The unexpected sweetness of Sandman Slim

I’ve not made it a secret that one of the things that’s gotten me through the past six months of general “what in actual hell is going on?” has been catching up on Richard Kadrey’s Sandman Slim series via audiobooks in my car.

I started reading these shortly after the first one came out–I checked it out of the library along with In Cold Blood and another book with a climax that involved the main character walking barefoot through Hell (I think it was an Orpheus retelling, maybe? But with more blood and demons).  That was quite the month of reading, let me tell you.

But I dug Stark and his revenge quest, so I kept reading them.  And then for whatever reason I got behind on the books, and it occurred to me to see if the library had them on audio–and they did!  Like, all of them!

And McLeod Andrews is exactly what I imagined Stark’s voice to sound like.  (I’ve read a number of news articles about the president in that voice, and as I said on Twitter, if this is the end of democracy, at least it’s being narrated appropriately.)

So I’m on The Perdition Score now, and there was a scene I heard last night that struck me …

(and there will be spoilers below, so tread carefully …)

Continue reading “The unexpected sweetness of Sandman Slim”

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stuff Laura’s read recently: The Sorcerer of the Wildeeps by Kai Ashanti Wilson

I got Kai Ashanti Wilson’s The Sorcerer of the Wildeeps after reading a review of the second novella (which I just started).

A caravan and the mercenaries protecting it arrive at the last stop before they head into the wildeeps, which is a dangerous, magical wilderness.  The Sorcerer is a new guy (or it seemed so to me?).  He uses big words that don’t exactly translate, has a bag that’s bigger on the inside, and he and the Captain are different from the rest of the group.  They have special talents and abilities, and though these abilities aren’t identical, the fact of their having them sets them apart in the same way.

There was a lot I liked: the language, which has been touted all over the internet, is a really interesting (and fun, nobody mentions how much fun it is as it bounces around) mash up of high fantasy, slightly more regular English, and African-American dialect/slang.  There are also multiple languages being spoken, and even though they’re all expressed as English, I really liked how our main character goes from sounding perfectly fluent to completely not when he’s speaking an unfamiliar language.

The worldbuilding is also the sort that I love–drop us in the middle and let us sort it out, with a bonus of our being able to sort it out fairly easily.  And I’m very interested in this world.  It’s one of those “science fiction world has evolved into fantasy world” universes, which I’m always up for.

The characters are all POC, the main character is gay; about my only complaint is no women except for wives at home and the main character’s aunty (who, I admit, was awesome when she was around) but considering how much it’s already got going, I’m willing to take Aunty and be content.

I will say that I’m not sure Wilson stuck the landing at the end–I could see how it was supposed to be emotionally affecting, but the ambiguity didn’t help me feel it.  And I don’t think I ever got invested enough in the characters to feel how I was clearly supposed to when I hit the last sentence.  I’m not sure if that was a flaw of the book or if it was my being distracted by cool worldbuilding, though.

Still, very much worth the $2.99 I paid for it, and honestly, I’d have paid more.

Stuff Laura’s read recently: The Stranger Beside Me by Ann Rule

So Sarah Monette does the Unread Book Challenge, and one of the books she blogged about was Ann Rule’s The Stranger Beside Me.  And I decided to read it.

Everyone remarked on my reading this book–Jason asked me why I was reading it, Scott asked me why I was reading it–hell, even my nine year old kid asked me why I was reading it.  And to be honest, I’m not totally sure?  

I’m from Florida.  I remember listening to the radio the day Ted Bundy was executed; I was on my way to school.  My father and I talked about it–my father has read a bit of true crime in his day; it’s not a Thing for him the way the Kennedy assassination or Steve McQueen is a Thing for him, but he went through a phase–and one thing I remember is my father saying that Bundy really screwed up when he tried to grab a cop’s daughter, because she’d been taught about this sort of thing and was smart, and she told her father when she got home.

That really stuck with me, a lot: be smart, don’t trust the guy trying to coax you into the van, and tell a grown up.

I’d also read Small Sacrifices and found it pretty compelling.  Granted, that was sometime in college (I think?) so many years ago, now, but I remember the thing with folding the towel to figure out the blood stains, and learning about narcissism, and those kids … and Ann Rule hadn’t actually known Diane Downs, so surely the book about the serial killer she’d worked with would be even more compelling.

Um.  No, actually.

It is definitely a product of its time.  Diction, sentence structure, word choice.  I also found it kind of coy, but I think that’s a problem that stems from hindsight.  We know Bundy confessed, but when the bulk of this book was published, he hadn’t (there are three updates at the end of the book, one detailing the time before Bundy was executed).  Rule was convinced he was guilty, he was convicted.  But the book separates his movements and the murders.  It feels like we’re supposed to wonder if he did it.  And maybe that last shred of “maybe” is why she wrote it like that–or maybe she was ordering this book by her own discovery of the murders and her eventual conclusion that he committed them?  But either way, it really didn’t work for me.  I felt very distanced from it all.

And my father’s story about the cop’s daughter didn’t include her brother showing up and scaring the guy off, nor that they followed the van (and got the license number?  I think?) before going home and telling their father–and I wonder now if he did that on purpose.

2 week blog run: day 9

Okay, books in my to-read-next pile are …

Ragnarok by AS Byatt

The Wake, by Paul Kingsnorth

The Last Days of New Paris by China Mieville

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by JK Rowling

(Do not spoil me for Cursed Child; I already know half the fans hate it, shhh!)

Lots of short books on the list.

Wondering now if the kid’s going to change his mind and request an iPad when he finds out about the Pottermore Presents ebooks.  My son is a Harry Potter nerd, which tickles me.

 

 

2 week blog run: day 8

Well, look at that, we’re on week 2.

Every day, I have sat here and thought What the hell do I write?

Well, so, what to write today … I did get my note from the library that my book was waiting, and when I told the boys that I was going to go get it, the kid looked at me and said, “Have you not noticed the enormous pile of library books we have in this house?”

I pointed out to him that of said pile, a grand total of three were checked out to me.

We’re definitely a library family.  I’ve been a library girl since I was a kid.  The husband and I have been to libraries everywhere we’ve lived (we took a special trip to a haunted library in Indiana, but saw no ghosts).  I had a library card at the public library in Louisiana because, as Scott said, “The university library just isn’t good enough?”  Well, no, honey, it wasn’t.  (It was fine as academic libraries go, and I spent a lot of one semester in there doing my assignments for my research methods class, all of which became practically obsolete within three years as everything I’d been learning about got put online.)

I started taking the kid to the library when he was barely walking.  We’d go to story time and get books and he’d explore the children’s section.  Now he’s old enough that we all split off to our separate areas as soon as we walk in.  Last summer he went to the summer programs at the local library; this past summer he and his grandfather explored the libraries down where my parents lived, and the kid took photos to show me.

He’s not exactly the voracious reader I was at his age, but he reads enough books at enough speed that I’m glad we have the library because otherwise I’d be even more broke than I am now.

 

After a brief hiatus

Oh my god, it’s been ages, and that story that was eating my brain is … still eating my brain, but not as badly.

So how about a round of What’s Going on In Laura’s Life? With a dash of What’s Laura Been Reading?

1.

Well, like everyone else in the US, New Zealand, and Australia, I have downloaded Pokemon Go and … been kicked off the servers repeatedly.  Which isn’t the worst thing in the world except that while my husband and I have at least gotten to play a little, the 9-year-old hasn’t gotten to play at all.  Happily, we got it sorted out after his play tonight (he’s in summer theater camp), and he caught himself a Bulbasaur in the living room.

2.

I’ve been playing Pokemon Y because my husband.  I like being able to customize my trainer.  I’ve also gotten a lot less sentimental about my team in my old age, man–like, I’ve been boxing guys left and right because Oh, this one’s super cute, farewell weird-looking evolved pokemon starter!  Mega-Gengar is awesome.

3.

I read Joe Hill’s The Fireman, which I enjoyed, for the most part.  There were all those Stephen King easter eggs in it, which was amusing, but what struck me (and that I haven’t seen anyone mention) is how much like a Stephen King novel it was.  The plot is very King.  It read a lot like King–mostly older, early-80s King, the leaner stuff pre-Stand but without all the italics.  I honestly felt like I was reading … not a pastiche, because this was still very much a Joe Hill novel, but his take on his dad’s stuff.  Because there were things in it that I thought were what Stephen King would write if he was in his thirties or forties right now and had grown up in the same time period I did.

It’s really a weird thing to read after reading Mr Mercedes earlier this year and having a lot of trouble with it.  I’ve been reading King since I was twelve, and this was the first time that I felt like he was my parents’ age.  I kept waiting for some sort of payoff to that feeling of Joe Hill sort of playing with his dad’s stuff, but it never really happened, which makes me wonder how much of it was purposely done.

One way or another, though, it’s a pretty solid book.  If you like apocalyptic novels that aren’t The Road, then definitely check it out.

 

 

stuff Laura’s read recently

I’m working my way through the ‘stories’ file in my Instapaper app, and these are really good:

“And You Shall Know Her By the Trail of Dead”, by Brooke Bolander

This is a whole bunch of my narrative kinks in one profanity-laden story.  No info dumps, complex relationships, chicks with guns … it’s up for a Hugo and a Locus award, and I really want it to win both.

“Covenant”, by Elizabeth Bear

The tag line at Slate is “read a creepy sci-fi short story about fixing murderers’ brains,” and that almost sums it up–I’d say “read a creepy sci-fi short story about fixing murderers’ brains and running.  Also there’s cold.”  This is the second of Bear’s stories that I’ve read recently that kind of glances off gender in interesting ways, though it’s a lot closer to center in this one.

‘Children’s Work’ series, by lookninjas on AO3

A while back, there was a Star Wars AU-meme thing going around on Tumblr about The Force Awakens set in Northern Michigan.  And that led to these two stories (so far) about cults, kids, the end of worlds, parents and family, and identity.  It’s spare and kind of sad and very lovely.