Thursday, October 27, 2011

Book Review: Ex-Heroes

Wow, where does the time go? Already five days till Halloween!! And then we skip Thanksgiving and go straight to Christmas.

I have to admit, this is a recycled book review (with some revising), originally posted on Amazon, but it fits the mood of this season, zombies and superheroes -- oh yeah!

The set-up:  It's post-apoc LA where the undead outnumber the living, and only the superheroes manage to keep some sanity alive, protecting the remaining humans in a fortress. But of course there's gotta be super villains, right?

The ultimate highlight of Peter Clines' Ex-Heroes, for me, was the kick ass ending where the heroes duke it out with undead heroes (ex-heroes). There's at least three battles going on and all of them have you on the edge of your seat. You really can't stop reading when you get to the last 50 pages, which I love. And can I just say a much cooler ending that King's The Stand; I'm still disappointed that there was never big clash between good and evil in that book. 

But as much as I love intense action scenes, this book does has its flaws. Two of the heroes are basically knock-offs of more famous heroes:
Stealth = robot Batman
St. George/The Mighty Dragon = fire-breathing Superman

I would have appreciated a little more originality in those heroes, especially since we see them the most. I REALLY didn't like Stealth, though. I get it, she's got a mind like a computer, but does she have to be devoid of a personality and all morals? What's the difference between her and a villain? Perhaps she'll become a villain in the next book, that would be interesting. And if she doesn't like being objectified, why does she run around in a painted on body suit? You can't see her face but she'll show you her curves. *facepalm*

Then there's Zzzap. He is the most powerful of the superheroes and yet, he does the least of all them except be a battery for the community. Can you say 'lame'? I think the author realized at the end that Zzzap could take out all the zombie hordes and ex-heroes in 5 minutes tops, so he gave Zzzap the piss poor excuse that he didn't like burning up zombies (it felt icky). Now if Zzzap had been too busy fighting MidKnight (another ex-hero) that would have given us another cool battle, and nothing to complain about.

As you can see, the characterization was rather weak all around. We only get one chapter into each of these characters' lives, and as much as I appreciate not getting dumped with tons of backstory, we don't get to see enough of these characters' thoughts. This is where limited 3rd-person would have helped a lot in getting in touch with the characters as both superheroes and humans. Of course, to have done this, the book would had to have been twice as long, and as a debut novel, I know authors are hard pressed to make their books as skinny as possible because it's not cheap to print a book. So I'm not too sure if it's the author's lack of ability to create 3D characters, or that the editor was an idiot and cut out all the characterization.The 4-5 pages of advertisements (for other books) in the back of the book makes me wonder...

There are a few overused phrases, like Cerberus constantly saying "her arms ached for her cannons," which I think came up 3-4 times. Once again, a little variety doesn't hurt.

I also see this book becoming severely dated ten years from now. Clines' makes tons of references to movies and TV shows that are popular now, which makes sense since these characters are stuck in Hollywood. But who's going to recall half this stuff years from now? Or what about the younglings who haven't even heard about it? We may not even have TV in ten years! (I hope not, because cable prices are ridiculous)

Now, I originally gave this book 4 stars, but after some thought, I'd say 3 out of 5 stars is more appropriate. Three stars isn't necessarily bad, but I'll be honest, this is a popcorn novel. It's fun to read, and doesn't take long to get through, but it certainly isn't anything deep or thoughtful. I may get around to its sequel Ex-Patriots, though I've already bought a bunch of books, and don't feel like shelling out another ten bucks.  

Monday, October 17, 2011

Book Review: World War Z

Ooooh yes, zombies! (and no, I'm not dead, just been busy writing n' stuff)

Ever since I read The Zombie Survival Guide, I have been a fan of Max Brooks' stuff, and he certainly doesn't disappoint in this novel. World War Z is set up as a series of interviews from folks who survived the terrifying war when zombies almost took over. If you've read "The Good War," it's a lot like that, and also an excellent book if you're interested in World War II personal stories. 

The level of realism in WWZ is, wow, astounding. I can tell Brooks did his research, as the whole situation felt real, not in a fictional way, but like this really had happened to us. The interviewees range from simple civilians to highly specialized military personal, even the vice president! (fictional, of course) They also come from all parts of the world, so we get taste of just how devastating this zombie attack was, which I think is what I like most about this. Just think, zombies don't drown, so we could have a sea full of undead, washing up on coasts all around the world! And there isn't a country that's safe, although Cuba comes pretty close to it. You never feel like your suspension of disbelief is ever stretched; he even gives theories as how the zombie virus may have spread. Infected organ donations -- yikes!

One of my favorite interviews was with Sharon, the mentally handicapped woman who reenacts, with eerie likeness, when the zombies attacked while her, her family and community were barricaded in a church. Here's an excerpt:
[Now she bangs both fists one the table, her strikes becoming chaotic as if to simulate multiple ghouls.] "Brace the door!" "Hold it! Hold it!" [She simulates the sound of shattering glass.] The windows broke, the windows in the front next to the door. The lights got black. Grown-ups got scared. They screamed.       
Another great interview was Sensei Tomonaga Ijiro, a blind Japanese man who lived in the wilderness and took out zombies with nothing but a quarterstaff. You can't get much more badass than that! Each personal story was well done, each with unique voices, felt culturally representative of the interviewee, not some stock characters. And each story showed how the Z war transformed them, whether they gained new insight or appreciation for life, or discovered some truly dark things about what they were capable of doing.

It's hard to find bad things about this book because it really is well done, and usually I can find something to nit-pick over. To view a war on so many levels and how it affects us all... and how it may not be completely over. If I had to complain, I'd say I wanted to see more of the interviewees Good-byes at the end. We only got a handful of them, and I wanted to see where their lives were headed, or their thoughts on how it was all going to turn out. So that was disappointing. Also, I thought a few of the military personal interviews sounded a wee bit too similar in voice, but that's a minor thing.

Rating: 5 out of 5 zombified stars!       

And how cool is this? There's going to be a movie of this coming out next year!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Movie Review: Jacob's Ladder

So it's that time of year to watch horror movies with the lights off and see how badly you can scare yourself. I first saw a mention of Jacob's Ladder in 100 Scariest Movie Moments -- or maybe it was its sequel... anyway, it looked really intriguing so I decided to check it out.

Quick synopsis: A traumatized (and possibly experimented on) Vietnam war veteran discovers that his post-war life isn't what he believes it to be when he starts seeing demons and flashbacks of his dead son.

*Warning* There will be spoilers.

This is one of those freaky psychological trips you take with the main character, not quite able to discern what is reality and what is a hallucination. Some of the images were great! And horrifying. Like in the beginning when Jacob is on the subway, and before he gets off, he sees a hobo with some sausage-link kind of appendage underneath a blanket. And you're thinking: WTF -- did I just see what I think I saw???
Then there was the scene when Jacob is crossing the subway tracks, a train rolls by, and up against the windows are these eyeless ghouls with gaping mouths.

The entire movie goes back forth between WTF and normalcy; these creepy moments popping out of nowhere, and then sinking back into the fabrics of reality. Is he dead? Is he just having one hell of a acid trip? Who knows!

Well, no. Turns out the director didn't want the viewer to keep on guessing -- which is unfortunate because I love open endings. I don't want closure; I want to wonder what happens next, to allow my imagination to run wild with gruesome thoughts of what could have happened, or what was really going on with poor Jacob.

A good reason not to piss off your girlfriend: she might be a demon!

But you're denied that with this film. In the end, we discover that *gasp* Jacob was dead all along and that the entire movie was his dying hallucination.  Does this sound oddly familiar to the cop out ending of the main character waking up and it turns out it was all just a dream?

For a movie this good, it deserved a better ending -- a significantly better ending. I mean where's the struggle if we know he's dead? I don't mind the MC struggling with the fact that he might be dead, he certainly did for a bit, but when it's confirmed that yeah, he is indeed dead, he just accepts it and, literally, walks up the stairway to heaven. That's not horror; that's cheesy! 

The whole being a guinea pig for experimental drugs/crazy-making-it-all-up angle wasn't played out to its full potential, in my opinion. It seemed like the movie was more intent on beating you over the head with the fact that he might be dead. Rather than letting us think that maybe he really *is* crazy.

But to end on a positive note, I thought the entire cast was amazing; the way they reacted made these WTF moments come alive and you were there with them.

So I'm going to give this 4 out of 5 hallucinogenic stars. A good psychological thriller with bits of gore splatter about, but ultimately could have been better.

Saturday, October 1, 2011


Pic from >>here<<.
Yes, I've been away for some time. Partly because I got busy and partly because I'm not so interested in blogging. I'll try to do better this month since there's a little more atmosphere this time of year to inspire.

For the month of September, I managed to complete four stories (2 flash, 2 shorts around 2K and less), also submitted more this month (11 pieces!!), of course that will probably result in more rejections, haha. Currently I have 9 stories out, which has been my most so far (I think last month was 4-5 at most), so that makes me happy, even if they all come back as R's.

And in other news, I've been weightlifting to build some muscle since I'm a whisper of a person, and it would be nice to open jars without having to ask someone else to do it.

Now to leave you with the awesome Emilie Autumn (a suiting last name, right?) and one of my favorite pieces from her (she calls is Industrial Victorian), Manic Depression. Trust me, it's not a depressing song, it's quite lively you could say.