Sunday, July 30, 2017

Ready Player One Movie, Colson Whitehead Wins the ACC Award, Prospero Regained by L. Jagi Lamplighter, The Secret of Lost Things by Sheridan Hay and Jill Kismet: The Complete Series by Lilith Saintcrow

My son and I both are fans of Ready Player One, so I was thrilled to tell him about the upcoming film. He's seen the trailer and can hardly wait for the premier!

Movie: Ready Player One

A first look
at Steven Spielberg's highly anticipated Ready Player One
based on the novel by Ernest Cline, was unveiled Saturday at Comic-Con
in San Diego. According to the Hollywood Reporter, the "footage sees
star Tye Sheridan as Wade Watts, teenager and gamer on a high-stakes
treasure hunt in the all-encompassing video game, Oasis, designed by the
nostalgic eccentric James Halliday, played by Spielberg-favorite Mark
Rylance.... It was futuristic, big and ambitious--truly worthy of the

The movie, which will hit theaters March 30, 2018, was written by Cline,
Eric Eason and Zak Penn. The cast also includes Olivia Cooke, T.J.
Miller and Ben Mendelsohn. Spielberg appeared at Comic-Con with Cline,
who said, "I grew up watching this man's movies and studying them."

Spielberg said of the book: "It was the most amazing flash-forward and
flashback at the same time about a decade I was very involved in, the
'80s, and a flash-forward to a future that is awaiting all of us,
whether we like it or not.... I read the book and said, 'They're going
to need a younger director.' "

Though I have yet to read this book (I will eventually get a copy!), I have heard nothing but great things about it, and I am thrilled that the author has garnered the prestigious Arthur C Clarke Award. Way to go, Mr Whitehead!

The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead has won the 
($2,640) 2017 Arthur C. Clarke Award

Chair of Judges Andrew M. Butler called the book "intensely moving...
It's a gripping account both of humanity's inhumanity and the potential
for resistance, underpinned by science fiction's ability to make
metaphor literal."

In his acceptance speech, Whitehead said, "Way back when I was 10 years
old, it was science fiction and fantasy that made me want to be a
writer. If you were a writer, you could work from home, you didn't have
to talk to anybody, and you could just make up stuff all day. Stuff
about robots and maybe zombies and maybe even miraculous railway lines.
Fantasy, like realism, is a tool for describing the world, and I'm
grateful that a book like The Underground Railroad, which could not
exist without the toolkit of fantastic literature, is being recognized
with the Arthur C. Clarke award."

Prospero Regained by L. Jagi Lamplighter is the third and final book of the Prospero's  Children series of Shakespearian urban fantasy. Though I enjoyed finding out how the Prospero clan found each other in Hell and managed to free their father, I was underwhelmed by Lamplighter's prose. She seemed to want to stuff every single bit of Shakespearian, mythological and biblical trivia into this novel, to the detriment of the plot, which slowed to a crawl at least once a chapter. Then there were the dreadful redundancies. Lamplighter apparently felt the need to reiterate what had happened in previous books and previous chapters at least twice, which made me feel as if she were condescending to me as a reader, saying that I couldn't follow her labyrinthine plot without having a pages-long summary every couple of chapters, disguised as Miranda's reflections. Boring and not at all necessary. Here's the blurb:
Shakespeare meets Dante as Miranda races to gather her siblings and rescue her father…from Hell.
Prospero, the exiled sorcerer made famous in William Shakespeare's play, The Tempest, has endured throughout many centuries. His daughter Miranda runs the family business—Prospero, Inc.—so smoothly that most of modern humanity has no idea that the Prosperos’ magic has protected Earth from repeated disasters. But old Prospero himself has been kidnapped by demons from Hell, and Miranda, aided by her estranged siblings, has followed her father into the depths of the underworld to save him from a certain doom at the hands of vengeful demons.
Time is running out for Miranda, and for the great magician himself, as they battle against the most terrifying forces of the Pit.
Unfortunately, the plot, when it wasn't halted by the aforementioned, was ridiculously complicated and featured the siblings saving one another and being heroic, just to show that they'd grown more mature and become better people with cleaner souls, (which was a bit too convenient). There were also way too many religious and conservative political ideas spit-balled into the chapters in such a way that I think the author assumed that readers wouldn't notice. I am sure I'm not the only one who noticed and was offended by the prejudice, sexism and ignorant, backward-thinking ideas presented. I had to grit my teeth and just soldier on through the morass, somewhat like the damned souls Lamplighter has trying to bring hope and redemption to Hell. Still, there are some interesting takes on demons, angels, heaven and hell in the book, as well as the nature of fairies, sprites and elementals. Overall I'd give this book a C+, and recommend it only to those who have read the first two novels and have the patience to wade through this one for the HEA.

The Secret of Lost Things by Sheridan Hay was recommended to me by a book website/Facebook page as a book about working in a bookstore in New York, which sounded right up my alley. It wasn't quite what I expected it to be, however, which is both a good and a bad thing. The story revolves around a young (18 year old) terribly naive orphan woman from a small town in Tasmania (near Australia) whose motherly friend and bookstore owner sends her on a trip to New York to find her fortune and destiny. From the outside, this might seem like a kind and generous thing to do, however, Rosemary is way too innocent and frankly, more than a bit stupid to be left alone in a huge American city all by herself. Fortunately, she lands a job at the Arcade, a huge bookstore that specializes in rare and antique books, with a cast of co workers/supervisors and characters that are as bizarre as they are unforgettable. Here's the blurb: Eighteen years old and completely alone, Rosemary arrives in New York from Tasmania with little other than her love of books and an eagerness to explore the city. Taking a job at a vast, chaotic emporium of used and rare books called the Arcade, she knows she has found a home. But when Rosemary reads a letter from someone seeking to “place” a lost manuscript by Herman Melville, the bookstore erupts with simmering ambitions and rivalries. Including actual correspondence by Melville, The Secret of Lost Things is at once a literary adventure and evocative portrait of a young woman making a life for herself in the city. Publisher's Weekly: Hay's debut has all the elements of a literary thriller, but they don't quite come together. Arriving in New York from Tasmania with $300, her mother's ashes and a love of reading, 18-year-old Rosemary Savage finds work in the Arcade Bookshop, a huge, labyrinthine place that features everything from overstock to rare books. In its physicality, the store greatly resembles New York's Strand (where Hay worked), and its requisite assortment of intriguing bookish oddballs includes autocratic owner George Pike and his albino assistant, Walter Geist. Rosemary is suspicious and worried when Walter enlists Rosemary's help to respond to an anonymous request to sell a hand-written version of Herman Melville's lost Isle of the Cross (a novel that in fact existed but disappeared after Melville's publisher rejected it). She confides in Oscar (the attractive, emotionally unavailable nonfiction specialist), which only hastens the deal's momentum toward disaster. Hay does a good job with innocent, intelligent Rosemary's attempts to deal with sinister doings, and methodically imagines the evolution and content of Melville's novel (which features a woman abandoned much like Rosemary's mother). Hay also ably captures Rosemary's nostalgic memories of Tasmania. The three narratives-intrigue, Melville, Tasmania-prove so different, however, that recurring themes of loss and abandonment fail to tie them together. 
Though the novel seems to be set in a time a few decades ago, before computers,cell phones and digital music, I still couldn't imagine someone being so stupid and naive as to throw herself at a man, Oscar, who is clearly either gay or asexual and has made it clear that he isn't interested in her romantically or sexually, more than once. I also found it hard to believe any young woman would allow creepy obsessive Geist to run his hands all over her body and ejaculate into her hand, when she's disgusted by him and his evil plot and stalker personality anyway. Ugh. I loathe female characters who are too passive and stupid to fight back.  The only women in this book are the trans character who is the cashier out front, and Rosemary, a complete neophyte. All the rest are older men, most middle aged, who are sexual predators/harrassers and all salivating over red headed Rosemary. The bookstore owner doesn't seem to care one iota about anything but money, so his female employees are on their own. The prose is workmanlike, and the plot meanders, but at a decent pace. Still, I wasn't as impressed with this book as I had hoped to be. I'd give it a B-, and recommend it only to those who are interested in a time capsule of life in a bookstore in NYC during the 1970s or 80s. 

Jill Kismet: The Complete Series by Lilith Saintcrow is an omnibus of the 6 books of the Jill Kismet series. At over 1,400 pages long, it qualifies as an epic tome that will take even the most determined and faithful urban fantasy lover more than a few days to read. Due to a Crohn's flare that wouldn't let up, I was glad that this was a book of substance that would keep my mind off the pain each time I started a new chapter/book. Here's the blurb:
Not everyone can take on the things that go bump in the night.
Not everyone tries.
But Jill Kismet is not just anyone.
She's a Hunter, trained by the best --- and in over her head.
Welcome to the night shift...
The omnibus edition of Jill Kismet contains: Night Shift, Hunter's Prayer, Redemption Alley, Flesh Circus, Heaven's Spite and Angel Town. "Jill Kismet is, above all else, a survivor, and it is her story that will haunt readers long after the blood, gore and demons have faded into memory."—RT Book Reviews
I've read two of Saintcrow's other series, Bannon and Clare (a Steampunk Holmes and Watson) and her Dante Valentine series (very similar to Jill Kismet, in that it's about a young woman with special powers fighting evil in her hometown), and while I enjoyed them, they didn't really prepare me for the no-holds-barred violence of Jill Kismet, kicking demon arse in an unnamed Southwestern town that sounds a lot like New Mexico. Saintcrow's prose is vivid, splashy and brutal, but it serves her strict A to B to C plots well, in that they never falter or fail to arrive on time at the HEA or HFN train station. That said, the sexual exploitation and sexual obsession aspect of the book was stomach-churning, as was the long descriptions of the scents of putrifaction, decay and death in a variety of gruesome ways. So if you are a woman, consider this your trigger warning. I felt sorry for Jill having to live in a world that stinks so badly your eyes water and your counterparts in the police force vomit at the mere mention of your name, let alone your appearance, which is generally covered in blood and gore and nasty demon icor. But I also exulted when Jill got over herself, got out of her own way and just let loose with the giant can of whup-ass on whatever bad supernaturals were in town, threatening humanity. It was disturbing that she couldn't seem to value herself enough to want to stay alive until the final showdown, but, considering her background as an orphan prostitute and someone used sexually by her trainer, it's not unbelievable that she'd have trust issues and self esteem problems. That she finally overcame them to find love (with a hot Native American were-cougar) is a testament to her growth as a character throughout the books. Not being a fan of horror novels, I had to grit my teeth and skim over many of the horrible descriptions of death and mayhem, but, as the characters are so well drawn as to seem real, I felt that it was worth it to read all the way through the six books of the series. I had a similar reaction to the movie Alien and Aliens. I was loathe to watch the horrific aspects, but I could not miss out on Sigourney Weaver being a bad ass monster hunter. As with everything, your mileage may vary. But I would give this series an A, and recommend it to "dark" urban fantasy fans who like a female protagonist who is gritty, real and tougher than anything that goes bump in the night. 

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