Apr 252022
 

A Long Way to a Small Angry Planet is a science fiction book by Becky Chambers. It involves the crew of the Wayfarer, a modest spaceship that punches holes through reality to create stable wormholes. The crew is a mix of humans and aliens, working together to take on contracts and make a living. They are not military or freebooters; they are the future space equivalent of a road crew. Or to put it another way, just one character from your Star Wars/Star Trek/RPG group could murder every member of the Wayfarer with no problem.

Which is great! This is not a book about fights or action scenes. This is a book that a contract the crew takes on and spend the better part of a year trying to complete. Over the course of the job, we get deep dives into each and every character and the personal challenges they face. This book is 95% slice-of-life and I am here for it. In the last thirty pages, something major happens but that’s fine. Life can drop disasters on you.

With so much of the story focused on the characters, the real success of this novel is how deep and interesting the characters are. This is a book for the modern age which means we get non-hetero relationships, aliens who practice polyamory, other aliens who go through gender phases and there are many discussions of body autonomy. This is a science fiction book crammed with liberal ideas and once more, I am here for it.

It is no wonder this book won a Hugo. I fell in love with the characters and reading their lives enriched me in ways I struggle to explain. Love and found-family is the core of this book and with so many science-fiction franchises focused on combat and acts of war, it is a welcome change.

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Apr 112022
 

Friend of the blog, Serena Silverlake, has written another installment of her Fantastical filth fantasy series. In La Petite Mort, the adventurers of Pigeon Pie are looking to join an exclusive tournament but need the sponsorship of an important noble to get included. They take on a job from a Necromancer lady to recover her daughter that has been kidnapped by cultists. The problem is that the almost everything about their job is a lie.

Since this is a Silverlake story, that means that there is a lot of sex. Soooo much sex. OMG, is there is a lot of delicious filthy over-the-top sex. It has so much smut that I felt the need to take frequent showers while reading it. Alexa Mountspear might be my favorite fictional sex character and I fucking write sex characters. It is something I could easily get jealous about.

Even more envy worthy is that this book is funny. It reminds me a lot of Terry Pratchett, if Terry Pratchett wrote about minotaurs gangbanging a human woman as part of an attraction at a porn store. It is criminal how equally funny and sexy this book is.

Look, I sometimes feel like I promote Silverlake more than I do my own works and that is because Silverlake writes the books that I crave to read. And I prefer science-fiction to fantasy! The Filth series is the pinnacle of sexy and funny as far as I am concerned. If you enjoy my humorous works, then you will love hers. Go read it.

Mar 282022
 
I bet people will be mass-producing versions of this badge.

Right as the pandemic gets in full swing, Jamie Grey is fired from his job at a startup under shitty circumstances. Desperation forces him to deliver meals to make ends meet. fortunately for him, a chance encounter gets him a job that requires him to “lift things” but it pays a hell of a lot more.

That is the premise for the novel, Kaiju Preservation Society, by John Scalzi. Part “Oh dear God, the Pandemic sucked” and part “fuck it, let’s nerd out on the science behind giant monsters and the struggles it would involve to study them.” This book is a fun exercise of world-building as well as easy going banter between Jamie and his coworkers. It reminds of the glory days of role-playing games when you would hang out with your best friends and solve ridiculous problems together.

The actual monsters exist on an alternate reality, which means we get an entire biosphere to explore and speculate on, especially when it comes to the cube-square law that makes most giant monster impossible. Having another world to play with means we can have monsters the size of mountains flying the skies and crashing into each other without worrying about entire cities being destroyed. It is Jurassic Park without the horrific causalities.

I don’t want to give the wrong impression that it is all fun and games in this book. There is danger and some people die and yes, we even get a nasty villain. Every good adventure needs a bit of darkness and this book delivers. What I do want to get across is this book felt like a summer popcorn movie and almost a vacation from the troubles of the real world. For that reason alone, I highly reccomend it.

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Mar 212022
 

Over on Earth-Alpha, daring hero Dragonflyman and his trusty teen sidekick, Stinger, are trying to stop the devious super-narcissist, Number One, from replacing all of the portraits in a museum with his own. Using his special gadgets, Dragonflyman stops the dastardly villain’s evil plans but not before Number One escapes by running through a strange mirror. Dragonflyman, fearless and true, chases after him.

Meanwhile, over on Earth-Omega, grim vigilante The Dragonfly, is hunting down serial killer Number One. The Dragonfly dispatches a bunch of goons with horrific violence but the psychotic Number One escapes by running through a strange mirror. Obsessed with extracting violent justice, The Dragonfly follows him.

That is the premise of The Wrong Earth, written by Tom Peyer and Paul Constant . Both the heroes and their villains find themselves trapped in each other’s world. Honest and pure Dragonflyman suddenly has to deal with corrupt cops, terribly nasty villains and a world that doesn’t trust him. Dark and brooding The Dragonfly finds himself in a world where the bad guys are obsessed with niche-themes and an honest though helpless mayor and police force. The story is both hilarious and shocking, often at the same time.

In other words, what if Adam West’s Batman and Frank Miller’s Batman swapped places.

What makes the Wrong Earth truly great is that both heroes end up thriving. The Dragonfly’s no-nonsense approach to crime is a harsh reality check for the goody villains of that world. The kind Dragonflyman brings a much needed dose of nobility and heroism to the nasty folks in the other world. It is a series that loves both the campy goofball comics of the 60’s as well as a the grimdark nastiness of the 90’s in equal measures.

There is also some other subplots that I don’t want to spoil for you. The Wrong Earth is a six part series that has been collected into a trade. A sequel, Night and Day is also out. The whole series takes place in a brand new comic universe that doesn’t require knowing sixty years of lore to enjoy.

Feb 282022
 
The dress code seems a bit extreme.

Corporation of Canes is a delight of a book by Lindsay Gordon. The unnamed company in the book has it’s central offices in a skyscraper located in a town that the company owns. The police, neighborhoods and services are under company control. What the company actually does is not clear, but the strict and abusive way it treats its employees is not ambiguous at all.

This book can best be described as Corporate Dystopia. The unrealistic environment is the point. In the first chapter, we experience “you” getting demoted from an executive job which involves getting stripped and humiliated by sexy women in high heels and armed with canes. You get busted all the way down to garden maintenance, with the added humiliation of your dick being hard the whole time.

From there, the book bounces around to other characters. We see women abuse their power and be abused. Men and women work together in the company but the book is only concerned with the abusive power of evil women. Sometimes the book returns to “you” and the ways you try to fight against the system, but spoiler alert, you can’t overcome the superiority of wicked women.

I enjoyed this book a lot. It is like erotic Kafka. The changing of characters helps keeps things fresh and provides a varied view of this terrible place. I was even more delighted when we find out there is a secret resistance fighting against the company! This is the kind of audacity that I wish more porn would indulge in.

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Feb 212022
 

The Second Shooter by Nick Mamatas is a fictional novel about conspiracies. More specifically, the observation that in most public shootings, early reports say there is a second shooter but in the aftermath, there was only one shooter. The real life explanation is that early reports are unreliable and driven by panic. That is the explanation put forth in this book but being fiction, there are hints that something more sinister is going on.

I had a lot of fun with this book. The main character, Mike Karrass, is an writer who is interviewing people who claim to have seen second shooters. He works for a small book publishing company that specializes in fringe subjects like flying saucers and ESP. Mike is somewhat self-centered and an asshole, but that makes him a decent investigator. As the book continues, he finds himself becoming something of a conspiracy theory himself as a psychotic radio host becomes obsessed with him and as weird shit starts happening.

Conspiracies are kind of a dirty word right now and this book explores the current state of how people get caught up in the bullshit flying around. I enjoyed how the book picks apart why people believe in such nonsense, as well as showing how there is money to be made by spouting so much garbage. It is the kind of book about conspiracies that discusses the people who obsess about them, rather than the conspiracies itself.

Up until the 2/3 mark of the book where the tone shifts entirely into another kind of book. It would be a spoiler to say anything about it, but just know it is coming. The shift is so big, that my only criticism is that I wish I had known about it from the beginning and it was a bigger part of the overall whole. I can see this shift will turn some readers off.

But regardless, it is still an excellent book. It is a great snapshot of our current times and destructive paranoia.

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Feb 072022
 

The Searching Dead is the first book in Ramsey Campbell’s Daoloth series. Campbell is a fantastic horror writer from Britain who has been writing since forever. He was a big fan of Lovecraft and creates Mythos-style stories, but leaves out the xenophobia and racism. In a lot of ways, I think he surpasses Lovecraft and is all around a much better writer. Campbell has developed his own cosmic horrors that stand on their own.

As for this book, Dominic Sheldrake is a 12 year old boy growing up in 1950’s Britain. Rationing is still in full force and people are very scared of the communists. Dom is starting a new school that is very religious. He has two friends, Jim and Roberta, who he has turned into a sort of pseudo kid investigator team, but puberty is starting to pull at the seams of this group.

There is also the matter of one of Dom’s teachers, Christian Noble. Mr. Noble is a welcome breath of independent thought in this religious school and something of a skeptic of conservative values. Unfortunately,. Dom also learns that his teacher is a spiritualist, who has his own strange purposes for the ghosts he summons for his followers. Weird shit is afoot.

My wife asked if this book was like Stephen King’s The Stand and I responded that it was more like the movie, A Christmas Story. The book plays out over the course of a year, skipping to crucial scenes and confrontations with friends and family. Dom is suspicious of his teacher, and does his best to investigate, but the kid is only twelve. Adults are the ones who thwart and harass Mr. Noble but Mr. Noble himself has no idea of how much Dom knows about his works. It is interesting and realistic take.

It is a creepy and unsettling book, but also one that paints such a vivid picture of post-war Britain and what it was like to live there. The narrator is Dom, looking back at his life and adding observations and thoughts that his young self was unaware of. It feels like a haunted memoir, but because the character is a child, you can see how an adult person would look back and wonder if it really happened.

All in all, a great book and an excellent introduction to a great writer.

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Jan 312022
 
First time I saw this cover, I thought a man was holding down someone’s head in their lap while they got a blowjob.

Christian is a sickly young man who inherits a mansion during the 19th century. He has some fatal illness that will finish him off eventually so he figures that he might as well die in a remote location. The mansion has a bare minimum staff and the villagers are rude and xenophobic. However, there is a couple that lives in the woods that everyone tells him to stay away from so of course he goes and pays them a visit. The couple flirts with him and threatens to eat him if they catch out at night.

Did you guess that Lycanthia or The children of Wolves was about werewolves? Yep, you’re right. Rest assure, sexy times are had and the occasional villager gets murdered. Christian gets healthier and the village gets madder. There is a horrifying conclusion.

This such a Gothic book that there were times that I thought Tanith Lee was making fun of the genre. Other times I thought she was crafting a perfect example of the genre that also includes some rather cutting commentary.At the end of the book I realized that Lee was not as much making fun of the genre as she was building an indictment on the types of characters that drive such books.

In the meantime, she wrote a lovely book with her usual lush language. This book drips with sensuality and made me wish I had a remote mansion in the French forests somewhere. The ending will haunt you and make you look differently at other Gothic novels.

Jan 242022
 
You got something in your mouth.

I remember the first time I went to Trader Vic’s in Atlanta. The Tiki decorations and theme were so different from the Caribbean pirate decor that I was used to. It felt strange and beautiful. and maybe a little racist? Like, is this racist? It sure felt like appropriation. I liked it, but wondered if I should.

Tiki Pop, a gorgeous photograph book from Taschen, is firmly on the side of enjoying it. This book details how Americans came to love the Pacific Islands beginning way back in the 1700’s and its continuing fascination with Oceania culture. It also details how Americans just flat out romanticized the islands and created their own version for books, movies, musicals and of course, bars and restaurants.

It is a really lovely book. Every page is crammed with photos and art. It is nice time capsule of beautiful restaurants and famous bars that no longer exist, as well as the countless Tiki-themed merchandise. It also chronicles the trends of the 20th century, detailing the movies, the celebrities and the famous places making money from Tiki decor.

I wish there was a bit more about the Pacific Island people that inspire Tiki but it is not that kind of a book. The Tiki that is on these pages are not about a real place, but about a fictional leisure world that was longed for by uptight Americans. Tiki is a hologram. At best, it is a sort of MMO that people played and that some are still playing today.

This book is ridiculously affordable for how big it is, and if you even have a mild interest in Tiki, I feel like this book is as comprehensive as it gets.

Jan 172022
 

Two years ago I watched and loved Lovecraft Country, a television show about a black family dealing with the horrors of cultists and white people. Recently I got around to reading the book that the series was based on. I was excited because in my experience, the book is always more in-depth than the series.

Well, that doesn’t apply here.

In Lovecraft Country, written by Matt Ruff, a black family in the early 50’s is harassed by a cult of white people who need some last special human sacrifices to pull off a great magic. Like the television series, every story in the book focuses on a different family member or friend of the family as they deal with weird shit. In addition to cultists, there is the twin horror of being African-American in a very racist America. It is this racial tension that puts the heroes often at a disadvantage, but also makes the heroes inherently tougher and better survivors than their enemies.

All in all, it is a good book. If I read it by itself, I would call it great. The problem is that the television series expands the issues of racism in so many clever and amazing ways that the book feels a little shallow in comparison. The series also explores the relationships between the heroes, creating some great romantic lead moments as well as humanizing and creating a more interesting father-son dynamic. The series changes the gender of two of the characters to give women more roles and it is a very welcome change. The end result is that the book sometimes feels juvenile in comparison.

One thing the book does do better is understanding what the fuck the villains were up to. The series threw a bunch of bad guys at the heroes with loose connections. Quite frankly, since the bad guys are all white people and so many white people hate the heroes, it almost felt natural that the bad guys were coming after them. The book makes it clear at all times how the bad guys are in relation to each other and there is second story being unearthed about an occultist and his estranged son.

I still recommend you read the book. It is a great idea of putting intelligent, well-read and yet very strong African-American characters in a world filled with pulp-inspired challenges, especially when the world of pulp wanted nothing to do with said characters. It is a well crafted and tight story that is more action-adventure than horror. If there was a sequel, I would read the heck out of it.

But I would also make sure to watch the TV show.