In Defense of Richard La Ruina

2018 is many things to me.  I’ll save about 99% of those things for around new year’s week, when everybody and their mom is talking about their 2018, but for now, I’ll let you in on this much.  2018 was the year I discovered Richard La Ruina existed.

For those out of the loop, Richard La Ruina is a “pickup artist”.  This raises red flags for a lot of people right out the gate.  He talks a lot about how he went from awkward spaz to one of, if not THE greatest pickup artist of our generation.  I can’t verify any of that, since all I have is his personal testimony, but I went into this a lot more open minded than a lot of people seem to be.

in 2018, Richard La Ruina put out Super Seducer: a game for STEAM, and possibly PlayStation4 (last I checked, it wasn’t out yet), where in you try to seduce hot women.  Based on your choices, La Ruina explains why your choice is either a bad idea, or a good idea.  Some choices are so obviously wrong that La Ruina himself basically looks at you, and says something along the lines of “Admit it, you picked that one on purpose just to see what’d happen, didn’t you?”  Based on what little I’ve seen of the game (I’m entertaining possibilities of streaming it for my YouTube audience of, like, three people if and when it hits PS4 and I have the money for it), it plays less like a video game, and more like an edutainment game for adults.  If you get a question wrong, it kicks you back to the choices, and you try again.  Hell, they even cross out the choice you previously made that ends up being wrong.  There’s really no consequences for getting a question wrong, near as I can tell.

Naturally, the Let’s Play community of YouTube got a hold of this game.  Hell, how do you think I saw it?  And…  Yeah, the reaction has been pretty outright negative.  Not just to the game, but to La Ruina himself.

Based on what little I’ve seen, I’ll grant you the production values of the game aren’t exactly going to give Ubisoft or Electronic Arts  a run for their money.  Also, while La Ruina is an expert at seducing women (apparently), film is clearly a different story.  But hey, I’m not picking up an adult edutainment game like Super Seducer to be blown away by blockbuster film editing, triple-A gameplay, and mindblowing experiences that make me think there might be something to this “video games as art” concept.

Also, to the LP community…  Are you really this surprised?  Really?  He’s a fucking pickup artist!  Sorry you decided to spend your own money on a game called Super Seducer and didn’t get fifty hours of third wave feminism lectures.

Knowing that it was going to be a while before I could play this for myself, and knowing that a Super Seducer 2 is in the works as of this writing, I looked into Richard La Ruina.  Yeah, instead of hiveminding with the cool kids, I decided to go gonzo, deviate from the norm, and actually formulate my own fucking opinion based on what I myself have observed.  What a foreign concept in this age of Twitter.  But I digress.

Along with the Super Seducer series, La Ruina has also written a couple books.  One of which was available on Audible.com.  Meaning that my blind ass doesn’t have to recruit friends, or pay a dude on Craigslist to read it to me.  Always a plus.

I picked up The Natural a month or two ago, and I’ve been reading it off and on.  I usually stop for a while when I get to the assignments: partly because I’m reading something for book club, partly because I’m brushing up on Egyptian history for a project that might or might not be happening anymore, but mostly because educational books like this (even if the education itself is of a dubious nature) requires me to take breaks and digest what I’ve learned.  I’m up to assignment 4 as of this writing, and I got to say…  This isn’t the worst advice I’ve ever heard.

Taking a lot of his advice out of its intended context of “use these tricks, and hot chicks will want to bob on your knob”, a lot of this stuff is actually good advice.  IE, project confidence, be assertive, don’t fidget, etc.  I’ve been dating off and on since college, and these are all lessons I’ve learned for myself in one way or another.  Though the intent may seem dubious for some, it’s really not bad advice.

The assignments in the book are usually confidence builder exercises like “develop affirmations” or “take an improv class to work on your improvisation skills”.  These are all pretty good ideas!

So far, if there’s only one fault with the audiobook, it’s that La Ruina himself doesn’t read it.  I’ve expressed before that this is a bit of a downer when reading someone’s biographical account.  However, the guy reading the book, Steve West, isn’t a bad reader by any stretch of the imagination.  In fact, I’m pretty sure I’ve heard him before.  In any case, it’s a minor bummer at absolute worst, and I eventually got over it.

I’m actually liking this book.  I don’t think I’d have ever picked it up if I hadn’t seen those Super Seducer videos on Pro Jared Plays, weird as that sounds.

That being said, I can definitely see why the internet has decided to pick on La Ruina.  Not necessarily for his advice, or the fact that his Super Seducer video games aren’t really video games so much as they’re FMV quizzes.

As it turns out, La Ruina is apparently not the best at taking criticism, constructive or otherwise.  Taking advantage of YouTube’s broken copyright claim system, he’s done what many famous YouTube trolls have done over the years, and filed false copyright claims in order to take down any negative reviews people have made.  And believe me, the reception to the game is pretty negative.  This is the kind of dick move that kills any respect you may have generated dead right here.  If it had just been a pickup artist putting out a lackluster gaming experience with ideaology that offends everybody’s neoliberal sensabilities, and nothing else came of it, I’m sure the community would probably think higher of the guy.  Not MUCH higher, but Super Seducer probably wouldn’t be as infamous otherwise.

Furthermore, I’ve heard that in the upcoming Super Seducer 2, there are ways you can deviate from the task of picking up chicks altogether to seek revenge against the more popular YouTubers who have criticized La Ruina.  I’ve heard you can supposedly launch a nuclear missile at Jim Sterling.  I’ve heard Pro Jared is in there too somewhere.

This right here is the sort of passive-aggressive bullshit that does NOT win people over to your side.  If anything, it only stirs the pot even further, and recruits people over to THEIR side.  I get it that a pickup artist is too busy getting laid on a weekly basis to pay attention to internet culture, and thus hasn’t learned the extremely valuable rule of “don’t feed the trolls”, but even then, you’d think a guy who specializes in this sort of thing would be used to rejection by now.

of course, as of this writing, a lot of it is just hearsay that I picked up from Jim sterling’s Twitter.  I don’t know how accurate it is, but Jim tends to be pretty straight forward, so I’m not going to be all that surprised.

So after all of this, where do I stand on La Ruina?  Well, honestly, I’m mixed.

On one hand, it’s not hard to see why the internet has decided they hate him.  He comes from a world where the end game is one-night-stands, and things like equal rights and what not are a bit of a nonissue.  Also, as I said earlier, the guy clearly doesn’t take criticism well.

On the other hand…  I can’t bring myself to hate the guy.  Yeah, he’s a sleezy, passive-aggressive fuckboy…  But in the grand scheme of things, he’s mostly harmless.  It’s not like he’s running for congress or anything.  [INSERT DONALD TRUMP JOKE HERE]  Also, if you calm your inner PC bruh the fuck down, and actually give the guy’s book a chance, you might be surprised.

Then again, this wouldn’t be the first time I’ve been part of a fringe minority, so I won’t be surprised in the slightest if I’m officially the third most hated person on the internet after posting this.  I say third because Bret Cavanaugh, and Linsey Lohan (believe it or not) have apparently set the bar pretty high as of this writing.

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Space Opera: My Thoughts

Boy, someone REALLY wants to be Douglas Addams.  I suppose in the grand scheme of things, you could do significantly worse than Douglas Addams (Elron Hubbard comes to mind almost immediately), but there’s showing influence, and then there’s outright ripping off.

The concept of influenced by Vs. ripping off has been a topic of debate on the internet forever.  There was a time when making game reviews on the internet meant thousands of idiots would accuse you of ripping off The Angry Video Game Nerd, even if your style was nowhere near the loud, profane, fecalphiliac style of AVGN.  If you wanted to be a ranting raving lunatic with his own website designed in the most basic HTML, you were accused by thousands of ripping off The Best Page in the Universe, even if you didn’t copy his misogynistic, egocentric style.  Those are just two examples of this debate that I’m VERY familiar with.  I’m sure it goes on to other platforms, other mediums, and other creaters.

And a book like Space Opera gets me thinking more or less two chapters in that the comparisons to Douglas Addams are inescapable at best.  So is Space Opera a ripoff, or is it just heavily inspired.

Honestly, I’d go with the heavily inspired route.  Largely because while Catherynne M. Valente clearly goes out of her way to incorporate Douglas Addams esque narration about outer space and its various residents, the plot doesn’t even come close.

Space Opera has been described in one of two ways to me:

A. Eurovision in space.

B. That episode of Rick and Morty with the giant head demanding “SHOW ME WHAT YOU GOT!”.

I’m not especially familiar with Eurovision, but I’m assured by friends within my book club that it’s a glorious trainwreck.  B was what ended up selling me on it.

Aliens gather far and wide to perform on the grandest stage of them all.  A stage so grand, Vince McMahon’s WrestleMania looks like a Podunk house show in a stinky old armory out in rural Kansas by comparison.  A stage so grand, various species have been known to convert entire planets into musical instruments just to stand a chance.  And every grand prix, new species are brought to the stage to determine whether or not they’re worth keeping around or not.  New contestants don’t have to win in order to avoid absolute annihilation, but survival depends entirely on avoiding last place.

Naturally, Earth eventually gets discovered, and is invited.  And after learning that all of Earth’s greatest musicians are dead (my favorite being The Insane Clown Possy ending up killing themselves as a result of something to do with magnets), Earth’s only hope ends up being Decibell Jones and The Absolute Zeroes.

Comparisons to Douglas Addams aside, this is an interesting challenge.  How the hell does one write about music?  Music is purely an audible experience, while reading is visual.  I’m going to take a wild guess and say Valente didn’t include sheet music in the print copy.

The story mentions several hybrid genres like barber shop quartet death metal, and symphonic dubstep just to name a possible few.  I would legitimately like to hear how all of these sound.  Even if dubstep is for pussies, integrating it into several other genres would be interesting to see.  The whole concept of mishmashing genres was really what made nu-metal so appealing to me.  True, every third band in the subgenre ended up being a collective of whiney bitches in hindsight, but that aside, combinations and mashups have always fascinated me, and I’d love to hear some of these genres.  It’s too bad that this is a BOOK, or else someone would probably try.

And no, there’s no attempt at replicating what these genres MIGHT sound like in the audiobook.  in fact, Valente really kind of just glances over the genres, or just mentions them off-handedly more than anything else.  Sure, they’re good for shits and giggles, but I’m that guy who has to actually ask out loud, “I wonder what that would sound like?”

Speaking of the audiobook, the audiobook is read by Heath Miller.  He does a pretty good job with the source material, reading it in that sort of dry style that makes British humor so great.

Any downsides to the story has less to do with the performance, and more to do with the source material itself.  I understand that it’s important to get a history of The Glactic Grand Prix, but this seemed to be the part of the book that got exceptionally old in a hurry for me.  There had to be a better way of emplamenting all this instead of making every even numbered chapter a brief history of this alien race or that alien race.  Surely!  It reached a point where these chapters felt like the single most elaborate form of padding I’d ever seen.  For all the impact the “knifeosaurus” people, or the 321, or ninety percent of the other aliens had on the overall story, I found myself wondering at the end just how necessary this information was.  Then I came to the conclusion that the book would’ve been, like, ten chapters if they weren’t in there.  Nothing necessarily wrong with ten chapter long books (Simon R. Green’s Nightside novellas almost never make it past ten from what I remember of them), but I remember trying to get for-real published means having to meet a very specific wordcount.

The book overall…  Is okay.  It had parts I liked, it had parts I could’ve done without.  The worst I can say about it is that it’s harmless.  The best thing I can say is that I’m glad I read it…  But I don’t see myself picking it up again in the distant future.  It killed about a week’s worth of boredom, but that’s about it.

That being said, I’d still recommend checking it out.

Slobberknocker: My Thoughts

Jim Ross: AKA, “Good ol’ JR”, is one of the greatest wrestling commentators of my generation.  Joey Styles is an extreme (no pun intended) close second, but Jim Ross just takes the crown.  There were many times in my middle and high school years when I sat down, watched me some Monday Night Raw, and let JR take me on a journey into the wonderful world of Vince McMahon’s one ring circus that is WWE.  Or WWF as it was known back in those days.  Michael Cole, god bless him, just doesn’t have the same ora of pure personality behind his commentary by comparison.  When Mankind fell off the Hell in a Cell, Jim Ross sold the shit out of it.  partly because, according to his book, he wasn’t in on what they were going to do, but all the same, he sold the shit out of that fall.  Cole, or the guy on Smackdown would probably settle for just going deathly quiet on the grounds this is super serious and requires us to be super professional.   Michael Cole screaming “AS GOD AS MY WITNESS, THAT MAN IS BROKEN IN HALF!” is like hearing a cat bark at the mail man.

Seriously, I could go on for fucking ever about JR’s commentary.  But then you’d have no insentive to read the book.

Suffice to say, there’s a lot of stories in this book I’d never heard before.  Primarily around Mid South Wrestling: JR’s first job, and the king of the Oklahoma territory back when terratories were a thing.

Honestly, had I known about Leroy McGuirk: blind color commentator, I probably would’ve pursued my teenaged dream of doing color commentary for pro-wrestling a lot more passionately.  I mean hell, to hear it from Slobberknocker, Leeroy had less vision than I did!  If a 100% blind guy could do color commentary, than surely, my one-eyed ass could do it, right?  Ugh, this is what I get for listening to my parents.  Oh well: multiverse theory dictates there’s probably a version of me that gave it a try.  I hope it turned out well for alternate me.

Some stories in Slobberknocker, though, are pretty unpleasant.  IE, the story of Grisley Smith’s…  Addictions.

There’s a lot of behind the scenes stuff that I’d never known about, either.  IE, JR’s crippling depression brought on by his second bell’s palsy attack.  It probably gives away the ending of the story, but it’s amazing to think that Wrestlemania15 was originally going to be his last commentary gig ever.  Crazy.

I bought this book on a Saturday, and I finished it yesterday.  There was never a dull moment.

The book is mostly read by Jim Ross himself.  Admittedly, it’s very obvious that he has the book, or at least prompts in front of him as he’s reading.  His style of commentary is something that’s stuck with me over the ages, but his reading style…  Well, it doesn’t leave anything to be desired, but you can tell when a guy like JR is reading from a card.  But in the end, it wasn’t bad.  Hell, he didn’t even have to get on the mic and do the audiobook, really.  But he did, and I appreciate that so much.

I think I’ve brought this up before, but it really makes it special when the author of an autobiography, regardless of the subject, goes out of their way to read their own story for the audiobook.  Sure, they might not be the best reader on the planet (Cough cough Daniel Bryan cough), but at least they made the effort.  More than I can say for some people, Hardcore Holly.

I highly recommend this book.

After On: My Thoughts

Whew boy, this book was an ordeal.  People who follow me on my Twitter (@ThomasJBlack1) watched me struggle with this one in realtime, but for those who don’t give a fuck about Twitter and prefer blog posts featuring paragraphs of text all in one place…  Yeah, this book was a chore.

I’ve mentioned before that nonsequential story telling is a pet pieve of mine.  Admittedly, this one does it better than most…  Sometimes.  As far as Mitchel’s high school romance storyline goes, at least I had warning that we were going to be spending several chapters jumping to the past.  More than I can say for the unfolding epic of Epetstore.com’s demise, anyway.

This is one of those stories where they just dump a bunch of random shit in your lap in the early going, and expect you to figure out how to put it together as the story unfolds.  I seriously thought the epic saga of Brock Hogan was happening in reality alongside Mitchel’s company getting eaten by Phluttr Inc.  Only to figure out later (several chapters before the book just outright tells you, mind you) that Brock Hogan is actually just the CEO’s terrible scifi creative writing.  The Amazon.com reviews included in the book, while amusing enough, take a while before you figure out what purpose they serve to the plot.  Before then, they just feel intrusive, and maybe even counterintuitive to the story.

Another pet pieve of mine that I might or might not have gotten in to in this blog as a whole is present tense narration.  Plenty of GOOD stories suffer from this pet pieve of mine, and a lot of them are very noir esque.  This seems to be a trope of the young adult genre, and it just reaks of laziness.

In the case of After On, the present tense narration is compounded by the fact the narrator is FUCKING ANNOYING!.  Eventually, you figure out the artificial intelligence that eventually becomes known as Phluttr is the one narrating.  That doesn’t improve anything, but…  Well…  No, that doesn’t improve anything.  Seriously, the narrator for The Powerpuff Girls wasn’t this fourth wall breaking and excessively biased.

I’m aware that unreliable narration is a concept, but much like nonsequential storytelling, it’s one of those things that needs to be done right in order to work.  William fucking Faulkner couldn’t even make it work, and I love Faulkner.  After On is no Faulkner, though, and I’m made aware of it with every paragraph.

This book was featured in my scifi-fantasy book club.  Other criticisms, such as the author’s unhealthy obsession with “info dumping” were brought up.  I personally could look past the fictional disease of the protagonist (Folkenberg’s Syndrome, I think it was called), if only because of all the things that annoy me about this book, that one annoyed me the least.  It’s not a real condition, but whatever.  Don’t care

One person in the group even went on an EXTREMELY long tangent about how Phluttr could communicate with every country in the world, and understand every culture’s language querks and cultural taboos was flat out absurd.  Seriously, the last time I heard someone go on a tangent this long and ridiculously over thought out, one of my best friends was trying to explain how Ron and Hermione should’ve never ended up together on the grounds “opposites attract” is pure and absolute bunk.  In his defense, though, he has aspergers syndrome, and really wanted Harrymione to be a ship (I guess).  And in defense of the person arguing the Phluttr case, foreign language is apparently the thing she nerds out over the hardest.  She herself even admitted it on at least three occasions since I’ve met her.

Still, that may be something to keep in mind.

The audiobook is read by a ridiculous amount of people.  I’m going to guess January LaVoy is the one who reads about eighty-five percent of the book.  It also features Felicia Day: famous for…  Uh…  Some reason.  And I’m sure this was the case BEFORE she appeared on the reboot of MST3K, or her appearances in Ninja Sex Party videos.  I guess she hosted a podcast or something?  In any case, Day reads all the Netgrrrl posts, and she reads them all through a voice filter.

My favorite of all the narrators of this book, though, has got to be Jesse Cox as the guy who reads all the Whistleblower posts.  This guy right here steals the show.  You can just hear the capslock key being glued permenantly to the ON position once he starts up.  Whistleblower ITSELF is like listening to Alex Jones, if the roided up gorilla knew the first thing about computers.  Considering he doesn’t know the first thing about FROGS, I imagine he doesn’t stand a chance, but I’ve been proven wrong before, so…

So yeah, they really went all out with this audiobook.  It’s just too bad this thing ended up being such a fucking headache to get through.  I’m genuinely impressed with myself that I made it through this book.  If it weren’t on my cell phone, I’d have probably chucked this fucking thing against the wall at least twice in the process of reading it, it was so tedious.

I can’t recommend this book.  At all.  Don’t get suckered into the dare.

Oh yeah, this book actually dares you to read it at the beginning.  Did I forget to mention that?  You know you’re going to be in for a bad time when the author of the book has to DARE you to read his own book.  You DARE people to read Battlefield Earth.  You DARE people to read The Naked Lunch (spoiler: it’s not as sexy as you think it’s going to be).  You DARE people to read Confessions of an Economic Hitman.  You DARE people to read The Satanic Bible.  You DARE people to read Atlas Shrugged.  If you have to DARE people to read YOUR BOOK, that doesn’t reflect all that good on you as an author.

So yeah, don’t accept the dare.  Just walk away, and find something else to read.  It’s not worth it!

The Golem and the Jinni: My Thoughts

I pose this question to you, dear reader: Have you ever read a book that had a good idea, an interesting story, and had everything going for it…  But you just can’t get in to it despite all that?  You know in your heart of hearts this story is good, but you just can’t get anything out of it?  This is basically my relationship with The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker.

The plot is pretty straight forward.  Some guy in…  I guess it’d technically be Palastine at the time the story takes place?  Either way, he makes a golem: a construct of clay and other assorted materials that is brought to life for the single purpose of serving its master.  Unfortunately, this golem’s master suffers a heart attack on his way to America, and now the golem is forced to wander around 1910s New York wondering what it ought to do with all this confounded freedom.

Elsewhere, a jinni from the Syrian desert is released from his prison, and finds himself just as puzzled about what to do with his newfound freedom.

Eventually, the two meet…  And that’s about as far in to the story as I got.  I don’t know why, but despite this interesting premise, I just couldn’t get in to this story.  I ended up setting the book down around chapter fourteen, and I haven’t picked it up since.

This isn’t really a review, so much as it is me wondering out loud if I’m weird.  I’m sure everybody’s encountered this at least once with a book, or a movie, or a TV show, or literally any other form of entertainment. This happened to be mine.

Furthermore, I’m apparently the weirdo because literally everybody else I’ve talked to loves this book.  Even if they didn’t finish it at the time I spoke to them, they just adore everything about this story.  And the strange thing is that I agree with them on just about every point.

The only real negative I can think of is that the story has a hard time staying on topic.  Yeah, ME, the guy who prides himself on his barely coherent stream of consciousness both in his blogging and his podcast, is criticizing someone for drifting off topic.  But I stay pretty coherent in my story telling, at least.

This book will focus on the golem, or the jinni, as it should.  It’ll also focus on the golem’s maker, and the man the jinni is working for in exchange for room and bord, which is understandable.  I’m going to guess people like the Syrian doctor turned ice cream maker has something to do with the plot, because diversions like his seem flat out unnecessary.  The author explains his story from his days as a doctor all the way to how he came to live in New York making ice cream, and all I can think is “Um, weren’t we talking about a fucking golem and/or a jinni three pages ago?”.

I am on record saying nonsequential story telling is a bit of a pet pieve of mine.  Flashbacks are fine (lord knows I’ve used flashbacks in my writing before), but for fuck sakes, tell the story in order!  You’re not deep, you’re not smart, you’re a pretentious douchebag!

Other than this major nitpick, though, this is a story I know I should like…  And yet, I don’t.

The audiobook is narrated by George Guidal.  I think he’s narrated a couple other books I’ve reviewed here, and liked, which is equally puzzling.

This might be one of those moments where I suggest just picking it up for yourself.  Clearly, I’m no help.

Noir: My Thoughts

Christopher Moore is one of my all time favorite authors.  I started with A Dirty Job, then read all three of the Bloodsucking Fiends trilogy, and pretty much set out to read as many of his books as I could possibly get my hands on.

Admittedly, Moore is…  Not for everybody.  Especially in recent years, with stories like Sacre Blue, and Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff.  These are pretty avant gard, considering the guy had made a living telling humorous stories about either a fictional town out in the middle of nowhere, or in a fictional San Fransisco that reminds me of Kevin Smith’s Jerseyverse.  Or Askewniverse.  Or whatever we’re calling the Jay and Silent Bob movies nowadays.  The Jay-And-Silent-Bobiverse?

Also, if nothing came from the 2010s, my fascination with film noir happened in this very decade.  All you bitches feeling nostalgic for the neon-colored nightmare of shoulder pads, toy commercial cartoons, and Reaganomics don’t know nothing about nostalgia.  I was going back to the days when movies weren’t even in color!  I was going back to the days communism actually seemed like a legit threat to anybody!  I was going back to the day when a high budget movie was around six figures at absolute most!  You want to talk nostalgic?  You don’t know.

I forgot where I was going with this.

Oh right, Christopher Moore wrote a noir book!  My favorite author?  Writing one of my recent favorite genres?  I literally commented on his blog: “SHUT UP AND TAKE MY MONEY!”.  No really.  Look for the sample chapter for Noir on his blog (if it’s still there).  You’ll find my comment right there!

ANYWAY…

I really had high hopes for this book.  And…  Not going to lie…  It’s not one of his better books.  Yeah, I’m starting to think I might have jumped the gun on that one.  It’s fucking No Man’s Sky all over again.

It’s not a bad story by any means.  Comedy wise, “the kid” was probably the funniest thing about the entire story.  I mean yeah, the fact the main female character is named after a variety of British cheese is KINDA funny I guess, but a lot of the humor…  I don’t really want to say it fell flat, but considering I read Christopher Moore books frequently, I’m kind of familiar with his pacing, and his style of joke telling.  It’s like watching a new episode of a long-running sitcom that hasn’t managed to hit seasonal rot yet: the jokes are there, and you know they’re funny, but they aren’t really gut-busting hilarious.

The very beginning of the book is basically a fucking trigger warning to all the delicate little snowflakes out there that this book takes place in the 1940s, and therefore may use some slurs that were acceptable then, but aren’t now.  Although I got to say, I was expecting a lot worse than what I got.  Sure, he used the word “colored” a few times, and a few slurs for Chinese people.  I don’t know, maybe having friends who masterbate to Trump and praise “the glory of Kekistan” have desensitised me to the point I feel nothing anymore when I hear racist remarks.  Or maybe I don’t offend nearly as easily as this current generation of weak-willed pussies.  I’ll honestly believe either one.

Get past the trigger warning, and you get a story that is…  Okay.

Really, my only real gripe with the book is that there’s two narrators, and the second narrator waits till way into the book to introduce himself.  The epic reveal…  Honestly, I can’t decide if it’s funny, or dumb.  Possibly both, but maybe leaning more towards dumb.  It’s one of those choices that, on paper, probably sounded funnier.  And at the moment of the reveal, it DID kinda give me a chuckle.  But prior to the reveal, I found myself constantly wondering why it went from first person to third person every other chapter.

The audiobook is read by Johnny Heller.  Heller is a man of about two or three voices at absolute best, and they all have a bit of a Marlon Brando quality to them.  However, it’s a reader that fits the theme of the book just fine, so I give it a pass.

Overall, it’s not the worst book I’ve ever read.  It’s not even the worst Christopher Moore book I’ve ever read.  Really, though, I’d recommend some of his other titles before recommending this one.

The Philosopher’s Flight: My Thoughts

The Philosopher’s Flight is a book I really wasn’t expecting to like.  Or even read, honestly.  It got recommended at the book club I’m a member of, in rather hilarious fashion.

Basically, we discussed the book of the month (The City and the City by the HIGHLY over-rated China Mieville).  Then, talk of what to read next came up.  A woman who comes to the group off and on picked two books out of her purse, slapped them down on the table, and said: “Here’s your choices.  Pick one.  I’m not running out and buying a third book.  Pick one.”  I laughed, and went with the side that picked Philosopher’s Flight on the grounds option B was a clichéd young adult dystopia novel that lost me at the blurb describing the overused, overdone premise every young adult novel throughout the 2010s has used.

So we read The Philosopher’s Flight, and I got to say, I liked it a lot.

Robert is a young man, living in a world where “philosophy” actually refers to magic.  Also, magic seems to come more naturally for women than it does for men, although a few men can perform magic as well.  Like Robert, for example.  Magic, or “philosophy”, consists of being able to draw sigils with certain ingredients, and through the power of magic (I guess), stuff happens according to what sigil you drew, and what you drew it with.  IE, aluminum results in teleportation, silver results in stasis, corn powder (I think) results in flight…  They allude to a combination of sulphur and bonemeal that makes a really nasty death spell, but it never gets used.

Robert wants to join the rescue squad, and serve his country in World War I.  However, because most men can’t perform magic as effortlessly, or at all, it’s an uphill battle just getting through the academy.  The person recommending this book for the club suggested that it was an inverse to the whole “strong independent woman who’s strong and independent and a woman proving to the men how strong and independent this woman is.  Did we mention this is a woman who’s strong and independent?  Because it’s super important you note that this is a strong independent woman.” fad we’ve been stuck in for the last three or four years now by basically giving the WOMEN the power, and making the MAN prove himself.  Admittedly, I assumed the women were going to have more influence in this world than they had.  IE, I thought they’d hold the majority of political power, cultural influence, and men were treated like objects who cooked and cleaned and all that.  While women in this universe are more adept at “philosophy”, they still don’t have a whole lot of influence outside “philosophy” circles.

Also, did you know that in the old days, a woman could run for office, but couldn’t vote?  According to the resident SJW of the club, yeah, that was actually a thing.  They brought it up in this book, but I thought it was just part of their universe, but it’s actually a thing!  Weird, right?

Getting back on track…

This book is definitely a departure from the kind of things I read.  IE, not a whole lot of fight scenes, and not a whole lot of magic and mysticism outside “philosophy”.  And I’m okay with that.

A common criticism the story seems to get is that it tries to tackle several themes, and only really resolves one or two.  A lot of this gets attributed to the fact that this is Tom Miller’s first book, and perhaps he’s still trying to figure things out.  I personally attribute it to the fact that Robert is really your classic case of a country boy in the city.  A lot of these themes get brought up as environmental factors, but the primary focus of the story is definitely that Robert is just trying to get through the academy, and live out his life long dream of working in rescue and evac for the U.S. military.

The audiobook is read by Gibson Frazier.  He does a really good job with the material he’s given, although it’s kind of hilarious to hear a guy give the cliché dum jock voice to female characters on occasion.  I guess in this universe, women have to take up roles like captain of the sportsball team, so I guess they can be dumb jocks just as much as…  You know, I’m thinking too hard about this.

I’ve heard through the grapevine that this is book 1 of a series.  A series that, as of this writing, is still in the works.  Honestly, as much as I enjoyed this book, I’m hesitant to read any further in this series .  The book ended pretty conclusively in my opinion.  I mean yeah, they could probably elaborate on the very specific details of what went on during the montage that was the last three or four paragraphs…  Also, the prologue.

I forgot entirely about the prologue until the book club got together.  And understandably so.  The prologue contributes literally NOTHING to the plot of this book.  I GUESS it provides a little context on how “philosophy” works, but it’s nothing you couldn’t pick up for yourself actually reading through the story proper.  Nothing that’s ever brought up in the prologue EVER shows up in the story.  So much so, I wonder why the hell the author even bothered.  Outside the possibility of page count, but I figured that’s why he included a glossary of terms that you’ve probably long since figured out by ACTUALLY READING THE BOOK.

Some writing advice I’ve gotten over the years is this: never start with a prologue.  Don’t start the story in the middle, and flash back to three weeks earlier.  Don’t use a prologue as a foreshadowing tool for something that happens in book 2 or book 3.  In fact, just don’t do the prologue.  Ever.  Start the story at chapter 1, and go from there.

The Philosopher’s Flight could’ve probably benefitted from this advice.  Lord knows I don’t do prologues anymore for this very reason.

One thing Miller and I are BOTH guilty of, though, is beginning chapters with quotes that foreshadow future events in the chapter.  This is one of those things where in it works if it’s done properly.  Unfortunately, I don’t feel like it was done properly in Miller’s book.  For example, he shares a passage from Danielle’s campaign speech from all the way into the 1930s: at least fifteen or twenty years after the story takes place.  Then we have an epic final battle between Robert, Danielle, and the villain of the book (a dude who totally gives me Fred Phelps vibes), and I felt virtually NO ergency.  Bitch, I already know Danielle survives!  And as a result, it kind of kills the suspense.

These are some nitpicks I had with the book, but despite those nitpicks, I actually really liked the story quite a bit.  Will I check out future books in the series?  Well…  We’ll see.  For what it’s worth, book 1 was definitely not a bad read.

 

End of an Era

Earlier this month, Scourged: the last of The Iron Druid Chronicles, was put out.  I bought it, I blazed through it in a week, and now I sit here realizing that the epic fantasy I’ve been reading since 2015 is over.  And boy, I have no idea how to feel about that.

All good things have to come to an end.  Frankly, the fact there hasn’t been a single bad book in the entire nine book series says a lot about how good at this writing thing Kevin Hearne actually is.  When the series started, it came out in a time where the whole “vampires, werewolves, and mythical creatures live among us and I keep them all in check” concept Anita Blake brought to the table was starting to become tiresome.  And really, one could argue that Anita Blake wasn’t even all that original in the first place.  So the fact Atticus O’Sullivan was ON THE RUN as opposed to being god’s chosen champion, or a member of an elite hunter squad, or whatever, was actually kind of a refreshing change of pace.  Also, who could say no to Oberon?  I don’t think myself as a dog person or as a cat person exclusively (I will punch you in the fucking face if you call me bipetual), but having had a dog of my own, I can tell you Hearne’s portrayal is definitely very accurate.  True, my dog wasn’t an Irish wolf hound, but really, dogs are dogs in the longrun: happy, slobbery, manic idiots who absolutely love you.

I’ll admit to not reading the novellas, though.  I basically stuck to the canonical books in the series.  Largely because, for the most part, the side novellas don’t really add anything TOO substancial to the overall plot.  At least, not until the book I refer to as “book 8.5.1 and 8.5.2”, but even then, the only thing those books explain is how Atticus ended up with a Boston terrier named Starbuck.

In the span of three years, I practically devoured all nine of The iron Druid Chronicles novels, and I enjoyed the journey from start to finish.

As per usual, I went with the audiobooks, because blind guy.  All of the books are read by the man, the myth, the legend himself, Luke Motherfucking Daniels.  In fact, I dare say, The iron Druid Chronicles were my first real exposure to him as a reader.  And ever since, Daniels has joined the likes of Simon Vance, Robertson Dean, and Mark Vitor: readers who make me loudly declare “SHUT UP AND TAKE MY MONEY!” the moment I see their name on the Audible.com page.  I was even subscribed to his Soundcloud page at one point, before I ended up deleting that soundcloud account in exchange for the one currently hosting Red Flannel Radio.  I should really do another one of those.  Seems like that’s been reduced to a monthly show now.

But I digress.

The series has ended.  I feel complete in a way, but at the same time, I feel kind of bummed out.  Well, maybe BUMMED is a bit of an exaggeration, but I definitely have that “end of an era, and I have no idea where to go from here” kind of feeling.  This feeling will pass in a couple days (it always does), but I really can’t remember the last time I’ve been bummed out about there being no new stories in the series.  Usually, by the time a series gets to book 4, I’m starting to notice problems, tedium, and even continuity errors in one case.

I highly recommend reading the series for yourself if you haven’t.  In the meantime, maybe I’ll be able to find the next great ongoing series to invest all my psychotic fan devotion to.

Fuck Whales: My Thoughts

I  didn’t find out about the majesty of Maddox until about 2004.  Even then, I only found out he existed because Steakandcheese.com, a disgusting fucking website I used to love that has long since been replaced by a RedTube clone, shared his article entitled “You’re Not Dave Chappelle, and You’re Not Funny.”  This was the article I gladly shared with all my dipshit classmates who thought saying “I’M RICK JAMES, BITCH!” was an adequate substitute for a joke.  Only to be reminded that I was just as bad about “GET ‘R DONE” as they were with “I’M RICK JAMES, BITCH!”.

Regardless, that article led to quite a few nights of reading, and rereading, and occasionally even rerereading Maddox articles, and absorbing the gospel of the almighty pirate lord into my own being.  He basically writes books, and makes YouTube videos now, but I still follow his work fairly closely.

His latest book, Fuck Whales, is the only book of his that has made it on to Audible.com.  I can see why I’m Better Than Your Kids isn’t there, considering it’s mostly a picture book, but I figured for sure The Alphabet of Manliness would be there.  Unless it has more pictures than I remember.  It’s been a while since my friend and I skimmed through that one.

If you’re familiar with The Best Page in the Universe, then you know exactly what to expect from this book.  I don’t know if there are pictures in this book (I got the audiobook, after all), but I wouldn’t be surprised if there are a few.

If you’ve never heard of The Best Page in the Universe…  Well…  I don’t know what to tell you, except prepare to be called several different variants of idiot while the author explains how he’s awesome, how you’re stupid, and how this or that doesn’t work because reasons.  It sounds offensive when I describe it, but then again, I’m not Maddox.

Maddox himself reads the audiobook, which makes the experience even more awesome.  Both because it’s Maddox, and because I always love it when authors read their own books for the audiobook.  One of the reasons Georges St. Pierre’s audiobook is extremely disappointing.  Well that, and the fact it’s one of the most disjointed autobiographies I’ve read since Hunter S. Thompson, but at least you could say HST was probably on ten different kinds of pills.

Fuck Whales starts off pretty irreverent, with such articles as “Fuck Tables” and “Fuck Horses”.  Eventually, though, it gets into some seriously deep shit with such articles as “Fuck Being Offended”.  You read the first couple essays, and get a good little “tee hee” over the absurdism of having a negative opinion about something like a table.  Then you get into stuff like vegetarians who refuse to eat leftover meat, or how we live in a society where bagging groceries is considered less demeaning than doing porn.  the transition from silly to deep is scemeless, and you don’t even notice it unless you’re really paying attention.

All and all, Fuck Whales is a 256 page ass kicking just waiting to be unloaded onto your brain.  And you owe it to yourself to let this book kick your ass.

Reincarnation Blues, My Thoughts

1As much as I love the PEOPLE in my book club, the selections have left something to be desired.

I’ve tried The Rise and Fall of D.O.D.O. by Neil Stevenson, and I honestly wasn’t impressed.

I tried the first book in Illuminae, and the fact it was classified as young adult might as well have been the red flag to end all red flags.

I tried From a Buic 8 by Stephen King, and was honestly pretty disappointed with it.

So far, out of all the books we’ve picked as a group, the only one I can say I truly loved was Reincarnation Blues by Michael Poore.

Reincarnation and spirituality fascinate me.  Having been a kid growing up in the reddest part of Red Kansas, my only choices for religions were Catholicism, and Presbyterianism.  And when I say choices, I meant that my family was Presbyterian, and I had no choice but to be Presbyterian along with them.  So in other words, my spiritual studies could be summarized as “Jesus is correct, worship him or fuck off”.  But I’ve gone on that topic a bunch already, so I won’t bore you with it here.

Moving to the city, and gaining access to the internet were the best things that ever happened to me in this regard, because I found myself researching a lot about religion and spirituality over the course of my life.  I eventually settled on Baha’i, but even after settling, I still like to read what other religions have to say on this matter.  And Reincarnation Blues has an interesting interpretation of how reincarnation works.

Whether Reincarnation Blues builds its model of reincarnation on the Hindu, or the Buddhist concept is something I’m not entirely sure of.  I’m guessing the Buddhist version, considering one of the main character’s lifetimes was during the times of The Buddha himself, but honestly, Buddhism’s concept of the afterlife seems to borrow pretty heavily from Hindu.

The story, regardless, is fascinating.  At worst, I’d say it’s a bit on the predictable side the moment you find out there’s a finite number of lifetimes you’re allowed to have, and the fact the main character only has five more to go, but predictable isn’t the same as bad.

It’s all about attaining enlightenment, and going through “the sun door”.  What awaits you on the other side of the sun door?  Milo doesn’t seem all that interested at first, due to the fact the love of his life exists in the realm between lives.  Love makes you do crazy things.  It makes you lose count of lives and spend a lot of your time between them just hanging around deserts learning how to juggle.  I guess.  And here I thought it just made you forget smelling your girlfriend’s hair is considered creepy.  Don’t ask.

The humor in this book has been likened to Douglas Addams: author of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.  It really depends on which passage we’re talking about.  Sometimes, I can totally see it.  Other times, that seems like a stretch.  The book has its own, unique, dry sense of humor.  Life and death are clearly irrelevant, and it really needs to be that way, or else the concept of reincarnation really loses its power.

The audiobook is read by Mark Bramhall, and…  He’s okay.  Listening to him read is like listening to a bed time story read by my grandpa, honestly.  Although I don’t think my grandpa ever read me any bed time stories with this much death involved.  In any case, his performance isn’t distracting, and the story never feels like a chore at any point.

I honestly recommend this book.  I’ve even thought of giving it a second readthrough once I’m done with the monumental pile of crap I have in my Audible.com cue right now.  It’s totally worth your time.