I fucking love reading. I love it so goddamn much.
When I was younger I practically consumed books. The newest R.L. Stein was lapped up hungrily, then washed down with a healthy double digest of Archie. When I wasn’t acting a total nuisance to my parents, wreaking havoc on the household with my sisters, I was quietly stowed away in some corner of the house with my nose buried in a book. You name it, I read it. Dr. Seuss, Nancy Drew, Sweet Valley Kids, Roald Dahl, Goosebumps, Tales of Redwall, Hardy Boys, Pippi Longstocking, and The Chronicles of Narnia. All present and accounted for.
I especially loved books in which teachers were aliens, people turned into animals, or ventriloquist dummies came to life at night. Those were the best books. Filling my head with fantastical stuff of that variety is probably why I’m such a weirdo today…
I’d even read at night, when I was supposed to be sleeping. It was stealth reading. I’d stand by the window, balancing precariously on the nightstand, and push the blinds aside. I pinned them against the glass with my shoulder to keep them out of my way. Then I’d tilt my book in just the right way, letting the glow from the streetlights outside illuminate the pages. And I’d stand there reading until I was tired. I’d have to be careful not to lose myself completely in my book, otherwise I might not hear my parents checking up. I couldn’t get caught, that would be big trouble. But it was worth the risk, and I loved every minute of it because I was greedy for reading.
And to this day my greed for reading has not yet abated.
I tend to read a lot more in the summer. Seems odd, I know. But there’s something about a spectacularly hot summer day that drives me to read. Summer is hardly even underway, but I’ve already burned through a bunch of awesome shit on my summer reading docket. The stuff I’ve been reading lately has been so fucking rad. So good that I’m reading on the subway to and from work. Which I normally wouldn’t do because its not enough time to really immerse yourself in the story. And you always get cut off, having to leave the train, at the most ill-timed moments. But I can’t help myself! The stuff I’m reading is too good. I just can’t wait another second to get back into the thick of it.
I have to share it. I can’t keep all this goodness to myself, that just wouldn’t be right. So if you’re looking for something really rad to read this summer, then I’ve got just the thing for you. Providing your tastes run a little oddball like mine, naturally.
SMASH’S SUMMER READING ROUNDUP
1) American Gods by Neil Gaiman
This one is going to take you for a wild ride. It’s the story of Shadow, a man whose life is irrevocably changed by a chance meeting with a mysterious stranger. A stranger who introduces him to a motley assortment of Gods who were brought to America by the immigrants of our history books. Belief in these archaic gods has dwindled dangerously, putting them at odds with the gods of our present day. A war of epic proportions is brewing, the outcome of which could be catastrophic.
It’s riveting. Written in such a way that reader is directly deposited into Shadow’s shoes from the start. We meet our protagonist, and we immediately sympathize with his plight. When his journey begins, it’s confusing and weird at first. You’re confronted and confounded by a number of strange characters. You’re not sure what’s happening or why, but you know that all of it is totally illogical, nonsensical. Through the myths, legends, and tales of the immigrants that brought their gods to America which are interspersed with Shadow’s narrative, you begin to see. You’re awakened. Things start to click, and you start to believe. You see, you experience, you learn, and discover the power of faith right along with Shadow.
It’s strange and quirky, brimming with intrigue. It keeps you hanging on, worrying and wondering how it will play out. Simultaneously surprising and amusing, it’s worth your time. Gaiman is a masterful storyteller, and if you’re not familiar with his work then you need to get familiar.
I loved it. I give it a 9/10.
2) Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card
Ender Wiggin is taken from his home and all that he knows at the tender age of six. Because it is believed that he is the militaristic genius who can save earth from impending doom. He’s taken to battle school where he is mercilessly trained by his superiors in the art of war. The world government believes that they need to groom remarkably bright and capable children for a life of military success to protect earth from alien invasion and the subsequent domination or annihilation of the human race that is sure to follow. And they are coming, it’s irrefutable. A child of staggering strategic genius is our last resort. Will he rise to the occasion or get crushed by the onslaught of challenges heaped upon him at battle school?
I mean, come on. What can I say that hasn’t already been said? This is the quintessential work of science-fiction. Space travel, aliens, intergalactic war, cutting edge weaponry, null gravity fight sequences, and more! This book has got it all. It’s fast paced and exciting. Ender is an awe-inspiring character. His brilliance knows no bounds. But for every soaring success he experiences, Ender is met with shattering lows. His success comes at the cost of his innocence. Earth’s safety is insured through the manipulation and exploitation of a little boy whose been robbed of his youth, forced to grow up way too fast. Literally, the weight of the world is on his shoulders. You want him to succeed, but you pity him. And you’re appalled by the measures taken by the commanders to groom Ender to perfection.
I simply could not put this book down, it is an absolute treasure. And I’m really looking forward to the movie adaptation later this year. Perfect score, 10/10.
3) Desperation by Stephen King
There’s something evil afoot in Desperation, a small town in Nevada. More evil than you could possibly imagine. One by one, road weary travellers are picked up on interstate 50, just outside of town, and taken into the custody of the town sheriff. A family on vacation, a young married couple, an aging writer, and the town drunk are tossed into jail cells and terrorized by the maniac sheriff. But little do they know, he’s the least of their worries.
It’s everything you’d expect of a King novel. Grisly and gripping, sparing not a single gory detail. It’s frightening, but you can’t stop reading. There’s a creepiness about it that really burrows into you. I read this book over the course of two weeks. I do the bulk of my reading at night before bed. Which probably isn’t wise with horror fiction, but I couldn’t stop myself. And it had an impact, that’s for sure. Every night for the two weeks that I was reading this book, I had nighttime episodes, completely unbeknownst to me. It was only when D commented on it that I found out it was happening. He asked me what was up, said I’d been weird at night lately. When I asked him weird how, he told me a number of bizarre things. I was screaming bloody murder in my sleep, flailing my arms wildly. A couple of times I also leapt out of bed in a panic, pulling back the curtains and screaming at the bedroom window. I’d have a total freak out and then go back to sleep like nothing had happened. It was Stephen King, working his creepy magic on me. As soon as I finished the book, the nighttime episodes stopped.
It’s thrilling, it’s chilling, it’ll literally get inside of you. It’s not my favourite work by King, a little too heavy-handed on the God and prayer stuff, but it was a worthwhile read. If you can stomach horror fiction, then go for it. I’d say it gets a 7.5/10.
BONUS: D and I watched the made for T.V. movie version once I’d finished the book. It was spectacularly cheesy. The only real scares coming in the form of creepy crawlies. Snakes, tarantulas and scorpions. Watching that shit wriggle around on-screen scares the bejesus out of me!
4) Batman: Haunted Knight by Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale
This is a compilation of three Batman Halloween Specials written and presented by the iconic Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale. While working on these three tales of Halloween in Gotham City, Loeb and Sale were inspired to create The Long Halloween, which is my favourite Batman story to date and one of the most beloved works in the Batman canon. My favourite of these three stories is the second one, “Madness”, in which Batman squares off with The Mad Hatter, a psychopath whose moniker is derived from Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. He’s a challenging enemy for Batman because the reference to Carroll reminds him of his mother. Fighting Mad Hatter dredges up painful memories. The flashback sequence of Bruce reading Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland with his mother just hours before her untimely death is gut-wrenching. We see the charming and precocious Bruce interacting freely with his mother, the emotional barriers we are accustomed to with Bruce Wayne have yet to be constructed. It makes you wonder what might have been, and if you love Batman as much as I do, it tears at your heart.
The artwork is sublime, and the stories are highly enjoyable. Easily, 8.5/10.
5) Y: The Last Man Vol. 1 Unmanned by Brian K. Vaughan, Pia Guerra, and Jose Marzan Jr.
A mysterious plague has wiped out every single mammal with a Y chromosome on the planet. All of the men and male animals, dead. All of them except two. A young man named Yorick Brown and his pet monkey Ampersand. For some reason they survived, as did all of the females. Yorick is now the last man on earth, and that is some serious shit to deal with. He’s got to keep his ass safe while trying to figure out what happened. It’s not exactly the repopulation fantasy some would think. It’s a hellish nightmare, every day a struggle to survive in an unfamiliar world. A world overrun by unruly, grieving, angry females trying to cope with what happened. Feminist extremists, power-hungry female politicians, and deadly secret services agents are engaged in a power struggle of epic proportions. And word’s just gotten out that there is a live human male roaming around…
This is a newly discovered series for me. I had been hearing nothing but good things about it, and I can happily say that all of the praise is warranted. It’s original and unique. The first volume in the series setting up what’s sure to be a remarkable adventure.
I can’t wait to rush out and grab the remaining volumes! Undoubtedly, 9/10.
So there you have it. The best of what I’ve been reading this summer. I can only hope that maybe there’s something there that piques your interest. Or maybe you’ve already read some of these titles. That would be even more rad because if you have we can chat all about it!
Or maybe you’ve got some totally awesome recommendations of your own that I can add to my list?