May 3

My reviews this month!

Today I am going to pick up Charlaine Harris’ new book Dead Reckoning, the newest in her Sookie Stackhouse series. I plan to devour it utterly, and also to meet Ms. Harris at her book signing, which is very exciting. One of the perks of living in the Center of the Universe is that I get to do stuff like that!

This month, I wrote three reviews over at Geek Speak Magazine, and so here are some teasers! You should definitely check out my stuff, but there are also some great articles as well hanging around waiting for people to look them up.

Limitless (Starring Bradley Cooper)

I am not going to spoil the ending, except to say that I suspect it was meant to be a “happy” one. But here’s the thing: Eddie isn’t a hero. Not under the influence, he’s a lazy procrastinator who uses people. On drugs he’s almost sociopathic in the way that he charms people into doing things for him, and gaming systems to his advantage. In fact, there is a subplot wherein he may have murdered someone during a blackout, and he is almost single-mindedly focused on weaseling his way out of it, while never expressing concern for the woman he might have murdered. So, while I was interested in what happened to Eddie, it would have been nice to see him actually redeem himself rather than just get a happy ending because he’s a special snowflake.

The other issue I take with a happy ending is this: there is a drug out there that has some of these effects. While it doesn’t make you a genius instantaneously, it does give you focus and drive and helps you study. It’s called Adderall and people cheat the system all the time for this drug. People who do not have ADD fake diagnoses to use it as a study aid on tests and get addicted. It’s not like this premise is all that farfetched, and the parallel was not lost on me. So while it’s great that a character might not have died from the movie-NZT version, helping him prosper? I am not a puritan, nor am I going undercover to find drug rings. But I do think it sends the message that abusing deadly narcotics will turn out just fine. Might I suggest the people who think so watch a little show called Intervention?

Despite my issues and attendant Cooper snark, I did enjoy this movie and do recommend it. It was at times funny and fantastical and kept me on the edge of my seat. It was also great to see Robert DeNiro in a something that doesn’t have him playing some campy role so he can really show off his acting chops. He was probably the best part of this movie: sometimes sinister, sometimes awesome. It was also interesting to see his character’s real intelligence and drive when compared to Eddie’s chemical-induced focus. I get that DeNiro was probably brought in to play a villain role or at least a foil, but I was rooting for him whenever he was at odds with Cooper’s character.

Zombie Economics: A Guide to Personal Finance

The first thing I noticed about this book was when I read it in public. When I was in Brooklyn, riding the L train with all the hipsters, inevitably I would catch people staring at the book. It was actually disconcerting a few times, as people strained their necks in order to read the back of the book across the subway car. In Midtown Manhattan on the 6 or the E trains, no one cared. They were too busy on their Blackberries and way too cool for zombies. (In Manhattan, if you’re not a vampire sucking the financial lifeblood, what good are you?) The moral? Read this book if you would like to fit in with the really cool kids.

The book itself is like a cross between a pop finance book and a choose-your-own-adventure book. Except here, the authors make all the choices for you in order to help illustrate their many points. The hero/ine (commonly known throughout the book as “You”) goes through a narrative in a zombie apocalypse and has to complete tasks before reaching the endgame. Each chapter uses the section of the story to illustrate the financial step “You” must take to become solvent. From building up your fortress to escaping traps, “You” go through adventures that make finance fun, or at least bearable.

The rest of the advice was excellent. In a world full of books on how to make “You” rich through shady/illegal schemes (Rich Dad, Poor Dad, I’m looking at you) or how if “You” just think real hard “You” can become a millionaire, this book was refreshingly honest and clear. In fact, I was hoping to read more about advanced savings like 401k plans or mutual funds. But there was little to no info beyond putting money into savings accounts (which is great for an emergency cushion, but not so great for a nest egg). I think that this goes back to the question of whom they are targeting. If it’s someone victimized by the current economy, then maybe they can’t really invest: savings really are the only real option.

Vampires: The Recent Undead

Starting with the first story, I knew that this was going to be a high quality collection. All of the pieces were outstanding. However, of the 25 stories, my favorite had to be “La Vampiresse” by Tanith Lee, which I reread a couple of times on the spot, the ending having such a twist I had to go back and determine which reality I wanted to accept or deny. I also liked Kelley Armstrong’s “Zen and the Art of Vampirism” as well as a story called “Vampires Anonymous” for the humor, as they were easily the funniest stories in the anthology. What I found interesting, given my total love of the Sookie Stackhous series, is that I was not in love with the Harris story “Dahlia Underground.” While it fills in some blanks for me, it’s pretty obvious that Harris is simply a weaker writer than many of her contemporaries. It doesn’t make her books less enjoyable (and I still love to read her work), it was just clear that her style is far fluffier than many other writers in the genre.

Something that stood out for me about this anthology is that it took me a long time to read, for some reason. I tend to be a fast reader, and when I like a book, it tends to go even faster. However, this anthology took weeks to read, which I did not anticipate. This may have been due to the quality of the stories. Light, fluffy fare is always easier to read, and many of these stories are dense and thoughtful. I found I was taking more time to process each story before I went on to the next. So, it does become a perfect reading medium if you have to take public transportation, or you need some good fiction across short time periods. I know there’s a bathroom joke that should be obligatory here, but I’ll refrain from giving that too much thought. Instead, I think you will be surprised at how this book becomes an ever-present part of that stack of books waiting to be finished.

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