Cannonball Read IV

A bunch of Pajibans reading and reviewing and honoring AlabamaPink.

Archive for the tag “TylerDFC”

TylerDFC #CBR4 Review 15 Red: My Uncensored Life in Rock by Sammy Hagar with Joel Selvin

Your favorite band sucks. But that’s ok, mine does, too. No other type of entertainment in the world is more divisive than music. And everyone thinks they are right. Which really means that no one is. Music, by and large, is an entertainment whose entire purpose is to elicit an emotional response. There is rarely a story, rarely a lesson. Music is what it is and doesn’t usually require a great deal of introspection. You either like a song or you don’t and that opinion comes from a combination of personal factors more vast than you can quantify. Music is gut reaction entertainment.

My taste in music is, I think, pretty damn eclectic. I tend to lean more on the hard rock/rock side of things but I also like rap, dance, college rock (whatever that is anymore) even show tunes. The difference with me is I tend to like good music, regardless of the genre. I’m drawn to quality music and I respect musicians that get out there and do their thing night after night and album after album. I have to have a good melody, and I’ve always been a guy that can give a song a pass if the lyrics are bringing something interesting to an otherwise mundane song. There are bands I like that my friends write off as generic. Why do I like them? Hard to say, I have different reasons for each instance. Something in the sound or the lyrics speak to me. One particular moment stands out. A guitar riff moves me. Sometimes that is all it takes.

I’m a Sammy Hagar fan, but not necessarily because he’s a musician. I do think he was the best front man for Van Halen but his solo music always struck me as good, not great. I love his voice, always have. Just sometimes the music left me a bit cold. It comes down to this, I think he’s a cool cat that looks like he’s having a blast with life, has a good attitude, and seems like an all around great guy.

Red is Sammy’s autobiography, co-written with Joel Selvin. In the book, Sammy takes us through his hard-luck childhood in Los Angeles all the way through the various on-again off-again Van Halen tours and ending with the formation of Chickenfoot. Like I said, I liked Sammy but didn’t love all his stuff. The book opened my eyes to just how prolific this guy is. Not only is he a tireless musician and touring artist, he’s a damn good businessman and the book goes in to his various business ventures including the Cabo Wabo cantina, his tequila, and others such as a mountain bike company and even an overhead  fire sprinkler business. He demonstrates over and over again the old adage “Money makes money.”, which ends up being both inspiring and disheartening. Ultimately the book is inspiring, and he ends it with a beautiful “I did it, you can do it, I’m no more special than you are.” that is really the perfect way to close.

The “Uncensored” in the title is dead on, too. Sammy tells the story like it happened, and doesn’t mind that there are times he doesn’t come off the best. He details sexual escapades, casual drug use, the breakdown of his first marriage, and his love/hate experiences with Van Halen. His honesty is unflinching, and it makes for interesting reading.

The tone all the way through matches Sammy’s personality; matter of fact, upbeat, and always looking forward. It is an enjoyable read whether you are an acolyte of Hagar or not. I’m writing this while listening to Sammy’s solo work on Spotify and I can see I may be picking up some of his albums shortly. It’s good, well made rock & roll that’s fun to listen to.

Sometimes that’s all I want from my music.

TylerDFC #CBR4 Review 14 Drive by James Sallis

This book is very short so this review will be, too.

I will start with what I’m sure anyone reading this is wondering. Is the movie better?  Yes. Like Jaws, The Silence of the Lambs, and Fight Club the movie is better than the book. First off, Drive is more of a novella than a book. It is written in very short chapters, the characterization and dialogue is spare, and the entire story is very light.

We meet Driver on the floor of a motel bathroom surrounded by dead bodies and trying to motivate to get the hell out despite losing a massive amount of blood after being shot in the arm. The story then flashes back to how he got in this predicament and keeps bouncing all over the place throughout. James Sallis gives the book a noir feeling and the narration is very hard boiled, almost to the point of parody. Driver works as a stunt driver, but after his friend is killed in a botched job he becomes obsessed with tracking down those responsible and murdering everyone in his path.

That was the sorta gist of the movie, but here it is actually just a sub plot. We learn about Driver’s childhood, his teen years, and how he became the way he is. For those that have seen the movie, the revenge/pay back aspects go down differently. Also, there is no romantic angle in the book like in the movie. There is some great dialogue and it is blackly comic at times, but the story has been told a thousand times and there is nothing new here. It’s a fun crime thriller, but don’t expect it to stick with you. I read it a week ago and can’t remember the names of any characters other than Driver.

For fans of the movie it’s worth reading just to get some back story on Driver and the other characters. For everyone else, just watch the brilliant movie. It tells a better story with more style.

TylerDFC #CBR4 Review 13 Leviathan Wakes by James S.A. Corey

Wow. That’s about the best word I can come up with to describe my reaction to this book. As I stated way back here in this review, Consider Phlebas, I didn’t used to be a big reader of science fiction. Along with Consider Phlebas, Leviathan Wakes is making me rethink that choice.

Set a few hundred years in the future, mankind has spread out from Earth into the far reaches of the solar system. Earth is still the cradle of humanity, but Mars has been entirely terraformed and populated, as have outer colonies been set up in the Asteroid Belt, known simply as The Belt. There is growing tension between the inner planets and The Belt due to heavy taxation of the colonies by Earth, and Mars and Earth are uneasy neighbors at best.

I’ve been sitting here for an hour trying to figure out how to describe this book without giving key plot points away. It is a hell of a great sci-fi adventure novel with equal parts action, horror, mystery, and some genuinely funny moments that combine to make a great ride.

There are 2 main characters; James Holden, XO of the doomed ice hauler Canterbury, and Detective Joe Miller, a burned out cop on the Belt station Ceres tasked with finding a missing person. The novel alternates chapters between these two men and the other characters that surround them. Soon enough Holden and Miller are forced together to unravel a mystery that threatens all of humanity from Earth to the Belt.

What sets this story apart from similar space operas is that the action is kept in the solar system. The space ships in the book are capable of no more than .3 the speed of light, and the physical impact on the humans of these excessive speeds is a focal point of the book. I have no idea if the science is right, but it certainly feels right. While making combat maneuvers in space the occupants are forced to lay in gel filled capsules, pumped full of drugs to keep them conscious and alert but able to withstand the sustained g forces. It is one thing to read about a ship wildly dodging incoming fire. It’s quite another to know that with each twist and turn the agony on the occupants increases.

Rather than spend time with techno babble Leviathan Wakes sets up a universe very much like that in Alien. The technology is more advanced than ours, and mankind has explored to the far reaches of the solar system, but greed and power are still the dominant force in the universe. Holden’s never-say-die idealism and Miller’s gruff cynicism play against each other well through the course of the book. At 600+ pages this book very much is the definition of “epic” but by the time it is done you will just want more. I loved it and am planning to pick up the sequel, Caliban’s War, when it releases next month.

Leviathan Wakes was nominated for both a Hugo and Locus Award for best science fiction novel of the year. This is an honor very well deserved.

NOTE: James S.A. Corey is the pen name for 2 authors, Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck. Ty is the assistant to George R. R. Martin. After reading Leviathan Wakes I am no longer worried about Martin finishing the Song of Ice and Fire because Franck and Abrahams seem to be more than capable of continuing it if circumstances were to come to that.  

Leviathan Wakes is book one in what is being called The Expanse series. You can find more information at The Expanse.

TylerDFC #CBR4 Review 12 The Lost City of Z by David Grann

In 1925, famed explorer Percy Fawcett, his son Jack, and Jack’s friend Raleigh Rimell disappeared in the Amazon jungle while searching for the lost city of Z, also known as El Dorado. The disappearance triggered a world wide fascination that costs the lives of at least 100 people that were determined to find the lost explorer and the fabled city of Z. David Grann’s book tells the story of Fawcett from his early days in the military all the way to his last fateful expedition and attempts to retrace the explorer’s steps all the way to Z.

In order for a non-fiction book to be successful it must entertain the reader while educating. The Lost City of Z is an enthralling book that successfully does just that. Grann does an excellent job of bringing to life the Victorian era that bred such famed explorers as Fawcett, Livingstone, Shackleton, and others and invokes a time long past when large patches of the world were still unexplored. Working for the Royal Geographical Society, Fawcett became obsessed with mapping out the vast South American rain forest around. These expeditions are brought to vivid life in the book, detailing exactly the kind of hell these men put themselves through for a better understanding of the unknown world. These early expeditions were besieged by insects, disease, heat, hostile natives, and were constantly on the verge of starvation and dehydration. Yet time after time these men, after narrowly escaping the jungle, end up right back there 6 months later rested and ready to attack that “green hell” again.

As he penetrated deeper in to the jungle Fawcett becomes convinced, and then obsessed, with the notion of a massive lost city. Spurred on by unverified accounts of a vast golden city, he puts all of his money into ill fated expeditions to find the mythical city of Z. It is Z that is the ultimate destination of the book’s author as well. He begins by investigating Fawcett’s journals, private letters and maps, and interviewing Fawcett’s living relatives. It is a detective story as well as a history lesson. Once Grann begins his own Amazon trek it brings home just how shattered the rain forest is now. What took Fawcett and the turn of the century explorers an arduous month to traverse takes Grann and his guide a day via truck. At times the landscape is more like a desert than jungle thanks to the massive deforestation taking place.

Does Grann find Z? Does he learn what happened to Fawcett? I’ll leave that to you to find out for yourself. The final revelation made me want to find more books on the subject and like any good documentary or non fiction, that is a pretty good indicator of a job well done.

 

TylerDFC #CBR4 Review#11 The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness (Chaos Walking: Book 1)

Todd Hewett is about to become a man on a planet where other men can hear what you are thinking. It is called Noise, and is a side effect of a war with the original inhabitants of New World, called the Spackle. In the last days of the war the Spackle released a virus that killed all the women, gave all the animals the ability to speak, and unleashed Noise on the men. Todd lives in the only town left on New World, called Prentisstown, and he is the last of the town to turn 13 and – as is the custom of the town – become a man. While out in the swamp that surrounds the town, Todd and his dog, Manchee, comes across a strange pocket of silence. He runs home to tell his guardians, Ben and Cillian, what he found but the discovery slips out of his Noise while passing through the town to his farm. In order to protect him from the secret of the town, Ben and Cillian send Todd and Manchee away with a map and his mother’s journal to a town beyond the swamp that Todd never knew existed. What becomes quickly apparent is that just about everything Todd has ever been told is a lie. The first major revelation is when he comes across the source of the silence in the swamp, a young girl named Viola.

The Knife of Never Letting Go is the first book in the trilogy series Chaos Walking. It is a JA book, but continuing in the footsteps of the JA series The Hunger Games, it is an incredibly bleak and harsh book. Todd makes for a difficult protagonist to like. Because he is nearly 13 he can be incredibly stubborn and strong willed when he really should just think things through. Over and over again he finds out he is wrong about something yet at the next opportunity he reacts without thinking.

Todd narrates the story in his own voice, so occasionally there are passages meant to show what it is like to live with Noise. These pages are just filled with words all jumbled together. Some descriptive, some half formed thoughts, but all disorienting and difficult to parse meaning from. The book is essentially one long chase. Todd, Manchee, and Viola race across the land trying to reach the city of Haven while the Mayor of Prentisstown chases them with an ever growing army.

At times this book reminded me of the tv show LOST. There are multiple times where someone is about to reveal a piece of the mystery to Todd, only to be interrupted by an outside event which forces more running. Todd travels with his mother’s diary that she kept when Todd was born, but Todd is ashamed he can’t read it. Even though he knows Viola can read he doesn’t give it to her to read it to him until the book is almost over. If you are looking for answers you won’t find many, and the ones you do get don’t come until the book reaches its finale. There are times where the events unfold much like a video game, with brief lulls in the action for exposition until Todd and Viola are off and running again only to stop a few pages letter for another set piece scene.

I knew this was a trilogy going in to it, but the abrupt ending was unexpected. Also it is an incredibly mean book. For a JA, the only thing saving it from being classified as an adult book is that Todd likes to say the word “effing” rather than “fucking”. Although Viola does say “fucking” at one point which I think was just missed in the edit to tell the truth. The book is loaded with mature situations, including implied rape, stabbings, shootings, and terror. It is not a happy book by any stretch of the imagination so if you are interested because of the JA label, be advised this is much more along the lines of The Hunger Games series or The Book Thief, than Harry Potter.

As frustrating as the book can be at times, Ness is a compelling writer and puts you in to Todd’s head well. He can be frustrating, but by the end of it (as happens in most coming of age series) you understand his actions and can grant him some respect. Just don’t expect all the answers. To be honest, I don’t even know if they are from Earth, on a future/past Earth, or what. I’m just guessing based on the context, but at no point does the word “Earth” come in to play. There is much of the story left to infer on your own. With the cliffhanger ending I’m hoping the second book starts to fill in the blanks because I have a few hundred questions and unlike Todd I don’t mind asking them.

The Chaos Walking trilogy:

1) The Knife of Never Letting Go
2) The Ask and the Answer
3) Monsters of Men

TylerDFC #CBR4 Review#10 Bossypants by Tina Fey

Not that I liked him all that much to begin with, but Jerry Lewis’ famous comment (paraphrased), “Women aren’t funny.”, has forever linked him in my mind with the word, “fuckwit”.  Not only CAN women be funny, in my mind they are usually funnier than men. I can name a dozen hilarious women off the top of my head, I’m having a hard time getting above 6 right now of funny men and all of those men are on NBC sitcoms. My number one criteria for dating has always been personality and with personality I mean sense of humor. This is a round about way of saying that I found Tina Fey’s Bossypants to be very, very funny and well worth taking the 3 hours it requires to read it.

Starting with her childhood and moving all the way up to 30 Rock, Fey writes about her life to this point by focusing on the high points and formative events. Her days spent in a summer theater group, her tenure at Second City and, of course, her experiences writing for Saturday Night Live and creating 30 Rock. Interspersed throughout the book are managerial lessons she has learned that are pretty good. I was surprised, not that she had advice, but that at times the book was more than funny and actually not a bad “how to succeed in business” book.

Saturday Night Live is one of my obsessions. I have read numerous books on the subject, including the amazing Live from New York by Tom Shales and Andrew Miller (seriously, it is fantastic) so it should be no surprise that the section Fey devotes to SNL, and especially the insanity of the Palin days, was my favorite. Many people in my family are Republican and I have had more than one occasion where I brought up 30 Rock only to be told “We don’t watch Tina Fey.” This anti-Fey attitude is solely because of her impression of Sarah Palin on numerous SNL skits. Then my family members would talk about how much their love Two and A Half Men (no joke) which filled me with GLEE (not the show) when Sheen had his drug fueled melt down. Where’s your wholesome Republican entertainer now, huh?! But I digress.

I bring that up because as Fey goes in to detail of the Palin hysteria and the fever pitch it reached culminating in an appearance of Palin on SNL. How that appearance came about, and the consternation that Fey and SNL producer Lorne Michaels felt trying to figure out how to make it work, is a great bit of “inside baseball” that really shines a light on that watershed moment in pop culture.

Many people have reviewed this book so I’m going to keep this short. I read the book because I like Fey anyway. The book is very funny, and the writing sounds exactly like Liz Lemon is telling the story. In essence, it is exactly what you think a funny memoir by Tina Fey would read like. Funny, self deprecating, honest, and open.

Take that, Jerry.

TylerDFC #CBR4 Review#9 The Night Eternal by Guillermo Del Toro & Chuck Hogan

NOTE: The Night Eternal is the 3rd and final book in The Strain horror trilogy. There is no way to review The Night Eternal without revealing the events in the first two books. Be warned this review will contain spoilers for all 3 books in order to properly analyze what I liked, and didn’t like, about this volume. If you have read The Strain and The Fall, The Night Eternal is good enough to be worth reading the series to conclusion. You may have the same problems with it that I had however in the end I thought the ending was satisfying. I had some issues with the road to the finale; you may too.

Beginning two years after The Fall’s unleashing of worldwide nuclear winter, The Night Eternal is the vampire plan brought to total fruition. Mankind has been turned and subjugated by the vampiric horde, and all is ruled by The Master, the ancient vampire that telepathically rules the vampire legion. Humans are either destroyed, being farmed for blood, willing accomplices in the new world order, or fighting as a resistance force against overwhelming odds.  CDC virologist Dr. Ephraim Goodweather, fellow CDC virologist Dr. Nora Martinez, the exterminator Vasily Vet, and the gang banger Augustin “Gus” Elizalde, fight against the Master and the vampire menace by any means necessary. Aiding them is Mr. Quinlan, the Born, a first generation vampire as powerful as the Master and filled with vengeance toward his maker, and the Lumen Occido, an ancient book filled with the history of the vampire as well as the hidden key to finish the vampiric strain once and for all. Eph’s former wife Kelly, now a vampire lieutenant to the Master, searches for him ceaselessly while Eph searches for his son, Zach. Zach is living with the Master in a Central Park castle and is being unwittingly shaped to be the next vessel for the Master to transfer is essence to. Times are desperate but a plan starts to emerge that will force the heroes into one final gambit that may see the destruction of the Master and his vampire legion once and for all.

As far as finales go, The Night Eternal is a satisfying ending to 1000 page apocalyptic epic. The ending itself is very good, although pretty predictable. I write this as the gaming world is in knots over the ending of Mass Effect 3. One poor soul, who clearly has more money than good sense, has actually filed a lawsuit with the FTC to force Bioware, the makers of the game, to change the ending. Myself, I am a few hours in to the game so I have no idea what everyone is all tore up about. I’m assuming the game ends with near everyone dead, including the main character (Shepherd) , and some kind of grand sacrifice on Shepherd’s part. His name is Shepherd for cripes sake, this isn’t rocket science. So it goes with The Night Eternal. You know that in order to save mankind a sacrifice must be made. There must be temptation and there must be a near fatal moment of weakness that finally gives way to ultimate redemption. It’s the journey to get there that proves problematic.

Full spoilers going forward for The Night Eternal.

Where The Night Eternal tips it’s hand is by moving from a very scientific and physical explanation for the vampire in the previous books into theological and supernatural for the ending. The Occido Lumen, the focal point of book 2, is translated and the origin of the vampire is revealed. It is that origin that pushes the narrative beyond science and into the supernatural. We learn that the Master and all of the Ancients all come from a falled Archangel names Ozryel who so offended God that he was torn in to seven pieces and scattered across the Earth. From his corrupted blood the worm of the vampire were born and sought flesh to corrupt. Eph and the others learn that the only way to stop the Master is to destroy the site that it was born. In this case, an island off New York. Along the way, Eph is so overcome with guilt over losing his son that he actually considers trading his son for the rest of humanity. He plans to give away his friends, and their plan, to secure the safety of his son. Relying on the word of a creature that has no concept of humanity or honor. Some may consider this noble, I consider it incomprehensibly selfish on an incredible level.

This is where the book really falls apart. Del Toro and Hogan want us to empathize with Eph, but it is impossible. There is simply no way to make him sympathetic when it is revealed that Eph is conspiring to bring about the final destruction of humanity in order to save his son. This is made even worse with the chapters that reveal what a selfish prick Zack has become under the tutelage of the Master. I get what the writers are doing but I didn’t like it. It felt cheap and manipulative. Worse, it didn’t work on me.

The other characters, Nora, Gus, and Fet, are given their own tasks to perform as well. The problem is that when the main characters are in danger or even die, you just don’t feel it. This is an action-horror story and the deaths and sacrifices just don’t resonate. You know from the get go that Eph has to die. It is set up that he is the “chosen one” and chosen ones always die in these things. But his path from coward to redemption is just too easy. At one point he makes the astute observation that the Master is using him. Well, no shit. The Master uses every one and every thing. When Eph has his epiphany it is too little too late.

The Night Eternal is good, but not great. The first book, The Strain, was great. Scary, intriguing, and really well done. The Fall was good, but it was slight and had some narrative problems. The Night Eternal leaves me feeling a bit like the poor soul filing lawsuits against video games. I can respect what the authors did, and I’m not regretting the journey. But I really wish the ending it had been both bigger and smaller. At no point did I really feel like the fate of humanity was at stake. It just felt like another battle. I wanted to feel something other than thinking I need to make sure I grab my empty bag of popcorn as I exit the theater and wondering what we are going to have for dinner that night.

TylerDFC #CBR4 Review#8 Batman: Long Shadows by Judd Winick, Batman: Life After Death by Tony S. Daniels

It took me all of 1.5 hours to read both of these graphic novels. I know other Cannonballers are reviewing standard length graphic novels but it just feels like a cheat to me. I could sit down in a weekend and complete the Cannonball if I used those tactics. However, I did want to talk about these two books and they fit together well so I decided to include them under one review. Long Shadows collects Batman issues 687-691 and Life After Death collects Batman issues 692-699.

Bruce Wayne is dead or, at the very least, gone. At the conclusion of the massive DC crossover event known as Final Crisis, Bruce Wayne gave his life to save the universe. Or all the universes, I’m not entirely sure. I tried reading Crisis on Infinite Earths and was absolutely baffled by the story so I gave up. I don’t follow Justice League all that closely (or at all other than the more popular single event graphic novels) and there was far too much continuity to try and jump in to the middle of it. I got the gist through and basically Bruce saves the multi-verse but vaporizes in the process.

After Bruce’s disappearance it fell to Nightwing, Dick Grayson, to take up the mantle and become Batman. This was also detailed in a rather long storyline known as The Battle for the Cowl. Long Shadows begins 6 weeks later. In Batman’s absence a gang war is erupting on the streets of Gotham between Two Face and The Penguin. Dick must put his fear and trepidation aside and take Bruce’s place as Batman. Bruce’s son, Damian, become Robin and the two begin fighting the scum of Gotham and cleaning up the streets. The much longer book, Life After Death, sees the return of Black Mask and is a sprawling story that has Batman trying to stop Black Mask from seizing control of Gotham using an army of brainwashed Arkham Asylum inmates. Both have absolutely gorgeous artwork that bring the story to color bursting life.

Of the two, Long Shadows is the more powerful story. The book really brings the emotional devastation of just what a big hole Bruce left behind. The effect on Dick, Damian, and most poignantly, Alfred Pennyworth are heartbreaking at times. There is a scene early on where Superman and Wonder Woman visit the Batcave and ask Dick what he plans to do with Bruce gone. Alfred brings tea to the group and Superman notices he is distraught.

Superman: Are you all right?
Alfred: Am I “All right”?
Alfred: (After a pause) No, sir. I am not. My son has died.

Later Dick and Alfred are talking.

Dick: I knew I would never see his as an old man. No, he’d leave us in a box, with jet black hair, and the only lines on his face would be brought by injury. You knew it wouldn’t end well. Despite all the training, all the brilliance, all the strength…under it all there was flesh, blood, and bone. And a man who never feared death.[…]I just wasn’t ready to lose him.

And that sums up why Batman is, and always has been, my favorite comic book character. This isn’t a new revelation, it’s been said many times before. Bruce Wayne is not superhuman in any way yet he stands up when others won’t. That’s what makes him a hero and that is why Dick and Alfred decide that even though Bruce is dead the Batman must live on.

Long Shadows is a hell of a good story and a great reboot. Dick is not Bruce, their fighting styles are completely different. As Two Face points out later when he starts getting suspicious of the change he sees in his old foe, “You don’t move like him. You’re lighter, you like to get off your feet more, and you SMILE.” It is an incisive character study that expertly shows the evolution of Dick Grayson as he drops some of his Robin and Nightwing personality to try and become more like Bruce’s portrayal of the Batman. It is a powerful and well done book.

Life After Death is much more sprawling and loses some of that intimacy. It has an expanded cast and becomes a bit more standard with a huge plot against Gotham, a mystery to solve, and a rogue’s gallery of heroes and villains. It’s a good story, but I like the smaller tales to be honest.

I have a few Batman books on my bookshelf that I consider the best out there like The Killing Joke, Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader?, The Dark Knight Returns, and The Long Halloween. I would put Long Shadows on the shelf next to those. While we know now that Bruce Wayne isn’t dead (See the massive The Return of Bruce Wayne) Dick Grayson is now Batman and that is one of the most exciting developments in the franchise in quite a while.

TylerDFC #CBR4 Review#7 Eating the Dinosaur By Chuck Klosterman

The newest book of essays by Chuck Klosterman is worth a read if you are a fan but I don’t suggest it as an entry point for readers unfamiliar with Chuck’s writings. Klosterman first came to the scene with Fargo Rock City, a hilarious and insightful memoir about growing up in Fargo at the height of the 80’s power metal wave. Since then, each successive book has failed to reach that apex. Eating the Dinosaur has some interesting points, but ultimately I don’t think it accomplished what Klosterman set out to do.

The main theme of the book is perception. How we are perceived by others and how we perceive ourselves. Klosterman is always at his best when he is drilling deep into a pop culture connection that may not have been made before and the lead off essay, “Oh, the Guilt” is a prime example. In this, the longest piece in the book, Klosterman analyzes In Utero era Kurt Cobain & Nirvana and draws parallels to doomed Branch Davidian leader David Koresh. It is a smart and funny examination of the perils of fame and how two people as different as Koresh and Cobain may actually be more alike than expected. For anyone that is fascinated by pop culture phenomenon (and if you are reading Klosterman it is a requirement) this is a brilliant piece. His examination of In Utero, Nirvana’s controversial follow up to their break though smash Nevermind, is smartly researched and incisive. I’m a casual fan of Nirvana, I have all their albums yet I don’t think Cobain was a rock messiah, but Klosterman got to one of the things that always drove me nuts about post Nevermind Nirvana. Namely that Kurt still wanted to be seen as anti-establishment, and went to great pains to do so, even while he was a millionaire.

The majority of this review has been written about one 25 page essay in a book that has 15. This is because most of the others are not nearly as compelling. However, it may be that I just am not the target audience for all of them. One essay on 80’s basketball player Ralph Sampson went completely over my head, namely because I don’t watch (or like) pro basketball. Another sports essay on the rise of the Read Option in pro-football held my interest as Klosterman recounted the various changes to the game over the years.Klosterman is an extremely talented writer, but sometimes he seems to be writing to impress more than impart knowledge. The book is loaded with footnotes, and the occasional reference that may leave you scratching your head. That is unless you are familiar with Christian metal band Stryper as well as the works of Kierkegaard.

That is what is ultimately frustrating about Eating the Dinosaur. For every interesting insight, like the pervasive use of laugh tracks in early sitcoms and how they may have irrevocably altered our social interactions, there is one on road movies that is so light weight I’m not even sure what he was going for.

Still, there is enough good here that I recommend it if you have an interest in the same things that Klosterman finds interesting. If you are someone that has had conversations with your friends comparing and contrasting Appetite for Destruction & Use Your Illusion, or discussing the obstacles of time travel, or if you have ever read the Unabomber’s manifesto, you are in the Klosterman demographic. The essays are hit or miss but that likely depends entirely on the reader. The good is entertaining enough to outweigh the bad.

 

TylerDFC #CBR4 Review#6 Raising Atlantis By Thomas Greanias

I picked this one up at a library book sale. I think it cost a quarter. I would say I got my money’s worth. This is Clive Cussler lite, and I don’t intend that as praise because Clive Cussler is the very definition of “airport read”. Raising Atlantis is a decent adventure novel that will keep you occupied during a long layover. It’s not great, it’s not even all that good, but it’s serviceable.

After a series of earthquakes in Antarctica, Air Force satellites discover an anomaly in the ice. The apex of a giant pyramid is discovered and a secret mission is put in place by the military to examine the find. Enter Conrad Yates, brilliant archeologist and handsome rogue, to be called in to help navigate the find. Conrad is the preeminent expert in ancient cultures and his father, coincidentally, is the project leader on the expedition.

At the same time the Vatican calls in its own expert, Sister Serena Serghetti. She’s just your average stunningly beautiful ex-nun, environmental activist and the foremost authority on ancient languages. It will surprise no one to find out that she and Conrad once had a brief “encounter” way back when.

So after Conrad barely survives a plane crash on the secret Antarctica base, and Serena naturally lands her own plane with no problems despite a zero visibility blizzard, the group is taken in to explore the pyramid. And then all hell, and the narrative, completely breaks loose. The bulk of the scant 330 page book is one escape and action sequence after another as the explorers unwitting set in motion a chain of events that could destroy the world. The book is fun, and at times engaging, but villains and scenarios are introduced and then quickly discarded.

Our heroes raise Atlantis (actually it’s more like uncover it but whatever) and then run from one end of it to the other trying to return a mystical scepter to a special room and stop a cataclysm. Numerous other factions learn of the discovery and send their own teams to take control of Atlantis and a fabled unlimited energy source that it houses. First you think that Russians will be the bad guys, but they are all killed within 20 pages of introduction. Then an Egyptian general emerges as the primary villain, but he is so feather weight it’s hard to be too concerned by his evil machinations either.

The action is fast but unoriginal. A trio of characters vanish from the narrative after the first half of the book. I’m not sure if I just missed their demise or Greanias simply forgot about them. However, the biggest problem the book has is completely wasting the setting. The characters spend so much time running from floods, fire, bullets, and rockets that scant description is given to the temples and artifacts that they are blithely destroying as they progress through the city. Greanias attempts to explain who built Atlantis and why (I’ll give you a hint, it rhymes with “faliens”) as well as why Conrad seems to instinctively know the layout of the city, but it is so silly that it even manages to undermine the go-for-broke lunacy of the finale and completely rips off the movie Stargate.

Look, Raising Atlantis is not a good book by any stretch of the imagination. It would make a decent enough story for the next Uncharted game but that’s about it. But for getting me through 5 hours of air travel last week it was just fine. If you have similar needs that can only be filled by a mildly engaging derivative adventure novel, look for it in your own library bargain bin.

NOTE: There are 2 more books in the series, The Atlantis Prophecy and The Atlantis Revelation. These highly imaginative titles can only hint at what wonders are in store I’m sure. I think I’ll pass.

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