#REVIEW: The Luminous Dead, by Caitlin Starling

So:

1) Read yesterday’s post.

2) Understand that I have finished the book and remain just as enthusiastic about its strong points.

3) Also understand that the issue described in that post does not get better, ever, so calibrate your expectations as needed.

The end.

On plot holes, and suspension of disbelief

This is emphatically not a review, because right now I’m less than halfway through this book, and I’m not going to actually type the title anywhere in this post or put it in the tags because I don’t particularly want this post to show up when people search for the book. A word of praise first: I started this last night in bed, at around 9:45 or so, and as of right now, just before 8 PM the next day on a day when I had to go to work, I’m 165 pages into it. I got home from work, went and got the book, and started reading. On a page-by-page and sentence-by-sentence level, this book that there’s a picture of on the right is a damn good read.

But here’s the thing: the book is set in the 2300s, roughly, far enough in The Future that there’s crazy technology: the caving suit the main character is wearing required elective surgery that rerouted her digestive system into the suit so that she could basically live in a closed ecosystem, just for example. There are two characters, the person in the Scary Cave and her handler, a disembodied voice Somewhere Out There. A whole lot of people who previously tried to explore this cave have died quite nastily. The book does paranoia and claustrophobia and Alone In The Dark very well, and as mysteries are unraveled as we go along it’s adding additional layers of palpable dread and creepy. In short, it does what it’s doing quite well.

And I turned to my wife on page six last night and said “This book had better give me a good reason at some point why there is a human being in a suit exploring this cave and not a drone,” and … well, nope. Now, there’s lots of book left, but in 2019 we can explore caves with drones. Especially the really dangerous and people-killy ones. I’m pretty certain that no matter what has happened to human civilization in the time between now and the events of this book– and it’s a very tight-focused book, so other than some hints about extrasolar colonization (the book does not take place on Earth) we really don’t have much of an idea of what regular human day-to-day life is like, but I am pretty sure we still have drones and robots. Probably even better ones than we have now! Why the hell would you risk even one human life, and way more than one person has died in this cave, to explore caves when you have robots you can send?

Ignore that detail, and this is a really compelling book. I’m gonna be insanely busy the next couple of days but this is gonna get read fast. There’s still lots of book left where my opinion might change, but the first 40% is good shit. Except for that one thing, and if you’re the type of person that That One Thing is gonna annoy, you probably shouldn’t even pick this up. Because, again: ignore that detail, and this is a really compelling book. With that detail, there’s no book at all, because the only reasonable way to explore this cave literally eliminates every single aspect of the plot and backstory as it’s been explained to us so far.

So, yeah, maybe don’t read this if that’s gonna be a problem.


The school year is officially one week old, and tomorrow is going to be a ten-hour day, and I haven’t worked a five-day week of any kind in a while and the first week of school is always hell and the first seven days are also hell and ten-hour days are hell and 140-degree days are hell and I’m so tired that I have crossed through tired and emerged on the other side, which is still tired but with more superlatives. It is deeply unlikely that there will be a post tomorrow, and Friday is my son’s birthday, and again I am very very sleepy, so do not panic if a few days elapse where you do not hear from me.

Which, in accordance with prophecy, means I will post every day, of course.

#Review: WANDERERS, by Chuck Wendig

Chuck Wendig’s Wanderers is one of those books that could have been very disappointing. To start, I have been waiting for this book for what seems like a very long time. I actually pre-ordered it, which I don’t do with books all that often– I am generally backlogged enough in my reading that even books that I’ve been looking forward to and whose authors I’m big fans of have to wait for a while for me to get to them. Not this one. I not only preordered it, I specifically timed the books I was reading before it so that I would be free and clear and able to start something new immediately when it showed up in my mailbox. So if it had been bad, there is a strong possibility that I might have cried. Actual book-nerd tears. It woulda been a problem.

Let’s not bury the lede any further: Wanderers is Wendig’s best book, and by a pretty large margin– and, again, remember that this is a guy who I am fond of and whose work has shown up in my end-of-year top 10 before. So this is way better than a bunch of books that I really liked. What’s fascinating about it is how different it is from all of Wendig’s other work. His previous work– which includes multiple Star Wars novels, books that have always sort of had a house style– has always been instantly recognizable: short sentences, present tense, visceral detail, and a certain disregard for strict grammar conventions in favor of impactful language. You can show me a single paragraph from any of Wendig’s previous books and I’d be able to tell you it was his. That recognizable.

Wanderers throws all that out the window. This book must have been a beast to write– not only is it markedly longer than any of his previous books (it’s probably close to twice as long as its closest competitor) but the style of the writing is completely different. I would never have guessed Wendig wrote this from a paragraph or even a chapter, although you certainly see his humor and his themes come through– it is, if this makes any sense, a Wendig book made up of nearly 800 not-very-Wendig pages.

That probably doesn’t make any sense.

So, the plot, and this will be spoiler-free, for the most part: the elevator pitch for this book is “What if Chuck Wendig wrote The Stand,” and those seven words were more than enough to earn my money. To be clear, The Stand is one of Stephen King’s two or three best books, and while I’ll need to read Wanderers a couple more times over the next decade or so to see if it lives up to that book’s very high standard, the comparison is not remotely unfair to either book. This book is about a plague, and the end of the world, and a presidential election, and white supremacists, and it’s about all of those things before we mention the titular Wanderers, people who are locked into their own bodies and sleepwalking … somewhere. The world doesn’t even start ending until like halfway through the book, and the omnipresent sense of dread and horror is thick enough to drag your fingers through, even before the book gets around to one of the scarier human villains I’ve read recently. The book is not stingy with its mysteries, and the way they unfold over the course of its somehow-still-fast-paced 780 pages is immensely satisfying.

I have read 74 books so far this year, and of those 74, 17 are on my shortlist for the end of the year. It’s been a good year for reading! But this is the first book that I’ve read and known beyond a shadow of a doubt that yeah, this one’s gonna be top three. You should read Wanderers, and you should start now.

Convention update

Unfortunately, due to the Ongoing Medical Disaster, which I’m considering renaming the Ongoing Medical Calamity because “calamity” is a more fun word than “disaster,” I have been forced to cancel my appearance at IndyPopCon the weekend of June 7th. It is not a good time to be leaving town right now, and I don’t see that changing in the next couple of weeks, plus I would have to take the 7th off from work and I can’t afford to take any additional days not related to the OMD.

So that leaves me with no con appearances currently scheduled between now and Kokomo-Con X in October, and two in a row cancelled. I’m considering seeing if InConJunction, which is over my birthday weekend, and Hall of Heroes Con in September still have spots available. Maybe one more summer con if I can find somewhere to go. Anywhere have something they’d like to suggest, ideally this summer and ideally within driving distance of northern Indiana?

In which I might have been wrong once four and a half years ago

You may be aware that four and a half Goddamn years ago I wrote a review of a stupid movie that I did not enjoy. That movie was called Snowpiercer. I’m not linking to the review, at least not in the text of this post; I’m sure it’ll show up at the bottom somewhere. That post has proven since then to be The Post That Will Not Die. There has been one– ONE day in the four and a half years since it was written that no one clicked on it. It is my second highest-traffic post of all time (it will cross 30,000 pageviews sometime this month) and it is the #1 Google result in the world for the phrase “Snowpiercer stupid.”

It’s been spiking again lately, going from 3-5 hits a day to 20-25 for the last couple of weeks, and whenever that happens I wonder why. This was a not-very-high-profile bad movie from six years ago, for Christ’s sake, and I don’t understand why people are still searching out bad reviews of it. Well, it turns out there’s news about a TV series, which … dandy. This is never going away.

And then I found this video in the comments on that post. And I have chosen to embrace its central thesis fully, and I officially take back everything I ever said about Snowpiercer, if and only if it turns out that it is true that it is a direct sequel to Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.

Yeah, that’s what I said.

Watch every second of this, please. Don’t watch Snowpiercer, but watch every second of this video about it: