Thursday, May 23, 2013
Even at almost 700 pages, I wanted more. I wanted 1000 more pages. I wanted to explore his country of imagination past the borders of this book.
I've been reading the reviews on Amazon for NOS4A2 and many folks are complaining or enjoying the fact it reads just like his father's early work.
I can see both sides to this. But as far as my personal feelings go, I love that it feels like old Stephen King. I hope Hill keeps on writing books just like this one. Someone else can write other types of books. I want Joe Hill to write books in the same vein as his father. End of discussion.
With NOS4A2 Joe Hill even ties his work into the Stephen King Universe. I love that, too. There are a plethora of tie-ins and nods to earlier work of Hill's own fiction and that of his father's, from IT to THE DARK TOWER and more. They are like little treats for Hill fans and King's "Constant Reader"'s.
This is a magnificent tome on the power of the imagination. It's brilliantly told and I can't tell you the number of times it had me on the edge of my seat, nor how many times it broke my heart. I really got engaged with the characters, especially the main character of Vic. She goes through so much and is so tough and loves the two men in her life (Wayne, her son and Lou, Wayne's father) beyond words. She will do anything to save them and that means killing the shit out of a psycho fucker named Charlie Manx. Only Manx is one tough son-of-a-bitch himself. He's also maybe not even human and definitely a monster.
I really dug Hill's first novel, HEART SHAPED BOX. It's actually one of my favourite horror novels. HORNS, his second effort, IMO sucked hard. So I didn't know for sure what I was going to get with NOS4A2. What I got was a surprisingly mature and incredibly imaginative novel from a fairly new writer.
To me, NOS4A2 puts Hill at the top of the heap of writers putting out horror fiction. This is a 10 out of 10.
If I haven't sold you on it one yet, I don't know much more that I can say. If you want, wait for the paperback but beyond that, you're just depriving yourself of a damn good story.
Posted by Andrew Leonard at 3:11 PM
Tuesday, May 21, 2013
Thursday, May 16, 2013
Wednesday, May 8, 2013
I have a very special guest in the house today. Mr. John Hornor Jacobs! Long timers will remember my last interview with John after the release of SOUTHERN GODS. If you haven’t read SOUTHERN GODS, you don’t know what you’re missing.
He’s back today to talk about his latest novel, THE TWELVE-FINGERED BOY (scroll down to yesterdays post for my marvelous review). We also touch on a few other topics, from writing to our favourite superheroes and future releases!
It’s starts now!
The Man Eating Bookworm (MEB): John, thanks for returning to THE MAN EATING BOOKWORM! How have you been?
John Hornor Jacobs (JHJ): I’m pretty good. Trying to acclimate myself to the writing life. I recently made the transition to full time writer. Rented a small out-of-the-home office - $175 a month – and most of my days are spent writing, editing, and failing to ignore the Internet and social media.
MEB: I’m stoked to hear about the full time writing. That’s awesome.
Okay, to start off, where did the inspiration or the ideas for your latest novel, THE TWELVE-FINGERED BOY, come from?
JHJ: The inspiration for THE TWELVE-FINGERED BOY came from my father. I don’t mean to refer you to another site, but I wrote a big piece on it over at John Scalzi’s blog for his THE BIG IDEA series. You can read the whole story there. But the abbreviated version is that Grumps – that’s what my kids call him – is always throwing ideas for books at me and some of them stick.
MEB: THE TWELVE-FINGERED BOY is your third novel and first YA book. Is there a different mindset to writing for a younger audience? Were there any scenes you changed after the first or second drafts because you thought it was too much for the younger set?
JHJ: I do think there is a difference writing for teens as opposed to writing for adults. Part of it is content, part of it is tone, and part is pacing. For a book to be young adult, to me, it means it has to address at least one of the issues of adolescence: the discovery of sex; finding one’s identity, morals, values; discovering and assuming one’s place in the world; leaving the shadow and protection of adults; growing into power. And so many other things. But those are a few.
One of the main issues with writing YA is that it can’t really be told from a remove, “When I was a young boy, these things happened to me…” Truly effective writing for teens has to have a teen protagonist that’s in the shit at the time of the story. Which is one of the reasons why I chose first-person, present tense for THE TWELVE-FINGERED BOY. Also, I would add, that most YA requires an honesty with subject matter; teens have infallible bullshit meters.
MEB: The world of THE TWELVE-FINGERED BOY has a very epic feel to it, with certain elements only briefly touched upon (What's in Maryland? Who is Jerry Aaronson and what exactly does Asset Consulting mean? What is Quincrux up to?). In our last discussion you mentioned two planned sequels (INCARCERADO and THE END OF ALL THINGS). Is the road map still the same or have things changed?
JHJ: I’m going to take these questions out of order, if I may. Okay, yes, the two sequels are still forthcoming. INCARCERADO’s title has been changed to THE SHIBBOLETH which is a different sort of title, to be sure, but INCARCERADO was too close to INCARCERON by Catherine Fisher, so my editor and I came up with this new title. It has both good and bad points. The bad, it’s a strange word that will puzzle people. The good, it is actually the PERFECT title for the book, in many ways. The shibboleth is what Shreve calls his power.
Anyway, THE SHIBBOLETH is complete. I wrote it, then rewrote it. Now editing it and half-way through with THE END OF ALL THINGS. It’s been a long process and now I’m coming to an end to my time with Shreve and I must say I’ve been getting a little emotional saying goodbye. I’ve treated him so badly, really just tortured the kid.
But to address your questions, no I can’t tell you what’s in Maryland or what Quincrux is up to, but all that is revealed in THE SHIBBOLETH. Jerry Aaronson is, simply, a friend of Shreve and a pseudo-father figure, like Assistant Warden Booth. Asset consulting is financial investment and guidance chosen as Jerry’s profession simply because that’s what my mom used to do for a living and if I had to elaborate I’d at least be able to call her up and get the deets for verisimilitude. Convenience! Never underestimate the laziness of writers.
MEB: I dig that title. SHIBBOLETH sounds cool, even H.P. Lovecraft-y. I can’t wait to get my hands on it!
With the impending publication of your epic fantasy, THE INCORRUPTIBLES, that will be four very different genres you have delved into. Do you feel any pressure or expect any pressure in the future, to stick to one type of book or will you continue to write the type of book you want to write, genre or publisher be damned?
JHJ: I do feel pressure to stick to one genre, but that pressure only comes from me. My publishers aren’t pushing me one way or another. My problem is that I’m creatively restless and I really don’t want to churn out books too similar because what’s the point in that? Well, other than money. Series sell more than standalones.
SOUTHERN GODS falls pretty much in the horror genre and when it came out, I was a debut author. THIS DARK EARTH was, in my mind, more of a SF novel but since it had zombies, it was classified as horror. With THE TWELVE-FINGERED BOY, again I was a debut YA author. And now, with THE INCORRUPTIBLES (which I’m terribly excited for – I landed the best publisher possible in Gollancz/Orbit) I’m once again a debut author, this time fantasy. And I’m sure I’ll be a debut author again in some other genre. I have plans to write a straight historical fiction work, and a straight fiction piece with no speculative elements, but we’ll see what shakes out. I was just smacked between the eyes with an idea the other day for a horror/historical novel and I’ve always wanted to write my take on the vampire and I’ve already worked out a premise for the book and a title.
However, if any of my books become successful enough, I have no problems in playing for a while longer in those particular sandboxes, since they’re my sandboxes. I have worked out premises for sequels to both SOUTHERN GODS and THIS DARK EARTH (which is pretty much crying out for a sequel) but right now, my cup runneth over and it will be years before I’ll be able to get to them. If ever.
MEB: That’s awesome and I’m excited as a reader hearing about the projects coming down the pipe!
All right, let’s lighten things up a bit. If I were able to have one super-ability it would be flight. I would love to fly around everywhere. That would be totally cool.
When I was a kid I wanted to be invisible, but that was mostly so I could hangout in the ladies change room!
What super ability would you want and would it be any different from the 13 year old you?
JHJ: That’s a great (and perennial) question! Invisibility or Flight. There’s a wonderful This American Life episode called “Superpowers” which deals with this question.
I would be hard pressed to choose either of those. Invisibility is a power that can only really be used for subterfuge and would very easily be misused – spying, stealing, covert operations. On the other hand, flying is very unpractical. For example, say you can fly, but do you have the power to resist cold? Do you fly as fast as you run? Fast as a plane? If you fly as fast as a plane, you’d have to dress in a wetsuit and helmet to resist the cold and the force of the wind. If you can’t fly that fast, you still have to bundle up for the altitude and can you carry your luggage? Put on a backpack? If you ever have a family, like I do, you’ll never be able to lift them all so you’ll still have to drive to Michigan in a station wagon.
Flying is an extremely impractical power unless augmented with other powers. It would make getting to work a snap, though. But not in winter or when it’s raining.
If I had to choose a superpower, it would be the ability to heal with a touch. Heal any disease. I would then set myself up as the new Messiah and make the world worship me as their ONE TRUE GOD. MUWHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA.
But no, I’d choose healing and try to do some good in the world. Or choose the power to be a great father. There’s a really wonderful comic that deals with this…
MEB: That’s an awesome comic! And so true, right?
Who are your three favourite superheroes?
JHJ: Ooof. That’s a tough one. HELLBOY. I love Hellboy. Is Hellboy a superhero? Okay, I guess if I had to choose three superheroes, they’d be BATMAN, WOLVERINE, and CONSTANTINE (though I guess he’s not really a superhero).
But, honestly, I’m not really into superheroes. THE TWELVE-FINGERED BOY and the following books are sort of a critique of superheroes in general. If you haven’t seen the movie CHRONICLE, it does a great job of punching holes in the “classic” superhero tropes while still honoring their memory. When I saw CHRONICLE, I was somewhat alarmed at the similarities between it and THE TWELVE-FINGERED BOY but, damn, it was such a great movie, who was I to complain? And the writer went different places than I did, with similar themes. Anyone who’s into superhero comics and hasn’t watched Max Landis – the writer of CHRONICLE and son of John Landis - break down the “death” of SUPERMAN should go watch it, now (or hopefully, you can embed it in this page).
But the classic superheroes? Meh.
I guess I like BATMAN because he’s flawed and tragic and Nolan should have killed him off, at least in the movies. I’m going to digress here for a moment.
In one of the last spate of BATMAN movies, there was this moment when the Morgan Freeman character – Lucius Fox – is discussing getting a cowl for Batman that will allow him to turn his head but he’d have to buy 10,000 of them to hide the cost of purchase or something. At that moment in the film I yelped EUREKA! and thought I knew how the series was going to end. Batman was going to die at the climax but not before defeating the baddies. And afterwards he would bequeath thousands upon thousands of Batman suits to the populace of Gotham, free for the taking, in essence giving them the power to regulate and police themselves. The image of Bruce Wayne surrounded by thousands and thousands of bats would come to fruition and Wayne would be subsumed, free to shuck off his burden, free to die. And in dying, the whole populace of Gotham would BECOME THE GODDAMN BATMAN. I get goosebumps thinking about it. But Nolan didn’t do that and we got the shit ending that what we got.
My ending would’ve been far better. End digression.
So I like BATMAN because he’s flawed. I like WOLVERINE because he’s flawed. Ditto for DOCTOR STRANGE, the HULK, IRON MAN and others.
SUPERMAN? THOR? They’re not really interesting without any weakness, either overt or interior. Actually, I think THOR (both the movie and the comic) is ridiculously silly.
I’m far more interested in comics that tell stories about conflicted and complex characters and, really, if your superhero runs around in tights and flies, I’m sure you can tell engaging stories about how deep and scarred and wounded they are, but they’re still running around in tights.
So, if I had to list my top three comics – above all the superheroes - I’d say HELLBOY, NORTHLANDERS, and Cullen Bunn’s THE DAMNED (or THE SIXTH GUN). It’s a toss-up, really.
Funny, despite all my talk about conflicted, flawed characters, my favorite isn’t conflicted at all. Hellboy knows who he is, he knows what he’s gonna do (and not gonna do, namely become the apotheosis of the apocalypse, hence the sundered horns) he’s really just a everyday average schmoe, a gumshoe, a blue-collar guy, but it’s the world that’s conflicted about him. And he never stops. Inexorable. A force of nature with a sense of humor. I love that about him.
MEB: HELLBOY is my favourite, too, and for the exact reasons you mention (SEEDS OF DESTRUCTION is one of my all time favourite comic books). I have not seen the movie CHRONICLE but will correct that shortly. I like your idea about BATMAN. That would have been a great way to finish it off.
Who are your favourite villains?
JHJ: Is this a comic, literary, or film villains? Screw it, I’ll just sample from it all.
Dracula, of course, he was prima facie evil for me because I read that book when I was so young, it was a trial to even make out the words. Belloq from Raiders of the Lost Ark because he was understandable and even sympathetic. And I’ve always loved stories featuring Old Scratch, Lucifer, Satan. The Adversary. You can’t really get a better villain than the Devil.
MEB: There have been a number of superhero type books published in the last few years (Rob Rogers DEVIL'S CAPE, Paul Tobin PREPARE TO DIE, Austin Grossman SOON I WILL BE INVINCIBLE, to name a few). Any favourites?
JHJ: I’m ashamed to admit I haven’t read any of them. I hear good things about SOON I WILL BE INVINCIBLE. I loved Adam Christopher’s EMPIRE STATE but I wouldn’t really classify that as strictly a superhero story.
MEB: Finally, are you a Marvel man or D.C.?
JHJ: Neither. I’m a Dark Horse / Oni / Image comics man.
MEB: John, once again, thanks for taking time out of your busy schedule to drop in and answer a few questions. Much appreciated!
JHJ: Hey, thanks for having me, P.A.L.! I really enjoyed it.
I would like to take this space to once more thank John for taking time to thoughtfully answer my questions. I hope you guys dug the interview. It’s been a while since I have done one, and John made it fun. Please run out and grab THE TWELVE-FINGERED BOY today, or one of the other books John has out.
Posted by Andrew Leonard at 11:52 AM
Tuesday, May 7, 2013
The book is a coming of age story with a supernatural backdrop. It tells the tale of two boys who are discovering themselves and the very strange abilities they have.
Think X-Men YA style. Yeah, awesome.
The first half of the book takes place in Casimir Pulaski Juvenile Detention Center where we meet Shreve and Jack. These two boys become tight buds and learn intimate details about each others pasts and how they each came to be inmates.
Then one day a frightening and strange man comes to visit Jack at the Detention Center. Quincrux is a man with a scary ability to get inside peoples minds and make them his little puppets. Quincrux wants to take Jack away.
But here is the thing ... Quincrux wasn't expecting Shreve.
The second half takes place on the road and (funny enough) put me in mind of Stephen King and Peter Straub's THE TALISMAN. Running from Quincrux and surviving by any means, the two boys end up somewhere very dark and very disturbing, leading to a climax you won't see coming.
I have read John Hornor Jacobs' previous two books (SOUTHERN GODS and THIS DARK EARTH) and enjoyed them immensely. THE TWELVE-FINGERED BOY is simply kick-ass.
I want you to go out and buy this book today. You will devour it in a couple of sittings and come back here and thank me for it in the comments section. I promise.
THE TWELVE-FINGERED BOY is the first of a trilogy of novels that chronicles Shreve's and Jack's journey. While it is a complete story in itself, there is much left to be discovered in the next two books. And I, for one, can't wait!
Posted by Andrew Leonard at 10:17 AM
Monday, May 6, 2013
If you liked either of the other Iron Man movies, or THE AVENGERS, you're going to dig this one, too.
Robert Downey Jr. is in top form as Tony Stark, along with fellow cast members Jon Favreau (could lose some weight) and Don Cheedle (used too sparingly in this one). Ben Kingsley is terrific as The Mandarin, the evil mastermind behind a series of terror attacks against the West. Guy Pearce has a great bod for a man in his 40's, but has a pretty vanilla screen presence. I think he was mis-cast.
Director Shane Black is back from a long hiatus of directing films (his last credit is KISS KISS BANG BANG) but he does have a legion of great action flicks to his writing credit, including LETHAL WEAPON (1 and 2), THE LONG KISS GOODNIGHT (awesome title!), THE LAST BOY SCOUT and THE LAST ACTION HERO (great idea but the final product was a fail).
Black is in primo form with IRON MAN 3. Tons of action. Lots of wit. Mucho superhero goodness. If I have one complaint it would be the post-credit teaser Marvel films have become known for. This one was pretty lame, IMO. However, the first part of the credits are AMAZING! Very funky and 70's-style entertainment. I love when movies put some thought into the credits. And by the way, the list of names that worked on the CGI...EPIC!
Posted by Andrew Leonard at 6:09 PM