I haven’t really touched on anything other than film and comics in the last few posts, so I decided to bang out an entry about another topic dear to my heart. I do enjoy things other than pure unbridled rage and musing about where I would like to see comics’/films’ stories go. I will try to write a few more diverse entries with the next few; however, that isn’t always easy. I usually write/rant about whatever is on my mind. It is a massive stream of randomness that can be written on my computer or my iPhone. You can always tell when I’m writing on a roll. I don’t bother to edit and just post it immediately after banging it out. That’s just the way I write. It has to be in my head and something I am passionate about saying. Sometimes it will be 400 words, others, 3,000. It all depends on how many words I need to properly get my thoughts out of my head. Some entries are definitely more concise than others.
You can definitely tell that I meander with some posts. I drag things out by re-iterating statements just to drive my point home. This is starting to become one of those times. Sorry. The semester has begun, so I don’t know how regularly I will be able to update the blog. I can say that you should see something posted every week or so. Sometimes, It may just be closer to every ten days. I don’t have many readers, but I know the ones that have subscribed found something they enjoyed about my writing. I’ll try to get things out there that are at least as interesting as the things you enjoyed. Without further repetition, I move onto the point of this entry.
One more thing! If you enjoy the post, don’t be afraid to leave a comment. That is actually one of the things that is making me hesitant to host this blog myself. I may have a decent amount of readers (according to the stats), I just don’t have vocal/opinionated readers. I’d love to hear what people think of what I have to say. Even if it is just to tell me I’m delusional and suck.
There are very few books that have blown me away in my life. I can only think of five off the top of my head, and those stunned me for very different reasons. I think to understand why I like the series/books I am I going to tell you about in this blog, I need to at least share those five and the reasoning behind my instant liking of them. Be forewarned, these books might be strange. The reasons I list them may be even stranger, but I don’t think you can quite understand my reviews without having at least some insight into my mentality when it comes to what type of stories I like and why. Of course, there are the “classics” that I enjoy. The books EVERYONE enjoys. Though, I can honestly say that I enjoy The Iliad a lot more than The Odyssey. That’s just personal preference. There are also MANY comic books and graphic novels that I love. I will be writing about a few of them in the weeks to come because I think this has focused too much on film lately. The following are just the few that have blown me away and have earned a special place in my heart for whatever reason I list. Bear with me, though. A few of them may be scoffed at.
First up is my favorite book written by, arguably, one of the greatest literary minds of the last two generations. The man is definitely listed in the top 100 fiction writers of all time. After an introduction like that, I had better deliver, eh? The writer is, of course, Mr. Neil Gaiman. I have been a massive fan of his since Sandman first entered my radar. If you don’t know what that is, leave. No, I need the readers. Stay, just order the first collected edition of the series. Do me that favor. I promise you that you’ll thank me for it. He has written many great works, aside from Sandman, another notable work is his children’s novel (one of many) Coraline that was recently made into a beautifully created stop-motion film. He has also written my favorite book – American Gods. I have read this book almost 30 times in the ten years since it was first published. I have a paperback copy that comes with me whenever I travel. This book is just a fantastic story. It tells the story of ex-con Shadow as he travels the United States with his new employer. He meets strange people who claim to be Gods along the way. It is a fantastic novel. Oh! And it isn’t a children’s/young adult novel. It is an extremely well written novel for EVERYONE, but was written for the adult mind. Very few authors can paint a scene like Neil can with his words. This man needs to be Knighted. Footballers have been, why can’t a man who creates worlds be?
That should have been edited down a bit. I’m sorry. I’ve written half a blog entry with just the first example and I haven’t gotten to the subject of my entry yet. I promise the next four will be short and sweet. I will just write a review of American Gods by Halloween this year. I’ll even share it with Mr. Gaiman. Moving on!
2. Harry Potter and… You either like these books/films, or you hate them. I remember the first time I read one of these books. It was 2000, and I was in eighth grade. I thought it was amazing. Imagine my delight when I read online that they were making them into films. I enjoy them for the massive world, character interaction, and the mythology of the world. It is just a fun, riveting story set in a world with real history attached to it. Give it a chance.
3. Sandman Slim by Richard Kadrey. If you enjoy urban fantasy such as the work of Jim Butcher (Dresden), Jeff Somers(Avery Cates), and Mike Carey (Felix Castor) then there is no reason why you need to know about the fantastic bastard known as Sandman Slim aka James Stark. This series is a man’s series. I mean that in the most ridiculous way possible. It is mainly a revenge tale. A man wakes up charred in Los Angeles after spending 11 years in Hell. Literally. He was a novelty because he was the first recorded living human sent to Hell. As such, he was a demonic plaything until he earned a name for himself in the arena. He is known as Sandman Slim, the monster that kills monsters. If you like Urban Fantasy, have a soft spot for the kind of attitude found in the Sons of Anarchy and want to read a great book that kicks off a fantastically enjoyable series of books, I can not recommend his book enough. I feel as though it is a bit better than the novels I mentioned to describe it because the main character is such a massive prick, with good reason, that you can’t help but like him and all the things he does. The fourth book in the series was just released. Don’t let this overwhelm you. They aren’t connected, and you don’t HAVE to read them all. Sure, you won’t be able to stay away after reading the first, but I am addicted. I was excited beyond measure to find out that the fourth book is the beginning of 3 more books. This is the first of a three book arc, supposedly. Check it out. It blew me away and I want MORE.
4. Acheron by Sherrilyn Kenyon. You want trashy romance? Look no further than the books this woman writes. Most of them are just the same story featuring the same characters in different situations. Every once in a while she changes the dynamic by switching the character’s sex around, but generally she follows the same story. This is how she can write 2-3 books every year. What’s that story? Brooding, betrayed and tough-as-nails super-powerful and sexy man opens up and learns to trust again with a woman he never expected to come into his life. She is usually the perfect match and they instantly fall in love and have to over-come a predictable shift halfway through the story. Acheron is no different….oh wait, it totally is. Coming in at around 1,000 pages, this book tells the story of the first Dark Hunter. He was born to the Atlantean’s Pantheon’s Queen and taken away and hidden in the mortal realm for the first 21 years of his 10,000 year-long life. While he is being raised as a human, his powers are locked and as a result, the worst shit, literally, happens to him. It is a heartbreaking story for the first 700 pages, but things get better when he gets his powers and discovers that he is the second most powerful God in his pantheon. Did I mention Greek Gods, as well as supernatural beings from almost every culture make an appearance in this world? It is differently worth the read. I finished in just over a day. It was hard to put down, even with the trashy romance stylings at times. You know how every artist has one album that they will be known for (if they’re lucky)? Well the same can be said for pretty much every writer that has been published. This is Kenyon’s example of that. Sure, she has about 50 novels under her belt that are a part of 4 or 5 different series, but this one is the best thing she has written. This is a stand-alone in a series, but she also has a few other gems from other series. As a matter of fact, her Chronicles of Nick and The League series are both enjoyable, but neither hold a candle to this one book. Her masterpiece.
5. The Vampire Lestat. I know what you’re thinking, “Really? These trashy romance novels that have ruined vampires?!” To which I say, you’re thinking of Twilight. These books did go over-the-top at times and built on the sensuality that Dracula introduced, but they also did something else. They provided a desire in most teenagers that read these books. This particular novel in the series introduces the origin of the main character, Lestat. If you’re only familiar with the terrible portrayal that Tom Cruise offered in the 1994 film, Interview with a Vampire, you’re doing yourself a disservice. Sure, these books are a series of romanticized semi-goth stories about lamenting characters. The best part? The Brat Prince himself, Lestat. There is one ridiculously appropriate line (exaggeration) in the film that Cruise constantly says “The choice I never had.” You’ll find out what he means. This is the strongest book in the series because it shows the transformation of a trapped, sad human into a whimsical, brat of a vampire. You should at least give it a shot. Anne Rice was always a bit crazy (she’s utterly insane now), and he writing/characters reflect that. I read this when I was 13 and I fell in love with it, and most of the series as a whole. Except for the ghost incest of Blackwood Farm. Yea.
Honorable Mentions? Crooked Little Vein by Warren Ellis and John Dies at the End by David Wong. One is a neo-noir tale set in a strange, gritty and often confusing word. The other?Well it is being made into a film because it is just THAT far out there. It is about a drug that allows you to see the things that go bump in the night. Think of Hunter S. Thompson’s version of The Adjustment Bureau mixed with a pinch of Doctor Who’s The Silence. They are both worth your time.
Sure, some of the books I have mentioned will be considered strange by some and might turn them off to the rest of the list, but trust me. I listed why I enjoy them. Hopefully you see a connection through all of them. Yes, there are plenty other books that I enjoy, the work of Peter Clines, Mira Grant, Clive Barker, and quite a few others. These are just the works that floored me at one point of another in my life. They are the literary works that helped shape me as a reader and showed me that every book I read can be an adventure. Not every main character is good, and that a good character is shaped by the same things as a human being. Tragedy, love, trust, and longing. Take a look at the books I have mentioned as well as the authors I name in passing. EVERY one of them is worth a read. Especially the obscure names.
Every author has to start somewhere and half the fun is clawing your way to the top of people’s minds. I tried not to make any author feel less important than any other. Why? Because they are all equals until you read their work and decide which you like more. I do highly recommend Peter Clines and Mira Grant. Both are doing great things with the undead. Especially if you like superheroes and conspiracy theories (respectively, of course) mixed with zombies. The “Ex” series is fantastic because it manages to blend zombie-survival-horror with an almost light-hearted superhero book. I can only describe it as a world that had the fledgling dream/reality of a budding super-powered community shattered and twisted by an undead apocalypse. Talk about a tough break. First the narrative comes to grips with the life-altering reality that they now have superpowers, and then they have that fantastical life that promised glory and adventure snatched away by the utter destruction of the civilized world they had JUST sworn to protect (or destroy).
In the case of the equally impressive Deadline series by Mira Grant, you have a world that is 25 years removed from a zombie uprising. The world is very different. Society never crumbled under the threat of the walking dead, they merely buckled down and did the best they could to stop the dead. Now you have a world that is essentially dotted with DMZs and life is lived with more caution and fear. People seclude themselves in their homes because of the constant threat of “amplification” from the outside world. The series centers around a team of bloggers (a legitimate form of news reporting thanks to the major role they played during the rising) as they uncover a massive conspiracy that threatens the only life they’ve ever known. Many stories tell of what happens during or just after a zombie outbreak, this one is set in a world that has picked up the pieces of an outbreak in the recent past. Things are as normal as they can be.
I almost forgot, if you’re interested in zombie books, you need to check out The Rising by Brian Keene. I read this book a few months after it was released and it deserves a spot alongside Clines and Grant. They are all the VERY few examples of truly great novels in a sea of terrible Zombie books. They are like the shining lighthouse beacons showing you that there is a safe way to navigate the thousands of clones out there. All three are a fresh take on what can be a VERY stale genre. With all the love out there for Kirkman (Yet no one reads Invincible and Astounding Wolf-Man was cancelled), people should be clambering for more quality zombie stories.
Everything I have mentioned is worth your time. If you won’t buy them, at least look for them in your library. I never understood why people don’t try every book/film/song they are told to check out. It is just a little bit of your time to validate the months/years someone else put into expressing themselves by creating art. Let these books knock you off of your feet by how insane/awe-inspiring/fantastical they are. Or, give them a shot and decide that they are all just too damn metal for you. Your choice, buttercup. Take a chance on them and then tell me in the comments how right I was and that you’ll never doubt Uncle Steve again.