Distrust That Particular Flavor (2012) by William Gibson

Opening lines:

“When I started to try to learn to write fiction, I knew that I had no idea how to write fiction. This was actually a plus, that I knew I didn’t know, but at the time it was scary.”

-“American Thumb Piano” by William Gibson

Synopsis

Distrust That Particular Flavor is a collection of non-fiction writing by the speculative fiction author William Gibson. It consists of twenty-six pieces written over a period of more than twenty years. The anthology includes a range of formats, including essays, magazine pieces, album reviews, and forewords from other published works.”


My Thoughts

If you’ve been following this blog for a while, you’ll probably know that I’m a big fan of William Gibson’s fiction. I love his 1984 debut novel Neuromancer, and have got something different from it each time I’ve read it, (three times so far:-) Here are links to my two posts on the book: Neuromancer, posted in 2015; and Neuromancer, A Third Reading, posted in 2017. Not so much “proper” reviews, they are a mix of my thoughts plus quotes from other authors and from the novel itself.

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The Stand (1984) by Stephen King

“For a long time I had wanted to write a fantasy epic like The Lord of the Rings, only with an American setting.”

-Stephen King

I finally read Stephen King’s The Stand during the last two months of 2020. What a year to read his story of a deadly new strain of the flu that wipes out most of the population of the planet. “Are you crazy?” I hear you ask. Probably. The timing wasn’t planned, it’s just the way it worked out. The length of this book kept me away from it for so long, 1152 pages in the Complete and Uncut Edition. Now that I’ve read it, I can understand all the high praise it gets. The Stand is King’s masterpiece.

To simplify it, The Stand tells the story of a battle between Good and Evil after a devastating pandemic. I can’t say for sure that it is King’s “best” book because I haven’t read them all. It’s subjective, anyway, but it has become my favourite King novel. I could end the review here–“please do!” I hear you shout–but that would be lazy of me. Let me tell you some of the reasons why this book blew me away.

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Song of Kali (1985) by Dan Simmons

‘All of the reasoned editorials sounded hollow in light of the perverse randomness of the event. It was as if only a thin wall of electric lighting protected the great cities of the world from total barbarism.’

-Dan Simmons, Song of Kali

A random recommendation on Robert Mayer Burnett’s YouTube channel brought me to this book. I read Simmons’s Hyperion a while back and enjoyed it, but never tried anything else by him. The synopsis sounded intriguing, as did the setting of “Calcutta,” (now Kolkata). Song of Kali won the World Fantasy Award in 1986.

Art by Francois Baranger

Synopsis

Song of Kali follows an American magazine editor who journeys to the brutally bleak, poverty-stricken Indian city in search of a manuscript by a mysterious poet—but instead is drawn into an encounter with the cult of Kali, goddess of death.’


My Thoughts

Literary magazine editor Robert Luczak (Loo-zack) is sent to “Calcutta” to verify the rumours of new work by the legendary Indian poet M. Das. The poet “disappeared” eight years previously, and nothing has been heard from him since. It is presumed that he is dead. Luczak sets off on this journey with his Indian wife, Amrita, and their baby girl, Victoria.

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Agency (2020) by William Gibson

‘Very recent hiredness was its own liminal state, Verity reminded herself, on the crowded Montgomery BART platform, waiting for a train to Sixteenth and Mission.’

–William Gibson

These are the opening lines to Agency, Gibson’s twelfth novel. I had to look up the word “liminal” which means “between or belonging to two different places, states, etc.” It is an important word for this novel, as Gibson weaves his narrative back and forth between the “present” of this story and its future. The present is an alternate 2017 in which Hillary Clinton won the election, and the future is some time in the 22nd century.

Synopsis

In William Gibson’s first novel since 2014’s The Peripheral, a gifted “app-whisperer” is hired by a mysterious San Francisco start-up and finds herself in contact with a unique and surprisingly combat-savvy AI.


My Thoughts

I’m in two minds about this book. I initially rated it 3 stars, but I’m tempted to drop my rating down to 2 stars now. (Please note: 3 stars for me is what I consider “average”, 2 stars is “disappointing.”) The longer I think about the story, the more disappointed I feel. It has some cool ideas, but unfortunately they don’t really go anywhere. The plot is pretty basic and the characters mostly forgettable. Thinking back on it, I’m struggling to remember the characters’ names outside of the main character Verity and the A.I. Eunice.

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Once & Future, Vol. 2: Old English (2020) by Kieron Gillen, Dan Mora

“What was in that thing?”
“The usual penny-mix of mystic selection. Plus blessed by a few priests.”
“You talked vicars into blessing a landmine?”

-Kieron Gillen

Clipped from a conversation between Duncan and his grandma Bridgette after their spectacular fight with something huge and powerful in issue #9. Once & Future, Volume Two: Old English collects issues #7 to #12 of the BOOM! Studios comic book.

Synopsis

When an ancient helmet at the British Museum is taken, Bridgette and Duncan are confronted by another hero of yore, one who will lead them to facing off against their most formidable challenge yet…a beast and his mother.


My Thoughts

Kieron Gillen and Dan Mora continue their reinterpretation of the King Arthur myth. In this second volume, they expand on their idea of stories breaking into the real world. Here is a quick recap of the events in Volume One: The King is Undead. Be wary of spoilers.

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Mockingbird (1980) by Walter Tevis

‘Only the mockingbird sings at the edge of the woods.’

-Walter Tevis

Did you watch the recent Netflix series about a brilliant female chess player: The Queen’s Gambit? I watched it and really enjoyed it. It is based on the book of the same name by the American author Walter Tevis. I’d never heard of Tevis before the series, but I did know the title of his most famous science fiction story: The Man Who Fell to Earth (1963). I’ve seen the film starring David Bowie but I haven’t read the book. After reading Tevis’s novel Mockingbird (1980), I now want to read all of his books including The Hustler (1959) and The Color of Money (1984)–made famous by the Paul Newman-starring movies.

Synopsis

Mockingbird is a powerful novel of a future world where humans are dying. Those that survive spend their days in a narcotic bliss or choose a quick suicide rather than slow extinction. Humanity’s salvation rests with an android who has no desire to live, and a man and a woman who must discover love, hope, and dreams of a world reborn.


My Review

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Pulp (2020) by Ed Brubaker & Sean Phillips

“That was one of the problems of getting older. You hit an age where everyone either ignores you, or treats you like some hassle they’re being forced to deal with. But inside, you still feel like the same person you were thirty or forty years ago.”

-Ed Brubaker

A few years ago, my brother introduced me to Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips’ brilliant crime comic book series Criminal. I quickly became a fan of the series and searched for other works by this creative team. That led me to Kill or Be Killed, a comic book series that explores the experiences of a young vigilante, and also contains a supernatural element. Another great read, I collected all twenty issues of the series. Now, when a new title by Brubaker and Phillips is released, I will usually buy it “sight unseen” because I know it will be of the highest quality.

Publisher’s Synopsis

“Max Winters, a pulp writer in 1930s New York, finds himself drawn into a story not unlike the tales he churns out at 5 cents a word – tales of a Wild West outlaw dispensing justice with a six-gun. But will Max be able to do the same, when pursued by bank robbers, Nazi spies, and enemies from his past?

One part thriller, one part meditation on a life of violence, Pulp is unlike anything the award-winning team of Brubaker and Phillips have ever done. A celebration of pulp fiction, set in a world on the brink. And another must-have hardback from one of comics most-acclaimed teams.”


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Wonder Woman: Dead Earth (2020) by Daniel Warren Johnson

“Come closer, Diana. Put your hands in the clay. This is what you were made from. This core of the Earth, the strongest of what this broken world had to offer, gave way to the mass that makes you what you are now.”

-Daniel Warren Johnson

Publisher’s Synopsis

“Wonder Woman’s mission was to save Man’s World from itself. She failed.

When Diana awakens from a centuries-long sleep to discover the Earth reduced to a nuclear wasteland, she knows she failed. Trapped alone in a grim future, Diana must protect the last human city from titanic monsters while uncovering the secret of this dead Earth–and how she may be responsible for it.

The celebrated creator of Murder Falcon and Extremity and artist of The Ghost Fleet, Daniel Warren Johnson, brings bold sci-fi chops to his DC debut with a harrowing vision of Wonder Woman unlike anything you’ve ever seen.”


My Thoughts

I’d never been interested in reading Wonder Woman comics before this book. It was artist and writer Daniel Warren Johnson that convinced me to buy it. I loved his work on Extremity and Murder Falcon, and found both titles to be an absolute blast to read.

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Coffin Bound, Vol. 1: Happy Ashes (2020) by Dan Watters & DaNi

“I have a plan, Ben. I am expunging myself from the planet. Each mark I’ve made I shall scrub out.”

-Dan Watters

I really enjoyed writer Dan Watters’ recent run on the Vertigo comic book Lucifer. That’s what brought me to Coffin Bound, published by Image Comics. I wanted to read more stories by Watters and this was an original story by him and Greek artist DaNi. What can I say about this book? To make an understatement, I will say it’s pretty unique.

Publisher’s Synopsis

Cars! Guns! Entropy! Izzy Tyburn has promised the world that if it won’t have her in it, it’ll have nothing of her at all. Chased by an unstoppable killer, she’s re-treading her life, leaving nothing behind but burned rubber, ash… and the sun-scorched bones of those who get in her way. Ride shotgun on an existential road-trip through the tangled web of a blood-splattered life.


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The Secret Commonwealth (2019) by Philip Pullman

Remember Lyra and Pantalaimon?

I read and enjoyed Philip Pullman’s “His Dark Materials” trilogy back when they were first published just over twenty years ago. I’ve wanted to re-read them for a while, but I haven’t got around to it yet. I bought The Book of Dust Vol.1: La Belle Sauvage when it came out in October 2017. I enjoyed it overall, but felt that something was lacking. Perhaps it was the lack of familiar characters, as Lyra is just a baby in that story which is set chronologically before the His Dark Materials trilogy. But there were moments of magic in there; enough to make me want to read the next volume of the Book of Dust: The Secret Commonwealth (2019).

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