Friday, December 23, 2016

In Case You Were Wondering What Happened

Remember Bookstore Saturday?

Well, I just finished reading the last book from that particular day's adventure (not quite true, but the two leftovers I won't be reading anytime soon, so here we are). At any rate, this is what happened, expectations-met-or-expectations-not-met-wise.

In case you were wondering.


My second reading of this one, and it's actually held up pretty well, given the fact that even a 100 foot giant squid isn't nearly as scary as a 20 foot great white shark. (amiright?) And like it was in Jaws, Benchley's writing style here has a bit of a flat affect, so what could potentially be terrifying comes off as less than pulse pounding. Still, a decent read. If I were doing brain counts for these (not sure if I am or not yet), Beast would probably get a solid three.
So, um,

THREE SOFT CORE CSI BRAINS

(brain count added after the fact and makes sense as you keep reading. probably).
You know, I don't think I've actually read anything of Benchley's other than Jaws and this one, but both those books have a kind of low key feel to the writing that tends to keep my heart rate down, even in the sticky bits. (Quick internet check: Oh, I also took in White Shark back in the day. I guess we all know where my Benchley-esque interest starts and stops, then. Speaking of heart rate though, if memory serves and who knows if it does without a reread, White Shark had a little more pep to it than these other two killer sea creature yarns.)

The other thing with this book is that I kept remembering its TV movie with William Petersen, which reminded me of him playing Gil Grissom in CSI (which I loved), which then reminded me of seeing him in some godawful late night cable sexy romance thing, and I was forever scarred because I could never look at CSI's Gil Grissom quite the same after that. Nothing to do with this book. That's just what I thought about.


And speaking of Benchley's White Shark, if you ever find yourself needing to choose between reading that half-man-half-shark novel and the one Steve Alten did, go with Benchley's. Please. Trust me on this. And it's a shame, 'cause I've enjoyed everything else Alten has done. Sharkman is definitely his odd man out and I don't know what happened, but it's terrible. It's the only book of his I've read that is done in first person; maybe that has something to do with it. I don't know.

But we're not talking about that book, we're talking about Meg, the first in his Meg series, which is mostly a fine read. Except for its ridiculous climax, where the hero gets swallowed by a giant shark and, using his lucky fossilized megalodon tooth to cut his way through its various body cavities, slices its heart open and kills it dead. (Then escapes to tell the tale!) This book was a second read for me as well, but trust me that ending was as hard to take the first time around.

Well, like I say, the rest of the book is fun, and it definitely does get the old pulse rate up along the way. We get two (count 'em--two!) giant sharks and plenty of mayhem to spread around. Alten writes his characters a little on the one dimensional side, on purpose I think, and as a result you pretty much always know who's gonna end up shark food by the end of things.

Anyway, this one's a solid four on the brain count (I guess I am doing them). Let's see...

FOUR CARTILAGINOUS SKELETON BRAINS

Damn, now I have to go back and make up a clever brain count descriptor for Beast....

There, done.

Huh. Now I'm reading Jason Statham might be involved in the upcoming movie version of this book. Could be it turns into a decent-ish film after all. (Statham always elevates, amiright?)


Well then. What else can I say about this one that I didn't already say in the initial post? It was good. Four brains good? No, probably not. But three solid brains (methinks I sense a brain count theme in the works for this post). You know, I thought this one was a first time read, but I was getting major deja vu as I read, so I'm thinking not. Must have read it as a kid. Anyway, characterization is the word of the day, here. Seltzer does a great job writing these characters in a full-fledged way. The monster is cool, and the end is ever so much more satisfying than what the movie came up with. (I'm talking the epilogue, not the main monster's death, although honestly everything monster related works better here on-page than it does on the screen).

I don't know that Seltzer did anything other than this and The Omen, novel-wise, but he's pretty good at it. Wish he'd done more. That being said, I bet I won't pick up The Omen anytime soon--those kinds of stories totally creep me out. (Blech!)

THREE UNBENEVOLENT BEAR BRAINS


Also a second read-through for me, and another solid three brainer. I'll tell you this much, James Herbert does the whole British killer animal shtick better than Richard Lewis ever did. This was Herbert's first novel, and he ended up writing over twenty more, including two or three rat infested sequels to this one.

Anyway, this has plenty of action and 70s gore (fairly stomachable these days), several edge of your seat scenes (that school siege and the hero's last minute race to the rats' nest, in particular), and just enough characterization and commentary to keep the boredom away. My general target for a four brainer is will I seek it out more than once over the years (not counting the occasional second read after decades, like most of these have been so far). And... this one doesn't go quite that far. But it's definitely a high-end three:

THREE RAZORED INCISOR BRAINS.


Yeah, this really did remind me of The Andromeda Strain. Both really good books and both written in a purposely (unlike Benchley's efforts, I think) informational, news item-like style. Pretty much the polar opposite of Herbert's ratty sensationalism, too. You know, stuffy-scientist-point-of-view and all that. But fun and intriguing, hard to put down in spite of its not being a pulse raiser. I thought I might have read this once before, and yep, I surely did remember it once I dived in.

Where are the killer bees, anyway? I totally remember this being in the news when I was a kid. We were supposed to have just so many years before they'd be spread all across the U.S. and we'd be dying by the thousands. Huh: Wikipedia check (we know it's true!) tells me they've been here since the eighties and currently account for a couple of deaths each year. I guess the threat was over-hyped, back in the day. The end has come and we haven't noticed.

Anyway, the book is a good read, but it doesn't break the four brain barrier:

THREE AFRICANIZED ROYAL JELLY BRAINS (shrug)


Oh. Skip this one, if you want. I was originally hoping for something cyborgy, what with the title and all. Then reading the back, I figured "genetically enhanced superman" of some kind, so I bought it anyway. Meh. A guy finds out he's got a genetic predisposition toward violence and ends up killing himself and some other people. No wait, he only puts himself into a permanent coma at the end, so he's not actually dead.

Anyway, the book is bleak, nihilistic, excessively dark, containing not a smidgen of hope between its covers. Nothing against its author, he writes well, but I kind of felt like dying myself after finishing it. And not in a glib "it was so bad I wished I was dead" way; it was just horribly depressing to read. So, if that's your thing, go for it. I'll be steering clear of this guys work in the future, though.

Ugh, just remembering the read has me feeling low. I kept reading, hoping things would finally turn around for, well, any of its characters. But no. Lives ended or otherwise ruined, and not in fun, over the top genre ways--just darkly depressing horrifying real-life type stuff. And I think we know how I feel about this one now.

ONE DEPRESSINGLY GENETICALLY ABNORMAL BRAIN


Ah. I think I'll be doing a fuller review of this one, along with the movie that came from it. I also think I originally said it was published straight to paperback, but that might not be true (well, it isn't); I'll look at the various covers and formats when I do the full review. For now I'll just say the book is basically a zombie love story, and mostly works as that, even if it does have a few spots where the plot stretches uncomfortably, mostly due to having a 13 year old protagonist.

What I mean by that is there are spots, plot-wise, where the 13 year old might have worked a little better as a slightly older character. Then again, a lot of the book's charm comes from the fact its main character is a precocious kid, so I'm not really complaining. Overall, I'd say the author did a reasonable job working out the storytelling kinks inherent when children are doing adult-y kinds of things.

In fact, she handled the whole shebang well enough for me to give this book the post's second (and last) jump into upper-level brain count territory, with:

FOUR CYBER-ZOMBIE BRAINS

So there.


Hmm. I fear we're ending on a downer, here. If you remember from Bookstore Saturday, I was assuming this book was all ready to give me some genetic-experiment-man-in-ape's-body joy. I mean come on, look at that cover: it's a man's eyes and an ape's eyes and an in-between-man-ape's eyes, right? Right? And it was in the shops horror section, for crying out loud. This thing's got Altered States written all over it!

Nope. It's a soap opera that takes place in a research facility. As in, who's gonna sleep with who and who's gonna make a power play at the office, etc. Oh. And there's an ape in one scene that parrots the word "cup" after hearing it played over and over again on a recording. That's the entire science fiction/fantastical element of the story. "Cup." Sigh.

Well written, no qualms there. It was just so not what I was hoping for. And sure, there's subtext commentary being made by the author about how human beings aren't really all that different from apes, that we're all basically a bunch of clothed beasts running around with a thin veneer of civilization separating us from them, yada yada.

TWO NOT-EVEN-APE-MAN BRAINS

Sigh. Only two books out of these eight that I hadn't already read, and they both turned out to be bummers. Whatta ya do, right? (You go back for another Bookstore Saturday, get more loot and try again, that's what you do!)



As for the two books from that day's haul that I haven't read yet, one of 'em (Barnabas Collins) I honestly doubt I'll ever get to. Maybe If I'm bored and feeling unusually curious, one of these days. The other was the "illustrated" horror film history, which I just haven't gotten around to. Well, I have but it's more of a pick-it-up-now-and-again-for-a-few-pages-of-reading-until-it's-finally-done-months-later kind of book. I'll finish it eventually and probably give it a write up then.

Well, they say good things come in threes (do they say that?). If they do, it bears out here, since half of these books ended up as three brainers--with a couple of standouts and letdowns thrown in the mix. All in all, it could have been worse.

Okay then. Now you know what happened with that Bookstore Saturday.

No comments: