Carpentry school – Week 2

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Wow, this regular schedule thing is taking some getting used to. I’m back on the caffeine, just so I can stay awake in class. It’s still a struggle to get to bed before midnight. My poor dog hates this – no sleeping in, alone for hours, no more lunch, walks in the dark.
We’re doing nothing but math in class now, which is my worst nightmare. I’d never gotten the hang of fractions, which has been both frustrating and embarrassing. I do use fractions sometimes in my work, and I kind of guestimate, which is ridiculous. So I am glad that I now know how to work with them, but also a bit annoyed that the Americans cling to their outdated Imperial system while the rest of the entire whole planet is Metric. And since Canada’s biggest trading partner is to the South, we are stuck in the twilight zone between the 2 systems. So we still do lbs and inches, as well as Celcius and kilometres. But fractions for measuring stuff is just plain dumb. Inches, feet and yards? Seriously, America? You’re holding us back.
I’m relieved that I am far from the worst math student in class, but frankly appalled that any one else could be worse at math than me. It has been my enemy since kindergarten. Well, that’s an exaggeration. It’s really just fractions I was stumped by. And I can’t hold a number in my head for very long. It’s too foreign a particle.
I’m looking forward to getting out of the classroom and into the shop. I bought a lot of tools and I want to use them!
Damn. Should have been in bed an hour ago. And still so much to do.

Sad dog.

Please don’t leave me alone all day.

Year in Review: Movies

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I watched way more movies than I read books this year. And sadly, I’d seen many of the movies before. Here is a brief overview of how I wasted my time in 2012:

Return of the Living Dead: I’ve seen it so many times, and love it more each time I watch it. I am also in love with the mortician, even though it is subtly implied that he is a Nazi.

Revenge of the Pink Panther: Peter Seller’s final real appearance as the moronic detective. Pretty fun.

Corky Romano: It’s from 2001, but it feels so 80’s. I quite like Chris Kattan in this.

The Mist: A pretty good adaptation, but I didn’t like the altered ending. I know Stephen King loved it, but he hated Kubrick’s The Shining, so his opinion is irrelevant.

An American Werewolf in London: I’ve seen it a bunch of times. And I will see it many more times. The best werewolf film ever.

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy: Grim, but fascinating.

The Woman in Black: Daniel Radcliffe’s grown-up role. Not bad, with some creepy moments. Not worth buying though.

Ghost: My brother’s girlfriend bought it for him so I was kinda forced to watch it. I don’t hate it.

Tintin: Truly amazing animation, and an entertaining story.

The Incredibles: I love this film.

Chronicle: I was really impressed by this one. What would happen if high school kids got super powers? What if one was an outcast and from an abusive home?

Cowboys and Aliens: I watched this twice. Once was enough. Not terrible, and the cast and visuals were great, but I wasn’t blown away by it.

The Thing (prequel): Fairly faithful to the original, but it TRULY did not need to be made. It adds nothing, has some glaring errors, and it absolutely cannot capture the tension and brilliance of the original. Not bad, but utterly pointless.

Green Lantern: I don’t know why I watched this twice. I do like Mark Strong though. A lot.

Bad Teacher: I was on a plane. There weren’t many choices.

John Carter: Pretty cool, even though it bombed. Poorly marketed. Cool fact: I worked on a film with Taylor Kitsch later in the summer after seeing this.

Crazy, Stupid, Love: I am deeply in love with Steve Carell. I watched four movies starring him in 2012.

Coriolanus: A faithful production of the Shakespeare play. Tons of intensity from lovely Ralph Fiennes.

Evil Dead 2: My favourite film ever. I was introducing this to some people who had never seen it. They didn’t get the awesomeness. I feel very sad for them.

The Marsupials: The Howling III: Oh my god. What the HELL did I just watch.

Silver Bullet: Yay werewolves! Everett McGill is a creepy man.

Re-Animator: This probably ties with Evil Dead 2 as my favourite film, actually. I was showing it to some people because we were about to have Jeffrey Combs at the convention we run. He was every bit as sweet and lovely as I had hoped. And gorgeous.

Cabin in the Woods: What can I say? A nerdboy’s homage to all things horror. A fan letter to the genre. Tons of fun.

The Raven: Why has no one seen this film? I thought it was great. One of John Cusack’s best performances. And who is that gorgeous Luke Evans creature?

The Avengers: I saw this three times, of course. I kept hoping the whole Agent Coulson thing would fix itself.

Porky’s: Often described as the most successful Canadian film ever. Not really Canadian, and a stupid sex comedy to boot.

Howling V: Forgettable. Something about a bunch of people in a castle and there’s a werewolf or something? I dunno.

Dark Shadows: Johnny Depp and Tim Burton really need some time apart.

The Edge: That film where Anthony Hopkins and Alec Baldwin fight a bear, and each other. Quite good.

Carnage: Sounds violent. Isn’t. Based on a stage play about 2 sets of parents discussing a fight between their respective kids. Fantastic performances from John C. Reilly, Kate Winslett, Jodie Foster and Christoph Waltz.

Romy and Michelle’s High School Reunion: There was nothing else on.

Men in Black III: Kinda cool. Not really worth watching again, but Jemaine Clement ate up every scrap of scenery he could get his multiple sets of teeth on.

Insidious: A truly creepy film that kinda falls apart at the end. But seriously, fantastic at building tension.

Prometheus: Oh for frig’s sake. One of the stupidest, most beautiful films I’ve ever seen. At first I was confused. Then I was angry. And then I was all meh.

Jane Eyre: There is ZERO chemistry between Mia Wasikowska and Michael Fassbender. I actually lost a lot of respect for Fassbender’s acting skills while watching this.

The Postman Always Rings Twice: I’d never seen this classic before. Really quite good.

Tucker and Dale vs. Evil: I watched this seven times and bought it on DVD and Blu-ray. If you haven’t seen it, go now and watch it. NOW. And I promise you it is just as funny the seventh time. Share it with your friends.

Centurion: What the hell is up with all this Fassbender? This Romans in Scotland film is pretty entertaining though.

Juan of the Dead: I saw this at the wonderful Toronto After Dark film Festival when I went there for a dear friend’s funeral. A uniquely Cuban take on the zombie apocalypse. Pretty fun.

The Pact: A decent film about a woman in a super creepy house. I can’t remember a lot of the details, but I did like it.

The 40 Year-Old Virgin: Everyone has seen this, right? Lots of fun.

How to Train Your Dragon: Holy crap the animation in this is spectacular.

Wrecked: Adrien Brody wakes up in a wrecked car at the bottom of a ravine. He has amnesia and lots of injuries, and he struggles mightily to get to safety. Mesmerizing. I don’t know why it doesn’t have a higher rating on IMDB.

The Bourne Legacy: Pretty good addition to the series. I do love Jeremy Renner.

Mansome: A comedic documentary about masculinity and grooming.

Goon: Sweet Sean William Scott falls into the life of a hockey enforcer. Entertaining and beautifully, ridiculously violent. Written by Jay Baruchel, who co-stars along with his wife Alison Pill.

The Manchurian Candidate (original): I saw and loved the remake a few years ago, and the original is fantastic.

Kindergarten Cop: Again, there was nothing else on tv.

50/50: Joseph Gordon-Levitt is always incredible, and this story about dealing with cancer is really well-done. Funny and heart-breaking and hopeful and real.

The Help: I love Emma Stone, and this was entertaining enough, but it didn’t have much of an effect on me.

Galaxy Quest: Saw it twice this year alone. Another film that stays just as funny and wonderful with repeat viewings. You will be amazed at how many top-notch actors are in this movie.

The Grey: Oh Liam. I love you despite this mess.

Crank: You really don’t need your brain for this movie. In fact, it would be best if you just left it in a drawer or cupboard somewhere until the film is over.

Iron Sky: A German comedy about Nazis on the moon? Yes.

Aliens: One of the best god-damn sequels ever. I named my dog after Bill Paxton’s character.

Alien3: I don’t care if it’s the director’s cut, it still sucks.

Looper: Did I mention that Joseph Gordon-Levitt is amazing? How did this guy actually pull off playing a young Bruce Willis? He does though, in a hundred subtle ways. This film also has the singularly most disturbing take on the dangers of time travel ever. You will know the scene when you see it.

Tangled: One of my favourite animated films. Beautiful, full of heart, funny, and heart-breaking.

Blood Simple.: The Coen brothers first film. Fantastic, brutal, amazing.

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang: This was painful to watch. Abrasive.

Bedlam: A 1946 film with beautiful Boris Karloff as a real scumbag. A strong-willed woman looks in to the terrible conditions in his asylum, and he has her committed as punishment.

Frankenstein: More Karloff! Beautiful.

Red Hill: Ryan Kwanten of True Blood fame plays a cop on his first day in rural Australia. An escaped convict return to the town for bloody revenge.

The Blob (original): The remake was waaaaay better. But hey, it’s a classic.

Anchorman: I finally saw this. Now I know where “I love lamp” comes from.

The Poiseidon Adventure (miniseries): A tv version of the classic film about a cruise ship that ends up capsized and sinking. I thought this might be a good comeback for Steve Guttenberg but he was DREADFUL.

The 6th Day: Arnie being Arnie, fighting clones. High point: Michael Rooker as a badass, of course.

Red Dawn (original): Remember when we were afraid of the Russkies?

The Amazing Spiderman: I watched this an a plane. Pretty good. I still haven’t seen the end though.

Skyfall: I really like Daniel Craig.

Devil’s Night (aka Left for Dead): My friends worked on this little indie horror years ago. Two days after seeing it I realized the male protagonist was the hero girl, through and through. This amuses me, and I assume it was intentional.

Premium Rush: Again, Joseph Gordon-Levitt is amazing. And Michael Shannon is brilliant as well. Exciting as all get-out.

Unknown: I liked this better the second time around. Partially because I watched it with my brother who was utterly sucked in and baffled. I love seeing Liam kick ass.

Legion: A pretty uninspiring angelic apocalypse film. If god really wanted to wipe us out, I think he could do a more effective job. I do like the fight scenes between angels though, just because their wings are cool.

The Marsh: A Canadian film about a woman exploring her past in a haunted house. Not bad.

The ‘Burbs: I hadn’t seen this in years. Not as funny as I remembered, but ok.

The Hobbit: Too much cgi, no sense of peril. I was unaffected. But the scenes with Gollum were indeed amazing.

They Live: Rowdy Roddy Piper in John Carpenter’s paranoid sci-fi cult film. You will watch it for the absurd and absurdly long fight scene. Obey.

Seeking a Friend for the End of the World: More Steve Carell. The planet is doomed and Steve hangs out with Keira Knightly, who is way too shrill for my liking. But an entertaining film nonetheless.

Elf: One of the few christmas movies I kinda like. And it has Tyrion Lannister in it!

Love Actually: I enjoy this one too. It’s hard to watch Liam Neeson mourning for a dead wife though. And the segment with Rick from The Walking Dead is just pathetic and sad.

Brave: Animated movies are just amazing these days, aren’t they? Not as engaging a story as many others, but fun and beautiful just the same.

Terminator 3: Worse than I remembered. And Chris Hardwick looks really bloated. I’m glad he got past that rough patch in his life.

Predator: A classic. You don’t need to hear any more from me.

Predator 2: The scene in the subway is how the NRA thinks the world should be. Except that everyone with a gun dies.

The Pink Panther: The original. It is surprising how little time is spent on Peter Sellers. But the time that is, is golden.

Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein: Ridiculous, of course. Also includes Dracula, the Wolfman, and The Invisible Man.

Carpentry College

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Let’s take a bit of a break from book reviews for a moment, and talk about the real world. I’ve been working in film for about 12 years or so now, mainly as a special effects artist and puppet builder. Since moving back to my beautiful home province I have not found any paid work in that specific area, and I’ve been making do as a regular makeup artist for film and tv. While I love the people I work with, I’m not finding the work terribly fulfilling, and it’s absolutely not steady or regular enough to pay the bills. So, as of last week, I’m training to be a carpenter.

It was kind of a spur of the moment decision. I’ve said for years that I wished I had learned a trade instead of going to university, then art college, then makeup school. It’s like I was trying to be broke. I figured that at 41 I was just too old to learn something like that. But faced with the option of never being able to support myself or actually doing something about it, I decided to check it out. And it turns out that there is a ton of support for women going into the trades, no matter how old you are. Aside from the cost of books, supplies, and living expenses, my whole program is being paid for. I have some male friends who did the program, and I doubt they are too thrilled to hear about how I don’t have to pay a dime. But it doesn’t bother me so much that I won’t take advantage of it!

The school is founded by and affiliated with the union, so the chances are good I can get in with them when I graduate (assuming I don’t fail utterly). Also, I know several people in the field already. I’m hoping that will lead to some job opportunities. But even if I can’t find work with them they assure me that there is tons of work out there, and it’s getting busier all the time.

Classes started on Wednesday. There are twelve people in my class, including me. There are two other women, and thankfully one of them appears to be at least as old as I am. The other is a young woman who tried the university and desk job route and hated it. Most of the guys have some construction experience, which is not unusual. Newfoundlanders tend to be very self-sufficient, so most guys I know from here have spent time helping their dad build things or do renovations. The older woman in the class seems to have a fair bit of reno experience as well. So there are about 4 of us who are noobs. I’m not too worried though. The program sounds like it takes things pretty slow.

What I am worried about is the math. I suck at anything to do with numbers, and it has been years since I’ve had to do anything but calculate ratios of silicone or plastic. But I’m ok with the practical stuff, so I’ll probably be fine. We’ll see. We start the math part on Monday.

So far we’ve gone over the guidelines and policies, spent some time studying the Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System (WHIMIS), and learned powerline safety. That last one included a cool video showing some people who got pretty messed up by drilling in to underground power cables and the like. It’s not good for them, but as a special effects makeup artist I found it interesting. We also got a tour of the school. There are several other classes going on already, so we got to check out some other students’ work. I can’t make heads nor tails of any of it yet, but I’m sure it will make sense in time. I was pretty freaked out by the ginormously tall scaffolding room. They teach a separate scaffolding course at the college, and we’ll do some of it as well in our program. I’m not keen on heights so I got dizzy just looking at how tall they can build in there. I hope I can function when we get to that part of the program.

I’m looking forward to the time when I have some practical skills. I know lots of family and friends are looking forward to it as well. I suspect I will have to be on guard for people looking for free labour, just like with film.

So, I will be updating this blog a bit with details of the program. And book reviews, of course. I was given a Kobo Glo ereader for christmas (thanks, siblings!), so I need to work out a practical way to write reviews with that as my source. You can’t really flip back and forth on those, so I’ll have to take notes as I go. And I want to do a bit of a rundown of the movies I watched last year next post.

“The Green Man” by Kingsley Amis

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"The Green Man" by Kingsley Amis. Cover by Brian Frowde.

“The Green Man” by Kingsley Amis. Cover by Brian Frowde.

“The Green Man” by Kingsley Amis, 1969

Finished October 2, 2012

I started this book several times over the years, and never managed to get very far. I’ve finally gotten through it, and gotta say, I should have left it alone. Amis was a famous writer (as his son is now), and the blurbs describe this book as “devilishly cunning” and “hugely enjoyable,” so I suspect time and geography does not dispose me to it. But without a doubt, the reviewer who called this “superb sexual comedy” must have lived a very sad life.

Maurice Allington owns an inn not far from London. He lives there with his second wife, Joyce, and his teenage daughter, Amy, from his first marriage. His ex-wife had died in a “street accident” a year and a half earlier, and Maurice is unable to make a connection with his child. But that is because he is a selfish drunken snotty jerk. After reading this book and finding the character of Maurice to be entirely unsympathetic, I read up on Amis and learned that he was pretty much exactly like this character: A perpetually drunken adulterer. So perhaps in his own mind Amis was writing an admirable fellow, but I was hoping he’d get eaten by bears and save his friends and acquaintances the agony of his continued existence.

Anyway, the Green Man Inn used to be a home owned by an even more unpleasant fellow, a sort of dark magician by the name of Dr. Thomas Underhill. He spent a lot of time raping young girls, and had plans to survive past death. Maurice starts spotting ghosts on his property, and in between bouts of sleeping with his friend’s wife, having stilted conversations with his family members, and drinking ridiculous amounts, he begins to explore the history of his house.

His research leads Maurice to the conclusion that Underhill had certain items and writings buried with him, and he somehow convinces his mistress to help him dig up the grave. Hang on, this is sounding way more interesting than it was. I need to point out that his interactions with people seem so cold and analytical and lacking in even a speck of empathy or fellow-feeling, or emotion of any kind, that even the sex scenes are a chore to read. Perhaps the constant inebriation numbed the writer to the point that he couldn’t really feel anything. Or maybe he was just a cold and selfish ass.

In the grave Maurice finds what he is looking for and he establishes a more stable connection with Underhill. I’m never clear on why he does this, outside of a passive sort of curiousity. At this point, God shows up. No, really. A young man appears in his study, and we soon realize that it’s God, there to drink some Scotch and give Maurice a bit of advice. God makes mention of how he realized his powers at some point, and sometimes it’s a pain, and there are rules he has to follow. When talking about mistakes he has made due to his lack of foresight, he says, “Well, then I was stuck with those decisions and their results in practice. And I couldn’t go back on them; one thing nobody’s ever credited me with is the power of undoing what I’ve done, of abolishing historical fact and so on.” I found this part slightly interesting. Then God tells Maurice that the Church can help him out of the situation he is about to get himself tangled up in, and vanishes.

When Maurice realizes that all Underhill wants to do (in his corporeal form as a giant monster man made out of branches and leaves) is to kill his daughter, he brings in the Parson to perform an exorcism. Underhill begs to be spared but Maurice ignores him, and the evil old pervert winks out of existence. Joyce leaves him after realizing what an irredeemable ass he is after he involved her in a sort-of threesome with his mistress/her best friend, and he goes back to drinking and thinking about maybe someday being a better person. Although the thought clearly wearies him. He truly is looking forward to death as an escape from the trivialities of life. Ugh.

I can imagine this book would be interesting if written by someone else. There is nothing terribly original about the story. Amis plays around with time distortion and hallucinatory images a bit, but the overall feel of the book is very much like the late 60’s and early 70’s. Drab, full of earth tones, too much booze and cigarettes, and annoying, self-indulgent soul-searching. So freaking dreary, like a cold, damp overcast winter afternoon that just won’t end. And you are stuck wearing wet socks. Not recommended, unless you like that feeling.

“Mockingbird” by Chuck Wendig

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"Mockingbird" by Chuck Wendig. Cover art by Joey Hifi.

Cover art by Joey Hifi.

 

“Mockingbird” by Chuck Wendig, 2012

Finished September 25, 2012

This is the sequel to Wendig’s enjoyable “Blackbirds.” We are back with Miriam Black, who is finding the quiet life with Louis to be grating. She is as acerbic and foul-mouthed as ever, ill-suited to ordinary existence. She has been avoiding practicing her skill – if she touches someone she sees their death – and it has become something of a craving.

For years Miriam was convinced that she could not change anyone’s fate. All her attempts to save people only helped bring about the circumstances of their inevitable death. But in the first book she learned that as long as death had a victim, things could change. In the case of Louis, this was not a difficult choice to make. But in this book, she discovers that things can get a whole lot more complicated.

After preventing a massacre at a grocery store, Miriam is overwhelmed by the need to hit the road again. Louis tracks her down, as he always does, and offers her the chance to read the fate of a woman he knows. She’s a teacher at a school for wayward girls, and once there Miriam soon finds herself faced with several future victims of a ritualistic mass murderer. Ever unable to do things the easy or polite way, she finds herself beaten, kidnapped, beaten, kidnapped again, beaten some more, and forced to deal with the morality of her choices. Along the way she discovers new facets to her abilities.

Miriam is hard to like. She is chronically unable to be pleasant or kind, even to people who are kind to her (especially poor Louis). She drinks a lot, smokes incessantly, and eats truly terrible food. Just reading about her lifestyle gives me a sour stomach. She is without a doubt her own worst enemy, which is saying something given how formidable her enemies can be. But you understand where she comes from and why she is the way she is. It is frustrating to watch her screw things up endlessly. But as unpleasant as she can be, she will fight to the death to save others. She is hard to like, but you gotta love her. And man she can just shake severe head trauma off like nobody’s business.

I love Chuck Wendig’s angry heroes, so I recommend anything by him. However, I found this book lacked a lot of the humour that he had in the first one, and the action felt repetitive. I mean, just how many times can Miriam break into that school before the guard at the gate gets fired? And the damage she can take and still keep fighting is beyond epic. It’s almost Bruce Campbell-like. She is less likable in this, probably because she is just so mean to sweet Louis, but I’d still recommend this. And if you read the first book, you will want to see where fate takes her.

“Autumn” by David Moody

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"Autumn" cover

Cover art by Lisa Marie Pompilio from a photo by Jake Garn

“Autumn” by David Moody, 2010

Finished September 24, 2012

There is some really excellent fiction that gets its start online. It seems to be a great way for authors to build an audience, find their voice, and get the support they need to get published (and paid!). I think this is wonderful. One of my favourite books, “John Dies at the End” by David Wong, has such a history. It is an approach that works well in genre fiction. Well, maybe it works well in mysteries and romances and stuff like that too, but I really don’t have any interest in those sorts of stories. Unless there are monsters and blood and the like. Scratch that, I’ve tried reading urban fantasies that combine these genres. I have developed a quiet hatred for this approach. Not my cup of tea. Anyways, the blurb on the back of this book says that David Moody “used to give his books away for free.” Happily, it seems he is now getting paid for them, and has at least two successful horror series out there in the world and in bookstores.

“Autumn” is book 1 of his zombie apocalypse series. His other series seems to be about an apocalypse of hate, so already I like him. Sadly, I found this book to be a bit boring and, at times, frustrating. The setting is the U.K., which is a nice change from the overwhelming monopoly the Americans have on the zombie-induced end of the world. The apocalypse hits hard and fast, and David takes you straight in to it, no messing around.

A virus is spreading so rapidly and kills so quickly that pretty much everyone is dead, at least in this little corner of the world, within a couple of hours. There are no ill survivors that recover. You are either totally immune or you are dead in seconds. And those that survive are shell-shocked, to say the least. My main complaint here is that it is over too quick. One of my favourite things about apocalyptic books (and I love them way more than is probably healthy) is the breakdown of society and the characters’ struggle to find their place, to adapt. In this, there is no breakdown. Everything is just done and over, and we are left with a few survivors standing in corpse-filled streets, so stunned that they can’t cope. They congregate in a dilapidated community centre, barely able to function. Someone makes soup. No one really talks. And then, a small percentage of the dead get up and start to move around.

At first the reanimated dead are totally mindless. If they walk into a wall, they just stop. Later they seem to learn how to manoeuvre. And after that, they start to attack. Before they become anything more than a creepy nuisance, however, three of the survivors decide that staying in a crummy old community centre isn’t how they want to spend their time. The others seem to find this infuriating, and send them on their way with threats that they will never be allowed back. With a whole world full of empty homes, buildings, grocery stores, etc., and no known threat (at that point), I am not sure why one would choose to stay in a place like that. Thousands of putrefying corpses lying and walking around would send me out into the countryside post haste. And that is where our crew go.

They find a farmhouse, with a generator, which they stock with supplies. They even find a shotgun. Unfortunately, this is also the time that they learn that the dead are now drawn to noise, and they aren’t passive, harmless creatures anymore. And if enough zombies show up, they can make enough noise in the silenced world to continue drawing more and more dead. A note on the dead: They don’t try to eat you, but they will hit and tear at you. If you imitate them you can pass through them fairly effectively. They continue to rot but this does not affect their locomotion, eyesight, or hearing (standard stuff in the genre).

I got a bit frustrated by a few things in regards to the zombies. Firstly, no one even speculates as to what killed everyone and then reanimated some of them. No one asks why they lived, or why only a few of the dead rose. No one wonders why the zombies seemed to get more intelligent even as they continued to rot. No one decides that they should arm themselves, or tries the old “destroy the brain” technique. In this world where no one seems familiar with the concept of zombies they seem to lack any curiousity. There is very little discussion about anything, really. Our trusty band of one girl and two guys just prefer to hunker down, maybe watch a few dvd’s. No one even has sex, or discusses sex. Maybe it’s a British thing. They do cry quite a bit.

So, we are left with watching them have a couple of excursions that don’t go so well. Once the zombies get mean they build a barrier. And of course, this doesn’t keep them out for long. The premise is good, and the writing is ok, but man the characters are uninteresting and largely interchangeable. I had to keep checking the front of the book to keep track of who was who. And there were only three of them! I’ll probably track down the sequels, but I have no burning need to read them. All in all a rather blah apocalypse, sadly.

 

“The Lust Lizard of Melancholy Cove” by Christopher Moore

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"The Lust Lizard of Melancholy Cove" cover

Cover art by Ruth Marten

“The Lust Lizard of Melancholy Cove” by Christopher Moore, 1999

Finished September 13, 2012

This one was recommended to me by a new friend that I met on a film set. We had HOURS to kill and I think it is safe to say we were both thrilled to find a like-minded nerd to hang out with. She raved about this book, and although I have long been aware of Christopher Moore I had never gotten around to reading him. This sounded like a good place to start. Sadly, I didn’t enjoy this book as much as my friend did. I mean, there is nothing wrong with it; it has its moments and there is no question it is original; but I didn’t find it terribly funny.

The setting is Pine Cove, California, and I understand Moore has used this fictional town a few times. There is some reference to earlier weird happenings that some of the minor characters lived through. We begin with local constable and pothead Theophilus Crowe getting called out to deal with a suicide, that of obsessive-compulsive wife and mother Bess Leander. When the town’s psychiatrist Valerie Riordan learns about it, she is overcome with guilt. She decides to stop taking the easy, drug-focused route to treat her patients, and unbeknownst to everyone but the pharmacist (also a patient of hers) she replaces their meds with placebos.

Several other things come together at this point, most notably the arrival of a large sea monster/dragon. A bluesman by the name of Catfish Jefferson pulls into town around the same time and gets a steady gig at the Head of the Slug bar. He has his own link to the monster, which is the story behind how he got his name. Blues turn out to be popular in Pine Cove now that everyone is suddenly off their antidepressants.

We also meet Molly Michon, a former B-movie queen and current local oddball. She has a habit of practicing her swordwork in her old costume, which happens to be a fur bikini. She is the second person to encounter the monster, after the fuel-truck driver who is burned to a cinder when the creature tries to mate with his truck. The sea beast is trapped on land as he heals from his burns, and he and Molly form…an attachment. She has anger management issues so she has few compunctions about feeding him a few people she is not fond of.

The monster has the ability to affect people’s moods, which leads to unusual amounts of amourous behaviour in Pine Cove. Theo finds he is no longer dependant on pot, which ruled his life and kept him in thrall to the evil Sheriff Burton. Burton has been running a meth lab on farmland near Theo’s home, and Theo is too much of a cowardly junkie to even want to know what’s going on. But his new found freedom from his addiction, along with his interest in the monster and in Molly, puts him right in the middle of the action.

There are many minor characters and they all have their own odd stories, so it is an enjoyable enough read. But I didn’t find it moved me or really grabbed my attention. I’ll give Moore another shot at some point, I’m sure. I don’t NOT recommend this book, especially if you want something a bit mindless to pass the time, but there is better stuff out there, in my opinion.

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