Catching up on my #20BooksofSummer with a few mini reviews of some stuff I’ve read.
Brotherhood by Mike Chen
While a lot of Star Wars fans are quick to criticize Disney for some of the choices they’ve made since acquiring the franchise, you’ve got to give them credit for getting a lot of things right.
Case in point: Brotherhood.
Set between episodes II and III, Mike Chen weaves a compelling tie-in story about the friendship of Anakin Skywalker and Obi Wan Kenobi. Not only does it add some nuance to the big-screen epics from the prequel era, but it gives new shades to the recently completed Obi Wan Kenobi. Continue reading
Paul Tremblay popped up on my radar when Stephen King promoted A Head Full of Ghosts on Twitter. After being totally unnerved by Ghosts, I put Tremblay on the list of authors I’d follow for a couple of books and see where things went.
The good news is that, so far, that’s paid off.
Tremblay’s latest offering, The Pallbearers Club just may finally put him on the list of automatic “I will read anything this author publishes.”
While it’s not quite as spine-tingling as Ghosts, is just as page-turning and entertaining. Art Barbara is a high-school outcast, looking to enhance his college applications by starting a club. In this case, it’s the pallbearers club, a group devoted to attending funerals of the forgotten in the community and helping with various parts of the ritual. Flyers around town bring Paul into the orbit of Mercy, a mysterious girl who expands Paul’s musical horizons and may be more than she’s letting on.
The Pallbearers Club is a vampire story without necessarily falling victim to all the tropes of a vampire story. Art narrates most of the story, though there are edits made by Mercy and reactions to what he’s written. As a narrator, Art is self-deprecating and hyper-aware. As a critic, Mercy is spot-on at multiple points. The on-page banter between these two is delightful and part of what makes this novel so much fun.
The other is that Tremblay is clearly having a lot of fun with the horror genre here. The blend of horror with rock music history is one of the book’s biggest selling points. But it may be the point that divides fans a great deal — and from what I see in the online review world, this book feels fairly polarizing.
Put me down as loving it.
After finishing Garrison Keillor’s last Lake Wobegon novel, I felt like Keillor had reached a good stopping point for his fictional small town.
Alas, Keillor didn’t feel the same way and presents us with another novel set in his fictional hometown. But while The Wobegon Virus left me feeling satisfied, Boom Town felt a bit like a last-second renewal for a once great show that while it doesn’t necessarily tarnish the reputation of the show, doesn’t exactly do it any great favors.
Boom Town finds Keillor returning to his fictional hometown for the funeral of a friend and finding out that his hometown is finally getting with the times and changing in unexpected ways. In the wake of Covid-19 and people realizing you can work from anywhere (so long as you have WiFi), Lake Wobegon is surging again and the people moving into town are a very different sort (for example, they get the town to pass an ordinance banning the Norwegian bachelor farmers from sitting on a bench all day).
Keillor also reflects on his time, growing up in the town, and his first adult relationship in a pivotal summer. Years later, the object of his desire is dying slowly and Keillor has to come to grips with that, as well as offer observations of the status of marriage.
And herein lies my biggest issue with Boom Town. Keillor seems to fall victim to the same pitfall that plagued other male writers as they aged (Asimov, Heinlein). And that is, the novel feels like it has far too much of an interest and focuses on sex. I didn’t necessarily mind Keillor detailing his first sexual encounter (this isn’t a romance novel so it’s not graphic) so much as I felt like we kept coming back to it over and over again during the course of the story. Nor do I mind Keillor reflecting on being a sexual being. But at some point, it crossed the thin line from reflection to feeling like I’m reading the thoughts of a (for lack of a better term) “dirty old man.”
And I suppose that, as Keillor points out, an artist has to be more than just his or her most famous work. But I just never found the humor and observations to ring quite as true as some of my favorite Keillor stories from yesteryear.
Which is fine, I suppose. I can always re-read or listen to those again and remember why he’s one of my favorite writers.
About an hour into listening to Sally Rooney’s Normal People, a thought struck me — this is a romance novel with literary aspirations. And one that revelation stuck in my head, it was difficult to shake it for the rest of the novel’s run time.
Normal People languished on my TBR pile since I first heard the initial buzz about it. I’m not sure why really. I guess like Marianne, the book was content to to just sit there silently as I neglected it.
Marianne and Connell have grown up on different sides of the social strata in their Irish town. Marianne comes from a wealthy family who is emotionally distant and with a physical and mental abusive streak. Connell comes from a working-class background single mother who works for Marianne’s mother. Both attend the same school, but Connell is popular while Marianne is quiet and reserved.
The two begin a discreet relationship during the later part of their senior year, leading to all types of drama, angst, and misunderstandings. Both parties are concerned about social status and perceptions, though for very different reasons. We slowly uncover these as the novel unfolds. Continue reading
Today’s Top Ten Tuesday (hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl) asks us to think about the books we love that have been on shelves for a decade or more. Here are my choices.
- Lake Wobegon Days by Garrison Keillor
- The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
- Playing for the Ashes by Elizabeth George
- Star Trek: The Next Generation: Q-Squared by Peter David
- Dune by Frank Herbert
- To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee
- Ramona the Pest by Beverly Cleary
- The Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick
- Front Porch Tales by Phillip Gulley
- Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis
From 1969 to 1991, the only examination of what took place behind the scenes at Star Trek seemed to come from creator Gene Roddenberry. The self-proclaimed “Great Bird of the Galaxy” had a lock on the narrative associated with the creation and production of the series as well as the attempts to keep it alive over the years. Then, when he passed away in 1991, it felt like the dam burst with a lot of people with access and information about what happened behind the scenes suddenly publishing a memoir or a tell-all book.
As a fan who enjoys the peeking behind the curtain aspect of how my favorite shows are made and work their way to our screens, I lapped up a lot of those books with a spoon.
And while they were entertaining and informative, it wasn’t often that an author or creator really took a step back and a “long view” of the history and development of Star Trek.
Which is one thing that makes Ryan Britt’s Phasers on Stun one of the more interesting examinations of the franchise as a whole that I’ve had the pleasure of reading. Britt picks out highlights from each era of the franchise, putting them into a perspective of what was happening in the franchise, pop culture, and the real world and the place Star Trek holds there. Each essay is a fascinating look at why the franchise has endured and how it has adapted and changed over time. Of particular interest to this fan were chapters on why DS9 and Voyager were touchstones for pop culture and have continued to resonate with viewers today — both new and old fans.
Britt’s conversational style and tone in each chapter make the book feel like you’re having a chat with a friend about Star Trek and, as with his Luke Skywalker Can’t Read collection of essays, makes me feel like if we were to ever meet and hang out, Britt and I might be friends.
If you’re looking for a rave review of Abby Jimenez’s The Friend Zone, I encourage you to keep on scrolling. This isn’t going to be one. And in order to articulate why this one didn’t work for me, I will have to go into SPOILER territory. Consider this fair warning….
The story starts off with a meet-cute for Kristen and Josh, with a minor fender bender involving her best friend’s fiancee’s new truck and Josh’s car. Before too long, it’s revealed that they are both a significant part of their best friends’ wedding party and are suddenly thrown together to spend large amounts of time.
Kirsten is an independent business owner, making accessories for dogs including staircases to get up on beds. Josh needs a little extra income after his ex stiffed him with the bills for fixing up the house they shared. So, Josh starts working for Kristen and the sparks are starting to fly. Continue reading
Back in my early days of Doctor Who fandom, some friends caught a few moments of “The Power of Kroll” and incredulously mocked me because the Doctor somehow defeated a giant squid creature using a tiny stick. Of course, I tried to explain to them exactly what was happening in the scene and how it wasn’t really a tiny stick, but my pleas fell upon deaf ears and taunts about the budgetary limitations of my favorite show.
Years later, removed of the mocking jabs of my youth, I’ve come to see that “The Power of Kroll” is a rough draft for Robert Holmes’ triumphant “Caves of Androzani.” And while most fans will be quick to cry that its the scripts that make classic Who so special, the comparisons between “Androzani” and “Kroll” show sometimes there are other elements involved as well.
Pursuing the fifth segment of the Key to Time, the Doctor and Romana arrive on a moon of Delta Manga. A revolutionary station is processing protein from the swamp and sending it home to feed the greater population. One obstacle is a group of natives, who were displaced from Delta Magna originally and now stand in the way of full development of the small moon’s resources. Lurking in the swamp is a large creature, worshiped by the natives and known as Kroll. After some time being dormant, Kroll is on the move again — and is hungry. Continue reading