The Zombie Autopsies – Steven Schlozman

The Zombie Autopsies: Secret Notebooks from the ApocalypseThe Zombie Autopsies: Secret Notebooks from the Apocalypse by Steven Schlozman
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Please see my full review of The Zombie Autopsies at Shock Totem:…

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There is nothing any writer knows better than rejection. Rejection letters are just part of the game.

I was terrified of rejection when I first began to write, so much so that after my first story rejection I didn’t stop writing… but for years I stopped submitting. I’m sure I’m not alone there.

I’ve found that like most things, it gets easier with time. As a writer, or as any type of freelancer, you need to be prepared for rejection. You need to work to get to the point where it doesn’t feel like a personal attack – just focus, pick a new market, try again.

I’ve felt how bad rejection can be… but I’ve also felt that incredible moment when an email arrives, and instead of the usual rejection it’s a publisher asking if you’d like to discuss publication rights. It’s worth the effort.

What got me thinking about this was a post I read on Christian Mihai’s blog, called famous rejections. Sometimes it helps to realise that every writer gets rejected at sometime another, and sometimes a lot. The thing that makes published writers different is that they didn’t stop trying.

Give it a read:

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Kiss the Dead – Laurell K. Hamilton

Kiss the Dead (Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter, #21)Kiss the Dead by Laurell K. Hamilton
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

There was a time when I would read a new hamilton on the day it arrived at my bookstore for me. She was the author that introduced me to the “urban fantasy/paranormal romance” genres that I have enjoyed so much these last few years, and the blend of sex, violence, crime and a touch of actual romance sits very well with me.

After a while, I stopped devouring these books as soon as they arrived. In fact, I started lending them before I read them, to family who I had gotten hooked on the series as well when I first began reading it.

This one? This one sat on my shelf until now. It was only a notification from FictFact that a new novel in the series is due out soon and the fact that I am currently trying to make up ground in this year’s GoodReads reading challenge (my goal may have been a bit audacious) that led me to finally take it down off the shelf.

Before the first chapter finished, I was angry. It got better but, once again left me profoundly unsatisfied and at this point, I think it’s only my own peculiar OCD that is causing me to buy it every release, let alone read it at all.

I’ve been thinking about that a lot the last few days. How can an author of a long-running series go from being so good that she is one of very very few authors who is on my hardcover collection lists… to being one whose books now sit there for months on end, waiting like some sort of unfinished chore? I have some ideas…

(view spoiler)[

It really comes down a few important points:
– The Sex
I like sex. I like it in life, I like it in entertainment, but in these books it has become a replacement for story, rather than a part of the story. In this book, and it has been the same in the last few, there are sex scenes that last for chapters and really add absolutely nothing to the story. At this point, they’re not even adding character development, as they’re pretty much repetitive.

Also, in this, as with the relationships to a large degree, Anita is incredibly selfish. To the point that it strains my credulity that all of these, supposedly manly, strong, independent men would put up with it. They compromise their lifestyles, their desires, even their core sexual identities in order to make her happy, and she has compromised… what exactly? Only one man in her life has tried to force her to commit to him on even terms, and that was painted in strokes so unreasonable and over-the-top that he has become a laughable monster and Anita the poor victim. Not content with doing that however, it was done in every book, for chapters at a time, over the last few. I digress however…

– Perspective
Is sorely lacking in these books. This dovetails with the point I made earlier, with sex scenes that last three chapters and involve in depth discussions about her desires and her relationship, and how important these things are.

I’m probably not the target audience for scenes like that, however given that they exist in the same book as long, detailed and quite gory descriptions of ripping hearts out of chests and removing heads with saws, i’m not a hundred percent sure who is.

The main point i’m making is that this portion of the books, which has become the -majority- of the book in the last few, seems out of place. It’s hard to understand why she has to spend so much time worrying about these issues when there are murders happening all around her, and bombs going to murder the innocent. Sure, by all means, lets take three chapters to shag and talk about how uncomfortable you are with having a hundred boyfriends. Again. Like we do every novel.

Then, truly developed parts of the plot and the series meta-plot, are handwaved. At the start of this novel, Doyle, her surrogate father figure who had all sorts of problems with her dating the monsters, is suddenly all-ok with her. This is explained in a few paragraphs summing up to basically “Yeah, he got help.”. Likewise, the main crime plot in this book ends suddenly, very suddenly. The big bad master who lurked behind the scenes all novel never even makes an appearance! Instead, we get one scene with a bad guy being taken down, and then an epilogue that handwaves the consequences with “Yeah, we met with the master’s henchman and sorted shit out.” and that’s it. Done, like she got tired of writing this book and just decided to phone it in.

– The Real Problem

All of this is why the story is unsatisfying, but the real reason that it pains me to read these books, yet i’ve been going back to the well that disappoints me time and time again is because the _could_ be great.

Laurell Hamilton is an excellent writer capable of coming up with excellent plots and characters. The reason I gave this a three instead of a two, and i’m being generous there, is because the crime part of this book sucked me in just like previous books had done. For one short happy moment I thought we were making a return to the early series…

and then she fucked a were-something near to death and we’re back to endless pages of angst and barely-conceived metaphysics.

Really, the big failing of this novel was ending as it did. If a real conclusion had been written, with focus on the plot, rather than just handwaving it off so we can move on to the next book and the next big five-chapter goat orgy scene, it would truly deserve three stars. If some of these long kink-filled sex scenes, or rambling romantic angsty thought and conversation scenes added something truly new to the characterisation as well, it might be reaching for four.

But it didn’t, and they don’t. It’s retreading old, well worn paths through the psyche of Anita Blake and we’ve all heard it before.

A final note, on a purely technical level I think Hamilton needs a new editor. In several places in this latest book, Anita has exactly the same thoughts about the same people as if it were the first time. This is easily done as a writer, trying to keep everything straight in your head, but noticing things like that is exactly why there are editors in the first place – and it wasn’t the only thing in the book of this nature.

So, don’t expect anything new out of this one.
The crime plot is good, but has no real ending which is an anti-climax enough to make a crime-fan cry.

The sex scene is typically kinky, this time she wants to be forcibly choked with a guys cock, and her sex powers are so awesome she nearly kills him. Rock on Anita, you’ve come a long way from your attitude in the first book.

There is nothing new in her relationship arguments and musings. Nothing. Absolutely nothing. They still take up the majority of the book.
(view spoiler)[ (hide spoiler)] (hide spoiler)]

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Lovecraft: A Life, by S.T. Joshi

H.P. LovecraftH.P. Lovecraft by S.T. Joshi
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The biography of Lovecraft by S.T. Joshi is not a book for the meek or semi-committed. It is a hefty tome whose density of text is truly astounding; don’t be fooled by it’s length of 700+ pages, it feels much much longer.

It is not often that I find a book that is both incredibly interesting and a challenge to work through. There is just so much information compiled by Joshi on Lovecraft’s life, combined with astute analysis of his works, philosophy and even a brief examination of the field of analysis of his work and events in publication following his death; evens that led to his being misrepresented and misunderstood for more than thirty years.

It is not a happy read. Lovecraft’s philosophy is sobering and his lifestyle is, quite frankly, heart-breaking. From his disastrous marriage and residence in New York to his impoverished last years in Providence, where he subsisted on 30c for food a day – worrying even during the great depression.

Joshi provides a sympathetic view of this complex and misunderstood giant of 20th century literature whilst pulling no punches whatsoever. In particular his racism, which has been well documented in the past, is examined many times throughout the biography without apology, but also without the overblown hysteria common to much of the earlier commentary.

This biography supersedes and perhaps makes irrelevant the earlier work by L. Sprague de Camp, but it is difficult to conceive of any biography replacing this one, at least without some major new evidence being unearthed. Any fan of Lovecraft who wishes to understand the work and life of the man can do no better; the analysis of his work alone with change the way you forever read the stories of Lovecraft.

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Those Who Fight Monsters, edited by Justin Gustainis

Those Who Fight Monsters: Tales of Occult DetectivesThose Who Fight Monsters: Tales of Occult Detectives by Justin Gustainis
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

My full review on this book is available on Shock Totem, at Shock Totem – Those Who Fight Monsters

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Flag in Exile

Flag in Exile (Honor Harrington, #5)Flag in Exile by David Weber
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

In a Sentence: Honor, sidelined from her own navy in disgrace for duelling and killing a peer of the realm, retreats to her adopted world of Grayson to find that there are just as many dangerous enemies waiting for her there.

Recommended: To anyone who has loved the series so far.

Review: Throughout this series Grayson has grown from what could easily have been a simple two-dimensional society of patriarchal sexists to a fully realised participant in the series universe. This book gives Weber a chance to delve deeply into the conspiracies rooted on that planet who wish to see the clock turned back and the progressiveness that Honor has become a symbol of rejected and destroyed.

This book includes some excellent political sequences, though action-lovers will not be disappointed. The finale leaves us with Honor once again facing her enemy down in person, this time with sword in hand.

Series Info: The Honor Harrington Series (as of Sept 2011)

1. On Basilisk Station

2. The Honor of the Queen

3. The Short Victorious War

4. Field of Dishonor

5. Flag in Exile

6. Honor Among Enemies

7. In Enemy Hands

8. Echoes of Honor

9. Ashes of Victory

10. War of Honor

11. At All Costs

12. Mission of Honor

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Field of Dishonor

Field of Dishonor (Honor Harrington, #4)Field of Dishonor by David Weber
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Over the last three novels we’ve had the opportunity to see Honor Harrington grow into her commands and thrive under pressure. She is a hero to the common people, the first ever female Steadholder on Grayson and only living recipient of that planet’s highest decoration. She has been promoted to the house of lords and received her monarchs personal thanks on four separate occasions over as many years.

Honor has risen through the ranks meteorically on the back of her ability, determination and steadfast dedication to duty. In return, she has Manticore’s thanks, command of the most prestigious battlecruiser in the fleet, and someone to share her life with.

She has enemies too however, and they have not forgotten the damage she has done to them simply by being who she is. In Field of Dishonor, they will take everything that Honor holds dear from her, and leave her with no choice; away from the front-line at last but drawn into a conflict that, for her, has no silver lining. Even a victory will cost everything, failure will cost her life.

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