Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Tuesday Reviews-day: Gods and Monsters Unclean Spirits (Chuck Wendig)

I recently finished Chuck Wendig's addition to the Gods and Monsters line, Unclean Spirits.  Wanna hear me  talk about it?  I knew that you would.

First I will approach the setting, as this is a shared universe in which stories by many authors will likely be told.  The gods have come to Earth and strapped on human flesh.  The representatives of the world's myriad pantheons are having to deal with the ultimate in 'forced relocation'.  There was a good spread of deities in this book that incorporates Greek, Native American, African and even ancient Sumarian mythos.  I like how this is handled, with each god retaining elements of their original sphere of influence while still having to play at being human.  There is a lot of potential here and I'm excited to see what will be done with it.

The main character in this tale is Cason Cole in the role of 'man struggling to reclaim his past'.  He was well developed and I found that I was given just enough information about his past to keep me interested without getting bogged down in the details.  The sections where dialogue fills in the exposition or backstory feel pretty organic and Cason's own thoughts are quite revealing in the more action-focused moments.  That balance can be difficult to strike and I give Chuck kudos for it.  Cason's family remain on the periphery of the story but they introduce us to two of my favorite characters so I can forgive their initial inaction.  The primary villain's mannerisms were chilling and I think they'd be that way even without cosmic power at their fingertips.  Well crafted characters all around, even in the smaller parts.

Anyone who has read a Chuck Wendig novel before will find a familiar voice waiting for them here.  The story jumps from a brisk run to a breakneck sprint several times, sometimes giving you warning and sometimes jumping on your back and hammering you in the head without notice.  The violence is well balanced, revealing a clear tableau of pain without dwelling unnecessarily on gore (though I am a fan of splatter horror films so YMMV on this).  As I write this I am still able to bring up the images my mind created when I read about dying gods and creepy just doesn't cut it.

So, complaints?  Well, I do have a couple.  Cason's wife, while a significant part of the development of the story, just doesn't seem to do a whole lot.  After an early moment of badassery I had high hopes anytime a chapter about her appeared.  I admit, we do get to meet some awesome deities through her sections but she really feels like a passenger through most of the book.  That is actually quite appropriate given her circumstances but it made it difficult to invest myself in her character.  Kind of like Barbara from the original Night of the Living Dead, she just seems to sit on the couch and cry through most of the story.

Then there is the ending.  No, this is not a "the ending was crap" situation.  I actually really liked the ending and how things came together.  I just felt like there was a little more story to tell before THE END popped up on the screen.  Another chapter of follow up would have done wonders for my sense of completion, though as far as hooking us for another installment I suppose the route Chuck went is the better option.  Any good book will leave you wanting more but in this case things just felt a bit incomplete.  This could relate back to my desire to see more from the family but for some reason I just wanted a bit more.

So what am I saying?  Gods and Monsters Unclean Spirits is a solid introduction into what I hope will be an extensive line of books.  Well paced with good characterization and a healthy dose of the old ultraviolence, exactly what I expect when I pick up a Wendig novel.  It doesn't exactly touch the bar he's set for me with his Miriam Black series but it was a damn fine read that kept me turning pages until there were none left to turn.  If you like power mad gods, explosions, betrayal and internal strife I think you'll dig what this book has to offer.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Format Plans for WritInWord

In an attempt to devote more time and attention to this blog I am working on some possible format options to give myself some structure.  Let me know what you think.

Monday: Funday - Monday's posts can be about pretty much anything recreational.  I could post updates about the games I am running, fun experiences with video games I've recently had or even (dare I say it?) accountings of some of the 'out of the house' recreation I'm going to try to pursue like kayaking and dance lessons.

Tuesday: Reviewsday/Interviewsday - I'd like to try and use Tuesday to review books, film or games.  This will give me more of a push to read some of the books I have on my Kindle.  Movies and games can fill in between novels, and should I find someone both interesting and willing, I could also do some interviews with people to put in here.

Wednesday: Winsday - This would be something I could do as an occasional features once I gain more of a readership and get some material published.  A chance for some lucky saps to win a copy of something I've created.  Mensday - I could also use this time to talk about issues that directly relate to men (though not exclusively relate to men, as I honestly don't know that there are enough of those to carry the day) and discuss things specifically with my male readers.  Being that I do work in a healthcare related field, I might also use this time to discuss male focused health concerns.  What I'd like to do often is put in guest posts from other male bloggers.

Thursday: Hersday - The other side of mensday, I could use this day to discuss issues that specifically relate to women (with the same caveat as above).  Guest posts from female bloggers would be a welcome addition here, too.

Free-ky Friday:  I'd like to put up fiction on Friday.  A response to Chuck Wendig's Friday Flashfiction, a chapter of my current project or even just some snippet of work that came to mind that week.


Monday, April 15, 2013

Terrible Minds Flash Fiction Challenge: Civil Disobedience

This week's challenge is to incorporate one choice from a list of fifteen opening lines presented by readers in the previous week's challenge.  I've opted for Valarie Valdes' excellent opener:

"Once James accepted that he had no choice but to burn the books, the question became which to burn first."

I also chose to go outside my wheelhouse for this one and present you with neither violence nor death.  Instead, I give you a tale of dystopian youthful mischief.

Chuck's blog is here - http://www.terribleminds.com/ramble/blog

Civil Disobedience

Once James accepted that he had no choice but to burn the books, the question became which to burn first.  The colors on the covers weren't helpful, as each was a drab black or brown or gray with scuff marks on the corners and dust thick on the spines.  Their pages were universally yellowed by age and exposure, some brittle enough to flake off when they were touched.  It wasn't a question of the content, either.  Like most eleven-year-olds, James had never seen the inside of a copy of A Farewell to Arms or Ulysses.  In truth, the fact that his parents felt they were worth saving was the only thing he knew for sure about them.

He decided by shoving his hand into the pile and yanking out a thin, brown book.  No title was etched across the front of his one.  He fanned the pages and found them lined with words he couldn't decipher, just like the others.  The Old Tongue they called it, a collection of languages from the times before the Ecclesiarch provided the people with a universal dialect. 

"Here ya go, Magpie." he called out, releasing the book with a side-arm toss that sent it spinning across the attic and into the girl's waiting arms.  She scowled but even that effort did little to diminish the cherubic nature of her features.

"I hate it when you call me that.  Why can't you just call me Maggie like the others?" she asked, setting the book on the window sill and taking up a box of wooden matches in its place.  A few strikes of the match set it ablaze and filled her nose with the stink of sulphur.  She paused for a moment, staring at the dance of light at the end of the stick, and then tossed it into the metal wash tub.  Lighter fluid caught fast, a rush of heat and then the sticks inside were burning.

"Maggie is a boring name.  You're Magpie.  Smart and quick and...stuff." James replied as he pulled two more books out of the pile.  He weighed them, forming a scale out of his arms, and opted for the musty copy of The Great Gatsby.  He gave this one an arc and it hung in the air for a moment before plummeting into the flames.  Sparks kicked up in a flurry of tiny flares and Maggie covered her eyes against them.

"Are you sure this is a good idea?" she asked even as she picked up her book and let it tumble into the tub.

"Gotta teach 'em a lesson," he said, scratching at a mosquito bite on the back of his hand.  "Besides, they don't even read these.  Just let them sit up here and get old."

"Yeah but...I dunno.  My grandma told me about a place they used to keep these.  She called it a liberry," she said, pausing long enough to catch the next book thrown her way.  "Kinda seems like they're important if your folks went to such trouble to hide them from the Censors."  James shrugged at that, looking at the wall they'd had to break open to get to the books.  It did seem like a lot of work.

"Well, maybe they shoulda thought of that before they told me I couldn't join the Acolyte's Choir.  Anyone over 10, that's what the recruiter's say," he bristled, walking over and setting a thick tome on the edge of the tub so that it would balance beneath his palm.  "My dad hates them.  Calls them Loodites or something, but I don't wanna be him.  I wanna travel the country with a rifle and a list like the Censors do."

"And what about me?" Maggie asked, her nose wrinkling.  "My grandma loves the old books.  I think they smell nice and I can even read the Old Tongue sometimes.  Are you gonna put me on the list, too?"

"No way, Magpie.  You can come with me and hunt traitors.  You'll be better at knowing what to burn anyways." James replied with a laugh, releasing the book and letting the flames claim it.  Maggie smiled, her eyes bright at his acceptance, but something inside her didn't feel right about any of it.

A sharp buzz from outside interrupted her worry.

-zzzzttt-  Attention Sunnybrook residents.  The time is now 8 pm.  All residents must return to their homes within one half hour.  Anyone caught breaking curfew will face a mandatory two month imprisonment.  That is all. -zzzzttt-

The loudspeaker hummed for a moment longer, then fell silent.  James grabbed a few more books from the pile.

"We gotta hurry.  My folks'll be home soon." he said, concern creeping into his voice.  Maggie reached out and scooped up a few more, several slipping through her arms and clattering onto the attic floor.  James stopped to pick them up and when he smiled back at her she knew he hadn't seen her tuck one of the books into her waistband.  She didn't like to steal from her friend but she just had to know what Frankenstein was about.  It gnawed at her, teased her like glittering gold even as she tossed the other books into the fire.

Maybe I am like a magpie, after all. she thought, wiping her hands on her blouse as they turned to go.