Tuesday, March 13, 2012

CBR IV # 16 - A Visit From the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan

I hated the Invisible Circus. I thought I would love it because of all the hippy 70's stuff, but I truly did not like it. It was so whiny. I only picked this book up because I had heard such good reviews and thought why not give it another try? A few pages in to the book, I thought it would be more of the same. Whiny white women who really have nothing to whine about, when you think about it. But after the first chapter, I started to really get into it.

The book structure.. Going into it, I didn't know what to expect and was initially a bit confused, expecting a more or less conventional narrative like The Invisible Circus. The book is actually thirteen (?) short stories about people who are interconnected. The chapters jump from person to person and from the 70's up to a New York in the near future. Sometimes the connections between the people in the stories are merely passing, a one night stand in one case. In some cases the connection is deep and lifelong. These characters recur throughout the book, and somehow, you get an idea of the arc of their life. Sometimes it takes a little time to orient yourself since the stories aren't chronological, but you end up getting who is who and what happened to whom.

At first, I though it was going to be another whiny white lady book like The Invisible Circus, but I was pleasantly surprised. Egan was very good at writing pretty much horrible people (or maybe just horrible flawed ones) and making them sympathetic. At times they are beaten down by the time and life and you always want them to have some sort of happy ending. It was an interesting read. A bit melancholy, but rightly so.

Monday, March 12, 2012

CBR IV # 15 - Snuff by Chuck Palahiuk

I'm so sorry Chuck, you lost me on this one. I am a huge Chuck Palahniuk fan, but I just couldn't get into this one. It felt very rote and seemed to shock for the sake of shock.

Aging porn star Cassie Wright has set out to break a world record. 600 men in one movie. So 600 men of all sizes and ages wait in the waiting room for their chance to be part of porn history. The story is told through 3 men who are waiting for their turn, referred to by their numbers, 600, 72 and 237, as well as through Cassie's personal assistant Sheila.

Through these characters, we learn how Cassie became a pornstar, that she had a child she had to give away (which she claimed was a boy), what she really plans to achieve (really just a world record) and just random stuff about everything. There is, of course, a sort of twist and the ending is explosive, as per Chuck.

I didn't like the book. I thought it was icky and just pointless. The characters aren't fleshed out and none of them were relateable in any way. I mean, who couldn't relate to the narrator, right? But this one was just full of unlikeable (maybe except for 72) misfits who aren't really that interesting. They are crazy for crazy's sake, for shock value, not to further characterization or plot. The plot itself is pretty thin and just, no. Color me disappointed Chuck. For once, i didn't enjoy what he wrote :(

Monday, March 5, 2012

CBR IV # 14 - Fevre Dream by G.R.R. Martin

After the strain, another vampire novel for me! I have not made a secret my intense love for ASOIAF and naturally, since the next installment is soooo far away, needed another GRR fix.

Abner Marsh is a tugboat captain who has fallen on some hard times. A mysterious stranger, Joshua York, approaches him wanting to invest in his company, but with some very strange and secretive requests. York turns out to be a vampire who needs a boat to unite all vampires for the good of human and vampirekind. They however, run into some trouble when they meet the bloodmaster, Julian, an evil and possible crazy old vampire based in New Orleans.

I'm sorry, I am horrible at summarizing plot. Anyway, holy vegetarian vampire!! Now this here is a true vegetarian vampire. Joshua York is a vampire who grew up amongst humans, and as such, are sympathetic to us. He does not like to kill for blood, and so , he created a potion that suppresses the blood lust that vampires feel. As I said in previous posts, I am very much interested in the mythology that each author makes for the origin and characteristics of their particular brand of vampires. In this case, the vampires were the same, but also very different to the classical vampire. They died by sunlight and fire and drank blood. That is where the similarity ends. For these vampires aren't contagious! They were born vampires and could not make others like them. They were truly a different specie of animals. I think this is the first time that I've read vampires being imagined that way.

Another unique characteristic with these vampires is that they can actually eat and drink normal food. Their bloodlust only comes approximately once every month and it is only then that they feel the very string urge to drink human blood.

I liked the book because at the start, you are never sure if Joshua is really a vampire or not. You don't know if he is good or evil. Like the good Captain, you are also kept in the dark about the real nature of this stranger. I mean, he eats real food!!

The story is long and it spans many years. I like books like these but some might find it tedious. It really focuses on the friendship and trust between Abner and Joshua, two very different men. Hell, they're not even from the same species.

GRR has once again, failed to disappoint.