Firefly Meets Pirates of the Caribbean

In The Hobbit, Tolkien’s observes that tales of inspiration are “soon told about, and not much to listen to; while things that are uncomfortable, palpitating, and even gruesome, may make a good tale, and take a deal of telling.” The same rings true for book reviews, I fear.

If a book is truly great, how does one give a recommendation equal to it? On the other hand, everyone loves a good tear down. Here’s your social proof: I have garnered a few dozens likes (combined) for the 49 five-star reviews I’ve left on Goodreads; meanwhile, my scathing review of Ready Player One has (of this writing) 140 likes and is the 20th-most-liked review among the 56,000 reviews of that book.

Such is my dilemma as I sit down to write my review for Retribution Falls, without doubt one of the most entertaining, rip-roaring reading experiences I’ve ever had. If you’re in the mood for a tear down, go elsewhere. I’m about to spend the next three minutes verbally felating Chris Wooding’s steampunk masterpiece.

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The Day Mike Brown Murdered Your Childhood

The smut rag that is Mike Brown’s How I Killed Pluto and Why It Had It Coming has been inducing existential crises the world over for more than a decade.

In it, Brown makes two things abundantly clear: Pluto is not a planet, and he thinks your childhood was a complete sham. He seems blithely unaware of the role Pluto played in our collective, cherubic upbringings, and staunchly unwavering in the face of protests. Like Santa, Saturday morning cartoons, and the blinding tang of Colt 45, Pluto is the stuff of childhoods gone right. How dare he, then, be arrogant enough to “scientifically prove” that Pluto is not a planet?

With the malice of a hedonistic devil worshiper, Brown blatantly disregarded our emotional investment in a nine-planet solar system in 2005, when he declared that Pluto was simply a giant hunk of ice, a “dwarf-planet,” one of the largest jewels in the crown that is the Kuiper Belt (a ring of small interplanetary bodies that’s 200 times the size of the asteroid belt).

The scientific community was rocked in the wake of Brown’s sacrilege, from his fellow astronomers right down to your grade school educators (who were proven to be nothing more than charlatans).

Twelve years after Brown’s “discovery,” the public has yet to forgive him.

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A Novel for the Judd Apatow Generation

It’s something of a paradox, but the thing that first intrigued me about Domestic Violets—its cover—is the one thing I’d change after reading it. I mean, look at that thing: it’s bright, it’s simple, it has commercial fiction written all over it. It suggests a lighthearted rom-com full of domestic friction. When I read it I was looking for something light, the literary equivalent of a Paul Rudd movie. Which is what Harper Collins wanted me to think I was getting.

However, like the best romantic comedies, Matthew Norman’s debut novel has a lot going on under the surface, so much that its cover actually does it a disservice. This is more than just a fluffy piece of entertainment. Domestic Violets is smart and insightful, and paints a wonderfully muddy picture of love and passion in the 21st century.

This is one of the best novels I’ve read in a long time.

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Franzen in February in May

Every February, Laura Frey takes a pause from her regular book blogging to “love, hate, and love-to-hate that great American novelist”, Jonathan Franzen. The event, aptly titled Franzen in February, is hosted at Reading in Bed and attracts a delightful array of guest writers.

I promised to supply an article this year, but, as I am wont to do, I didn’t write one.

Why? I’m enigmatic AF, that’s why.

Instead, I reserved the right to submit my piece 84 days late. As everyone knows, the number 84 resonates with creative expression, making today the perfect day to write about Franzen’s not-exactly-awesome sophomore novel, Strong Motion.

And yes, I totally knew about the 84 thing before I wrote this, and no, I didn’t just Google “significance of the number 84” mere seconds before writing that last paragraph. Who would do that.

So without further adieu, I present Franzen in February in May. Now get off my back, Laura. Gawd.

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A Magician, a Conqueror, and a Man with One Eye

I’ve written book reviews for several different sites over the years, all of which are now defunct. This is the first in a series of mini-reviews that will parcel out some of my favourite reads over the past few years. 


CARTER BEATS THE DEVIL

by Glen David Gold

Carter Beats the Devil opens with Carter the Great executing a particularly risky trick. He murders President Warren G. Harding on stage before feeding him to a lion, only to have Harding burst from the lion’s stomach alive and well. The show is an unbridled success. But a few hours later Harding is found dead in his hotel room and Carter is considered a prime suspect. He flees, only to be pursued by Secret Service agents, most notably aging Serviceman Jack Griffin.

The novel then jumps back in time to tell Carter’s life story, of how he came to perform magic, how he met the girl of his dreams and then shot her out of a cannon to her death, how he befriended Houdini, made arch-enemies, married a blind woman, and used the invention of the electric television to propel him to heights no other magician had ever dared.

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