Monthly Archives: November 2012

Book Review: House Hunter

House HunterHouse Hunter by S. T. Cartledge
My rating: 2.5 of 5 stars

House Hunter by S.T. Cartledge follows Imogen, a house hunter by trade. But she isn’t your typical, everyday house hunter. Imogen hunts down and trains wild houses. You see, in her world, houses, skyscrapers, temples, and pretty much every structure is a living (and moving) creature. When she becomes wise to a plot by the House Hunters Association (think of the most evil Homeowners’ Association you can think of) to find and control the Jabberhouse, a building of legend, and remake cities in their image, she has to stay one step ahead of them and find the Jabberhouse before they do.

House Hunter is part of the 2012-2013 class of the New Bizarro Authors Series of books, meaning that this is author’s first published novel. Unfortunately, it shows.

Let me start with what I like about this book. The world the author has come up with is certainly interesting and imaginative. The idea of an actual house hunter is kind of cool, if not a little funny. The various creatures are great, and the idea that even ancient legendary structures like temples and castles could be living creatures of great power is an awesome idea, and I had very little trouble picturing the scenes in my head, even playing them out like a movie. The author is great at describing scenes and battles, making this one of the more action-packed books in this year’s NBAS so far. It adds a sense of fun to the book.

However, there are editing problems. So far, the other books I have read in this year’s NBAS have not fallen into this trap, something I’ve complained about with several bizarro books in the past. It’s been a pleasant surprise, as technical editing is something that sticks in my craw and can really take a reader off the page and out of a story if it’s not done properly. Sadly, “House Hunter” seems to have fallen into this trap, and there are enough editing mistakes to make it a problem for me, especially for such a short book.

But that’s a technical issue. What about the story, you might be asking? Well, it’s okay. It’s not bad, but it ends up not being anything all that special or unusual, especially in such a unique world. It also feels like we’re supposed to know a lot more about what’s going on than we do. It feels like there’s supposed to be a much bigger story here that we aren’t getting to see. There isn’t enough explanation for what’s going on. There’s some motivation for the characters and the action sequences, but that’s about it.

Another issue I have is with the main character, Imogen. Honestly, I just couldn’t bring myself to like her. She’s supposed to be this great house hunter, compared in the Editor’s Note to Lara Croft, but I don’t see it. She alternates between crying over little things or a basic fight to being completely focused and unfazed by huge battles. When she loses her own house, she gets over it way too quickly, and it makes her seem cold, which is a huge change what from we had just seen of her character only pages before. It made her character confusing, and a little cookie cutter, like she was being jammed into a preset mold without being able grow on her own.

Ultimately, what I think it comes down to is that the author was so caught up in world-building (which is done really, really well and created high expectations) that he got lost in his own world. Sometimes this is good, and can really make it an immersive story. Unfortunately, I think he got a little too lost, to the point that it detracted from a lot of other things. Because of the world-building alone, I wanted to like this so much more, but the other issues are significant enough that it made it very hard to get past them, and I have to give it a very middle-of-the-road review.

House Hunter by S.T. Cartledge earns 2.5 spider-bears out of 5.

Book Review: Cripple Wolf

Cripple WolfCripple Wolf by Jeff Burk
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Cripple Wolf by Jeff Burk is a series of short stories, all in the bizarro subgenre. I don’t know how I would characterize them, which is probably one of my problems with it. The stories are as follows.

Cripple Wolf: The title story. Basically werewolves on a plane.

Frosty and the Full Monty: I read this one before in Christmas on Crack edited by Carlton Mellick. A dark, more modern take on the Frosty the Snowman tale. Sort of.

Cook For Your Life: A tribute to Iron Chef. And Soylent Green.

House of Cats: A homeless man builds a house of live cats. But is it up to code?

Adrift with Space Badgers: Kind of like the Star Trek episode “The Trouble with Tribbles,” but with badgers. And space whales.

Punk Rock Nursing Home: What happens to punk rockers when they get old?

Just Another Day in the Park: This one is weird, and honestly, I’m not really sure what to make of it.

It’s kind of funny and somewhat clever the way Burk peppers some advertisements for his other books or other bizarro authors’ works within the stories. And, strangely, it’s not jarring. It actually fits with the tone of each story. I have to give kudos to Burk for that one. He’s missed his calling as a product placement specialist.

The stories are generally good. The title story and Cook For Your Life were my personal favorites among the bunch. But there’s a couple nagging problems here.

The first and foremost is the editing. I’m sorry, and I know that I nitpick this a lot, but clean editing is really essential to me, and there’s enough grammar problems throughout that didn’t get caught that they pulled me out of the story. It one of those things that really sticks in my craw.

The problem is that, while the stories are enjoyable, there’s not a whole lot that really stands out. It’s that I didn’t like the stories. I did, but if you asked me for many details now, I would be hard pressed to come up with many, although you will be hard pressed to find another book that contains the line “I think a baby werewolf just stole our coke.” They’re not bad at all, but they also don’t really stand out much for me. Combine that with the editing problems, and I’m forced to give this book a middle of the road review.

Cripple Wolf by Jeff Burk earns 3 coked-up baby werewolves out of 5.

Book Review: Janitor of Planet Anilingus

Janitor of Planet AnilingusJanitor of Planet Anilingus by Andrew Wayne Adams
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Jack is the janitor on the entire Planet Anilingus, a planet dedicated to…well, you can look it up yourself. Anyway, Jack is employed by the Vatican, who runs the planet, as well as other planets dedicated to every fetish imaginable. However, at this time during Lent, the planet is deserted except for Jack. Or is it?

It turns out that he’s not alone. But who, or what, is the mysterious woman Nimue, and who is trying to kill her, and why? All these questions are answered (yes, they are ALL answered) in Janitor of Planet Anilingus by Andrew Wayne Adams.

Jack himself starts as a rather dull character, but it’s probably what makes him more identifiable. He’s just trying to do his job. He has his routine. He mostly wants to be left alone to his life and his work, but grudgingly accepts that he can’t necessarily do so. He’s sort of an everyman. On a planet dedicated to anilingus.

Again, the editing in this year’s class of the New Bizarro Authors Series has been excellent. They’re not falling into the pitfall of grammar, punctuation, or spelling mistakes that pull the reader off the page, and I’ve complained about before. It makes this book so much more enjoyable.

And it’s really, really good. Of this year’s NBAS books, this one has so far been my favorite. Despite the name, there’s not as much sex as one would think. It’s actually an exploration of religion, gods, dragons, devils, and the nature of life. With anilingus. Hey, it is a bizarro book after all. This book is actually really high-concept, which is strange. This is the second NBAS book this year that I’ve described as being deep. So either they’re getting better, or I’m getting more shallow. Only time will tell on that one.

As I’ve mentioned, Janitor of Planet Anilingus is part of the 2012-2013 class of the New Bizarro Authors Series, which means that this is the author’s first published novel. With quality and concepts like those in this book, Adams should have a promising career ahead of him. This book gets a high recommendation.

Janitor of Planet Anilingus by Andrew Wayne Adams earns 5 snaking tongues out of 5, and an attempt to see how many times I can mention anilingus in one review.

Book Review: Gutmouth

GutmouthGutmouth by Gabino Iglesias
My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

Welcome to the future! Consume!

Gutmouth by Gabino Iglesias takes place in a future where everything is run and mutated by Megacorp, a huge corporation that took over from the government by releasing a biological agent that created mutations and only they knew how to control them. Insert Monsanto joke here.

Our hero (as it were) has a particular mutation that caused him to grow an obnoxious talking mouth in his gut. Actually, the author seems to have put a lot of thought into how this could physiologically work. That’s a little more disturbing than anything else.

When his hooker girlfriend cheats on him with the mouth, he decides to exact revenge on her. But how can he do this when everything is watched by Megacorp? How does one take out a potentially valuable consumer without notice?

I found this book surprising in more ways than one. To start, the editing is actually quite good. Editing problems are a common complaint I’ve had with bizarro books, and so far this year’s class of the New Bizarro Authors Series, of which this book is a part, has been surprising me in this regard. It bodes well for the future.

This book is bleak. I mean really bleak. It depicts a heavy dystopian future that may turn some readers off. Still, if that’s your thing, you’ll probably like this book. It’s really a matter of taste.

A complaint I do have is that there aren’t many surprises. Most of the book is told as a noir-style flashback. We sort of know what happened, but we’re watching it carried out. And it sort of plays out the way you would expect. Up until the end (and there is a bit of a surprise at the end), it felt a bit like the movie “The Man Who Wasn’t There.” But there’s not a whole lot else.

In short, the descriptions and imagining of the world are great, but the plot itself leaves a little to be desired and doesn’t leave the reader with many surprises or mysteries, which is surprising given the noir-style the author uses.

As I mentioned earlier, Gutmouth is part of the 2012-2013 class of the New Bizarro Authors Series, which means that this is Gabino Iglesias’ first published novel. It’s a good effort, and it did keep my interest, but by the end I felt a bit deflated. Still, I look forward to his other work to see how he grows as a writer.

Gutmouth by Gabino Iglesias earns 3.5 klepto-roaches out of 5.

Book Review: Avoiding Mortimer

Avoiding MortimerAvoiding Mortimer by J. W. Wargo
My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

If you like some social anxiety mixed in with your bizarro, this is the book for you.

Mortimer avoids everything. He avoids life. He avoids relationship. He avoids his family. Mortimer simply exists but does nothing with it. When he lets his guard down once and does something other than avoiding things, it ends in disaster and…well, so does Mortimer. But that’s not the end of the story in Avoiding Mortimer by J.W. Wargo.

Actually, it’s a very touching story. Mortimer is in a constant battle with the world, but in reality is in a constant battle with himself. Mortimer is a walking, talking anxiety disorder, and he has to overcome his reason for being (or not being as it were) to save himself, his friends, and the all of life, not mention the afterlife. There’s more to that, but it would give too much away.

A common complaint that I have with bizarro books and independent writers is that the editing can leave a little to be desired. That is not the case with this book. The editing is sublime and clean, making it easy to read. I wish more independent writers and publishers would take a little more time to clean things up a bit, because it makes a huge difference. Kudos to the author and editor for this.

If I have a complaint about this book, it’s that it beats you over the head with the theme a little bit. Yes, Mortimer has a generalized and social anxiety disorder (although come to think of it, that’s never explicitly said in the book). And yes, I know it’s the theme of the book, but sometimes I felt like I just wanted to move on to the next subject. Move the story forward. Keep the character development going. I’ll point out that there is indeed character development and growth, and it feels kind of deep for a bizarro book. It’s almost comes off like a modern bizarro fable.

Something to note about this book is that, for a bizarro book, it’s actually relatively tame. While most bizarro books include lots of sex and violence, and while there is some in this book, it’s very lightly done, and Wargo takes a much gentler hand with the reader, focusing more on great plot and character development over shock value. It’s kind of refreshing.

Avoiding Mortimer is part of the 2012-2013 class of the New Bizarro Authors Series, which means that this is Wargo’s first published novel. And it’s an excellent start. I’ll be looking forward to Wargo’s future work.

Avoiding Mortimer by J.W. Wargo earns 4.5 shots of love out of 5.