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.


Pajama Forest is a new webcomic from a gentleman named Evan Diaz and it is delightful.

One day not too long ago I was perusing my usual list of webcomics when an ad on Chainsawsuit caught my eye (you’re reading that one now, right?). The art just had a colorful and excited style to it that compelled me to click the link. As soon as the site loaded the whimsical illustrations stole my heart. In all honesty, this might be some of my favorite art in webcomics.

But a webcomic needs good writing to support the art, and Pajama Forest delivers the written goods. It’s one of the silliest things I have read in a long time and it is a lot of fun. Let’s just say Ed, the main character’s younger brother, takes his brother’s parka, names it Petie, and then Ed and Petie go on an adventure in Ice Cream Sandwich Land. You would have to be dead on the inside to not smile at any of this. Dead.

Pajama Forest updates five days a week (M-F) and is a member of the TNP webcomics collective.

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


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.


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,

I make Wolverine cry

I make Wolverine cry

Prototype is a free roaming action game from Radical Entertainment, makers of The Hulk: Ultimate Destruction, and it shows. The two games are similar in that they give you a large city to roam around in as an incredibly powerful being. In this game, you’re Alex Mercer. You wake up in a morgue with super powers, and everything gets out of control shortly afterwords.

Prototype revolves around a series of 31 missions. They are punctuated by cut scenes that move the story forward, but lets face it, the cut scenes aren’t that great and the narrative suffers as a result. Luckily, there is more to the story than just whats going on in the here an now. The back story resolves around a government conspiracy that stretches all they back to the 1960’s and is revealed through the web of intrigue. To unveil pieces of the web you have to consume people with knowledge of what’s going on, and there are 130 of them wandering around. Each of them gives you a different cut scene that reveals a new tidbit of information. When I beat the game I only found a 97 of them and you better believe I’m not going to stop until I absorb every last one. It’s that good.

Besides the main story and the web of intrigue, there are side missions you can complete for evolution points, such as consuming a certain number of people in a set time, racing around the city, or blowing stuff up. They’re pretty fun for the most part and help to break up the main story.

Speaking of evolution points, Alex can unlock a lot of powers. I mean A LOT. So many that I didn’t even use all of them. One of the most most useful power sets is the movement powers. Moving around New York is fast and furious. Alex hops over cars, runs up buildings, and glides through the air. You can get from one side of the island to the next very rapidly. One of the other powers I really enjoyed was the sword arm. What else needs to be said? Your arm is a giant organic blade.

One of the things I didn’t enjoy about Prototype were the weird difficulty spikes. One minute you’ll be slaying hundreds of people, the next you’ll be wrecked by a boss battle. There were a few missions that had me spewing expletives, which is a rarity for me. It’s mad frustrating when you’re doing a mission or fighting a boss for the fifth or sixth time. Luckily, most missions do have checkpoints throughout, so death doesn’t mean you’ll have to restart from the beginning. Radical gets a few points for that smart move.

Another negative I hear brought up is the graphics in Prototype aren’t great. They’re not, but it’s OK. There are soldiers, infected, civilians, tanks, cars, and helicopters all on screen at once. Not to mention the explosions. With so much going on something had to take a hit, and it wasn’t the frame rate. You can be in the middle of a huge battle between the infected and the military and the frame rate is still rock solid. Even though this game isn’t much to look at, it is still technically impressive.

In game advertising. If not done well, it can be like nails on a chalkboard (lookin at you Axe body spray in Rainbow Six: Vegas). I saw a few posters for GameStop, the musical Jersey Boys, and even one for Panasonic. As the game rolled forward, I forgot all about them. Why? Because they all get covered up by military propaganda. “Support the Quarantine”, “We Are All Soldiers”, “A Cure is Coming”, and “America is Behind Us” are just a few. I thought this was pretty cool when I realized they did it.

I had a lot fun with Prototype. It’s got slick action, the web of intrigue, and a version of New York City under military quarantine. If you want a game that doesn’t hesitate to make you feel like the ultimate bad ass at every chance it can, then this should be right up your alley.

Aw there's bricks in the window she's so lonely!

Aw there's bricks in the window she's so lonely!

Listening to “The Calculation,” the first track off of Regina Spektor’s new album Far, you can understand where all the criticisms about her being too produced are coming from. Her usually ecstatic voice, which ranges all across the sounds the human voice is capable of, is mostly locked into the standard pop-piano female singer range, and is all about building a computer to make your decisions about love. It sounds like you might be listening to Adult Alternative. But this is Regina Spektor, and so even in this mode you’re getting good things, like the little detail about the computer being made from macaroni. Even at her most mainstream you feel like you’re listening to the musical version of a Michael Gondry movie.

And as the album continues you move back into what has become the Spektor corner of quirkiness. “Eet,” the second track, is reminiscent of “Us” and “Carbon Monoxide” from her earlier Soviet Kitsch and which seems to be about the many things that rhyme with ‘Eet’. The fourth track, “Folding Chairs,” features that dolphin singing all the reviews are talking about and but by that point you already know that you’re listening to Spektor. And really, limiting the song to just the dolphin noises ignores the fact that it’s another pitch perfect examination of a relationship that isn’t the usual glossy Gossip Girl ultra-reality versions you hear about on the radio. The people Spektor summons are messy and weird because, honestly, who wants to be normal?

The songwriting on this album actually reminds me of Andrew Bird or Beirut – several of the songs have a certain trajectory until about two-thirds of the way through when it undergoes a major course correction: the rapturous sign from God on “Human of the Year,” the drunken descent of “Dance Anthem of the 80’s,” even “The Calculation” has a vocal breakdown near the end. It’s in these switches that Spektor’s ability to summon emotion out of every piano chord really shines through. The album does come with some let downs. “Machine,” is incomprehensible as a purposeful creation, and a few tracks like “Genius Next Door” and “One More Time with Feeling” suffer by being merely alright amongst the better compositions. This is especially true of the two bonus tracks that come with the extended version, which are only must-haves for those obsessed with having all of Spektor’s discography.

So, another successful album for Spektor, one that is immensely enjoyable and not the abandonment of principles that some have been claiming when looking at that four producer credit. If you’re up for a talented lady singing about finding someone else’s wallet over some beautiful piano, then grab Far. And even if you don’t think you’re that kind of person, pick it up anyway. I’m sure it will please no matter what, and have you singing along with dolphin clicks.

Picks: Eet, Laughing With, Dance Anthem of the 80s, Folding Chair

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.