Bigfoot War: Eric S. Brown

What with the success of Seth Grahame-Smith’s Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, it became a virtual certainty that both publishers and writers would try to tap into the idea of taking a classic and adding a supernatural flair in the hopes of emulating his accomplishment.  And attempt they did, with novels such as Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and Zombie Jim, Robin Hood and Friar Tuck:Zombie Killers, and just this past Fall, The War of the Worlds, Plus Blood, Guts and Zombies  by Eric S. Brown.

Being a complete Sci-fi junkie, it took about five seconds of rationalizing before I ran to the counter with my copy of this new take on H.G. Wells classic.  Later, after a sober second thought regarding my purchase, I decided to look into the author’s (No, not Wells, the other guy!) previous works just to see if it was going to be worth it.  Long story short, a quick search on the Kindle came up with Bigfoot War by the aforementioned Mr. Brown.  At the low-cost off $4.99, my choice was made.

Brief synopsis:

Jeff Taylor is back in the town of Babble Creek, North Carolina, roughly twenty years after the death of his father and brother at the hands of…oh, c’mon now, is that really a mystery?  He’s back, and looking to settle the score with the huge man/ape that ate his family.  Jeff enlists his army buddy Tom (now a disgruntled football coach at the local highschool) and they set out  to extract some revenge.  Tom is having a hard time believing his buddy’s story, right up until the moment a Bigfoot reaches out of the woods and takes his head off.  Jeff and a couple of local sheriff’s deputies manage to finish off the Bigfoot and the local authorities take the body into town for autopsy and quick disposal.  Wouldn’t want to scare the locals after all.

However, it wouldn’t be a war if there was only the one Bigfoot, and sure enough, this particular Bigfoot was not alone.  By the end of the day, Babble Creek and its citizens would be on the receiving end of a bloody rampage by a tribe of Big(feet?).  Pretty straightforward plot.

My review:

Clocking in at 128 pages, Bigfoot War seems more like a long novella than a full length novel.  It also feels somewhat amateurish, like that novel you’ve been writing in your spare time on the weekend, only to be self published and shopped around at whatever small bookstore that will let you set up a table.  Bigfoot War  has some continuity and spelling errors, nothing too glaring, but when a character is referred to as Anna one moment and then mistaken for Rachael the next, well, that’s something a competent editor should catch.  In another scene, the author means to write “vicious” but ends up with “viscous” which turns a scene of horrific violence into something comical.

(Spoiler alert!  Spoiler alert!) 

The author also can’t seem to decide who the protagonist is going to be.  The novel initially revolves around Jeff Taylor and his righteous vendetta, but within twenty pages his body is in several pieces and the story has moved on to various other characters.  Each receives a few pages of background, and just when you’re beginning to root for them, oops, they’re dead.  No character is safe in this novel, and while that can keep the reader on edge rather than letting them become complacent in their assumptions and is certainly a refreshing change, after a while it gets tiresome.  Why take the time to invest in a character when they’re only going to be gone in a few pages?

All this aside, Bigfoot War was a fun way to spend a few hours, literary masturbation of sorts for monster junkies.  Brown knows how to write, and this novel feels like a first draft of something that can be improved on with a little editing and perhaps a bit of practice.  Eric S. Brown has been on the Zombie scene for a while now and has certainly been a prolific writer.  Although Bigfoot War isn’t a horribly good book, it certainly has its moments, and is appealing enough to make me want to try again.  Maybe World War of the Dead: A Zombie NovelWar of the Worlds plus Blood, Guts and Zombies?  Most definitely!

 

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Ion Audio’s Book Saver: Digitize Your Library!

So, what’s to be done with all those books cluttering up your apartment/house? 

You ditched your C.D. collection years ago, converting everything to digital and loading up your iPod, but those pesky books,  they’re everywhere!  From the bedroom to the living room, you’re using them as coasters, as an end table, maybe to even out an off kilter table.  Hell, there’s even a couple sitting on the back of the toilet tank!

What can you do? 

Well, lucky for you, there’s no need to go to such extremes.  The good folks at Ion Audio have the answer to your problem.  Scan it!

Debuting at the 2011 Consumer Electronics Show earlier this month, the Ion Audio Book Saver promises to do for the world of books what the home P.C. did for your C.D. collection. Simply put, it’s a super fast photo scanner, optimized to scan print and store it on an SD card in digital form.  From there, it’s a virtual hop, skip and a jump, and there you go, the book is now a pdf file on the computer available to be uploaded to your eReader of choice.  Ion Audio claims their scanner can scan 2 pages per second (they claim similar products can only scan one page every seven seconds) using two cameras and a flash while the book sits comfortably in an angled cradle.  The only thing that slows down the process is the operator; pages do have to be flipped by hand after all.

Promoted as a quick way to convert your books, comics or magazines to a digital format, the Book Saver is projected to cost about $150 U.S. (and I would imagine slightly higher in Cdn funds).  It is also projected to cost the textbook publishing industry much more than that.  Vito Pilieci’s  January 13 article in The National Post outlines some of the copyright issues the advent of the Book Saver might have. 

Just like the music industry was ravaged by digital piracy, there are fears that the publishing industry might undergo the same trials.  After all, in the case of textbooks, why would everyone in the class pay full price for a textbook when they can pay their entrepreneurial friend (who has a Book Saver) a discounted price? 

However, this leads to the next question: what if the book is out of print?  Does the publisher really have a legal right to intellectual property that they’re not willing or able to disseminate?  I suspect the lawyers will be busy for years with questions of copyright and who owns what.

My point of view: I bought the book.  I own the book.  I’m going to convert the book and save myself some space around the house.

 

 (For a neat demonstration video of the Book Saver, check out this video on youtube)

 

Brother can you spare a dime (novel)?

“Hey guy, can I borrow your copy of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo?”

“Um, no.  I bought it for the Kindle.”

“How about…”

“Nope. Kindle.”

“Well then, what about…?”

“Kindle!”

“Alright, I’ll be at the Library talking to that cute girl.”

I’ve had a Kindle for about eight months now.  I love it, it’s handy, and certainly saves a lot of space around the home office.  However, something has always annoyed me about their product.  You see, I love reading, talking about what I’ve read, and loaning out my favourite books to friends so they can enjoy them too.  Hard to do with a Kindle though.  At least ’til now.

Amazon has finally jumped on the bandwagon and relaxed their proprietary rules (somewhat).  Was it pressure from Google books?  Are they feeling the heat from Sony’s eReader?  Honestly, who cares?  It’s just nice to know that Kindle readers can now share content with their friends. As an aside, it’s also a great marketing tool for Amazon!

For their part, Amazon has made lending an book very similar to the library experience.  The lender can send an eBook to a friend for a period of two weeks, after which the recipient can no longer access the book.  Also, the lender of an eBook cannot access that book on their Kindle during the same time frame, just as if you were to physically loan out a book to a friend.

How does the recipient access their friend’s book?  Just download the Kindle app to your digital product of choice, whether iPad, iPhone, Android, Blackberry or PC/Mac.  The lender goes through a relatively simple process on their Kindle, and voila, they’ve loaned a book.

There are a couple of caveats:

  • Not all books are eligible to be loaned.  Amazon has left it up to the individual publishers to decide whether their material can be lent.
  • To read a loaned book, you must have the Kindle app.  (However, since it’s free, it shouldn’t be a big deal to download to whatever device you choose).
  • As of right now (January 2011), the lending option is only available in the United States. 

 Apparently the rest of the World will have to wait a bit longer.  Hmmph!

Huckleberry Finn gets his mouth washed out with P.C. brand soap.

As readers of this blog may know by now (all four of you!), I am not averse to messing with the classics.  Take some Jane Austen, add a zombie or two and all of a sudden you’ve got Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, a new and interesting take on an old story.  You may argue that it’s a violation of the original author’s intent, or a debasement of their art, but hey, as long as the original is around to be read in concert (or instead of) the re-imagining, well, to me it’s no harm, no foul.

Then again, sometimes people edit books for content, taking away from the original rather than adding to it.  Such is the case with Alan Gribben’s, Mark Twain’s Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn: The NewSouth Edition to be released in February.  In this revised version of the classic Twain novels, all references to the word “nigger” have been removed and replaced with the word “slave”. (note to readers: that will be the one and only time I use that word in this post…for illustration only)  It should also be noted that the word “injun” has been redacted from Tom Sawyer’s tale.  

Gribben explains away his tampering with the original in an interview with Publisher’s Weekly, in which he says,

This is not an effort to render Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn colorblind…Race matters in these books. It’s a matter of how you express that in the 21st century.”

He goes on to talk of his discussions with various teachers and how many have become reluctant to teach the novel in the classroom because they felt the source material was not appropriate in this day and age.

For a single word to form a barrier, it seems such an unnecessary state of affairs,” Gribbens says. 

Attempting to correct this unnecessary state of affairs, he took it upon himself  to create a version of the classic more “accessible” to modern readers sensibilities and NewSouthBooks picked it up for printing and distribution.

And with that, sometimes we need to be reminded that the road to Hell is paved with good intentions.

Here’s the interesting thing about NewSouth Books: If you go to their homepage and click on the link About NewSouth Books, Suzanne La Rosa (the publisher) gives her insite into what they want to do as publishers:

We gravitate to material which enhances our understanding of who we are and which asks us to stretch in our understanding of others,” she says in a 2008 article with the Louisville Courier-Journal.

Really?  How is it enhancing the reader’s understanding of the ante-bellum South by censoring any reference to the attitudes and word usage of those times?  Twain wrote social commentary in the guise of literature, and challenged the reader to face ugly truths.  Slavery did exist, African Americans were the victims of a truly horrible slur that denigrated their very existence, and to my mind, it shows no courage whatsoever to gloss it over.  Courage would be to confront and examine the text and why Twain would feel compelled to add the “N” word to his tale. 

Tony Norman wrote a great article on the subject in the Pittsburg Post-Gazette this past Friday, in which he calls professor Gribben’s re-imagining,

a misguided attempt to rescue the novel from those who stupidly accuse it of racism“.

and, 

Despite its resemblance to a child’s adventure story, “Huckleberry Finn” is a dagger to the heart of white privilege and its all-pervasive cultural assumptions. That’s why the racists of Twain’s time despised the book. They knew it was a veiled attack. We’re too culturally self-absorbed to see what was obvious to them. We’re so hung up on a word we miss the liberating speeches.”

That’s the point now, isn’t it?  Gribben and his cohorts can’t see the forest for the trees. 

In the final analysis, this is all probably a flash in the pan.  After all, there are numerous editions of Twain’s books on the market, so it’s not as if you can’t find the original text.  As for Alan Gribben, his censorship comes from a desire to do what he thinks is the right thing.  However, if you edit on the basis of what might offend, what comes next?  Christopher Howse asks that same question in the Telegraph.  No more Merchant of Venice because it could be offensive to Jews? 

And in that vein, how long might it be before history texts are edited for content?  Will the Holocaust simply become, “that bad thing that happened?” 

Concentration camp becomes “re-education centre?”

Nazi becomes “misguided soul?”

I exaggerate for effect, but really, how is this much different? If we can’t examine the past in the context with which it happened, then what really can we learn from it?  Rright about now I would love to hear what Mark Twain would have to say on the subject.  I suspect it would be interesting.