Nothing Lasts Forever Review

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You take his family. He’ll take your life.

 

Nothing Lasts Forever Review

Written By Roderick Thorp

Year Published: 1979

Genre: Action/Drama

Page Number: 188

Wrong Spoilers Right Time

Since you’re all likely into the post-holiday blues by now, let’s try and continue that theme with the novel that inspired the  beloved holiday classic, “Die Hard.” Yes, you heard right, the book “Nothing Last Forever” was eventually adapted into “Die Hard”.  While the basic plots are the same there are some differences. In “Nothing Last Forever” Joe Leland (not John McClain) elderly former cop, turned private detective, turned private security consultant goes to Los Angeles to visit his daughter Holly Genaro while she attends her office Christmas party at the Klaxxon oil company along with her children. While the employees celebrate the year especially their multimillion-dollar bridge deal with Chile, a ruthless gang of German terrorists take over the building leaving only Joe free. He decides to put his lifetime of skills to work and defeat the terrorists. While the big points are the same in both the book and movie, almost everything else is different.

While it has a smaller body count and better writing than most of its contemporaries “Die Hard” is an action movie thru and thru. “Nothing Lasts Forever” however, is a hardboiled detective story with a lot of action; this is the biggest change between the two. While John McClain is frequently pissed off in “Die Hard” he’s a ray of sunshine next to Joe Leland. Like any hardass old ex-cop worth his fedora, Joe has very little nice to say about anything. Joe’s not in L.A. for more than ten minutes before he starts saying that the city looks like a shaved cat and he pegs Holly’s boss and co-workers as assho#$s soon after he meets them (he right of course, but that doesn’t make him sound any less bitter). The grim tone lasts during the entire book and is especially prevalent at the end.

Like any hardass old ex-cop worth his fedora, Joe has very little nice to say about anything. Joe’s not in L.A. for more than ten minutes before he starts saying that the city looks like a shaved cat and he pegs Holly’s boss and co-workers as assho#$s soon after he meets them (he right of course, but that doesn’t make him sound any less bitter). The grim tone lasts during the entire book and is especially prevalent at the end.

The novel is told entirely from Joe’s viewpoint and this leads to big character changes. While “Die Hard” has an excellent cast of supporting characters, “Nothing Lasts Forever” saves all its characterization for the main lead and the main villain. This changes to the hero’s and villains are what help keep the book unique. In “Die Hard” the so-called terrorists were actually just a band of thieves while in “Nothing Lasts Forever” the terrorists are exactly what they seem. In “Die Hard” the contrast is between the high-class European thieves and their blue collar American enemy while in “Nothing Lasts Forever” the battle is very much age vs. youth.

In “Die Hard” the so-called terrorists were actually just a band of thieves while in “Nothing Lasts Forever” the terrorists are exactly what they seem. In “Die Hard” the contrast is between the high-class European thieves and their blue collar American enemy while in “Nothing Lasts Forever” the battle is very much age vs. youth.

While it is mentioned once that the terrorist leader Anton Gruber comes from a wealthy background what is more often remarked on is that some of the terrorists are barely older than teenagers in contrast to the sixty-year-old Joe Leland. The book is much darker due to this change especially since half the terrorists are women. This is one of the best changes as it makes the rank and file terrorists much more unique and memorable.

What was especially surprising to me was the lack of overt politics in the book. It’s not that politics are totally absent from the book but for a book published during the cold war it’s surprising to see nothing about communism or the Soviet Union. This is even more surprising given that Anton Gruber is said to have begun his career in crime with the German Marxist Baader-Meinhof gang.

I’m torn on this, while I’m no fan of political rants it would have been interesting to add another difference between Joe and the terrorists especially since the ending reveals them to be quite justified. While I am happy the main villain got more back-story Anton Gruber simply can’t compare to Alan Rickman’s utterly superb turn as Hans Gruber. But  villains are nothing without an interesting hero to go against and Joe Leland brings a lot to the table

Joe Leland first appeared in “Thorp’s previous novel “The Detective.” Fortunately, the events of “The Detective” are recapped in the begging of the book and don’t effect the events of the book except by explaining how the main character’s background. Joe Leland is a former WW2 fighter pilot, turned police detective, turned private detective, turned security consultant. He gained fame from solving a controversial case during his police years, only to find out many years later a private detective that he arrested the wrong man. While this case also revealed massive amounts of municipal fraud, the ones responsible escaped punishment.

All this plus the divorce and later death of his wife along with his estrangement from his daughter and grandchildren have left him with a very cynical and world-weary mindset. All this trauma and experience makes Joe a man who thinks a lot but says little. While this allows a huge incite into what Joe’s history and thought process, it also has a downside.

This is one of the few novels where I feel like we learn too much about a character. Joe will flashback: to the end of his marriage, the history of his daughter, security conferences, and even old romances. While everything we learn is interesting and informative, sometimes it comes out of nowhere and disrupts the story. Fortunately, these little asides never come in the middle of anything and aren’t very long.

Joe’s checkered past also make’s him a ruthless mofo during the course of the book. Due to his security consulting experience Joe is familiar with Gruber’s past and he absolutely despises him and all his followers. He’s much more brutal in dispatching them, even to the point where he has one at gun point and just because he’s suspects they young terrorist is about to go on a righteous rant Joe shoots him in the neck and tosses his body off the roof. Joe’s kill’em all attitude is explained by his conflict fueled past making him a more violent person and his fear that if the police lay siege to the building his loved ones will be collateral damage. While Joe isn’t as likable a character as John McClain he’s definitely entertaining and you’ll be rooting for him by the end. This ruthless attitude culminates in a massively different ending for the book.

While “Die Hard” is a simple tale of a lone hero struggling against murderous thieves and an incompetent police department “Nothing Lasts Forever” in true noir style is much more gray in its morals. I was defiantly a fan of this change as it’s both interesting and great discussion material. It’s often brought up that Joe may be doing more harm than good in fighting the terrorists and the ending brings that into focus.

On route to their final showdown, Gruber tells Joe that his gangs’ plan was to take the tower hostage due to the bridge being a cover for selling arms to the murderous, U.S backed Chilean government (Google Augusto Pinochet if you want to know more about that). They planned to execute the C.E.O as an example to other corporations then take the six million dollars in the company vault and dump it out the windows returning it to the people. After this, they would escape with no deaths but a heartless corporate snake. While it’s possible that Gruber is lying, later evidence reveals that the bridge was a front and the executives, including Holly were in on the whole thing.

Speaking of Holly she doesn’t fare nearly as well as John McClain’s wife, after Joe and Gruber’s climatic showdown a mortally wounded Gruber grabs Holly by her new watch and they both topple out an open window to their deaths. Joe then mercilessly executes the surviving terrorists and dumps the money out the window anyway. While this end was absolutely crushing it fit with the rest of the book and further called Joe’s actions into question. While it’s certainly not as fun as “Die Hards” ending it’s definitely more interesting.

While “Die Hard” is an essential action classic that should be watched by everyone who is even marginally interested in good action, the book is quite different. Anyone going into the book expecting the same story as the movie will be very disappointed, especially by the very different tone. However, if you’re a fan of complex noir stories (which I am) you’ll definitely find something to like about “Nothing Last Forever”

F.A.Q’s

Did I like the book: Yes

Would I read it again: Yes

Would I buy it: Yes

Two fish run into an underwater concrete wall what do they say: Dam

 

Welcome To Night Vale Review

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Mostly Paper, Partial Words

 

Welcome To Night Vale

Authors: Joseph Fink & Jeffrey Cranor

Year Published 2015

Genre: Comedy/Drama/Horror

All Hail Spoilers Worship and Submit

           

There is a town, a small town in the desert not unlike your own. It’s a town where the Sun is hot, the Moon is beautiful and strange lights pass overhead in the night as we pretend to sleep. This is the town of Night Vale, a town just like yours, or maybe just more like yours than you’d care to admit.

All right so maybe Night Vale isn’t much like your town. In our world (I’m assuming you live in the same world as me), “Welcome to Night Vale” started as Comedy/Surreal horror podcast, which was presented as the community radio show from the surreal town of Night Vale. A town where the bizarre happens so much, it’s just a part of regular life. If you’re interested in a story podcast that perfectly balances surreal horror and hilarious absurdity, you should give “Welcome to Night Vale” a listen. Chronologically the book, “Welcome To Night Vale” takes place just before episode seventy-six, so everyone who’s interested should go and get caught up. Don’t worry I’ll just wait here.

All right, now that we’re all on the same page, was that awesome or what? For those of you who didn’t take the time to listen to a mere seventy-five episodes (shame on you), “Welcome to Night Vale” can best be described as the twisted love child of “News from Lake Wobegon” and “The Twilight Zone.” Night Vale is in all respects a standard small town. Like all small towns, they’re concerned with P.T.A meetings, mayoral elections and the fear that large corporations might change their way of life. The only difference is that in Night Vale the head of the P.T.A is an ominous and mighty glow cloud (ALL HAIL THE GLOW CLOUD), the mayoral candidates are a literal five-headed dragon and the faceless old woman who secretly lives in your house (yes, your house) and the encroaching corporation isn’t Wal-Mart, but StrexCorp Synernists Inc. a sinister cult devoted to a terrifying smiling God (Believe in a Smiling God). Fortunately, most of that stuff isn’t important in the context of the book.

The book “Welcome to Night Vale” focuses on two specific citizens of Night Vale and how the comfortable routine weirdness of their lives is suddenly changed into uncomfortable new weirdness. One of our main characters is Jackie Fierro the nineteen-year-old owner and proprietor of the local Night Vale pawnshop. Jackie has been nineteen for as long as she can remember (has it been years or centuries) and she has always worked at the pawn show. This familiar routine is shattered when a mysterious man in a tan jacket (yes that man, in that tan jacket) pawns a slip of paper with the words King City written on it. Now, no matter what she does that slip of paper always ends up back in Jackie’s hand. On the other side of town, office worker and single mother Diane Crayton struggles to raise her fifteen-year-old son, Josh by herself. Josh is at that awkward time in his life when kids can be a real handful. It also doesn’t help that Josh is a shape shifter and is starting to ask questions about his father. After a series of hilarious misadventures and terrifying existential terror, both women team up to solve their small town problems.

When I was growing up my mom would always listen to the radio show “A Prairie Home Companion” as we drove home from school. I also loved watching the twilight zone on the Sci-Fi channel. So it should be no surprise that when I heard that there was a podcast that combined these two I was all over it like a five-headed dragon on five pigs. When I heard that there was going to be a Night Vale book, I did wonder if the shows creepy humor would successfully survive the journey into the realm of print. I’m happy to say that both the scares and the laughs are here. But I’m even happier to say that they weren’t even my favorite part.

While I was prepared to scream and laugh when I read “Welcome to Night Vale”, I was not prepared to care. Yes, believe it not I became sincerely invested in our two main characters. I felt Jackie’s fear over being uprooted from her comfortable routine and thrust into the unknown because I’ve felt that. I also felt Diane’s difficulty in raising a son on her own, even though I haven’t felt anything like that before because the writing was good enough for me to step into her shoes. If I can impress one thing on you, it’s that it’s very hard to have relatable, interesting and sympathetic characters in the book as f and absurd as this one.  “Welcome to Night Vale” somehow pulls it off. One of my favorite parts is when Diane is making excuses to Josh for her absence and she tells him that she was on a date with Dawn her co-worker. Josh mishears Dawn as Don and his error isn’t corrected until long after the conversation has ended. Who hasn’t seen (or participated in) a mother and son having two separate conversations without even knowing it? That one part was one of many that really hit home for me.rightening

Sadly, “Welcome to Night Vale” isn’t perfect. While I didn’t have too much trouble, the weird wordplay, and constant bizarre shifts in the story will undoubtedly leave many people lost and wondering what the heck just happened. There is also the matter of the plot, which, in short, is Jackie and Diane try to get to King City because they think the answers to their questions are there. Now it takes them awhile to get to King City, where the climax happens, and before they get there, it seems like they’re just spinning their wheels. Not only does it take a while for both Jackie and Diane to realize they’re after the same thing, but also their search mostly involves them looking for something, then running into a dead end. Now, while this is realistic it also gets a little frustrating after a while, but maybe that was the point. Fortunately, the search itself contains a ton of interesting moments. One of my favorites is when Jackie and Diane go to the offices of the local newspaper, to talk to hatchet-obsessed editor Leann Hart about articles she wrote about King City. After a strange conversation (aren’t they all) Jackie gets fed up and just asks if Leann can put them in touch with anyone who lives in King City.  Leann responds, “Oh no, I never actually went there or talked to anyone there. I’m a reporter, not a snoop.” Ladies and gentlemen, journalism in a nutshell.

“Welcome to Night Vale” is an interesting specimen. Not only is it the first book based on a podcast (that I know of), but it’s also a surreal horror comedy where the best part, at least for me, was the characters. While anyone who listens to the podcast will obviously want to pick this one up, I’m also going to recommend it to anyone who hasn’t listened to the podcast and is interested in reading a blend of scary, funny and touching. While it might confuse some, a quick visit to Wikipedia will let you know the basic outline of the show. If you’re tired of your dull lives, then why not drop everything, abandon your home and drive on over to Night Vale? After all, you’re only weird once. ( The previous statement may not be true.)

 

 

F.A.Q’s

Did I like the book: Yes

Would I read it again: Yes

Would I buy it: Yes

Tell a joke about eating people: Two cannibals are eating a clown. One looks to the other and says, “Does this taste funny to you”

 

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Now is not the time to Panic, The time to Panic was much earlier, but you can always make up for lost time.

 

 

The New Weird Review

 

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To any aspiring writers: this is how you get my attention

Book Review: The New Weird Anthology

Compilation of Many Authors

Published: 2008

Genre: Weird Fiction

Page Count: 414

You are now entering the Spoiler Zone

       The old saying “that normal is just a setting on a washing machine” has always helped guide my reading choices. So naturally when I saw a wonderful looking anthology called “The New Weird” I had to check it out. Going in I was oblivious to the fact that “The New Weird” wasn’t just the book’s title, but also the name of the literary movement that all the stories inside either belong to or helped inspire.

For those of you interested the book begins with a short essay by one of the books editors about the origins and effects of “The New Weird” along with several essays and discussions about the scene near the end of the book. While this was helpful I’m personally not very invested in any in-depth discussions about any scene or genre. This isn’t due to lack of interest but merely due to the fact that specifically detailing what a particular genre is “supposed” to be, tends to create a host of obnoxious detractors who decry anything that steps outside the borders as heresy. This, in turn, leads to everyone imitating each other and choking any creativity faster than a Lego’s choke a toddler. What were helpful, were the indexes of recommended authors and books, these are a godsend for anyone looking for more stories by the new author they found thru”The New Weird”.

With that said here are the basic facts about “The New Weird”: These are strange stories that take place in impossible places with bizarre characters, realism and normal behavior take a back seat to creativity and imagination and most finally sex, violence, and any other taboo subject aren’t simply allowed, they’re encouraged. Now let’s get to the stories themselves. Do to the large amount of stories I will cover the ones I think represent the best and worst of “The New Weird”.

The Braining of Mother Lamprey” by Simon D. Ings: If the some story’s can be expanded on then “The Braining of Mother Lamprey” should be expanded on. Ings creates a very interesting world here. A world where magic has supplanted technology and life has become more powerful than death. For example, a woman’s leg is severed late in the story and it actually comes to life soon afterward. It even grows feathers claws and a mouth, as it grows becomes a new animal. The background universe is extremely interesting (if set up a little poorly) and compliments the story. That story involves a magical apprentice getting dragged into a magical murder conspiracy while trying to get some time alone with his girlfriend. “The Braining of Mother Lamprey” is both bizarre and fun to read with characters you can relate to and an ending twist you’ll never see coming. This was one of my favorite stories in the book and I would definitely by a book in this setting.

The Neglected Garden” by Kathe Koja: This is one of the shorter and simpler stories in the book. It’s about a man who tries to breaks up with his girlfriend while she wants to keep the relationship going. In a bizarre turn, he finds her stuck in the back garden, slowly transforming into a strange plant. At first he panics and shows concern but in one of the most bizarre reactions in the book (and that’s saying a lot) he decides that this is just her way of making trouble for him, so he decides to just ignore her. This story wasn’t very interesting to me, it was short enough not to become annoying but way too short for any story to develop. “The Neglected Garden” never really gets going and you won’t miss anything by skipping it.

Jack” by China Mieville: Before I started “The New Weird” I heard That China Mieville was an author who deserved attention and after reading “Jack” I know why. “Jack” takes place in a bizarre otherworldly city (a favorite of the New Weird in general and Mieville in particular) called New Crobuzon. Our narrator tells the story of the rise and fall of Jack-half-a-prayer, who after being subjected to a bizarre surgical punishment called remaking, became a famous thief and hero to the New Crobuzons underclass. This story had me hooked from the first page, its setting was interesting, its characters were appealing and its premise was weird enough to draw me in and normal enough to be easily read. Even the ending which in hindsight, should have been totally predictable, caught me by surprise due to how engrossed I was with the story. “Jack” gets a big recommendation from me, Read it and spread the word.

Watson’s Boy” by Brian Evenson: This was definitely my least favorite of all the stories. The story revolves around a young man (the titular Watsons boy) who along with his strange father and invalid mother is trapped in a seemingly endless set of gloomy intersecting hallways. Aside from the family’s rooms and their shared kitchen, every door is locked despite the keys that are hung up on every interest. The young man spends his days trying to map the hallways and collecting keys despite knowing his task is almost certainly impossible. That’s about it for the plot, despite being one of the longer stories we never get any answers or any real insight into who these characters are or why they’re here. I certainly don’t expect all the answers from any of these stories because A, they’re short stories and B. they’re weird fiction, where strange triumphs over sense but at least give me some small view into what makes these characters tick. If “Watsons Boy” reminded me of anything it’s a half-finished Franz Kafka novel, only not as good. We have all the bleak absurdity that Kafka was famous for but none of the personal insight or deeper meaning. “Watsons Boy” is either an unfinished novel or an overlong short story. Whichever it is, I recommend you just skip it.

“The New Weird” was a bit frustrating for me. While there were some superb stories by excellent writers, there were others that just did nothing for me at all. Still, I don’t regret reading it and I would recommend it to anyone interested in weird fiction. If you find this lovely little anthology in your local library go ahead and give it a look.

 

 

F.A.Q’s

Did I like the book: Yes

Would I read it again: Yes

Would I buy it: No

Any tips for celebrating Columbus day: I always try to go to India to celebrate but for some reason, I always end up in the wrong place