Author Archives: Chris

Halloween (2018)

Let’s be frank: there was very little chance of me not liking a Halloween sequel starring Jamie Lee Curtis. While I think Alien is the best horror movie ever made, I think that Halloween II is the best horror movie sequel ever made. And the original is in the top five anyway, probably number two.

Biases: acknowledged!

Given all that, I am of course a little disappointed that Halloween II got jettisoned from the canon. I understand why they did it, and I even approve. I think I’m willing to pretend that the one disputed fact is in line with these movies but that the events in the hospital are still canon. Because, it was so good.

Okay, enough about other movies. I appreciated a lot about what was going on here. They used the same font for the credits, of course the same music / composer, once again the only credit for Michael Myers was The Shape, there was even a dollhouse that I’ll swear was modeled on the original Myers home. What I’m saying is I appreciate attention to detail, and the moreso for the forty years gone since the original premiered.

Mostly, I liked the heart of the movie, this unstoppable collision between Laurie Strode and the boogeyman. It reminded me of Aliens in that way, now that I think about it. So, y’know, good company. And there’s a bit of style in taking the exact name of the movie that you are a sequel of. Halloween, and its sequel, Halloween. I dig it.

Emerald Fire

I haven’t read anything but comics in about a week, because I’m behind on this book review. The irony is, of course: in what world am I worried about the quality of a Deathlands review that nobody cares about?

Emerald Fire was a mixed bag. I liked the setting (somewhere in Central America, for a change of pace) and the idea of helping local tribes against slavers trying to keep a silver mine running. I probably should mind the “American saviors of helpless natives” trope, up to and including the part where the albino kid was worshipped as their god. But that was overshadowed by the part where our heroes were nobly disgusted by all the ritual human sacrifice.

It’s like, in-world you’re descendants of the people who blew up the world, and your home stomping grounds treat life as cheaply as the rotgut that passes for liquor; and from the reader’s perspective, you’re a subgenre mashup of two barely respected literary forms. In each of these cases, you’re not good enough to cast aspersions at other cultures.

Of course, the problem here is, now I’m forced into the role of apologist for cultural relativism and human sacrifice, and that’s not very exciting for me. But man were they being holier-than-thou about it.

Oh, hey. One other random thing, regarding the cover. I wonder if they had this in mind for an earlier book, but it wasn’t ready in time or something like that? Because two books ago, there was definitely a fight with a giant mutant crab. There equally definitely was nothing crablike in this book. So!

Ground Zero

Sometimes the title of a Deathlands book will make me scratch my head in puzzlement, since it seems like they just took a couple of random words, one of them semi-complex, and strung them together, irrespective of the plot of the book. Other times, such as Ground Zero, I’m pretty well on board.

See, our heroes have landed in what used to be Washington DC but is now simply referred to as the Washington Hole, what with how many missiles were aimed dead center of the seat of American government. So there’s a blasted pit several miles wide, a new volcano, Lake Potomac, and villes all around the pit where people still live and do business, since it was after all a populous area, pre-nuke. Yeah, ground zero works just fine.

That said, it’s really just a string of largely disconnected events, though I guess the second half of the book is tied pretty well together. Highlights include the most powerful mutant seer anyone in the series has ever met, a creepy zoo of rare oddities, a pivotal tornado, more signs of the samurai that rumors say have been all over the place lately, and most rare and wondrous of all, a bartender who remembers our heroes fondly from encounters past.

Fairest: Wide Awake

There’s another Fables series, apparently, which makes this I think the third spin-off? Fairest looks like it will be an anthology series focused on famous female fables, and I’m perfectly happy with that idea. (My first thought was, why can’t these stories just go in Fables instead, but I get that Willingham probably has some kind of master plan for where the plot is going. It has certainly been a plot-dense series to date! So I guess a spin-off is the only place to tell side stories.) At the same time… man, this is a lot of books.

That griped, Wide Awake tells the latest story of Sleeping Beauty aka Princess Briar Rose. Well, it also tells her origin story in an Arabian Nights inspired flashback sequence, and everything that happens will probably eventually bear on the main series, as will the single issue story about Beauty and the Beast that rounds out the book. ….all of which makes me wonder if a new anthology series was necessary after all, again. Probably it was? Man, I dunno. I’m glad the dude has so many ideas, but I’m still six years behind!

Elevation

Elevation is an unusual Stephen King book, by multiple measures. First, it’s tiny. Barely over a hundred pages, and it’s a small factor book on top of that. I’m not saying he only writes doorstops, but this is just barely north of novella-sized, almost certainly shorter than, say, The Mist.

Second, it’s… I started to say it’s overtly political, but that’s not true. To be overtly political in this climate, you have to go a lot farther, and I’m not sure you can do it in written fiction, period. His politics have been pretty clear to me for a number of years anyway (and thank goodness I don’t hate them, because man, that would be a blow), but as far as I can remember this is the first time I’ve seen them bleed into his work, and in such an obvious manner.

Third, it’s definitely not horror (which okay is not super unusual for King, and especially lately, but it’s still what he’s known for). There is a central mystery which is well outside normal experience, but it is the least interesting part of the story. The meaty parts are about what it means to be a good neighbor[1], and about the rot at the heart of Smalltown, USA (both conscious and unconscious) and whether it can change, and about the things we leave behind.

Anyway, I liked it. Not a bad way to spend a lunch break.

[1] I’ve never tried to be a good neighbor. Don’t misunderstand me, I want to not be a bad neighbor, and have definitely tried to do that. But I never really cared about who lived near me, much past junior high. Maybe if I were less suburban and more rural, I would feel differently.

Shadowfall

By now you know the Deathlands drill, or have been ignoring reviews of the series and will ignore this one too. The main things that stand out about Shadowfall are the introduction of a new ongoing antagonist (a mutant hypnotist who collects hair, nominally for the sale of wigs) and the inversion of the usual formula, where the ruling baron of the area is typically a power-hungry sadist and tyrant who needs to be toppled.[1]

A thing I found interesting is that this was one of the few places where… let me back up. See, Krysty (the redhead who can sense the limited future enough to warn of impending doom, or else have a good idea of whether her friends are safe or not in real time, over long distances) has been wanting Ryan (her boyfriend, the one-eyed leader of the traveling group of… heroes? mercenaries? I guess ronin would be a pretty good analogue[2]) to settle down somewhere pleasant and make babies. The thing I found interesting was that this was one of the few times since she’s wanted this that they voluntarily left a locale where settling down would have been feasible, and she didn’t say a single word about it.

The thing you should find interesting about this is that the lack of consistent characterization is a noteworthy outlier.

[1] Power vacuums are not really a problem for our heroes, since they will be teleporting somewhere else by the beginning of next book at the latest.
[2] Appropriation being what it is, I should first note that this is my assessment, nobody has said anything like that in the books (not that they wouldn’t, because really, this is mid ’90s authorship[3], but they didn’t), and second note that I really can’t think of an American cognate for ronin. The only thing close is some Westerns tropes, but most of those are lifted wholesale from Japanese samurai / ronin stories and dressed up with six-guns and leathers in the first place, so you see my problem.
[3] There have been hints in fact of some probably but not definitely Japanese people popping up in weird places and slaughtering folks, which I expect to pay off in a book or two (and which may be what put the lordless samurai comparison in my head in the first place, come to think of it). None of this would be relevant, except that they’re being referred to as Orientals, which by 1995 really should have been out of common usage. So that’s been an annoyance.

Fables: Werewolves of the Heartland

Werewolves of the Heartland is an untethered to specific continuity[1] side story featuring Bigby Wolf and, well, it says it right there in the title, don’t it?

See, there’s this city in Iowa fully populated by werewolves, and although that isn’t precisely why Bigby is in town, it quickly becomes the main reason. Not least (but not, I think, most either) because they’re tied into his past days murdering Nazis during World War II. Having established all of this in the first two issues, the rest of the book is how he solves the problem.

Good if: a) you really like Bigby as a character, or b) you want to see as many possible variations on werewolf boobs and dongs as you can imagine, although in this case that’s going to be approximately one example each. Tons of nude werewolves / untransformed men and women, but only one type of anatomy per sex. It was honestly distracting.

Bad if: a) you expect anything that happened to have future plot consequences or b) you don’t care for the new artist for this side project. Which I suppose I’ve already alluded to above, but the uniformity of figure drawing from the neck down was not the only thing I took issue with. These are crude representations, as a stylistic choice rather than a lack of talent I’m sure, but man is it not my style. Oh, or c) if you are reading the book in public, say at the DMV while trying to get your vanity plates transferred to your new car. Because, damn that’s a lot of boobs and dongs.

[1] Okay, it falls under the third full plot in the series, which is arguably over now but may just be winding down instead; too soon to tell, but it could be placed anywhere in that multiple book region[2].
[2] Real life timing wise, it is around 2012, which resulted in a funny (to me and maybe three other people) reference to the ABC show Once Upon a Time.

The Walking Dead: New World Order

There are now thirty Walking Dead books. That’s nearly 200 issues of the comic, for values of nearly that are two to three years out. But still!

As has so often been the case since the war with the Saviors wrapped up, there is really only one important question that a reader of New World Order should have. “Is Kirkman telling a new story with this new group of organized people who seem to have actually restored civilization from the ashes of the zombie apocalypse, or is he about to rehash another ‘man is the real monster, so let’s watch Rick Grimes kick another opposing viewpoint’s ass!, but with a minimally new twist on events this time’ story. Which would make this round… four, I’m gonna say?

I actually do think it’s going to not be that simplistic, is the good news. Also the bad news, because now I’ve got my hopes up.

Follow

I ate too much yesterday. As a result, I watched a movie last night despite exhaustion, because I was too full to go to sleep. (I mean, to do so comfortably.) Unrelatedly, I finally got Shudder working again on my Roku. The intersection of these facts is that I watched a semi-random movie called Follow. It had an interesting enough plot description and was 78 minutes long, which was just about right for my needs.

There’s this bartender and his girlfriend who live together, and there’s also a girl at work who is way into the bartender, and an annoying guy at work who is an antagonist to the bartender. And, apropos of almost nothing, a weird neighbor teen who sings Christmas carols a lot. (Also, it’s the holiday season, which will be important in a moment.) Having established all this, plus some character beats about how the girlfriend is a bit morbid, we cut right to the point, which is where the intriguing description comes in. She has an early Christmas present for the bartender, one that he is not quite sure what to make of. Before he has a decisive reaction one way or the other, he blacks out and wakes up the next morning to learn that everything about his life has taken a hard swerve to the left.

Everything else (so, the remaining 70 minutes or so) is… well, I took it as a character study. Push a person in an unexpected direction, and then watch and see where they end up. And it worked pretty well for that. Another way to read it is as a study of madness and unreliable narration. At least, if you knew for sure what was going on for the first half of the movie, you’re more confident than I was! It’s tense, it’s spooky, it’s way dark, and… it’s pretty okay? The problem with a character study is you have to really accept the character. I understood him a little bit, but I’m not sure I liked him enough.

The Maze Runner

I finished the second second Robin Hobb book and its review just before my annual five day camping trip, which was good timing because I wanted small easy books to read, instead of dragging around a doorstop in the woods. But then I made a terrible mistake. In the midst of packing, every book I intended to bring (and the Kindle) were left on a shelf. Which meant, a day or so later when it was time to read, I had nothing!

This is I think the third worst thing that has ever happened to me on a camping trip.

So, I downloaded Kindle software onto my phone and picked the book that sounded the most like what I wanted at that moment, out of the books I have Kindleized. Which was The Maze Runner.

I already saw the movie (but apparently did not review it? wtf), so there were not like a ton of surprises? Though, much like the movie, motives are still unclear to me. Anyway, it’s a teen book about teens in a maze. Also, they have no personal memories. But mainly there’s this maze, and they’ve been there a while, but everything it about to change. (Also, mazes are cool.)

This book mostly asks questions that I assume future books will answer. Why are there a bunch of teenage boys left in a maze with no apparent solution? Why are they supplied? Why do new boys keep coming? Why can’t they remember anything? Why are there murderous monsters in the maze? Why only boys? (I’m not sure if I expect an answer to this one.)

I only read like one and a half chapters while camping, but it felt a lot better knowing I had something to read if I wanted to than before that, when I didn’t and everything to read was like 150 miles away.