Sunday, August 30, 2009

Paradise, by Koji Suzuki

(hb; 1990, 2006: translated by Tyran Grillo)

From the inside flap:

"In the arid badlands of prehistoric Asia, a lovelorn youth violates a sacred tribal taboo against representing human figures by etching an image of his beloved. When the foretold punishment comes to pass, the two must embark on a journey across the world, and time itself, to try and reclaim their destiny. A mysterious spirit guides them towards a surprise destination that readers may indeed find close to home.

"Published a year before Ring, Paradise was Koji Suzuki's groundbreaking first novel that launched his career as a fiction writer. Winner of the Japan Fantasy Award, it was immediately made into an animated TV series. . ."

Review:

Excellent, memorable science fiction/fantasy novel, this.

Paradise spans thousands of years; from the quest of Tangad artist Bogud, who pursues his kidnapped pregnant wife (Fayau) across land and ocean, to the travails of eighteenth century sailor Jones and his Hau wife (Laia), to the mid-1990s soulmating of Leslie Mardoff (an avant garde composer) and book editor Flora Aideen, there's a common spirit, or spirits, that joins them all.

Crisply written, concise, and spectacularly resonant work: check it out.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

'N' is for Noose, by Sue Grafton

(pb; 1998: fourteenth book in the Kinsey Millhone mysteries)

From the inside flap:

"Tom Newquist had been a detective in the Nota Lake sheriff's office -- a tough, honest cop respected by everyone. When he died suddenly, the townsfolk were sad but not surprised. Just shy of sixty-five, Newquist worked too hard, drank too much, and exercised too little.

"Newquist's widow, Selma, didn't doubt the coroner's report. But still, she couldn't help wondering what had so bothered Tom in the last six weeks of his life. What was it that had made him prowl restlessly at night and brood constantly? Determined to help Selma find the answer, Kinsey Millhone sets up shop in Nota Lake, where she finds that looking for a needle in a haystack can draw blood -- very likely, her own."

Review:

The description from the inside flap amply describes the story.

It's the usual Kinsey tale, with its level-headed/first-person-POV build-up, mixed with a few moments of humor, terror and violence. I spotted the villain/s of the tale right away, but it was more of a lucky guess on my part, not a deficiency on the part of the author.

Solid entry in the Kinsey Millhone series.

Followed by 'O' is for Outlaw.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Shutter Island, by Dennis Lehane

(hb; 2003)


From the inside flap:

"Summer, 1954.

"U.S. Marshal Teddy Daniels has come to Shutter Island, home of Ashecliffe Hospital for the Criminally Insane. Along with his partner, Chuck Aule, he sets out to find an escaped patient, a murderess named Rachel Solando, as a hurricane bears down on them.

"But nothing at Ashecliffe is what it seems.

"And neither is Teddy Daniels.

"Is he there to find a missing patient? Or has he been sent to look into rumors of Ashecliffe's radical approach to psychiatry? An approach that may include drug experimentation, hideous surgical trials, and lethal countermoves in the shadow war against Soviet brainwashing. . .

"Or is there another, more personal reason why he has come there?

"As the investigation deepens, the questions only mount:

"How has a barefoot woman escaped the island from a locked room?

"Who is leaving clues in the form of cryptic codes?

"Why is there no record of a patient committed there just one year before?

"What really goes on in Ward C?

"Why is an empty lighthouse surrounded by an electrified fence and armed guards?

"The closer Teddy and Chuck get to the truth, the more elusive it becomes, and the more they begin to believe that they may never leave Shutter Island.

"Because someone is trying to drive them insane."


Review:

Twisty, sometimes spooky, psychological thriller that's a fun, burn-through afternoon read.

Some of the twists aren't unexpected, but they're necessary to the plot, to lead readers to the unexpected twists. I guessed most of the key ones, but the ending, like the novel, is still impressively written and powerful.

Atmospheric period-piece page-turner, this. Check it out.

#

Appropriately enough, this has been made into a film.

Set for a February 19, 2010 stateside release, it was directed by Martin Scorsese , from a script by Laeta Kalogridis.

Leonardo DiCaprio played Teddy Daniels. Mark Ruffalo played Chuck Aule. Ben Kingsley played Dr. John Cawley. Emily Mortimer played Rachel Solandro. Michelle Williams played Dolores Chanal. Max von Sydow played Dr. Jeremiah Naehring. Jackie Earle Haley played George Noyce. Elias Koteas played Andrew Laeddis. Patricia Clarkson has an unnamed role. Ted Levine plays the Warden.

Monday, August 24, 2009

All Together Dead, by Charlaine Harris

(hb; 2007: seventh entry in The Sookie Stackhouse Novels)

From the inside flap:

"Being surrounded by all varieties of undead, changeling and preternatural beings has gotten to be nothing out of the ordinary for Louisiana cocktail waitress Sookie Stackhouse. Still, even she has her limits. Betrayed by her longtime vampire love, Sookie must now not only deal with a possibly new man in her life -- the oh-so band some shapeshifter Quinn -- but also contend with the long-planned vampire summit in Rhodes.

"The summit, which has attracted undead power players from all over the central U.S., is sure to be a tense situation. The vampire queen of Louisiana is in a precarious situation, her power base weakened by hurricane damage to New Orleans. And there are some vamps who would like to finish what nature started. With secret alliances and backroom deals the order of the day -- and night -- Sookie must decide what side she'll stand with. And her choice might mean the difference between survival and all-out catastrophe."

Review:

Caveat: (possible) spoilers in this review.

Not a mystery at all (all of the malefactors are fairly obvious), this seventh Sookie novel is a fun afternoon-blast of a book.

One nit: there's a longer-than-usual sex scene (it spans two and a half pages) that runs way too long. It doesn't seem like Harris was adding a natural/logical scene to her story; it reads like she made Harlequin Romance-esque concessions to the "romantic supernatural" genre/readers. (This is disappointing, but not book-ruining, for me. . . though it should be noted that Laurell K. Hamilton's overwrought/overlong sex scenes caused me to stop reading her.)

On the plus side, most of the series (undead) regulars -- including Barry Horowitz (aka "Barry Bellboy"), telepath bellboy from Living Dead in Dallas, and Sophie-Anne Leclerq (teenage vampire queen of Louisiana, who slew her treacherous husband, Peter Threadgill, at the slaughterama finish of Definitely Dead) -- are present, as are some followers of Fellowship of the Sun, and one of its more-violent splinter groups, Take Back the Night.

Largely predictable -- some of the actions taken by key characters are pseudo-twisty, and suprisingly dumb -- there's a "don't think, enjoy the ride" feel to this one.

Solid beach-read.

Followed by From Dead to Worse.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator, by Roald Dahl

(1964: sequel to Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Illustrated by Quentin Blake.)

From the inside flap:

"Last seen flying through the sky in a giant elevator in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Charlie Bucket's back for another adventure. When the giant elevator picks up speed, Charlie, Willy Wonka, and the gang are sent hurtling through space and time. Visitin the world's first space hotel, battling the Vermicious Knids, and saving the world are only a few stops along this remarkable, intergalactic joyride."

Review:

More whimsy, witty wordplay, weird-but-sound logic, and another wildly left-of-center journey for Charlie, Willy Wonka, and Charlie's complaining family -- this time in outer space, with forays into Minusland (where one goes if one becomes too young).

Worthwhile, race-paced sequel to Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Check it out.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Definitely Dead, by Charlaine Harris

(pb; 2006: sixth entry in The Sookie Stackhouse Novels)

From the inside flap:

"As a person with so few living relatives, Louisiana cocktail waitress Sookie Stackhouse really hated to lose one. But she never guessed that it would be her cousin Hadley -- a consort of the vampire queen of New Orleans. After all, technically speaking, Hadley was already dead. And now, as unexpected heir to Hadley's estate, Sookie discovers the inheritance definitely comes with a risk.

"Someone doesn't want Sookie looking too deeply into Hadley's past -- or, for that matter, Hadley's possessions. And they're prepared to do anything in their power to stop her. But who? The range of suspects runs from the rogue weres who reject Sookie as a friend of the pack to the vampire queen herself, who could be working through a particularly vulnerable subject -- Sookie's first love, Bill.

"Whoever it is, they're definitely dangerous -- and Sookie's life is definitely on the line."

Review:

A few weeks have passed since the happenings of Dead As A Doornail.

Sookie heads to New Orleans, to attend an important vampire conference -- at the request of Sophie-Anne Leclerq, vampire queen of Louisiana. Once there, she's not only dealing with murky political intentions and fatal betrayals, but with the settling of her cousin Hadley's estate; Hadley, consort to Leclerq, died under weird circumstances. . . not a surprising thing, considering that death-magnet Sookie is her cousin.

Not only that, but the intrusive, suspicious Pelt family -- Barbara, Gordon, and their were-daughter Sandra -- are still sniffing around Sookie, determined to find out what really happened to Sandra's c*nt of were-sister, Deborah, who disappeared two months back (for more details on that, read Dead to the World).

Fortunately for Sookie, she's surrounded by as many friends as she is enemies. Quinn, a classy influential were-tiger (first seen in Dead As A Doornail) is wooing Sookie; Amelia Broadway, a White Witch ("not a Wiccan") and landlord to the deceased Hadley, is becoming chummy with Sookie; Mr. Cataliades, a half-demon lawyer, boss of the recently-murdered demon messenger Gladiola, is watching over Sookie as well.

Then there's the series "regulars" -- Bill Compton (not an interesting character, but Sookie's first, now ex-boyfriend); Eric Northman, playboy vampire sheriff of Area 5, whose interest in Sookie's has turned wary and ambiguous; Pam, Eric's vamp assistant, who's curious about the reason for Sookie's unintentional, amatoric effect on supernatural males; Alcide Herveaux, a kind-hearted were-panther, first introduced in Club Dead; Sam Merlotte, Sookie's good-natured, were-dog boss; and Bubba, the iconic-singer-turned-cat-killing vampire.

As quirky, amusing and fast-moving as the rest of the Sookie Stackhouse novels, this. Of course, there's a couple of bodice-ripper scenes (a natural occurence, given the tasteful, mostly-contained lustiness of many of the characters), and an ending that lends itself to another sequel.

I only have one nit for this book, or rather, the series -- Harris needs to lose a few characters, soon. Readers get too comfortable when there are too many "regulars"; given the inevitable acts violence between many of these supernatural characters, it seems reasonable to expect a few series-altering, reader-shocking deaths. (I'd suggest Bill, whom I've never liked, or even Eric, whose interest in Sookie is becoming repetitive -- besides, wouldn't Pam, shark-like on the best of days, make a livelier, more intriguing vampire sheriff?)

If you like the other Sookie novels, you'll probably like this.

Followed by All Together Dead.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Dark Water, by Koji Suzuki

(hb; 1996, 2004: story anthology; translated by Glynne Walley)

Overall review:

Good anthology by a great writer. Suzuki's writing possesses an astute clarity, strong characters, a clear theme (in this case, water/emotion) and occasional moments of true spine-chill. A few of the stories, in a lesser writer's hands, would feel half-baked; however, since it's Suzuki I'm writing about. . .

It's not as good as Birthday, whose stories are more tightly interconnected.


Review, story by story:

1.) "Prologue": A grandmother (Kayo) takes her granddaughter, Yuko, on walks around a Tokyo Bay shoreline, telling her fantastic tales about the junk they find underfoot. Interesting, good -- clearly part of an anthology wrap-around story.


2.) "Floating Water": An anxiety-ridden single mother (Yoshimi Matsubara) moves into an old, largely-abandoned apartment building with her ten-year old daughter (Ikuko), only to discover there's something weird about the quality of the water and something disturbing about the water tank on the roof. Creepy, atmospheric tale. J-horror fans won't find the finish surprising, but it's still gripping.

This story has been filmed twiced.

The first movie, titled Dark Water, was released in Japan on January 19, 2002. Hitomi Kuroki played Yoshimi Matsubara. Rio Kanno played Ikuko Matsubara. Asami Mizukawa played Ikuko Hamada. Fumiyo Kohinata played Kunio Hamada. Hideo Nakata directed and co-scripted (he was uncredited for the latter), along with co-scriptors Yoshihiro Nakamura and Ken'ichi Suzuki. (Hideo Nakata, among his other cinematic efforts, also directed Ringu, Ringu 2, The Ring Two, and is set to direct the 2011 film The Ring Three.)

The American remake, released stateside on July 8, 2005, was scripted by Rafael Ichise. It was directed by Walter Salles.

Jennifer Connelly played Dahlia Williams (American stand-in for Yoshimi Matsubara). John C. Reilly played Mr. Murray. Tim Roth played Jeff Platzer. Dougray Scott plays Kyle Williams. Pete Postlethwaite played Veek.


3.) "Solitary Isle": A school teacher (Kensuke Suehiro), part of a botannical survey team on a close-to-mainland island (Battery No. 6), confronts the physical proof of a friend's decade-old tale. Interesting, solid story.

George Romero is set to script and direct the resulting film, which, thus far, has no scheduled release date.


4.) "The Hold": An abusive fisherman (Hiroyuki Inagaki) searches for his missing wife. Predictable in some parts, author Suzuki's relatable characters, able writing and twisty finish render its semi-predictability a minor issue.


5.) "Dream Cruise": Masayuki Enoyoshi, a mild-mannered man, gets trapped on a mysteriously stalled boat with a pyramid-scheming couple in Tokyo Bay. Once again, author Suzuki shows how every day items can cause spine-shivery effect in a reader. Spooky, darkly funny story.

This story became source material for a Masters of Horror cable episode. Co-scripted by Naoya Takayama and episode director Norio Tsuruta (who also directed Ring 0: Birthday), it aired stateside on Showtime on February 2, 2007.

Daniel Gillies played Jack Miller (cinematic stand-in for Masayuki Enoyoshi). Yoshino Kimura played Yuri Saito. Miho Ninagawa played Naomi Saito. Ryo Ishibashi played Eiji Saito.


6.) "Adrift":A seaman (Kazuo Shiraishi) navigates an abandoned-at-sea yacht back to port. Shades of H.P. Lovecraft and strange ghosts permeate this piece, with an über-creepy, chilling exit-line.


7.) "Watercolors": A discotheque-turned-theater becomes the site of an artsy play. Quirky, briefly chilling piece.


8.) "Forest Under The Sea": Two spelunkers (Fumihiko Sugiyawa, Sakakibara) explore a flooded newly-discovered cave. Solid, non-supernatural story.


9.) "Epilogue": A seventy-two year old grandmother (Kayo, first seen in "Prologue") finds an interesting, sealed-in-plastic letter during one of her morning walks along the shores of Cape Cannon. Good, non-supernatural, anthology end-cap piece.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Dead As A Doornail, by Charlaine Harris

(pb; 2005: fifth entry in The Sookie Stackhouse Novels)

From the back cover:

"Small-town cocktail waitress Sookie Stackhouse has more than her share of experience with the supernatural -- but now it's really hitting close to home. When Sookie sees her brother Jason's eyes start to change, she knows he's about to turn into a werepanther for the first time -- a transformation he embraces more readily than most shape-shifters she knows. But her concern becomes cold fear when a sniper sets his deadly sights on the local changeling population, and Jasons's new panther brethren suspect he may be the shooter. Now, Sookie has until the next full moon to find out who's behind the attacks -- unless the killer decides to find her first. . ."

Review:

Warning: possibile spoilers in this review.

Sookie's life is, as usual, all atumble with craziness: someone's sniping local Weres (one fatally, others wounded); a stranger from out of town, with possible ties to the Fellowship of the Sun (a virulent, "Christian-based" anti-vampire group), torches Sookie's house; Tara Thornton, Sookie's best friend since childhood, is being victimized by a predatory vampire (Mickey); and the Weres in nearby Hotshot are about to nominate a new packleader, in a political contest that's gotten too hot.

Sookie, via her mostly-friendly ties to the Weres, Fairies, Shifters (a less-regarded variation of Weres), vampires and other supernatural creatures, is drawn into all of these happenings.

The identity of the sniper isn't surprising -- author Harris tips her hand a little early there, but the sniper's identity isn't the most important part of the story.

What really makes this series work is how seamlessly everything interconnects. Harris builds on events and characters from past books, letting everything flow in a natural, quirky, much-like-real-life manner. This is easily one of my favorite Sookie Stackhouse novels, in that reading this felt like I was revisiting old friends (who, like the "bad" characters, are a realistic mix of good and bad).

This can be read as a stand-alone novel, but in order to really appreciate Harris's deftly-penned artistry, readers should read the first four books, in order.

Excellent, excellent, excellent, this!

Followed by Definitely Dead.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, by Roald Dahl

(1964: prequel to Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator. Illustrated by Quentin Blake.)

From the inside flap:

"Young Charlie Bucket can't believe his luck when he finds the very last of Mr. Willy Wonka's Golden Tickets inside his chocolate bar. He wins the trip of a lifetime -- a magical tour around Mr. Wonka's mysterious chocolate factory. once inside, Charlie and the four other winners -- Augustus Gloop, Veruca Salt, Violet Beauregarde, and Mike Teavee -- witness amazing wonders: rainbow drops, lickable wallpaper, and even a chocolate waterfall. But what happens when the children, one by one, disobey Mr. Wonka? In Roald Dahl's most popular story for children, the nasty are punished and the good are deliciously rewarded."

Review:

Whimsical, timeless, gently subversive morality work, this: by now most of us know the story, whether it's through the book, or the two movie versions.

One of my favorite all-time children's books.

#

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory has been filmed twice.

The first version, under the title Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory, starred Gene Wilder as Willy Wonka. Released stateside on June 30, 1971, it was directed by Mel Stuart, from a script by book author Roald Dahl, and an uncredited David Seltzer.

Peter Ostrum played Charlie Bucket. Jack Albertson played Grandpa Joe. Julie Dawn Cole played Veruca Salt. Roy Kinnear played Mr. Salt. Denise Nickerson played Violet Beauregarde. Leonard Stone played Mr. Beauregarde. Paris Themmen played Mike Teevee. Nora Denney, credited as Dodo Denney, played Mrs. Teevee. Michael Bollner played Augustus Gloop. Ursula Reit played Mrs. Gloop. Diane Sowle played Mrs. Bucket.

#

The second version, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, was released stateside on July 15, 2005. John August scripted; Tim Burton directed.

Johnny Depp played Willy Wonka. Freddy Highmore played Charlie Bucket. David Kelly played Grandpa Joe. Helena Bonham Carter played Mrs. Bucket. Noah Taylor played Mr. Bucket. Christopher Lee played Dr. Wonka. Julia Winter played Veruca Salt. James Fox played Mr. Salt.

Monday, August 10, 2009

In Love & Trouble, by Alice Walker

(pb; 1967, 1968, 1970, 1972, 1973: story anthology)

Overall review:

Superb, poetry-infused, intuitive and clever anthology, revolving around black women -- of varied walks of life -- and their joys and tribulations (mostly the latter).

A must-read for anyone who appreciates compact, politicized and spiritual writing.

Review, story by story:

1.) "Roselily": A wife-to-be, standing at the altar, ponders the events and people -- namely, her children and the men she's known -- that led her to this situation. Ambivalent, relatable, often angry and weary piece, with an almost-poetic structure and rhythm to it. Stunning in its array of emotions, as well as its framing.

2.) "Really, Doesn't Crime Pay?": Myrna, a thirty-two year old woman and aspiring writer, is torn between her traditionalist, oppressive husband (Ruel) and a charming, snake-eyed drifter/lover (Mordecai Rich), who nourishes her penned creativity. The result? A black-humored, revenge-tinged finish. Classic, memorable, laugh-out-loud nasty (in terms of character intentions).

3.) "Her Sweet Jerome": An insecure woman marries a schoolteacher (Jerome Franklin Washington III), then discovers he's keeping his social activities secret from her; this pushes her towards insanity. Solid story.

4.) "The Child Who Favored Daughter": Violent, ugly piece about a bitter man who obsesses over women who betrayed him, sexually and racially (by sleeping with the "white devil").

5.) "Everyday Use": A selfish, gone-city-slicker woman (Dee Johnson) visits her rural-based family, and gets a brief dose of practical reality. One of the best stories in the anthology, this.

This story became the basis for the 2003 film. Rachel Luttrell played Dee. Karen ffolkes played Maggie. Lyne Odums (aka Baddja-Lyne) played Mama. Gary Poux played Hakim-a-barber. The film was scripted and directed by Bruce Schwartz.

6.) "The Revenge of Hannah Kemhuff": Excellent, sly story about a star-crossed woman who gets voodoo-esque, ironic revenge on a mean-spirited neighbor.

7.) "The Welcome Table": An old black woman, thrown out of a segregated/white church, discovers she doesn't need church to be with God. Another compact, clever-ironic tale.

8.) "Strong Horse Tea": Sad story about a poor black mother (Rannie Toomer) who tries, in vain, to get a white doctor to come by her house and heal her sick son, Snooks. The abrupt, dark-sly ending may cause some readers to feel cheated out of a traditional denouement.

9.) "Entertaining God": A character-revolving story about a teenage boy (John) who helps a gorilla escape from a zoo, John's father (a postman-turned-hairdresser), and John's mother (a wife gone divorced poet) -- all of them search for, perhaps realize, their peculiar notions of ultimate divinity. One of the best, more distinctive, stories in this anthology.

10.) "The Diary of an African Nun": Caught between Catholicism and primal heathenism, a quiet nun finds a strange -- probably destructive -- balance between the two faiths. Disturbing, vivid piece.

This story became the basis of a 1977 film, Diary of an African Nun. Not much information on this one, at least on www.imdb.com . . . Julie Dash directed. Barbarao played Sister Gloria.

11.) "The Flowers": Myop, a young girl, skips through a forest and encounters an odd sight. Interesting, poetry-fringed story fragment.

12.) "We Drink the Wine in France": One of my favorite stories in this anthology -- a college professor in the Deep South and one of his young, beautiful female students fancy each other in shy and solitary ways. Tantalizing interplays of sure desire and awkward reality highlight this story.

13.) "To Hell with Dying": Tender tale about a melancholic, diabetic bluesman whose musical interactions with neighborhood children enliven his existence. One of the best stories here, and a great anthology end-cap.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Birthday, by Koji Suzuki

(hb; 1999, 2006: story anthology; fourth book in the Ring Cycle; translated by Glynne Walley)

From the inside flap:

"Thirty years before the tragic events of Ring, Sadako Yamamura was an aspiring stage actress on the verge of her theatrical debut. The beautiful and ravishing Sadako was the object of desire of every male at the company including the director. There was one thespian she was interested in, but. . .

"Fast forward past the events of Ring. Ryuji Takayama's distraught lover, Mai Takano, is struggling in the wake of the professor's mysterious demise. Mai visits Ryuji's parents' house to find the missing pages of his soon-to-be-published article. There she is drawn to a curious videotape and a fate more terrifying than Ryuji or Kazuyuki Asakawa's.

"Reiko Sugiura questioned the purpose of bringing a child into a world where there was only death. She had already lost one son, and the father of her unborn child, Kaoru Futami, had disappeared in search of a cure to the deadly disease that threatened all life. Despite Kaoru's promise to meet again in two months, he has not returned. Despondent but driven for answers, Reiko is led to the Loop project, where she will discover the final truths of the Ring virus."

Overall review:

This emotionally-resonant, genre-transmutative anthology of linked stories satisfactorily expands on, and ties up, loose narrative ends relating to the Ring Cycle.

Birthday, like all the Ring Cycle books -- Ring, Spiral and Loop -- is crisply- and gracefully-written, and worth owning.

Review, story by story:

"Coffin in the Sky": Mai Takano, a virgin, wakes up trapped on top of a roof, about to give birth to something not completely human, after viewing Sadako Yamamura's death-virus videotape.

"Lemon Heart": Daily News reporter Kenzo Yoshino, friend/co-worker of Kazuyki Asakawa, contacts Hiroshi Toyama (ex-lover of Sadako Yamamura) about Yamamura's disappearance twenty-four years earlier. In doing so, Yoshino revives a vivid past for the haunted Toyama.

"Happy Birthday": Five months after the conclusion of Loop, Kaoru Futami's Metastatic Human Cancer-infected, pregnant lover (Reiko Sugiura) discovers the heartbreaking, ultimately hopeful, truth about the Loop project and Futami's disappearance.

This is one of the best horror/science fiction series I've read in a long while -- possibly one of my All-Time Favorites (we'll see how I feel a few years, before I make that judgment).

Birthday is the basis for the anthology movie Ring 0: Birthday. Directed by Norio Tsuruta, from a script by Hiroshi Takahashi, it was released in Japan on January 22, 2000. (Hiroshi Takahashi also scripted Ringu and co-scripted Ringu 2.)

Yukie Nakama played Sadako Yamamura. Seiichi Tanabe played Hiroshi Tôyama. Takeshi Yakamatsu played Yûsaku Shigemori. Masako, who played Shizuko Yamamura in Ringu and Ringu 2, reprised this role again.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Dead to the World, by Charlaine Harris

(hb; 2004: fourth entry in The Sookie Stackhouse Novels)

From the inside flap:

"Sookie Stackhouse is a small-town cocktail waitress in small-town Louisiana. She's pretty. She does her job well. She keeps to herself and has only a few close friends because not everyone appreciates Sookie's gift. She can read minds. Not exactly every man's idea of date bait. Unless they're undead. Vampires and the like can be tough to read -- just the kind of guy Sookie's been looking for.

"Maybe that's why, when she comes across a naked vampire on the road home from work, she doesn't just drive on by. Turns out he hasn't a clue as to who he is, but Sookie does. It's Eric, still as scary and sexy -- and dead -- as the day she first met him. But now he has amnesia. Eric is sweet, vulnerable, and in need of Sookie's help -- because whoever took his memory now wants his life. Sookie's investigation into why leads straight into a dangerous battle among witches, vampires, and werewolves. But there could be a greater danger to Sookie's heart -- because the kinder, gentler Eric is very difficult to resist."

Review:

A few weeks have passed since the events of Club Dead.

Sookie, once again, faces simultaneous crises: she's housing Eric Northman, vampire Sheriff of Area 5, who's not only had his memory wiped by malefic witches, but is still being targeted by them; her brother, Jason, has disappeared, without a trace, foul play a factor; and a territorial war is brewing between the aforementioned witches (led by Marnie Stonebrook, aka Hallow), Weres, shapeshifters (from the nearby Were-town of Hotshot) and, of course, vampires.

Like the previous Sookie Stackhouse novels, this isn't so much a mystery as a highly entertaining novel with dead bodies prompting eclectic, survival-related questions. All the while, with every new novel, the reader's knowledge of things lurking in the Sookie-verse grows proportionally with Sookie's experiences.

Exemplary series, why aren't you reading it yet?

Followed by Dead As A Doornail.

Monday, August 03, 2009

Cruising, by Gerald Walker

(pb; 1970)

From the inside flap:

"When homosexual 'cruise,' they are looking for kicks, love, relief, whatever. When cops cruise, they are looking for crime and criminals, but also for their own kicks, relief, whatever. . .

"The scene is New York City. The time is mainly night, when Stuart Richards, a graduate student at Columbia by day, prowls the parks and streets killing homosexuals. John Lynch is one of ten rookie cops ordered out on decoy duty to impersonate homosexuals in the hope of enticing the killer. Captain Edelson is the detective who orchestrates the chase. . ."

Review:

Grim, gutter-minded story and characters make this feel like an early Seventies Martin Scorsese film, except some of the characters are homosexual. Cruising chronicles three men's simultaneous, miasmic seasons in personal hells: Stuart Richards, the resentful, immature, responsibility-dodging serial killer who cannot stand to be laughed at; John Lynch, a "straight," decent, racially-aware New York rookie cop who's gone undercover -- as a gay man; and Captain Edelson, the "Jew captain" (as Lynch privately calls him), who's jaded and politically savvy, but honest and fair.

The secondary characters, many of them gay (and who express the homosexual outlook eloquently), are well-written, and come off as real people. Because we can't hear their thoughts (as we, the readers, do with Lynch and Richards), or read their private journals (as we do with Edelson) these secondary characters often come off as better, if socially embattled, people.

Good, unsettling read from a first-class author.

Check this out, if you don't mind letting your mind tramp around in moral murkiness for a bit. To quote the cover of the novel: "This is a tough book. If you cant' take it, don't read it."

A controversial film version of this novel was released stateside on February 8, 1980. Directed and scripted by William Friedkin, it starred Al Pacino as Steve Burns, a cinematic stand-in for John Lynch. Paul Sorvino played Captain Edelson. Richard Cox played Stuart Richards. Karen Allen played Nancy. Joe Spinell played Patrolman DiSimone. Ed O'Neill played Detective Schreiber (he was billed as "Edward O'Neil"). James Remar played Gregory. Powers Boothe played a helpful shop clerk (who tells Al Pacino's character what colored back-pocket hankies mean in the gay/BDSM subculture).