Sunday, January 24, 2016

Into Oblivion by Arnaldur Indriđason

(hb; 2014, 2015: fourteenth book in the Reykjavik Thriller series. Translated from the Icelandic by Victoria Cribb)

From the inside flap:

"It is 1979, a few years after Reykjavik Nights closed, and Erlendur is now a detective, already divorced, and is working for the shadowy Marion Briem. A body of a man has been found in the blue lagoon, which has not yet become the tourist spot it is today. Apparently the victim fell from a great height, and at first the police investigate the possibility that he has been thrown out of an airplane.

". . .Erlendur is also asked to investigate the cold case of a young girl who vanished into thin air on her way to school forty years earlier. . ."


Oblivion is an excellent novel, one worth owning. As a police procedural, the true villains of the book and their motives are easy to spot (given the milieu-reflective sparseness of characters), but this is not a criticism of Oblivion: rather it is the journey, tinged with political intrigue, the haunted emotional resonance of the characters and masterful writing and editing, that made Oblivion difficult to set down. Like the rest of the Reykjavik Thriller series, this is worth your time and cash.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Clusterfuck by Carlton Mellick III

(pb; 2013: loosely linked sequel to Apeshit)

From the back cover:

"A bunch of douchebag frat boys get trapped in a cave with subterranean cannibal mutants and try to survive not by using their wits but by following the bro code . . . From master of bizarro fiction Carlton Mellick III, author of the international cult hits Satan Burger and Adolf in Wonderland, comes a violent and hilarious B movie in book form. Set in the same woods as Mellick's splatterpunk satire Apeshit, Clusterfuck follows Trent Chesterton, alpha bro, who has come up with what he thinks is a flawless plan to get laid. He invites three hot chicks and his three best bros on a weekend of extreme cave diving in a remote area known as Turtle Mountain, hoping to impress the ladies with his expert caving skills.

"But things don't quite go as Trent planned. For starters, only one of the three chicks turns out to be remotely hot and she has no interest in him for some inexplicable reason. Then he ends up looking like a total dumbass when everyone learns he's never actually gone caving in his entire life. And to top it all off, he's the one to get blamed once they find themselves lost and trapped deep underground with no way to turn back and no possible chance of rescue. What's a bro to do? Sure he could win some points if he actually tried to save the ladies from the family of unkillable subterranean cannibal mutants hunting them for their flesh, but fuck that. No slam piece is worth that amount of effort. He'd much rather just use them as bait so that he can save himself.

"It's Tucker Max versus The Descent in this gore-filled comedy for the camp horror fan."


Clusterfuck is a worthwhile sequel to Apeshit, as gory, bizarro, entertaining and full-of-dislikable-characters as its predecessor story. (I do not include the trip-reluctant and mostly-smart Lance in Clusterfuck as one of those characters.)

More slapstick comedic and longer than Apeshit, Clusterfuck answers many of the questions set up by the first book. Apeshit is more intense than it sequel, but that is not a criticism of Clusterfuck. (Given how wild and great that first "Turtle Mountain" story is, it would be near-impossible for Mellick -- or any author -- to top that, within the "Turtle Mountain" storyline.) Chance are, if you like Apeshit you will also enjoy Clusterfuck.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Lafayette in the Somewhat United States by Sarah Vowell

(hb; 2015: nonfiction)

From the inside flap:

"On August 16, 1824, an elderly French gentlemen sailed into New York Harbor and giddy Americans were there to welcome him. Or, rather, to welcome him back. It had been thirty years since the Revolutionary War hero the Marquis de Lafayette had last set foot in the United States, and he was so beloved that 80,000 people showed up to cheer for him. The entire population of New York at the time was 120,000.

"Lafayette's arrival in 1824 coincided with one of the most contentious presidential elections in American history, Congress had just fought its first epic battle over slavery, and the threat of a Civil War loomed. But Lafayette, belonging to neither North nor South, to no political party or faction, was a walking, talking reminder of the sacrifices and bravery of the revolutionary generation and what they wanted this country to be. His return was not just a reunion with his beloved Americans, it was a reunion for Americans with their own astonishing singular past.

"Lafayette in the Somewhat United States is a humorous and insightful portrait of the famed Frenchman, the impact he had on our young country, and his ongoing relationship with some of the instrumental Americans of the time, including George Washington, Alexander Hamilton, Thomas Jefferson, and many more."


Witty, informative and intriguing, Vowell's in-depth recounting of Marquis de Lafayette and his involvement in America's Revolutionary War (as well as its other personalities and consequences) is an excellent read, one that I found difficult to set down. This is one of Vowell's best books -- her wry and fleet-footed observations are consistently amusing and the full force of the personalities involved (George Washington, Ben Franklin, etc.) are concisely shown: worth owning, this.

Saturday, January 09, 2016

Death-Doctor by J.N. Williamson

(pb; 1982: fourth book in the Lamia Zacharius quadrilogy)

From the back cover:

"In a huge old house in the small quiet town of Thessaly, another baby is born. It is the size and shape of a newborn infant, pink-skinned and plump -- but it is the essence of all that is evil: a deadly, horrifying demon who hungers for fresh human blood.

"And as the lovely 'doctor' Lamia Zacharius, Queen of the Vampires, cradles the scarlet-eyed creature in her arms she croons with hideous delight. For now she has all the innocent young mothers of Thessaly under her spell, never thinking that their sweet, trusted doctor is really the death-doctor."


This fourth entry in the Lamia Zacharius series makes up for the filler-not-thriller previous book, Death-School. As I noted in my review of that book, Williamson could have abbreviated Death-School 's storyline, merged it with Death-Doctor (as its first two chapters) and created a better over-all tale.

Death-Doctor, like its prequels, sports brief philosophical musings (which could have been cut out), as well as an underlying quirkiness (and toying with iconic horror images), lots of sex, blood and violence, and Greek and Chinese mythology: this is an off-beat, fun offering, with occasional plot veers expanding the storyline beyond its vampire-familiar set-up.

This quadrilogy is not ground-breaking, nor is it a must-own collection. However, for dedicated horror fans, there are bits of semi-experimental and effective but low-key ideas that I have not seen thusly expressed in other books in this genre. This book, this series is worth owning, if you have a deep love of B-movie horror trappings; if you do not, do not waste your time with these novels.

Tuesday, January 05, 2016

Alt.Film Journal! How I Made a Low-Budget Indie Film For $32K by by Eric Bickernicks

(e-book; 2015: nonfiction)

From the back cover:

"Based on a blog kept at the time filming, Alt.Film Journal!, by Eric Bickernicks, is the story of his foray into the world of independent filmmaking. In it he gives candid, no-holds-barred account of his experience, sprinkled with advice to a new generation of would-be filmmakers."


Alt.Film is a good companion read to Robert Rodriguez's Rebel Without a Crew. It is considerably more chatty than Rodriguez's work -- more chatty than it needs to be -- but Alt.Film, if you can get past its lengthy introduction and loquaciousness, has plenty of practical and technical advice about how to deal with budget shortfalls, unforeseen delays and other production-related mini-disasters. This is a worthwhile purchase for would-be filmmakers or those curious about the process of creating smaller budget films.

Friday, January 01, 2016

The Revenge of the Rose by Michael Moorcock

(hb; 1991: eighth book in the Elric series) 

From the inside flap:

"Elric is carried by a dragon to the city of his birth, the Dreaming City, now ravaged by fire and bloodshed. Deep in the catacombs of his ancestors, he hears an impossible sound -- the voice of his father, a spirit, denied the peace of death. His soul is held hostage in a bitter rivalry between the Lord of Chaos and Lord Arioch. His last great spell could save him, giving him refuge in the Forest of Souls. But he needs Elric's help.

"Now, the albino warrior must find his father's soul, hidden away in a rosewood box, in a distant land. But first Elric needs a valuable ally -- a person whose strength and will could match his own. . . a woman called the Rose."


Note: The events of Rose take place between The Vanishing Tower and The Bane of the Black Sword.

Rose runs too long despite Moorcock's fantastical-cinematic action, its bold themes, multiverse expansion and distinctive characters. The elements that bloat this novel are its speechifying characters (e.g., Wheldrake and Gaynor the Damned) and certain journey and battle sequences, which could have been tightened up, if not cut from the storyline.

Borrow this intermittently entertaining fantasy from a library before committing cash to it if you prefer shorter, sharper novels.

Rose is followed by three more Elric novels: The Dreamthief's Daughter, The Skrayling Tree and The White Wolf's Son.

<em>Dead Heat with the Reaper</em> by William E. Wallace

(pb; 2015: two-novella pulp collection) Overall review Dead Heat is a masterful collection of East Bay, California stories that are...