Doug Goodman

Texas Horror Writer. Cadaver Dog Handler.

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Brief Reviews: Lord of Stone by DJ Goodman

Posted by douggoodman on June 4, 2017 at 7:15 PM Comments comments (0)

Lord Of StoneLord Of Stone by D.J. Goodman

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

First, a clarification: I am not related to DJ Goodman.

As a reader, I wish I could find more books like Lord of Stone. As a writer, I wish I'd written it. Lord of Stone is like King Kong and Michael Crichton's Congo, but even more interesting. Lord of Stone has its roots in expedition adventures that seek to discover strange creatures in far-away places. But what makes this book stand out is its modern feel and its character study. Trudy Hollis is primatologist famous for her work in the 80s and 90s among gorillas. When Lord of Stone begins, though, the famed primatologist is floundering. She is really struggling with life. She is divorced, alcoholic, suffers symptoms of depression, and is ridiculed by her peers and the mainstream media because she had to shoot a gorilla when a little boy fell into the gorilla's enclosure. Trudy is every person who has ever had to make a hard decision in life and then had to live with the consequences of making an unpopular decision for the right reasons.

There is another aspect to Trudy that is very important to her and to the book. She is a lesbian. Not only that, she is a lesbian returning to African countries that have very strict morality laws and horrible consequences for being gay. This makes the story so much more compelling and adds tension to everything that happens once Trudy and the expedition enter the Virunga Mountains in search of the lost gorillas and their god. This is again pulled right out of recent headlines. I found myself even more invested in this character and her struggles. I also applaud the writer. It is not easy putting yourself out there and writing about gay and diverse characters. But I think there is a lot of payoff in this cast. They feel real, and what they are experiencing feels even more real, even if it is an adventure centered around a giant gorilla.

It would have been very easy to start this story with a giant gorilla killing people. I think the D.J. Goodman made a wise decision in letting this story unravel slowly. The tension builds as the characters work their way first to Africa, and then into the jungle mountains. Like a good Crichton novel, this journey would never have happened without a few guiding questions that need to be answered. They are related to the sociology of the gorillas and whether or not wild gorillas are creating art, religion, or if something else is at play. I like that this story asks those questions, and it asks those questions without every feeling like a wikipedia entry about mountain gorillas or gorillas socialization. That is a credit to the writer for keeping the story flowing, which it does by emphasizing the characters and their plight.

Overall, this is a fun, fantastic book that I would recommend to anyone who likes African adventures or stories about giant monsters.



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Brief Review: Following Atticus, by Tom Ryan

Posted by douggoodman on February 9, 2017 at 12:05 AM Comments comments (0)

Following Atticus: Forty-Eight High Peaks, One Little Dog, and an Extraordinary FriendshipFollowing Atticus: Forty-Eight High Peaks, One Little Dog, and an Extraordinary Friendship by Tom Ryan

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I loaned this book from the library, but it was so good I may have to go out and buy a copy so that I can highlight my favorite lines, like "Magic is where you find it; the only thing that matters is that you take the time to look for it."

The exceptional writer has an ability of putting you in their footsteps. In Following Atticus, every mountain summit was a hard-fought win, and although I've never been to New England, I felt like I'd struggled through the wintry wasteland of the Bonds and pushed through to summit at Mt. Washington, and that I had a little, furry friend named Atticus leading me the entire way. This is a book for dog lovers, hikers, and the people who look for the roads less taken.

The book is lyrical in a way that Tom Ryan's influences (Emerson and Thoreau, especially) bleed through onto the page. While the book can sometimes feel a little overblown, over all this is one of the strongest memoirs I've read.



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Brief Review: Monstres, Vol. 1: Awakening, by Marjorie Liu

Posted by douggoodman on January 28, 2017 at 8:30 PM Comments comments (0)

Monstress, Volume 1: Awakening (Collected Editions)Monstress, Volume 1: Awakening by Marjorie M. Liu

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This one left me with a quandary. On the one hand, the visuals are some of the best I've seen. Sana Takeda's devotion to fully developed, exquisitely-detailed panels is deserving of every recognition she receives, and then some. I think I could spend an afternoon just perusing page to page of the art deco-meets-manga style. The story, on the other hand, while intriguing, was convoluted. I had a hard time getting through the book's story, and now that I've read it, I'm not sure I remember what I read. That's not to say it's bad. Just, be forewarned when you pick this one up.

Of course, none of this says what the book is about. And I don't feel ready to tell you what it is all about, but I will say it is the story of a young woman who may be the hero or villain. She has a Cthulhu-type god living inside her, and there are also kaiju. Maybe. There are witch-nuns, airships, unicorns, and three-tailed cats that quote poets. I know that doesn't give you much, but I think you will have to unlock this book for yourself if you want to know more.



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Brief Review: Black Science, Vol5: True Atonement, by Rick Remender

Posted by douggoodman on January 28, 2017 at 8:15 PM Comments comments (0)

Black Science, Vol. 5: True AtonementBlack Science, Vol. 5: True Atonement by Rick Remender

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is a good book, but compared to the previous 4, I didn't like it as much. While I liked the adventure with the witch, most of this volume feels a bit like it exists to set up further story lines and push us forward. And that's just it. For a series that has is always in forward motion, this feels like a pause before the rush.



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Brief Review: As Astronaut's Guide to Life on Earth, by Chris Hadfield

Posted by douggoodman on January 27, 2017 at 2:50 PM Comments comments (0)

An Astronaut's Guide to Life on EarthAn Astronaut's Guide to Life on Earth by Chris Hadfield

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I've worked at NASA for over 15 years, and this is the first astronaut bio I picked up. I read it mainly thinking for research for Kaijunaut ("get inside an astronaut's head" kind of reading), but I ended up enjoying this book a lot. I liked the spin on the astronaut bio, that it read like a self-help book, but not an overindulgent one. And the book is still mostly about Col. Hadfield's experiences - how he worked to become an astronaut at a time when Canada wasn't flying into space, what it was like living on MIR, and of course it culminates in his final experience as commander of Expedition 34/35. I would recommend this book to anyone who is tired of stuffy biographies, or for any first-time readers of astronaut bios. I have to say, the book left me wanting more, similar stories.



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Brief Review: The Sculptor, by Scott McCloud

Posted by douggoodman on December 18, 2016 at 9:35 PM Comments comments (0)

The SculptorThe Sculptor by Scott McCloud

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I was just wowed by this story of an artist who makes a deal with death so that he can have powers that will make him be able to do things he's never done as a sculptor before. But this is much more than a Dr. Faustus/The Seventh Seal story (though there are obvious parallels and at least one reference to the chess match with death). Scott McCloud really delves into the difficulty of making good art, and all the turmoils that artists go through in life. Scott McCloud does this in a way that keeps the reader turning the page all the way to the end. This is one of my favorite reads of 2016.



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Brief Review: Old Man Logan, by Mark Millar

Posted by douggoodman on November 19, 2016 at 12:05 AM Comments comments (0)

Wolverine: Old Man LoganWolverine: Old Man Logan by Mark Millar

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Old Man Logan is another notch in Mark Millar's belt of jaw-dropping fiction. What a ride! Old Man Logan reminded me of Red Son in that it grabs a comics universe by the head, shakes it around, and sees what falls out. This book finds Wolverine having dropped his name and now only going as Logan. He lives in a post-apocalpytic California, a future where the villains have defeated the super heroes and taken over the United States. Logan, who like so many men of violence, has sworn off his old ways, and now he rents a farm that he works with his children and wife. After the Hulk's redneck grandchildren come to collect rent that he doesn't have, and then Hawkeye shows up with a proposition, their adventure begins.

Like all great Wolverine stories, this one boils down to a personal, introspective journey for Logan, who is coming to terms with a lot of guilt and a lot of bad memories. And by using a post-apocalpytic setting, Millar is able to indulge in many "what if" scenarios involving last epic stands and what becomes of the children and grandchildren of the superheroes who once were. It is in these smaller stories that I jumped from page to page wanting to discover in what ways the world had changed, and how superheroes had adapted to the new world order.

Simply put, this is one of the best Wolverine stories ever written.



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Brief Review: The Dog, by Amy Cross

Posted by douggoodman on October 12, 2016 at 8:45 AM Comments comments (0)

The DogThe Dog by Amy Cross

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

What a fantastic find! This is a zombie apocalypse story, but what makes it so good is that the book follows the POV of a Jack Russel Terrier named Harry who is owned by a man who is staying at a cabin when the zombie outbreak occurs. Everything that seems standard in a zombie apocalypse story becomes new because of the dog's POV. So while Harry's owner is looking at his first zombie and thinking that the person is really injured and maybe sick, Harry is barking his head off because he can smell the difference and knows that something is really, really wrong. This perspective is what readers are looking for in a book. It is insightful beyond the characters in the book, yet is trapped by the communication barriers between man and his loyal companion.
While dogs have an interesting place in the apocalypse (A Boy and His Dog, Mad Max, Rover Red Charlie, to name a few), this one seems different than all the others. The Dog is both heartbreaking and harrowing, earnest and insightful. This is definitely one of my favorite books from this year, so I hope you pick it up!



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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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