle, #1) by Neal Stephenson
  23. How to Be Black by Baratunde Thurston
  24. The Confusion (The Baroque Cycle, #2) by Neal Stephenson
  25. Radiance by Catherynne M. Valente
  26. The System of the World (The Baroque Cycle, #3) by Neal Stephenson
  27. This Is How You Lose Her by Junot Díaz
  28. The City & the City by China Miéville
  29. Silver Screen Fiend: Learning About Life from an Addiction to Film by Patton Oswalt
  30. Adventure Time: Marceline Gone Adrift by Meredith Gran
  31. Buddhism in Chinese History by Arthur F. Wright
  32. The Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow by Cory Doctorow
  33. The Pale King by David Foster Wallace
  34. Thirst: A Novel of the Iran-Iraq War by Mahmoud Dowlatabadi
  35. Alif the Unseen by G. Willow Wilson
  36. Cryptonomicon by Neal Stephenson
  37. The Library at Mount Char by Scott  Hawkins
  38. A Hanging at Cinder Bottom by Glenn Taylor
  39. The Mirror Empire (Worldbreaker Saga, #1) by Kameron Hurley
  40. The Rings of Saturn by W.G. Sebald
  41. Joe Golem and the Drowning City: An Illustrated Novel by Mike Mignola
  42. Random Acts of Senseless Violence by Jack Womack
  43. The Forbidden Worlds of Haruki Murakami by Matthew Carl Strecher
  44. The Quarry by Iain Banks
  45. Who Owns the Future? by Jaron Lanier
  46. Wicked and Weird: The Amazing Tales of Buck 65 by Rich Terfry
  47. In Real Life by Cory Doctorow and Jen Wang
  48. Two Brothers by Fábio Moon
  49. Writing for Radio by Christopher William Hill
  50. Bone by Jeff Smith
  51. The Dharma Punks by Ant Sang
  52. Beef With Tomato by Dean Haspiel
  53. Batman: Ego and Other Tails by Darwyn Cooke
  54. Dracula: The Company of Monsters Vol. 1 by Kurt Busiek
  55. Dracula: The Company of Monsters Vol. 2 by Kurt Busiek
  56. A Man Lies Dreaming by Lavie Tidhar
  57. Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
  58. Sudden Death by Álvaro Enrigue
  59. A Slip of the Keyboard: Collected Non-Fiction by Terry Pratchett
  60. The Wake by Paul Kingsnorth
  61. Going Postal (Discworld, #33; Moist von Lipwig, #1) by Terry Pratchett
  62. Absolute Transmetropolitan Vol. 1 by Warren Ellis
  63. A Questionable Shape by Bennett Sims
  64. Descender, Volume One: Tin Stars by Jeff Lemire
  65. How to Be Both by Ali Smith
  66. Absolute Transmetropolitan Vol. 2 by Warren Ellis
  67. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
  68. As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner
  69. H. P. Lovecraft and the Black Magickal Tradition: The Master of Horror’s Influence on Modern Occultism by John L. Steadman
  70. Imperium by Ryszard Kapuściński
  71. The Starry Rift by James Tiptree Jr.
  72. The Gunslinger (The Dark Tower, #1) by Stephen King
  73. Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights by Salman Rushdie
  74. The Player of Games (Culture, #2) by Iain M. Banks
  75. How to Change the World: Marx and Marxism 1840-2011 by Eric Hobsbawm
  76. The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness
  77. Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values by Robert M. Pirsig
  78. Flash Boys: A Wall Street Revolt by Michael Lewis
  79. Midnight Robber by Nalo Hopkinson
  80. Empire Ascendant (Worldbreaker Saga, #2) by Kameron Hurley
  81. The Noble Hustle: Poker, Beef Jerky, and Death by Colson Whitehead
  82. Hide Me Among the Graves by Tim Powers
  83. Seveneves by Neal Stephenson
  84. The Rachel Papers by Martin Amis
  85. Jaws by Peter Benchley
  86. Pretty Deadly, Vol. 2: The Bear by Kelly Sue DeConnick
  87. Ghosts by Raina Telgemeier
  88. The Essentials of Buddhist Philosophy by J. Takakusu
  89. Hunter’s Run by George R.R. Martin
  90. Three Day Road by Joseph Boyden
  91. The Water Knife by Paolo Bacigalupi
  92. Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro
  93. Rosemary’s Baby by Ira Levin
  94. A Hologram for the King by Dave Eggers
  95. The Fifth Season (The Broken Earth, #1) by N.K. Jemisin
  96. The Drawing of the Three (The Dark Tower, #2) by Stephen King
  97. The Waste Lands (The Dark Tower, #3) by Stephen King
  98. The Three-Body Problem (Remembrance of Earth’s Past, #1) by Liu Cixin
  99. The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead
  100. The Dark Forest (Remembrance of Earth’s Past, #2) by Liu Cixin
  101. Death’s End (Remembrance of Earth’s Past, #3) by Liu Cixin
  102. The Slow Regard of Silent Things (The Kingkiller Chronicle #2.5) by Patrick Rothfuss
  103. Sunshine by Robin McKinley
  104. Wizard and Glass (The Dark Tower, #4) by Stephen King
  105. The Obelisk Gate (The Broken Earth, #2) by N.K. Jemisin
  106. American Utopia by Fredric Jameson
  107. Frostbike: The Joy, Pain and Numbness of Winter Cycling by Tom Babin
  108. Sex Criminals, Volume Three: Three the Hard Way by Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarsky
  109. The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet (Wayfarers, #1) by Becky Chambers
  110. The Revolutions by Felix Gilman

So yeah, I read 110 books this year. There are fewer comics on here than I feel is usual for me but there’s a fair number of re-reads. Those both kind of inflate the totals if you’re looking at this as a numbers game.

I’ve been trying to read more nonfiction and I think that kind of shows up in the list. I’ve also been trying to read more books by women, but as the list shows, I haven’t been successful at that (a quick perusal shows only 18 or 19). Under a bit of duress I’ve been buying fewer books than is my wont (only 6 from this list are things I purchased this year) but as my partner tells me, I do work in a library.

That’s been my year. I also read too many tweets and articles about politics and celebrities dying. Fuck 2016.