Archive for books

AWESOME-tober-fest 2020: The Man in the Black Suit by Stephen King

Posted in AWESOME-tober-fest, Blog Series, books, monsters, pop culture, The Devil with tags , , , , , , on October 21, 2020 by Paxton

Awesometoberfest 2020

I’ve been talking a lot about devils in movies and TV shows. So I want to throw another book into the mix. And I feel like I need to include something from Stephen King. And that something is going to be Stephen King’s short story, The Man in the Black Suit.

Man in the Black Suit Everything's Eventual

I think the story has been published in several places, but I know it from King’s short story collection Everything’s Eventual. I love King’s short story collections; Skeleton Crew, Night Shift, Different Seasons, Four Past Midnight, Nightmares & Dreamscapes. They are some of my favorite of his writings.  There’s just something about the stories being more concentratedly powerful and creepy.  Many years ago, say 2004-ish, I picked up the paperback version of this collection and started reading it.  I was traveling a lot at the time for my job, flying across the country.  I got about 3 stories in and accidentally left the book on the plane.  To this day I’ve not continued reading it despite the fact that the first two stories in the collection were terrific.  The Man in the Black Suit is the second story.  And it’s stuck with me all of these years.  When I decided to do The Devil for AWESOME-tober-fest this year, this was one of the first things that popped into my head.

The story is told in flashback.  Gary, old and dying in a nursing home, has decided to write down a story that he has never spoken to anyone.  Ever.  It happened back in the 1920s, when he was 9 years old.  He went fishing one day several miles from his house down Castle Stream.  He falls asleep waiting for a bite and is suddenly awoken by and sees what looks like a man in a black suit.  But upon closer inspection, it is so much more.  They start off having a conversation.  During this conversation, Gary comes to understand that this man is The Devil himself.  And the rest of their conversation Gary is trying to not let the man know that he has figured out that he is the Devil.

Yes, this story is creepy, but I’m bringing this story up because of King’s depiction of the Devil.  It’s one we don’t see that often.  The truly monsterous version of the Devil.  This Devil is pale and tall with skinny arms and legs.  He smells of burnt match sticks.  Gary notices claws at the end of his pale, thin hands and his mouth is filled with sharp fangs.  And where the man’s eyes should be, are flames.  Like a blast furnace with no door.  This Devil is truly terrifying.  He doesn’t speak in an English accent, say pithy lines, or make bargains or deals.  This Devil makes it clear to Gary that he intends to eat him.  For he is mighty hungry.

Since the story is told in flashback, you know that ultimately Gary escapes.  But it’s a harrowing escape.  I love this story, and I highly recommend you checking it out.  It’s available out there in several places by itself or in other collections.  And now that I’ve reread this story and it totally holds up, I think I may pick back up Everything’s Eventual and finally finish it.



Also, check out the blog Countdown to Halloween for more Halloween-y, bloggy AWESOMEness.

AWESOME-tober-fest 2020: Satan and the Incarnations of Immortality

Posted in AWESOME-tober-fest, Blog Series, books, monsters, pop culture, The Devil with tags , , , , , , on October 14, 2020 by Paxton

Awesometoberfest 2020

Let’s continue my “Devil’s Walk” this month with a look at another fascinating incarnation of the Devil. And this one is a literal “incarnation” from an 80s fantasy series.

My senior year in high school, I had an awesome English teacher named Mrs West. She had a reputation as being tough, and she was, but she was also an awesome English teacher. At several points in the curriculum she would give us book choices and actually let us vote on the ones we wanted to cover which is why we ended up talking about books like Stephen King’s Eyes of the Dragon and Tolkien’s The Hobbit.  I was introduced to several things that year that I wound up loving that I probably wouldn’t have otherwise thanks to Mrs West.  One other choice that we talked about that year was a fantasy book by Piers Anthony called On a Pale Horse.  We only talked about that one book, but come to find out, that book was the beginning of a fantasy series called The Incarnations of Immortality.

On a Pale Horse was the first book, and it was released in 1983.  It takes place on an alternate Earth in the near future.  Humans have developed magic alongside science.  You can do things with magic, but it’s hard, there are a lot of rules, and sometimes it’s just easier to flick on a light switch.  Or light a match.  So both exist simultaneously and both are ubiquitous on this Earth.  We meet poor, down on his luck Zane, who has a bad experience trying to purchase a magic “wealth stone” that we ultimately learn only finds pocket change.  Despondent, Zane, with no prospects, decides to kill himself, but as he does, a giant black robed figure enters the room.  Zane, without thinking, turns the gun he had on himself, to the black robed figure and pulls the trigger.  Yes, Zane kills Death.  We are then thrust into the crux of the series.  Zane learns that by killing Death, he must assume the office of Death.  We learn here that the afterlife runs just like any government office.  And each aspect of the afterlife is headed by an Incarnation.  We learn that the main Incarnation offices are Death, Time, Fate, War, and Nature.  All the offices are held by people that have assumed that aspect of the office and they are the ones that carry out its duties.   There are also Incarnations for Good (God) and Evil (Satan).  It’s discussed, but you don’t really see the Good Incarnation until the end of the series.  However, the Incarnation of Evil is the antagonist for pretty much the entire series.  He’s constantly popping up and causing problems for each incarnation.  In fact, each Incarnation has to have their own confrontation with Satan after they take over the office as sort of a rite of passage.  So, this version of the Devil is heavily involved in the entire series, even getting his own book.

But before I get there, the original series included 7 books that started in 1983 and finished in 1990.  Anthony did write an 8th book in 2007, but I haven’t read it, and I’m not entirely sure I’m going to just yet.  Ok, I say that, but I’ll probably fold like a deck chair and read it.  If I haven’t already.  Like I said, I read the first book back in high school and I liked it so much I picked up the second book, Bearing an Hourglass, and read it that year as well.  For some reason I stopped there, and I’m not sure why.  Then, in 2001, a co-worker heard I’d never finished the series and said I should get on that.  So, thinking back fondly on those first two books, I decided to re-read the first two, then I continued to read the entire series through book 7.  The overall concept of the series is GREAT.  The entries themselves are mostly hit with some misses.  So, when thinking about using this series’ Satan as one of my AWESOME-tober-fest picks, I didn’t want to re-read the *entire* series, so I picked a few of my favorites to re-read before reading Satan’s book.  The books I decided to re-read in the series are Books 1 (Death), 2 (Time), and 4 (War).

Death Time War

Aside from Book 6, which was all about Satan, these are the three books I remember liking the most (the last time I read these were back in 2001).  The concept, again, is really good. Satan is the antagonist in all three. He’s a schmoozer, a wheeler and dealer. He is the Father of Lies, so he is always speaking in half and veiled truths. But he’s very charismatic and in many cases, on the surface, he makes a lot of sense. It’s why this Satan works. He greets new incarnations, he never shies away from his bad reputation, explaining it away as misunderstandings, and tells his version of things in an engaging way. It’s only after the new Incarnation has gained some experience that he sees Satan for what he is. These three books are great setups for that, and it sets the expectation that Satan is the ultimate antagonist for the series.

Then you get to book 6, For Love of Evil.

This is the book that focuses on the office of Satan.  After having been conditioned through five books to see the Incarnation of Evil as the villain, this is the book that shifts things around a little and adds all of this unexpected context to the idea of Satan, as he pertains to this series.  This book starts hundreds of years before the first of the series.  We meet Parry.  The book follows the established formula of the series.  You start off and meet the human characters before they become incarnations.  Some more than others.  Zane from On a Pale Horse, we only meet for a few pages before he becomes Death.  Norton, who becomes Time, we see a LOT of him before he becomes Time.  Same with Mym before he becomes War.  And especially Parry.  There’s nearly 100 pages before we even get to the point of him taking the office.  That time is well used, though.  He starts off as the son/apprentice of a powerful sorcerer.  He meets and courts a woman.  There is a sudden attack on his father which puts Parry on the run.  He realizes he has to hide and stop using magic as his pursuers have another powerful magician waiting for Parry to use magic so it can be tracked.  So Parry hides in an order of dominican monks.  He becomes a very canny searcher of evil and increases the influence of his monk order many fold.  It’s in this position Parry is approached by Lilith, a minion of Lucifer, the current office holder.  She is there to tempt him, and this is where the story really begins.  Parry winds up taking the office, becoming Satan, and ruling for hundreds of years.  We see his domain of Hell and how, when he takes the office, disorganized it is.  While Parry is the Incarnation of Evil, he does seek to make the punishment and redistribution of souls a more efficient process.  He even creates a mini-Heaven within Hell to hold souls who have been mis-classified and are awaiting release to Heaven.  ‘

We also see many of the events of the previous books from Parry’s point of view.  His confrontations with the previous Incarnations Zane, Norton, Mym, which I just reread, as well as his interactions with the other incarnations I didn’t reread; Orb (Nature), and Niobe (Fate).  Like I said, the events in those other books are addressed here.  I really like how we see this whole series from a new perspective.  Parry isn’t evil.  He runs an office that is evil, but he himself is not evil.  There’s even a point where he goes to meet with Heaven to stop the ridiculous race for souls between the two of them.  It’s inefficient and it harms more souls than it helps.  This was a really good book and I really enjoy how it absolutely fits within the framework of this whole series, but also sort of turns it all around and looks at it from behind.

If you remembver up top, I mentioned that an eighth book was released a few years ago, and that I never read it.  It was a small printing and it’s hard to find.  The character in that book is Nox, the Incarnation of Night.  She appears in this sixth book.  A few times, actually.  I really enjoyed this reread.  I enjoyed it enough to say that, yes, I’ll probably wind up reading that eighth book, just to see how it ties in.



Also, check out the blog Countdown to Halloween for more Halloween-y, bloggy AWESOMEness.

Super Blog Teamup: Jumper and the creation of a multiverse

Posted in books, movies, pop culture with tags , , , on June 24, 2020 by Paxton

Well, I decided I needed to write more, and I haven’t really found a time to do it.  Keeping up work, podcasting, and several “real life” things during the quarantine have kept me pretty busy.  However, I still have that urge to write more on the blog.  So when Charlton Hero gave me the opportunity to join the latest round of Super Blog Team-Up, I thought that this was a perfect chance to do that.  And the topic of expanded universes in pop culture was a perfect fit for me.

So let’s talk about Jumper.

Back in 2008, a movie named Jumper was released. It starred Hayden Christensen from the Star Wars prequels, Jaime Bell, Rachel Bilson, and Sam Jackson (also from the Star Wars prequels). It looked like a fun, big budget, high octane, genre movie.  It’s about a kid, Davey Rice, that learns he has the ability to teleport.  And he also learns that there are others like him and a shadowy government agency is out to control them, and their ability, for themselves.

jumper movie

The movie is…pretty good. There’s lots of interesting ideas throughout.  I love the idea of teleporters.  And Davey discovers this whole group of people who can teleport just like him, and then also discovering Sam Jackson’s character and his agency are after him.  Ruthelssly.  No holds barred.  I like that.  But the movie isn’t as good as the sum of the parts.  Christensen isn’t great as Davey.  He’s a bit like Anakin Skywalker in Episode II, rather whiny.  I like Rachel Bilson, but she isn’t really given a lot to do.  Jamie Bell is awesome as Griffin who introduces us to the wider world of Jumpers and their battle against Sam Jackson’s Paladins.  This movie, for the most part, sets up a cool world that I would have liked to have seen continued.  But it went no further than this despite rumors that they are trying to start up a TV show featuring Jamie Bell returning as his Griffin character.

But I’ll admit, I’ve always been a sucker for teleportation as a power.  I was always a big fan of Nightcrawler.  There were several DC Comics villains that could teleport or “warp”.  I just thought it was a great power and not utilized enough.  In fact, if you ask me today what super power I’d like to have, I would say teleportation or “warping” powers.  Imagine rolling out of bed, showering and “popping” into work 5 seconds later?  Or, time to drive the kids to the grandparents’ house 5 and a half hours away?  Ok kids, grab your suitcases, think about Gramps’ house.  BAMF.  We’re there.  No yelling in the car.  No “are we there yet”s.  None of that goddam nonsense.  Ok, see you in a week, kids.  BAMF.

Anyway, after seeing the movie, I did a little research into the story.  I discovered that it was based on a book.  A book about a kid that can teleport.  Needless to say, I was intrigued.  That book was from 1992 and it’s called Jumper by Steven Gould.

Jumper Book 1

So a few months later I picked up a used copy of the book and started reading.  And clearly I didn’t research the story enough, because the whole time I was reading it, I was waiting for Sam Jackson’s Roland character or Jamie Bell’s Griffin character to make an appearance.  I had no idea that the movie was rewritten to be so different from the book.  None of the movie characters show up and, as a matter of fact, the entire concept in the movie of Paladins, and legions of people with the ability to jump, and this huge war going on between them is not even mentioned.  The movie created a whole alternate universe for Jumper that essentially just shares the characters of Davey and Millie and that’s about it.

The book’s story focuses on Davey and Millie, and their relationship, as well as Davey’s strained relationship with his father and mother. The entire story is more intimate and, honestly, works a bit better in many respects. In the book, Millie is a girl he meets at a party, not his elementary school crush.  Davey is the only person in the book we ever see that can teleport.  And the government is, in fact, after Davey, but it’s the NSA, not some shadowy government branch with agents called Paladins. Also, it’s more clear in the book that Davey is supposed to be very immature and whiny due to his poor relationship with his family, and the fact that he’s been on his own since he was 14 or 15.  Which somewhat explains Hayden’s whiny performance in the movie.  Also the ability to jump is explored more, which is nice.  But it’s not explained how it really works.  The reader is learning about jumping as Davey learns about it.  We see him test out his powers.  Learn how they work.  And how they don’t work.  The book is also really good about exploring many issues not apparent in the movie version.  It explores a little more realistically about Davey and his responsibility to use his power and not let it be abused.  And there’s some extra stuff about his mother that is really explored in the book that is only touched on in the movie. So while I enjoyed the movie, it was technically a terrible adaptation of the book.  The stories are completely different.

Then, I discovered, that in 2004, Gould wrote a sequel to Jumper called Reflex.

It’s obviously a sequel to Gould’s novel and not the movie as it was published a few years before the movie was released.  It makes the odd choice of jumping 10 years in the future after the first book.  At this time, Davey, who is now working for the NSA as an agent, is finally captured by a secret criminal organization and is tortured and conditioned into working for them. Millie must work with the government to save him. I really do recommend reading both Jumper books, even if you didn’t like the movie (but especially if you did).  What happens to Davey in this book, how the criminal mastermind tortures him and “conditions” him to obey his commands is terrifying.  Millie gets a lot to do because it’s up to her to save Davey.  You could almost see how this story could be modified to be a sequel to the movie Jumper.  Just change the shadowy criminal organization to Sam Jackson’s Paladins and you’re set.  You’d have to omit the part where Davey is actually working for the government, but maybe not, maybe there’s a rogue element in the government allowing it to happen.  Speaking of, in the beginning of this book we learn that Davey did ultimately agree to start working for the government.  When we get to the beginning of this book, which is, like I said, 10 years later, we see he’s about to get out of it.  I’m surprised we haven’t gotten any stories from Gould about the 10 years Davey spent as an agent for the government.  I bet there are some really good stories you could do with Davey as a teleporting secret agent.  That could have been a lot of fun.

So, at the time of the movie’s release, we had two Jumper books by Steven Gould to support the movie.  There wasn’t a separate novelization of the movie, which honestly would have made sense to do because the movie is just so different from the original novel.  No, instead, to confuse everybody, they just rereleased both Gould Jumper novels with brand new movie poster covers.   And, along with the rereleases, instead of a new novelization, Gould wrote a new Jumper book.  It was called Jumper: Griffin’s Story.

And again, to completely confuse everyone, this book is written as a prequel to the movie.  So now, with the movie release, we have two Jumper books by Steven Gould that honestly have *nothing* to do with the movie except a cover with the movie poster.  And also a new Jumper book, written by Steven Gould, and also with a movie poster cover, that has nothing to do with the original novels.  Complete madness, guys.

As the title suggests, this book tells us the story of the Griffin character before the events in the movie.  Honestly, it’s a pretty good book.  The only character from the movie other than Griffin to show up is Sam Jackson’s Roland, but that was only briefly. I was also hoping that towards the end of the book we’d see an appearance or cameo by Davey.  However, in an odd decision, the book ends years before the movie is supposed to begin.  So it doesn’t really connect to the movie at all.

After this book and the movie was released, not much really happened with the Jumper universes.  No new movie ever happened and no new books were released.  Nothing, that is until 2013 when Gould released Impulse, followed by Exo in 2014.

These two sequels jump ahead a few more years and focus on Davey and Millie and their daughter “Cent” (actually, Millicent, like her mother).  It continues on in the same novel universe as before.  Impulse is actually really good.  I was concerned when I realized it was going to focus on the daughter going to school and her parents being all paranoid and weird, because I wanted to hear more about Davey and Millie.  However, the way it builds on how they live.  Totally off the grid.  They teleport to several places on Earth.  Davey is paranoid for a reason.  Almost to a fault.  All Cent wants is to go to high school like a normal person.  I really enjoyed it.  Exo is currently the most recent sequel.  It’s…okay.  It jumps a few more years.  Cent is much older now.  There’s a WHOLE LOT more experimentation in this book with the ability to teleport.  Like, they really try to break down how it works what with the air pressure differences and the differences in elevation between two supposed jump sites.  It’s almost a bit too much.

There was also a prequel comic book that was released around the time of the movie.  It was called Jumper: Jumpscars.  It followed Davey’s mother before the events of the movie.  That’s the one thing with Jumper that I haven’t read yet.  It’s become kind of hard to find for a good price.  No one I guess bought it when it came out.  It’s not even on Comixology.

So, as a stand alone movie, Jumper is good. When compared with the source material, it is a very bad adaptation. However, since the movie makers made an interesting enough story, I’d say it balances out to a win. I mean, the movie got me to read the entire Jumper series by Gould, so it must have had something there.

Check out some of the other awesome entries in this Super Blog Team Up Expanded Universe series:

Michael May: Treasure Island Universe

Super-Hero Satellite: M.A.S.K.: The Road To Revolution.

Between The Pages Blog: Fantastic Forgotten Star Wars Characters

Comics Comics Comics: The Further Adventures of Indiana Jones

The Source Material Comics Podcast: TMNT/Ghostbusters

DC In The 80s: The TSR Universe

Pop Culture Retrorama: The Phantom Universe

The Telltale Mind: Archie Andrews – Superstar

The Daily Rios – Little Shop of Horrors

2019 Year End Honorable Mentions – Books/Comics

Posted in Blog Series, Book Report with tags , , , , , on January 15, 2020 by Paxton

YE Book Report

I posted my favorite books/comics of 2019 list a few weeks ago.  I had a few other books/comics that, while I didn’t feel they should have made the main list, I still want to talk about.  So, here are my Honorable Mentions of 2019.

Let’s do books first, then I’ll do some comics.

Legion
Legion: The Many Lives of Stephen Leeds by Brandon Sanderson
– I’ve read Brandon Sanderson before. I read the first book of his Mistborn trilogy for High Fantasy Month, which was pretty good, as well as his entire Reckoners Trilogy, which was fantastic (it made my best list in 2017).  So I have been looking for more of his books to read and came across two novellas that he wrote several years ago.  The first novella was called Legion, and the sequel was called Legion: Skin Deep.  They were about a man named Stephen Leeds.  He’s a genius, but the way his mind manifested this genius was to create what Leeds called “aspects”.  These aspects housed the knowledge and information he learned.  And each aspect carried a different set of knowledge and skills as well as a personality.  Similar to the movie A Beautiful Mind, I guess, but these stories treat the condition as kind of a super power.  Sanderson collected those first two novellas together into this book with a brand new third story.  And it’s a lot of fun.  This could make for an interesting show on some streaming network.  Someone needs to look into that.

7 1/2 Deaths
The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton
– Published in late 2018, I got this book as a gift for my wife because the premise sounded intriguing.  There’s a party at an old English manor.  A young woman is going to die at the end of the night, and the main character has to solve it in seven days.  But every day, she wakes up in a different party goer’s body at a different time of the day.  It’s sort of like Downton Abbey meets Agatha Christie meets Groundhog Day.  It’s a very interesting story that is structured in a non-traditional way.  It can get confusing and I’m not 100% sure what fully happens at the end, but the read is a lot of fun.

Hot Rock
The Hot Rock (Dortmunder #1) by Donald Westlake
– Back in 2015, when I did the Invisible Man for AWESOME-tober-fest, I read a Donald Westlake novel called Smoke. I liked it, but even before I read that, I was aware of Westlake’s heist novel The Hot Rock from 1970.  I may have even already owned it at that point.  But I didn’t read it until this past year.  And it’s really great, actually.  It’s a fun heist novel that’s sort of a working man’s Ocean’s 11.  The main character is John Dortmunder.  He has just been released from prison and his right hand man approaches him, after JUST picking him up from getting out of jail, with a job.  Dortmunder reluctantly agrees to the heist and everything that can go wrong does go wrong and they wind up having to steal the the thing they are hired to steal at least three different times.  I really enjoyed this book and want to continue the series, as Westlake wrote like 8 or 9 Dortmunder novels.  This book also led me to a movie adaptation I didn’t even know existed starring Robert Redford and George Segal.

Jaws Jaws 2
Jaws by Peter Benchley/Jaws 2 by Hank Searls
– I’m going to cheat a little and put two books here.  I had to mention the Jaws books.  I covered both of these books for the I Read Movies podcast in Summer 2019 and I was pleasantly surprised by both.  First of all, everyone pretty much trashes Benchley’s original novel because it’s not as good as Spielberg’s movie.  Which is true, the movie is better.  HOWEVER, Benchley’s novel is a very pulpy, 70s novel that I thoroughly enjoyed reading.  The characters are a lot less likable in Benchley’s book than in Spielberg’s movie, which may be the crux of people’s issues with the book, but it makes for an interesting story.  I’m mainly speaking of Mike and Ellen Brody as being mostly unlikable (you’ll wonder why they are even married), but Hooper is also a rather unlikable, douchey, just out of college, rich kid.  It makes for a fascinating collection of characters and a really fun read.  Yes, the movie is better, but don’t sleep on the Jaws novel.  I’ll say the same for Jaws 2.  Searls’ story really follows the events of the first movie, but it also doesn’t completely ignore the events of the novel.  And since Searls also wrote Jaws the Revenge, that book fits into this series like a jigsaw puzzle piece.  The whole Jaws cycle of novels are totally fun and well worth a read.  Or, you can listen to me talk about them all on the I Read Movies podcast.

Now on to comics.

Savage Avengers
Savage Avengers by Gerry Duggan
– I’m a fan of Gerry Duggan. He and Brian Posehn did an amazing run on Deadpool which started (for me) with Deadpool: Dracula’s Gauntlet (Best Books I Read in 2015) and continued into the Marvel Now Deadpool series.  Then Duggan did a zany run on Uncanny Avengers that I really enjoyed. He even wrote a somewhat sequel to Dracula’s Gauntlet called Mrs Deadpool and the Howling Commandos which I thoroughly enjoyed.  So when I saw he was doing an Avengers spin off with Wolverine, Punisher, Venom, Brother Voodoo and Conan, I thought, this is something I need to check out.  And this eclectic collection of characters totally works.  I’ve really enjoyed the first volume of this series and want to continue reading.  I love when writers take these totally wacky groups of characters and turn them into a wacky team book.  Kelly Thompson did it with the most recent West Coast Avengers.  Duggan did it before with Uncanny Avengers.  Definitely worth a read.

Avengers 1 Avengers 2 Avengers 3
The Avengers by Jason Aaron
– Jason Aaron has become one of my favorite comics writers.  His Thor run was nothing short of phenomenal.  It showed up multiple times on my best of lists.  Aaron also wrote the first few years of the 2015 Marvel Star Wars title which was really, really awesome, and he did a great take on Dr Strange that same year in 2015.  So when I heard he was taking over the main Avengers title, I was pretty excited.  And for the most part I’ve really enjoyed some of the stuff he’s done.  Black Panther is the leader.  I love that Panther creates a covert subset of the Avengers filled with all of these B level characters you haven’t seen in years.  Blade joins the team for another “War of the Vampires” story arc.  Hell, Thor and She-Hulk kind of start dating…sort of.  It’s a bunch of cool ideas that it seems like Aaron is having fun with, but also I’m having fun with.

Black Barn
Gideon Falls Volume 1: The Black Barn
– I’m a pretty big fan of Jeff Lemire.  He’s shown up on this list many times.  Here’s another one.  This is a straight up horror comic.  It involves the legend of the Black Barn, that has shown up throughout history bringing death and madness in its wake, and ensnaring the lives of two different men.  The book is drawn by Andrea Sorrentino who frequently partners with Lemire and I love these two together.  This book reminds me a bit of Joshua Williamson’s Nailbiter series, which I loved.  Very atmospheric, very dark.  I’ve only read the first volume but I will eagerly be reading more.

JH Time Police
Jughead’s Time Police
– So last year, the original 1990 Jughead Time Police series made my best of list.  This year, we got a reboot of that series.  Written by Sina Grace.  And it’s actually pretty good.  It’s funny, and it coincidentally uses a plot device I thought of when doing an episode of Nerd Lunch back in Sep 2018.  Obviously totally coincidental, but I love that someone else had that idea too!  I’m a big fan of Jughead, especially his reboots in the “new Archie” universe.  This is a good addition to those stories.

Those are some of the other books/comics I felt I wanted to talk about that didn’t necessarily make my “best of” list.

Year End Book Report: My Favorite Books/Comics I Read in 2019

Posted in Blog Series, Book Report, books, comic books with tags , , , , , on January 9, 2020 by Paxton

Year End Badass Book Report

Okey-dokey, my friends, it’s time for my year end round up articles. Every year in January (or February if I’m running late) I write up a list of my favorite things I read and watched in the previous year. I started doing movies in about 2007, then I added a books list in 2009.  These are some of my favorite articles to write because I can look back at the previous year and relive all the ups and downs in my own reading and watching.  It really is a lot of fun.

I keep my reading log in two places.  I’m still keeping a Google Spreadsheet of the books I’ve read.  But you can also check me out over on Goodreads.  See the details for all the books I’ve read, read my reviews, marvel at how handsome my profile pic is.  Lots of stuff to do there.

Here’s my 2019 Goodreads “My Year in Books” information:

According to Goodreads, and it’d know, I read 115 books last year, equaling 22,094 pages.  The longest book I read was Beastie Boys Book, which is surprising because I totally thought that Making of Empire Strikes Back book was longer.  Anyway, last year I had set my 2019 reading challenge to 80 books, so I beat that.  Yay!  I had a pretty good, consistent year of reading in 2019 so I was able to get my numbers up.  I hit a rough patch in October and November where I couldn’t read very much at all, otherwise, I would have finished with 120 books.  I set up my Goodreads challenge for 2020 just the other day, and I set it to 105 books.  We’ll see if I can keep last year’s momentum going.

The rules for this list are the same as always; only books I read for the first time in 2019 are eligible.  No re-reads.  I’ll probably do a followup article with Honorable Mentions and I’ll include any re-read books worth mentioning in that article.  I generally pick about 5 books and 5 comics to put in this list, but as always, I reserve the right to pick a few extras.  Let’s see if that happens this year.

First up…

Books

Four Legendary Kingdoms
The Four Legendary Kingdoms by Matthew Reilly – I’ve been reading Matthew Reilly for years, starting with The Contest way back in 2007-ish.  Since then I’ve read almost all of his books over the years.  This is the 4th book in Reilly’s Jack West Jr series. The first three books of this series made a previous Favorite Books list (WAAAAAAY back in 2011).  I read both the 4th and the 5th book (Three Secret Cities) in the series this year.  Reilly is such a fun author.  He writes these incredible, fast paced, adventure novels with fantastical plots.  I love them.  And this book actually features a low key but great crossover with another of Reilly’s heroes from a different series.  So much story and adventure in this book, I really enjoyed it.  As well as the aforementioned 5th book.  Looking forward to the release of the 6th book, soon I hope.

Vengeful
Vengeful by VE Schwab – The second book in Schwab’s Villains series. The first book made my list last year.  The world in this book has developed EOs (extra-ordinaries).  EOs are people that have acquired super powers through a near death experience.  And how the person nearly dies kind of determines the powers that person will have.  This book picks right up after the previous book with Victor and his crew tracking down and trying to stop Eli.  But we also get the rise of a brand new EO with her own vengeful agenda.  This is a great followup to the also great, Vicious.  The characters are all well written, the storyline is dark, but I had a lot of fun with this.  And I like the manifestation and different types of power sets in this series.  Really well thought out and written.

Beastie Boys Book
Beastie Boys Book by Mike Diamond and Adam Horovitz – The Beastie Boys are one of my favorite groups.  Ever since I discovered them on the Krush Groove soundtrack back in the mid 80s I’ve been a die hard fan.  Consequently, I was thoroughly excited for the guys to tell their own history.  And they don’t disappoint here.  You get a great time capsule of New York in the early 80s.  Some of the punk scene and then transitioning over to the hip hop scene.  The Boys were there on the ground floor for a *lot* of hip hop history.  Some of my favorite stuff in this is the pre album stuff.  The stuff they did while recording the albums.  We get a lot of reminiscing about hanging out recording all their albums, like Check Your Head and Hello Nasty out in California, which is great.  And touring.  So much content.  This book is PACKED with info.  If you’re even a casual fan, you need to give this book a shot.  The only sad thing is that Adam MCA Yauch is no longer with us to tell his part of this story.  That would have made this just that much more complete.

Making of Empire Strikes Back
The Making of The Empire Strikes Back by JW Rinzler – I read Rinzler’s The Making of Star Wars book last year and it made my year end list.  So I started this book this past summer and read it on and off for about four months.  These books are exhaustive and super long.  I would read here and there, absorbing the details of filming on sets, the drama of actors, trying to get the story right, etc etc.  While this wasn’t as good as The Making of Star Wars, I really enjoyed the peek behind the curtain for Empire.  The lead up writing the screenplay, the tension that occurred between the actors over their parts, and the final marketing before the movie was released.  All of that info, and the book is packed with pictures, images, diagrams, script remnants.  So much to look at.  I also have Rinzler’s The Making of Return of the Jedi, and I hope to read that in 2020 the same way I read Star Wars and Empire the past two years.  I would say expect to probably see Making of Jedi on next year’s list.

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Rewinder series by Brett Battles – Every year Amazon offers its Kindle Unlimited program for a special low promo price. Normally it’s $9.99/month, but they will sometimes offer 3 months for $9.99, or 3 months for $.99, or even 3 months for free. With it you can browse and read a cultivated selection of kindle books and magazines.  I will usually take advantage of these special prices and read as many books as I can in three months for the low low promo price.  This series by Brett Battles is on Kindle Unlimited and during one of these promos I tried it out because it was about time travel.  And it’s a pretty great story.  Denny Younger was born into one of the lowest rungs of society.  His fortunes change when he’s recruited by a mysterious institute to become a Rewinder, a verifier of personal histories.  However Denny learns that verifying these histories doesn’t involve research in a library, but actually witnessing history and events through time travel.  And if he’s not careful, even the smallest mistake can have the largest consequences.  I blew through the first book and only had like a week or two before my promo period ended to read the second and third books which I was able to do with days to spare.  The whole series is a great read.  I had a lot of fun binging the three books back to back to back.  This series will definitely become a re-read at some point for me.

Impossible Fortress
The Impossible Fortress by Jason Rekulak – This book was sent to me by my good friend, Shawn Robare.  He actually sent it to me years ago, but I didn’t get to it until this past year when I had an unexpected lull in my reading pile.  So I picked up this book, started to read it on a lark, and completely fell in love.  It’s set during the summer of 1987, and the book feels natural in that time period.  I don’t feel like it tries to hit you over the head with the nostalgic setting.  And the characters are very well drawn, especially our leads, Will and Mary.  It’s a wonderful, unassuming “back in the day” type story that I totally fell for.  Great great book.  Highly recommended.  Thanks Shawn for introducing me to it.

Here and Now and Then
Here and Now and Then by Mike Chen – I forget how I discovered this book.  It was published in January 2019.  It’s a really cool story about Kin Stewart, a man living a normal life in San Francisco in the 1990s with his wife and daughter but whose previous occupation was as a time traveling temporal police detective from 2142 who was accidentally stranded in the 90s after a botched mission.  18 years later, Kin is struggling with only partial memories of his previous life which is giving him headaches and blackouts, when his rescue team unexpectedly shows up and tries to take him back to his rightful future and a family he doesn’t remember.  This was such a good book.  I’m a sucker for time travel anyway, and this really hit the spot.  A lot of the story is about family and really hit home for me with the relationship of the main character and his daughter.

Time to move on to…

Comics

Superior Spider-Man collection
The Superior Spider-Man Complete Collection Volume 1 – I’ve had some of these issues for a while but never got around to actually reading them.  Then I was able to get this complete collection (the first 16 issues of the series) on sale for cheap and decided to give it a shot.  Just before he dies, Otto Octavius manages to switch his mind into Peter Parker’s body and Peter’s mind into Otto’s dying body.  Then Otto masquerades around as Peter/Spider-Man, being a super hero and living Peter’s life.  I think this is a great concept.  Otto tries to fit in and use his intellect to make his job as the new Spider-Man easier.  He’s also a lot more ruthless about catching criminals and it gets him into trouble.  It’s an interesting take on the “fish out of water” concept.  I really like it.  It reminds me a lot of Brian Michael Bendis’ Infamous Iron Man (which made my Best Books of 2017 list).

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Kate Bishop: Hawkeye by Kelly Thompson
– Several years ago I read Matt Fraction’s Hawkeye series and loved it.  Kate is a big part of that series and I loved her in it.  So when I found out she got her own series, I snatched it right up.  And it’s great.  Kate is an awesome character and I love how Kelly Thompson writes her, and her eclectic group of friends that gather around her.  This is a great series, I love Thompson’s humor and was sad there weren’t more issues of this series when I finished with the third volume.  I wanted more!

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Gwenpool the Unbelievable by Christopher Hastings
– There are 5 volumes of Christopher Hastings’ Gwenpool series.  I originally started reading it because we were having him on as a guest on our now defunct podcast, Down the Rabbit Hole.  The very first volume was a bit rough.  I had a hard time getting through it but it sort of worked itself out by the end.  Then, starting in Volume 2, it just took off.  The series was so fun.  I know, she seems like a total “girl Deadpool” rip off, but she’s not.  Exactly.  Yes, she has the same “break the fourth wall” abilities, and she’s very wacky, but, as far as this series goes, I think I like her better than Deadpool.  I really enjoyed how zany and meta this whole series got.  I want Gwenpool to show up a lot more from now on.

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West Coast Avengers by Kelly Thompson
– So I loved the two previous series starring the badass ladies Kate Bishop and Gwenpool, so of course I decided to pick up the title that TEAMS THEM UP and is written by the gal that wrote Kate Bishop’s solo series! This was such a cool and quirky team book with an eclectic collection of characters that I had so much fun with.  I am doubling down on Kelly Thompson here, she is a fantastic writer.  I loved both of these series she’s written so much I’ve gone searching out more of her work.  She’s currently writing the new Deadpool book, which of course I am going to read, but secretly, after West Coast Avengers ended this year, I was hoping she’d write a Gwenpool solo book.  This Avengers book is awesome and I was super sad it only lasted two volumes.  I wanted so much more of this team!

Thanos Wins
Thanos Wins by Donny Cates
– On my list last year I grouped together a bunch of Jeff Lemire titles as favorites. One of those titles were his Thanos books (Thanos Returns, The God Quarry).  Those books were awesome and epic and I loved them.  So when I saw another guy, Donny Cates, was finishing off the third and final volume of the series, I was unsure what to do with that.  I loved those first books and I was disappointed Lemire wasn’t writing the third.  But I read it anyway and BAM! Cates knocks it out of the park.  It is BANANAS.  So much fun and I don’t know why I was worried or surprised because Cates also wrote Cosmic Ghost Rider: Baby Thanos Must Die and *that* book was cosmic and bonkers and amazing.  So, Donny Cates is now someone I’m paying attention to.

And those are my picks for the best books/comics I read in 2019.  Like I said, I may have some honorable mentions I can talk about in a separate article, but let me get my “Best Movies of 2019” list out there first.

Hope you enjoyed this list, stay tuned for my Best Movies list coming up soon!