Monthly Archives: October 2011

Book Review: Ass Goblins Of Auschwitz

Ass Goblins Of Auschwitz
Ass Goblins Of Auschwitz by Cameron Pierce
My rating: 2.5 of 5 stars

If you’ve noticed a recent trend in my reviews, I’ve been reading a lot of what gets classified as “bizarro fiction.” I remember when I first heard about it, about a year ago, and I pictured stories that would be weird, off-the-wall, and probably containing concepts or imagery that would be purely for shock value. What I had read so far was okay in these regards, but I was more surprised at the way these authors had chosen not to push these boundaries as hard as I expected.

Then I read Ass Goblins of Auschwitz by Cameron Pierce, a book whose title alone would immediately push the envelope. This is the kind of book that I pictured bizarro fiction would be like when I first heard about it. It’s shocking to the point that, if you’re not disturbed or even feel the need to vomit, at least early on in the book, then you probably need psychological help.

The story itself is pretty simple. It’s told from the perspective of a boy named 999, a conjoined twin with his brother Otto from Kidland, who are prisoners in the land of Auschwitz, ruled by the cruel ass goblins. The only prisoners are children. Some are sacrificed on a daily basis.

The first half of the book deals with describing life in Auschwitz, while the second half is where the full plot really comes in as 999 and his brother become the subjects of an experiment by a particular ass goblin known as the White Angel.

In terms of describing daily life, I’m not sure if the author was attempting some kind of satire or underlying meaning to everything, whether it’s the cruelty of adults to children, the jealousy of childhood innocence, or the injustice of a prostate exam. Most of this gets buried under imagery so disturbing that you don’t really care about any underlying meaning.

Are there flaws in the book? Well, honestly, I can’t really point to any in particular. While the imagery is disturbing and even over-the-top, I’m pretty sure that was the author’s goal, so mission accomplished. I guess there are a few logistical problems in terms of consistent character description or actions, but these tend to get diluted in an otherwise consistent novel. So the novel is definitely very proficient technically

At the same time, while I try to be fairly objective, personal opinion and feelings are going to come into reviews like this, and keeping that in mind, I failed to really like the novel. Based on my previous experience with bizarro fiction, the title, and the somewhat silly cover, I expected something that would be a little more satirical and probably a bit offensive but ultimately funny in its offense. I was not prepared for the mental assault experienced, particularly at the beginning. Come to think of it, that’s very much what the opening feels like. It’s like you’re being assaulted mentally by the disconcerting, and it feels a bit like the author is doing it for the same reason that the ass goblins torture the children: Because he can.

At the same time, it’s difficult to fault the novel or the author. He had a goal in mind, and if I read it correctly he achieved his goal, even if I’m not entirely sure what that goal was, but at the end I just felt drained and empty over the usual curiosity or wanting more.

Ass Goblins of Auschwitz is ultimately an okay novel, but the assault to the senses can be a bit much, even for bizarro fiction based on my previous experiences. At the same time, it did leave me somewhat morbidly curious about Cameron Pierce’s other works, as the novel is quite good on a technical level. But I would only recommend this novel for those who want something more “extreme” in the genre and have a fairly strong stomach. Which I do, but I think I simply wasn’t prepared for what I got, like expecting hot buffalo wings that turn out to be atomic.

Ass Goblins of Auschwitz earns 2.5 out of 5 stars.

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Doing NaNoWriMo Half-A…er, Half-Way

WritingSo, will he or won’t he? The answer is “Sort of.” I have decided how I’m going to handle the National Novel Writing Month this year. I will meet the NaNo goal half-way. Not necessarily at 25 thousand words, but here’s the plan.

I’m still committed to focusing on the manuscript for “Payroll,” but I think I’ve figured out a way to have some leeway to let me participate in NaNoWriMo. I will focus first on “Payroll,” needing a minimum of one hour to an hour and a half per day to meet my goal by the end of the year. I’ll work more on it if I feel so inspired. I still need time to work on other things, such as finding regular paying work.

If after this, and only after I have put in my time on “Payroll,” I feel so inclined, I will work on my NaNoWriMo novella. And I’ll be honest about it. I’m only going to include my word count from the NaNoWriMo novella, even though I will be technically writing a whole lot more during November. I’ll also probably limit myself to an hour on the NaNoWriMo novella each day. So a minimum of an hour on “Payroll,” and a maximum on the NaNoWriMo novella (yes, I have a title in mind, but I’m not loving it yet).

The end is in sight, and I can’t get distracted with the finish line so close, but I can’t ignore the muse when she calls or risk losing the inspiration for great ideas. This is the best plan I could come up with handle the big project, handle life overall, and satisfy the muse.

I should probably whip up a quick outline over the weekend, as there’s not much time. Making this decision at the last minute is probably going to cost me sanity-wise. But given it’s novella nature (not to mention that it’s actually a pretty simple concept anyway), it should be pretty short and sweet.

Go Cards!

Book Review: Thursday Thistle: A Fairy Tale

Thursday Thistle: A Fairy Tale
Thursday Thistle: A Fairy Tale by August V. Fahren
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

“Me-O-My Monday is missing and Thursday has come again.”

This is the theme that runs throughout Thursday Thistle, an adult-oriented fairytale by August V. Fahren. It’s a little gem of story, although it’s a gem with some significant flaws.

Thursday Thistle is the title character, a teenage girl who lives with her clueless father and abusive stepsisters (her stepmother had run off). She’s a nice girl who puts up with a lot, and passes much of her time practicing her drawings, although all she ever draws is anatomically-correct robot mermaids. After meeting a two-headed talking mouse, she travels to the world of Lethe, a place which has largely been forgotten or ignored, but from which all of our fairytales have sprung. However, Thursday soon discovers that, while modern tellings tend to water-down the original fairytales, the original fairytales are themselves watered-down from reality (for example, Snow White is actually Princess Wednesday, a nymphomaniac sex slave to the seven diminutives).

Her quest is to find and free Princess Monday, who she has been told was kidnapped by the cannibal queen. Thursday’s journey immediately brings to mind Alice in Wonderland, meeting crazy people and situations that don’t necessarily make sense, and I seriously doubt that my interpretation is unique. It was definitely an interesting and compelling story. There are some major flaws with the book, however.

The first and most obvious is that Thursday Thistle desperately needs more editing. There are a fair number of errors in the book, including punctuation, misspelled words, missing words, and grammatical problems. This is a purely technical problem that could easily be fixed, and as such I wish it had been. With the number of technical errors throughout the book, it breaks the reading flow and yanks a reader off the page very easily.

Second, the plot felt very uneven, and it felt like there were chunks of the book that had been edited down or taken out altogether. Ultimately, the plot holds together, but I’m pretty sure I could see the stitching involved to do so. Unfortunately, this makes the plot and character movement feel very herky jerky, like sitcoms where someone is learning to drive for the first time and the car goes quickly forward a few feet before screeching to a stop, then repeating over and over again.

Despite this, Thursday Thistle is also strangely compelling. As I read, I was genuinely curious as to where the author was going to go with it, especially the hints peppered throughout the book of an incredibly rich backstory, as though the author had written his own Silmarillion-style reference guide to the history of Lethe. And I can tell you that sticking with it does pay off with a well written ending. At the same time, I wanted to know more, and it felt like there was supposed to be more, but that it got cut out or left out for whatever reason. Hopefully the author has a sequel on the horizon, because there are still some significant questions left unanswered.

The book can be rewarding but can also get frustrating at the same time because of the above mentioned flaws. It’s short, and definitely worth your time, but if you’re a stickler for technical detail, your frustration level will likely be heightened. It would earn four stars, but the technical problems are significant enough in my opinion that I have to detract a half-star.

Thursday Thistle by August V. Fahren earns 3.5 out of 5 stars.

Note: A free copy of this book was sent to this reviewer by the author for review purposes. This did not affect this review in any way.

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Book Review: Eyeballs Growing All Over Me …Again

Eyeballs Growing All Over Me ...Again
Eyeballs Growing All Over Me …Again by Tony Rauch
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Aliens. Goblins. Giant robots. Regular-sized sexy robots. Big hairy, smelly beasts. Dimensional travel. Mutations.

These elements make up the series of fever dreams that is Eyeballs Growing All Over Me…Again, a collection of short stories by Tony Rauch.

Each story packs a punch of weird into it, which makes it a good things that this is a short story collection. Eyeballs is a book best taken in small doses, and it feels like it would be very easy to get a Bizarro overdose if reading too much at once.

How to describe it? Well, that’s actually really hard to do, especially when it come to short story collections like this. There can be different ways of interpreting the stories and if they’re related at all. For example, I got the feeling that all these stories could have taken place in the same community or small town. There’s nothing to suggest that in any of the stories, as there are no common characters or threads through anything, but I somehow got that impression. It probably has to do with the consistent writing style throughout the book.

There’s also a sense of humor about everything. With a couple of exception (the story of the nosy paperboy, or the one where the man’s head starts growing to gargantuan size), you get the feeling that the characters aren’t that bothered by the strange and unusual going on around them. Yeah, Boone builds a sexy robot to help him meet women. We try to disuade him from doing so. He does it anyway. Life goes on. Huh. It’s like a scifi version of “Airplane!” or “The Naked Gun.” Yeah, there are eyeballs growing all over me. It’ll probably pass. Let’s go yell at airplanes. (This actually happens in one of the stories.)

As I started writing this review, I was going to suggest that it could be a good starter to Bizarro fiction being a short story collection. But as I think about it some more, I’m starting to question that conclusion. First, as I said above, it’s much better taken in small doses, as a story or two at a time. Given how short some of the stories are, a reader could be very tempted to keep plugging through, but they’ll probably regret it. It’s kind of like how it takes twenty minutes for a person to feel full after eating, so they keep eating not realizing this. These stories are like a literary superfood, small in portion size but packing a heavier-than-expected nutritional punch that needs a little time to sink in. But if you don’t give it time to digest, you’ll probably make yourself sick. Mentally.

Second, some of these stories have a subtext to them and go outside the norm enough in other ways that some people might not grasp. I’m familiar with the Bizarro line of books, and the subtext in some of these stories took a little while to sink in. The storytelling style itself is unusual, to say the least. It definitely gets the author’s distinctive flavor (ewww!), but it’s unconventional enough that I would find it hard to recommend to a casual reader.

One thing that is notable, however, is how tame a lot of the stories are. There’s a distinct lack of profanity, violence, or “adult” situations. Rauch chooses to mess with your mind in other ways. I’m not a prude in any sense, but it’s something that I think a lot of newer authors could learn from. For some reason, reading profanity on the page can be a lot more jarring than hearing it from a movie screen, and can yank a reader out of a story more easily. Bravo to the author for taking this route, and choosing to challenge the reader in other ways. I might even go so far as to call it a Bizarro book aimed at young adults. It made the book feel different and refreshing.

Eyeballs Growing All Over Me…Again works most of the time, but there’s a couple stories that went a little wide of the mark for me. This invariably happens with most short story collections. In addition, I didn’t have the foresight to take my own advice and read the book in small doses. Use the benefit of my hindsight when reading this book.

Eyeballs Growing All Over Me…Again by Tony Rauch earns 3 out of 5 stars.

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Why I Write

WritingOn this, the third annual National Day on Writing, writers have been asked why we do so. I’ll add my bit to Twitter and Facebook, but I feel that a more comprehensive post about it is in order, and an opportunity to give an update on the manuscript for “Payroll.”

I’m not entirely sure why I write. It’s simply a deep-down need, without an identifiable base. It’s always been there, ever since I was in grade school. I wrote stories back then. I’m not sure what became of them since they were written out by hand and not on a computer, but I have some memories of them. No, I don’t care to discuss them right now, and they’re probably better left buried.

A friend and teacher once referred to the writing bug as a disease, which is probably quite accurate. Writing is a mental disease, where if you don’t have the writing compulsion, you aren’t going to truly understand it. As such, it makes it extremely difficult to put into words. How’s that for irony. A disease that compels a person to create and mix words also prevents a person from describing the disease using said form.

It’s also has to do with a love affair with the printed word. I read a lot as well as write. Given the number of book reviews I’ve posted, that should be fairly obvious. I simply can’t imagine what my life would be like without print, other than devoid and empty. It gives me meaning. It sees me through darker times. It conveys strong ideas, stirs emotions, and takes us to other times and places, real and imaginary, and even beyond imagination. It inspires people to new heights, pushes cultural changes, and sparks revolutions.

Yes, this is the glamorized ideal of the writer and what we all wish and imagine our work will accomplish. At the same time, most of us also realize how rare it is to accomplish such feats. And yet we still try. Our mental illness compels us to do so. The great writers are and have always been my heroes, the ones whose work changed society. However unlikely it is that I can achieve equal status, I still have the disease, the compulsion to keep trying, to inspire others, make them think, and even laugh in the process.

At the same time, it’s just plain fun. I get to make little word games to play with people’s minds. Anything I write is limited only by my imagination. If I want there to be a horse with 12 heads, there will be a horse with 12 heads. Because I say so. So, yes, there’s probably a little bit of arrogance, if not megalomania, involved with the compulsion.

We’ll see how well it ultimately comes out once I finish my manuscript. At the same time, I’ve gotten a little distracted on that front (how’s that for a segue). I’ve begun to reconsider my decision to not participate in NaNoWriMo this year. I had a dream about a week or week and a half ago that was really vivid, and I felt like it would make a good screenplay. Now that I’ve tried to lay it out a little bit, I’m starting to feel like it would make a better novella, and then adapt it to a screenplay. And it would be the perfect thing to write for NaNoWriMo. Ack! Sometimes I hate my muse. I’ve only got ten days left to decide whether to allow myself to get distracted during November and delay completion of the manuscript for “Payroll” to my birthday. It is a self-imposed deadline, after all, but I’m not sure that I want to break with my own goals. Where does it stop, then? Decisions, decisions!

I’m also wondering who came up with October 20 for the National Day on Writing. November 1 would be so much better, as it would coincide with the start of NaNoWriMo. We need to coordinate, people (not to mention coordinate people).