Book Review: Differently Morphous by Yahtzee Croshaw

Differently Morphous by Yahtzee Croshaw

For centuries, the Ministry of Occultism has worked in the shadows, keeping the world safe from otherworldly elder gods, “tainted” magic users, and monsters of all kinds. All this gets upended when a group of gelatinous refugees from another dimension garner a storm of media attention. Suddenly the Ministry of Occultism is thrown into the worst sort of attention. As awareness of shoggoths, er, fluidics suffuses the world consciousness, the Ministry finds itself on the wrong side of the political correctness debate. When a serial killer starts targeting fluidics, the agency’s top (read:only) field agents mget act quickly to save lives and prevent a PR Armageddon.

Croshaw is an author known for his irreverent, biting humor. His wit is on display here as he tackles the subject of political correctness in a bizarre, yet strangely relatable context. Before I get further, I am going to come down firmly on the side of political correctness. It takes little effort to take other people’s feelings and cultural history into consideration, and adjust your behavior accordingly. There’s nothing noble in adhering to the old days or old eays if that is just an excuse to be an uncaring asshat.

Now, as with any progressive movement, there is always pushback from people who feel uncomfortable with change, and who would rather not have to accept things they find disagreeable. Now, the line between acceptable and unacceptable in society is based on a lot of factors… not to long ago, being gay was officially considered a mental illness and criminal. The question recidivists often ask is where will acceptance end? When does it stop being acceptance of cultural or sexual differences and start becoming enabling of harmful behavior? The primary example pulled out for this is female genital mutilation, many cultures consider it a vital part of a girl’s development into a woman, but it has been recognized by many as harmful and cruel. What view takes precedence?

Croshaw heads into this thorny problem head on, and with his typical humorous twist. He, like South Park writers Trey Parker and Matt Stone, chooses to highlight he ridiculousness of both positions, leaving the reader bouncing against different levels of right and wrong: how can anyone hate the fluidics? They seem so polite and helpful? Do demons really require equal rights? Etc. Some people deride this as riding the median, but I think that exposing the flaws in both viewpoints forces people to examine their own thoughts and feelings.

Wow. That review got a lot more serious than I intended. Let me sum up by saying that this is an intelligent and entertaining story of monsters, bureaucracy, and modern life. It will make you laugh out loud and think deep(ish) thoughts. In a world were (justifiably) the subject of political correctness is an unchanging wall of seriousness and resentment, it is refreshing to look at the lighter side.

The book is currently available as an Audible original, meaning it is an audio book read by Croshaw himself. This is a role he is well suited for, after his years fronting the animated videogame review blog, Zero Punctuation. Fans of Yahtzee Crowshaw’s previous books, or fans of Christopher Moore and/or A. Lee Martinez are sure to enjoy this book.

Book Review: Will Save the Galaxy for Food by Yahtzee Croshaw

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Will Save the Galaxy for Food by Yahtzee Croshaw

Like a lot of people, I discovered Yahtzee Croshaw via his incredibly funny animated video game review, Zero Punctuation. Croshaw has a biting wit, incisive comments, and ridiculous visuals to accompany his reviews, which are delivered snarkily with barely pause for breath. When I later learned that he had written actual books, I quickly picked up Jam (a silly and fun take on the apocalypse) and Mogworld (a frankly brilliant look at everything that’s wrong with MMOs). Will Save the Galaxy for Food is Croshaw’s latest, and keeps up with his snarky cultural commentary.

The story finds our protagonist living a down-and-out existence on the moon. Ever since Quantum Tunneling made interstellar travel safe and instantaneous, demand for space pilots, even ones that have saved entire planets, has simply vanished. Living day to day scrounging for space tourists is demeaning, but what else can you do? When a fat paycheck falls into his lap, he figures that nearly anything is worth the money. Unfortunately, the job involves flying around the spoiled son of an Earth mobster, while having to pretend to be Jacques McKeown, a greasy bastard who turned the true stories of space pilots into pulp novels of derring-do, and who is universally despised by pilots across the black. Naturally every goes wrong, and our hero is thrown against space pirates, casual violence, upstart societies, political intrigue, man-eating aliens, and deadly hitmen.

The book was fantastically funny and delightful fun. Zaniness abounds as the pilot and his cohorts scramble from one adventure to another. The background given for the story is rich with references to problems we face in our own time. In fact, you need look no further than the brutish and devious Mr. Henderson, the Terran mobster (for lack of a better term) who hires the protagonist. Mr. Henderson is an insanely rich, casually violent, orange-skinned shady businessman prone to over indulging his spoiled, not-the-brightest-bulb son (now why does this sound a bit familiar?)

But no need to get too caught up in politics, or my projecting American problems onto a British-Australian writer’s story. Will Save the Galaxy for Food is simply fun. If you’re a fan of A. Lee Martinez, Douglas Adams, or Christopher Moore, you will find this book to be the perfect read for bringing yourself out of a reality-induced funk.

Bok Review: The Creeps by Fran Krause

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The Creeps by Fran Krause

So somehow I missed Deep Dark Fears, the first book in this collection. But you had better believe that it is now on my TBR. Originally based in the Tumblr-verse, Krause collected people’s secret fears and illustrated them in innocent looking cartoon format. Deep Dark Fears was understandably popular and led to a second book featuring even more creeps, as well as a few original, longer stories, also fully realized in cartoon form.

The fears on display (some relayed anonymously, some not) run the gamut from more-or-less logical (swallowing spiders while you sleep, blerg), to anatomically unlikely (eyeballs popping out while sneezing), to the humorous (your cat ratting you out to the police). Some are funny, others are thought-provoking, others are downright creepy. All in all, this is a fun little collection that illustrates the uniqueness and the similarities in each of us.

Anyone looking for a quick afternoon’s read will likely by delighted by this fun little book. As I said earlier, I cannot wait to get my hands on the first book, and I dearly hope a third is in the works.

A copy of this book was provided by the publisher via Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review.

Book Review: Meddling Kids by Edgar Cantero

Meddling Kids by Edgar Cantero

In 1977, the four teenaged members of the Blyton Summer Detective Club–Leader Pete, brainy Kerry, tough Andy (call her Andrea and die), and Nate–and their dog, solved their last case. The sightings of lake monsters and rumors of hauntings around an old house set in the middle of a deep lake turned out to be nothing more than a man in a mask.  But 13 years later, the four amateur detectives are shadows of what they once were, underachieving, mentally unstable, hair trigger violent, and (in one case) dead. Long suspecting that something about their last case was not what it seemed, the surviving members of the group (and new dog, Tim) head back to the scene of the hauntings to discover the source of their nightmares. Set against an enemy who is no man in a mask, the damaged Blyton Summer Detective Club faces down ancient monsters and an imminent apocalypse. 

 Meddling Kids starts off facing the camera with tongue firmly planted in cheek, and remains in that pose for the entirety of this story. This is a geeky book, full of references both subtle and overt to many disparate aspects of cult horror (“fuck Salem”, indeed). 

The book is touted as a mashup of Scooby Doo and H.P. Lovecraft, and largely lives up to the blurb. The four main characters are recognizable as rearranged bits and pieces from the Scooby Doo set, and the elder God and unnamable horror aspects take liberally from H.P. Lovecraft and Robert E. Howard. With a plot like that, you have a good idea where things are going before you start the book. However, Cantero manages not to make Meddling Kids feel tired, including enough surprises and humor to make the read enjoyable. 

This is a book created for fans of cult horror.  If you’re looking for something that lovingly messes with your favorite genre, add this book to your to read list!

Book Review: Hag-Seed by Margaret Atwood

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Hag-Seed by Margaret Atwood

Margaret Atwood rewrites Shakespeare’s “The Tempest?” You’ve got me right there. In fact, you had me at “Margaret Atwood.”

The book begins with Felix, king of his little corner of Canadian Theater, getting deposed by his conniving assistant, his plans for a fabulous, avant-garde Tempest thrown on the trash heap. Felix finds himself living as a hermit out in the country for twelve years, slowly going mad, cyber-stalking his enemies, and relying on Miranda, his (dead) daughter for emotional support.

Felix eventually finds himself teaching Shakespeare and theater to convicts at the local prison as part of a Literacy through Literature program. In this environment he manages to return to some semblance of normality and sanity, but when he learns that he may have a chance to get the men who ruined him in his power, all stops are pulled out and a sweeping plan for revenge begins to take shape.

The book is great. The plot itself is “The Tempest,” important guy marooned in the middle of nowhere left with nothing but dreams of revenge (and spirits and monsters), when after many years the objects of his ire traipse unknowingly into his grasp. But at the same time, we’re watching our Prospero (Felix) put on his version of the play, a Tempest within a Tempest. The whorls and machinations of both stories weave in and out of one another like spirits, and we are treated to a great deal of Margaret Atwoods horrifyingly black (I swear this is a compliment) sense of humor. And don’t worry if you’ve never read the Tempest, or (like me) haven’t read it since school, the original story is explained beautifully within the plot, so even those unfamiliar with any of the Bard’s stories won’t find themselves lost.

In other words, this book was a crazy amount of fun. I read it in one sitting (sleep be damned), since putting it down honestly didn’t feel like an option.

A free copy of this book was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Hag-Seed is currently available for purchase.