The Beautiful Land by Alan Averill

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JUMPING GIGAWATTS!! Another time traveling book about the end of the world. I have to admit, I love me some books about time travel. Even more than that, I love books about the multiverse. However, I do have to admit that it is quite worrisome to think there are other versions of me running amok and perhaps even doing something unthinkable like purchasing male skinny jeans!! But the multiverse, that ole rascal, is up to it again in “The Beautiful Land” by Alan Averill.

What exactly is the Multiverse you may quietly ponder unto thyself? The multiverse is the theory that multiple realities of our world/reality exist simultaneously. That means multiple earths with multiple, perhaps even infinite, versions of ourselves. The difference? Perhaps where we made a decision to go right, our other self went left and created a new reality or maybe we get married in this reality but in another one we are a 90 year old bachelor crashing MTV’s Spring Break party hoping to hook up with a 20 year old hottie whose name we can’t remember because we are past our 3:30 pm bedtime.

39a2ed8b9933175c72ba901126c83556SUMMARY: “The Beautiful Land” follows the story of 2 main characters Takahiro O’Leary and Samira. Tak is a man at the end of his rope (quite literally). When we meet him, he is ready to hang himself. He has had enough of life. A former star of a survivalist show, Tak feels lost and without purpose. Samira, an Iraqi was vet, has come back to the States but is haunted by her time there. She served as a translator and saw the worst that the war had to offer. Throughout the story we get to read some back stories on both characters and Samira had a horrible experience with her time in the service. Tak and Samira are old friends. They were inseparable in high school though not romantic. But slowly over the years, they have gone in different directions but have both found an empty existence void of meaning and direction.

The moment before Tak decides to permanently stretch his neck, he receives a phone call from a mysterious woman from a company called Axon Corp. For some reason (never made clear) they specifically need Tak for a special never before type of mission. Tak reluctantly agrees and heads off to the middle of nowhere in Australia. Once there he meets Charles Yates. Yates is the brilliant scientist behind Axon Corp. It seems Yates has discovered a way to travel across time itself but not in the conventional way. He can’t go back and forth in time rather his device has created doorways to other versions of reality. Tak is the only one able to effectively travel between these doors. But while he is traveling, he comes across something very evil and very quickly headed for our reality.

Tak escapes and heads back to the States to find his long lost love, Samira. What is coming is the end of reality and Tak knows how to escape what is coming. But he won’t go without Samira. But, Yates has different plans for the end of the world and needs to make sure that nothing and no one, especially Tak and Samira, get in the way of his plans.

Throw in freaky creatures that look like coked out Big Birds and some crazy disjointed dream like sequences as Tak and Samira travel between realities and you have the skeleton of this story.

THOUGHTS: I give this one a solid 3 for effort. I did like the character, Tak, a lot. I found myself laughing out loud multiple times at his sarcastic comments that he makes. Unfortunately, I now judge any book involving the multiverse next to Blake Crouch’s amazing “Dark Matter”. There were a few times when I couldn’t really figure out why a part of the book was included and what it had to do with the story. In addition, we are left wondering what makes Tak so important and qualified to be sought out out of all the people in the world to become the person to become the traveler of the multiverse. The reason is never given and I was left to assume that it had something to do with his survival show. But why not ask Bear Grylls then? I mean he drinks his own pee, so you know he’s at least ultra committed and stuff.

I can’t tell you much about why the book is named “The Beautiful Land” without giving away an important part of the book but it is part of the multiverse and the major reason that Yates creates the Machine.

I will say this was a fun book and at times read like a movie script. If you enjoy novels about the multiverse, then pick this one up. It was a quick 2 day read for me and the ending is pretty good.

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Lexicon by Max Barry

04e554b590a7440920df75e96ad4e22cHoly Jumbled Words Batman! Max Barry’s book “Lexicon” is one heck of a ride into the history, shaping and effect of language in society. Barry has written many other novels including “Jennifer Government”, “Machine Man” and “Company” just to name a few. He seems to fit into that genre of science-y cool dudes that write extra awesome goodness.

SUMMARY: Emily Ruff has a name that has matched her life. She lives on the streets and survives by her street smarts. She has a unique talent for using her words to rope people in and con them into laying down more and more cash at three card monty. This catches the attention of a group of young people one day. However, these young people don’t fall for her tricks. Instead, they are impressed with her abilities and invite her to study at an exclusive schools that teaches the art of persuasion. Emily, being intrigued and having no where else to go, accepts the offer and is transported to an elite school in Virginia. The school and the opportunity seems surreal and like a dream come true. But slowly she comes to realize that this school is different. They teach persuasion, but it is through carefully separating and studying people and then using specially coded words that unlock an ancient vault in their brain. This word vault (for lack of a better term) makes the victim totally subservient and powerless and pretty much end up looking like Jack does in this snippet of Three’s Company:jack-tripper

The staff at the school who wield these magical words are called Poets and in turn all carry the monikers of famous poets like Yeats, Atwood and Eliot.

As Emily’s knowledge of these special words grow so does her risk taking and her desire to use them. She sees the power of the spoken word.

Meanwhile, another story is taking place. A young man named Wil Parke is kidnapped. Why? He appears to be immune to these words and the Poets’ “art” of persuasion. But, most importantly, he appears to be immune to something called a “Bareword”. This is a word so powerful it could be used to rule the world.  These Barewords have the ability to topple a civilization or to lift it up to its highest pinnacle. Many examples are given, but the one that rises to the top is the Tower of Babel. And guess who is after this “Bareword” for their own nefarious purposes? Ding, ding, ding – that’s right, the Poets. Wil’s kidnappers want him to help them get the word and secure it from the Poets and their maniacal leader.

Eventually Emily and Wil’s timelines will intersect and that is where things get really interesting.

THOUGHTS: Lexicon is really a book about the power of language and how intrusive it can be in our lives. Just think how many ads are geared to make you act or respond in a certain way. From billboards to Facebook ads, the world is trying to communicate exclusively to us and wanting us to respond in a certain way.

“Lexicon” is definitely one of the smarter books I have read. At times it felt like a mix of the Matrix, Harry Potter and the Walking Dead. It was interesting, and well thought out, to see how the two main characters, Emily and Wil, eventually converge and what that means.

This is a good ole conspiracy story interlaced with a touch of romance and lots of suspense. As a big fan of anything dealing with language and its impact on the human mind, this book definitely held my attention and really got me thinking about who has control over my life and how they got it. Pick this one up for a mind bending, intelligent read.

HaPpY ReAdInG!

Artemis – Andy Weir

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Hooray for Nerd Culture! I am totally siked about the the new set of writers that have come along and shot through their novels a skein of science. And by skein, I mean a white hot rod of flaming amazingness full of science-y goodness. Andy Weir is definitely one of these writers. His first novel, The Martian, was full of science but also highly enjoyable. It takes finesse to bring all the technicalities of niche science into a novel and not confuse the crud out of the readers. But, Weir did and he’s done it again with his new novel, Artemis.

SUMMARY: The Moon. Cold, without atmosphere, no gravity, no sustainable way of supporting life, unforgiving and yet that is where this story takes place. Humans have begun to colonize the moon in a place called Artemis. Artemis is a conglomeration of  gigantic domes, that are interconnected to each other. Artemis has become a sort of refuge for those wishing to escape Earth for one reason or another. For some, this is permanent. For others, this is a once in a life time tourist attraction.

Our narrator, for this journey, is a young woman named Jazz Bashara. She had grown up on the moon and knows all its ins and outs. Unfortunately, she knows them through the hard life she has lived there. She is part of the underclass that lives in Artemis. This group works away but never gets ahead. Jazz works as a porter, unloading supplies from ships. This helps pay her bills but also helps her with her side job as a smuggler for the elite on the moon. While this won’t make her rich, it will move her toward the main action of the book.

One of her clients is the richest man on the moon and he has an idea on how to make even more money. This involves Jazz, the air supply to Artemis and the machines that supply it. He is willing to pay big time for the machines to become somehow stop working and he thinks Jazz is just the person to handle this job. She accepts and the job gets bungled which leads to murder, assassins, a high stakes game of cat and mouse and Jazz needing help from the most unexpected of people. Throw in a lot of science and Jazz’s snarky, sarcastic and hilarious commentary and you have a recipe for one great novel.

THOUGHTS: This book has a great plot and pace to it. The characters are well developed and Jazz is complex. She is a Saudi and Muslim but breaks that stereotype. She is outspoken and independent. She is humorous and a take charge type of person. She loves a challenge and is willing to take a risk in order to get the reward. Many have read this book and complained how she is too sarcastic or too whiny. Not at all. She is very realistic and she brings a welcome change to the stereotype of the woman being the “second hero” of a book. The book brings home the fact that now matter what we do or how we see ourselves, family is more than a word. It is the people who love you no matter what and will stand with you through thick and thin. By the end of the book, Jazz becomes a more mature person and reconciles her past with her future.

Weir delivered again and best of all made a character that is memorable. I hope to see this book to film in the future. There is an audio book version that is narrated by Rosario Dawson that I haven’t hear yet but is definitely on my “to-do” list.

HaPpY ReAdInG!

What the Hell Did I Just Read?

9781250040206What the Hell Did I Just Read?” (henceforth known as WTHDIJR) by David Wong is another great adventure from Dave, John and Amy! I am a huge fan of this series and love the supernatural mixed with the dark humor. The series began with “John Dies at the End” and continued with “This Book is Full of Spiders”. The books are highly popular with “John Dies at the End” being made in to a movie that has a solid cult following (myself included). “Spiders” was a New York Times Bestseller. David Wong is the pen name for cracked.com author and senior editor Jason Pargin.

SUMMARY: Dave and John receive a request to consult on a kidnapping case due to the weirdness of it. Apparently, the person who took the little girl is a shape shifting creature and hiding out at an old abandoned mine. The boys, along with Dave’s girlfriend, Amy, investigate and find some pretty weird stuff. However, they are able to get the girl back and return her to her parents. All well and good until they get reports of another child being kidnapped, this time by a flying bat and praying mantis creature – justifiably termed BATMANTIS?!?. And yes, the BATMANTIS?!? must be written that way. You’ll understand once you read the book. Shortly after, more and more kids go missing. As the guys and Amy investigate, they come to realize that some otherworldly stuff is happening and the only way to gain perspective is to indulge in the ever famous “Soy Sauce”; the special drug that gives them their preternatural abilities and gifts. Throw in some shady underground highly classified government agency that may or may not exist, a door that looks like a coffin that leads to other worlds, an ex-military special forces guy with an itch to blow crap up and an evil villain that wears nothing but little girl’s underwear and you have the overall gist of the story.

THOUGHTS: The book is very neat in that it switches back and forth between Dave, John and Amy’s perspectives. It is humorous and eye opening to see how each character views the world around them and how each perspective is needed.

John, of course, is a smart a*%, who thinks the world revolves around his genitals and their place in the world. He is very “go get ’em” in his stance. Amy is very positive and tries to see the best and do the best in every situation. And then there’s Dave. He is pessimistic, a realist and if given the chance lazy (i.e. He’s my spirit animal). 

If you’ve read the other books in the series, you know how off the wall and random these books can be. But, that is what makes them so original and fun. These are just 2 ordinary guys who end up in some extraordinary adventures and manage somehow to save the world and the universe through major bumbling and a “who cares” attitude every single time.

WTHDIJR does end with the set up for another book in the series. I did appreciate that the author put an addendum on the end urging those who hear voices or are experiencing mental distress to seek professional help. He explains that many have contacted him asking for help, assuming he really knows about this stuff. He urges them to seek professional help. Very cool! Rather than writing them off as unstable or weirdos, he tries to help.

It would help to read the series in order, but I don’t think its absolutely necessary. Also, make sure to read the book “John Dies at the End” first before seeing the movie. I think it will really help to understand what happens.

If you are looking for some laugh out loud, fun monstery type stuff than look no further, this book (and series) is just for you.

 

My Best Friend’s Exorcism by Grady Hendrix

MBFEI can still remember Bon Jovi in its hey day along with some Def Leppard, REM and of course the always popular “Red, Red Wine” by UB40. My middle school years were also marked by images of Freddy Krueger and Jason Vorhees. I spent way too many sleepless nights hoping that Freddy’s right hand of doom wouldn’t pierce me through and through in the the middle of a dream. Throw into all this puberty, zits, weird clothes, big hair, trying to find somewhere to fit in and sleepovers and you have a pretty good idea of the background for “My Best Friend’s Exorcism” by Grady Hendrix.

Hendrix’s fiction has appeared in multiple magazines. He is the author of Horrorstor, which is about a haunted furniture superstore – basically an IKEA meets a graveyard – and “My Best Friend’s Exorcism”. (I’m going to shorten this to: MBFE so I do have to write the whole thing out every time.

MBFE follows the lives of 2 friends, Abby and Gretchen. At the beginning of the book we are introduced to Abby Rivers. She has invited everyone to her birthday party but pathetically no one shows up, except for the weird new girl, Gretchen Lang. Gretchen and Abby become best friends and stay that way through middle school and high school. The book then fast forwards to high school where Abby and Gretchen attend a private school. The school is mainly for the elite of the Charleston area and their families. Most of the kids that attend there are rich except for one, Abby. She attends on a scholarship and gets by with her brains not her bucks.

Abby and Gretchen are typical teenagers. They love to hang out and party and it is doing this one weekend that causes all the problems. While Abby and Gretchen, along with some other friends are enjoying the lake house of one of the girls, they decide to try LSD. Not much happens and they console themselves by drinking too much. Gretchen, on a whim, suggest skinny dipping and runs off in the middle of the night. The others lose sight of her and she disappears. They frantically search for her but can’t find her until the next morning. She can’t remember anything from the night before.

Following her disappearance, she begins to act strange and weird things start happening around her. She becomes a shell of her former self until one day when she seemingly just snaps out of it. Then, this is when the weird stuff starts happening. Those around her start getting what they want, yet what they get is twisted and evil.

Abby knows something is wrong with Gretchen and knows that Gretchen is somehow hurting those around her. After several attempts to figure out what is happening, Gretchen turns on Abby. Abby becomes ostracized at school and home. She knows though that something is seriously wrong with Gretchen, despite all appearances. She knows that deep down something evil is growing and taking over Gretchen. But what is it and how does she stop it? I won’t reveal anything more and have not done the story justice at all. I can say though that you will not be disappointed and will most likely stay up later than you should reading this.

Deep down, this is a story about what friendship really is. It speaks to never giving up on those we love no matter what they may do. The ending is a gut check and helps you see how important those you share life with really are.

All in all, I give this one a 4 out of  5. I would be surprised if this is not made into a movie, especially with the popularity of “Stranger Things” and all things 80’s/90’s. I will definitely be picking up other books by Hendrix in the future and look forward to more from this author.

 

 

The Hike by Drew Magary

 

What do you get when you take Homer’s27833803 Odyssey and blend it with Alice in Wonderland? You get a book called “The Hike” by Drew Magary. Magary is a correspondent for GQ Magazine, a columnist for Deadspin, and a Chopped Champion. He’s also the author of four books: The Hike, The Postmortal, Someone Could Get Hurt, and Men With Balls.

The novel follows the very strange journey taken by the main character, Ben. Ben is out of town on business when he decides to take a stroll before a big meeting. As he goes farther and farther on the stroll, he comes to find out that the path he has chosen only leads forward. Set on an epic quest, Ben must find his way through mystical and magical realms, battle with a giant, get directions from a crab and basically re-examine every aspect of his life.

This is really a novel about what home means to each of us. Ben, as he gets thrown into this hike, realizes the thing he wants most is to get back to his family. I believe the story shows us how our choices have consequences and each path we choose leads us on a new journey.

I think any adult that has become complacent in life would read this book and instantly relate to Ben. At many times throughout the book, I found myself literally exhausted and upset and really feeling the emotions that the character had.

For some, this may be too weird of a book. But overall, this was just a fun read full of sci-fi & fantasy and a little bit of soul searching thrown in.

The Core of the Sun

coreofThis book was on fire! (sorry I had to make the joke). This has been one of my top reads for this year. I sped through this book in a day and a half. The edition I had clocks in at 304 pages and was soft cover.

Johanna Sinisalo is a female Finnish author of multiple Fantasy and Sci-Fi works. She is the recipient of multiple awards for her writing and was awarded the “Prometheus Award for Best Novel” for this book, The Core of the Sun. Her writing is unique, expressive and has been coined “Finnish Weird”. The Core of the Sun written in 2016, is her most recent work.

The Core of the Sun takes place in Finland. It has been turned into a society where women are raised to be submissive, unquestioning eye candy who sole purpose is to fulfill the man they are with. They are given no voice and no rights other than what their husbands may give them. Beauty is prized above all and intellect is looked at as a disease to be subdued.

There are 2 castes of women in this society. One is called the Eloi. These are women that possess traits such as physical beauty, submissiveness and basically act like the crew of girls from that movie “Mean Girls”. The other group of women that don’t fit in this group are called morclocks. These are women who have brains over beauty. As young children, each girl is given an aptitude test to see where they may fall. The smarter, more dominant women tend to end up as morlocks, which basically amounts to being shunned by society. Think of it as being the brown tootsie roll pop in the bag. You may look like the others but let’s face it, they are just gross.

The main character Vanna is a blip in this system as she is highly intelligent but also extremely beautiful. Early on, she realizes that in order to stay with her sister, Manna, (who is the quintessential eloi), Vanna must pretend not to be smart in public. Therefore, she secretly reads books on every subject. These books are smuggled in to her and must be hidden under ground when she is not reading them. Through a chain of events, Vanna and Manna end up having a sort of falling out over a man that comes to stay with them. The man is attracted to Vanna because of many of the things that she is not supposed to have, like intelligence and the ability to reason. As a result, Manna blindly finds the first man she can and marries him. The relationship is rocky and she ends up disappearing without a trace. Vanna feels responsible for Manna’s blind leap into marriage and spends most of the book searching for her. Much of the interaction the reader has with Vanna revolves around letters written to the disappeared Manna and it is not until the closing chapter that we find out what has happened to her.

Much of the book involves chili peppers as well. In the future, Finland has eradicated any thing that could be addictive such as alcohol, tobacco and drugs. However, in people’s desperate search for a “high” they have turned to chili peppers and the high they get through the effects of capsaicin. Capsaicin is the fiery chemical in peppers that regulates the amount of burn you feel when you eat them. In the book, Vanna becomes a capsaicin drug user and dealer. It is through this desperate search for a bigger and better pepper high that she ends up being part of a project that creates the hottest pepper ever known called you guessed it…The Core of the Sun. It is interesting to see how anything can become addictive given the chance.

This is definitely a unique and interesting take on dystopian literature. While I was reading, I thought about the small changes and tweaks that are made to society all the time to mold it one way or another. I believe this is a cautionary tale about identity and the damage that can be done when we pretend to be someone or something we are not. It is very Handsmaid Tale-ish crossed with Chili Peppers. Its hot stuff (no pun intended)!