Archive for September, 2015

God help me, but this may very well be the most derivative thing I have ever written. Well, recently anyway.

Original challenge can be found here.

As always, comments are welcome and appreciated.

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Narcisa: Our Lady of Ashes
By Jonathan Shaw
Harper Perennial

The friend who recommended me this book asked me how I liked it. My response?

“I’m not sure this is a book you ‘like’ or ‘don’t like.’ It’s compelling, it’s interesting, but there is little to like.”

Sure, Shaw paints an incredibly detailed vision of the favela’s of Rio de Janeiro. He dives head first into what it means to be addicted, to live with it every day. He makes the reader complicit in what is going on, perhaps hoping that Cigano (the narrator, but one who is less protagonist and more audience surrogate) and Narcisa (less a character and more a force of nature) will come out the other end relatively intact.

Cigano is a former addict and a thief, despite his claims at being a writer. Narcisa is a junkie, addicted to crack cocaine and wanting nothing less than to destroy herself and everything that comes in contact with her. The reader is treated to almost a day-by-day retelling of Cigano’s enrapture by Narcisa, of her destructive force in his life. Sure, Cigano gave up drugs on his own, but he becomes just as addicted to Narcisa, justifying it that he is trying to save her, one in a long line of saviors.

Shaw writes with conviction, having survived his own addictions, and his own demons. He writes with unabashed clarity and leaves little room for apologies. He writes not so much for the Narcisa’s of the world, wrapped in addiction and destroying those around them, but for the Cigano’s, that they might extricate themselves from the dark nihilists of the world.

My few complaints are that large chucks of the dialogue are all in bold and italic, which is meant to highlight the auditory assault of Narcisa on a full on rampage. The effect, however, is that the reader becomes numb and it loses effect. My other complaint is that the book drags on over long. Some of the segments could be condensed while still making the point and driving the plot. As a result, the book does read at times more like a diary then a novel. As a conceit, that works, but it also leads to fatigue for the reader where the same point is driven home more than once when it isn’t necessary.

I highly recommend this for anyone who wants a glimpse at the horror that lies underneath the veneer in Brazil, those that want a book to grab them by the back of the head and see just how terrible addiction can be. It stands as a warning sign, but it’s a beautiful one.

4 out of 5 stars.

Trail of the BeastThe Trail of the Beast
By Matt Spencer
Damnation Books LLC

Sequels are hard. They need to live up to all the hype of the first book, continue the story, and keep the reader on the hook for the third piece. All while telling a concise story in and of itself.

While “The Night and the Land” (the first book of Matt Spencer’s Deschembine Trilogy) set up the expectation of an epic urban (for want of a better term) fantasy, “Trail of the Beast” is where he delivers. No longer are the main protagonists, Rob and Sally, figuring out their place in the world and with each other. They’ve grown comfortable with each and their lot, and perhaps a touch complacent. It’s this complacency that Spencer upends in dramatic fashion- starting with the abduction of Sally from her and Rob’s new home.

Whereas the first book had a sense of the personal, of a greater conflict encapsulated within the struggles of a few, here Spencer let’s events spiral dangerously out of control. Other players are dragged in. The status quo is dramatically changed, altered, and the very landscape is upended as a result.

Where Spencer is strongest though, continues to be the relationships, the drives, of his main characters. How their actions, especially Rob’s roaring rampage of revenge, affect the larger world is hinted at in places, but the reader doesn’t ever get a full sense of the chaos that’s going on in the world outside of a few hints. Pulling the focus off the characters a bit, going to the bigger picture for context, would probably have been useful to show that not only are Rob and Sally not in Kansas anymore, but the entire world has been irrevocably changed.

Spencer continues to excel at brutal combat situations, and he isn’t afraid to let his characters get as good as they give. The fights are brutal, and gory and reminiscent of the best of Joe Abercrombie and Matthew Stover.

Over all, I highly recommend “Trail of the Beast” to anyone who enjoys a vicious revenge tale, urban fantasy, and stories where another world lurks just underneath the surface of what they can see.

5 out of 5 stars.

This week’s challenge was to take someone elses’ character (from this challenge) and write a story. Limit was 2,000 words. I went with about 1500. I’m reasonably sure the character went in a direction the original writer intended, but that’s part of the magic of this, isn’t it? anyway, been thinking about cyberpunk type characters for a bit, which is why I’m pretty sure this turned out the way it did.

Original character sketch can be found here. (more…)