Over on the right sidebar of this blog, I keep an running update on what I’ve watching and reading, or watched and read. Lately, some readers have asked how I’ve enjoyed a few of the titles that grace those respective lists…
Friday, by Robert Heinlein
Strong mixed feelings about this one. On the one hand, I really like the world Heinlein has created here with corporate players, conspiracies, balkanized U.S., and strange but completely logical family units. On the other hand, the author has his fairly well developed and believable character make some highly questionable choices, the most ridiculously outrageous being her decision to forgive and marry one of the men who raped her at the beginning of the novel. An interesting albeit incohesive story about belonging and what makes us human – undone by a truly horrible ending.
A is For Alibi, by Sue Grafton
My friend Carl claims he “doesn’t have the zombie gene” and, as a result, can’t enjoy zombie movies or shows. Conversely, I suspect that I don’t have the mystery gene because, try as I might, I just can’t seem to get into the genre. I’ve tried, checking out a dozen highly recommended titles and I’ve yet to be wowed. This latest is a fine book. It would simply seem that I’m not a mystery guy.
An upscale party in a South American country is crashed by rebels who take the guests hostage. Demands are made, time passes, and relationships form. It’s an interesting premise that doesn’t quite live up to its potential, ultimately undone by characters who never really acquire genuine depth.
The author of Fight Club offers up a collection of truly unsettling short stories, some poems, and bizarre running through-line involving a demented writers’ workshop that left me cold. But those stories! Like most collections, there are hits and misses, but those that hit will stay with you – like the first tale, Guts which, according to Palahniuk, has caused grown men to faint during public readings.
Now this one I loved! In the not too distant future, scientists discover a cure for aging. “Immortality, however, comes with its own unique problems-including evil green people, government euthanasia programs, a disturbing new religious cult, and other horrors.” Brilliant!
Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore, by Robin Sloan
A Davinci Code for the literary crowd, it’s a novel filled with puzzles, global conspiracies, and code-breaking software applications. Ultimately, the mystery at the heart of the book, less “life or death” and more nefarious book club goings-on, failed to capture my interest.
Chew: Bad Apples, by John Layman and Robert Guillory
The seventh installment in the ongoing series revolving around a cibopathic federal agent capable of receiving psychic impressions from whatever he tastes. I like it because it’s unique. There’s nothing quite like it out there. Of course what makes it unique, particularly some of its over-the-top elements, make it extremely challenging to translate to the small screen – which was something producers looking to do just that presumably realized. The series took a bewilderingly dark turn a couple of volumes back and I’m not sure I like it. No, scratch that. I’m sure I don’t like it.
The Family (Malavita), by Tonino Benacquista
Now a major motion picture! That quickly came and went. I checked this book out, a translation of the international bestseller, because it shares some elements with a project I’ve been working on. Given the fact that the author is Italian, I’m surprised the mob world isn’t more grounded and believable. Instead, it feels like the research materials for this book were comprised of old gangster movies.
Doubt, by Yoshiki Tonogai
I’ll readily admit that I picked up this manga on the basis of the creepy-looking cover alone. While the set-up is interesting (a group of teens wake up in an abandoned building where they become unwilling participants in a game of cat and mouse – or, more appropriately, rabbit and wolf), the series falls victim to the same issues that bedevil most anime and mangas: suspect logic and developments that stretch credulity.
To be honest, while I liked Seinfeld when it was on the air, I didn’t love it. But I do now, having a whole new appreciation for the show after re-watching its first four seasons. Sure, some of the fashion and technology may be a little dated, but the humor is as dead-on now as it was twenty years ago. It’s not all that surprising to note that most of the best episodes were written by Larry David.
I heard it described as “The U.K. version of Twin Peaks” – clearly by someone who never watched Twin Peaks. It’s a fairly straightforward limited mystery series with the added bonus of some terrific performances headlined by David Tennant. His character is great. Unfortunately, the mystery at the heart of this miniseries isn’t. There’s no real progression to the whodunit, merely a bunch of random red herrings scattered throughout. Rather than build to a reveal or through our lead detective’s sleuthing, the answers are simply offered up by happenstance: a critical piece of evidence in the latop and, ultimately, the identity of the killer who essentially gives him/herself up. Odd.
15 thoughts on “September 17, 2013: Since you asked – reading/watching!”
The reason you don’t have the mystery gene is because I’m hogging them all! The mystery genre is my absolute favorite – my ‘go to’ genre. I am a bit picky within the genre, however, preferring British mysteries over American, and more traditional stories over the modern, explicit sorts. In other words, I don’t like my mysteries to be cluttered up with a lot of personal drama and sex. (Even Macbeth’s angst over his on again, off again ‘romance’ with his unobtainable love is starting to get on my nerves.)
I just want crime, suspects, detective, interrogations, clues, and solution – not a bunch of muckity muck personal drama cluttering up the mystery.
After mysteries, I like my age of sail (or, historical naval fiction) stories, and – of course – anything with a character named Pendergast in it. 🙂 But I wouldn’t read the Pendergast books were it not for that specific character. This is where mysteries are different for me. Unlike most books (and even tv shows) where I need to ‘fall in love’ with a character, I am actually ‘in love’ with the traditional British mystery. It’s the genre I love, and the characters are secondary. I think that’s why I enjoy them so much.
Okie dokie, hubby just got home and I have to serve up dinner!
I thought of Broadchurch (which I’m still working through via Amazon Prime each week) as Twin Peaks if Twin Peaks hadn’t gone weird. I admit though, I was just a kid when Twin Peaks came out, so I know it primarily through its legacy in pop culture and passing comments by my parents. Still, I’m enjoying the mystery. Maybe the red herring thing doesn’t feel as big of a deal since I watch it week by week and not in one sitting? (I didn’t know one could access the whole series already. Maybe because I’m in the US?). Also, I just love Tennant, so he probably colors my whole perspective.
What you said about Seinfeld’s humor is so true. Like Twin Peaks, Seinfeld was my parents’ comedy and I admit I didn’t get it when I was a teenager. After I moved out and grew up a bit, I feel it’s definitely a classic 🙂 My husband and I say things like, “If this were a Seinfeld episode, George would…”
Okay. Enough of my rambling.
Umineko no Naku Koro ni aka Umineko: When They Cry is a decent murder mystery manga/anime that’s worth checking out Joe. The anime is 26 episodes and there are quite a few books out at the moment, they’re quite large with a ton of pages. It may appeal to you.
Another also falls under the same genre, the Mystery, Horror, Supernatural, and Psycological genre no less. There’s an anime of this that’s worth checking out, and the book is out soon in English.
There’s also a Sword Art Online Extra Edition special airing in Japan at the end of the year with new unseen footage, guessing this will probably be translated by someone early new year, a lot of people are hoping this will be a prelude to a new Sword Art Online season, certainly they have another 9 books to adapt. I think people will like the fact the author hasn’t forgotten about Aincrad(The game in the first arc) and has done 2 books worth of new material for it, but the upcoming arc is Gun Gale Online.
I read Puppet Masters in college. Heinlein absolutely has no clue about writing women. He writes them not as the way women actually are, but the way some men apparently want women to be. That alone convinced me never to bother with reading anything by him again. If you don’t have a freaking clue how to write half the population of your species as believable characters, you’re not a good writer.
Wow, not a lot of “recommends” in there. Seems like the vast majority of what you consume as entertainment ultimately doesn’t float your boat. Is that because a lot of these were consumed as research projects, rather than for your own personal enjoyment?
I’m reading a good book right now, called A Reliable Wife (Robert Goolrich). My friend who attempted to start up a book club a few years ago (they quickly devolved into drunken debacles, and after only 2 or 3 she gave up) is trying again, and the first selection of “Book Club Part Deux: This Time It’s Soberer” is A Reliable Wife. It’s about an überwealthy business owner in rural Wisconsin in 1907, who, after decades of loneliness, places a newspaper ad for a mail-order bride. The woman who answers his ad is not what she appears to be. Those two are fascinating characters. Every main character is hiding something, and there are unexpected twists all along the way. At times, it’s like watching a train wreck: such unfathomable awfulness of human behavior, and yet you can’t look away. You have to keep turning the pages to find out how far these people will go.
“[Seinfeld]…the humor is as dead-on now as it was twenty years ago.” That is why I will watch old shows over new ones any day. Everybody Loves Raymond (I’m watching it right now), Fraiser, Roseanne (not the final years), are excellent when there is nothing on TV to watch. Which is almost every night.
Is it sad I have never watched Seinfeld?
I prefer my mysteries on film; The Secret in the Their Eyes, Tell No One, North By Northwest, Laura, anything Hitchcock, most of Christie, Endeavour, Midsomer, Lewis; I’d love to live in a cute little Midsomer cottage even with the high body count. I like that Broadchurch deals with grief instead of just focusing on the mystery. That first ep had me going through a box of hankies.
i too lack the “zombie gene” & the “vampire gene” as well. (although i did read the historian by elizabeth kostova, but that’s because the blurb on the back was vague in regards to the vampire-ness.)
as for mysteries, i prefer the “cozy mystery” kind of thing. or at least not the “hard mysteries” with violence, sex & the “rubber hose” treatments in interrogations.
lately i’m into historical fiction, mainly english royalty (in my defense that seems to be the main subject of the ones that look interesting to me.)
i’m trying to get into biographies of people i find interesting & non-historical fiction.
One of my favorite authors is DICK FRANCIS. His books are terrific…but I do suggest that you read his earlier books because his later stories are co-written with his son and rather different.
I promise, you will not be sorry. (Carl, would love these books, if he likes suspense).
The beginnings of Heinlein stories and meeting his characters and worlds is the best. I eventually see too much of his attitudes show up in improbable proportions in his characters and things seem to happen because he deems it so, not because the characters have encountered enough to convince them it should be so. I think I’ll have a cap of how much Heinlein I can read before I recognize the aspects of his writing that annoy me too early in a story for it to be enjoyable. Maybe I need to be less annoy-able.
My taste in fiction is geared more toward mysteries. Sci-fi and mystery are a wonderful combination. I loved OSC’s robot series. The best of both genres!
Billie: I love Dick Francis too! The old ones ARE better.
I usually like Robert Heinlein but I’m not sure I would like the rape angle. When a rape victim bonds with the rapist, it sounds like Stockholm syndrome to me. How could you ever trust this person again?
I saw the ads for “The Family”. It reminds me of a Netflix show called “Lilyhammer”. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1958961/ A cute little show with a lot of dark humor.
I recently listened to an audio book with LDP reading it. “Season of the Machete” by James Patterson. I got a real kick out of hearing LDP doing sounds effects (gull calls). LDP did a great job!
I’ve finished all the Longmire books. 🙁 Craig Johnson has good twists in the plots but he needs to get his butt in gear and get the next book out! If you know Mr. Johnson, maybe you could rely that message for me?
Any more delicious Akemi dishes? I could use some good food porn (desserts please).
you know Puppet Masters is a 1951 work? i can tell you i read all S&F writer womans from 1951 and their womans are very similar to Heinlein womans. If you read Stranger in a Strange Land (1961) sure your impresion was diferent.
Gary Westfahl points out that “Heinlein is a problematic case for feminists; on the one hand, his works often feature strong female characters and vigorous statements that women are equal to or even superior to men; but these characters and statements often reflect hopelessly stereotypical attitudes about typical female attributes. It is disconcerting, for example, that in Expanded Universe Heinlein calls for a society where all lawyers and politicians are women, essentially on the grounds that they possess a mysterious feminine practicality that men cannot duplicate.”
stigmatize a writer by one of hundreds of jobs does not seem right.
Hey read your reply been too busy to tell you so syfy was not the villain so I guess it was MGM and it’s financial problems at the time that screwed us that’s the impression I get from you sighs & GRRR!
I found a writers group in my town near me at my town’s library I just saw a sign for it when I walked by and found out all the info and got signed up Yay very happy got my first assignment today maybe I will actually really write something instead of talking about it. I know I have the talent just the follow through is always the hard part for me I get distracted easily.
I soo agree with you about the whole SG reboot. Stargate is not Star Trek nor is it Star Wars it’s not known in the mainstream pop culture for many decades like ST & SW are so there is not this big built in audience like those 2 have and if they would reboot it like ST it would alienate the very small built in audience it has. The original Stargate movie did not build the fan-base or franchise the series’s did and I am sorry Dean Devlin and Roland Emmerich are not Gene Roddenberry or George Lucas they did not have the vision Brad Wright and Jonathan Glassner did they saw more than Dean Devlin and Roland Emmerich ever could have dreamed of when they thought the Stargate went all over the galaxay and universe DD & RE could only see it as going between 2 planets they were short sighted sorry this really aggravates me I don’t think if either one of those guys gets their way it would bring back the SG franchise like some people seem to think it could I think it would be a major flop and kill the SG franchise for good because MGM wouldn’t spend anymore money for it and SG is my favorite scifi space oprea franchise I enjoy both ST & SW I love them both equally (I really don’t understand why there is animosity between those fandoms I have met a few people in RL who are it’s one or the other it really baffles me why that people argue which is better it’s scifi space opera entertainment that’s good enough to me) but I miss SG I really don’t want it to be killed off for good.
@ archersangel – I love a good cozy mystery, too. It’s like comfort food for my brain. I can read something a bit less ‘cozy’, but like you I don’t want them to be too graphic. Murder mysteries are a bit ‘sacred’ to me, I suppose. 🙂
@ shinyhula – You know I love to watch my mysteries, too! Love Hitchcock, film noir, and of course those wonderful Brit mysteries like Midsomer Murders and of course, Inspector Lewis. Watched the new Foyle’s War Sunday, and it was excellent! Good stuff.