Wool: 2013 Book #2

4 out of 5 stars

Wool is the kind of book I can more or less devour – particularly because this book has a strong beginning, I can see why there was demand for the Howey to keep the story going after releasing the first novella/short story in the Omnibus.

I think the book’s strength is how quickly Howey is able to get you invested in the characters. No spoilers, but I thought the author took a couple of huge risks in the first two sections of Wool, but he pulled it off while managing to lead into the main character’s arc deftly.

This intense character development almost masks the strength of his world building, which is top-notch. At no point did this post-apocalyptic universe, contained within a subterranean concrete silo, feel contrived or unrealistic. The concept hangs together tightly, and small details are revealed over time, never too much or too little, and everything is in service of the characters and the plot.

Once you arrive in sections 4 and 5, I did find the book weakened a bit, as he shifted from keeping each section focused on a single character to a multi-character point of view. The story seemed to lose a little bit of its focus and “oomph” at that point, but overall I still loved this post-apocalyptic slice of what could very easily be a much, much larger universe of fiction with loads of new stories waiting to be told, should Howey be so inspired.

I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend this book to sci-fi fans or post-apocalyptic fiction fans, and I’d even try and foist it upon my non-genre readers too. I think it does that good a job of rising above its genre.

American Gods: 2013 Book #1

1 out of 5 stars

Until I’d read this book, Gaiman fell into the same category as Dr. Who – something I’d never experienced, but was well beloved by many, many, MANY people. I won’t say I went in with high expectations – I went in with no expectations, I find that’s the best way to go about trying something unfamiliar.

With American Gods, I couldn’t get into it. I’ll probably be crucified for saying this, but the whole thing read like something that might come out of an undergrad college writing class. Where the author has always entertained dreams of writing something, you know, something really, really good – but ultimately never has that work peer reviewed or looked at by an editor. The characters of an ex-con, grifter, mystic women, villains who ALL are evil because they don’t care (and they do what they want) – it’s all so…stock.

I could not get into Shadow as a main character. It’s not until the very, very end of the book where he takes an active role in anything. For the bulk of the book, he’s along for the ride. And I guess I should care for him, he’s certainly been down on his luck. But I just don’t. He’s given up on life and merely blows wherever Wednesday tells him to, and I didn’t find that interesting in the slightest.

The concept of new vs. old gods was slightly intriguing, which is why I landed on this book in Gaiman’s catalog, but after experiencing it, he didn’t do it justice. The mythology of the old gods and articulation of the new gods is scattershot, which seems like was his intent, but it prevented me from getting into the conflict.

One book does not an author make, and I’ll likely give him another shot. For someone trying Gaiman on for size, I wouldn’t recommend this particular book.

This Jealous Earth

Midwestern Gothic’s latest venture, This Jealous Earth by Scott Dominic Carpenter, is here and ready for you to read. Even though you could make a strong argument that I’m biased, I loved this collection of short stories. (if I didn’t, why would I be publishing it?)

When Rob and I first talked about starting MG Press, the imprint putting out this book, we wanted to find a piece of work that reflected all the values of Midwestern Gothic, one that really showcased not just the region, but the talent residing here. Scott’s book fit the bill perfectly. It blew away the bill. We couldn’t have hoped for a better submission.

It’s been a lot of hard work to get to here – but it’s been worth it. And there’s a lot more ahead, as we try to bring this collection of 16 short fictions to readers. But we’re extremely thrilled to share this with the world and hear what people think.

Pick up a paperback or eBook of This Jealous Earth

Midwestern Gothic Issue 8

A new year, and that means a new issue of Midwestern Gothic.

Issue 8 (Winter 2013) of Midwestern Gothic might just have my favorite cover so far – the image of the Cornfield Horses from David J. Thomspon is one of those unique shots that we just couldn’t ignore. It’s a little bit whimsical, and a lot weird, but that’s what makes us love it – just like we love the Midwest. Once you get past that and into the guts of the issue, there’s still plenty of whimsy, weird and stuff you won’t find anywhere else but the Midwest.

One of the pieces that stuck with me the most in this particular collection was Michelle Webster-Hein’s “Pictures of Pictures.” In it, Helen takes photos of the memories of her friends who all live far more interesting lives than she does. It catches up to her when she tries to win the affection of the man who develops her photos. Webster-Hein’s Helen is pathetic, but there’s a bit of her in myself, or anyone who’s lived vicariously through another’s experiences rather making something happen for themselves. The endearing characterization brings to life a common thread among Midwesterners, who often find themselves stuck in place with no first-hand knowledge of what lies beyond the outer borders of their personal purview. Here’s an excerpt:

The next day Helen purchased a mini tape recorder and a package of mini tapes and stopped by Gertrude’s house.

“Tell me about Europe,” Helen said, and she turned on the tape recorder.

“What do you want to know?” Gertrude said.

Helen shrugged. “Where you’ve been, what you did there, how it felt.”

Gertrude eyed the tape recorder questioningly.

“I just want to remember,” Helen said.

After she left Gertrude’s with two full tapes, Helen stopped by to see Miriam, who had lived in France, and then dropped in on Jeanette, who had spent some time in Italy.

Over the next three days, Helen replayed each tape over and over and jotted down key notes on a pad of paper. In front of the mirror, she practiced certain
phrases and retold favorite anecdotes, replacing husbands with friends.

“A few years ago in Paris,” she would say and would then flip her wrist in what she hoped was a nonchalant gesture. These introductory phrases she practiced over and over until they sounded matter-of-fact. “The last time I was in Italy,” she’d say, or, “When I first spotted Tallinn from a distance.”

Get a copy of Issue 8 and discover more great voices in Midwestern literature