Monday, November 19, 2012

Yes, THAT James Franco

Book # 33 - Palo Alto Stories by James Franco.

To be honest, I wasn't really sure what to expect when husband brought this home for me (he found a copy of it cheap at our favourite used/remainder book store). I like James Franco as an actor a lot, but that doesn't mean he's going to be a good writer.
Well, some of his short stories aren't bad. They're all terribly uncomfortable in a lot of ways, all dealing with teenaged drugs and sex and drinking and violence (and admittedly, I was an extremely straight and narrow teenager, so events described in these stories are very much out of my frame of reference). I think "American History" was the best one, because it was uncomfortable, but there did also seem to be some emotional payoff there, a little more resonnance.

Because, while the stories all seemed to be interlocking with some reoccuring characters, but I began to find that they all spoke with the same voice. Which gets really repetative when they're all talking about the same thing all the time. I don't know though, maybe that was the point and Franco was trying to point out that all the kids of this generation speak with the same bored, disenfranchised, violent, teenaged ennui. And if that's true, then this book was also fucking depressing.

Thursday, November 15, 2012


Book #32 Outlaw by Angus Donald.

When I was three years old, my absolute, hands-down favourite movie was the Disney version of Robin Hood. I was obsessed with it. There were no DVDs or VCRs back then, but I had the storybooks, and any and all toys associated with that movie that my parents could find me. And of course, a toy bow and arrow.

That obsession grew to an overall in Robin Hood as a legend for awhile, but strangely, as a teenager, my obsession with larger-than-life English legends who were based on a real person but completely embelleshed upon switched to King Arthur and my childhood love of Robin Hood was mainly forgotten. I have nearly an entire bookcase full of books on King Arthur, whereas the only Robin Hood book I own is a taped together, scribbled on adaptation of the Disney movie I got when I was four.
So yes, Outlaw is about Robin Hood. It's told from the POV of Alan Dale (who was the awesome rooster in the Disney version, voiced by Roger Miller) and it's... ok. It definitely tries to give a Bernard Cornwell feeling reality to the legend. I mean, Robin is definitely shown to be a legend and a leader and all that, but he's also not unrealistic. Of course, the problem with reading this tale told by a member of his band (and Alan here is young and only recently joined), Robin is definitely a secondary character. Which I guess is ok since we are supposed to just see Alan's indoctrination into Robin's Merry Band.

The timeline here is different than the one I remember from the Disney version, or even from that awful Ridley Scott/Russell Crow version of Robin Hood from a few years ago (saw a free screening of it and still wanted my money back). Here, Robin is outlawing during the reign of Henry II, and towards the end of the book, Richard ascends the throne. I find this interesting, as usually the given reasoning behind Robin's robbing the rich to give to the poor is due to the oppressive taxation carried out by Richard's regent and brother, Prince John (y'know, the guy who screwed the pooch so badly when it comes to being king that his nobles come up with the Magna Carta and force him to sign it). So I admit, this threw me a little.

The characters are all fine, if a little... dull. No one really stands out. And I even got tired of the meticulously detailed battle scenes by the end. (also rather reminiscent of Bernard Cornwell). But there are a number of nice touches here and there, and he does capture how shitty it was to be a peasant back then, and how there weren't many opportunities to escape being destitute. His attempts at intrigue are a little transparent though.
  There is a sequel, which is basically Robin goes to the Crusades! but not sure I want to continue on or not...

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

To the Top of the Tower. Finally.

Book # 31: The Dark Tower by Stephen King.

Holy crap, I'm done. I'm done, I'm done, I'm done. It's such a freaking relief. Ok, well there is actually one more book, more in the vein of Wizards and Glass, but I don't have the strength to continue on anymore. I just need a break from these books and from Stephen King in general.

But when it comes right down to it, I honestly don't know what to say about this beast. There were times when I hated it vehemently, and times where I was just not liking it, and times when I was apathetic towards it.

At one certain point, I had to put the book down and walk away from it I was so angry at Stephen King. The whole him as a character in his own work trope was getting more out of hand in this book, and then he took it to an incredibly maddening extreme, and I had to question whether or not I even wanted to continue.

But I did.

The ending? Meh. How very tilting at windmills of you Stephen.

When new characters are added with obvious deus ex machina powers, you can immediately see how they're going to shake out. And I was right.
The showdown with Mordred? How very anticlimactic. I was expecting something grand and Arthurian. No. Not really.
Susannha's 'reunion'? That didn't leave me happy. Although not that I really wanted to be. Hate that character, so her being happy at the end wasn't really a thing for me. But these aren't the same people she had all those adventures with. They don't share those experiences with her or one another. So no, it didn't hit that Lost chord with me at all there. It didn't hit a chord with me at all.

The man in black fled across the desert and the gunslinger followed.

I'm done following. Thankee sai.

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

The Heroes

Book number 30 - The Heroes by Joe Abercrombie

((I'm now WAY behind on my reading because I totally ran aground on the huge fucking problematic rock that is Stephen King's the Dark Tower. I hit a point in that book that made me so damn mad I had to put it down and pick up The Heroes and cleanse my palate. I'm glad I did.))

Set in the same world as his other novels, we see some familiar faces engaged in a familiar past time; war. But this book is very interesting, as Abercrombie gives us one decisive battle, and the whole story takes place over the three days of this battle between the Union and Black Dow's Northmen.

The Heroes refers to both the place of the fight (a stone circle at the top of a hill) and of course, those who are fighting. And of course, some find that they are heroes or not.

There are multiple POVs throughout the novel, and it's one of Abercrombie's great strengths that he can pretty much make all his characters likeable enough that you end up wanting them to survive, no matter what side they're on. He's also wise in not giving us, for the most part, POVs of the more 'villianous' characters such as Black Dow or Bayaz or even poor old Caul Shivers, returned home from Styria.

But for the others, old vetern Curnden Craw, deposed Prince Calder, new recruit Beck, disgraced bodyguard to the King and combat monster Bremer dan Gorst... even when they're not likeable, there's still something about them to like. Abercrombie is so good at this it's a little scary sometimes.
There were a couple of POVs I could've done without (I understand Corporal Tunny's inclusion in the narrative, but I didn't really need him.), but nothing so bad it detracted from the overall story for me.

He does an admirable job of showing war in none of it's glory. Even those who are there for glory realize it's not. War is bad for everyone, even for those who are good at it. Also, he did a fantastic job of making Finree dan Brock's capture horrifying, without resorting to violating her. Although I'm sure poor Alize didn't fare as well, I appreciated him not putting that out there.

The ending is a little... pat, where we find out that a certain someone is pulling all the strings again. I'm hoping that Calder's little move at the end may have thrown a wrench in that someone's plans, 'cause I didn't really anticipate Calder doing what he did.

Looking forward to Red Country even more now.