Monday, April 11, 2011

BONESHAKER, Cherie Priest

Boneshaker (The Clockwork Century, #1)Boneshaker by Cherie Priest

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Okay, I confess, you had me at "steampunk zombie airship adventure." I had to pick this one up after that.

Sixteen years ago, Leviticus Blue tested the Boneshaker, a magnificent machine built to tunnel into the ice in the frozen Yukon and dig out the gold sealed there. Unfortunately, the test went horribly awry, and a huge chunk of the newly founded city of Seattle caved in. Worse, the excavation released a poisonous gas that turned people into ravenous flesh-eating zombies. Now, the city is sealed behind an apparently impenetrable brick wall.

Briar Wilkes, Levi Blue's widow, ekes out a meager living on the Outskirts, the part of the city that remains outside the wall. She's a pariah, harassed by people who take out their anger for the destruction of the city on her. Her son Ezekiel goes under the wall to seek the answers that will clear his father's name. Briar goes after him. As it turns out, more than zombies live inside the wall, and there are more secrets than even Ezekiel suspects...

The good: this book really moves. You get right into the adventure, and there's flying and fighting and running and more fighting all the way through. And the steampunk setting and alternate history brilliantly uphold the Rule of Cool.

The bad: it's hard to really become engaged with these characters. Briar's aptly named, and Ezekiel just makes you want to smack him. Unfortunately, Priest is so eager to get you into the above-mentioned running and flying and fighting etc. that it's not till later in the book that you get beyond that to the place where you start to care if they live or die. That makes parts of the book a bit of a slog, airships and zombies notwithstanding.

Also, while Priest does provide some explanation as to why people would continue to inhabit a walled city where the very air can kill you if you're not ripped to shreds and eaten by the walking dead, it's never a really satisfying explanation. I mean, I know the Civil War's still raging back east, but hello? Zombies? Briar's revelation at the end was even more implausible, IMHO.

All that said, it was a quick, fun read, and worth picking up.

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I Feel Cheated We Don't Get the Day Off For This

Thanks to Dave Barry, I am reminded that today is International Louie Louie Day, which "provides an annual opportunity to celebrate the song that has been called best party song of all time, has been recorded more times than any other rock song in history, and was very nearly declared the official state song of Washington State."

Here's Iggy Pop's version:

So what'd you get me?

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Crazy For Half the Price: I Submit Myself As a Candidate To Replace Glenn Beck

Latest Newspaper Column: The Pilot

This past week, the world of ­broadcasting was rocked by the news that Fox News host Glenn Beck would be leaving his five-day-a-week show on that TV network in the near future.

Beck’s announcement on the show was delivered in his classic Drama-Queen-of-the-Apocalypse style; he warned ominously of “dark waters ahead” and ­compared himself to Paul Revere, who “had to get off the horse eventually” and “go back to silversmithing.”

He promised, ­however, that “we will find each other again.” He did not, however, burst into tears, so I’ll have to give that ­performance only eight out of a possible 10 stars.

I’ve got to tell you, folks, this is ­getting plumb frustrating. First I find out, as I reported a couple of weeks ago, that Sarah Palin is beginning to suffer from slipping favorability ratings. Now I find out I’m not going to have Glenn Beck to make fun of anymore.

(We will have to pause for a moment. Now that I’ve mentioned Sarah Palin in a column, even in passing, we have to give her die-hard fans a chance to rush to their ­computers and compose the usual blizzard of “why-are-you- picking-on-Sarah-you-must-be-afraid-of-her-leave Sarah-alooooooone!” letters. It’s a Pavlov’s dogs kind of thing. The poor things can’t help it. OK, back now? Let’s continue.)

Speculation abounds as to the reasons behind the sudden announcement. Some point to Beck’s slipping ratings, which were down a whopping 30 percent from last year. Others point to the exodus of ­advertisers fearful of boycotts, or perhaps fearful that advertising exclusively to the paranoid and resentful might not provide sufficient market ­penetration.

Still others mention the frequent clashes Beck and his staff had with Fox execs, or the rumors that the news staff was growing increasingly uncomfortable with Beck.

Whatever the reason, there will soon be an open spot in Fox’s lineup. And your Humble Columnist knows the clarion call of opportunity ringing loud and clear when he hears it. So, dear readers, I am offering my services to the Fox Network. I am the man they need to replace Glenn Beck. After all, I’ve done TV. One of my first jobs was in radio. And, most important, I can be absolutely raving crazy for half the price.

I can sense the doubt in some of you. I know that there are those who think I can’t possibly equal Glenn Beck when it comes to lunacy. You think there’s no way I can top stunts like portraying financier George Soros as a “puppetmaster” — using actual puppets.

You think I don’t possess the bizarre sense of self-importance that would allow me to defend myself against my critics by quoting that famous poem about Jews and the Holocaust (“When they’re done with Fox,” Beck said, “and you decide to speak out on something. The old, ‘first they came for the Jews, and I wasn’t Jewish.’”)

You think I can’t get up in front of a camera with a chalkboard and draw an intricate and convoluted web of ­conspiracy that looks like something drawn by Russell Crowe’s schizophrenic mathematician character in “A Beautiful Mind,” one that links Woodrow Wilson, ACORN, Soros and the Rothschild ­family.

You think I can’t manage the kind of cognitive ­dissonance that lets me claim in one moment that I love America and in the next chortle with glee that we didn’t get to host the Olympics.

O ye of little faith. I tell you, I can be that insane. I may have to stay up for three days straight and down an entire bottle of straight tequila, but I know I can do that. I’ve done it before. The results aren’t going to be pretty, but I can make the sacrifice. Did I mention I’ll do it for half the price they’ve been paying Beck?

I’ll have to get a chalkboard from somewhere. Manly man that I am, I may have to get some ­glycerin drops for my eyes so I can cry on command, but these are trivial matters.

Help me out here, folks. Write or e-mail Fox and tell them to give me a shot. It’s my destiny. It’s America’s ­destiny. Without me, the socialists win and the country becomes a Muslim Caliphate ruled by secular Marxist Islamist fascists, Al Gore and the New Black Panther Party. I’m so terrified I’m ­weeping, and you should be too.

See? And that’s just a sample. So what are you ­waiting for?