Saturday, June 13, 2009

Yesterday I finished Black Gangster by Donald Goines.

Goines is one of the more famous early African American authors writing about street life. Black Gangster is a very pulpy story about the rise and inevitable fall of young man trying to take over the gangs in Detroit, through organization, shake-downs and murder.

It's enjoyable in the pulp sense, but not something to read if you expect to learn much about the realities of the street. This novel feels more like a reflection of the movie version of gang life, through a more authentic lense since Goines himself lived his life in this context.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

I just finished Greymantle by John Morressy.

This is an early '80s era fantasy, similar to a lot of things I read when I was a kid. It's the second book in a trilogy, though it's a prequel to the first one, so maybe I should say it's the first book in the trilogy.

In any case, it's an OK read. Shorter than most modern fantasy books, which is a good thing, but with characters that are almost cardboard. The plot involves a baby with a destiny, saved by the good guys by swapping it with a dead one just before the bad guys try to kill it. He turns out to be the best fighter ever, as well as a darn nice guy, etc, etc, before returning to discover the bad guys and kill them all.

There are some twists and turns, as it turns out the bad guy is actually being manipulated by a group of other bad guys. And some of the plot is handled oddly. Characters are introduced, built up and then killed off screen with very little fanfare. The final confrontation between the hero and the guy who tried to kill him as a baby is very quick, and then things move on to the behind the scenes bad guys.

Maybe it would make more sense if I'd read the other first book in the trilogy, but I doubt I ever will.

Amazon Link: Greymantle

Monday, June 08, 2009

Today I finished Queen City Jazz by Kathleen Anne Goonan.

A post-apocalyptic book without the military as the featured bad guy - yay!

Actually, it's kind of post-post-apocalyptic, which is clever. It seems civilization got into trouble after broadcast medium (radio, TV) is eliminated due to some kind of extraterrestrial radiation. (I know that sounds stupid, but it's not really a heavy feature of the book, so it's best to just ignore it.) Afterwords, the world turns heavily to nanotechnology, which produces some seemingly Utopian cities and then leads to "Information Wars" and nanotech plagues.

The book is confusing (and possibly confused) in places - for example, is Norleans a good place or a bad place? Are the plagues actually helpful or not? - but there are lots of interesting images and ideas once the heroine travels from her countryside community (based on the Shaker ideals) to one of the nanotech infested cities. She turns out to be kind of a chosen one/sacrifice, (of course) but doesn't quite want to go along with others plans for her as she unravels the mystery of why the city is the way it is.

Interesting book, and maybe some of my questions will be answered in the sequels.

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Last night, we saw the new Star Trek movie, Star Trek.

Based on the trailers, I didn't know if I would enjoy this version, but I did. It continues in the trend that the more action oriented Star Trek movies are the better ones. This new re-boot of the series is almost all action, with just enough pauses to introduce new versions of the old characters.

There are tons of plot holes and stupid moments, but the quick pace of the movie, along with some decent jokes and acting, propels the movie along fast enough to gloss over the problems. And not everything was stupid. For example, the fact that the movie internally addresses the fact that it is a re-boot, was amusing and well done.

The real challenge will be if they can pull it off again - if this movie does well enough to lead to a twelfth film.