Sunday, October 31, 2010

Vampire Slayers edited by Martin H. Greenberg and Elizabeth Ann Scarborough

Part of the 10 Days of Halloween Horror! You can see the rest here and here.

And here's where all my reading credibility goes out the window, because this was totally a guilty pleasure...

The purpose of this anthology was to restore the evil to vampire stories, as based on the introduction that bemoans the humanization of vampires. I picked this one up on a larp--er, I mean lark--just to see if it was any good. Like the five hundred million other Greenberg anthologies, this one is a mixed bag.

I was a bit surprised at the lack of name authors in this anthology. I guess maybe I just don't read enough spec fiction to know some of these folks. The only two named I recognized were Hugh B. Cave and Charles deLint. Overall, this collection's not bad, but there are some clunkers. Skip Special, a psuedo-porn story, entirely if you value your eyesight. The opening story, while not offensive, isn't all that interesting, either. However, the story by classic pulp author Hugh B. Cave is a nice nautical vampire story, which was something I hadn't seen done before.

I also liked Midnight Sun, about an outpost of humans in North Canada facing almost certain annihilation by the vampire hordes. Revelations in Black is a very literary take on a way to stop a vampire's rampage, though the pacing is a bit slow. Charles de Lint has a nice short short about the costs of appeasing vampires and one woman's fateful decision, and there's a vampire noir detective story by Tanya Huff that I liked but due to its protagonist's undead status, felt was out of place in the anthology.

The last story, Midnight Mass, works well as a closer, with a disgraced priest returning to his town to try and save the parishioners who once abandoned him in his time of need.

All in all, this one's not bad--nothing here is award-winning, but I liked them all in all, except of course for Special. If you like your vampires menacing, this is a good choice. As a fan of short fiction, I had a good time. Greenberg's anthologies may never be 100% amazing, but he's got a pretty good eye for putting together material, and this is no exception. However, this is your last warning, if you get this out, don't read Special. Just trust me, ok?

Saturday, October 30, 2010

The Point Man by Steve Englehart

Part of the 10 Days of Halloween Horror! You can see the rest here and here.

I picked this one up from the library solely on the name Steve Englehart. Though I am quite familiar with his comic book career, I had no idea he'd written a novel. It was sitting in the science fiction section, and I figured what the heck.

Well, it turns out that this "science fiction" book is really a dark fantasy, and not a bad one at that. Englehart crafts a world of magic that has a stronger grounding than you'd expect and some really creepy and terrifying scenes that make this worthy of inclusion in the Halloween Horror celebration.

Max August is a man who hides his war history past and his real name behind the DJ handle of Barnaby Wilde. He's got just about everything he could want--money, fame, and a way to escape everything in the airwaves of San Francisco. When the station manager offers him more--including herself--he opts to take it. What Max doesn't know is that there's another, darker war going on, and he's about to be sucked into the middle.

A simple robbery and crazed man turn the trick, and soon the world of "Barnaby Wilde" is a very different place. As the local police, FBI, and other, more sinister agencies start invading his life, Max doesn't know where to turn. Things are happening to Max that are straight out of a comic book. His only hope is a singer with a diamond-hard edge and her mysterious manager. But can this trio defeat forces that are far older than the nations fighting the cold war? Is Max ready to face his shameful past and return once again to being...the Point Man?

This book has one major oddity that readers should be aware of it. It was written about 1980 but has been re-issued by Tor here in 2010 because Englehart has finally written a second book about August. This is not a new book set in the past. This is Englehart writing how he felt about the late 1970s. In some ways it is a product of its time. The cold war is in full force here, with the idea of the Russians having ties to ultimate evil playing a big part in the plot. References and cultural attitudes are definitely dated (and occasionally cringe-worthy) and the whole idea of DJs having a cult of personality is something that some modern readers might not even understand.

Perhaps the biggest part of this is Max's guilt about his role in Vietnam. Since most Vietnam veterans are now in their 60s or later, I think we tend to forget that it was a very difficult war to be a part of, and Englehart using it as a touchstone would resonate strongly with his intended audience. I'm not entirely happy with the idea of Max being a murderer as a GI, as it adds to the myth that every man who went to Vietnam killed innocent women and children. There are other ways Max could have had a flawed past. However, it's not enough for me to dislike the book. At least Englehart found a way to make it work within the story, rather than as just another cliche.

Once you accept that you're reading classic dark fantasy by a person who never got a novel-writing career off the ground, the book flows pretty well. Englehart's prose is a bit stilted at times, with a few sections containing clunky dialog or romantic scenes. You can tell he's more comfortable with writing a plot for others to illustrate, if you know what to look for. Englehart does avoid information dumps, spreading them out and using the slow reveal of information as a plot point for Max, who needs to get educated on magic as the book goes on. I found this a clever way to explain the magical reality we were dealing with. There's only one time that he slips up, and that's where Cornelius (the singer's manager) talks a bit too much about the nature of magic. I found myself a bit bored and wishing to get back to the action.

It was interesting to me that Englehart, who spent some time writing Doctor Strange (a great sorcerer in Marvel comic books), grounded his book's magic in ideas that any practicing pagan would find familiar. I know enough people who do magick to recognize some of it, and though he takes liberties, the idea that the magic in this book comes from a real source impressed me. We still get fantastic creatures and abilities that are not real, but they start from a point as logical as you can get when dealing with a fantasy. That was a strong selling point for me as I was reading.

The plot itself moves very well. Englehart always was pretty good at balancing action and rest in his comics, and that shines through here. Max keeps thinking he understands and keeps having the rug pulled out from under him. Like any good hero, however, he manages to keep pushing on, and finds something in himself to go that extra mile. Max is a bit like Captain America or Batman--no matter the odds, they'll find that reserve within themselves to be, well, a hero.

I also appreciated that Englehart was perfectly willing to kill people off and to make sure that nothing works perfectly. Max might save the world from a horrible fate, but he'll pay for it. He never comes to anything easily, either, which can be a book killer for me. There are quite a few moments of horror in the book, most of them playing off the occult aspects of the story. We get a very good picture of these scenes, too, which gives the whole thing a darker edge that it might have otherwise missed. We're dealing with demons and the devil, but only just enough to flavor the book, not spoil it.

The Point Man is not a perfect book. It may be too dated for a lot of a readers and the ideals of the main characters probably only work for an audience that remembers when the only thing we worried about was one big nuke instead of dirty bombs. However, this is a series character that's done in one, giving you the chance to sample it without being locked into 1000 pages of reading. If you like dark fantasy, stories that base themselves in our reality, or were a fan of Englehart's comics, I'd make a point of giving this one a try.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Dracula by Bram Stoker

Part of the 10 Days of Halloween Horror! You can see the rest here and here.

[Read as an e-book, if that matters to you.]

I've read Frankenstein several times over the years, including for a college class. The number of times I've seen the most famous movie version and endless variations is legion. I am a person who loves classic horror, and Karloff's shuffling criminal full of pathos is for me the defining moment of the horror genre.

Perhaps because vampires keep becoming the in thing, I've always been less inclined to Dracula. In fact, other than an excellent comic adaptation by Roy Thomas and Dick Giordano, I'd never even read the source material. That finally changed, and I'm glad it did. Stoker's work may have been used and abused over the years, but the original text makes for a striking book that reads far more modern than its time period and is a much better book than Frankenstein.

For those who may not be familiar with the plot of the actual book, a man named Harker comes to Castle Dracula to help a mysterious man make arrangements to go to London. To his horror, he learns that this man is not all that he seems, but he is powerless to prevent his coming to the teeming metropolis. Soon, Dracula is on the prowl claiming victims, including the lovely but helpless Lucy. Lucy is the friend of Mina, Harker's fiance, and eventually, with the help of the noted but eccentric Dr. Van Helsing, a group of revenge seekers form.

Can this team of weakened but determined adventurers stop Dracula from making an army of the undead? You know the answer, of course, but it's the getting there that's the fun.

I was pleasantly surprised by the text itself, which read a lot more like a modern novel than I'd expected. At first I was a bit put off by the epistle format of the book (a fair number of the characters share their experiences via letters or journals), but they soon begin to link up in a way that drives the narrative. It's really interesting to see how Stoker links things together, and the added advantage of knowing more than the characters by virtue of being able to read all of the letters in a logical sequence provides an omniscience even within first-person narratives. I don't think this tactic is something I'd want to read every time out, but as a change of pace from the books I normally consume, it was extremely effective.

I was also pleasantly surprised by the fact that Mina is a strong female character. Lucy is a typical female victim, but for the bulk of the book, we are dealing with the fact that the male characters in the book don't quite know what to do or are weakened to inactivity while Mina drives them on to the task, even at great personal cost to herself. I suppose it's wrong of me to generalize in this way, but I had figured on things playing out a bit differently. I thought all of the non-male characters would be props for the virile males to either endanger or save. Dracula is certainly no feminist novel, but it's also not misogynistic.

On the other hand, Dracula is extremely anti-immigrant. Dracula is the strange figure from eastern Europe who comes to London to "ruin" it, particularly its females. There is a strong vibe against the feeling of the other, coming in to corrupt that which is considered pure. Even Van Helsing and the American get placed in a different light and offer to do things that would be improper for the Brits in the book. It's hard sometimes to remember that not all that long ago, if you weren't from the right part of Europe, you were the enemy.

You could substitute the location of the book and have it serve as a stand-in against African Americans, Asians, or, most recently, Hispanics. When they spoke in such dismissive tones about anyone that was not a WASP, I winced. It makes the book hard to read in places, though I am somewhat used to that in reading older literature of any kind. I wonder if the recent revival of racism against those who aren't "true" Americans (or Brits or French, to name a few other hotspots) made me more sensitive to this or not.

There is also the prudishness that pervades the novel. Anyone who is not strictly seen as chaste comes off badly, and the link between the vampire's kiss and sex is so well documented I don't think I need to get into it here, as the cultural racism angle interests me far more than if Stoker had problems with people enjoying intimate relations. However, everyone reads for different reasons, so you may prefer to go through the book and pick up on the signs that point to upholding a morality that is (and probably always was) out of date.

Dracula is not a book for everyone. It's still slower than a modern reader may like and the epistle format definitely will bother you if you don't get into its rhythm right away. For those who like Victorian writing or the transition period of James and Wharton, this is definitely something you should check out. I'd also recommend it for anyone who likes vampire fiction. Go to the source and see how it all began. The results may surprise you.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Book Blogger Hop III

Book Blogger Hop

It's that time of the week again, where folks go around and hop from book blog to book blog, seeing what others are reading and maybe picking up a new person to follow along with here and there. I've had a great time with this, and am always looking forward to finding a few new people who share my rather odd book tastes!

The Hop is hosted by Crazy for Books, and is such a great idea!

There's always a question and today's is "Where is your favorite place to read?"

I read in a lot of places, basically anywhere that I'm standing or sitting around idle. I hate waiting without at least the ability to hop online and read the newspaper. My most common reading location is probably my bed, since I always try to read for at least 30 minutes before I go to sleep. However, if I had to pick a favorite, it would be outside, sitting on a porch or under a tree on a pleasant spring or fall day. I love having the breeze, a good drink, and an excellent book!

If this is your first time here, hello! If you're coming back, welcome back! Stick around and have a cup of The Book Stew!

Friday, October 22, 2010

10 Days of Halloween Horror!

So big, you'll find it on TWO blogs!
A crossover classic with Panel Patter!

Halloween is my favorite time of year, and I'm celebrating it with a 10-day festival on The Book Stew and its companion site, Panel Patter, where I blog about comics, manga, and zines.

Go on over and check out the intro post, then be sure to read both sites to watch Rob geek out in a serious way about his favorite time of the year! You don't want to miss what's sure to be a killer party.

And if you have to answer to this guy:

Thursday, October 21, 2010

The Year of the Flood by Margaret Atwood

[Note: I "read" this as an audio book, if that matters to you.]

I'm always a little leery of books that are prequels, but since this was by the always solid Margaret Atwood, I was hopeful that things would turn out a bit better for me.

Sure, given Oryx and Crake's ending, a sequel would make more sense than a prequel, but I had faith that there was a reason behind going back and telling the story from a different angle. Unfortunately, this book verified my reasons for disliking prequels as a rule, and is the first Atwood book I've read that left me feeling less interested in reading more by this usually strong author.

Oryx and Crake was the story of a dystopian technocratic future and, indirectly, the story of one man's obsession to change that future, based on problems in his past. The Year of the Flood is about a group of people who may or may not have influenced that man's thinking, teaching peaceful resistance to the power structure but really working to undermine it step by step.

As with Oryx and Crake, however, there is a distance placed between the reader and the action, as we once again get the information from a source anywhere from one to several steps removed. This time, the narration is a dual one, with a smattering of sermons (more on this later) by the religious leader, Adam One.

Toby is a woman whose life went to hell in this technocratic society, as the powers that be slowly take away everything she's ever had. She finds the Gardeners, the group who, as it happens, may have influenced Crake's mad schemes. Soon Toby is finding a part of herself she never knew existed--one that may in fact save her life. Alternating narration from a different perspective is Ren, a young women who grows up as a Gardener, then must make her way in what they refer to as the exfernal world. Dumb luck saves her life, but for how long?

As these two women tell their stories, both about the way in which their life changes over time, both for good and bad, they sometimes give differing perspectives on the same situations. This is one of the high points of the book. Atwood shows how perspective can make all the difference. The trouble is that she pushes it too far, having Ren end up meeting most of the folks from Oryx and Crake, in ways that eventually stretch credulity to the breaking point. Ren and her friends end up so involved in the life of Jimmy (Snowman) it's almost comical. Unfortunately, Atwood falls victim to the problem of a prequel--she's trying to make things fit too neatly, and it ends up looking like a frame job.

Unfortunately, this also takes away from the uniqueness of the world created in Oryx and Crake. As we learn more details about this future world, it become less novel, less alien, and less interesting as a character. Giving all the details on the corruption of the new government drags things out of the world of wonder and more into our own sad world. The longer the book progresses, even as things get more like a science fiction novel, the less this feels like an innovative commentary and more like any number of movie plots. That was extremely disappointing to me.

There's also the problem that the Gardeners and Adam One sound entirely too much like they are echoing those of Atwood herself. The sermons are clunky, do not add much to the text, and end with a plea about how humanity is/was destroying the earth, depending on if you're reading it as the opinion essay it is or the fictional account it's supposed to be. I'm sympathetic to Atwood's ideals and I appreciate the better use of resources that the Gardeners espouse. The ideology bogs down the text, however, and makes this novel a lot less than it could have been.

This doesn't mean it's all bad. There are still some new elements of this world that I really like, and the characters are more engaging. Toby starts off as a stock character, but she grows into a real force who finally takes control of her own life, after spending so much time as a pawn. Ren loses herself as time goes on, finding that her personality is one that gloms on to others. Zeb, Shackleton, Crozier, Nuala, Rebeca, and the other members of the Gardeners are likable people who we want to see live despite this terrible new world. Another flaw in the book is that it seems Atwood can't kill anyone off, which is a shame because when she does end the life of a character in Year of the Flood, I was profoundly moved.

Year of the Flood ends on yet another oddly placed cliffhanger, which is a shame because I'm not sure I'm all that interested in reading more. Overall there were just too many moments where things fit nicely into place, a sign of plotting gone overboard. Toby and Ren just have to be in all the right places for this book to work, and that takes away from its sense of plausibility. (Is asking a science fiction book to be plausible unreasonable? Maybe. However, when you're asking me to accept things that are not possible in my world, I do ask that you take the time to keep the usual circumstances of life within the bounds of reason.)

Combined with the often heavy-handed condemnation of a world moving in a direction Atwood doesn't like, Year of the Flood just didn't grab me the way that Oryx and Crake did. I am intrigued enough to read the next book when it comes out, but I won't be in as much hurry this time as I was after finishing the first book in this series. There's no need to flood the bookstore or library to grab this one, and there's definitely better Atwood out there for those looking to check out her writing.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Book Blogger Hop II

It's Blog-hopping time again! Thanks to Crazy-for-Books for hosting!

Book Blogger Hop

First of all, thanks to all of you who stopped by last weekend. That was a lot of fun! I tried to get around and make some comments here and there, and I definitely found some new book bloggers to check in on!

The Hop is designed to give folks a chance to jump around to other book-related blogs and see what's out there. With so many folks over the internet all sharing their love of books, it's easy to get lost. The Hop gives you a central place to explore from, every weekend.

So if you're here for the very first time, welcome! It's good to see you! Have a cup of Book Stew and join in the discussion. If you're of a comics persuasion, you can even get in on a little Panel Patter.

This weekend's question--what do you like to drink while you read?--is an easy one for me. Wherever I am, you'll find me with an iced or hot tea in my hand, depending on the weather. Give me sweetened or unsweetened, I don't care. I'll take fancy brewed, solar, or instant. If it's tea, I'll drink it!

See you around the Hop!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood

I find it unlikely that I'll ever meet Margaret Atwood or that she'll read this review of one of her older books, but if so, I apologize that I cannot go along with her desire not to call this a work of science fiction, because it is clearly dealing with a dystopian future that contains plenty of "things that aren't invented yet," Ms. Atwood's own definition.

I admit that I bristle a bit at the idea of an author denying a perfectly fine genre label, but since Atwood (and this book) are both so good, I'll give it a pass.

Oryx and Crake is the story of what happens when one man has the vision to remake the earth in his own twisted ideas and uses a society that's too obsessed with techo-corporate progress to notice that something might be going horribly wrong. Humanity, which was set on surviving no matter who or what got hurt in the process, suddenly finds itself cut off at the knees.

The human race's only hope? A deranged, defeated semi-alcoholic that calls himself Snowman. He wanders what's left of the "paradise" created by tramping over human rights and scientific ethics and, as the book progresses, reflects on what went wrong. He is left with the ruins of society, dangerous hybrid creatures (perhaps most horrifying being the one that combined snakes with rats), a race of creatures that are almost human--and plenty of time to think.

They look to him for their philosophy and theology, and Snowman obliges, knowing that everything he does will impact on their future. Not wanting to die but perhaps never really wanting to live, Snowman does what comes naturally to him: He continues to live.

As we progress through the book in a series of splits between the present day and prior events, it's clear that Snowman (formerly Jimmy) never had a handle on his life. He was content, like most people, to just inhabit the world around him. Sure, he had questions, but those questions were better left unanswered. If he saw signs, he ignored them, preferring to do what was easiest, from letting Crake run his life to having a series of unsuccessful romantic relationships, often with married or spoken for women. It's obvious that Jimmy's world is a mess--his mom even leaves because of it--but Jimmy/Snowman fears the truth more than anything, and his ability to question nothing overwhelms his occasional exposure to the bare facts.

This approach is perfect for giving us a character who can see his world without judging it, allowing the reader to form their own thoughts. The problem is that for most sections of the book, even when Snowman is all alone, he is reacting rather than acting. There's only a few precious moments where Snowman must show some backbone, and they mostly end up in the back of the book, by which point we've already passed judgment on this man whose penalty for ignoring life is to spend the rest of it mentally chronicling the end of the human race.

Normally, having such a cipher as a main character would bother me, but Atwood's work of world-building is so strong that I'm willing to overlook it. She's really outdone herself here, coming up with a future where technology does anything it wants, aided any abetted by a security force working only to protect the haves against the masses of have-nots (and those amongst the haves who get doubts about this reality). We see all sorts of twisted versions of familiar themes, from the internet to pharmaceutical companies, all taken to the extreme. Scientists work feverishly to "improve" the work of nature, binding raccoons and skunks or creating pigs that provide more food. There's even a twisted thing that provides nothing but chicken legs. They're the horror stories we only dream of right now, but Atwood makes them only real but plausible.

Because of this, Oryx and Crake's world is more of a character than Snowman. We want to know what makes this world tick, where the arts are shoved away from higher learning in a nod to the Cartesian philosophies at work today. There may be a few variations along the way, but the world Atwood creates is more compelling that most dystopias because let's face it--this is world that could easily happen, and might even be happening now.

I think that's the thing that makes me enjoy Oryx and Crake, despite my usual dislike of dystopias as a plot device. We did not arrive here by some dramatic act that's implausible. We got here because man's arrogance kept taking the next logical leaps, and the fall was one just as great as that given in the Book of Genesis. It's even for the same reason--a quest for knowledge without any checks and balances. As we watch technology go further and further, there seems to be no stopping to see not only if we can do something, but if we should. Atwood clearly sees this future and is scared by it. I'm a bit scared, too.

There are a few things that readers should be aware of before diving in. First of all is Atwood's leisurely pacing style, common to her writing. Fans of her work know that sharp, fast-moving stories are not her forte, and this book, despite its dramatic theme, is no exception. I like Atwood a lot, but sometimes I do wish she'd cut a bit here and there and move the story along faster. Snowman's life as a young adult particularly drags, in my opinion,but not enough to kill my enjoyment of the book. If you've never read Atwood before, just be ready to take awhile to get to the punchline.

The second problem is related to the first. I copped pretty quickly to what was going to happen, and I think overall the foreshadowing is just a bit too heavy. The extra pages mean it takes awhile to find out if you're right. I was, and I have a feeling you will be, too.

The third problem is a bit odd in an Atwood book. I felt like she was very neglectful to her female characters. Oryx is literally objectified, and Jimmy/Snowman's mother is the only other strong female in the book. It seems odd that she'd write a book that wouldn't pass the Bechdel test, and it just felt like women got short shrift in this one.

Overall, however, I really enjoyed the book, even if it ends on one heck of a cliffhanger. Atwood's prose is as sharp-witted as ever, from the names she gives futuristic creatures and technology to the acid sarcasm of her characters. There are plenty of secrets left unrevealed, giving the reader plenty of room to explore this world in his/her own mind. Atwood knows that any good writer shows as much as possible, while also giving the reader room to expand on what they've been given. The biggest question--how did the disaster happen--is revealed, but so much more is waiting, either for future books or as fodder for book clubs.

I always enjoy Atwood books, and this one was no exception. Fans of her other fiction books will find lots to like and should not be turned off by the science fiction within the pages. At the same time, those who like near science fiction definitely need to check this one out. Just don't tell Ms. Atwood that I sent you.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

In Defense of Stephen King

When I did my review of Thinner, I had a few more things I wanted to say about King the writer, but did not feel like they fit in with the theme of the review. I still wanted to share them, however. Here they are, expanded a bit.

The idea that I've read nearly a dozen Stephen King books and that doesn't even cover a third of his total output is pretty amazing to me. Not so much the number of books--think of how many Danielle Steel has written--but the variety of those books is what impresses me. We have short story collections, non-fiction, how-to, horror, mystery, collaborations, series, exclusive e-books (anyone else remember The Plant?), and even books released a chapter or two at a time.

King is not afraid to experiment with his writing. Sometimes it works extremely well and other times it falls flat on its face. But instead of simply writing the same book over and over again, King uses different formats, points of view, and other ways to keep his stories varied.

Are there some similarities? Certainly. I was a bit unsure about Cell, because it reminded me a lot of the Stand in some ways (one of those King productions I've only seen in movie form, to be honest). Most of King's books are set in New England, so the supporting characters and settings are often familiar. He's also the King of product placement, for which many often criticize him. (King's argument, if I remember correctly, is that people are less likely to be thrown out of a narrative if you use the real thing. I think that's sound logic.)

However, I don't think any writer is immune to repeating themselves here and there if they have a long literary career. I'm not even talking about people who write formula books, where the audience wants the repetition. (I like Tony Hillerman a lot, and part of that is when Chee and Leaphorn are in character, not out of it.) I'm looking more here at those that are considered literary writers, such as Margaret Atwood or Joyce Carol Oates, because that's where I think King belongs.

It's my contention that King's writing, while pulpy, often crude, and filled with vile people doing vile things, also has a depth that stays with you after you finish the book. Look at the concept of justice explored in Thinner. Yes, there are supernatural elements but scratch beneath the surface and you have questions that don't get an easy answer. Or take a look at Different Seasons, which features a man determined not to let his situation kill his spirit, the wonders of discovery in childhood, the nature of absolute evil, and, okay, that last story isn't as good as the other three but you get the idea.

We also see the nature of good and evil as a recurring theme, and how situations can corrupt even the best of us. If you stripped out the demons and resurrections and things from several of King's books, I have a feeling the literary critics would praise him to the heights of the canon. To me, the fact that King can make me think as a reader while terrifying/entertaining me at the same time makes his work even better than one that only contains the moral quandaries. Why is it such a crime that King gives us characters that talk and feel like real people who swear and fight and drink Coke? Is it just because they also have to deal with evils that have their roots in classical mythology of all cultures? We don't think less of "Homer" for adding in Greek Gods to his tale of humanity's foibles, so why do that to King?

I call this a defense of Stephen King, as though he needs it. The man is obviously extremely popular, has quite a few books left in his brain, will almost certainly get more movie deals, and is not exactly hurting for money. Whether or not he's appreciated by the New York Times Book Review set is secondary to the fact that he has millions of fans, including my wife and me. Yet I admit it bothers me that more people dismiss King as being "a hack" or a "writer for the masses" (as though that last one is a bad thing) while praising Charles "I got paid by the word and it shows" Dickens as being a pillar of quality writing.

Take a look at the Pickwick Papers sometime and try that one again, huh?

That's why I feel like I need to defend Stephen King and through him, the idea of popular literature in general. King is popular, true, but he's also a great writer. As his work ages, I think people are coming around to this idea. I often say that in 100 years, we'll be teaching King in schools, and they'll look back on all those articles and laugh as they describe him as a classic writer of the late 20th Century.

Some of us knew that all along.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Book Blogger Hop

I'd heard about the Book Blogger Hop before, but I don't always have a lot of time. I decided to make some time for it this weekend. For those visiting The Book Stew for the first time, welcome!!

Book Blogger Hop

The hop is a way for folks to go around and randomly hit up other book bloggers and see what they're writing about. As I'm in a transitional reading state--and also a bit of a transition in terms of how I want to use The Book Stew--I figured this might be a good thing for me to participate in this weekend.

The question for this weekend is a pretty good one: How do you promote your book blog?

Honestly, I don't really do a lot. I will tweet when I get a new review up, the same as what I do for Panel Patter, where I post reviews and things on comics. I keep the two separate because I feel like there's a different audience for comics and "book book" (as I like to call them), though perhaps that's not as true as it used to be.

There are so many good book blogs out there (and I hope to add a few to my RSS after this weekend!) I just don't know where Book Stew fits in. I tend to read older books as a rule, and I don't read primarily from a certain genre. I think that hurts me when I'm trying to find a place in the larger book-blogging world.

But hey, part of the advantage to having your own blog is that you can do whatever you'd like! :)

So anyway, welcome again to those stopping by from the Hop, and I hope you find a review or two that interest you. Please come by again, we're always open and always serving!