Storm Front by Jim Butcher (book review)

Happy Monday!

I hope everyone had as good of a holiday weekend as I had (I consider Friday the 13th to to be a holiday and a decidedly not-unlucky day).  After a weekend full of psychobilly and general excitement, I figured given that something equally creepy would be in good  style.  I have been reading The Bootlegger by John E. Hallwas and had ambitious plans to have it finished by Thursday last week and be ready to review today…however as it’s a good book (BONUS MINI BOOK PREVIEW) it’s about as dry as a wrung rag: it’s not dripping with excitement but it’ll do.  What was also adding to the lack of dampness were the other 3 books I was nibbling on the side, Storm Front being one(1) that, like the other books I’ve read in the Dresden Files series have been, ends up being too good to just nibble on(2) (I seriously feel like trying to nurse a Dresden Files novel is like, for me, trying to eat a soft oatmeal chocolate chip cookie, my favourite cookie for anyone taking notes, in no less than 200 bites: I’m not a strong enough man for that).

(NOTE:  My friend Brad Evans, same guy who originally recommended the Dresden Files to me in the first place, wrote a great post on the graphic novel omnibus that covers the first three books of the Dresden Files (including Storm Front, obv) which can be read here: “spoiler free book review dresden files graphic novel omnibus one”)

storm front

Fun Fact: Jim Butcher never mentioned Harry Dresden wearing a hat but there was a miss commutation between him and the cover artist.  I’m glad Butcher gave the hat the green light.

Storm Front begins the Dresden Files, a hard boiled detective noir style story series, which follows a fellow who’s yellow pages advert reads:

Harry Dresden – Wizard

Lost Items Found. Paranormal Investigations. Consulting. Advice. Reasonable rates. No Love potions, Endless Purses, or Other Entertainment.

The series falls squarely in the urban fantasy sub genre being set in an okay middle American city called Chicago(3), which this series as a whole plays as an interesting counter part to a similar series (also urban fantasy, also a detective/action series) I read called Anita Blake: Vampire Hunter which is set in St Louis which I may revisit at some point.

The novel opens as one would expect a detective noir story to open: “Hard Luck Harry” sitting in his office killing time whilst waiting for work to come in when something disrupts his waiting

“I heard the mailman approach my office door, half an hour earlier than usual.”
-Storm Front, 1

Which sets an interesting president for use of common tropes for the rest of the novel which, despite how that sounds, is a really “good-interesting” thing.

I do like to complain about over used tropes in books(4) mostly because the fact that a motif becomes a trope is because it works however for it to continue to work in an interesting manour one has to make interesting use of said trope(5) and that’s  something Butcher excels with in this first book.

Storm Front follows the format of a good detective novel: the A-story explores Harry Dresden’s “day life” as a consultant to the CPD Special Investigations unit investigating the mysterious and brutal death of a couple whilst the B-story explores Harry’s “night life” as a private eye on the case of a missing husband.  The character line up is classically balanced with a “good cop, bad cop” duo, a few femme fatales, and a healthy number of potential threats and suspects that intertwine both the A and B stories.

I cannot recommend this book enough, nor can I write much more without spoilers, so with that if you haven’t read this book or any Dresden Files book (they are all in a continuous story line but each book works pretty well standing alone) I encourage you to to treat your self to an excellent read.

Tune in Friday continuing The Adventures of Fin and Louie.

-fin

 

Footnotes:

  1. I’m also reading The Rum Diary by Hunter S. Thompson and Letters from the Underworld by Dostoevsky both of which will get book reviews in the coming months.
  2. Before I started writing this blog I had read a few Dresden Files books starting with Skin Game, which is the current novel as of this writing, and from that first novel I was FUCKING HOOKED! I normally read an average of 100-200 pages in a good week and that book was 454 pages.  I finished that shit in 3 days.
  3. The fact that St Louis consistently lives in Chicago’s shadow despite St Louis’s important and historically significant contribution in the development of the United States and the westward expansion plus the fact that we, as a city, are older than the United States as a fucking country is a constant sore spot culturally for St Louis folk.  At least our baseball team doesn’t suck.

    cardinals

    I’m not even a sportsball fan but that shit’s funny.

  4. Mostly. I generally just accept that most TV and Movies have to be held to a lower bar than the average book (in my personal opinion) however I do deeply appreciate a well crafted movie and watching video essays channels on youtube such as such as Lessons from the Screenplay, Every Frame a Painting,  and Now You See It, that pick apart movies on technical levels of aspects I just don’t appreciate because I have no experience with film making.
  5. I’m not entirely convinced that we can write stories that don’t at all rely on some sort of trope or another since these bits of culturally or historically familiar archetypes seem to help ground the story in literary reality or in a cannon of understood story telling because even some of the most enigmatic stories I’ve read had some sort of possible archetypal understanding of the characters whether it be reading House of Leaves as a modern interpretation of Odin’s addiction to wisdom and Frigg’s journey of self-realisation through disassociation or Infinite Jest’s use of Socratic Dialogues via Marthe and Steeply as mouth-pieces.  I’m  sure they’re out there and I’d love to read one, if you think you know of one feel free to leave a comment or sent me a message.

 

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Friday the 13th (special comic)

Happy Friday!

As I mentioned earlier this week there are some really excellent bands putting on shows this weekend and in celebration of Friday the 13th I made a comic for the band playing tonight with an extra surprise…

IMG_20171011_091349

First comic I’m using coloured pencils versus markers and I’m pretty happy with the results.  

If you see me out tonight or tomorrow night, feel free to say “hi” (it’d help if you explained where you recognise me from, just sayin’).

Tune in Monday for the weekly Mystery (I think it might be a book review, but there’s the mystery: WHAT BOOK?!)

-fin

The Nekromantix (Band)

Happy Wednesday!

Welcome back for a special limited return of Rewind Wednesday(1).  As I promised, this  week’s edition of Rewind Wednesday is some what Hellbound, as in when I found out The Nekromantix are putting on a show at the Fubar this Friday the 13th I decided it was time I worked through their discography proper starting with their first album “Hellbound”.

Nekromantix_-_Hellbound_cover

That hair tho…

In The  Nekromantix’s, a psychobilly band from Copenhagen,  near 30 year existence, The Nekromantix(2) has had an appreciable growth spurt starting with their 4th album “Demons are a Girl’s Best Friend”.  This is not to say that the first three albums are rubbish, because they’re not, as I really love “S&M” on Curse of the Coffin,  “Bloody Holiday” and the titular song on the Brought back to Life (again) album. After that I feel like to date the strongest album is “Life is a Grave and I Dig it”.

220px-Nekromantix_-_Life_Is_a_Grave_&_I_Dig_It!_cover

Life is a Grave and I Dig it – track list

  1. “NekroHigh”
  2. “Horny in a Hearse”
  3. “Life Is a Grave & I Dig It!”
  4. “My Girl”
  5. “Rot In Hell!”
  6. “Voodoo Shop Hop”
  7. “Cave Canem”
  8. “Flowers Are Slow”
  9. “B.E.A.S.T.”
  10. “Anaheim After Dark”
  11. “Fantazma”
  12. “Panic at the Morgue”
  13. “Out Comes the Batz”
  14. “Anaheim After Dark (instrumental)”

There are no bad songs on this album, just songs that are less excellent than the par the majority of the album sets.  The only songs I don’t feel are excellent on this album are tracks 1, 5, 7,  8, 10, and 11 and that’s from one or two passes.  Honestly track one  opens real strong and  is a good song but gets waaaay out shined by the next track (which might be my second favourite song on the album, I really love the “staccato galloping” sound that sounds like spoons or drumsticks in “Panic at the Morgue”).  Overall this is the general pattern for this album, like they knew they had a solid 8 songs and another 6 good ones.   The way the track list is set up, it seems to be the case to me.  1 good, 2 – 4 solid, 5 good, 6 solid, 7 and 8 good, etc.

I’m really excited for their St Louis show this Friday night at the Fubar.  Tickets are $13 and the show starts at 7pm.  Ticket information here.

As if it wasn’t enough that The Nekromantix are playing here in St Louis on Friday the 13th (when I’m available to go and with a hot date) but…

THE MOTHERFUCKING CREEPSHOW ARE PLAYING THE SAME VENUE SATURDAY THE 14TH!!!

If you’re not a regular here, you may not appreciate why my energy levels are so high about The Creepshow but however the short version is they’re my favourite band and I. Cannot. Stop. Writing. About. Them.(3)

I’m also going to The Creepshow’s show the next night, same place and time but tickets are only $12.  Ticket information here.

Tune in Friday for the a special “Friday the 13th” comic (A WILD NEW CHARACTER MAY APPEAR…)

-fin

 

Footnotes:

  1. I’m practically counting this week a holiday week however I have also learned from this week that I cannot keep up with more than a column and a comic weekly plus my other projects plus my day job, with any regularity.  If anyone wants to take up the column though, feel free to contact me.
  2. I’m playing the “proper collective noun game” here because “The Nekromantix” is Kim Nekroman and his Coffinbass (a custom double bass shaped like a coffin with a big black cross for a head) as they’re the sole consistent members of the band over the years.
  3. Counting the current post, this will be the 6th time I’ve written about them:

    My first Rewind Wednesday – “The Creepshow (band)”

    A Sketch inspired by their song “The House on Cherry Hill”

    Another Rewind Wednesday playlist themed on female punk rock lead singers

    Playlist of Punk Rock songs featuring harmonica

    And the last time they were on tour and came through St Louis whilst I was in the UK

Stream of Consciousness Theatre presents: Friday the 13th

Happy Monday!

I’ve always been fond of the day Friday in general.  For example, I was born on a Sunny Friday just past 12noon. Growing up I had an interest in norse and greek mythology and since then I’ve discovered an interest for etymology(1) which has since lead me to appreciate Friday more as the day was named after the Norse Goddess Frigga

Friday (n.)
sixth day of the week, Old English frigedæg “Friday, Frigga’s day,” from Frige, genitive of *Frigu (see Frigg), Germanic goddess of married love. The day name is a West Germanic translation of Latin dies Veneris “day of (the planet) Venus,” which itself translated Greek Aphrodites hemera. Source: “Friday” Etymology Online

 

I’ve always, also, been fond of the number 13 in general.  For example, the number 13 is a “happy number” mathematically(2) but also it makes me happy because it’s the baker’s dozen (there’s gotta be a “test pastry” for the baker, right?).  Fin and Louie also like pastries. 

Copy of Wanted Western Themed Party Invitation Flyer Template   

Given the sum of the parts Friday, a day celebrating love and beauty, and 13 being a number with such happy connotations, Friday the 13th should be a good day.  And it is depending on what you’re taking into consideration.  

friday-the-13th-movies

Given how well this movie franchise has done, I’m starting to question how much Americans actually dislike Friday the 13th


Despite, or rather because, the fact that so many Americans have a stigma for Friday the 13th, it’s one of the best days for driving because the superstitious are less likely to be on the road leaving the rest of us sociopathic vehicle operators which sounds like an amusing day on the road.  However in reality, I couldn’t find statically significant data proving whether it’s a safer day for driving or robbing a bank or anything.  

The main reason this day has any “significance” is because of various rumours and pieces of propaganda throughout history involving legendary figures like Knights Templar and King Harold II and their demise, none of which has any significant historical basis other than in the Christian tradition of demonising non-Christian symbols, mythologies, and deities in a quest for spiritual world dominance (which does have a significant, and rather bloody at that, historical basis).  

These pieces of sensationalist legend about Friday the 13th being a satanically evil day can be called conspiracy theories or propaganda but since they lack any significant factual basis there’s a more modern term appropriate for it: Fake News.  Don’t let people others tell you how you should feel about a specific day because that’s submitting to a form of mind control.  I’m serious.

One of the key challenges for me on a regular basis, and I know that I’m  not the only one who struggles with this, is knowing when and to what extent to question myself and my beliefs.  Over the course of the last 5 years I’ve been forced to examine, dissect, and reassemble almost every aspect of my life (it all started when I turned 24 and I took my first solo trip cross country and realised a few weeks in “What’s my end game here?”).  Welcome to The Quarter-Life Crisis: The Millennial Generation’s individual and collective struggle to find meaning.  

quarter-life-e-card

2 real 4 me

I’ve always been a worker but I haven’t always sought meaningful work.  For the first 5 years of my working life I did whatever made me money and I used to pull in(3).  Then I went off to my second music festival and I came home dirty broke, beautiful, free, and in the mood to quit my job and become a hobo (find work that took me traveling) because despite my new found feelings of freedom I was still trapped just in a cage of a new making.  

The process took years to fully manifest and for me to become deeply aware of what it was that was driving my incessant need to escape.  My first reading of the book Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace was like a light that caught the bars of cage in just a way that sparked my sense of self-awareness.  I began the book 4 months before I decided to stop drinking (for a long while at minimum)(4) and finished it after 3 months sober(5).  One of the motifs in Infinite Jest (IJ) is this concept of “The Cage”.  

“The Cage” as I understand it can be summed up in a joke one of the side characters tells Don Gately, a main character

“Bob Death smiles coolly (South Shore bikers are required to be extremely cool in everything they do) and manipulates a wooden match with his lip and says No, not that fish-one. He has to assume a kind of bar-shout to clear the noise of his idling hawg. He leans in more toward Gately and shouts that the one he was talking about was: This wise old whiskery fish swims up to three young fish and goes, ‘Morning, boys, how’s the water?’ and swims away; and the three young fish watch him swim away and look at each other and go, ‘What the fuck is water?’ and swim away.  The young biker leans back and smiles at Gately and gives an affable shrug and blatts away, a halter top’s tits smashed against his back.” (445)

The way I understand The Cage is not only the physical presence of the water, in this situation I am a fish, but also becoming aware of it’s overwhelming presence and what to do about it.  

IMG_20171009_081240

A fish sticks joke AND a Ghost in the Shell joke? hahaha…I crack me up anyway


Once I became aware of the scope of The Cage, it became very clear to me that I would have to begin the long process of finding what “meaningful work” means to me and then once I’ve defined it, beginning the journey to find (or more likely create) that job.  This blog is a step in the right direction.

Thank you for helping to be apart of that journey.  

Tune in Wednesday for a Hellbound Special Edition of Rewind Wednesday (returning for a limited time, future posting unclear).

-fin       

 

Footnotes:

  1. I can pinpoint the precise moment when I became intrigued by the concept of etymology, of which I had a blithe indifference towards prior, and how a precisely chosen word can  add to the flavour of a text. October 2006, the first time I read House of Leaves and I got to page 114. I posted about it on Labour day a few weeks ago on Instagram.
  2. And this is why I love math and wikipedia: “A happy number is a number defined by the following process: Starting with any positive integer, replace the number by the sum of the squares of its digits in base-ten, and repeat the process until the number either equals 1 (where it will stay), or it loops endlessly in a cycle that does not include 1. Those numbers for which this process ends in 1 are happy numbers, while those that do not end in 1 are unhappy numbers (or sad numbers).[1]

    Or applied to our example:

    13 is happy
    1^2 + 3^2 = 10
    1^2 + 0^2 =  1

    Also, thankfully, the proof for 13 being happy is much shorter than the proof for 7 being happy (I was hoping it wouldn’t be…)

    IMG_20171009_064303

    I gave up after 9 steps. 9 is an unhappy number.

    For more information, see the WolfRam page on  Happy Numbers.

  3. I used to work in speciality retail on commissions and despite my love for the word “fuck”, I made a pretty fucking good salesman (consistently top in the company for the 2 years I worked there).
  4. In spirit of transparency, I was sober collectively for 12 of 14 months and just before returning home to the US I decided I had cleared my head enough to suss out some deeper concerns and now I do have a few beers some times.  I still don’t really do hard liquor except on special occasions.      
  5. Now that I’m thinking about it (this is all strange coincidence) I started Infinite Jest a second time because after reading it for the first time whilst trying to go sober, whilst working full time, whilst going to school full time (English Lit, reading a lot for class), whilst trying to get paperwork and self (mentally, emotionally, physically) ready to travel abroad for a year or so, whilst dealing with an expiring lease and trying to work out couch surfing plans for the month before I left the country whilst trying to think about organising a birthday/going away party at the end of the summer before I left (birthday: 23rd September; fly: 1st October) whilst starting a new blog, I had a lot on my mind.  So after the first time finishing it, most people I’ve spoken to who have finished it think “…what the fuck, man?”, I couldn’t even manage that.  I was pretty sure I had missed literal chunks of the narrative from drunk-over or sleep deprived reading.  I decided to start reading the book again the day I flew (or intended to) and finished it for the second time just after getting home (which was around the same time I same time I decided to crack a cold one with the boys, after getting home that is not finishing the book despite the ending).  

Welcome to Count Rubber’s Keep (comic)

Happy Friday!

I’m going to continue the Adventures of Fin and Louie a couple times a month or so. This is a continuation from the comic “… meanwhile”.

Some day I will get a real set of colouring makers but I’ll always have a soft spot for my WHS marker set.

Tune in Monday for the weekly mystery.

-fin

The Pesthouse by Jim Crace (book review)

Happy Monday!

As I mentioned last week I have for you today a very spirited book review of The Pesthouse by Jim Crace, another one of those books that “…the kind of book that when you finish it, you want to toss it against a wall” however in this context that’s not a particularly good thing and it disappoints me to say that.

The Pesthouse, a post-apocalyptic story set in the United States, opens up with some of the strongest writing in the entire book. Consider the opening paragraph:

“Everybody died at night. Most were sleeping at the time, the lucky ones who were too tired or drunk or deaf or wrapped too tightly in their spreads to hear the hillside, destabilized by the rain, collapse and slip beneath the waters of the lake. So these sleepers (six or seven hundred, at a guess; no one ever came to count or claim the dead) breathed their last in passive company, unwarned and unexpectedly, without any fear. Their final moments, dormant in America.” (1)

However this is from the preface from a character named Nash, who is never revisited and very loosely related to the story in a rather irrelevant way which is a shame as he might have been a more interesting or likable character than the lot Crace has cast for us. Once the narrative proper starts with chapter one page eight, the quality of writing

the pest house

Instead of ‘The Pesthouse’ this book should be renamed ‘The Passivehouse because almost the ENTIRE novel is written in the passive past tense voice.

goes down for me because nearly the rest of the book is written in this slow dead-paced passive voice

“Franklin Lopez had not been sleeping in Ferrytown, though [he had] wanted to. [He had] not been sleeping anywhere, in fact. [Could not] sleep. [He had] weathered such pain the day before that [he had] been forced to consider…” (8) italics for emphasis

Notice in 3.5 sentences Crace uses “had” 5 times (I count conjunctions ie the original quote reads “he’d” and I extrapolated it for emphasis as [he had]) and another passive past tense word “could” once. I’ve had creative writing teachers who would not accept your story if it was written entirely in the passive voice unless it was used for specific reasons (an example that comes to mind is the story format of the frame story where a character, usually a lead is remembering back and telling us [both the reader and the audience in the context of the story] their story complete with

pat rothfuss

Patrick Rothfuss can grow a sexy beard

foreshadowing because of hindsight insight, an excellent example of this story structure executed masterfully is The Kingkiller Chronicle by Patrick Rothfuss and The Pesthouse does not present a reason for this stylistic choice.

Without giving spoilers, I found the story to generally drag on until about the final act when the story converges with a strange religious sect when both the story and writing quality improved enough to help me push through to the rather anticlimactic ending.

Overall I really didn’t like this novel because it felt like a first draft of something that could have been much more interesting rather than a cash grab at the Post-apocalyptic America-land trend(1). If this was Crace’s first novel, I’d be much more lenient because this novel does have potential to be something more interesting however it’s his 10th novel in 20 years and not only but he’s an award winning author and a member of the Royal Society of Literature. I haven’t read Crace’s other novels but if after 20 years this is what he can produce, I am not impressed.

Footnotes:

  1. Whilst in the UK and talking with one of my friends on the subject of post-apocalyptic stories, she pointed out to me a distinct lack of non-american set post-apocalyptic stories particularly none she could think of taking place in the UK [I failed to remember, somehow, that Children of Men takes place in the UK] and whilst on the subject of the post-apocalyptic trend in media I do want to note that I would really like to see more stories set in places that are not america for a change or maybe more interesting types of apocalyptic events like H.P. Lovecraftian monsters enslave the human race or aliens visit the planet, unbenounced to humans, and grant all the octopi super high tech helmets that allow them to build structures and complex tools which leads them to creating an alien atlantis which then leads them to land excursions and demanding rights leading to interspecies civil war (they create helmets for dogs and pickles and things too), or maybe all the water on the planet turns to jell-o (or jelly for my UK readers) and it’s like a science thriller race against time to figure out a way to turn the jell-o into water again or something fucking original (zombies are cool and I will likely never get my proper fill of zombie media but seriously there are other interesting crisis to subject fictional humans to).

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