Six Impossible Things

A Blog About Fiction and Reading

No Dominion

DominionNo Dominion by Charlie Huston

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Charlie Huston has a voice all his own.  He’s clearly a noir writer, and clearly has an ear for dialogue.  I’m a fan of Ed Gorman for the same reasons, but Charlie Huston makes Ed Gorman look like Dr. Seuss, because Charlie Huston writes about some bad-ass sons-of-bitches.  Joe Pitt, a Vampyre in New York City, is one of those SOBs.

Huston introduced us to Joe Pitt in Already Dead, and he sort of introduced us to him in the Hank Thompson trilogy, since the main characters in both series are very much alike: tough, street-wise, and loyal to his loved ones.  Being a tough, street-wise Vampyre, it’s hard to imagine him having loved ones, but his girlfriend has no idea that Pitt is a Vampyre, and never questions why he doesn’t go out during the day, and why he has a refrigerator with a padlock on it (though she often wonders).  That she’s HIV-positive means that they never have sex, and besides, if it ever came to where Pitt has to make a choice, the Vampyre virus will take care of her illness, anyway.

Structurally, and plot-wise, No Dominion is similar to the second book in the Hank Thompson trilogy, Caught Stealing.  The similarities may have more to do with the structure of trilogies than anything that Huston may have borrowed from one series to another, but to be honest, I don’t really care.  I love reading Huston’s stories, because they’re gritty, realistic, and still manage to keep me engaged.  Similar or not, the book is still a great read.

Be forewarned, though: The books are brutal and violent, and explicit in every detail.  If that sort of thing makes you queasy, then you should probably avoid Huston’s books.  If Pulp Fiction, though, seemed a little tame to you, then Hank Thompson and Joe Pitt could probably be good friends of yours.  Find them, read them, and appreciate them.

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April 26, 2007 Posted by | Adult Fiction, Reviews | Leave a comment

The Case of the Missing Books

BooksThe Case of the Missing Books by Ian Sansom

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The other day, I was shelving books at the library, and stumbled across this one. Hm, I thought, I’ve read this. Did I ever write it up on my blog? Sure enough, I haven’t. So, this is a bonus. I guess. I mean, no one’s been knocking on my door through email to ask me about new reviews, so maybe it’s just a bonus for me.

Anyway….

This is an odd sort of mystery, and it’s hard to get into it right at first, because the main character, Israel Armstrong, is a bit of a loser. He gets caught up in a job that he doesn’t want, which is driving the bookmobile in the small Northern Irish town of Tumdrum. Tumdrum is a town of hard-grizzled farmers and workers, and Israel is a whiny Jewish man who has a hard time remaining vegetarian in a town where the chicken they serve for dinner is that same one that shared Israel’s bed the night before.

The thing is, Israel came to Tumdrum with the idea of being the librarian. When he arrives and discovers that the library has closed, and he now has to drive the bookmobile (a vehicle that is about as run down and decrepit as one would expect for the neat-freak that Israel turns out to be), he tries to quit, but finds that he’s under contract now. Stranger still is that the library has no books in it. Now, Israel has to find out where all the books are.

To be fair to the author, though, this is a funny book. Israel is supposed to be a loser, and even though it makes it harder to be sympathetic to him, once the antics get under way, he becomes more of an incidental part of the story to all the weirdness that follows him. The novel is less plot-driven than a mystery probably should be, but the plot is there to set up the scenes, and the scenes are a riot. Israel is the typical fish out of water, but Sansom knows how to set up his character to get the wackiest results out of him. You’ll likely be disappointed by the denouement if you’re really into mysteries, but don’t let it distract you from all the other funny business going on in Tumdrum.

This is a romp, nothing more, and nothing less. If you want a light, funny diversion that will keep you occupied for a few hours, sit down with Israel and Ian and let them take you to Tumdrum.

April 26, 2007 Posted by | Adult Fiction, Reviews | Leave a comment

X-Rated Bloodsuckers

X-RatedX-Rated Bloodsuckers by Mario Acevedo

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The Nymphos of Rocky Flats introduced me to Felix Gomez, an Iraqi veteran turned into a vampire private investigator, and I’m pleased to see that he’s returned in his second novel.  In his first, he investigated an outbreak of nymphomania on a secret government research facility, and now, he’s taken on a case to solve the murder of a social activist who was also a porn star.   As Felix discovers as he investigates the case, many people wanted her dead, and now anyone who had been associated with her before is also turning up dead.  That he’s also being sent to investigate a vampire-human collusion in LA adds a little something extra to the story, but it turns out that it’s all tied together, anyway.

I think what I like about the Felix Gomez novels so far is that they have no pretension of being anything more than a wild romp through a traditional mystery story.  Felix is about as average an investigator that you can get, and if you read a lot of PI novels, you’re going to recognize him right from the start (though the fangs and the red eyes might be something new).   Both novels also have a dark sense of adult humor, which adds a nice touch to the otherwise serious business of investigating murders.  Not much here is laugh-out-loud funny, but it’s light-hearted, and easy to read.

There is still a lot of repetition in the novel, in that Felix’s main investigative tactics involve hypnotizing anyone he can make eye contact with.  The author goes to a lot of trouble to describe Felix taking his contacts out, then putting them back in, or doing the same with his sunglasses.  It’s a fine tactic for the novel, but it seems overused.  At least this time, the author spared us from the overindulgence in describing how Felix has to put blood on everything he eats to make it palatable.  That sort of thing is still there, but it’s not as invasive as it was in The Nymphos of Rocky Flats.

I would recommend the book to anyone who likes fantasy, mystery, or horror, and who has an open enough mind to go along with the basic premise of the story.  Acevedo seems to be improving as he continues the series, and since the book ends with the suggestion that Felix has another case ahead of him, I look forward to seeing where the author takes his character next.  If he keeps improving, he could become an author to watch.

April 24, 2007 Posted by | Adult Fiction, Reviews | Leave a comment

The Humanoids

HumanoidsThe Humanoids by Jack Williamson

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Every so often, I run across a book that has an intriguing idea, but is rather dull and dry for reading.  Vinge’s Rainbows End and Flynn’s Eifelheim are two recent examples, and now Williamson’s The Humanoids can go on that list.  I discovered the book through a Webcomic, of all things, but the description of the novel captured my imagination: In a distant future, the Humanoids, a race of robots with a prime directive to protect humans at all costs, effectively invades different planets and takes over.  The Humanoids are so painstakingly dedicated to their directive that humans cannot cook (the heat is too dangerous), perform crafts (scissors can be dangerous), or even drive (cars are too dangerous).  Once they begin their assimilation into society, the humans begin to feel imprisoned, and any signs of unhappiness on their part is met with a form of lobotomy so that humans no longer feel unhappy.  It’s a frightening concept, and it made me uneasy during much of the novel.

The novel is actually a collection of a short story, “With Folded Hands,” that introduces the Humanoids, and the novel proper, which continues with the concept of their invasion.  They were both published in the late 1940s, and aside from the usual sexist portrayals of women and men, it’s still a timely book.  The writing style became obtuse in portions, as the author spent a great deal of the narrative discussing the science behind the rhodomagnetic science, but the story itself captured me.  The story accounts several attempts by humans to stop the Humanoids, only to show them fail each time.  I felt anxious for the characters to end the tyranny of the overprotective androids, and frustrated when they met with failure each time.  The Humanoids were just too efficient to defeat.

Which brings me to the point of the novel that troubles me.  It’s depressing, to me, to think of a rule such as this, and the novel doesn’t bring any clear resolution to the issue that makes me feel any better about it.  There is a happy ending, of sorts, but it’s more a case of mutual existence between the Humanoids and the humans, and I almost felt betrayed by that conclusion.  The story is told in such a way as to make the reader feel as outraged as the protagonists, but in the end, I felt cheated by the ending.  Was I supposed to?  Or was I supposed to be accepting of the final outcome between the humans and their captors?

I enjoyed the novel, because it contained some interesting social commentary, and elicited some genuine emotion from me.  It was slow going, but ultimately satisfying.  I would recommend it to anyone wanting to catch up on some of the more obscure classic science fiction, and would suggest that they email me about it when they finish it so I can see if I’m the only one who feels like I do about the conclusion.

April 23, 2007 Posted by | Adult Fiction, Reviews | Leave a comment

Lost Echoes

EchoesLost Echoes by Joe R. Lansdale

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I discovered Joe Lansdale when I was looking for new horror writers.  As a horror writer, Lansdale is OK; his stuff crosses more into the bizarre and weird, a la John Shirley or Rob Hardin, and I prefer something with a little more of the ordinary with a touch of menace, like Bentley Little.  As a mystery writer, though, Lansdale shines.  When he’s capturing the period of the early twentieth Century in East Texas (Sunset and Sawdust), he really finds his voice, and when he reinvents the buddy-mystery with Hap and Leonard, he turns cliches on their heads and gives you something unexpected.

Lost Echoes, though, isn’t a Hap and Leonard novel, nor is it one of his period mysteries.  This is a mystery/horror novel set in modern times, with some standard characters that you would find in other novels on the best-sellers list.  The main character has the ability to detect the violent past through sounds, and he’s recruited by a childhood friend to discover the truth behind her father’s murder.  He’s also a recovering alcoholic, taking some lessons in Zen and martial arts from another recovering alcoholic.  It’s all a little strange, and not a little bit mundane, for Lansdale.

The story moved along well enough, and kept me interested throughout the novel.  The characters were likable enough,  and the antagonists were appropriately nasty.  It just didn’t have anything special, like I’ve seen in previous Lansdale novels.  Where was the sharp, witty dialogue?  Where were the unique, oddball characters?  Where was the East Texas landscape that is as much a character to the story as the people solving the mystery?  For a novel in general, it’s only mediocre, and for a Lansdale novel, it’s a tremendous disappointment.

I was watching one of those movie review shows yesterday, and one of the commentators mentioned that it’s unfair to judge an artist based off of his previous works, and that we should only judge the work on its own merits.  If that were the case with Lost Echoes, though, I’d likely tell everyone I know to not read this book, or anything else by the author.  As it is, Lansdale is a gifted storyteller with a unique voice; unfortunately, this isn’t the book to showcase his talents.  Look to A Fine Dark Line or Sunset and Sawdust for a better understanding of Joe Lansdale’s abilities.

April 23, 2007 Posted by | Adult Fiction, Reviews | Leave a comment