Monday, November 23, 2009

I have a love hate relationship with Steve King. I remember first cracking his stuff when I was twelve (because I wanted "grown-up" books, rather than kiddie fare) and being thoroughly impressed and scared. I've revisited some of those in adulthood and, like so many things, have realized that things change as you grow. I caught references that I certainly would have never caught before, I found myself not as fearful, and the reading went by a lot quicker. King put out some quality books and really molded the contemporary horror genre.
Then something changed. I'm not sure what it was...but something felt different. The books King was putting out weren't the books by my beloved author. Yes, I read them, but there was something...wrong. I'm a huge Dark Tower fan and I found myself reading King's books (the ones I loathed) just for the hidden Easter Eggs into the Dark Tower world.
That's a horrible way to start a review. I just wanted it to be clear that I've been not grooving on King's work for the past few years, nay decade. So enter "Under the Dome".
I was instantly captured by the story when King leaked the description onto his website. I got onboard with it. Then the preorder battle began and I felt I'd gotten the deal of a lifetime when I snagged the $35 book for $9. Suck it Barnes and Noble! Then I realized that this mama jama was near 1100 pages in length! Are you fuckin' kidding me?
I read it (not in one sitting) and will say this: It's good. It's not great, it's not bad. It's certainly a redeeming piece if, like me, you've found your interest in Stephen King wane.
I'll address this head-on first: This is not the Simpsons Movie. I've heard people cross referencing the Simpsons movie, etc, since this came out. Even I, while in the first 250 pages was bemoaning the parallels - the polluted lakes and streams, the obvious dome, and a very similar Simpsons-like parishoner. Hmmmmmm...
Having finished it it's nothing more than coincidence. Truly. No doubt the argument will rumble on for the end of King's life, but that's just people who haven't read the book. Read it and you'll see that this was probably conceptualized years before, as King has said time and time again.
What's Good?
  • The main characters are great and solid. King's characters of late have lacked something. I'm not sure what. But this epic tale of good pitted against evil has to have some power players. You get that in Dale Barbie and Big Jim Rennie. While some of the things that come out of their mouth are ludicrous, you have one really scary mofo in Big Jim Rennie and one humble "cowboy" in Barbie.
  • The political tension. It's apparent that King was putting the finishing touches (or actually writing it) during the McCain-Obama presidential election. I saw sides of people during that year that displayed the ugliest of human nature - on both sides of the political fence. People declared people homos, racists, sexists, unitelligent and all of this completely unwarranted. Now imagine being caught in that hell day in and day out? That's what you've got. And King displays that very, very well. Better now than he ever has.
  • Truly visceral scenes. I have no problem with violence and bloody gore. I'm no prude. However, there are scenes in this book (a rape scene and the aftermath come to mind) that had be ungodly uncomfortable. It was as if Brian Keene had stepped in for a moment and tackled the brutality and gore on King's behalf. There are numerous scenes of true human horror that had be not wanting to go on. I think that's a testament to the writing.

What's not so good? Sadly, this list is a bit longer.

  • The dialogue. Most of it's solid enough, but then you've got these scenes that feel out of place because of the cheesy dialogue. When it's bad it's abyssmal. We're talking SyFy original movie bad. If the book had been going that direction that would be cool ( I love B-movies and SyFy). Trouble is, this book isn't going that direction and that's a problem.
  • Too many plotlines. I know this sounds nitpicky - look at The Stand, for chrissakes - but this was a problem in this particular book. It reads quick enough, but it's got so many unnecessary scenes and characters that I rolled my eyes. As reading I kept plunging ahead 'cause I knew that some of those little things would come back in the end. They never did, and I felt I'd been jipped. Interestingly enough, some of those unnecessary scenes are some of the best written ones.
  • The payoff. This was the biggest disappointment to me! In a novel like this you've got to have a solid payoff. We want to know what the Dome is and where the hell it came from. I'm not going to spoil it here for you. What I will say is this: the payoff happens and passes like a quick little joke. I wanted to see that fleshed out. After all, we've got a story about A DOME, and we want to know what the point of it all is. Rather, it took something grizzly and "Lord of the Flies"-esque and cheapens it into a bad "Twilight Zone" episode.

All in all, I give it 3.5 stars. It's not a bad read by any means. It's good. If you're a King fan you'll love it. If you're not a King fan, you'll probably not love it so much, as it does read like oldschool King moreso than the King of late. (King fans, you'll get a few Easter Eggs here and there)

Until we meet again...happy reading.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Recession-Proof Holiday Gifts Just For YOU!

Merry Christmas! Happy Solstice! Happy Hannukah! Krazy Kwanza!
Whatever it is you celebrate one thing is certain: this holiday's gift giving is going to be tight. You are absolutely correct. So how do you appease your economical stance and still get something groovy and nifty to give. Well here's how:
From your friendly author, Eric Mays, I'm doing a holiday gift thing. If you haven't read "Naked Metamorphosis" then pick up a copy for yourself and/or someone you love. If you've read it, then you know it's good. Give it as a gift. Or, if you hated it, give it to somebody you hate and the joke's on them! Either way, you win.
In the words of the late Billy Mays (no relation), "But wait, there's more!"
This is the gift that gives back. When you purchase a copy of Naked Metamorphosis on Amazon, email me and let me know ( When you do that I will write a story just for you. It'll be a Shakespearean short story using you as the character. Don't want that? Send me another person and I'll do the same. The story will employ Shakespearean devices, your characters lineage, and your method of demise. Oh yeah! Suck on that English 101 teacher!!
I'll mail this to you - snail mail, not email - and you'll have a hard copy story you can always cherish.
So, to repeat:
1.) Naked Metamorphosis makes a great gift!
2.) You get a freebie gift personalized for you!
3.) You'll get a warm fuzzy feeling in the cockles of your heart knowing that you're supporting an independent!

Act now! This offer is only good until December 18th.

Go, go, go...

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

And the reviews just keep on coming...

I've been relieved that people have been receptive to "Naked Metamorphosis". There was a distinct part of me that feared someone would accuse me of literary snobbery (and I kinda guess there's still time for that to happen). I'm truly blessed that there has been favorable and positive feedback to the book.

Kevin Shamel, author of Rotten Little Animals, a book that I reviewed here a month back, reviewed Naked Metamorphosis yesterday. And his review nearly made me cry with joy. Y'see there are some hidden jokes within the text. You don't have to get them to not enjoy it, but if you do get them, well, you win the "Where's Waldo Prize Pack". You can visit Kevin at his website: He's a wonderful author and definitely going places.

Here's his review:
It’s Hamlet. Sort of.
It’s brilliant, really.
Eric Mays has rewritten Hamlet into a bizarro world of not quite right and completely perfect. The book starts almost like Hamlet begins. It ends almost like Hamlet ends. Between beginning and end is a gorgeous, hilarious, bizarro ride through a deranged play within a play within a play. The Bard would roll over in his grave only for the chance of bumping into Kafka; both have been resurrected and mixed up with a dash of literary magic.
I admit that it took me a while to read this book. It’s not necessarily a quick read. You have to pay attention to get all the in-jokes, wordplay, and ideas packed inside. It’s really a lot like Hamlet. But it’s not a difficult read. Mays’ style is flowing. His writing is tight and right. I couldn’t put it down once I hit the middle of it.Fans of Shakespeare, Kafka, Alfred Lunt (you have to know what you’re looking for), a surprise famous author, and Bizarro will love this book. Order now!!.
It’s funny, insightful, interesting, crazy, fun, and the ending is PERFECT.
Bravo to Eric Mays. I can’t wait to see what he does next. Whatever it is, I’ll be he shines

Also, Withersin Magazine posted their full review today. Actually, at Kevin's suggestion I became a fan of Withersin Magazine, and definitely think you should too. It's good, solid stuff. And it seems to be run by one of the coolest groups around.
Here's what they said:
Eraserhead, run by popular Bizarro author Carlton Mellick III and his wife Rose O’ Keefe, has made a very bold choice with Eric Mays’ Naked Metamorphosis , the kind of choice that comes as a surprise and a relief. For one of the biggest arbiters of Bizarro taste to take this risk is quite admirable, as this book will not conform to people’s definition of Bizarro. It is one of those instances of quiet Bizarro, taking more of its influences from classic literature and pure, Kafkaesque absurdism rather than from cult cinema, comics or genre fiction. In this respect, Naked Metamorphosis is very distinctive.

Naked Metamorphosis tells the story of Hamlet from Horatio’s perspective. Horatio is an ideal existential and Bizarro hero, a person whose purpose on Earth is to gain answers and order from a chaotic world. Bizarro heroes have the choice of raging against the madness around them or becoming part of it, embracing the chaos and inviting it into their lives. Horatio fights hard for his sanity, which is taxed by the weird behavior of the rest of the play’s cast (especially constant irritant Hamlet) and encounters with Puck, a being generally accepted as an embodiment of the world’s chaos. On account of this chaos, Horatio needs a Horatio of his own, courtier Osric. An often hilarious tale of one man’s quest for sense in a world that refuses to provide any. Stoppardian, whimsical and subtle in its transgressions, this is a book for Shakespeare buffs and Bizarro readers looking for a lighter more literary brand of Bizarro. If you’re a Bizarro fan and somebody says Bizarro is brainless, filthy and lame, give them a copy of this.

Thanks kids...until we meet again.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

The Amazing Jordan Krall

Jordan Krall's a cool dude. His writing is like a twisted Elmore Leonard (he even writes westerns and mystery pulp) and his humor is dark. I remember reading "Squid Pulp Blues" and loving it. In fact, it's one of a few that I've actually read four times. Then I got my hands on "Fistful of Feet", which is Jordan's homage to the spaghetti western. It's wonderful! I posted a review of it a few days ago.
Needless to say, I'm a fan! So, imagine my wonderment when I open up my amazon page and see a review on "Naked Metamorphosis" by the man, himself. WOW! Wherever you are, whatever you're're getting a big hug from me. Thanks, man!

Find it here:

Or read it here:
When I first heard about a Shakespearean bizarro book, I was like "Uggghhh..." because I just wasn't into that old English stuff. But I heard that it was crossed with Kafka but still, I wasn't really a huge fan of Shakespeare and so I was reluctant to check it out considering how little time I have to read new books.
But then I had the pleasure to attend a reading by the author at this year's Bizarro Convention. After that, I was sold. His performance was animated and funny, capturing the characters perfectly and I'm a guy who usually finds author readings a bit boring. So the fact that I enjoyed it says a lot about the his talent at storytelling.
First of all, the book is straight out hilarious. I'm sure I didn't get all of the in-jokes about Shakespeare but the ones I did get are funny and the dialogue is quick, witty, and clever. I'm not easily amused when it comes to comedy in a book but this one amused me a lot and I found myself shaking my head many times (in a good way).
Second, the writing is excellent. There was no awkwardness to the prose or bumps in the road that you see from many new authors. Despite this being the debut work of the author, you didn't get that feeling.
Third, the ideas presented are both bizarre and entertaining which is a hard thing to accomplish. There is actually a "twist" that I will not spoil but I found it to be an excellent close to the novella. It was something that crossed my mind during the middle of the book but the fact that it actually happened made me wonder if the author was reading my mind, haha! The Shakespeare thing is the obvious angle of the book but believe me, even if you hated reading it in school, don't let that turn you off. THIS is what Shakespeare should sound like. It's anachronistic, weird, funny, and fast moving.
I supposed my one criticism is the length. Though the whole plot is played out well, I think there are certain aspects that could've been expanded. I don't really want to mention them specifically (don't won't to spoil it) but if you read it you'll probably agree.
But let me put it this way. I would love to read five more books set in this "world"... it's that entertaining. It's a quick read, too, so those with tight schedules don't have to worry. I imagine that even if you didn't love it as much as I did, you wouldn't feel like you've wasted your time.
So basically, if you like both Shakespeare and Kafka, or you dislike Shakespeare but you like funny and weird stories, you should check this out. It would also make good stocking stuffers for fans of Shakespeare, Kafka, or weird/bizarro fans in general.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

You Morbid Westphal

The concept of “You Morbid Westphal” shouldn’t have worked at all! There’s no way it was supposed to. I’ve seen some experimental fiction like this before and watched as it plummeted into the abyss face-first leaving irate readers in its wake. This is supposed to be that sort of book…
…but it succeeds…beautifully.
For starters, the title You Morbid Westphal is setting up the three main characters. You…as in you…yes, you, Morbid, a malicious little beastie, and Westphal, who’s just trying to get through the graveyard shift at the hospital you’re in. These are the three main characters and they share the piece in circular stories. The “you” portions of the book read like a “Choose-Your-Own-Adventure” book…placing you right in the action. You’re responsible for birthing Morbid. You’re not going to have a very good night. You’re experiencing it as it unfolds. This style is not my typical fare, but I was captivated by it. I loved seeing what havoc was unfurling around my world. Meanwhile you get the other two stories (obviously connected). One follows Morbid as he indulges his macabre whims and the coke-addled Westphal. Should you find yourself in a hospital, pray it isn’t this one. In fact, I’m not above the cliché…I’ll say it: You Morbid Westphal does for hospitals what Jaws did for beach getaways!
Steven Rage is a masterful storyteller. He weaves a world that his painted in black and white hues, where anything can happen (and often does), and his brutally visceral. I realize that this is a horror tale…I guess you could call it that. It’s got more emotion than your typical horror fare. I felt the emotional rollercoaster travel from repulsed to humored to moved and back again. And the end…well, I’m not the one to spill the beans, but rest assured, you’ll not know what is in store for “You” until you reach the final pages.
My biggest complaint with the book was the length. I craved more, which is a wonderful thing, and wanted to see more of the story fleshed out. I make no bones about it…I’m a longer fiction type person. But I never dismiss a solid story, and this was certainly that. The fact that I wanted more should attest to the quality.
Too, at first I was a little confused with the circular-style storytelling. It’s a three ring circus…not a crazy train that has too many clashing storylines…but in the beginning it is a little confusing.** Please keep reading, though. In the end it’s worth it all and Steven Rage does bring it together nicely.
If you like your horror visceral pick this up. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Fistful of Feet

So, you either like Jordan Krall or you don't, just like you either like Nora Roberts or you don't. Jordan Krall is not Nora Roberts. And, it's a real shame that he's not topping the bestseller's list because he's an outstanding writer. Outstanding. What I love the most, though, is the dedication, the homages, Jordan Krall pays towards certain genres. Squid Pulp Blues was for noir; Fistful of Feet is Krall's spaghetti western. Just like the spaghetti westerns we all know and love, there are good guys and bad guys (and often times good bad guys and bad good guys). All the characters are black and white; the violence is gritty; the whorehouse is hot; and everybody seems out to get everyone else. Now take that western landscape and twist it with Lovecraftian imagery and you've got a great landscape for this western to play out. Screwhouse, Nevada is as gritty as "Deadwood", where they'll shoot you for conning men out of poker, and blow your legs out with dynamite. Known for it's legendary brothel (which is easily a sampling of every "Real Sex" episode HBO has ever shown...if it's a twisted fetish, you can get it here), the working ladies are just as tough as the cowboys who visit them. The Eastwood-like stranger appears as one Calamaro from New Jersey. He's exactly what you'd expect in your "hero". And once he arrives in town, all the characters come out of the woodwork - a local gang dead set on making life tough for the stranger, bizarro whores, a prissy con man, a determined-to-get-to-California whore, the sheriff, a drug-peddling general store man, a gang looking for Confederate gold, and the very randy mayor. And if that wasn't enough, there's a serial killer on the loose, carving up local girls. And, of course, there's Indians. Confused? That's the book's one major flaw. There are so many characters introduced and so many plotlines going at once, it tends to get a little confusing. With any other writer this would be a problem. With Jordan Krall, it's not. Jordan knows where the action's going...he knows he's taking the reader on a wild trip...we're confused, but he's going to wrap it up in the end with a nice bow. I've read Piecemeal June and Squid Pulp Blues. Fistful of Feet is, in my opinion, his best. Congrats, Jordan Krall, you've done it again.