Friday, September 28, 2007

The Second Rat

So through Escape Pod, I checked out the site for author David Barr Kirtley and found a link to another free audio show, MechMuse, and his story The Second Rat.


My favorite short stories are ones with a different twist to them that somehow make the reader appreciate life in a new and profound way. This was a story like that.

I don't want to give much away, but the basic idea is about a guy who can 'rewind' time and live parts of his life over again, and again, and again, if he wishes. This story blew my mind. So far, Kirtley is 3 for 3 with me. He writes stories that matter in the way I want my stories to matter. Much work to do.

Speaking of which, I am still struggling with The Zombie King and Mr. Cook. Looking at a complete revision. But at least I spent some time on it and rearranged things. I really want to get it in shape so I can focus on NaNoWriMo and the Neverwoods.

Escape Pod 125

This weeks Escape Pod was End Game by Nancy Kress. It's one of the first EP's in a long time that left me a bit cold. It was clever and well written, but I just didn't really care for any of the characters.

It started out with an off note, from my point of view, by describing human experience as static. I understand what the character was getting at, but I think the metaphor is shallow and inaccurate when it comes down to it. Consciousness only ever holds one thing before its "eye" at a time. Sure there may be a gazillion things going off and tangents and lines everywhere, but only one thing is ever the focus at any one instant. And I'm not talking about people who can do many things at once by reflex and training. The character clearly talks about the jumble of things in his mind and makes it sound as if it is so abundant that it becomes static. Again, I understand the experience, I just dont agree with how it is represented.

Anyway, I have enjoyed Ms. Kress's previous stories and I have one of her books on writing that is very helpful. This one just ain't my fave.

Monday, September 24, 2007


I recently completed the Audiobook version of Stardust by Neil Gaiman.

It was very enjoyable, especially the loving narration by Mr. Gaiman himself. I saw the film version several weeks ago and I think the story has been improved for the film, though the differences and slight twists in the novel kept me interested and had a charm all their own.

Gaiman's stories are sometimes a bit tedious to me. In American Gods, I kept hoping for some action. But the ideas, characters and language are always interesting. Stardust was a richer fantasy experience. At 6+hours, it is a fairly brief audiobook and well worth a listen at

Escape Pod 124

Friday's Escape Pod was "Save Me Plz" by David Barr Kirtley.

Kirtley's wrote one of my favorite Realms of Fantasy stories, "Blood of Virgins" and I was thrilled when that one was picked up by Escape Pod.

"Save Me Plz" is a riff on life with a video game addict. There was a lot here that rang true, since me and my whole family basically are WoW players, though I have managed to limit my addiction to Friday nights.... mostly.

The thing I enjoyed most about this story was the way it kept unfolding and revealing layers of meaning and turns in the plot. Sure there are always going to be questions and places where the explanations run thin in a story that starts so small and becomes so epic. But, for the most part, the gaming issues rang true and the relationship was realistic. Mur's reading was excellent. I think her gaming background helped her make some really good choices for emphasis and emotion.

I really enjoyed this story. A+

Friday, September 14, 2007

Escape Pod 123

Today's Escape Pod story was "Niels Bohr and the Sleeping Dane" by Jonathan Sullivan.

It was a great story with both science and fantasy, brains and heart. The research and diction were spot on, turning a compelling story into a vivid, engrossing one.

I could have gone either way on this story, but when the bullets started flying, I realized just how much I cared about the characters and their relationships. The golem at the end was a little predictable, given the setup, but the action and resolution were satisfying.

Great story, Mr. Sullivan.

Escape Pod is easily my favorite podcast, and is one of a small group that I listen to right away when they come out. I am a financial supporter of the podcast and I urge anyone who reads this (lol) to check it out at

Wednesday, September 12, 2007


So, yesterday I finished Conscience by John Skipp. This is the novella included with The Long Last Call, and I actually enjoyed it more than the headliner. I think that mainly is a factor of anticipation and predictability.

I had no idea what to expect from Conscience and that made it a real surprise.

***Spoiler Alert***
1. I saw this book in my local supermarket, so there is no excuse not to get it.
2. Read it. Fun reading. Quick reading. No excuse.
3. Come back and chat.
***Spoiler Alert***

Conscience opens with an excellent memory of the narrator's childhood that really sets everything up great. The thing I like most about this story is the way it unfolds from being a gritty hitman story into this personal tale of transformation and realization, in the midst of a worldwide shift. Things that seem like background information or setting become important details.

The way Skipp handles the internal dialog was excellent. Even though this narrator is a tough as nails killing machine, his epiphanies are realistic and well done. Human.

I 'm going to have to read this again. It's one of those stories that changes after you finish it.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Brain Raid

Today I did a double dip, listening to Escape Pod -and- reading a story: Brain Raid by Alexander Jablokov from the Feb issue of F&SF. Still behind, but I only have one piece left in that issue.

Brain Raid was an intriguing story about a guy who works for a firm that hunts down rogue AI's. In this future, there are even grades of AI. The biggest firms hunt the A and B rank AI's while lesser firms handle the weaker ones. The methods of designating AI's was pretty cute and the dynamics between the characters were interesting. I think I could read a novel set in this world.

Jablokov did a good job of sweeping us right into his world of professional jargon and near-future tech. Lots of conflict and a caper-ish plot kept my interest throughout.

Escape Pod 122

This weeks Escape Pod story was Transcendence Express by Jetse de Vries. This story had some interesting ideas and a hot, brilliant leading woman. Maybe a little too hot. She reminded me of a Heinlein hero-ess. The BIKO computers were interesting, but I kept wondering where the interfaces would come from. The idea of a computer made out of everyday chemicals is cool, but the details were fuzzy. Way fuzzy.

In terms of the story, I enjoyed it, but it was very light on conflict. Neat people, thought provoking ideas, but it felt more like a vignette than a story, mainly due to this lack of adversaries or complications.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

The Long Last Call

So, yesterday I read The Long Last Call by John Skipp. I have been eagerly awaiting the Leisure Books paperback edition of this one, since I started reading Skipp and Spector books on the recommendation of Pod of Horror reviewer Scott Bradley.

This was a fun book to read and a textbook in lightning characterization. In brief, The Long Last Call is an encounter between a dark stranger and a group of strip club employees and patrons, just before closing time. The dark stranger is charismatic, handsome and rich enough to drive the greedy souls into fits. He's also some kind of satanic entity. He wants a private show and is willing to pay big money for it. Unfortunately, just touching his slimy green cash is enough to bring out your dark side... your REALLY dark side. Hilarity ensues. lol

The setup was great. Superb writing, cinematic feel (no surprise since it started life as a screenplay) and an interesting cast of characters. Worth a read for any horror fan.


If you want to read THE LONG LAST CALL, stop reading now. I am just jotting down my impressions and would love to discuss the book with others. So buy it. Read it. And then come talk to me. =)

However, towards the end, it did get a bit cartoonish for my tastes. The eyes popping out, the EYES GONE BLACK (complete with caps), and the ease with which people rip each other up went just a bit too far. I re-read the last two dozen pages, and maybe I am being too critical. I enjoyed the read, but I felt like it lost some gravitas once the blood started to flow.

Maybe it is because I just read The Clean-Up, but as soon as the business with Mom as angel started, I had a good idea where this story would go. Skipp delivers excellent twists and diversions, sending her out of the bar into the hands of the murderous chauffeur. I thought for sure she was toast, but once she made it back in, I was pretty sure that good would triumph over evil. In some ways TLLC is a religious thriller, rather than a horror novel. Sure there is some gross shit and some evil stuff, but (Like the Clean-Up) there is a strong morality play element.

My last criticism involves the character Daisy. I feel like Skipp flinched when it came to dealing with her and the bouncer. Given everything else that goes on in this book, I don't think it would have been over the top. Glossing over it robbed the book of some horror, just as other action was getting a little cartoon-ish.

The Long Last Call was a good, quick read, but I think I am ready for something meaner.