Doug Goodman

Texas Horror Writer. Cadaver Dog Handler.

Doug's Blog

Brief Review: The Fireman, by Joe Hill

Posted by douggoodman on August 29, 2016 at 11:20 PM Comments comments (0)

The FiremanThe Fireman by Joe Hill

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Good horror, the kind that sits in you, is hard to find. Good post-apocalyptic books are, too. The Fireman is a journey along the bell curve of social insanity without bogging into depressive muck like too many apocalyptic stories. He has a way of winding together the burning apocalypse in one line, spoonfuls of sugar in the next. Joe Hill blends together fantasy and horror in a way seldom seen. This is not the fantasy mindset of Game of Thrones, but rather has a closer resemblance to Harry Potter (see the thanks he gives JK Rowling in the beginning). But don't think this is a book about a wizarding world; that would be wrong. This is a world where people burn, and only The Fireman can save them.

I give the Fireman four stars because I am comparing this book to Locke and Key and NOS4A2, which are two of the best pieces of modern fantasy horror written.

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Brief Review: The Twelve, by Justin Cronin

Posted by douggoodman on July 10, 2016 at 5:30 PM Comments comments (0)

The Twelve (The Passage, #2)The Twelve by Justin Cronin

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Justin Cronin is perhaps the newest, most powerful writer coming out of Texas. His Passage series, which chronicles the spread of vampires across America, is simply put, the best vampire books right now. The Twelve is the sequel to The Passage, which is one of my favorite books to read of all time. Justin Cronin crafts a beautifully written epic about the survivors of a vampire apocalpyse. The only issue I ran into was that I had a hard time keeping up with the characters from The Passage. There is a lot going on in these books, and Justin Cronin is a master of the suspense tease, leading you down the stairs of the basement, and then slamming the door shut and running away to a new scene. But in this book, I was a bit hampered by that stylistic choice. A "bit," not a lot, because this is still a book worth reading and rereading.

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Brief Review: X's for Eyes by Laird Barron

Posted by douggoodman on June 17, 2016 at 4:25 AM Comments comments (0)

X's For EyesX's For Eyes by Laird Barron

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Great, pulpy terror.

This short book has so much going on it, it's hard to capture it all. I think it goes kind of like this: Imagine the Adams family are the head of a giant corporation. And it's the 1950s. The two young brothers become involved in a pulpy adventure, so it is very Hardy boys. But looming throughout the entire story is a very Lovecraftian universe with mind-warping gods as dark as ichor. Barron shows why a book doesn't have to be long to be good and how you can work with a lot of concepts in a single chapter. This book is an experience like an Imax viewing from the front row with the speakers on maximum volume. You aren't quite sure what you've just experienced, but it was one hell of a ride.

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Brief Review: Hollow City by Ransom Riggs

Posted by douggoodman on June 4, 2016 at 1:40 AM Comments comments (0)

Hollow City (Miss Peregrine’s Peculiar Children, #2)Hollow City by Ransom Riggs

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Hollow City begins where Peculiar Children left off. Ransom Riggs again adeptly draws you into WWII England to follow the peculiar children as they look for a way to help their headmistress, Miss Peregrine.

I struggled with rating this book. I think it is better than Miss Peregrine's Peculiar Children, but something is making me hold back the fifth star. I don't know what it is, so I am keeping this one at four stars even though I feel the book is an improvement on the first.

The first few hundred pages of the book were like a long march for me, but the book rewarded me. The second half is pure adrenaline and mystery. I read the last 100/150 pages in a single sitting.

Like the first book, I think Hollow City is best when it is picking at WWII England, shaping details and providing glimpses into the historical perspective of the narrative.

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Brief Review: Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children, by Ransom Riggs

Posted by douggoodman on May 19, 2016 at 6:25 PM Comments comments (0)

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children (Miss Peregrine’s Peculiar Children, #1)Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Stealing from the title, the best thing about this book is that it is peculiar. As a YA novel, it works fine. It is probably the best thing to come along since The Hunger Games, although for me, the book falls a little short of some of the other YA heaveyweights.

About thirty pages in, though, the book sucks you in. It is an odd book about odd children living in a mysterious world that exists within our own. The story never commits to being horror, mystery, or other genres (which I will not list because of spoilers), which keeps the reader wondering what will happen next. That kind of freefall narrative is the reason I read, which is probably why I am already trying to get my hands on the sequel.

A note on the photographs: the book is full of vintage authentic photos that the author (and his associates) collected. This is the hook that draws you into the story. You can see Ransom Riggs sifting through this collection of odd photographs and this strange little story coming together in his head. It is a beautiful image, as are many of the strange images in the book, but it is that reader's freefall that keeps you turning the page.

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Brief Review: Red Son by Mark Millar

Posted by douggoodman on May 16, 2016 at 8:30 AM Comments comments (0)

Superman: Red SonSuperman: Red Son by Mark Millar

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

(Possible spoilers below.) This is a fantastic book. The premise is very catchy: what if Superman had landed in Russia instead of the US? So now, instead of standing for truth, justice, and the American way, he stands for truth, justice, and communism. This book puts a whole spin on Superman that keeps you reading until the end.

I have to be honest. I don't read much Superman because of the whole "god" thing. I like my superheroes a little more grounded. I think this is why it is hard to write a good Superman story. This is one of the best ones out there because it evolves the concept of Superman's ideology. For example, Superman wanting to make life better for everyone means that he has people modified to make them more peaceful and less violent. While the results are positive, there is less individual control. While many at Russia's top love this, there are movements among the commoners, and there is a man whose parents were gunned down who wants to destroy Superman and return a bit of that chaos to the world...

For me, the one downside was the ending. I didn't think it needed the ending it had. It was cute, but it just felt kind of tacked on at the last minute. It isn't a bad ending, but I think that ending the book about two pages earlier would have been a great ending.

Despite the ending, I still think this is superb Superman book and worth reading.

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Brief Review: Faith Against the Wolves by Jonathon Chateau

Posted by douggoodman on May 6, 2016 at 2:40 PM Comments comments (0)

Faith Against the Wolves (Travis Rail #1)Faith Against the Wolves by Jonathan Chateau

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Faith Against the Wolves is a fun joyride of a read across Florida. Jonathon Chateau clearly has an advanced degree in dialogue and hard-boiled metaphor, but don't think that this makes "Faith" a hard-boiled detective story. It is a story about faith and God and finding your place in the world while also being a gun-loving, action-paced, sarcastic-mouthed read. The main character, Travis Rail, is a non-believer who works as a transporter of "rare antiquities" (my steal from Indiana Jones, not the author's) for a clandestine group. As it turns out, these items are Biblical, and the groups hiding or seeking them fall on either side of Heaven and Hell.

As much as I liked the book, I could excuse some of the circular religious debate in the middle of the book. However, the author never tallies on the circular arguments too long, just kind of elbows you to remind you of the stakes, and then it is off to another gunfight. Consider me a fan, now. I can't wait for the next Travis Rail adventure!

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Brief Review: A Head Full of Ghosts by Paul Tremblay

Posted by douggoodman on March 19, 2016 at 1:50 PM Comments comments (0)

A Head Full of GhostsA Head Full of Ghosts by Paul Tremblay

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

One thing I can attest to with this book - it will stick with you. I finished reading it a month ago, and I've waited a while to post a review for two reasons: one, exorcisms scare the hell out of me, and two, I didn't know what to make of it. The first reason is easily explained. Exorcisms freak me out. Probably has something to do with being Catholic and seeing The Exorcist. That movie kept me up almost as many nights as Poltergeist did.

The second one is harder. I know A Head Full of Ghosts is a good book, that it is well written by Paul Tremblay, and I can attest that it affected me. I remember updating my wife about where I was and what was going on in the book while I read it. The scariest parts for me came early in the book, and I will admit there was a couple of days where I just set the book aside in the NOPE section while I got up the courage to read it again. Read it I did, and I think the book has some problems that deal with the nature of the reality television side of the story and its implications, and I don't like how it ended. For me, it had one too many endings. But it is the end of this book that makes it controversial and makes it stick with you, and if the basis of judging a book as good or bad is whether or not it sticks with you, well, I had a head full of ghosts long after I finished reading this book.

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Brief Review: The Autumnlands, by Kurt Busiek

Posted by douggoodman on March 13, 2016 at 10:30 PM Comments comments (0)

The Autumnlands, Vol. 1: Tooth and ClawThe Autumnlands, Vol. 1: Tooth and Claw by Kurt Busiek

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I got into Kurt Busiek from his Astro City stories, which are unbelievable and amazing. But they are also kind of an anthology series, so I wanted to try this one out and see how Busiek handles the long form. He handles it very well. This is a sprawling epic that genre mashes scifi and fantasy.

The Autumnlands are a place where animals walk upright and wield magic. There are the sky people and the land dwellers. The problem for the sky people is that magic is dying out. A great wizardess convinces a team of wizards to help her cast a spell to bring from the past The Champion, who supposedly created magic as it exists in the Autumnlands. The spell, however, uses up too much magic, and their floating city, which is held up by magic, crashes to the ground. Land dwellers (bison tribes) attack and slaughter any who survived the fall. The sky dwellers are saved by The Champion, who is a human. He is from a past that looks very much like our future and has all kinds of neat technical tools. But the bison tribes are reuniting to take out the remaining sky dwellers and their Champion.

This is one of the longer graphic novels I've read, at 150+ pages, and it was only Volume 1, so I feel like you get a good deal for the price you pay. There is a lot of great story in this book, and I am only touching on the broadest strokes. This one is worth reading.

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Brief Review: Low, by Rick Remender

Posted by douggoodman on February 20, 2016 at 2:00 AM Comments comments (0)

Low, Vol. 1: The Delirium of HopeLow, Vol. 1: The Delirium of Hope by Rick Remender

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I picked up Low because I am a fan of Rick Remender's Black Science. In Low, Remender continues to power through family dramas set in scifi worlds. In Low, the world is a future Earth where the sun has enlarged, the waters have risen, and humans have fled to a sub-sea level existence. The air is vanishing and civilization is falling into a decay reminiscent of the fall of Rome. But there is hope in the form of a probe returned from its thousand-year voyage with the possibility of a new world to be civilized.

Rick Remender is the king of kinetic energy. Every panel has a sense of urgency and movement. And Greg Tocchini's artwork is like a modern Frank Frazetta, both sensual and strong. Like the story, though, the art is often lurid and clouded at the same time. Not everything is obvious. This is perhaps the comic's greatest fault for me as a reader. In a world where things don't always make sense, sometimes it is hard to pick up on the visual story. Each panel demands attention and interpretation. Individually, each panel is something you can stare at for hours. In a story, though, you need to move through the page quicker.

Overall, though, Low highlights why Rick Remender is one of the best science fiction thriller writers in the comic book world, if not the best at what he does, which is keep you reading until the end and then wanting more.

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