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Posts Tagged ‘peter’

Book Review: Dagon by Fred Chappell (Bottom of TBR Pile Challenge)

Green-tinted handcuffs and a keyhole that reveal the face of a lizard.Summary:
Peter doesn’t know much about his father’s side of the family as his mother left him when he was little.  Now, a married pastor, he returns to his father’s parents’ house, a recent inheritance.  Slowly he discovers the cultist history of his family and begins his descent into madness.

Review:
There aren’t that many books in the Lovecraft mythos, so when I spot one, I almost always add it to my wishlist and pick it up if I spot it.  (I’m a big fan of the mythos, and my current work in progress is set in it).  I spotted this one during one of Better World Books’ periodic sales and got it for just a couple of dollars.  The problem with the world of Lovecraftian horror is this.  The mythos is great, but a lot of the books/movies set in it are a swing and a miss.  Which is sad for me as a reader, because I know that this is an author with the same funky interest as me, so I want it to work. I want it to work very much.  It just doesn’t always.  This, unfortunately, falls solidly in the swing and a miss category for me.

The germ of the story is a great idea.  An ostensibly mainstream “good” man following his roots and falling into a dark god worshiping cult. Brilliant.  The execution is weak, however.  The cover of my copy of the book claims that it is a “novel of blinding terror.”  This is just not the case.  In some ways I feel that Chappell just tried too hard.  The entire first chapter is meant to set the scene with extremely heavy-handed gothic language, but it is just painful to read.  The first chapter describes one room of the house.  Excessive energy is spent trying to make even the throw pillows seem malicious.  It is too over-the-top and becomes laughable.  Thankfully, the next chapter abandons the excessive language, but it is still never scary.  It is titillating at a couple of points.  Engaging as well.  But never terrifying.

Part of the problem is that the book fails to build suspense from beginning to end.  It builds up in part one to a singular event, but then immediately crashes back down to a period in part two in which Peter lies around in a depressed funk.  While this might be realistic, it does nothing to build the suspense.  The suspense thus must start all over again.  This may be acceptable in a long work (and even then I’m dubious), but in such a short book it’s just jarring and ruins the suspense.

I also found the ultimate payoff to be a bit disappointing.  While we find out one or two things about Peter’s family, we don’t get enough details to truly experience shock or horror.  Similarly, the ultimate final descent of Peter was a bit disappointing.  He doesn’t engage in any agency or become a committed cultist.  A lot of cult things are done to him, but he doesn’t really have the descent into madness promised.  He is tortured and made into a slave and has the mental and emotional breakdown such experiences could make someone experience, but he himself doesn’t turn into a raving Dagonite, for instance.

That said, there are some things that worked in the book.  As stated previously, the germ of the idea is great.  Peter’s nemesis/mentor, the tenant farmer family’s daughter, is delightfully powerful and sinister.  A couple of scenes were a great mix of titillation and horror, and the final climax was definitely a surprise.

Overall, then, it’s a book that tries to be a terrifying, gothic horror, but instead is a titillating grotesque bit of southern literature.  Fans of the Lovecraftian mythos will appreciate it for this, although the Lovecraftian elements themselves are sparse and a bit disappointing.  Recommended for big fans of grotesque, fantastical horror who don’t mind it leaning a bit more toward the grotesque than the scary side of horror.

3 out of 5 stars

Source: Better World Books

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Book Review: Lucky Stiff by Tonia Brown

August 29, 2011 2 comments

Voodoo doll and candle.Summary:
Peter’s just a young 18 on his first spring break to New Orleans with his friends when he accidentally takes ecstasy instead of sleeping pills and dies.  His friends, terrified, drag his corpse off to a local voodoo priestess who raises him with her special kind of magic–tantric magic.  Somehow this method of raising Peter combined with the time of year makes Peter into a very special kind of zombie.  One who can feed off of female orgasms instead of human flesh if he so chooses.

Review:
In case it’s not abundantly clear from the summary, this is an erotica novel.  A zombie erotica novel.  Frankly if you’re not grossed out by vampire undead sex, then this book shouldn’t bother you at all.  It’s not like Peter decays (don’t worry, Brown takes care of that part logically).  So it’s less sex with a decaying corpse and more sex with an undead dude.

Brown’s concept is hilarious and well-executed.  Peter is a zombie with a permanent hard-on who can’t come but needs female orgasms to feed off of to keep him from going all cold-blooded killer.  Um possibly the best female-friendly set-up for a paranormal erotica ever?  Since he died a virgin, he starts off with the Madam learning how to pleasure a lady for five years, then he gets booted out to go find his own way and become a pick-up artist.  He’s completely focused on and fascinated with the female orgasm.  You might even call it a fetish. 😉

It doesn’t matter if I can’t come as long as I can be a part of it when you do. (page 15)

On top of the fun and varied sex scenes though there’s lots of well-conceived plot.  Peter has issues he has to deal with.  He basically has to grow the fuck up enough to be able to handle a monogamous relationship and recognize real love for what it is.  For instance, at first he thinks he’s in love with the Madam, but she tells him:

Sex is just sex. Sometimes it’s really good, true, but it’s nothing in da grand scheme a’ things. We may have fucked, but we never made love.  (page 87)

In other words, he only thinks he loves her because he lost his virginity to her.  He needs to go out and learn what real love is.  That combined with navigating morality and your faith (he becomes a voodoo convert loyal to La Croix) are at the center of the plot.

Brown also drops in various witticisms that exhibit wisdom but are simultaneously hilariously dripping in paranormality:

The trick to being undead, much like being monogamous, is keeping everything fresh. (page 33)

Bits like that kept me laughing out loud whenever I wasn’t caught up in the erotica.

Alas, sometimes the dialogue is a bit stiff (haha, sorry, couldn’t resist).  Ahem, in all seriousness, sometimes the dialogue felt a bit forced and unnatural.  Similarly, I was bothered that, although Peter clearly is bisexual (he makes multiple comments about wanting to try things out with men in addition to women), for some reason male orgasms are too violent or pointed or whatever for him to be able to feed off of them.  Um, I’m sorry, but this isn’t logical.  At the very least it would make that if Peter gave head to a guy it would feed him, yes?  It felt like Brown wanted to be edgy by making Peter almost bi, but refused to really go all the way.  A great example of this is that Peter tries sex with a dude once, but only in the context of a threesome, and it’s the only sex scene not written as erotica.  It’s simply briefly mentioned in past tense.  I really wish Brown had gone all the way and made Peter bi.  It’d be interesting to see that here.  Alternatively, to just make Peter totally straight would’ve been fine too.  This fine walking of the line rubs me the wrong way though.

Overall this is a fun erotica with a unique storyline that manages to make zombies sexy with a heavy dash of voodoo.  I recommend it to those who love zombies and erotica fairly equally.  I’m betting, knowing the people that I know, that this is not as small a portion of the population as some may think.

4 out of 5 stars

Source:  Amazon

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Movie Review: Red Riding Hood (2011)

March 16, 2011 6 comments

Woman wearing red cape in front of woods.Summary:
Valerie has always lived in a small village surrounded by a dark forest haunted by a werewolf every month at the full moon.  For the last ten years the wolf has kept the peace with the town by accepting a sacrifice of a beloved livestock.  Now Valerie is a woman and planning on eloping with her lover, Peter, to escape an undesired marriage to the smith’s son, Henry.  Just as they are about to elope, though, Valerie’s sister is found dead.  The victim of the wolf.  Now the town brings in a priest of questionable character in an attempt to rid them of the curse once and for all.

Review:
To me this film was truly all about atmosphere, being a feast for the eyes like the village is a feast for the wolf.  Although the first few moments of the film are set in harvest time, the rest of it is during winter, complete with beautiful snowfall scenes.  The village itself is simultaneously sinister and picturesque.  What truly makes the atmosphere though is the costuming.  Gorgeous elbow-length knitted gloves.  Covetable dresses with the perfect waist-length.  Sleeveless cloaks worn by all in demure shades that truly make Valerie’s red cloak pop when she receives it from her grandmother.  The entire atmosphere screams fairy tale.

The story was of course re-written with red riding hood made into a young woman instead of a little girl.  The character of the wolf became more complex than just the big bad wolf in the woods.  However, the key creepy elements of the fairy tale remain.  In all honesty, I was surprised at how good of an updated adaptation this was, and I’ve seen my fair share of fairy tale adaptations.

The one draw-back was the awkward love triangle inserted into the story.  There was one scene in particular that simply screamed “This director also directed Twilight!”  Ugh.  I’m getting incredibly sick of love triangles existing in any story that features young adults.  Plus this scene elicited laughter from the audience, which I am pretty sure was not what the director was going for.

Overall, however, this was a delightful adaptation of a beloved fairy tale.  I recommend it to lovers of fairy tales and adaptations, as well as those who enjoy an exquisite atmosphere in film.

4 out of 5 stars

Source: AMC movie theater

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Book Review: Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card

September 21, 2010 8 comments

Spaceships.Summary:
Humanity survived the second Bugger invasion by pure luck.  Now they’re determined to be prepared for a third invasion and actively train children in Battle School, seeking the child who could be the commander to save humanity.  They think Ender, with his ability to perceive and understand null gravity spaces, just might be that commander, but Ender isn’t so sure.

Review:
Card has created a rich, complex, entirely believable future where individual sacrifice is vital to the survival of the human species.  This goal makes the adults’ treatment of the children in Battle School justifiable and allows Card to create a story where children are simultaneously treated as adults and misled by them.  Adults will recognize the feeling of being pawns to those in control of society.  Children and young adults will appreciate that the children characters are treated as adults in smaller bodies.  It’s a fun narrative set-up.

The world-building is excellent.  The complex scenes of the Battle School, Battle Room, and videogames the children play are all so clearly drawn that the reader truly feels as if she is there.  Readers who also enjoy videogames will particularly enjoy the multiple videogame sequences in which the narrative action switches focus to the videogame.  This isn’t just for fun, either.  It’s an important feature that comes to play later in the book.    In fact, it’s really nice to see videogaming being featured in a future as something important to society and not just recreational.  It’s a logical choice to make in scifi too, as the military is moving increasingly toward using weapons that are manned by soldiers behind the lines with videogame-like controls.

These fantastic scenes are all set against a well-thought-out human society reaction to multiple alien invasions.  In spite of the threat of a third invasion, there is still violent nationalism brewing under the surface.  Politicians must worry about their image.  Dissenting voices can be heard on the internet.  The teachers of the Battle School must worry about the retributions for their actions, even as they make the choices that will hopefully save humanity.  The people in this future are still people.  They act in the sometimes stupid and sometimes brilliant ways people act.  They don’t miraculously become super-human in the face of an alien threat.  I really enjoyed this narrative choice, as I get really sick of the super-human trope often found in scifi.

The ending….I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to make up my mind on how I feel about the ending.  I definitely didn’t guess it ahead of time, which is a nice change, but I can’t decide how I feel about it.  The fact is, I liked part of it, and I didn’t like another part of it.  I think I may have found the ultimate message a bit too idealistic, and Ender too gullible.

*spoiler warning*
Here’s the thing.  The Bugger queen claims that the Buggers didn’t know that humans were sentient creatures, and Ender believes her, but I call bullshit.  Humans and Buggers built cities that were similar enough so that humans could live in Bugger buildings.  In spite of being drastically different from an evolutionary stand-point, it’s still obvious that humans were sentient enough to build cities and spaceships.  That should have been a warning sign.  So ultimately, I view the queen larva and message to Ender as a last-ditch effort to come back from the brink of extinction and beat humanity, and Ender fell for it.  Of course I don’t want to argue for the extinction of an entire species.  I’m a vegetarian.  I’m pretty much against the killing of species of any kind, but the fact remains that the Buggers attacked humans twice.  What were they supposed to do?  Sit back and let themselves get wiped out?  I’m not one of these nutters who says don’t kill the polar bear attacking you, and in this case, the polar bear had already attacked twice.  I like the message of a possible peaceful coexistence, but I don’t think it was very realistic in that world, and I was left feeling that Ender didn’t really learn anything from his experience. 
*
end spoilers*

Overall, however, Card has achieved near perfection in telling a unique, scifi story.  The world is entrancing and draws the reader in, and the reader is left with multiple philosophical questions to ponder long after finishing reading the book.  It is a book I definitely plan on re-reading, and I highly recommend it to scifi and videogaming fans.

5 out of 5 stars

Source: Amazon

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Book Review: House of Stairs by William Sleator

June 30, 2010 2 comments

Children dancing on stairs.Summary:
Five sixteen year old orphans living in state institutions are called to their respective offices, blindfolded, and dropped off in a building that consists entirely of stairs and landings.  There appears to be no way out.  The toilet is precariously perched in the middle of a bridge, and they must drink from it as well.  To eat they must bow to the whims of a machine with odd voices and flashing lights.  It is starting to change them.  Will any of them fight it, or will they all give in?

Review:
This book was enthralling from the first scene, featuring Peter awakening on a landing intensely disoriented and frightened.  Showing a bunch of teenagers obviously in an experiment opens itself up to caricature and stereotype, but Sleator skillfully weaves depths and intricacies to them.

The writing is beautiful, smoothly switching viewpoints in various chapters from character to character.  Hints are dropped about the outside world, presumably future America, that indicate the teens are from a land ravaged by war and intense morality rules.  For instance, their state institutions were segregated by gender.  Sleator weaves these tiny details into the story in subtle ways that still manage to paint a clear framework for the type of cultural situation that would allow such an experiment to take place.

It is abundantly clear throughout the book that the teens are facing an inhumane experiment.  Yet what is not clear at first is what a beautiful allegory for the dangerous direction society could take this story is.  Not in the sense that a group of teens will be forcibly placed in a house of stairs, but that some more powerful person could mold our surroundings to make us do what they want us to do.  To remove our most basic humanity.  This is what makes for such a powerful story.

It’s also nice that friendship in lieu of romance is central to the plot.  Modern day YA often focuses intensely on romance.  Personally, my teen years were much more focused on friendship, and I enjoyed seeing that in this YA book.  I also like how much this humanizes the animals facing animal testing, and Sleator even dedicates the book to “the rats and pigeons who have already been there.”

House of Stairs, quite simply, beautifully weaves multiple social commentaries into one.  It is a fast-paced, engrossing read, and I highly recommend it to everyone.

5 out of 5 stars

Source: PaperBackSwap

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