September 23, 2015

Even Lesser Slayer is Still "Slayer!": Spinning "Repentless"

Let’s just say you listened to this album blind.

You were a fan of metal and thrash or other loud aggressive music.

What would you say about it?  

Maybe that it was a bit derivative, with a couple of good songs.

It’s hard to say, with the name on the cover. I saw them this summer for the Mayhem Fest, and loved the whole experience as they went over their career hilights that the crowd wanthed to hear. They mixed in the lead single here, “Repentless”. It might be the best song on the disc.

But there’s nothing that stands out as comparable to what they were thirty years ago. It’s not horrible. Most of us aren’t who or what we were 30 years ago. We all grow an evolve. There’s just a mythology behind Slayer that means that they have to consistently live up to Reign in Blood or Seasons in the Abyss (fill in your favorite here). The band is different, and they still rock.

I called listening to this blind as derivative, but is derivative of Slayer. The history cannot be denied, in spite of the line-up troubles, and they still rock live. This disc just didn’t find a permanent place in my car’s player, and that disappoints me with how much anticipation I had for the album, Maybe my expectations were too high. Or maybe “Cast the First Stone” sounds too much like “Head Like a Hole”.

The Good, The Bad, and the Smug by Tom Holt

Are you trying to fill the hole that Terry Pratchett left in this universe?

Maybe you were more into Doug Adams. Guess what? He’s gone too.

Vonnegut? Long passed. My tears for him are dry.

You know who we do have? Tom Holt!

He likes to mix a fantasy and science fiction universe with jokes and magical doughnuts.

His books feel familiar in your mouth, light and fluffy with a bit of meat thrown in there - cut my own throat!.

What happens in this one? Well, an extended joke about Rumpelstiltskin and hard money monetary policy for one. Some other stuff too. Read it!

The Fire This Time: Coates's "Between the World and Me"

Reading this was like reading
the Fire Next Time.
It’s the world I live in.
But so unfamiliar.

Wanting to say eloquent,
knowing it is back
handed. Expecting nothing
less from the Author,
needing him so much
to keep writing.

And in a generation,
There won’t be the need
for books
That remind that reader
of Between The World

And Me

Uneven but Entertaining: Scott Meyer's "Off to Be the Wizard"

I’m not a big fan of exposition.

So at first I was super pleased that this book seemed to really just roll through the introductory stuff.

We learn that the world is a computer program, and it can be manipulated. We also learn that the main character can get himself in trouble very easily. So he then has to make a quick choice to escape to medieval england.

His plan is to be a wizard. He goes and fnds that there are other people who have made the discovery. And then the bulk of the book is the main character going through the learning process. It turns out that the exposition is the thing. There’s some plot, a bit of conflict, but it seems grafted on. I wrote myself a note at page 270 (of 373) that there was only a hint at the conflict that might be going on. Maybe I missed some sign-posts, but this is much more character driven than the cover would suggest.

But the thing is that it is still pretty good. Maybe Meyer isn’t one for a lot of plot, it is more like one of those movies put together by the SNL alums in the 90s where the plot is secondary and it’s mostly just stitched-together sketches. I wasn’t expecting that, so I was a little let down. I’ll probably seek out the rest of the series in the future. At least now I know what to expect.

September 12, 2015

Show, Memory: The Fold by Peter Clines

The basic premise is that the main character is one of the smartest guys ever, and he has a photographic memory that he can easily access.

The main guy has a friend who works for DARPA, and the friend has been trying for years to get the main guy to help him on some projects. The main guy says no because because he’s happy being a single high school history in the northeast. Clines tries to explain this in that the main guy is like Sherlock Holmes’s less ambitious brother, Mycroft. It feels like a hand-wave, but the framing device is used through the book, it is in fact why the main guy is called “Mike” in the book.

So though he keeps saying “No,” in the book the friend has a project so cool that it cannot be refused. The project is that one of the world’s most famous scientist is working on a teleportation project. Actually the thought is that they are folding reality so that different parts of space time are close and allows someone just to walk through these gates. MIke is signed up to observe and see if these people should continue receiving funds from DARPA.

Cool premise, and needless to say, there are complications. It becomes a well-told, nicely paced thriller thing after 150 pages of exposition. Then it wraps up.

Then there’s one more section that takes what had previously happened and sets it up for a sequel, and it is really annoying because the add-on at the end cheapens everything that came before it. It looked like the book would be a self-contained arc, then these new mysterious characters are introduced and Mike has to make a choice (along with his unrealistically portrayed lover interest - why is that necessary?) to join this mysterious group and you know that there’s going to be more to this story. Why can’t authors keep a world in one book?

Couple of things. This is the first book of Clines I have read, and it is well done enough I will seek out others. I stayed up too late reading it more than once, so he can tell a story. But he does lean on some devices and descriptors too much. The main guy gets hurt at the end of the book, and his pain is described as “hooks” in his body an infinity too many times. There’s also how he describes his main character’s photographic or “eidetic” memory. He uses the imagery of ants carrying photos for him to review. It gets to be too much and  a distraction from the story itself. The device of the photographic memory is well done for the most part. Though I’m skeptical of the actual existence of memory working as Clines described it, it does not make the character too robotic. There are also places where it is used to humanize the character, so it works. It was basically background like if someone was in a book that has a mech suit with cameras and a powerful computer. Same thing basically. I wish I had marked the page, but I like that they lampshaded the whole thing in a conversation. Mike is explaining his mind, and another character says something to the effect of “I thought that was only in science fiction stories”.

September 8, 2015

The Shepherd’s Crown: Saying Goodbye With Terry Pratchett's Last Discworld Novel

This was a very hard book to read.

Not that it was bad, mind you. It may have been a bit incomplete. It did feel short - not even 300 pages. If you’re reading this, you might know. The author died.

He died, and the day I heard, I sat at my desk and cried. I’m a grown man, right? So I closed the door and made a coworker who looked in on me feel bad, If you’re like me, you’ve spent hours and hours with Terry. He’s a friend you lost, and this is the last letter he wrote before you lost him.

It is hard because in the beginning of the book, a beloved character dies too. It was impossible for me to read it without thinking that Terry was a stand-in for the character. There’s a conflation that I cannot escape. The character who passed was a witch, and a special thing about the witches is that they know when they will die, so their rendezvous with Death can be orderly and planned, unlike most of us. Terry knew too. He’d been facing the reality of his impending mortality since 2007. I guess that gives you more focus, and more urgency.

In here, Terry writes: “No long faces, [...] please. She’s had a good death at home, just as anyone might wish for. Witches know that people die: and if they manages to die after a long time leavin’ the world better than they went an’ found it, well then that’s surely a reason to be happy” (61). The world is a better place that Terry was in it.  
As for the book, it is all you could want for a final coda from a friend. We learn more about the Chalk, and we see Tiffany come into her own. What more could you ask?

Remembering Everything: The New book by Derek Zanetti

I don’t know if Zanetti (better known, perhaps, as the one-man-band “The Homeless Gospel Choir”) considers himself a poet.

I think that he calls the things he writes his “stories”. And that’s fine. But what he turns out in both this and his previous work are exquisite little poems on that ring on the same note that Burroughs did for his little routines in “Queer,” or “Junky.” He is a poignant observer of the slice of life, and he lives it out on the page and on the stage.

There are a number of stand out works here, but my favorite was “Some People”, in which Zanetti uses repetition and the meter to drive the point home in the closing line that is like a punch in the gut.

I have to give one caveat. I don’t know the man, but I shook his hand. I told him “Thank you for the art” and I have been a fan since. He has a good bit of my money for merch and art. He should get a bit of yours too.