Archive for » August, 2012 «

Wednesday, August 29th, 2012 | Author: Casey Criswell

As I’ve mentioned, I’ve often shied away from reading book series consecutively. I tend to get burnt out a bit if I push on too soon. I read the first book in Kadrey’s series “Sandman Slim” in the middle of last year and I loved it; I was worried about getting too much James Stark at once though. Finally, I felt I had put enough distance between myself & Mr. Stark since the last time and picked up “Kill the Dead”.

James Stark, the “Sandman Slim” of the series title is a badass bundle of hoodoo and raw muscle. He has quite a bit of attitude and self deprecating humor as well as a tendency to feel sorry for himself. Considering he spent the past eleven years in hell though, it’s okay. In Book 1 of the series, we watched as Stark clawed his way out of hell and went in search of revenge on the person that sent him ‘downtown’ in the first place. With those adventures behind him, we join Stark as he hunts down a rogue vampire, on a mission from Gold Vigil also known as ‘Heaven’s Special Task Force’. At first glance, you look at the title “Kill The Dead” and this first scene with a vampire and you figure you know where this story is going to go. Author Richard Kadrey is a cagey bugger though and it certainly doesn’t pan out as one would predict which is what makes this a lot of fun.

“Kill the Dead” treads a lot of familiar genre ground. There are vampires and zombies, but they’re different; especially on the zombie front. I was worried when they first showed up as zombie novels don’t do a whole lot for me these days. Kadrey mixes it up though. He gives us zombies that are a bit harder to kill, varying strengths and powers and a whole lot more drive behind them. It’s a nice change up. They’re also not the driving force of the book either. While they are a big part, there are a whole lot of other things going on at the same time in this version of LA. Stark has to work with a lot of different people and chase down a few sub plots, so it’s not all, “watch the survivors fight to the rebuilding of America”. In, this isn’t even a ‘zombie apocalypse’ situation. There’s just a zombie problem that needs cleared up!

The highlight of the “Sandman Slim” novels is the characters. Some are one dimensional, but they’re written well so that one dimension is pretty fun. Start is full of wise cracks and his side kick, that of a schlub of a man’s severed head…., are pretty entertaining. Mix in Stark’s dealings with various angels, covert organizations from Heaven, even Lucifer himself and you see a complete and well thought out world laid out in efficient manner. Topping it off, Kadrey’s writing style flows well and seldom feels like it is bogged down. It’s full of snark and one liners, with a purpose mind you, and makes for fun engaging reading.

The beauty is, fun and engaging is all I really ask for when reading genre fiction, so “Kill the Dead” hits the spot quite nicely!

I gave “Kill the Dead” 4 stars out of 5 over on Goodreads!


Looking for a book podcast? Be sure to check out my genre fiction cast, The Dad and his Weird Friends Book Club over at Bloody Good Horror! What to compare books with me? Come add me on Goodreads! Want to discuss books? Come join us in the Dad and his Weird Friends Book Club on Facebook!

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Thursday, August 23rd, 2012 | Author: Casey Criswell

To be clear, I am not a photographer and have no desire to be one! I’m enjoying the heck out of snapping pics of sunrises and ‘outside’ while out running however. I honestly find something new to marvel at every time I go out. It’s a big part of why I’m pretty sure running on a treadmill will never work out well for me.

The running is going great here in Cinema Fromage land and I absolutely love it, currently piling up around 16 miles per week. So glad to have finally made myself take that first step! My first 5k happens on September 3rd and I can’t wait. I’m sure there will be some pictures of that.

Total Mileage:
Running Year to Date: 90.13 mi
August to Date: 47.1 mi

As you can see, the bug start to sink in at the beginning of this month!

I’m still walking too, I’m up to 237.22 miles for the year!

Until next time…

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Friday, August 17th, 2012 | Author: Casey Criswell

I love hard science fiction when i can vaguely understand it. I am nowhere near smart enough to understand astrophysics and the like, but I’m smart enough to keep and intuit some ideas. The idea of the cosmos fascinates me as well. Not knowing what is out there, (come on there has to be SOMETHING!) the limits of our technology throwing us further and further into the depths…good far out there hard science fiction is truly amongst my favorite genres to read. Especially when they connect it to our own human timeline, regardless of how far-future and tenuous that line happens to be! With that in mind, the first book Stephen Baxter’s “Xeelee” saga was pretty damn fascinating.

The idea of alien life always entertaining me, especially when that life is REALLY alien. For example, “Blindsight” by Peter Watts plays with the idea that alien life forms may take aspects that are completely new to us. The spectrum of light that the creatures see, their physical make up, the way they think; something completely off the beaten path from any theory that our own alien biologists could ever conceive. I’ve always been a firm believe that any alien life form we do encounter; it’s not going to be anything like life as we know it. So seeing some crazy ideas come to life in a novel is good fun for me. Baxter plays with these concepts quite well in “Raft”, though his creatures are still tangentially related to our earth bound life forms. He has flying trees! Yes, it’s spectacular that they fly! They’re still wood though. He has crazy space whales! They’re still pretty much like our whales when you get down to the nitty-gritty of the creatures makeup. They’re out there enough that they fit well into my ideas of fascinating life forms.

To branch off from that train of thought, one of my reading quirks is that seldom ever read a series of books in succession. Sure, I love the stories but if I read all the books in a series back to back, I start to feel bogged down and become a bit bored. It’s something I’ve always done and sometimes it might be a full year before I circle back to the second book. To wrap this back to the above alien life thought, Baxter stays in fairly familiar territory as far as life forms go throughout “Raft”. At the very end however, he changes things up a great way! It’s great enough that it leaves me thing, “I may have to go ahead and read book 2 just to see what this is all about!” For me, that’s a pretty strong sign. The best part is, the alien stuff? It’s not even the biggest concepts at play in “Raft”. Baxter has created a universe so far flung from our own that at times it’s hard to wrap your head around. The forces of gravity at play are magnitudes stronger than our own. Couple this with the fact that our characters live in a nebula and things get even weirder! His concepts seem fairly smart as well, to one such as myself that is again…not any kind of physicist.

While I enjoyed the hell out of “Raft”, I ultimately gave this one a 4 out of 5, and the reasons lie mostly in the characters and the small political sub-plot that runs the length of the book. While the characters are not bad by any means, most of our side characters outside of Rees are fairly one dimensional. We do get to connect to Rees and root for him throughout, the majority of the other characters feel like set pieces. While that does sound a bit harsh, I just didn’t connect to them much. The political sub-plot felt a bit forced as well, with three locations and three factions all spatting with each other. While I realize the need for this particular thread, it just didn’t come across to well for me. In the width of this fantastic book, it was these political moments that felt sluggish and the only moments that made me wish they’d hurry up and get it over with.

So in the end? I still REALLY LOVE SCIENCE FICTION! I’m also REALLY GLAD I READ THIS BOOK! I am really stoked to move on read more of Baxter’s “Xeelee” sequence and I have quite a bit of hope for the rest of the series. Taking a peak at the other books, things sound pretty sweet indeed.

EDIT: Aww, damn! Further research shows that “Raft” is a stand alone novel! Boo!

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Tuesday, August 14th, 2012 | Author: Casey Criswell

This week, I’m sitting in on the Damaged Viewing Podcast with Louis Fowler!

This time around, Louis and I dove into a bit of early 90′s nostalgia with “Pet Sematary Two”, and it was fun. Sleepy fun, as Louis states, but fun all the same!

“It’s been what? Twenty-five or thirty episodes since we’ve had our good friend Casey Criswell on? Well, to quote a very popular commercial for Picante sause, that’s too long. So, for this episode of DAMAGED Viewing, Louis weclomes back the host of the Dad and his Weird Friends Podcast for a sleepy discussion of the oft-forgotten, mostly-ignored Stephen King sequel PET SEMATARY TWO, starring Edward Furlong, a zombie dog and the requisite chubby kid. And you can’t forget Clancy Brown, having more fun that anyone else. ”

Hop on over to Podomatic and give it a listen!

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Tuesday, August 14th, 2012 | Author: Casey Criswell

One of my favorite past times…well, beyond reading…is to make lists. I love making lists! This little hobby works well with my reading as it allows me to have my little ‘trophy’ after completing a book. Sure, I don’t *need* a trophy for completing a book, but in the days of my paperback addiction, this trophy was a new title added to the book shelf. Since I’ve put those ways behind me and sold my soul to the Kindle gods, I don’t have that little mental satisfaction. Until I stated keeping track of how many books I read in a year is. Now, I see the number go up and I get a brief sensation of smug satisfaction…then it’s on to the next book.

Less dusting, less clutter, more books. I think it’s a win-win over all.

I’ve been trucking along fairly slowly for 2012; I set a goal of knocking out 50 books this year, but I’m a bit behind schedule. It’s okay though. It’s not a contest and there’s no real prize and I still get to read a crap load of good books. Still; behind where I thought I’d be. Winter is coming though, as that Martin guy says, so I know the reading will increase greatly when I’m inside more often. Normally, I keep track of my books read on Goodreads profile, but I figured since I opened this here blog up, I’ll start here as well. (Note: Feel free to add me on Goodreads if you haven’t!)

So, here we are at book #22 for 2012; Laird Barron’s “The Croning”! I stumbled across Barron on one of my forums reading up about the ‘cosmic horror’ genre. You see, I’m woefully under read on the Lovecraft mythos. I’ve read quite a bit and enjoyed it; I’ve not ventured out into the worlds of other authors that dip their toes into Lovecraft’s world however. Barron came highly recommended in the world of cosmic horror but until recently, he was mostly a short story writer. I started off my introduction to Barron’s world with “Occultation and other Stories” and I was hooked pretty quickly. Seeing as “The Croning” was Barron’s first full length novel and receiving quite a bit of praise from other fans of his short stories, I was pretty eager to get to this one. By the end, I was quite happy that I skipped it to the top of the to-read pile!

As with many cosmic horror stories, “The Croning” is a slow burn. It’s not horror that is going to jump out and slap you in the face with your own severed arm; it’s horror that’s going to seep into your joins and give you chills, make you run from the dark living room when you turn off the lights for the night. The novel is not fast paced by any means and you will be hit with a deluge of detail from the get go. Barron spends quite a bit of time setting up atmosphere and character development throughout much of the book. We get to know Don Miller in exquisite detail by the end of this novel, but it all pays off eventually. While this makes for a fantastic story in the end, it can definitely be a bit of a hurdle to get started. You trudge along wondering where the weird stuff comes in and you start to wonder if you’ve made a mistake. Luckily Barron sprinkles in minor touches throughout that make you sit back and wonder, “What the hell?” and then forces you to keep reading to see if he’s going to reveal the impetus behind that moment.

Adding to some of this confusion is the fact that our main narrative jumps around quite a bit in the time stream. We go from the 1980′s to current time, back to the mid-50′s and them sometimes back to the 80′s again. Like I said; in hindsight you see why this was done and it makes perfect sense. While reading the first time, it can be a bit confusing. If I had one complaint for “The Croning”, I would say that at times Barron makes the Don Miller of different eras quite similar to each other. This makes the jump in time a bit confusing. Sure, he labels the beginning of each chapter with what time period we’re diving into, but when you’re caught up in the story and blazing through pages at a pretty good clip, this can often get overlooked. Again, this was always solved with back tracking a couple pages so when I say ‘complaint’, what I really mean is ‘minor annoyance’!

The ending of “The Croning” is where our grand payoff is and the payoff is quite splendid. If you have spent the first 2/3′s of the book wondering, “When is this going to get weird?” It definitely gets weird. It gets weird in a really good way as well. Of course, I’m not going to bother to give you any details because that would take the fun out of it. You can trust me though and consider this one definitely worth your time.

If you’d like to learn more about Laird Barron, you can find him over on Livejournal and you can find a list of his books over at Goodreads as well. He doesn’t appear to have an ‘official’ website outside of Livejournal however.

Coming up soon, Carly will be joining me on the Dad and his Weird Friends Book Club to discuss The Croning and from what I’ve seen on Twitter, she’s getting into it as well. Should be a great show! We’ll definitely go much more in depth than I have here, so be sure to watch for that!

Friday, August 10th, 2012 | Author: Casey Criswell

We’re back once again over here at the Weird Friends podcast with a whole new episode! This time around, we go with some fairly light horror fare with Chuck Wendig’s “Double Dead”!

This book was a pleasant surprise for myself. I have a good friend that I’ve traded books back and forth with for years. Said friend, Ak, hit me up awhile back with an article on Chuck Wending stating that he had been hearing quite a bit of buzz on him and the plots of his existing books grabbed me fairly quick! I’ve read a lot of zombie novels here as of late and while I do enjoy them, they tend to get a bit too heavy and in some cases, a bit too repetitive. Wendig’s version of the undead apocalypse was a nice change of pace that moved quick and wasn’t too heavy with ennui, melancholy, and stoic rambling.

Wending has some other books that look really good too, Blackbirds and Mockingbird. Both of these have catapulted up to the top of my to-read pile after reading “Double Dead”, so should be cool!

As always, the Dad and his Weird Friends show can be found on Bloody Good Horror Feed and iTunes! Give us a listen, let us know what you think! Feedback is welcome and encouraged, send your missives to casey@bloodygoodhorror.com!

Finally, come join us in the Dad and his Weird Friends Book Club on Facebook! We like to talk about books and if that’s your thing, we’d love to have you with us. It’s been a bit slow here lately, but that’s because we don’t have you there to help spice things up!

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