Monday, September 26, 2016

The Serpent King

The Serpent King  by Jeff Zentner

Dill has two friends and two problems.

Dill's friends are Travis and Lydia. Travis is big, shy, kind, and so obsessed with his favorite sword-and-sorcery book that he can mostly ignore his lousy home life. Lydia is cute, smart, rich, upwardly mobile, and aimed OUT of the dinky backwater Tennessee town (named for a founding member of the KKK, wahoo!) where they all live.

Dill's problems are his name and his future. His name is Dillard Early, Jr, and he was named for his father, Dillard Early, Sr., (known locally as the Pervert Preacher), and for his papaw, (known locally as the Serpent King).  His future looks a lot like his present day, and that's not good.

Then something happens to make Dill's life unbearable.  The reader knows that something is going to change.  But...what?

If you think you know what will happen to the preacher's kid from "one of those crazy snake churches,"  you are probably wrong.  The journey is not predictable, and yet, it all makes sense. Extra stars for religious extremists who are deeper than the paper on which they are written, and for religious questioning without obvious answers.

You may see this book compared to the works of John Green, and while I understand the comparison, I also don't think this reads like a JG book.  It has some excellent (and some dreadful) parent characters, it has super-tough situations, there is kissing on the page.  But JG rarely touches religion, and I don't know if he could handle (pun intended) a snake church.

And if there's sex, I missed it.  It might have happened off-page.  In fact, I kind of hope it did.

Rivoting read; recommended for readers ages 12 to adult, and it definitely needs to be a movie!

Monday, September 12, 2016

Amazing Fantastic Incredible

Amazing Fantastic Incredible: a MARVELous memoir   by Stan Lee and Peter David and Colleen Doran

Of course Stan Lee's memoir is told in comic format.  

Mere print could never capture the exuberance, the ego, and the buoyant zest of the most legendary name in the history of comic books.  Stan Lee not only co-created many of Marvel Comics' most popular superhero characters like Spiderman, Iron Man, the Incredible Hulk and the Uncanny X-men, he spent his long and prolific career writing, editing, promoting and publishing comic books and the comic book industry.  

Stan Lee narrates his own life story with the same bouncy, conversational narrative style that he uses when talking to groups at comic book conventions:  big gestures, big ideas, and lots and lots of enthusiasm for the fun life he has had.  He doesn't skip over the sad stuff or the hard stuff, but he doesn't dwell there, either.  There are lots of little anecdotes from his life and plenty of unexpected stories too, like the time he worked on a WWII US Army campaign to combat venereal disease (give yourself a giggle and do a Google Image search for "VD Not Me" to see some of the vintage posters created by the campaign).

The narrative reads like a brag sheet splashed with copious amounts of super-radioactive slime:  it's not great literature, but it is great fun.  There are mentions of sex and sexual situations, references to comic book violence, and plenty of scantily-clad female superheros pictured.  Plus a few epic superheros who turn green or burst into flame periodically.

Highly recommended.