bookmark_border“Not Forever but for Now”, by Chuck Palahniuk

In an afterword, Chuck Palahniuk reveals that the story of this novel is meant to be an exploration of addiction and addictive behavior. While not as absorbing as some of Palahniuk’s other novels, I feel this one succeeds in its goal.

Unreliable narrators are par for the course in in Palahniuk’s works, and this novel is no exception. My favorites of his novels have narrators who are not unreliable because they are liars, but because they are honestly ignorant. In Fight Club, the narrator is ignorant of the true identity of Tyler Durden and his own feelings towards Marla. In Diary, the narrator has no idea what is really going on. In Rant, which is presented as a series of interviews, almost none of the speakers have the full picture and can only describe the parts they have personally witnessed.

In Not Forever but for Now, the narrator is unreliable for every reason imaginable. There are things he does not want to tell you. There are things he has not been told. There are things he has been told that are lies. There are things he has been told that are terrible truths. There are things he has just never noticed. The narrator is unreliable like a fish is wet. He is unreliable because “unreliable” is the nature of his environment.

If the nature of a story is that the main character goes through some kind of change, then in order for this narrator to change his entire environment must be unraveled and rebuilt. Every terrible truth must be told. Every lie must be exposed. Every villain must be defeated. Every addiction must be broken. The fish must learn to live in the desert.

I got through this novel still not being sure what was real in the narrator’s world and what was not. If this novel is about addiction, he has succeeded in kicking most of his bad habits, but it’s possible his essential nature has not changed. It’s possible that this was his true nature the whole time, and it has merely been allowed to surface. If so, it has had to fight its way up through such a sea of unreliability that it has been somewhat damaged. One set of addictions has been exchanged for another, and the narrator is still unreliable.

It is a disquieting tale, which is also par for the course in Palahniuk’s novels. Also, it has 68 chapters. Not nice.

bookmark_borderIf this review exists, you are in the wrong universe

Last night, I finished reading the latest book in Jason “David Wong” Pargin‘s “John Dies at the End” series, If This Book Exists, You’re in the Wrong Universe. I liked it quite a bit.

This series, if you can find it in a store, typically gets shelved under “Horror”, but I don’t know. I found out about the first book while trying to watch all of the movies directed by Don Coscarelli. He mostly directs horror movies like Phantasm and Bubba Ho Tep, so I guess that makes the book that the horror movie was based on a horror book. There is plenty of horror in it, but it’s also very funny because there is plenty of humor in it, but it’s not a comedy because there is a good solid serious story under those other layers.

The thing about these books is that each one is better than the last. The horror is more involved. The humor is more pervasive and integrated. The story and the development of the characters is stronger, more personal, and more positive (no, really).

Interspersed with all the bloodshed and explosions, with all the running gags and one-liners, there is some intricate plotting and utterly awesome prose. I read some passages out loud to Sharon because I was just stunned by some of the wonderful things Pargin writes for his characters.

You don’ have to read all the books in order to appreciate any one of them. If you don’t think you have the patience to “get all caught up”, I say don’t bother. Jump straight to this last one even though it will spoil the shock that John doesn’t die at the end of the first one. It’s definitely the best of the series so far.

bookmark_borderBook Review – “Once Upon a Time In Hollywood”

I’m a great big slobbering fan of Quentin Tarantino’s films, so when I saw that he had released a “novelization” of his most recent film, “Once Upon a Time… In Hollywood” I added it to my shopping list.

Cover image courtesy of

I greatly enjoyed reading this book, but one thing you need to know about it is that it is not the same story as the film. First of all, since it is a book there is a lot more of the story told from inside the heads of the characters. You see the world through their eyes and histories, rather than through your eyes and Tarantino’s camera. There are long expository sequences recounting the history of cinema and television, as regarded by different characters. These sequences inform the actions of the characters, but this exposition is not present in the film.

Actually, the book is edited so that the entire “point” of the story is different. If you utilize my theory that a well-crafted story ends on the point, then the end of the movie indicates that what Rick Dalton really wants to be is a real hero (like his friend Cliff Booth is), but the end of the book indicates that what Rick Dalton really wants to be is a real actor. This is a big difference.

Some of the Charlie Manson stuff from the movie is present in the book, but much of it has been edited out. Rick Dalton even makes some different choices in the book than he does in the movie, or at least that is what is implied. Anyway, the book is different than the film. I enjoyed both, but they are not exactly the same. I wonder if the book is the movie that Tarantino kind of wishes he could have released, but the movie is the movie that he knew he had to release to avoid bad reviews. Maybe Tarantino is just making fun of the way that novelizations are almost always different from the films.

The design of the book is really cool, mimicking the design of movie novelizations from the sixties. There are even ads for sixties books and movies in the back. I wish there was an ad for Red Apple cigarettes. I have so many old SF paperbacks with cigarette ads in them.

bookmark_borderRise and Fall of D.O.D.O., The

A Novel by Stephenson, Neal and Galland, Nicole

Anybody who knows me well enough to read this here blog knows that I enjoy reading books by Neal Stephenson. Some people, including people I otherwise respect, consider him to be long-winded and tiresome. “Long-winded” I cannot argue against, but I find him to be endlessly entertaining.

DODO is 742 pages of epistolary diachronical action. It is chock full of manuscripts, emails, journal entries, after action reports, radio transcripts, running around, helicopters, car chases through the streets of Boston, boat rides, sex scenes, battles, beer drinking, quantum physics, holiday parties, and team meetings.

It took me more than a month to grind through it all, but I enjoyed the whole thing.