RaveLos Angeles Review of BooksThe plot, as per usual with Newman, is an artful farrago of outlandish events and freakish set-pieces, whose manifold pleasures I will not spoil ... While it tracks Karloff’s film career closely (and cleverly), Something More Than Night rather fudges Chandler’s writing history: though set during the mid-to-late ’30s, the story references four of the author’s novels, the first of which was only published in 1939. But this is a quibble since Newman’s stitching of the fictive history of Pyramid Pictures into the known reality of ’30s Hollywood is generally quite deft and often laugh-out-loud funny ... Junior’s gloating prattle is so convincingly silly, so richly evocative of every Hollywood satire...that one half-expects him to boast that he can hire a hack off the street to give him \'that Raymond Chandler feeling.\'
RaveLos Angeles Review of BooksHand’s specialty is the novella, tales of roughly 10,000 to 40,000 words — perhaps the perfect length for this sort of story, as it allows for the gradual development of a fantastic premise while sustaining the engrossing spell of a single-sitting read ... While this may be a wonderful length for a strange story, however, it makes the project of collecting them rather problematic since it’s hard to fit very many between two covers ... Happily, when the publisher is Subterranean, one of the most reliable small presses in the field, the solution is to release a very large book: 550 pages of Hand’s superlative stories, including a full six of her major novellas ... To be honest, though, most of the shorter pieces in the book are somewhat forgettable ... Judging by the evidence of the contents gathered here, Hand’s fertile imagination does not lend itself comfortably to a constrained compass ... The setup is classic Hand, with one person’s weird obsession gradually infecting and recruiting others, a pattern recapitulated in several of the book’s entries ... Personally, I have to admit that I found all the whiffs of patchouli oil and pot smoke faintly nauseating, but there is no denying the hypnotic power Hand can summon from the smoldering remains ... her uncanny ability to convey the texture of a character’s thoughts or the reality of an imagined environment through olfactory information ... The result is a sensual richness that gives Hand’s writing an arresting savor and a palpable density. In terms of the cumulative effect, I think I can smell another World Fantasy Award for best collection of the year.
PanLos Angeles Review of BooksThe fantastic premise that animates Later is simple...but King has not fully thought through the narrative implications of this idea ... Given these grim statistics, you would imagine that Jamie’s childhood would be spent dodging a swarm of horrid wraiths, but he only runs into two other gooshy spooks after that first incident, each time because it is convenient for the plot ... But King seems untroubled by these credibility issues, since his purpose in introducing the mad-bomber subplot is to provide Jamie with a durable nemesis ... As per usual with King’s novels, even comparatively bad ones, Later has its compelling aspects. Jamie’s narrative voice is nicely captured, as he matures into a confused and understandably depressed teenager, and the scenes with his harried, madcap mother have the homely authenticity one has come to expect of the author’s domestic scenarios ... But none of these positive qualities can overcome the structural flaws at the heart of the story, which undermine its tenability in a way that is finally fatal.
PositiveLos Angeles Review of BooksForegone is, by far, the most cunningly metafictional novel of the author’s career ... readers, especially those who have already read Voyager and have begun to recognize the reverberations, can be forgiven for feeling as if they are trapped in a metafictional—and autofictional—echo chamber ... Foregone captures this sense of irremediable artifice in its very form, which resists straightforward chronology in its palimpsest of hazy memories, and even confuses interior and exterior worlds by refusing to circumscribe dialogue from introspection and narrative summary ... a crafty sense of recollection as fabulation, as well as a bracing willingness to place at the narrative center a character it is almost impossible for readers to like. The fact that this character is, here, a quasi-autobiographical surrogate only makes the strategy braver and more complexly engaging. This is not to say that Fife is totally unsympathetic. His rage at his failing body, and his terror in the face of imminent death, are captured with poignant precision. Indeed, I can think of few recent novels that have conveyed the fear of looming extinction...more powerfully, and Fife’s fervent urge to tell his tale before the curtain falls is ultimately admirable ... The only (somewhat) false note the book strikes is in the character of the Haitian nurse ... Renée thus comes as close as any character in Banks’s corpus to filling the dubious role of Magical Negro, though any reader who knows the author’s other fiction will probably be willing, as I am, to give him the benefit of the doubt here ... If Foregone turns out to be Banks’s final novel (and, given its many strengths, one hopes not), it is a profoundly compelling valedictory.
RaveThe Los Angeles Review of Books...as Sam Wasson shows in compelling detail in his fine new book The Big Goodbye, the makers of Chinatown were simply too young, too ambitious, too controversial, and their movie, while undeniably brilliant, was like a brash finger stuck in the eye of the Hollywood establishment ... While Towne’s screenplay won an Oscar and has long been hailed as a modern classic, Wasson makes a strong case that its brilliance is really due to Polanski’s shrewd and uncompromising decisions ... The Big Goodbye excels at such insider insights, gleaned from a thorough canvassing of the relevant archives and from interviews with most of the principal players. The core of the book is an engrossing history of the film’s development ... what this book offers at its heart is a rich and enthralling account of one of the finest movies ever to come out of Hollywood. Chinatown is a melancholy and savage film that repays repeated viewings, especially when armed with the penetrating insights and fascinating details Wasson has marshalled here with such loving care.
MixedLos Angeles Review of BooksThe satire of an ad-saturated, media-distracted, money-dominated society could not, in fact, be broader, and in the hands of a lesser writer, it could easily come across as ludicrous and off-putting. There are times, frankly, when it does, though Wright’s fierce commitment to his hyperbolic lampoonery carried me along, even if it never quite won me over. The novel owes its success to the fact that, just when you think the manic raillery can’t go any further, it plunges screaming over the edge ... To evoke this depraved excess, Wright abandons his typically labyrinthine, dreamlike style in favor of starkly simple prose limning scenes of such generic banality that even the characters know they’re preprogrammed ... Unfortunately, Wright’s arraignment of the gibbering inanities of mass consumption doesn’t have quite the bite Going Native had, in large part because the popular mediascape has so metastasized in the 25 years between books that it appears to have outstripped the author’s capacity to capture it ... Processed Cheese is one of those novels...that, in its Swiftian fury, is easy to admire but hard to really like, in large part because the reader feels uneasily implicated in the satire. This book doesn’t just hate the kind of nation America has become, it despises us all for our complicity in it. And we totally deserve it.
David R. Bunch
RaveThe Los Angeles Review of BooksOn the basis of Moderan, Bunch has acquired the reputation of being a writer’s writer, highly respected by his peers but more or less unknown to the larger genre readership ... he is a master of baroque paradox, effortlessly mixing the rhapsodic with the grotesque, the ferocious with the whimsical, in the same story, often in the same sentence ... he deploys poetic tricks—high-flown apostrophe, rampant alliteration—to evoke the strangeness of future worlds ... it...is a near-forgotten \'minor\' work of the New Wave era that richly deserves rediscovery ... the narrative proceeds by lyrical leaps and picaresque digressions. Future Moderan is not really a spatiotemporal setting, not a feat of world-building at all, so much as it is a conceptual environment impressionistically evoked, an inner-spatial metaphor for modernity along the lines of J. G. Ballard’s Vermilion Sands (1971) ... For Bunch, the trappings of genre are not ends in themselves but rather serviceable means to spin out his idiosyncratic worldview. Indeed, his fictive building blocks, rather than providing the solid contours of a rigorously extrapolated world, are themselves fluid, figurative elements in a complex allegory of gender, violence, and power ... Though in some ways quaintly dated, Bunch’s novel still speaks powerfully to contemporary readers ... Plus ça change...
MixedLos Angeles Review of Books\"Heller’s coverage of these peaks of achievement is interspersed with amusing asides on more minor, \'novelty\' phenomena... and compelling analyses of obscure artists ... [Heller] also writes astutely about the impact of major SF films on the development of 1970s pop music ... At the same time, Heller is shrewdly alert to the historical importance of grassroots venues such as London’s UFO Club ... Finally, Heller reconstructs some fascinating, but sadly abortive, collaborations ... Heller’s erudition is astonishing, but it can also be overwhelming, drowning the reader in a welter of minutiae about one-hit wonders and the career peregrinations of minor talents ... Anyone interested in either popular music or science fiction of the 1970s will find countless nuggets of sheer delight in Strange Stars...\
RaveThe Los Angeles Review of Books\"...a remarkable little novel ... Almost all of Ingalls’s stories evoke an atmosphere of breathless expectancy: something wonderful or horrid seems always about to happen. This tone of suspense often has a menacing quality, paying off at the last minute in appalling reversals of fortune and explosions of spectacular violence ... It is a tribute to the subtlety of the novel that it can lend itself to multiple readings ... Perhaps Ingalls’s finest accomplishment in the novel is the unflappable gentleness of her tone, which records supernatural surprise and flaming horror simply, almost tranquilly. The result is paradoxically quotidian and dreamlike, like a fable or folktale ... One can only hope that this new edition, and the possible film adaptation, will bring to this austere, elegant work — and to Ingalls’s fiction more generally — the sustained attention it so richly deserves.\
PositiveThe Los Angeles Review of BooksGattis has followed up this small masterpiece with Safe, a more modestly purposed but equally intense character study disguised as a crime caper story. The set-up is fairly standard: protagonist takes a wrong turn, crosses a criminal gang, and pays the price ... Safe’s protagonist and antagonist, whose respective stories are told in overlapping sequences of first-person narration, are in many ways mirror images of one another ...very much a Los Angeles novel...is a tendency to introspection that at times verges on navel-gazing: the thread of plot can be lost for pages as Ricky or Rudy slips into one of their characteristic...an intense and gripping novel.
MixedThe Los Angeles Review of Books...The Dime is a gritty police thriller set in contemporary Texas, which kicks off a new series starring tough lesbian detective, Betty Rhyzyk ... Betty’s narration throughout, at once amiable and edgy, is a continuous pleasure to read, even when the story veers into dark and ugly terrain ...plot shifts come hard and fast, causing a kind of readerly whiplash as the case is persistently rethought by Betty, Seth, and their small handful of (male) co-workers...I fear the whole enterprise may be in danger of burning itself out prematurely, overwhelmed by the sheer adrenalized pace ...Kent has shown herself to be both an effective storyteller and an acute social observer, with a sharp eye for Texas-sized absurdities.
PositiveThe Los Angeles Review of BooksCass is a seething cauldron of resentment, longing, and despair, and Hand does a remarkable job of making her both sadly credible and deeply sympathetic ... Cass’s first-person narration is entirely absorbing, and readers are favored with a constant stream of put-downs of bourgeois normalcy that are razor sharp and hilarious ... Hard Light, like its predecessors in the series, is compulsively readable, but taken altogether, the effect is of a highly improbable concatenation of events ... Hand is an expert at evoking atmospheric milieux, from the wilds of an offshore island to the urban deserts of modern Europe.