NetGalley Review: 14 by Peter Clines

1414 by Peter Clines
Read: June 10 – June 11, 2013
Personal read.

Many thanks to Peter Clines and Permuted Press for the review copy via NetGalley!

Goodreads Book Blurb: Padlocked doors. Strange light fixtures. Mutant cockroaches.

There are some odd things about Nate’s new apartment.

Of course, he has other things on his mind. He hates his job. He has no money in the bank. No girlfriend. No plans for the future. So while his new home isn’t perfect, it’s livable. The rent is low, the property managers are friendly, and the odd little mysteries don’t nag at him too much.

At least, not until he meets Mandy, his neighbor across the hall, and notices something unusual about her apartment. And Xela’s apartment. And Tim’s. And Veek’s.

Because every room in this old Los Angeles brownstone has a mystery or two. Mysteries that stretch back over a hundred years. Some of them are in plain sight. Some are behind locked doors. And all together these mysteries could mean the end of Nate and his friends.

Or the end of everything…

My Opinion: I really struggled with writing this review, because I don’t really know what genre this book falls into. It kind of defies them all. It is horror without being particularly horrifying. It is science-fiction without treading too heavily into the realm of science. I thought at first that it was so great that 14 skirted all the genres, but in reality, I think it was just trying to be included in as many as possible without committing to one and doing it exceptionally well.

There is some Lovecraftian influence here, which I don’t feel like I can comment on, because I haven’t delved into the world of Lovecraft yet (I know, bad Erin, right?). Though I will say, I was impressed with Clines because being the fact-nerd that I am, I Googled some of the names he threw out, and I found that the connections he claimed checked out. So kudos to Clines on the research front.

The book was good, but not great. It was twisted, but not twisted enough. The character reactions didn’t feel very real to me, and there were aspects that I really wished had been explored more. The entire last third of the book or so was very slow for me and didn’t seem to have much purpose. It just… dragged, even though that was where the action was.

Bottom Line: A genre bender, and enjoyable enough, but didn’t quite deliver on all fronts.

In Which I Read a lot of Graphic Novels

So I recently read a lot of graphic novels in a short period of time. I figured I would do one big review of the lot, instead of individual posts for each. Where I read volumes of a series, I will likely lump them together and review them as such.

Girl Genius, Vol 1 by Phil Foglio
OK, I really liked this storyline. It was steampunk, and I love steampunk. It was super cute and fluffy. The only downside for me was that the art, while well-done, was not in color. I really prefer color graphic novels. But, I think I will be continuing this series.

Locke & Key, Vol 1-2 by Joe Hill
I read the first two volumes in this series, and I am hooked. Joe Hill is the son of Stephen King, and it shows. These graphic novels are so amazingly creepy. Aside from a few really close likenesses, the art is fantastic. And it is in color. This is a series I will definitely continue.

The Walking Dead, Vol 1-5 by Robert Kirkman
I am an avid fan of the TV show, so when I decided to dabble in graphic novels, this was a must. The story is very different from the TV show, but is still really good. And the art, though (grumble) in black in white, is quite good. I will most definitely continue this series.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Season 8, Volume 2-3 by Joss Whedon
I love Buffy. While the art can be confusing at times with character differentiation, I am adoring this series. And yay, it is in color. The series hasn’t lost any of Joss Whedon’s amazing writing being translated from screen to print, and I am loving the chance to continue my Buffy obsession.

V for Vendetta by Alan Moore
This is the first in my graphic novels that I didn’t completely love. I adore the movie, so I was really quite excited to read the graphic novel. But something fell flat. The story is very different, and the art is not very sophisticated at all.

Level Up by Gene Luen Yang
I didn’t enjoy this graphic novel at all. It seemed like it was going to be a fun collide of school and video games. But this was a standard stereotypical Asian family dynamic of parents want one thing, and the kid wants another. The art completely lacked sophistication, and the characters lacked any racial differentiation.

The Golden Twine by Jo Rioux
This was a really cute story with cute art to go along with it. I wished there was more to it, because when I was done I felt a little dissatisfied. I will try and keep an eye out for more of this one, but I don’t know that I will watch it like a hawk.

The Complete Maus by Art Spiegelman
A quintessential read for anyone who enjoys reading the rich history that surrounds the Holocaust. The story meanders, as it is brought to us through Art via his father, but I enjoyed the wandering. The art, however, I wish had been done differently. I would still recommend it, though. Great story.

Black Orchid by Neil Gaiman
Neil Gaiman is a fantastic author, so I was really happy to find one of his graphic novels at the library. I had no idea it was a DC comic until the big bad showed up, and then I was a little flabbergasted. I didn’t enjoy this one as much as someone who is very involved in the DC universe might be, but I still loved the art, and the story.

Uzumaki, Vol 3 by Junji Ito
This was probably the biggest disappointment in the lot. But not for the reasons you are thinking. The art, for manga, was really really well done. The story was so creepy in such a delightful way. I mean, the town is infected with spirals. It sounds bizarre, but it was so well done. The disappointment was that the library only had volume three, and so I only got one third of the entire story. And the last third, at that. I will be keeping my eyes out for volumes one and two.

Delphine by Richard Sala
Didn’t enjoy this one much. The story was really confusing, as it jumped around a lot. The sepia-toned art also left something to be desired. Just not as cool as I hoped it would be.

OK, so I have now reviewed a ton of graphic novels. I have some Sandman to read too, but that is absolutely HUGE and will merit its own post.

Do you enjoy graphic novels? Which ones?

Review: A City Infected by N.F. David (Did Not Finish)

A City InfectedA City Infected by N.F. David
Did Not Finish

Book Blurb: New York City has been destroyed by UXohms Virus: a sickness that twists humans into vile mutations, giving Crest Hominal, architect of the plague, unchallenged reign. Officer Kyle Runner must survive the environment, vengeful peers, savage beasts and a broken marriage to protect Sarah, his only child and only reason for living.

My Opinion: I was approached for a review by the author of this book, N.F. David, after they saw my review on Mark Tufo’s Zombie Fallout.

Unfortunately, I was only able to make it through the first chapter of the book before I had to put it down. I found the prose to be very crude, and the worldbuilding to be very thin. It might go into more detail later, but the prose really turned me off completely from finding out.

I did not enjoy this at all.

Review: The Hollow City by Dan Wells

The Hollow CityThe Hollow City by Dan Wells
Read: February 19 – February 20, 2013
Personal read, 333 pages

Book Blurb: Michael Shipman has paranoid schizophrenia; he suffers from hallucinations, delusions, and complex, horrific fantasies of persecution. They are as real to him as your life is to you. He is haunted by sounds and voices, stalked by faceless men, and endlessly pursued by something even deeper and darker – something he doesn’t dare think about.

Soon the authorities are linking him to a string of gruesome killings, and naturally no one believes his protestations of innocence. On his worst days, he doesn’t believe them himself. Hounded on every side, Michael contemplates a terrifying possibility: that some of the monsters he sees are real.

My Opinion: Dan Wells is one of my favorite writers. Though, the more I read, the more I feel compelled to say that he has written one of my favorite books, because nothing but that book seems to stick out as excellent to me. Unfortunately, The Hollow City also falls into that category.

I will give Wells his due. The voice he has created for The Hollow City is fantastic. The story as told by a man spiraling into madness makes it all that much more interesting. He is unreliable, and it leaves you questioning what is real and what isn’t, not only in the book but in your own life. However, that was about the only fantastic thing about the book for me.

I longed for The Hollow City to be more of a crime thriller and less of a supernatural thriller. Wells certainly had the chops to make it happen, it just needed more police scenes and less of the weird ending that made me cringe and want to write the author a letter begging him to stop putting a science fiction twist on everything. For those of you who have read his debut series (John Cleaver), you will understand what I mean.

I was engaged in the story right until the last few chapters. I really didn’t like the ending, and if it weren’t for that, I would probably have enjoyed the book more overall. Though, the epilogue gave me chills, because it was so open-ended.

I don’t seem to have much to say about this book, because my excitement for it died with the ending.

Bottom Line: Fantastic narrative voice, but I found everything else to be a little flat.

Review: Infected by Scott Sigler

InfectedInfected by Scott Sigler (Infected #1)
Read: January 26 – January 27, 2013
Format: Hardcover (library book), 342 pages
ISBN: 978-0-307-40610-1

Publisher: Random House, Inc., 2008

Book Blurb: Across America a mysterious disease is turning ordinary people into raving, paranoid murderers who inflict brutal horrors on strangers, themselves, and even their own families.

Working under the government’s shroud of secrecy, CIA operative Dew Phillips crisscrosses the country trying in vain to capture a live victim. With only decomposing corpses for clues, CDC epidemiologist Margaret Montoya races to analyze the science behind this deadly contagion. She discovers that these killers all have one thing in common – they’ve been contaminated by a bioengineered parasite, shaped by a complexity far beyond the limits of known science.

Meanwhile Perry Dawsey – a hulking former football star now resigned to life as a cubicle-bound desk jockey – awakens one morning to find several mysterious welts growing on his body. Soon Perry finds himself acting and thinking strangely, hearing voices . . . he is infected.

The fate of the human race may well depend on the bloody war Perry must wage with his own body, because the parasites want something from him, something that goes beyond mere murder.

My Opinion: Oh boy, where do I start. We will start with the good, because unfortunately there isn’t much good to cover.

I loved the premise of Infected. This fusion of science and horror was thrilling. As I read, I immediately thought of the movie “The Crazies”, though aside from the apparent unprovoked homicidal tendencies, there really is no connection.

I was impressed with the level of science in Infected. I am not an authority, and I don’t know if any of it was actually accurate, but it made me feel like the author really cared about his book. He did the research. He put in the fancy words. They read a little dry at times, and there was at least one point where they used CDC as an abbreviation, assuming people know the organization (which most people do). And then they backtrack and explain it. In grisly detail.

Because Infected was released first via podcast, it has a very conversational narrative which read really easily. Hence the fact it only took me two days to read it, despite the fact that I wasn’t the biggest fan of it.

And finally, the gore. Some of the gore was kind of “meh”, but for the most part it was grisly and horrific… exactly what you want from a horror story. Fair warning, there is a lot of it.

With the good covered, we move on to the bad. And the bad was very bad.

There were far too many viewpoints, and I hated them all. I didn’t like the racist ‘Nam survivor CIA agent, and I didn’t like the rage-aholic almost-football-star who at 26, still refers to his abusive father as “daddy”. There were more minor viewpoints, that of the epidemiologist from the CDC, various other infecteds, etc. I can see this being effective in a podcast, but in print, it was just too scattered. I didn’t feel connected at all.

While we are on the subject of characters, let us stop at Perry for a moment. He is our main character in all this, and I just didn’t like him or believe what he was going through for five seconds. Over the course of the book he lost so much blood, and yet aside from a few blackouts, he doesn’t bat an eye. He should have been weak as a kitten by the end, if not dead. But no… he just got up and kept on going.

Perry also has an issue with female characters. I was really disgusted with the way he treats the woman he meets near the end of the book. I actually took it really personally, because the author describes this woman almost exactly to my proportions (height and weight) and then proceeds to comment on how fat she is. I know I am not the skinniest person around, but I am far from “fat”. Furthermore, women don’t have to conform to some set of measurements to be beautiful. This attitude that women are fat after a certain point is so harmful. I am so thankful that this isn’t a young adult novel.

Infected suffered from repeat-shit-itis, especially where Perry was concerned. And it was very tell-don’t-show, which is somewhat understandable considering the book’s original medium. But I would have liked to have read less about what a monster Perry was when he played football, and how immortal College students thought they were, and more about the parasites.

The ending of Infected wasn’t particularly effective. In my humble opinion, they could have cut a few chapters and it would have done much more to draw me in to the rest of the series.

Bottom Line: A science-horror crossover that delivers on both fronts. But watch out for the rapidly shifting viewpoints and the characters that you just can’t like. I will very likely not be continuing with this series.

(Cover image and book blurb courtesy of Goodreads)

Review: John Dies at the End by David Wong (Spoiler Free)

John Dies at the End by David Wong
Read: October 12 – October 21, 2012
Format: Hardcover (library book), 378 pages
ISBN: 978-0-312-55513-9

Publisher: Thomas Dunne, 2009

Book club selection (horror genre)

Book Blurb: STOP.
*You should not have touched this flyer with your bare hands.
*NO, don’t put it down. It’s too late.
*They’re watching you.

My name is David Wong. My best friend is John. Those names are fake. You might want to change yours.

You may not want to know about the things you’ll read on these pages, about the sauce, about Korrok, about the invasion, and the future. But it’s too late. You touched the book. You’re in the game. You’re under the eye.

The only defense is knowledge. You need to read this book, to the end. Even the part with the bratwurst. Why? You just have to trust me.

The important thing is this:
*The drug is called Soy Sauce and it gives users a window into another dimension.
*John and I never had the chance to say no.
*You still do.

Unfortunately for us, if you make the right choice, we’ll have a much harder time explaining how to fight off the otherworldly invasion currently threatening to enslave humanity.

I’m sorry to have involved you in this, I really am. But as you read about these terrible events and the very dark epoch the world is about to enter as a result, it is crucial you keep one thing in mind:

None of this was my fault.

My Opinion: John Dies at the End is a ridiculous, juvenile, completely messed up trip through the horror genre, with a little stop in the science fiction genre for good measure. David Wong completely acknowledges this with every turn. And so, since the book doesn’t take itself too seriously, it works.

Is John Dies at the End the most magnificent thing I have ever read? No. Far from it. I spent a lot of the book just trying to figure out what the heck was going on among all the phallus jokes. There is a plot buried deeply there. It is hard to follow, and not really all that great. I didn’t find myself really feeling anything for any of the characters save Amy. I really liked her. Maybe it is because I am also a chronic pain sufferer… maybe it is because David Wong did a good job of writing her as a tortured character. Either way. She worked.

John Dies at the End is, in short, a mess. There is so much going on that doesn’t get wrapped up. The horror is about as gory as written horror can be (at least, I haven’t seen much worse than this…).

By the way, David Wong is not the author’s real name. Jason Pargin is. He is an online humorist, and according to the book jacket, editor in chief of cracked.com. Which kind of explains a lot. John Dies at the End is written very similarly to how you would expect someone who writes online satire to write a novel.

I am going around in circles because there isn’t much more to say.

Bottom Line: If you like juvenile humor with an emphasis on the phallus, gory horror that is at best creepy, and a plot that essentially runs in circles without going anywhere… this is the book for you. I am not trying to come down too hard on this book, because really… it works in some cases. Sometimes this book worked. Sometimes it didn’t.