Channel Blue by Jay Martel


This review was originally posted January 2015

Turn on the TV at practically any time of day or night on any channel and you have a good chance of seeing some kind of Reality Program. The programs run the gamut from the serious to the insane and cover any number of subjects. People tune in to them in droves and the people who appear on them become stars overnight. But what if the Earth itself was its own reality program? What if the day to day happenings of the people here, no matter how mundane, provide entertainment to extraterrestrial beings?

That is the question posed in Channel Blue.

At one time Earth was Galaxy Entertainment’s highest ranking show. The viewers couldn’t get enough of the backwards little people. But like most audiences, they are fickle and what was once the biggest thing is now at the bottom of the heap. This is what has happened to Earth, aka Channel Blue. With its ratings quickly going down the tube they plan to draw in the viewers once more with an amazing finale. In just three weeks, the TV show will go out with a bang, and unfortunately so will Earth.

One man however can save our planet from it’s final curtain call, but Perry Bunt’s hardly the hero type.

If that last line sounds a tad cliched, that’s probably because it is. Earth is on the brink of destruction and out of the billions of people on the planet the only one who can save us is some nobody. He is your token white man, non-descript and bland. Like most in the anti-hero trope, Perry starts the book with a “I don’t want to do this” approach which evolves in to a “I guess I have to do this” approach which becomes a “I want to do this!” approach. He continues to try and do the right thing which only gets him in to trouble and usually ends with some kind of physical beating for Perry. As the story carries on this becomes tiring, not only for Perry, but for the reader them self.

With Perry in this mad adventure is Amanda Mundo. Hailing from the planet Eden, but looking exactly like any human, she is one of the many many producers of Channel Blue. At first she’s interested in Perry because he’s an ex-script writer and she needs ideas to keep Channel Blue running. The disappointing thing is that eventually she too succumbs to the trope most female characters are subjected to – that of the love interest. Of course she falls in love with Perry and of course they end up together with a happy ending, the story left open-ended for the possibility of a sequel. In it’s predictability it’s almost disappointing.

Now I’m not saying that Channel Blue is a complete disappointment. There are some rather amusing moments and the book itself does present a sort of critique on our society. It is absurd in its own way but hardly “in the tradition of Douglas Adams and Kurt Vonnegut” as one reviewer said it. Adams and Douglas set a precedent when it comes to sci-fi and while Martel does make a good endeavor, he simply cannot match the greats.

Let the Old Dreams Die by John Ajvide Lindqvist

A paparazzi camps out in a tree waiting for the perfect shot and gets more than he bargained for…

After a near death experience a man believes he knows how to cheat Death…

A woman calls a Customer Service phone number and finds herself joining a rather unique group of individuals…

I’m starting off this year by reviewing the collection titled Let the Old Dreams Die by John Ajvide Lindqvist.

LIndqvist has been on the New York Times Bestseller list with his novel Let the Right One In, which was made in to a movie not only in his native Sweden but also here in America. Along with Let the Right One In, he wrote Handling the Undead, Harbor, and Little Star. I’ve had the opportunity to read all of his books thanks to my local library and have greatly enjoyed them all.

It is with good reason that Lindqvist has been compared to greats such as Stephen King or Neil Gaiman. His writing consistently makes us question the world around us. Is what we see what is truly there or is there a second layer hiding beneath the obvious? He takes the mundane, the every day, and gives it a twist.

Like with his longer novels, I found this collection of short stories a true page turner. Twelve stories over just under four hundred pages and I devoured them all within two days. There were times when I had to place my hand over the facing page just so I wouldn’t skip ahead. I just HAD to know what was going to happen next. It is not often that I find myself having to do that with a book. However every time I have read one of Lindqvist’s books, I do just that.

If you are like me, dear Reader, and enjoy a good creepy read, then I cannot recommend the books by John Ajvide Lindqvist enough.

Johannes Cabal The Necromancer by Jonathan L. Howard

Who among us, dear Reader, has never considered a deal with the Devil? If I would have to hazard a guess, I would say very few. Practically every one has at least thought about what they were willing to give up in order to get their heart’s desire. To many their immortal soul is a trifle and therefore quite easy to give away.

In Johannes Cabal the Necromancer by Johathan Howard, the titular character Johannes Cabal has done just that. He has traded his soul to the Devil for the knowledge of the laws of necromancy. That was several years ago and while Johannes continues his study of necromancy without his soul he has reached a sort of impasse. In order to continue he wants his soul back. The only problem is Satan isn’t exactly willing to hand it over so easily.

As Satan cannot resist a good wager, he proposes one to Cabal. If Cabal can persuade one hundred persons to sign their souls over in one years time, he can get his soul back. Should Cabal fail though, the Devil keeps his soul and Cabal is damned forever. Cabal grudgingly accepts and Satan gives him a travelling carnival and a box of contracts.

It would be far too easy to call Johannes Cabal ‘evil’ and be done with it. But that couldn’t be farther from the truth. Yes, Cabal is an asshole in all senses of the word. He’s brusque and rude and often a complete jerk but to him the ends justify the means. And while it isn’t until the last few pages do we understand his reasoning, once we do it makes it a little bit easier to understand him and why he did what he did.

Joining Johannes on his little adventure is his elder brother Horst.  Horst is a vampire, an unfortunate side affect from Johannes early dabbling with necromancy, and a rather charismatic one at that. He is brought on as a barker but he also acts as a foil to Johannes at times. He is the light to Johannes’ dark, very amusing considering Horst is a vampire and the light kills him. His character is almost a complete opposite to his younger brother, and as the two brothers’ grew up together, Horst remembers Johannes as he was and is often dismayed at the man he has become.

While the previous book I reviewed was likened to Gaiman or Adams’ and in my opinion failed to hit the mark, Johannes Cabal the Necromancer hits the bulls eye. It reads very much like a Terry Pratchett novel, parts witty and parts wise, parts funny and parts sad. It has a dry humor found in most English novels and is certainly not for every one. While it is light-hearted, the subject matter itself is not. It is a peek in to the darkness inside the heart of very man and woman. It makes one stop and consider would they be willing to do what Johannes has done were they in his place?

Personally though I loved it and cannot wait to get my hands on the next two books in the series.

If you are a fan of English authors such as Terry Pratchett or Douglas Adams, then I’m sure you’ll enjoy this book.

How To Be A Victorian by Ruth Goodman

The Victorian Era, as with practically all other historical eras, is something that we in the twenty-first century often tend to romanticize. Novels are written set in the era, even television shows and movies are produced. The thing is however, in these cases the story always takes the fore and the more mundane events are left in the background. And while a few books have been written on the subject of Victorian life, I have yet to read any that go in to the depth that this one does.

How To Be A Victorian proposes to take us through the average person’s day in Victorian London. Starting with waking up in a cold bed in an often very cold room to getting dressed to going to work. We are taken through what a normal day would be for practically all levels of society for while the day to day of the upper echelons is well documented it is the lower levels; the blue-collar individuals if you well; that tend to be overlooked. And it is these folk who Goodman tends to focus on. The working man, woman and in many cases working child who were the backbone of the masses.

What separates How To Be A Victorian from many other books discussing history is not just the depth of the subject. While Goodman goes in to great detail in HOW things were done she also includes a great deal of WHY it was done. That makes a great deal of difference in understanding the people of the era. She includes pieces from personal diaries as well as published papers from the time. It gives us a peek in to their minds and in to their general way of thinking.

Goodman is not just a historian studying the Victorian era, she is also a re-enactor. She has spent quite a bit of time not just researching the era but also living it. She knows the delicate balancing act one must do while trying to sit in a corset and petticoats. She has done many of the things she writes about even it if was just an attempt. This definitely shows in her writing, giving it a personal touch and showing the reader just how much she cares for her subject.

Not every one will find this book appealing. It will primarily appeal to those who are interested in history in general and the Victorian era in particular. As someone who dabbles in re-enacting I found the read quite fascinating and hope to use some of my well gained knowledge in the future.