Holy Fuck, Another Damn List?

‘Tis the season for creating lists and such, and yes, I’m here to add another one, but I thought I would simply list the books of 2011 that I suspect I’ll still be talking about after this year is over. (How’s that for a lazy snappy lead-in?) I settled on four of them, with a few more honorable mentions. The first book listed here is technically from 2010, but I don’t care because it was published in December of ’10 and I say it’s close enough for rock and roll. And I didn’t read it until this year. So there.

1. By the Time We Leave Here, We’ll Be Friends, by J. David Osborne

This is the book voted mostly likely to send you swirling down the toilet bowl of depression. Yes, it’s that dark and that bleak. And it’s fucking cold, too. Set in a Communist Siberian gulag, you should consider throwing on a hoodie-footie before reading this, lest you catch your death of cold. But goddamn, is it beautifully written. Osborne’s style is as clipped, considered and no-nonsense hardass as the world he creates, and that’s why this works so damn well. If you want something original, compelling, smart, violent, and yet beautiful at the same time, I implore you to grab a copy of this one.

2. Ready Player One, by Ernest Cline

And now for something completely different, Cline’s first-person love letter to all things 1980s. I was never the biggest gamer back in the day, and even less so now for that matter, but I was very familiar with the Atari and video arcade staples of my youth – Qbert, Pac-Man, Missle Defense, Galaga, etc., so there was enough here I could recognize. There are also several old school game references in this one that didn’t resonate with me, but enough ’80s movie minutiae to make me do a little pee-pee in my pants. I really dug the nostalgia and consider this to be a perfect read for an ’80s child like myself. Good times.

3. Nightjack, by Tom Piccirilli

Back to the darkness, this is a story of a guy with dissociative identity disorder who tries to solve his wife’s murder while juggling his multiple identities in his head, each of which is written as a separate character. In lesser hands, this would be a mess, but Piccirilli does a marvelous job of making each identity their own person, with an arc that fits into the puzzle of a plot. Great writing, great characters, and a tense, violent crime story that has me wondering why it took me this long to read something from ‘Pic’.

4. Rico Slade Will Fucking Kill You, by Bradley Sands

Another personality disorder type story wherein a popular action movie star can’t suppress his ultra-macho, throat-ripping asshole of a character, the eponymous Rico Slade. Funny, but with some surprising heart for what initially appears to be a simple Bizarro weirdfest. (Read my original review here)

Those are the four books from 2011 that I dug the most. Other releases from this year that I enjoyed, are worth mentioning, and definitely worth your time are: Flashback, by Dan Simmons; Hooray For Death, by Mykle Hansen;  Already Gone, by John Rector; Crab Town, by Carlton Mellick III; Embedded, by Dan Abnett

Book review: HELP! A Bear is Eating Me by Mykle Hansen

This is very funny book, filled with a slew of excellent one-liners that made me chortle. Because it made me laugh, I wanted to like this book more, but there were a couple things that bugged me about it.

Click the pic, go to Amazon.

1. As the back cover tells me, the main characer, Marv Pushkin, is an asshole of the highest order. A drug-abusing, selfish, vain, rude, philandering asshole. I have no problem with that at all, but I was expecting something to change by the end. To set up such a character, and stick him in a situation like this (stuck under a broke down Range Rover in Alaska, a bear eating his legs, slowly dying…) I would think there would be an arc, that he would learn a lesson, develop a new perspective. Grow, change, be in some way different by the end. But that really didn’t happen.

2. I felt like the author was doing the old wink-and-nudge too often, especially by the end when Marv goes off on a pro-Capitalism and anti-terrorist screed that just didn’t ring true. It made him seem like a caricature, or a cardboard cutout of the ‘Ugly American’. Maybe I’m just reading this at the wrong time, maybe I’m being too touchy here, but it feels old and played out. Yeah, I get it, Americans are big, fat, loud, racist, obnoxious assholes who hate the environment and love themselves some guns and gas-guzzling cars and chicks with huge tits. But Marv is little more than a stereotype, and never really developed past that. There were portions where he could have, some intimate details about his life and insight into how he maybe got to be the way he is, but it’s too brief and not really explored. And because he doesn’t change or grow or develop into more than this stereotype, well, that’s what he remains.

The idea here is great, the cover art is awesome, and as previously mentioned, there are some really funny lines in this that definitely made it worth the read.