Monday, February 08, 2016

Review: Fantasmagoria

Fantasmagoria by Rick Wayne


Full disclosure:  I know Rick Wayne.  I bought this book myself, so he's not paying me with a copy for a review.  In fact, I don't think he would expect me to have read this.  Surprise!

This book is exactly what it advertises itself to be -- mad pulp with end of the world monsters, alien invasions, murder, explosions, blood, dick jokes, naked women, robots, and even telling you all that doesn't really count as a spoiler.  It's a ride. You get on, buckle in, and hang on.

I had a good time.  I'll be honest, it wasn't a great time.  I don't know that I'll feel the urge to read it again.  I won't forget it, though.  It's a sticky story.

In part I didn't get highly attached because it's a broad story, not a deep one (although I would be willing to class-chat the meta levels if there is alcohol involved.  And chocolate.)  The characters appear and disappear without really making much of an impression.  The "hero" -- Jack "Blackjack" Fulcrum -- is indeed the hinge pin of the story,  That's about all.  Other characters appear, do some stuff, disappear, reappear, popping up like Whack-a-moles.  It's all good, but it doesn't really get me involved.  Gilbert, who could also be considered a kind of hero in the story, is the one who most engaged my sympathy because he did seem to be doing some level of growth.  Really, though, it wasn't important.  The characters are in the story to move things along so we can enjoy the weird settings, the strange conversations, the violence, and the monsters.

I want to emphasise that the lack of developing characters is in no way a negative.  This book is honest pulp.  It's good at being pulp, at being weird.  The settings are important.  The language the different characters use is important.  The events are important.  The characters exist to be the life force, the breath, the movement of the story.  This book is a machine.  All the parts have to work together.  I could practically hear the "clank-clank-clank" of the chain drive hauling the car up the hill for the first drop.

There's also a fine layer of philosophy just under the surface -- Rick thinks Big Thoughts -- but that's not what the story is about.  The story is about the monsters, the blood, the sex, the death.  Like I said, I could easily sit around a table at the local IHOP with pancakes and bacon with friends and pull the book apart for Deeper Meaning, speculating about where everyone came from and where they are going, why they did what they did and why they REALLY did what they did.  It would be a good time, but it wouldn't make one bit of difference to the story.  It's great geek fodder.  If someone made it into a movie, I'd watch.  I could imagine a video game -- or even better, a tabletop RPG -- based on it.

I say that throwing some money at it would be a good bet.

+Rick Wayne

Wednesday, February 03, 2016

Conundrums and Confusions

First  Puzzle.

I'm trying my best to listen to the latest Iron Druid book.  I loved the audio books for the first three in the series, read by Luke Daniels.  Then, around book 4 and definitely into book 5, the style of reading changed.  It became broader, the various character voices more extreme, the humor heavily underlined, and, honestly, downright annoying.  I haven't enjoyed the audio version of Shattered nearly as much.  Now, in Staked, it's gone to a new extreme and I'm actively wincing and shuddering.  It is, in short, ruining the book for me.  I'm going to go with the print version (of course I have the print version) so that the voicing won't prejudice my reading of the book.

Why has the reading style changed?  Is it the producer or director?  I know the books changed companies -- the first three were by Brilliance Audio and I love them.  Then Random House took over the books, and that's when the reading style began to (in my opinion, obviously) sink into this annoyingly broad, exaggerated, hammy style.  Why?  Kevin Hearne is a really good writer and it hurts to have the narrator fail the text.

Second Puzzle:

Why don't I see Elliott Jame's Pax Arcana series not more known?  Why don't I see more about them?  They are really excellent, fun, interesting books, with character development, a nice sexual tension working through the first three, and lots of potential for more entries into the series.  I'm just one voice in the wilderness here, but, hey, really, find these books and read them and tell others about them.  Or, get the excellent audio versions.  No mugging, no broad hints to be sure you "get" the joke.  The humor is sly, sarcastic, sharp, and delicious.  The world is a unique twist on familiar tropes and ideas, and it's well built.  Roger Wayne has replaced Luke Daniels as my favorite reader/narrator.

So, really, why do they seem to be lost in the mass of books?  I've just tuned up Charming yet again, and am listening to it to wash the taste of Staked out of my ears.  I'll just read it, thank you.

Third Puzzle:

Same thing goes for Daniel Jose Older's  books, although in their case, I recommend the audio versions over the print versions (which I will be obtaining because I might get an autograph one day!).  The author reads the books and I'm STILL amazed by his reading.  He makes no mistakes with his own words, and, really, the poetry and music of his reading might blind me to story flaws, but I really don't care.  A lot of very popular, well known music has lyrics that make no sense at all (In A Gadda da vida, anyone?)  Go find Half-Resurrection Blues or Midnight Taxi Tango.  Listen to them.  I command you.