Category: 3 Barrels

“Ain’t Got Time to Bleed” by Andrew Shaffer, Illustrated by Steven Lefcourt Review

Ain't Got Time to Bleed

Ain’t Got Time To Bleed

Writer:  Andrew Shaffer

Illustrator:  Steven Lefcourt

Published:  2017

The premise of “Ain’t Got Time to Bleed” is 29 action movie characters are examined by medical professionals to determine what effect the various injuries they sustain throughout the movie would have on them, and if they would survive or not. The characters include several individuals who are in more than one movie (Luke Skywalker, James Bond, John McClane etc.), however the author just selected one film for those characters to review (The Emperor Strikes Back, Skyfall, Die Hard). Along with each page recapping the injuries sustained during the movie, there are also “additional observations” which often include psychological diagnoses, and a prognosis section for recovery time (or permanent or fatal injuries). Finally, there are pictures by Steven Lefcourt of each character with the injured areas highlighted.

This book delivered fairly well on what was promised. It’s definitely a book you can finish in one sitting, coming in at less than 70 pages with half of those being illustrations. The best portions were the less obvious injuries I’d never considered before. My favorite was Major Alan “Dutch” Schaefer from Predator (also the film the book takes its title from) whose additional observations section stated”Patient covered himself with mud to avoid detection… however, this could have caused his open wounds to become infected. Teanus, anthrax and necrotizing fasciitis (flesh-eating bacteria) are just a few of the main soil-related bacterial, fungal and viral infection possible.”

On the negative side, the idea can get a bit redundant, especially regarding the multiple fist fights (“Multiple fistfights. Superficial lacerations on face. Bruised knuckles possible.”), many of which are generalized. I think by stopping at one movie per character, the author missed a fun opportunity to see how some characters would survive over multiple films (Rambo, John McClane, James Bond, Bryan Mills, Ethan Hunt and others would lend themselves well for this). Still, for a 30 minute read this is good for several chuckles.

3-star

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“The Angel Chronicles: Vol. 2” by Richie Tankersly Cusick Review

Angle 2

The Angel Chronicles: Vol. 2

Author:  Richie Tankersly Cusick

Published:  1998

My preface from The Angel Chronicles: Vol. 1 stated:

There are a set of Buffy novelizations that are coming up in my reading order that focus on one of the supporting characters in the Scooby gang. Each book selects a few episodes that feature the chosen character prominently and do a novelization of those episodes. The Angel Chronicles is obviously about Angel and featured a two paragraph framing device to the first episode and another one after the final one that didn’t add anything to the story but served to remind the reader that they had indeed just a read of stories about Angel.

Everything above still holds true for this volume about Angel, with the only change being the episodes being revisted. Here there are the episodes “Halloween,” and “What’s My Line” (Parts 1 and 2). Overall this volume was a little bit better than Volume 1 due just to the quality of episodes. “Halloween” is a fun episode where characters turn into whatever they are dressed up as for Halloween, with Xander becoming an experienced soldier, Willow a ghost and Buffy a lady of status from the 1700’s. This episode succeeds as both being a memorable standalone episode and also as an important building piece for the series as a whole. Xander’s military experience gets referred to off and on for the rest of the series, bad guy Ethan Rayne reappears later on (and provides some great depth for Giles past), and of course fan favorite character Oz is introduced.

Likewise, “What’s My Line” is important at pushing the plot forward for the series, but was a little less memorable as standalone episodes. Here, Spike is seeking a way to restore Drucilla’s strength, and comes across a means that involves a new moon, a church and Drucilla’s sire. In order to distract Buffy, he calls for the Order of Taraka to put a hit on her which leads to a variety of assassins who are feared for their relentlessness and anonymity. These episodes are also important to greater Buffy lore as they introduce Kendra the Vampire Slayer, propel Xander and Cordelia’s relationship into its most interesting phase, and swaps the power dynamic from Spike to Drucilla. While reading the novelization, I couldn’t recall where part 1 ended and part 2 began, which is a nice compliment to the seamlessness of the adaptation.

I only rate this slightly better than Vol. 1 however, because I just summed up all three episodes and didn’t need to mention Angel once (ok, that’s a cheat because I said that Drucilla’s sire was needed for the ritual, and her sire is Angel). So basically, his involvement in these two episodes is him being unimpressed by Buffy’s desire to be a noble woman and then getting kidnapped and stabbed by Spike and Drucilla. Those coming for some awesome Angel-centric stories will likely be disappointed. Unlike the last volume, these episodes take place much closer together than Vol. 1’s trilogy, ranging from Season 2 Episode 6 to Season 2 Episode 10 (taking place in between the episodes is “Lie to Me,” which is included in Angel Chronicles Vol. 1… I’m not sure why they didn’t swap out Halloween and Lie to Me between the two, but it is what it is).

My same complaints are also around from the previous volume that this format seems like a missed opportunity to increase the perspective of the cover/title character from the events of these episodes. The three included in this book would seem to be great opportunities to do so, but not for Angel, instead for Xander, Oz or even Cordelia. For a somebody reading all of these books, they succeed in telling the stories from the episodes but the shuffled order and lack of anything new make it tough to recommend these for any other fans of the series.

3-star

“Cycle of the Werewolf” by Stephen King and Bernie Wrightson (Artist) Review

Cycle of the Werewolf

Cycle of the Werewolf

Author: Stephen King

Artist:  Bernie Wrightson

Published:  1983

I didn’t realize when I started this that this book is the basis for the 1985 film “Silver Bullet” starring cinema greats Gary Busey and Corey Haim. It’s been nearly twenty years since I’ve seen that movie, but even without reading this book I vividly remember a teenager defending himself from a werewolf with fireworks and the reveal of who the the werewolf was due to an eye patch a short time later. (In the film, the werewolf was played by Everett McGill, aka Big Ed from Twin Peaks, and an actor who one of my favorite podcasts would refer to as a god damned American treasure).

Cycle of the Werewolf is a book that’s difficult to put into a genre. It’s certainly a horror story due to its subject matter. It’s also like a short story collection, as the book is divided into 12 chapters based on the full moon each month, and only about 4 of the twelve chapters really feel connected to the main narrative and the rest seem like vignettes. The book is a very quick read with illustrations mixed in for each chapter (typically a scenery picture to open the chapter, and a werewolf attack or two also illustrated). I wouldn’t classify it as a kids book due to some violence and language, but the pictures and quick read probably make it more juvenile than many adults would want to be seen reading in public (although at 127 pages, and with many of those illustrations or blank title pages this is easily a book one could read in one sitting).

Unfortunately there’s not a lot more to this story than the few iconic moments I remembered from the film as the bulk of the book is just a few paragraphs about a person about to become a werewolf attack victim. The film script that came from this did a much better job of developing characters and telling an interesting story than this book, but as a quick read about werewolves near Bangor this was fairly harmless. The art by Bernie Wrightson was also very fun and added to my enjoyment of the story. I’m also ready to rewatch “Silver Bullet” now, so that’s an added bonus.

3-star

“Nailbiter, Volume 2: Bloody Hands” by Joshua Williamson and Mike Henderson Review

Nailbiter 2

Nailbiter, Vol. 2: Bloody Hands

Written by: Joshua Williamson

Art by: Mike Henderson

Published:  2015

Volume 2 of Nailbiter was a bit of a letdown from the first volume. The main culprit was story decompression as 2 of the 5 issues included featured what read like stand alone issues (featuring stories about a Beekeeper and a pregnant girl who wants her baby to be a killer). The issues that tied back into the main plot didn’t advance the overarching storyline much, with some further interrogations being teased and the Nailbiter acting creepier but not much else going on besides s religious guy rising as an antagonist. There’s also a weird Brian Michael Bendis cameo shoehorned in and a bus incident that would certainly be national news.

The art continued to be OK, but probably a step below most of the books I read on a month to month basis. The backup story at the end was certainly gross and shocking, but it also felt like a reveal that would have been better earned in the main storyline instead.

3-star

“Sharpe’s Christmas” by Bernard Cornwell Review

Sharpe's Christmas

Sharpe’s Christmas

Author:  Bernard Cornwell

Published:  1994

Sharpe’s Christmas is a short story that takes place afterSharpe’s Regiment, where the British infantry is entrenched in France after years of fighting in Spain and Portugal. Coming up on Christmas day, Sharpe is tasked with preventing French forces from traveling through a stretch of road, which of course ends up bringing two forces on either side of Sharpe, with neither knowing how many troops he has.

Much like in Sharpe’s Skirmish, here Sharpe utilizes a clever booby trap to gain the upper hand replacing the more extensive military maneuvering found in the full length novels. With a shortened page count, Sharpe’s romantic exploits are noticeably absent. As Cornwell has recently written the prequel India novels prior to writing this story, he decides to bring back the French Colonel that Sharpe got along well with in India for this story. The reintroduction of the character was fine, and it lent itself well to maneuvering a circumstance where Sharpe would show some Christmas spirit during war time, but the method by which the reader was reintroduced to the character (both Sharpe and the Colonel reminisce about each other for the first time in years prior to running into each other) was very clunky.

Beyond that there wasn’t anything too necessary to the greater Sharpe mythos here. Sharpe had an opportunity to capture a second French Eagle, his Ensigns continue their reign as the Spinal Tap drummer or Star Trek redshirts of the crew, and the rifle regiment is able to intimidate the smooth bore French musketeers superior numbers and will survive to march again.

3-star

“Age of Assassins” by R.J. Barker Review

Age of Assasins

Age of Assassins

Author:  R.J. Barker

Released:  2017

This was the fifth book I received as part of my Briliant Book of the Month Club. There has been a nice variety of genres so far, with dystopian, historical, general, and science fiction all represented, and this book is a fantasy novel. Age of Assassins by R.J. Barker takes place in a feudal fantasy setting where there are Kings and Queens and the most technologically advanced weapon is probably the crossbolt. The society is a magic fearing world where there are classes of people (Blessed or not Blessed), as well as professions with secrets, traditions. and skills such as Jesters, Priests and of course Assassins.

Here, Girton is the main character, a teenage apprentice assassin who is roped into a seemingly impossible mission of finding out (along with his master) who is trying to have the heir to the throne killed. The trouble being that the queen and the heir are both terrible people that right away the assassins figure out are likely to be wanted dead by everybody in the kingdom for various reasons. Girton poses as a squire, playing up the character by pretending to be helpless with a blade. Girton’s defining physical trait is a clubfoot which causes others to underestimate him (and during flashbacks for him to underestimate himself), however his master has trained him to be as deadly an assassin as exists anywhere in the land.

Throughout the investigation, Girton discovers two rival factions for the throne, a pretty stable girl who seems to be interested in Girton, a friend that appears unremarkable but who is wanted dead by those in high places, a king that is being poisoned and several high ranking officials in the government that all have secrets that must be discovered. The story format tends to be Girton spending a day doing his part and then meeting with his master at the end of the day to share what he has learned (his master typically doesn’t share much beyond “don’t rule him out,” or “find out what his angle is.”). Interspersed are several flashbacks to Girton’s purchase out of servitude and his beginning training as an assassin.

I read just about every genre, fantasy included. I tend to prefer science fiction though, because the tropes of fantasy while fun often end up feeling formulaic and predictable. Although I didn’t see any elves or swords of destiny in this book, there were still several elements that felt overly familiar that took away from my enjoyment. **Spoilers follow** The society that hates and fears magic is pretty standard, but having the protagonist possess secret magic powers that go far beyond anything her master has seen before felt like a revelation that didn’t add anything to this book in terms of the plot. Also pretty much every character that was introduced ended up playing into the conspiracy revealed at the end of the book; the lack of red herrings seemed to cheapen the overall mystery. **End of spoilers** At just under 400 pages, the plot moves along quickly enough, however the end reveal and climactic battle seemed particularly rushed, with a two page epilogue on the end that felt out of place and did nothing to interest me in reading more in the series.

Despite those complaints, the book did several things very well. There was a nice balance of male and female characters in different roles that I think any reader can find somebody they either identify with or find interesting enough to read more about. (Barker also does a nice job of making random character the opposite genre than what you would probably expect). The “mounts” that the soldiers ride are also an interesting creation, such that I was picturing a cross between an elk and a griffon. The end result was a pleasant enough but ultimately very forgettable adventure.

3-star

“Misery” by Stephen King Review

Misery

Misery

Author:  Stephen King

Released:  1987

**Spoilers for Halloween H20 follow (seriously)**

This will seem random, but upon finishing Misery I was reminded of the film Halloween H20. Halloween H20 was a pretty successful entry in the Halloween series (and the slasher genre). The film brought back Jamie Lee Curtis, and featured hot young actors like Josh Hartnett, Michelle Williams and LL Cool J, and was overall a pretty slick installment. When I think of the movie, the first thing that comes to mind is always Jodi Lyn O’Keefe’s confrontation with Michael Myers. During the course of the altercation, O’Keefe’s character gets her leg cut, then savagely mangled by a dumbwaiter, then stabbed multiple times, before finally being hanged/displayed. It was by far the most memorable scene in the movie because it was intense, gruesome, and very scary. It is also memorable because hardly anybody else dies in the movie (if you’re a recognizable actor, odds are you survived until the credits on this film).

Compare Halloween H20 with a film like Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives. Once you get past the (awesome) opening where Jason is inadvertently resurrected via a bolt of lighting, Jason goes on a prolific killing spree, with sixteen victims overall. Rather than one memorable death scene, the film features such classics as Jason decapitating three guys with one machete swipe, impaling another couple on the same pike, using broken bottles as a stabbing implement and several other original kills. I’ve rewatched it at least a dozen times, and would regularly include it on my list of favorite slasher films, a list that H20 would never make it on.

If you ask the average viewer, or even a hardcore horror fan which film is “better,” you’re likely to get an even split. Rotten Tomatoes gives Jason Lives the edge at 52% to 51%, and that feels about right with my own experience of discussing films in this genre. Current trends in horror films probably have more people preferring the Halloween H20 version, as films like Saw or Hostel tend to focus on the lengthy agony of one person rather than the quick hitting fatalities of many.

That’s a long winded way of say that Misery is a good book that I didn’t care for. It’s well written, it has characters that feel like real people (having famous people play them in a movie helps that), and it really specializes in bringing the pain on one person in particular. Around the time the torture in this book really escalates from psychological to physical, I stopped enjoying this book. Despite not being a very long read, spending page after page with a protagonist in pain and an antagonist who pops in to sometimes cut off his body parts was way less enjoyable than King’s other books with larger casts that I’ve read.

Even with the single victim being tortured for a novel concept, there was so much about this book I really enjoyed. For starters, books about writers tend to feel so authentic because the author obviously knows what he’s talking about. Here I got a sense that many of Paul’s fears, beliefs and idiosyncrasies could very well have been true to King’s actual self. The idea of the book is great, with a crazy fan forcing somebody to create something just for her. That fan, Annie, is one of the best villains I’ve read in a book. King not only creates a consistent personality for her, but he also wrote a terrifying backstory (the Dragon Lady in the nursery ward!) and enough physical tics that I think I would have visualized somebody like Kathy Bates in my mind even without ever seeing the movie.

The problem is that no matter how well made a book or movie is, and how great the characters are, as a viewer or reader reacting to the end product my actual enjoyment is still important. I don’t need to like characters in a book to enjoy it, or for there to be a happy ending, but I do want to enjoy reading it or else I should be spending my time doing something else. At times I actively dreaded reading more of Misery, not because it was scary, but because it was such an unpleasant situation to return to. Annie and Paul both had to know what happened at the end of the book, I was just relieved to get there.

3-star