Friday, January 18, 2008


Author: Chuck Palahnuik

Type: Fiction

Shepnerd Rating: 3 Stars

Choke is a bitter, funny, interesting story that doesn't really go anywhere or resolve anything important. The author, famous for "Fight Club", uses the same formula is this work: engaging quirky characters, weird set-ups, un-redeemable situations pursued by unconscionable characters.
The character Vincent tells us in the opening paragraph that we will not like him. He is right. A child raised part in foster care and part by a chaotic jail-bird mom, Vincent grows up to become a medical student forced to drop out of college to provide for his mother who is dying with Alzheimer's disease. He takes a job in an amusement park to pay his bills, and pretends to choke in fancy restaurants to scam people out of money in order to pay for his mom's care. His quirky loser friend Dennis, his mom's Doctor, and his whacked-out mom serve as pivots the move around his dysfunctional system of being. He's also a sex addict (all this comes out in the first chapter alone!) whose sexual romps add little but funny sequences and shock to the story.
Its a great set-up with almost no denouement. By the time Vincent admits to Dr. Marshall that he doesn't want his mom to die, and doesn't want her to get better - that he wants her just to hover helplessly at the brink of death so he can be in control of her for a chance -- we realize he is right. We are not ever going to like Vincent.
Good writing, stagnant story.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Se7en (Seven)

Publisher: Zenescope

Type: Graphic Novel

Shepnerd Rating: 5 Stars

Wow. That's all I can say about this hardcover collection of the 7 book comic series by Zenescope that is a graphic (and I mean graphic) novel edition of the movie "Seven". Its not just a retelling, it fills in backstory (how did John Doe become such a psycho? What steps did he take to commit his crimes?) and uses art in ways to create emotion that are unheard of in most mediums.

The books was done with cooperation from New Line Cinema, and is quality throughout. Remember the black and white composition notebooks John Doe writes in? Each chapter is a sin, and features a full-page spread of the notebook page (so you can read his little writing about each sin and see his gross taped-in pictures up close). Each Chapter (7 of course) also shows something about his life "then" (an abusive mom, a early sexual encounter, catholic school, unfaithful wife...) and his plans to create the "now" (how he sets up his murders). Each chapter ends where the movie starts - the finding of a body - the understanding of the "sin".
If you haven't seen the movie Seven - you won't get the book. But if you read this book - you will get so much more out of the movie. For fans of thrillers and graphic novels - this book is worth your time, and money.

The Tent

Author: Margaret Atwood
Type: Literature/Short Story
Shepnerd Rating: 4 Stars

People who aren't used to Margaret Atwood's free flowing sentences and amazing intelligence will not like or get this book. However, as an Atwood fan since college (back when we rode our dinosaur to school) I found this book to be an amazing treat. Filled with short stories to illustrate her thoughts on everything from aging, to spirit seeking, to our commerical/materialistic world these small stories are packed with images, wit and style.
Sadly the book is thin and fast to read (I completed it in 2 doctor's visits). My favorite stories were "Salome was a Dancer" "No Pictures Please" "The Bottle II" and "Animals Reject Their Names". My only sadness about this book is that I wished it were longer.