15 August, 2013

The Strain Trilogy by Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan

So it's been a little while since I read Guillermo del Toro's The Strain and The Fall, but after finishing The Night Eternal I had to go back and do a little brush-up to see if I was remembering them accurately. I'd rated The Strain four stars on Goodreads, its successor three, which are solid ratings that mostly held up under a second scrutiny. I had high hopes for The Night Eternal, but sadly it didn't live up to the hype, and forced me to reassess my rating of the entire series.

It starts off so promisingly, too. The Strain was touted upon its release as "the book that makes vampires scary again", a bounceback from the supposed decline the neckbiters have been on since Bela Lugosi first donned an opera cape. And while I agree that the Cullens, Salvatores, Spikes and Erics of the pop culture world haven't been balanced out by an appreciable weight of run-for-your-fucking-life scary vamps, Del Toro and Hogan sought to tip the scales and ended up overbalancing them. As the series goes on the emphasis is very much on quantity rather than quality-- the characters devolve into predictable tropes; the plot gets bogged down in sidetracks that are boring, transparent or both; and the lion's share of the work seems to have gone into describing battles in as much cinematic detail as possible rather than giving any emotional weight to the characters' development. It is possible to have scary vampires and still tell a good story, and I'm going to point out the main areas where I think GDT and CH went off the rails.

05 August, 2013

cool shit i found online, part 2

pretty sure 12-year-old me chose French
because of the food. but in my defense,
i didn't know what a burrito was back then.
Happy Monday, lieblings! After listening to a dude on the bus this morning chattering away on his phone in German, I'm wishing I hadn't let all my foreign language chops fall by the wayside. I used to be nearly fluent in French, dammit, and I knew some really horrible-sounding Russian curses for awhile there too...

But I digress. It's time for round 2 of Cool Shit I Found Online. Any suggestions for a name for this series would be appreciated, otherwise this runs the risk of sticking. And I can do way better than CSIFO for an acronym.

  • Good timing! Not long after posting my Casino Royale review, I came across this list of 5 great spy books and this list of 10 international crime noirs, none of which I've read. Yet. 
  • Like Tor books? Well, at Tor.com they're celebrating their fifth birthday by letting you download all 151 stories published on the site for free. :D
  • The Atlantic spawned a discussion last week about favorite and memorable first lines. The Guardian jumped in and now I'm curious what you guys have to say. One of my all-time favorites will forever be from Lois Lowry's inimitable The Giver: "It was almost December, and Jonas was beginning to be frightened." What's one that's always stuck with you?
  • Feminist Yog-Sothoth.

    Yeah. That's a thing now.
  • In "Charles Dickens is a wanker" news, he's probably responsible for popular imagination's concept of scary clowns. I knew I hated him for a good reason. Other than Great Expectations, I mean.
  • And in "Oh my god, my childhood" news, the actor who voiced Mr. Freeze on Batman: The Animated Series passed away this week. I think Freeze and Magneto were my first introduction to the deliciously murky world of bad guys you can't help loving (as opposed to Clayface, who just straight up scared the shit out of 8-year-old me).
  • Speaking of scary, reading this article about 25 years of Hannibal Lecter made me remember that I hadn't ever gotten around to those last 3 episodes of Hannibal. So I did. And then I remembered why I never watch TV shows as they're first airing; I frakking hate cliffhangers. I hate waiting. Damn you, Tumblr, for sucking me into this mess!

    To slake my rage, I had to go look up some spoilers about what Bryan Fuller has planned for future seasons, but it only made me more impatient. Anyway, the article is really good, especially if you're a fan of crime novels and psychological thrillers. (And if you're a fan of 'Hannibal', this article on the food styling for the show is pretty cool.)
And that's your lot for today. Got any cool shit you found online you think I'd enjoy? Drop it in the comments!

02 August, 2013

'Casino Royale' by Ian Fleming

I was in middle school the first time I saw a James Bond movie. My brother and I were hanging out at our grandparents' house on New Year's Eve and some network had on a marathon. "For Your Eyes Only" was, to my twelve-year-old brain, a feast. Dramatic, suspenseful, ridiculous, full of explosions and just enough sex to get all my hormones and adrenaline fizzing at once. I was enthralled, not only by the spectacle, but by the character of Bond-- this dashing rake who charmed his way into opium warehouses and ladies' ski suits with equal felicity, fought bad guys while running, driving or rock climbing, prevented the sabotage of the British navy and looked great doing all of it.

In that light, maybe it's weird that I'm only just now digging into his source material-- starting, of course, at the beginning. Casino Royale happens to be one of my favorite Bond movies, so I was excited to sink my teeth into the superspy's origin story. As much for my own self-analysis as anything else, I was curious to investigate the source of Bond's popularity. What is so engaging about this man, this figure, that he's managed to occupy a significant place in our cultural consciousness for over half a century? Based just on Casino Royale, at least, the sad fact is that I have no idea.