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Book Review: “Hyperbole and a Half” by Allie Brosh (4 Stars)

Full Title: “Hyperbole and a Half (unfortunate situations, flawed coping mechanisms, mayhem, and other things that happened)”

Words and drawings that artfully tug on your soul and your funnybone.

Brosh is renown for her ability to succinctly encapsulate the bottomless, murky depths of depression. All while keeping a snarky yet endearing tone intermixed with humorous anecdotes about growing up and dog care. This book is a breeze and I enjoyed it the whole way though. It’s a collection of some blog posts from her past, along with new material for old fans to look forward to.

The author tells her story through the use of crudely drawn cartoon panels. Her medium is a perfect match for the tone in which she weaves her stories. Each sharp, line bend or whimsical curve all seem to contribute to the message she delivers…be it a funny insight into life’s inconveniences or a profound introspection on self.

The colors are also well-chosen in this medium and help complement the story. Likewise, the poses of her characters, the expressions, the use of space—all perfectly capture the moods, ideas and emotions she conveys—in ways that words might fall short.

And even though her drawings may best be described as “crude caricatures” they really are not. They are very artful and complementary to her prose. Skillful too. It’s like the difference between listening to a technically proficient musician and one who is soulful. The drawings have real feeling.

I did feel like I wanted more expression from the author’s perspective on dealing with depression and other difficulties (mostly because she has a great way of laying these things out). Yet, in this way, the book is well-balanced by intermixing some laugh-out loud stories about incomprehensible and disobedient dogs and an unabashed goose-intruder.

I found this book hilarious and poignant.

On a side-note, I’ve heard this author interviewed twice on podcasts (Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy – episode #97 / Marc Maron’s WTF – episode #550). She is a great interview. Quite thoughtful and endearing. I recommend listening to the interviews as well. They were the impetus for picking up the book.

 
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Posted by on December 22, 2014 in Book Reviews

 

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Book Review: “A Princess of Mars (John Carter)” by Edgar Rice Burroughs (3 Stars)

John Carter is kind of a jerk, but Mars seems cool.

Burroughs is the grandfather of pulp and heroic fiction. Many people have been influenced by him from Clarke to Lucas. His Mars story has some interesting world-building elements, but ultimately this is not his strong suit. Rather, Burroughs excels at telling a fast-paced adventure story. Given the context of this story (slightly before the Golden Age of Science fiction) and mankind’s scientific knowledge and development at the time–this story is quite sensational. However, Burroughs’ style sort of fails for me and I ended up feeling like I was sitting on a bar stool with some alcohol-breathed drunk spitting in my face about how great he was back in high school. Not that it’s not interesting. It just sort of makes my nose cringe at times.

John Carter is an ex-cavalry man who heads out west to strike it rich in gold-prospecting. Just as he does, some Native Americans chase him into a mysterious cave where he seems to die, but mysteriously reawakens on the planet Mars. Just accept it. Once there, Carter finds that his earth-honed muscles are much more powerful on Mars’ lower gravity atmosphere. This turns him into a superhero who can dominate giant 15-foot Martians and bound across the surface of the planet like a common deer tick. Carter is soon captured by some hulking, multi-armed, nomadic green aliens who revere physical might over compassion. He ends up currying favor among them, due to his enhanced abilities and even receives some coveted titles of status as a result of his prowess. Despite their brutality, Carter discovers (in typical Burroughs fashion) some noble savages among the denizens, namely his caretaker Sola and the chieftain Tars Tarkas.

As the plot continues, Carter learns that there is another alien species, the Red Martians, who resemble humans in many many ways. Despite earning the respect of the Green Martians, Carter immediately sort of turns away from them when he sees they have captured a beautiful red Martian princess, Dejah Thoris. The novel then becomes a travelogue as Carter courses across the Martian landscape trying to help Dejah Thoris escape the Green Martians and return to her people in the city-state of Helium. A series of misadventures ensue and we are introduced to a slighter wider view of Martian society and all the infighting going on between the various species.

 

In the end, Carter seeks to unite his friends among the Green Martians with those among the Red Martians in an effort to defeat and repulse all the really awful and bad representatives of their respective species who only seem to want to wreak havoc. There is also an interesting twist at the end, when Carter must once again save the day by sacrificing himself and making the obligatory return to earth.

 

The writing style is a little tough at times, but not how you think. Yes, the book was written in the early nineteen hundreds and has some occasionally archaic terms, but this didn’t bother me. The story does suffer from a lot of “telling” versus “showing” but that could be a thematic choice given that it’s written in the first person. However (as others have noted), the main character is a braggart with a capital “B.” He is the greatest at everything he does, and while he is a trained soldier (and likely in great physical shape) he owes much of his physical prowess due to the fact that he’s from earth and earth has heavier gravity. It just gets kinda old listening to the character champion himself over and over and over again. Sure, he’s helping out others, but I just didn’t feel as connected with him as I should have to go along with all the bravado. And yet, this was written in the pulp-era and in that context the writing style might be perfectly fine. So, you have to feel that one out for yourself.

 

Some people may claim, that Burroughs did not adequately research even the limited knowledge of Mars that was available at the time. This is completely forgivable, and wasn’t really an issue to me. The pulp-era view of Mars at that time helps to sort of flesh out this fantasy world. All the tropes are there, including Mars’ infamous canals—which Burroughs weaves into his world-building in a fun way. Right or wrong, I get it. I buy into it. He also sort of develops a (albeit weak) magic (rather it’s supposed to be scientific) system with using “rays of light” to power things. The strongest part of his world-building was the setting of a once-flourishing world which has now turned barren and bleak. The Green Martians (Tharks) make their existence via a nomadic living where they travel between ancient abandoned ruins left behind from a glorious past society and set up temporary residences. A Mars trope if ever there was one, but a great one. Oh yeah, and water is scarce too. Most probably, a lot of the associations we have today with Mars mythology originate with Burroughs.

 

Some reviewers complain that Burroughs’ characters tend toward the melodramatic. Perhaps they do, however not completely. Tars Tarkas and Sola among the Tharks (Green Martians) certainly have depth to them as they are in opposite to their societal norms and struggle to find their place among their people because of it. Sola has an especially interesting story to tell about her past that certainly makes her anything but flat. Perhaps it’s the villains who people don’t care for as much as they are more good vs. evil and lack a lot of depth. However, this story isn’t really that kind of story. It’s an adventure travelogue not a character study. The adventure in this interesting world is the story, with the swashbuckling quest taking precedence over the setting.

 

Overall, I’d say that I don’t love the main character, but the story moves at a decent pace and the little tidbits you get about the world are fascinating enough (even more so when you consider the context of the writing) to stimulate my curiosity. So, I’m tempted to delve deeper into this series, but I’m not compelled. I’ll get back to checking out another one sooner or later.

 

Lastly, I’ll make note that the story is in the public domain and you can literally get an ebook version for absolutely nothing. At that price you can’t go wrong. It’s always great to check out cult classics like this, a well spring for which many other great stories have sprung.

 

Podcast: If you enjoy my review (or this topic) this book and the movie based on it were further discussed/debated in a lively discussion on my podcast: “No Deodorant In Outer Space”. The podcast is available on iTunes or our website: www.nodeodorant.com.

 
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Posted by on December 12, 2014 in Book Reviews

 

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Book Review: “Coraline” by Neil Gaiman (4 Stars)

Broad brush strokes paint a deliciously dark fairy tale (through the brick wall).

Little Coraline is terribly bored, but that won’t stop her from stumbling into adventure—even in the haunts of her very own flat. Neil Gaiman has constructed a wonderful modern-day fairy tale. Who cannot relate to being bored on a rainy day as a child, and wandering around looking for something to do?

As this author likes to do, he paints an intriguing tale using both the strange and the familiar. Perhaps inspired by his own childhood reading the Narnia Chronicles and Alice in Wonderland, Coraline enters a strange world through a doorway to nowhere inside her home. The protagonist lives in an old mansion that was divided up into four flats. As part of the division, a doorway was bricked up but otherwise left intact. Two of the other flats are inhabited by curious adults who have interesting backgrounds and peculiar interests. But no other children. The fourth flat is vacant and this leaves Coraline wondering what it’s like over in the vacant flat.

One day, she opens the odd door (that is usually full of bricks) and discovers a passageway to the “Other” world. Here she discovers her “Other” family who purport to be having a much more interesting and exciting life on this side of the flat. Coraline also meets her “other” neighbors who are even more intriguing and crazier versions of themselves than in the real world. However, there is also a hint that something is a little off, despite the seemingly gracious attitude of the inhabitants of the Other world. For one, they have buttons for eyes! Coraline is a clever girl and keeps her guard up refusing an invitation to stay in this Other world, but she’s ultimately drawn back when her loved ones are kidnapped and imprisoned there. This story has all the “wonder” of Wonderland. Nothing is as it seems and all is fascinating in its absurdity.

Gaiman invents his own monsters and puts his own spin on this Other world adventure story that is reminiscent of stepping through the looking glass or through the furs in the oversized wardrobe. The tone of the story is what delivers its charm. It’s dark and somber. Yet, despite the darkness, the author manages to keep it light enough for its intended younger audience. Like other masters of the genre, he manages to ride that line where the book is enjoyable for both adults as well as children. Gaiman keeps an element of danger and scary things in the Other world without becoming overly graphic. It’s just the right touch. Quite a feat. Not too mention, refreshing.

The setting is very small. It takes place almost entirely in Coraline’s home (and the “Other” version of it). This is very relatable. Gaiman really manages to capture the child’s perspective of Coraline roaming around her home and the grounds outside. Everything feels big and adventurous. It makes me think about being a youngster myself and exploring different rooms in my grandparents’ homes during family parties. How big a house can seem when you’re so young…there always seemed to be a mysterious room or door that I might not have noticed before.

Even little touches like Coraline’s dislike of her father’s cooking feels authentic and in character. Coraline has a real voice in her thoughts, actions and words. Her parents too. They’re busy, as parents often are, but they still manage to make time for her and convey a sense of love and doting.

Gaiman has a way of using his words sparingly but he still conveys a sense of place. He seems to find just the right touchstones to get his point across. This makes the story easier for younger readers, but also meaningful and solid for older readers. When you read authors like this, you know within the first page the lighthearted depth that is being conveyed. You’re immediately swept up by the words and transported into a new world. It’s a great feeling.

By touching on some classic tropes i.e. portals to strange worlds hidden from our own world, sassy talking cats, and smooth talking sirens (who are just a little too nice) – we are easily coaxed off the pages and transported beyond. However, Gaiman has his own perspective on this, and his unique twists and particular details take the old familiar and make it new again.

This feels like a short novella. A fast read. It quickly strikes a mood and sets the stage for a dark, adventurous fairy tale. Definitely recommended.

Podcast: If you enjoy my review (or this topic) this book and the movie based on it were further discussed/debated in a lively discussion on my podcast: “No Deodorant In Outer Space”. The podcast is available on iTunes or our website.

 
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Posted by on December 3, 2014 in Book Reviews

 

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Review: “Coraline” by Neil Gaiman and “Coraline” by Henry Selick (Dakota Fanning)

Ryan Sean O'Reilly:

New Podcast Episode!

Originally posted on No Deodorant In Outer Space:

October Review – Episode Ten

PODCAST:

Listen to the podcast here (click to play/right click and select “save target as” to download):

Episode Ten – Coraline (book/movie)*

WRITTEN BOOK REVIEWS:

Ryan: 4 Stars “…Broad brush strokes paint a deliciously dark fairy tale (through the brick wall)…

Wilk: 5 Stars “…The imagery and words pounded my mind like a brilliant symphony played by an undead orchestra…

Rick: 3 Stars “…A poor girl named Coraline is ignored all the time by her parents…

(Click the links to read full written reviews on Goodreads.com)

SUBJECT MATTER:

“Coraline (young adult)” by Neil Gaiman


Book: “Coraline” by Neil Gaiman

“‘Coraline discovered the door a little while after they moved into the house. . . .’

When Coraline steps through a door to find another house strangely similar to her own (only better), things seem marvelous.

But there’s…

View original 576 more words

 
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Posted by on December 2, 2014 in News, Podcast

 

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Black Friday Promotion: Mildred – a tale of psychological suspense – FREE for Kindle

My new creepy story, MILDRED, is free on Black Friday at Amazon.com 11/28/14: http://www.amazon.com/Mildred-Ryan-Sean-OReilly-ebook/dp/B00LDYMTU6/ref=la_B0081B0SX4_1_2/177-3520902-4255907?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1408448912&sr=1-2

Synopsis: A diary, noises from the attic, a resident cat, and piles and piles and piles of boxes cast shadows over Josephine as she digs through her new home and discovers the disturbing circumstances surrounding her purchase of the place.

Book Trailer: http://youtu.be/u2ek3Tf9yZ0

Get it now for free before it’s too late!

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Posted by on November 28, 2014 in Mildred, News

 

Book Review: “Mars” (Ben Bova) (3 Stars)

A very REALISTIC story about man’s first trek to mars. The story is dutifully speculative fiction. Painstakingly thoughtful on all the circumstances that would surround such a voyage, from earth-bound politics to interpersonal relationships of the travelers themselves. Lets also not forget the science which Bova provides in generous amounts.

If you love mars and you love scientific fiction about space exploration then you will love this book. I feel the author made a hard choice in keeping away from fantasy and he sticks to it through and through. Its hard to explain without giving away spoilers.

Overall, I felt somewhat unsatisfied with the result. While the work is done masterfully for what it is I felt a tad bit cheated in the end. That said, I will state unequivocally that I was glued to this book throughout my reading. I found myself compelled to keep picking it up and the writing is done well so I was able to plow through it quite swiftly despite its length. So kudos to the author for keeping me quite interested from start to finish.

I did not like the politics of the book or the interpersonal relationships. Which I suppose you were not supposed to like as they serve as potential sources of conflict for the main character. They were done fine. However, I feel like the author kept threatening to derail the mission because of various political problems on the ground or petty jealousies among the chief characters. All of this would be quite good, and it served a purpose of putting this space exploration in a realistic world – yet I felt that the author shied away from really raising the stakes with these things. And because the politics and interpersonal relationships only seemed to threaten thing in a weak way I felt that the peaks and valleys of the story were less dramatic. I guess it felt a bit like the story was sacrificed for the mission. So I wonder if the book could have been shortened if we took out some of the these elements.

I would say this story is really a 3.5 star rating.

And yet, I feel duty bound to leave you with the notion that I could truly not put down the book. So if you are at all interested in Mars missions and realistic science fiction, I would definitely check it out.

 
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Posted by on November 18, 2014 in Book Reviews

 

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BOOK/MOVIE SUGGESTIONS????

As the year winds down, the crew at “No Deodorant In Outer Space” is thinking about what the next year will hold for them. We are open to suggestions from people for material. Our show reviews classic and contemporary literature and movies in science fiction, fantasy and related genres. The caveat is that it has to be a book turned into a movie, though we take a fairly broad interpretation of the definition of science fiction and fantasy genres. Check out this past year’s line up to get a better idea (www.nodeodorant.com).

So if you know of a book or story turned into a movie (or TV series) that you think we should check out, comment to this post or message us. We’d love to hear from you!

 

 
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Posted by on November 13, 2014 in News

 
 
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