Imagine Skull Island (the island from King Kong), now take away all those pesky natives and King Kong himself. Fast forward to the present day and have a reality television crew land on the island instead of a film crew and you have a pretty good idea of what’s going down in Fragment. Needless to say the book was written just for me. There was even a military quarantine of the island! How did Mr. Fahy know I loved those?

This book could have easily been a summer blockbuster movie. It’s got action, monsters, a fast pace, and an interesting cast. The plot is intense. A reality television crew land on the island. The first people to set foot on it in hundreds of years! Live broadcast! The ratings will be amazing! Within ten minutes of landing on the island the shit hits the fan so hard it breaks. The island is thick with some of the most imaginative and well done monsters in recent memory.

Ima eat your face off lol

Ima eat your face off lol

I mean look at that mother fucker. Look at him. He ends lives. The spiger is only one of the island’s inhabitants, and almost all of the other creatures were designed to kill people just as hard.

Speaking of killing, the author did not kill me with his techno-biological-babble. I couldn’t always follow it, but it never got too absurd and was mostly understandable. It’s annoying when people treat science fiction lazily and have lame explanations, but thankfully that isn’t the case here (even if he is guilty of name dropping Halo 5).

My favorite in the series

My favorite in the series

Up until this point all I’ve done is throw rose petals at the feet of this book. It deserves every one of those petals, but that’s not to say there aren’t a few short comings here or there. Early on in the book it would cut back and forth between what was going on with the island, and this college professor giving lectures at a university. I didn’t really care about them and would read through those parts as fast as possible to get back to some monster eating people action on the island.

This isn’t a Pulitzer Prize winning book. Much like The Strain, this book is all about entertainment and fun. Other than a few stumbles in the pacing near the beginning, I was gripped. If you’re looking for a good popcorn book this summer, look no further. In a world with practically nothing left to explore, author Warren Fahy gives us one last little spot on the map to fill in. A spot filled with horrible, horrbile things.

The Lost City of BAMF

July 8, 2009

attack of the vines! (seriously, something else that will try to kill your ass)

attack of the vines! (seriously, something else that will try to kill your ass)

I recently finished The Lost City of Z and it’s kind of kick ass if you like Victorian explorers being killed in the Amazon. We’re talking back in the day, 1900s. At that time any kind of expedition was doomed to die, so going into the Amazon, one of the places most likely to actively try and kill you, wasn’t the best way to get low life insurance. And based on my extensive research of steampunk websites, the major means of transportation were zeppelins, sometimes powered by the magic of an evil or neutral wizard, which is a pretty slow way of getting to where you need to go.

aw yeah emmer effer

aw yeah BAMF

The main thrust of this story is Colonel PH Fawcett, who was the kind of guy with a lot of thrust of his own, if you catch my drift (penis). The man was such a BAMF that he wasn’t even a Colonel, only a Lt. Colonel, but convinced everybody to call him Colonel anyway. He went into the Amazon on at least 7 separate occasions. This is a place that really does have those parasites that swim up your penis and require it to be cut off lest you lose everything. Specifically the book is about his last trip, in search of the fabled city of Z, a lost Amazonian city buried under the trees. If only he’d waited ninety years, everything would have been clearcut for him and the problem would be solved. Haha but seriously, we’re killing the environment. Didn’t you see FernGully and feel bad for all the little pixies?

Still, the book itself is interesting, outside of the subject material (There’s a guy in here whose middle name is literally SAVAGE. I mean come on!). We follow the author in his search to solve the mystery of what happened to the Colonel on that last expedition, where he disappeared along with his son and his son’s best friend.  Since this part is sort of a whodunit, I’m not going to say much else except that this nonfiction book reads as well as most mystery novels in your desire to find out how it all ends.

So if you want to learn about the true life person who inspired people like Professor Challenger from the Lost World and Charles Muntz from Up (seriously, they both have a love of dogs and go missing while trying to prove the playahaters wrong in South America), then read The Lost City of Z. I don’t usually do much in the way of non-fiction but this is worth every minute you invest in it. And you get to learn about the many, many ways that the Amazon will try to kill you.

that’s it. signing off//

Folds a la capella

July 7, 2009

benfoldsacapella

this is exactly what college is like

Not the Same, the first track off of the Ben Folds Greatest Hits/Cover album University A Cappella!, is the exact reason why this is such a good idea. The lead singer is in the right range but he sings with different intent than Folds, and there are plenty of minor rearrangements that demonstrate the wonder that is the human voice.

benfolds66

what an adorable scamp!

Unfortunately, this level of ability is not consistent throughout. Now, this is being advertised as a greatest hits album which I have to disagree with. I give you that you ask the fans of any artist with a large enough discography (especially Folds fans and the Folds discography) you’ll get a wide array of what should be included. But “Magic”? Really? “Boxing”? Even with Folds in the performance it really is not great, though it doesn’t help that I didn’t like the original. And where’s “You To Thank,” or “The Last Polka,” or “Underground”? (Or even better, “Rock this Bitch”?)

Still, it’s a mix of good and bad throughout the album. While the groups chosen are clearly talented, they sometimes take the songs in the wrong direction. Fred Jones Pt. 2 has the wrong person singing the lyrics, for instance, and Selfless, Cold and Composed just feels slow, though it’s saved by a few scatting breakdowns that are awesome.

But as with the opener, there are plenty of great versions as well, often on the virtue of the lead singer. In reality that’s the sell for these songs – like seeing the same performance by two different actors, you get to watch all the possible interpretations inherent to Folds’ superior craftsmanship in lyrical and musical construction. When the student groups took risks is when they succeeded. “Still Fighting It” is majestic when rendered solely in human vocal cords. And “Fair” demonstrates the best parts of a cappella: rearrangements, responses to the lyrics in the ‘musical’ accompaniment, and a brief mash-up with Zak and Sara.

As a concept, the album is a great idea. I feel like all artists should do their greatest hits this way, if not with a cappella versions than someone covering. New fans get introduced to the highlights and old fans are given a reason to invest in songs they otherwise already have. But in practice it comes through uneven. Worth it for the avid Ben Folds fan or a cappella afficianado, but otherwise I’d suggest buying on a track by track basis.

Picks: Not the Same, Still Fighting It, Landed, Evaporated, Fair,

Thank you Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan. Thank you for making vampires bad asses again. These vampires aren’t afraid to drink people’s blood. In fact, they roam around in packs and take people down in the middle of the street. Hell. Yes.

Drink it in

Drink it in

The Strain is a vampire novel written by Guillermo del Toro (yes, that Guillermo del Toro) and Chuck Hogan that was originally pitched as a television show to Fox. Needless to say that didn’t work out, so del Toro hooked up with Chuck Hogan to deliver us the first book in The Strain trilogy. And what a book it is. That isn’t to say it’s the best vampire book I’ve ever read (Salem’s Lot), but it is a breath of fresh air in a time when vampires are looked at as people that teenage girls want to fall in love with.

The protagonist, Dr. Ephraim Goodweather, is a CDC scientist living in New York City who is sent to investigate an airplane that is dead on the ground. From there things quickly get out of control in an exciting fashion that kept me hooked. The plot of this book moves quickly enough that you want to keep reading even after you realize it’s one in the morning, but not so fast as to neglect things like characterization and more emotional moments. Some genuinely interesting characters are introduced throughout the course of the novel too, including an aged pawn broker and a rat exterminator.

The vampires in the book break the mold from the guidelines Bram Stoker set down in some interesting ways, while holding true to tradition. Vampirism is treated more as a disease than a magical condition, and because of that the book has more in common with something like 28 Days Later as opposed to Dracula. And while they drink blood, don’t expect them to have fangs. I’m not going to ruin how exactly they do it, but it is  horrifying and makes them much more dangerous. They also don’t sparkle in sunlight.

The Strain took me about a week to read and I was not bored once. The two authors have a real winner on their hands and I hope its success will lead to that TV show as it was originally intended to be. I know I’d watch it. If there is one thing that disappointed me though, it’s that this book is the first in a trilogy. The ending isn’t exactly a cliffhanger, but nothing is really resolved either. Now i have to wait until June 2010 when the next book, The Fall, is being released. Even with that little let down, I’m still anticipating the hot vampire action waiting for me next June.