Matthew Wayne Selznick’s Brave Men Run

[tag]Brave Men Run[/tag] is a free audiobook that I listened to this summer while working.

It’s the tale of Nate Charters, a high schooler with a few extra abilities, like heightened senses. After years of hiding his abilities, it turns out he’s not alone, and the Sovereigns (other specially-powered folks) are a political force to be reckoned with. Charters, though, is rather more concerned with the strange homeless man that’s following him around, school bullies, and a pretty lady that thinks he has nice eyes.

WO pushed this story at me because of my interest in the X-Men, and I’m appreciative. [tag]Matthew Wayne Selznick[/tag] has created a fun ‘verse here, and there’s some potential for future books to be rather fun and nicely focused on politics, if Selznick can and will go there.

Then again, maybe mutant political issues are clichéd.

Selznick does a pretty good job of creating sympathetic characters, although less so in Nate’s two male friends. This is honestly rather fine, since the story focuses more on just about everyone else.

The story takes place in the 80’s, and it felt like Selznick spent the first segment of the story pounding it into our heads a bit: 80’s music in the background, character’s constantly referencing recent movies and songs, etc. It was a little much, but I liked it. I’m a fan of 80’s music, and I’ve seen The Breakfast Club, so I was set for the story.

Brave Men Run has all the elements of a good narrative: good pacing, suspense, and loveable characters. If this is a first novel, it’s rather amazing.

“Big chop”

I did it.

I cut off all my hair.

My plaits.

All of it.

Self-conscious

It’s pretty butch, no lie, but honestly, I love it. It’s so easy–I couldn’t get closer to “wash ‘n’ go” without shaving bald (and that’s higher maintenance in frequency of cutting).

WO did all of the cutting for me, and the poor guy winced as he cut off each plait. He was so attached to those things. By the time we got down to the clippers, though, he was good.

Right now, I don’t plan to let it grow out. I’m liking it short, and I’m not much for wearing a fuller afro.

Steven H. Wilson’s Taken Liberty

[tag]Taken Liberty[/tag] is a free audiobook that I listened to (mostly) at work this summer.

The summary from the above-linked website:

The Confederated Worlds are unparalleled as a society of free people, yet, somehow, slavery still manages to exist. Aer’La, a non-human, was bred to serve as a pleasure slave. Years ago, she escaped her masters and masqueraded as a human, joining the Confederate Navy, where she worked her way up to ship’s Bos’n under the heroic Captain Jan Atal. Now, Aer’La’s secret has been discovered by Atal’s superiors, the media, and the world at large. Branded a sociopath, she learns that even a free society isn’t willing to grant freedom – or justice – to all.

As casual, “please distract me from work” light reading, [tag]Steven Wilson[/tag] succeeds with this work. Aer’La, the character with which we are most concerned, is well-written and feels real. The supporting characters are perhaps more captivating than Aer’La, though–each is distinct and very well characterized. Despite the fact that I was listening over the course of a couple of weeks, I never got characters confused (which is a real problem with some audiobooks). I was particularly fond of the resident good-guy telepath.

Wilson’s reading is as great as his characters. Each character has a distinct voice (and the voices are appropriate to the personalities). It’s been a while since I’ve read an audiobook that skillfully delivered.

If you’re willing to get a [tag]Podiobooks[/tag] account (which is low-key, except for the annoying fact that your password isn’t remembered for more than about 5 minutes), it’s definitely worth a listen. It has the title and feel of a book in a series, so I’m keeping my eyes peeled for future books.

Wen Spencer’s Alien Taste

Last September, I reviewed [tag]Wen Spencer[/tag]’s Tinker, a fantasy novel. This summer I picked up WO’s copy of [tag]Alien Taste[/tag], Spencer’s second novel.

She’s grown a decent amount as a writer, in my opinion. Gone is the awkwardly-inserted sex and the overpowered main character. [tag]Ukiah Oregon[/tag], the main character in [tag]Tinker[/tag], does a good job of having limitations and not having sudden personality changes.

This book is really a lot of fun if you’re looking for some light reading. It’s not a book that induces a lot of finger-biting over what’s going to happen next, but the characters are fun and do evoke sympathetic reactions.

Spencer has evidently turned this plotline into a series of books about Ukiah. I have no idea what the subsequent books would contain, as, much like Tinker, I felt the big bad guy had been vanquished and the characters “completed” by the end of this novel.

That said, Ukiah and Max (and company) are such likeable characters that I can put aside my confusion and place the next book on order. The circumstances and setting of Alien Taste–two private investigators, one of which is a master tracker–have enough potential for other fun things to happen that I wouldn’t mind following Ukiah around for a while.

Stephen King owned me.

And by “owned”, I mean held my attention obsessively for a few weeks as I read, back to back, the books of the [tag]Dark Tower[/tag] series.

I loved the first four. I liked the last three, although I felt their flaws increasingly as the series progressed.

The ending… the ending in the epilogue rather floored me. It wasn’t original, and may have even been clichéd, but it was… fitting, I think. Or fitting enough.

I felt that King had gone through all the trouble of changing Roland through his friendships, only to make the series selfish again at the end with Susannah’s departure and Oy’s death. I was disappointed. I know it was mentioned throughout the series that Roland was somewhat outside the circle, but by the end I’d felt they were more cohesive as a group.

I guess part of it was that Eddie’s death felt natural in the plot (and surprising), Jake’s was expected, and Susannah’s departure was hackneyed.

I’ll admit, though, that I did cry when Eddie died. I mean, Eddie was a cool guy. All witty and stuff. I think he had the best (and funniest) rapport with Roland.

The self-insertion of King into the novels was really just silly. The concept of self-insertion doesn’t bother me much, but the angst over “Who put the rose there? Could it have been… King?” was just a bit of masturbatory silliness. I appreciate King’s point about the author not always being in control of a story, though.

WO tells me that King’s character (especially during the first meeting) was supposed to be completely unsympathetic because he wasn’t doing his job and was falling into alcohol. I have sympathy for people with addictions like alcoholism. I also have some (albeit less) sympathy for people that just don’t get things done. I thought he was a good character.

Overall, I thought the series was very, very good. I’m eagerly awaiting the graphic novel that’s to be #8 in the series. I have no idea what an eighth book would contain, but we’ll see.

I haven’t read anything else by [tag]Stephen King[/tag] (I don’t think), although I’ve seen a few of his movies/shows ([tag]The Langoliers[/tag], [tag]Dead Zone[/tag], [tag]The Green Mile[/tag], etc.).

That reminds me… I need to return Ryan’s books to him…