Monday, November 22, 2010

The Silliest "Green Product" I Could Find: Spoons are Hurting the Planet

We've all been the local department store and have seen the vast array of "Green" products available. Going "Green" is a good thing and I encourage corporations to keep pushing the Green agenda. It's one of those win win type of policies. The safer your product is for the environment the better off we are regardless of how small the actual impact might be.. However, I am not going to be highlighting any of the good products out there( does that). I plan to highlight the fringes of the Green marketing fad. Whether you accept the scientific consensus of Climate Change or not, you should enjoy this segment on really silly green products. I f happen across any silly green products send me a picture at geeksonfireblog (at) gmail (dot) com and I'll post it up in another segment.

Green Spoons

Seriously? Spoons are a problem?

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Book Review: Side Jobs by Jim Butcher

Side Jobs: Stories From the Dresden FilesSide Jobs is a collection of short stories from THE DRESDEN FILES. Some of the stories have been previously published in other collections, and some are being published for the first time. The timeline for the stories range from before Storm Front to after Changes, so aspects from every possible point in time in Harry Dresden’s life are represented.

There isn’t much of a central theme to Side Jobs, besides Harry himself. This collection is exclusively for Dresden fans — it makes no sense for anyone who hasn’t read all 13 novels to even take a peek at Side Jobs. Since it’s for fans, one of the most enjoyable parts of this collection is the opening comments by Butcher prior to each story. He provides some personal insight into the making of the story and THE DRESDEN FILES as a whole.

Side Jobs opens with the first story ever written about Harry Dresden which Mr. Butcher wrote as a writing assignment for a class at a local university. He has this to say about “A Restoration of Faith”:

It was perhaps the third or fourth short story I’d ever written, if you include projects in grade school…. Read this story for what it is — an anxious beginner’s first effort, meant to be simple, straightforward fun.

He’s a little hard on himself since the story was actually quite good. It was cool to see the DRESDEN characters in their infancy, only hinting at the fully developed versions in the books today. Side Jobs progresses chronologically in the DRESDEN Universe. Along the way you get treated to some real gems, like the very hard to find Subterranean Press novella Backup. There are many fans that have never read this, and will now finally get the chance.

Backup isn’t the only novella included. Aftermath is the final story, and it takes on the perspective of Sgt. Karen Murphy just hours after the events of Changes. There isn’t much progression in the overall DRESDEN story, but it is a nice teaser to get you through until Ghost Story is released next spring.

DRESDEN fans will be delighted with this collection of stories. The quality of the writing varies depending on the time and circumstances in which they were written. Most of the stories are meant to be as Butcher said: “simple, straightforward fun,” and mostly it’s the novellas that take a more serious tone.

I listened to Side Jobs on MP3 audio from Penguin Audio (downloadable now). James Marsters returns as the voice of Harry Dresden and he's fantastic, as always. The day they switch to a different voice actor will be the last time I listen to DRESDEN on audio — for me, Marsters has become essential to the DRESDEN audio experience. —Justin

You can also learn more about Jim Butcher's books at the Fantasyliterature Butcher's page

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Book Review:Kill the Dead by Richard Kadrey

Kill the Dead: A Sandman Slim Novel (Sandman Slim Novels)Richard Kadrey’s Kill the Dead is the sequel to Sandman Slim, and James Stark has been keeping himself busy working for various entities in order to pay the rent. The Devil is one of the entities that makes use of Stark’s services, and he wants Stark to serve as his bodyguard while he’s in town on business. Stark is forced to juggle the obligations of both Heaven and Hell, and manages to place himself in the middle of a conflict that started at the dawn of time.

Richard Kadrey’s writing style is awesome. Seriously, I want this guy to write my epitaph after I die. I imagine it would go something like this:

“Here lies Justin Blazier. If you owe him money, you’re a lucky son of a bitch.”

Kadrey continues the gritty shit-kicking approach to writing that made the first novel so great. However, I do use the word “gritty” with some reservations. If I were to create a “Justin’s Scale O’Grittiness” and use it to grade the SANDMAN SLIM novels — it would look something like this:

Normal Gritty = Rugged cowboy squints at the sun and then says something manly.

Using that as a base of grittiness and then applying it to a SANDMAN SLIM novel:

Sandman Slim Gritty = Rugged cowboy squeals in terror whilst getting gang raped by coyotes and left to die on a cactus in the middle of the desert.

Now that I’ve established some perspective you might understand why “gritty” fails as an adequate descriptor.

If you thought Sandman Slim was sparse on the secondary characters’ development, book 2 doesn’t even try. Stark’s friends Vidocq, Allegra, Kinsky and Candy are all relegated to just a few pages. I found their lack of face time to be rather disappointing, since all the characters I just mentioned were worth spending more time with. Stark’s character comes off as sort of whiny, which is a contrast from the previous book. Stark was always prone to complaining, but in Kill the Dead it’s all he does. Stark redeems himself by the end of the story, and in hindsight the change in Stark is more than likely intentional, but it’s just a tad overdone.

The plot of Kill the Dead is fun and exciting. Kadrey uses a few Urban Fantasy staples, but does so in creative ways. Kadrey’s Zombies, for example, come in several varieties, ranging from the shuffling groaning kind to the chess-playing savant kind. Kill the Dead also contains angels, demons, homeland security, warrior gypsies and even a porn star. Kadrey brings all these elements together to create a truly unique universe.

I listened to Kill the Dead on audio CD by Brilliance Audio. The audiobook is voiced by MacLeod Andrews. Mr. Andrews sounds abrasive with a sarcastic edge, the perfect voice to portray Stark. However, his portrayal of Vidocq’s French accent makes him sound more mentally challenged than anything else. The other characters are fine, but none possess the personality he imbues into Stark. The audio version is worth listening to simply to hear Macleod give life to James Stark.

Kadrey has an awesome writing formula and has solidified Sandman Slim as one of my favorite fantasy characters. Fans of urban or dark fantasy should be required by law to read at least the first novel, which is the better one. Richard Kadrey is a man with a lot of talent and strange interests, and I for one am glad he has chosen to express some of them in the form of SANDMAN SLIM. —Justin

You can also learn more about Richard Kadreye’s books at the Fantasyliterature Richard Kadrey page

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Book Review:Sandman Slim by Richard Kadrey

Sandman SlimI’m not sure what’s wrong with me lately. I keep finding myself reading some gloriously blasphemous works of fantasy literature. I reviewed Jesse Bullington’s The Sad Tale of the Brothers Grossbart and accepted that it could very well show up as a stain on my soul’s credit report. Now, having just finished Richard Kadrey’s Sandman Slim, I might as well file eternal bankruptcy.

James Stark was betrayed and sent to hell for 11 years. While in Hell he learned a few things like killing, drinking heavily, and swearing like it was an Olympic sport. James Stark’s only goals are payback for his banishment, and revenge for the murder of his one true love... Anything else that happens along the way is just a bonus.

Stark’s one-track mind makes him seem a little self-centered. Combine that with his colorful vocabulary, and Stark is nearly unapproachable. On the other hand, he’s also funny, tremendously powerful, and becoming a better person despite his best efforts to the contrary. Stark grew on me, and by the end of the story I ranked him among my favorite characters in fantasy literature.

Kadrey’s writing is solid and surprisingly eloquent in its own way. You literary nerds who just spit your drink on your monitors, please clean off your screen and hear me out. Richard Kadrey has a way with words; his descriptions and images are vivid and creative and his metaphors are simultaneously both funny and accurate. For example, when Stark walks in on a dark magic ceremony, he comments:

Don't devil worshipers have any imagination? It's like a Hot Topic Halloween party.

Or when he tries on some Kevlar:

I’ll wear the liner under the over-coat and hope it’s not so bulky I look like a robot in a bathrobe.

In just a couple of concise sentences, Kadrey lets me know exactly what the scene looks like — and he makes me laugh. The verbiage is also very modern. It’s rife with pop-culture references and slang, so in 20 years it will feel a little dated, but who chooses a fantasy book purely based on its potential future relevance? I also didn’t mind the vulgarity, and found it quite refreshing compared to the politically-correct word choices in a lot of today’s books.

Sandman Slim hit the bull's-eye for me. It contained humor, a gritty style, and a fast pace — everything I love about urban fantasy. —Justin

You can also learn more about Richard Kadreye’s books at the Fantasyliterature Richard Kadrey page