Austin By Night – Art [Layer 11]

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I wake up in the back seat of a car after having come to a stop. I check my watch and realize it has been nearly twenty four hours since Molly and I went our separate ways and I decided to lay low at a friends house. My clothes are soaking in sweat from being in the car for so long. I remember paying this man and his friend two hundred dollars to drive me back to central Austin, back to a specific address. I don’t remember talking to him much or his friend. Something about last night’s rave at the anime con and a guy who got robbed at gun point in the parking lot for his cash and gundam figurines. My contributions to the conversations were short, monotone phrases of something approaching these sorts responses mostly being: “Wow.” “That’s fucked up.” “Did that really happen?” “It is what it is, dude.” After the first hour of the driving around and hanging out in their apartment throughout the day they stopped talking to me and continued the agonizing, stream-of-consciousness level of conversation with each other. I was tired, not interested in discussing the latest season of Soul Eater, or the most recent post on Sankaku Complex. I closed my eyes and saw the dealer’s rooms, cosplayers and laser light above the dance floor drift in and out of my subconscious. Then I saw the woman kill that man on the live camera feed and I began to feel sick to my stomach.

“So,” The guy lets the word drag on unnecessarily to fill the silence. “This is the spot, right?”

I look over and see my old middle school. Now a long, dark, ominous, single-story, red brick building, with black windows that suggested something terrifying was hidden inside them. I forgot how afraid I was of the dark.

“Hey,” The other guy snapped. “We have to get to San Antonio by midnight. You have the other half of the money?”

I realize, turning to face him; that I didn’t remove the aviator shades from my face and I was seeing everything in a darker tint.

“Sorry,” The word comes out dry, like sandpaper, as I reach into my back pack and pull out the second hundred that I promised for their service. The second guy snatches it from me, happy to receive the money.

“Thank you,” I say in the dry sawdust voice again and step out of the car.

“Hey, man,” The driver rolls down his window and looks at me. He seems genuinely concerned. “We can drive you to your place, man. You don’t need to give us some random address.”

I look at him through my shades, trying to see the angle in what he’s offering. I glance at my reflection from the passenger door mirror and I see a guy in white shorts, white button up, black fingerless biker gloves and lips pursed. I look like a burnout or somebody trying too hard to impress strangers. Either stereotype might fit, since it all adds up to someone dying for attention or a man looking for sympathy by feeling the need to bribe people he doesn’t know for rides. I probably know what the real answer is, but I’m too afraid of going there. It’s a level of introspection not worth the price of facing who I really am. That’s for other people to make assumptions about.

“No, I’ll be okay.” I sling the backpack over my shoulder and start walking.

The car pulls away and heads down the nearest avenue, presumably towards I-35, south, to San Antonio.

I walk in the dark back to my mom’s house, mentally counting up the money that I made. After the hotel room, convention badge, food, the burner phone and transportation, I had made a 2,300 dollar profit. Better than expected, but I probably could’ve roomed with somebody to cut costs. Maybe I can room with a client next time.

I see the porch light on when I reach the house. The rest of the street is dark, which should strike fear in me, but the shades help alleviate that. I am not here, I tell myself. I can see through the large window that the television is on, my sister is home. I walk up to the door and go inside.

My sister glances up at me and returns to her reality TV show, something about housewives.

“Hey,” She says in between the bites of a sandwich. “How was that anime con, or whatever?”

“It was cool,” I sound a lot clearer, moister returning to my throat.

She looks at me in an odd way and I remember that I’m still wearing my shades.

“Why are you wearing sunglasses?” She asks. “It’s, like, ten at night.”

I laugh and take them off.

“Sorry, it was a joke,” I say, trying to smile.

I hear my mom coming in from the kitchen.

“Hey, Eric! How was your trip to Dallas with Neal?” She seems happy to see me. She’s stirring something in a bowl and wearing a cream colored apron over a green shirt, with matching slippers and black yoga pants.

“It was good, really cool. We just hanged out in the hotel room and helped out moving equipment in the dealer’s room for the sellers.”

My mom looks off to the side and nods her head, I can’t tell if she’s expecting more for me to say or is confused, but accepting my answer.

“Sounds interesting,” She says, her stirring slowing down a fraction. She looks up at me and smiles again “Well, dinner is already prepared, so you can have it now if you want.”

I nod, thanking her, and head to my room.

Copyright © 2017 Philip N.R Hauser

Waves of Atlantis: A Tale of Terrible Plot Development Under the Sea [Hard Drive Archive].

Author’s Note: this review was written back in 2012 on a website that — thankfully — no longer exists. I wasn’t the best writer (or even reviewer) at the time, but there were a few gems that I feel stood the test of time. This is one of them. I hope you enjoy it!

When I first heard about “Waves of Atlantis” I wasn’t quite sure what I was getting into. There was virtually nothing about this book online, except for two posts, by two disgruntled readers, claiming that this book was the worst literary piece of garbage to come out since Adolf Hitler’s “Mein Kompf.” Bold words really, when you think about it: how can a work of fiction, about astronauts discovering Atlantis, be that bad? Sure, it’s probably as campy as hell, but I’ve read worse. At this point I should have wished for my future self to step out of a time portal and punch me unconscious before I whipped out my credit card to order this “novel.” Oh God was I wrong. So, so, wrong.

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Waves of Atlantis: a book so good, no reviewer ever saw a copy of this hit their desk.

“Waves of Atlantis,” written by “Professor,” of “accredited,” University (read: mail-order-degree-mill) known as American World U., Maxine Asher, is the story of two astronauts, which should be noted are written in the likeness of a young Al Gore and future VP-candidate Sarah Palin, who discover Atlantis. The first page of the book can only be described as the best, worst first page of any novel ever written. As an English major, I couldn’t help but stare at the page, utterly dumbfounded and yet extremely amused at the sheer incompetent skillfulness of its execution, while at the same time, giving off an air of proud defiance, as if to say “Yes, I don’t need an editor and you’re going to sit through 136 pages of this shit.” Miss Asher apparently, yet unsurprisingly, got this book self-published through her “University.” Probably because she thought it was so good publishers wouldn’t even bother putting it on the shelves before selfishly trying to steal this masterpiece from under her. Or maybe because it was terrible, could go either way, really. I present to you exhibit A:

“What a bust!”

“Was it that bad?”

“Listen Pierre, it was worse. We have absolutely no information to report to Houston.”

“Well whose fault is that?”

“It certainly isn’t mine. Don’t look at me. I warned you guys—I mean guys and gal—about the possible problems with the mission.”

“Hey, wait a minute…I was the one who knew from the start that this crew could never detect estra low frequency waves in the atmosphere.”

“Look Jane,” Tom said, staring at his feet, “ no one ever doubted your special abilities to understand mind control. The difficulty is that we simply don’t have the right instruments to find out where these waves are coming from.”

As the crew continued to sit around on the floor of the spacecraft looking dejected [huh?], Jane threw [threw? Like a Frisbee?] a sly smile at Tom, unaware that the rest of the men caught her look and began to snicker.

That, ladies and gentlemen is the first page of the novel. I shit you not. No context or setting that one can gather here, except something about mind control and the sexual tension of two lovers that’s about as subtle as a baseball bat.

The story, which unfortunately takes several pages of tooth-pulling dialogue to get to, is that the world is on the brink of chaos. An invisible psychic wave, known as ELF waves, are spreading across the Atlantic, affecting everyone that gets caught in it’s radius immobile, in a state of extreme depression and laziness, followed by death. The Supernatural Council under UN authority orders NASA (sigh…just roll with it) to send scientists into space to find the origin of these invisible waves. So why are they going into space to try to find the source of the problem? Because fuck you, that’s why! Maxine does not need to explain herself, the same way Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins don’t need to explain why their “Left Behind” series lasted eight books longer than it ought to. (Un)Fortunately, Miss. Asher doesn’t shrink the margins in her book and it’s only 136 pages so…great, I guess?

Either way, this book suffers from one of the major flaws of providing expulsion in long, LONG chunks of paragraphs. Most of which involve people and places on Earth with characters that you only read about once and are soon after killed off or just never mentioned again. Asher, like a bored, vengeful, uncaring God dispatches her minor characters with ease, without even providing any real backstory for them or having them even accomplish anything remotely significant in the book. Those Archeologists who get close to finding the origin of the ELF waves? Death by falling. Those secret agents who try to discover what’s behind the waves? Killed in a freak explosion. Those psychic children that the government uses to track the waves? We never hear from them again. The biracial family stuck in the city that’s being engulfed by the waves? You don’t hear from them again either, but the author assures us that they’re all dead, so don’t bother.

What you should bother with though, and Asher will try her damnedest to make certain that you do, is the not so subtle third-basemenship between the two Astronauts, Tom and Jane, and their quest for the truth behind the ELF waves. After losing fuel on their space shuttle…for some reason, the crew crash into the ocean, namely the Bermuda Triangle. Fortunately Asher decides she wants these poor mortals to live, by turning the space shuttle into a submarine. Because that’s was just some ability the ship happened to have at its disposal (Obama spared no expense apparently, giving NASA such a huge budget for that).  It is here that our two-dimensional heroes find the lost city of Atlantis.

The only thing that saves this book, if you can even consider it its saving grace, is the dialogue. Asher, if anything else, can write the most laughably bad conversations fit for only an Uwe Boll film or an episode Adam West’s Batman. I present to you another excerpt from this masterpiece trash-theater starring Al Gore and Sarah Palin.

“Ok—I’ll give it a try,” said Tom grudgingly, beginning to turn the boat at a 180 degree angle. “Somehow I always do what you want me to do and then we get into trouble. If I didn’t love you so much, I could say no but I guess I am powerless under your spell.”

“You make me sound like a witch Tom. I’m just a red blooded adventurous American girl.”

Tom chuckled at the remark. Jane was very beautiful, very convincing and very glib in tongue. He was putty in her hands and she knew it.

Man, I’m gonna need an ice-pack to stifle this red blooded American boner. Oh, yeah, that page that I cited is real and yes, this book definitely did get published. It only gets worse from here as Tom and Jane learn from the inhabitants of Atlantis that it’s being caused by crystals that they themselves created in order to keep their civilization alive. And the only way to stop it is with…meditation, eating vegetables, the power of love and Jesus. Yes, Jesus Christ, meditating, all loving, vegetable eating, superstar is going to save us, with the help of Tom and Jane, prayin’ the waves away. I almost blacked out from the sheer absurdity of this revelation. Kurt Vonnegut or Philip K. Dick wish they could come up with something this retarded.

Unfortunately (or fortunately? I don’t know if it really matters now) the plot suddenly shifts to a secret location where we find the secret cabal that plans on using the ELF waves to take over the world. These “Evildoers,” (Yes, that is what Asher uses to describe this organization) is made of who else, but scary Russians, Chinese and other questionably evil minorities. Hey, at least this organization is all inclusive, unlike the obnoxiously Aryan Tom and Jane show. So of course being the godless communists that they are in the eyes of Asher, decide to use this opportunity to mobilize their armies to attack North America and Europe. I suppose those ELF waves won’t affect their troops, or what? And how do they plan on safe guarding against these waves themselves anyway? And why North America? I mean, I know most people hate us anyway (especially America), but if they do have a cure for the ELF waves why not use it as leverage over other world nations? That’d be way more profitable than invading two entire fucking continents.

The book comes to a rather Asherian, anti-climatic conclusion, with the final show down between the United States Rangers and the “Evildoers” army. It only takes three pages before everything ends in a Michael Bay-esque action sequence involving Tom, Jane and the Atlantians saving the day. The story ends with peace restored, the waves disrupted and Tom and Jane making out under the ocean.

This book is both a travesty and a work of pure comedy. Its badness is only matched by its unintended hilarity that makes this thing a gem among trashy literary gems. Last I heard was that this book was going for $25 on amazon. If you’re willing to drop cash like that on this turkey then may God have mercy on your soul.

Austin By Night – Logan [Layer 10]

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I arrive at Magnolia’s a few minutes early to find Molly had already shown up. As expected, the place is packed with the usual clientele; it’s mostly populated by tourists that yearn for a taste of authentic Austin cuisine, or something close to it. I made sure to put down a reservation (under Molly’s name) beforehand so that there would be a spot for us when we got there. In what could only be described as a very stiff form of crowd gliding, I finally make it to the booth and was sitting across from her.

Molly, you could say, bared a striking resemblance to a younger Zooey Deschanel, who ran away from home and joined an anarchist biker gang instead of becoming a famous model or actress. Though, in actuality, Molly went to MIT and became one of the most successful black hat hacker’s and I.D fixers of the southwest, which despite their illegalities, are far more marketable than anything that pays over 150,000 dollars in taxable income. Like myself, her kind are rare and in high demand.

“Hi,” I say, perhaps a bit too sheepishly as I sat down across from her. She didn’t look happy.

“I called you on your burner, Logan.” She said, her eyes wide, eyebrows raised, and head nodding in full condescension mode. “Five times.”

“I had to ditch it.” I shrug.

“I’m getting really fucking tired of that excuse,” She says this while looking at the window and refusing to make eye contact with me. She closes her eyes and shakes her head. “Can’t even get you on the DW or crypto-chat.”

“You-know-who monitors that traffic really closely nowadays.”

I’m about to lean in to say something else, but a waitress comes to ask us what we’re ordering, and Molly and I say “coffee” in unison and wait for the waitress to leave. I pick up where I left off.

“I don’t like using the Deep Web,” I whisper, leaning in.

“I got people who can set all of that up for you,” She says with tired patience. “The Snowden files aside, the NSA has little interest in what we’re doing here. It’s the FBI we have to worry about and they don’t bother keeping tabs on our operations. They’re too busy trying to catch Muslims.”

“Well, I’m sorry if I don’t trust your people,”

“Yeah? Well I don’t trust you, either,” For the first time, she actually looks into my eyes and it’s with definite hostility. I know where the conversation is going to go now and I can’t stop it from happening. I was never good at breaking bad news.

“Now,” The word trails off across Molly’s lips with the kind of sardonic, vocal-frying that seemed to be her signature speech pattern when demands or ultimatums were about to be made. “I had a guy disappear on me last week and somebody in your network told me that you were the last person that he talked to. Now where is he? Have you been keeping tabs on him?”

I let the question sit there for over a minute. Every conversational scenario played out in my head, like I had it played out in the car. There was nothing I could say that could make me look better or soften the blow. It wasn’t even worth it to lie outright.

“How important was he to you?”

The waitress returns with our coffee and I slowly pick it up and take a sip. It’s bitter.

“What happened to him?” For the first time I see that she’s actually nervous. For a moment I’m glad that the conversation has shifted in my favor. Her voice is shaking slightly as she speaks.

“He’s gone, Mol.” I put the cup down. “I don’t know what else to tell you. I tried to warn him away. You know what I do for a living; do you think those guys are fucking around?”

Her face seems to well up as I tell her this. Her anger has evaporated into something that might amount to grief if this was the first time I saw her have it. She grows pale and looks down at her coffee.

“Do I really know who you are or what you do for a living?” She whispers and looks up at me. “Mr. Logan: the club promoter, the private investigator, the grocery store cashier. How much bullshit do I have to dig up before I know who I’m dealing with?”

“If I’m telling you what happened to your guy after you’ve gotten that far in figuring out who I am, then you know that you need to stop.” I stare at her, waiting for that sentence to sink it in until it sticks. “You just sent some guy to investigate me after I told you not to?”

“You did the same thing with me,” She tries to match my stare, but she shudders and looks down. “Like you said yourself when we first met: it’s nice to know the people that I’m working with.”

“You know enough that we can work as partners as a go between for our current employer.” I pull out a wad of cash and lay down a twenty on the table. “So, does Mr. Westridge want to see me tonight?”

“Yes,” The word sounds bitten off as she takes out a folded piece of paper from her coat pocket and passes it to me.

“So your other guy came through with the dossier I asked for?”

“He’s using an overseas dead drop. Working through a torrent client. Tell West that he’ll only have one chance to download and decrypt the file. If he fucks up both then the dead drop will disappear.” Molly reaches for a cigarette and then puts it back into her pocket. “The paper has the password and the cypher that can get him access.”

I take the slip and pocket it into my suit. I look down, knowing that there’s nothing else I can say, but I try anyway.

“Look, Molly, I’m sorry about what happened,” It comes out a bit shakier than I would’ve liked. “It wasn’t my call to make.”

“Are you?” She asks.

“It was either me or him; and if they decided it was me then you wouldn’t be here right now. You’d be where he is and I wouldn’t be far behind.”

“How am I supposed to believe that?” Her question sounds accusatory.

“You just have to trust me on this.” I can’t think of anything else to say.

“Yeah? Just like you trust me, huh?” She looks away, wiping her cheek.

“Molly, they don’t see things the way you and I do. To them this is just business.”

Molly continues to look out the window. Says nothing.

“Please, Molly, I can’t just–”

“No. Stop talking. We’re done. And take your fucking twenty and my finders fee with you.”

I take a deep breath and get up from the booth and leave her there with the two coffees. The twenty dollar bill folding over into triangles in my right hand. I stop and finish the intricate design until I get a small origami crane out of the small labor. President Jackson’s face looks something out of a Picasso painting. A mess of folds over water marks, over more folds showing the depiction of the white house. Somehow one of Jackson’s eyes ends up at the head of the dollar crane and I become acutely aware of the restaurant’s camera that’s perched at the entrance and I keep moving out the door and into my car. Time to pay Westridge a visit.

Copyright © 2017 Philip N.R Hauser

[Short Story] Our Vampire, Lenny [Excerpt]

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When Lenny the vampire heard the rumor about the incubus and succubus couple who had fallen on hard times, he made a point to be at the nightclub Radion so that he could bump into them. The transients from hell, and those who served it, whether they be vampire or demon, alike, was a small enough world once you narrowed it down to a single city. On this piece of sprawled urbanization, there were maybe less than a hundred vampires and demons living among the whole two million of human population. Lenny knew a younger succubus who was an acquaintance to the other. This mutuality assured camaraderie would be Lenny’s in. These new friendships between immortals was how it always started: acquaintances and introductions.

Lenny sat at the edge of the bar and looked on past the crowded dance floor as the loud synthwave beats blasted inside the warm, dark ambiance among an array or lasers and black light. He craned his neck above the other strangers – what his kind mockingly called prey – and watched as his young, she-demon, friend talked to the couple. All three demons were in human form; no horns or wings to see, unlike Lenny who simply had to look less pale than usual. He carefully observed the cordial mood between the three of them and the eventual turning to his general direction when Lenny’s succubus intermediary pointed the couple towards him. Lenny simply smiled and raised his drink. The incubus and succubus couple smiled back. The wheels were now turning.

The couple moved slowly but purposefully together, arm-and-arm around each others waist like two individual organisms who had just evolved into something symbiotic. Lenny watched their walk as they skirted just at the edge of the crowd and made their casual approach towards him. Lenny could see what they were doing. It was something that could barely be picked up by the human eye, but obvious for any preternatural or supernatural in the room. The pheromones that the two demons were emitting were like a hazy miasma that was spreading over the crowd. The humans with the weakest of constitutions got hit by it first and couldn’t help but turn and look at these two objects of human beauty that passed by them. Lenny saw what was in the eyes of the humans too overcomed by it to not stop and gaze at this man and woman. They were the kinds of looks that were all too familiar to Lenny: worship, awe, intrigue, and lust; emotions that would all eventually lead to obsession. Lenny could only sit and feel thankful that he was immune to the kinds of chemical controls used in the wheel-house of demonic persuasion.

The couple walked by Lenny, very nearly passing him at the bar before stopping and turning their heads to look at him.

“Can we get some privacy somewhere?” the incubus asked Lenny, his voice a sleepy, but honey-laced purr of an accent that carried itself gracefully over the noise of the club.

“Follow me,” said Lenny, smiling, as he got up from his seat, “allow me to introduce myself, I’m Lenard, my friends call me Lenny. I’m a friend of Kimberly’s.”

The succubus extended her arm and gently shook Lenny’s hand.

“Yes, she just told us about you earlier,” said the demoness, giving off a polite, erudite, tone that similarly commanded formidable volume over the loud sounds of the club, “My name is Lindsay and this is my partner Derreck.”

“Nice to meet both of you,” said Lenny, matching both of them among the crowd, “let’s step into my office shall we?”

Inside the quiet and red plush furniture of the privacy booth, all three were able to get a better look at each other. Lenny could see the model good looks of both of the demons sitting across from him. The woman was a thin and tanned redhead with freckles and a small diamond stud sticking out of her nose. She had high cheek bones and large green eyes that contained a twinkle that danced if you stared into them long enough. The man was of similar skin tone and hair, but with a well trimmed beard and a muscular, well cut body hiding under his T-shirt and vest. His eyes were a deep shade of blue that seemed to take in the world with a tired, but quietly non-judgmental sense of contentment. His smile was small, closed, and serene like a monk who just experienced transcendence. The woman’s smile was playfully haughty with an undertone of slyness that begged to be pushed through to find the mystery that was hidden beneath.

For some reason, the couple saw fit to dress like groupie hipsters in a matching red leather and gray cotton fabric color scheme that came off surprisingly fashionable.

“You two must get mistaken for models quite often,” said Lenny, breaking the ice.

The two smiled at each other and looked back at him.

“We did a few photo shoot tours in England and Italy for a few years off and on,” said the succubus with a shrug, her voice, in the quiet of the booth, was now slow, soft, and peppy in tone; but in the process of smoothly transitioning into something mature if not sensually husky “that is until both of their economies collapsed and we had to move here.”

“Well, the free city-states in this part of the world are much more stable,” assured Lenny, “I was around when this one successfully seceded from their homeland and it has been worth the effort so far. No bloodshed, total independence, and plenty of money flowing in and out.”

“Because you vampires control the banks supporting these enclaves, right?” asked the incubus.

Lenny grinned at the question.

“Well, not exactly,” said Lenny, “but my kind — through several intermediaries — handle the finances that maintain the economy here.”

“Kimberly told us you can help us with that,” said Lindsay, her tone was still polite, but had a sense of urgency that Lenny picked up on.

It was the kind of urgency that Lenny liked, and needed, in order for this to work.

“She said you work with moving money around,” continued Lindsay, “and you’ve help plenty of people, humans included, with jobs like that.”

“Well,” said Derreck raising his arm, “we had a go at attempting some investing, but it didn’t work out.”

“Oh no, what happened?” asked Lenny.

“We trusted the wrong person, unfortunately,” said Lindsay solemnly.

“Who did you trust?” asked Lenny.

“A freelance, financier, a warlock operating in Paris,” said Derreck shaking his head in anger, “defrauded us out of everything we had and then some.”

“Last we heard, he fled to Hong Kong, hiding behind the services of some vampire lawyer he hired,” cried Lindsay, “and he was a half-breed, too, can you believe that?”

“Appalling,” said Lenny, shaking his head, “Warlocks and sorceresses are a tricky, terrible group of people when not raised by fellow Kindred or Lilim, like ourselves.”

“I’d have his lifespan for dinner, if I knew he wouldn’t enjoy ever last second of it,” Lindsay said coldly.

“We could really use some help in the meantime,” said Derreck.

“Yes, I heard both of you were looking for some assistance,” said Lenny, “I’m sorry to not beat around the bush, but tell me, how much help were you two looking to get?”

“We’re…,” Lindsay’s voice trailed off.

There was a short silence.

“Over one-hundred-thousand in the hole,” said Derreck with a sigh.

“My Lilith…” said Lenny, for the first time, actually genuinely surprised by the debt, “that much?”

“It’s extremely embarrassing, I know,” said Lindsay, “we’ve been hiding it for months now.”

“So, what can you do for us?” asked Derreck.

“Well, here’s the thing: I actually wanted to come to you two with a business proposition,” said Lenny, choosing his words very carefully, “it’s not another loan or some kind of debt consolidation, it’s a job.”

“What kind of job?” asked Derreck.

“I’m a salesmen,” said Lenny, “I deal in all kinds of product and I could use two people such as yourselves to help me with my business.”

“What kind if business is that?” asked Lindsay.

Lenny looked down and smiled. It was one of his only tells that revealed any kind of reluctance on his part.

Copyright © 2017 Philip N.R Hauser

[Review] Game of Thrones: A Whodunit of Medieval Proportions [Hard Drive Archive]

Author’s Note: this review was written back in 2012 on a website that — thankfully — no longer exists. I wasn’t the best writer (or even reviewer) at the time, but there were a few gems that I feel stood the test of time. This is one of them. I hope you enjoy it!

A lot people have been asking me to read this novel. It has been making the rounds recently what with the T.V adaptation on HBO and the recent reprints of the books in nice, glossy covers, on display, at my local book store. Though, before I get into this review I should probably tell you something: I’m not much of a fantasy fan. Though I read from several different genres, Science Fiction has always been my corner. You could probably chock it up to bad luck as well that my first exposure to fantasy was Christopher Paolini’s Inheritance series and the earlier World of Warcraft novels based on the MMO, both of which I didn’t like. Though, one can say I have moved on to greener pastures since then, having read the Narnia, Redwall and Lord of the Rings books (which are part of the modern fantasy canon anyway), none of them have been able to truly blow me away. Even J.K Rowling’s Harry Potter books couldn’t keep me interested past the second book and even supposed non-readers were going ape-shit over that series.

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Seriously, a crack dealer couldn’t sell their drugs as fast as those books did.

And do you want to know what’s even more terrible? My favorite fantasy series, if it even counts among die-hard fans, is the Artemis Fowl series by Eoin Colfer and even it starts to lose its luster by the end of the fourth book (read the next four in the series at your own risk). It’s pitiful that I have to say that that series meant for middle schoolers is one of my favorites, with Narnia and Redwall coming at a close second and I think I know why.

Fantasy never seemed to want to walk on the “dark side” as I like to call it. For most fans of the genre, it seems to be all about the escapism and living vicariously through a “Chosen One” type of character and twisting it to become some Oliver Twist, rags to riches, good guys will always come through within the last fifty pages, storyline that just did not appeal to me as a reader. Yeah, call me a glum, cynical, emo-goth, but I cannot stand those types of novels. If I know for certain that it’s going to shit smilely faces at the end, why should I read it? You honestly think I can be surprised by that? Sci-fi seemed to at least be much more willing to take a more risky route in terms of storytelling by making their genre darker and grittier for it’s audiences. It’s those reasons alone that have turned me off from the genre of fantasy for several years until this point; despite the fact that Michael Moorcock and even Richard Morgan have been breaking new ground for years trying to drag fantasy out of the rainbow room. So can Game of Thrones change my mind on that? Well, keep reading, I dare you!

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A Game of Thrones: a hard cover novel thick enough to beat a crack dealer to death with.

Game of Thrones was written in 1996 by former screen writer George R.R Martin, who participated in the writing of several short stories in the 1970s that spearheaded his writing career on T.V., even writing for the 1987 series Beauty and the Beast. The series had a bit of a slow burn in terms of gaining popularity. Though considering he’s a man who once worked in Hollywood and has two middle names to call his own, I suppose that helps.

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“Yeah, I don’t know why have two middle names either.”

The book starts with the murdering of the King’s Hand by a mysterious assassin, along with the killing of two rangers and a lord at the hands of an ancient foe, both incidents occurring on different sides of the continent and it’s off to the races. From there this medieval tale takes an interesting turn as it soon transforms into not your average fantasy novel and becomes at its core, a mystery whodoneit scenario, based in a fantasy setting. Though the book is told from multiple perspectives, it mainly focuses on Lord Eddard Stark, as he tries to help his good friend, King Robert, solve this mystery of this murder while trying to navigate the political interests and intrigues of other lords and advisers, all wanting control over the Seven Kingdoms. Being also a fan of detective noir novels, I was immediately engrossed in the story. The characters were multilayered and had several competing interests with one another, not to mention most of these characters motivations were kept hidden throughout, leaving me to guess and even second guess their true allegiance to Stark and the other major characters.

My favorite character by far was Tyrion Lannister, if only because he’s such a likable smartass, as well as being a dwarf. His cunning and intelligence seem to make him the most interesting and dangerous character since he’s basically playing off of, as well as conspiring for and against, with three different factions throughout the novel.

If there is anything bad I can say about this book, if at all, it is the pacing and the amount of characters in the novel. Like any fantasy book, this one often tends to dwell on more often than necessary I feel, on the lore and history of the Seven Kingdoms. A trope often employed by fantasy writers, mainly because I suspect they seem to have no choice in terms of providing proper exposition, but could have been edited down or expanded in dialogue. Also, since the novel is told from seven different character’s perspectives, there is a bit of difficulty in trying to follow the multiple story lines and some character story arches were more interesting than others. Especially when Martin tries to tie up his character’s journey’s at the end, with the exception of the last chapter, I felt that the story ended fifty pages ago and the rest was epilogue. There’s also such a girth of secondary characters that their appearances half-way through the novel tended to run together until I was basically assigning them a generic blank face and clothing when they made their appearance again to interact with the main characters. I’m thankful for the index that is provided on the back, otherwise I would’ve been lost on who’s who. Though like I said, minor nit-picks.

Overall this is a very great book that keeps you at the edge of your set until the very shocking conclusion that definitely made me rethink the genre of fantasy. It’s dark, it’s gritty and most of all intriguing. I’d say it might be one of the best fantasy books I’ve ever read, though I’ll let you decide how much weight you’d want that endorsement to carry. I can’t wait to read the last two books in the trilogy…

Holy Seven Hells, he’s got five more of these books!?

Cashier Confessions [2] [Hard Drive Archive]

HEB CHECKOUT 02

“…and let me tell you something, don’t you ever, EVER, fucking go to that Gatti’s Town pizza place up in Round Rock. That shit is a fucking secret FEMA camp. I fucking saw the pizza people take customers into the back and they disappeared, man!”

“…So that’s going going to be 5.78.”

“Yeah, whatever. Well, I got news for you, kid: that fuckin’ pizza place is wired up the ass! God damn, camera and microphones watchin’ your every move. Can’t even take a shit without the NSA photoing your butt! I tried to alert Alex Jones about it and that fucker fucking blew me off! Piece of shit!”

“Sir…”

“That guy’s a fuckin’ false flag, man! Illuminati hired that guy! No doubt!”

“Sir, are you going to be paying in cash?”

“Fuck yeah, I am! What do you think?”

“Ummm…thank you for shopping here.”

“Yeah, gimme them Hershey bars, too. Gonna prep for my special ops training in Mexico.”

“Yep…”

“You stay frosty and also watch out for the portal demons in Zilker Park.”

“Right on, you have a good night, sir.”

“They already got Lady Gaga, so be careful.”

“I…yeah, definitely.”