Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Good Omens: The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett

(hb; 1990)

From the back cover:

"According to The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch (the world's only completely accurate book of prophecies, written in 1655, before she exploded), the world will end on a Saturday. Next Saturday, in fact. Just before dinner.

"So the armies of Good and Evil are amassing, Atlantis is rising, frogs are falling, tempers are flaring. Everything appears to be going according to Divine Plan. Except a somewhat fussy angel and a fast-living demon—both of whom have lived amongst Earth's mortals since The Beginning and have grown rather fond of the lifestyle—are not actually looking forward to the coming Rapture.
And someone seems to have misplaced the Antichrist . . . "


Omens is a mostly fun, laugh-out-loud hilarious and clever tale of a divine, bureaucratic apocalypse with engaging characters, (mostly) fast action and Hitcher-Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy-ish silliness. I say "mostly" because during certain bits -- particularly those involving the Them (eleven-year old Adam and his three adventurous peers), Aziraphale (an angel) and his various books, and Shadwell (a witch-hunter) -- could have been trimmed, cutting the book down by a quarter of its length, making Omens a better read. (Part of my boredom with the aforementioned, overlong parts may be due in part to my not being an Anglophile, as most of these parts are uber-British giggly in tone. . .  the interview at the end of the book confirms that those overlong parts were likely written by Pratchett, something worth noting.)

This is a worthwhile purchase for fans of silly-Brit humor, and a decent -- if sometimes a chore of a read -- book to borrow from a local library for those who are not Anglophiles.


In April 2016, Neil Gaiman said in interviews that he was three-quarters of the way through a six-episode teleplay version of the book. (Pratchett died in 2015.) Thus far, there is no release date for resulting cable miniseries. I will update the information about this miniseries when I get more information about it and have time to post it.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

I Can Barely Take Care of Myself: Tales of a Happy Life Without Kids by Jen Kirkman

(hb; 2013: nonfiction, humor)

From the back cover:

" 'You'll change your mind.' 

"That's what everyone says to Jen Kirkman—and countless women like her—when she confesses she doesn't plan to have children. But you know what? It's hard enough to be an adult. You have to dress yourself and pay bills and remember to buy birthday gifts. You have to drive and get annual physicals and tip for good service. Some adults take on the added burden of caring for a tiny human being with no language skills or bladder control. Parenthood can be very rewarding, but let's face it, so are margaritas at the adults-only pool.

"Jen's stand-up routine includes lots of jokes about not having kids (and some about masturbation and Johnny Depp), after which complete strangers constantly approach her and ask, "But who will take care of you when you're old?" (Servants!) Some insist, "You'd be such a great mom!" (Really? You know me so well!)

"Whether living rent-free in her childhood bedroom while trying to break into comedy (the best free birth control around, she says), or taking the stage at major clubs and joining a hit TV show—and along the way getting married, divorced, and attending excruciating afternoon birthday parties for her parent friends—Jen is completely happy and fulfilled by her decision not to procreate."


Barely is a smart, funny (in a dark-ish, underlying-serious way) book that entertains even as it, with Kirkman's well-articulated arguments and autobiographical bits, lists many of the reasons why she -- like many of us who decide not to have kids -- have made that decision. Her humor and points, sharp and not intended for children and the thin-skinned, are empathetic to those who are parents -- further showing Kirkman's humanity, even when she is making jokes and going against the stated grain.

This is a good read, worth owning for those inclined toward Kirkman's logic and wry, dark-ish sense of humor. If you like this book, you might want to check out her follow-up, I Know What I'm Doing and Other Lies I Tell Myself.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Tower of the Medusa by Lin Carter

(pb; 1969)


Carter packages Tower's science fiction elements with pulp-vivid aplomb. Its action-packed plot involves a master thief (Kirin), who is hired by the rich, portly Doctor Temujin to steal a legendary jewel -- the well-guarded Heart of Kom Yazoth, a demon associated with widespread destruction. Kirin and Temujin are en route to enact the dangerous theft, when they are taken prisoner by Azeera the Witch Queen, who also wants the jewel, with which she will rule the known universe. 

Other characters in this fast-paced, exciting mix include: Caola, an Amazonian War Maid of Nar, whose wits and physical prowess may prove valuable to Kirin and Temujin; evil wizards of varying power, Pangoy the Nexian and his magickal master (Zarlak), who also commands the vicious Death Dwarves, whose job it is to guard the Iron Tower, where the jewel -- also called the Medusa -- lies beyond a series of elaborate traps.

There is not much in this story that will surprise readers familiar with science fiction-pulp tropes, but Carter's well-sketched characters, lean-and-mean storytelling and cinematic-friendly writing keeps Tower fun and thrilling: worth owning, this.


Tower of the Medusa was packaged as a reverse-bound "Ace Double" novel, which means that if readers flip the book upside down and over, there was another science fiction novel, penned by another author, on the other side. (Considering that these books sold for 75 cents a pop, this seems like a great deal, even back in the Sixties.)

In this case, the flipside novel is George H. Smith's Kar Kaballa.

Monday, April 11, 2016

Points and Lines by Seicho Matsumoto

(hb;1958: translated by Makiko Yamamoto and Paul C. Blum)

From the back cover:

"A senior official in a ministry tainted with scandal. A dining car receipt. A name missing from a passenger list. And a young man and woman dead on a beach in an apparent suicide. Disconnected points, but not to a determined detective who keeps searching for the lines that link the living and the dead."


Points is a clever, word-exact police procedural that immediately immersed me with its crisp, hyper-focused prose and well-sketched characters (as well as its Japanese milieu and abbreviated social commentary). This is a compelling how-the-crime-was-committed read, worth owning.

Tuesday, April 05, 2016

The Two-Bear Mambo by Joe R. Lansdale

(hb; 1995: third book in the Hap and Leonard series)

From the inside flap:

"Florida Grange, Leonard's drop-dead gorgeous lawyer and Hap's former lover, has vanished in Klan-infested Grovetown while in pursuit of the real story behind the jailhouse death of a legendary bluesman's blackguard son. Fearing the worst, Hap and Leonard set out to do the kind of investigating the good ole boy cops can't - or won't - do. In Grovetown they encounter a redneck police chief, a sadistic Christmas tree grower, and townsfolk itchin' for a lynchin'. Add to this a dark night exhumation in a voodoo graveyard, a thunderstorm of Biblical proportions, and flat-out sudden murder. Hap and Leonard vow to face the hate and find Florida, even if Leonard has to put a hole in anyone who gets in the way. Besides, they've packed a lunch."


This third entry in the Hap and Leonard series is darker, more violent and harrowing than its predecessor books, Savage Season and Mucho Mojo. When Leonard Pine and Hap Collins' investigation into the disappearance of Hap's ex-girlfriend (Florida) leads them into an entire town populated by pernicious racists, even Hap and Leonard's junkyard dog attitudes, trenchant wits and general bad-assery may not be enough to pull them through this rain-drenched nightmare that will shake them to their cores.

Two-Bear is my favorite Hap and Leonard novel thus far, another impressive, character-expansive work. This, like its previous books, is worth owning.

Followed by Bad Chili.

<em>Mother Night</em> by Kurt Vonnegut

(pb; 1961) From the back cover “ Mother Night is a daring challenge to our moral sense. American Howard W. Campbell, Jr., a spy du...