Words In: Tender Morsels by Margo Lanagan

I wanted to like this… awards, a beautiful cover. A dark fairy tale, people said. Negative reviews mostly objected to rape, incest and bestiality in a Young Adult book. I’m not easily offended. Things began well. Lovely prose.

The problem was dullness, monotony. Scenes repeated, seemingly without aim. Man-bear nuzzles up to vulnerable human female… how many times? I got it the first time. Even for readers accepting of harsh content, the middle 150 pages are tedious. Lanagan’s short fiction is intelligent, beautifully written, but despite lovely prose I can’t recommend Tender Morsels except to (very patient) fairy tale lovers.

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100 Word Critic: Alien Resurrection

Ripley’s back, cloned to create alien-human hybrid offspring by (that familiar trope) recklessly overreaching scientists, in the Alien series’s conclusive fourth installment. I don’t count the Alien-versus-Predator travesties. Director Jeunet brings his regular players Dominique Pinon and Ron Perlman for just the right mix of quirkiness to go along with the doomsday bleakness. Sigourney Weaver conveys the darker note of a woman who’s come back from torment and death.

Conventional wisdom says Alien films declined in quality by installment, but I disagree. Resurrection is clearer and more engaging than Three by a wide margin, and better than the naysayers say.

Call Me the Hundred Word Critic

Lately I’ve been stressing out too much about writing reviews of the books I read. I really enjoy thinking about books critically, playing reviewer in even a semi-formal way. As a way of reducing the pressure of reviewing a bit, while still allowing me to write something about everything I read, I’ve decided to try keeping all my reviews to exactly 100 words. It’s a bit of a wordplay game, condensing and concentrating what I wanted to say into that small number of words. Also seems like something easy to write within a small period of time.

So for now, I’ll think of myself as the hundred word critic.

Words In: The Light is the Darkness by Laird Barron

Conrad Navarro, modern gladiator in a secret underground battle series called The Pageant, pursues his lost (possibly dead) sister Imogene.

Told in a style quite different from Barron’s recent novel The Croning. Pulpy, fast-moving. Seemingly less serious, yet at its core abysmally dark. Some sections more briskly written, while others contain Barron’s characteristically dense, flavorful descriptions.

As with The Croning, strange events are gradually revealed to take place on a grandiose, primordial scale. Part epic, part comic book, part myth. Gods and demigods stride the Earth, concealed among us, concerning themselves with matters frightful and destructive to ordinary mortals.

The Light is the Darkness