Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Book Review: Rot & Ruin by Jonathan Maberry

My rating: 3/5

From Amazon: "In the zombie-infested, post-apocalyptic America where Benny Imura lives, every teenager must find a job by the time they turn fifteen or get their rations cut in half. Benny doesn't want to apprentice as a zombie hunter with his boring older brother Tom, but he has no choice. He expects a tedious job whacking zoms for cash, but what he gets is a vocation that will teach him what it means to be human."

This book suffers from a good idea with not-so-good execution.  The only way I was able to finish it was to imagine famous actors playing the parts and hear the dialogue in their voices, even if those actors didn't make any sense for the parts I gave them. For example, Jensen Ackles is not Japanese, but Dean Winchester works very well as Tom; and Christopher Walken is not a big muscly dude, but he is hilarious as Charlie Pink-Eye, and I highly recommend reading his lines in Walken's voice.

The biggest problem was the main character.  Benny is annoying. He's lazy and childish in the beginning, and he has spurts of maturing throughout the book, but sometimes he backslides (and it's not always clear why), and you roll your eyes.  How he could grow up in a tiny town and not know what his brother, whom he lives with, does for a living is far-fetched, as is the characterization of the town itself being so awkwardly fearful.  Tom explains these things to Benny; Benny says these things are dumb; and the reader agrees. 

But again, I like the idea. I like having to wrap my mind around zombies still being people, at least in the memories of those who loved them. I like the Wild West feel of the all-but-vanquished world.  It just gets a little too dramatic and a little too unrealistic.

For a zombie book though, there isn't a terrible amount of gore, and there is only a little swearing (I think one of the big bad guys even says "friggin'" at one point), so it seems to be aimed at a younger, junior-high-ish audience.  But it doesn't quite fit that crossover young-adult-to-adult audience, so I probably wouldn't recommend it for anyone older than high school.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Book Review: The Colour of Magic (A Discworld Novel) by Terry Pratchett

My rating: 3.75/5

From Goodreads.com: "On a world supported on the back of a giant turtle (sex unknown), a gleeful, explosive, wickedly eccentric expedition sets out.

"There's an avaricious but inept wizard, a naive tourist whose luggage moves on hundreds of dear little legs, dragons who only exist if you believe in them, and of course THE EDGE of the planet..."

As the series title states, this fancifully absurd world exists as a flat disc, which rests on top of four elephants who are in turn on top of a turtle, while the gods play dice to decide the occupants' fates. Scientists and philosophers strive to figure out the hows and whys of the world (for example, the all-important question of the sex of the giant turtle), and Rincewind the wizard and Twoflower the world's-very-first tourist are repeatedly caught in the middle.  They survive bar fights, dragon flights, magic spells, fires, and shipwrecks, and the action really never stops.  And the sapient luggage is their friend, is full of gold, and eats bad guys, so, there's that.

I really enjoyed this book.  The writing was very clever and made me giggle several times; but it was a little too far on the absurd side for me to love it.  I will say that the style grew on me though as the book progressed.  I have not read the rest of the series, but if I find out that it does not turn into the silliness that Hitchhiker's Guide (which this writing style very much reminds me of) turned into as its series progressed, I probably will. Another small complaint is the ever-present misogyny that the male, British, 20th-century authors whom I've read all seem to have, presented as a severe lack of female characters other than mainly as sex objects.  I believe that, among all of the multitude of characters the heroes encounter, there were three women in this book. One is a dangerous, unpredictable goddess ("Luck") who's rarely present but admittedly powerful; one a naked dryad; and the last a dragon-warrior princess who wears very little and whose sole goal is to find a husband.  However, it really only grated on me when these characters were present, and since they weren't present for very much of the book, I could ignore it and enjoy the rest of the story.

All in all, a good book and a talented author.

I also recommend the movie of the same name with Sean Astin and Tim Curry, which I believe combines this book and the next in the series (since the story goes a little bit beyond what I read in Color of Magic).  The movie captures the feel of the book very well.  It's a little long (something like 3 hours 20 minutes), but it's worth it. 

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nedwZwOvdVs

Monday, April 16, 2012

Book Review: The Burned Tower by Sergey and Marina Dyachenko

My rating: 4/5

From Amazon: "A truck driver on a lonely stretch of road, a hitchhiker, and an ancient curse— a brilliant and moving tale, steeped in folklore, by the masters of modern Fantasy."

I'm loving the folk tales lately, and I haven't even been seeking them out.  This short story is currently a free download for Kindle through Amazon; which is why I thought, even though I'd never heard of the authors or the story before, why not download it. 

Because it's a translation from Russian (and well done, but still pretty obviously a translation), I do feel that I maybe missed some of what the story was trying to say.  Despite this though, I enjoyed it. The Piper was unearthly and creepy (and exactly how I imagine someone of his supernatural persuasion would act), and poor Guy's story weaves from being about an average schmo driving a delivery van to a series of questions about heaven and hell, life and the afterlife, reality and monsters, and even time. 

I will definitely be keeping these authors in mind for future reading.