Tag Archives: warren ellis

My Top 5 Books of 2014

It’s about that time again, isn’t it? We’re all just about ready to shrug into an awkwardly fitting new year, and all of the LISTICLES are flowering. Here then are my top 5 reads of this past year; note, these aren’t necessarily books that came out this year.

1) The Goldfinch, by Donna Tartt

2) The Martian, by Andy Weir

3) The Peripheral, by William Gibson

4) Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage, by Haruki Murakami

5) Ready Player One, by Ernest Cline

Honorable Mentions: In the Dust of This Planet, by Eugene Thacker, and Gun Machine by Warren Ellis

Lebbeus Woods’ War & Architecture and William Gibson’s The Peripheral

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“Architecture and war are not incompatible. Architecture is war. War is architecture. I am at war with my time, with history, with all authority that resides in fixed and frightened forms. I am one of millions who do not fit in, who have no home, no family, no doctrine, no firm place to call my own, no known beginning or end, no “sacred and primordial site.” I declare war on all icons and finalities, on all histories that would chain me with my own falseness, my own pitiful fears. I know only moments, and lifetimes that are as moments, and forms that appear with infinite strength, then “melt into air.” I am an architect, a constructor of worlds, a sensualist who worships the flesh, the melody, a silhouette against the darkening sky. I cannot know your name. Nor you can know mine. Tomorrow, we begin together the construction of a city.”

Came across this man’s work today at random and have been utterly obsessed with it. I have to imagine William Gibson has been inspired in some part this aesthetic — it screams the interstitial constructions and communities that are a large recurring theme in his books (chiefly, ‘The Bridge’ of The Bridge Trilogy comes to mind). Woods spoke about needing a way to see architecture in chaos, in the throws of climactic events… some deep part of my brain is trying to tie this in with  all of the bleak, gorgeous brain-scrambling Warren Ellis has been doing of late over at MORNING, COMPUTER.

Also, there’s Gibson’s newest, ‘The Peripheral’, finally out…I’m reading it at a strangely slow pace, partially because this is how I read my favorite writers, typically, and Gibson always. Partially it’s the structure of the book — it has absolutely zero ‘fat’ to it, it’s completely lean. It’s sparse in a literal sense but so immensely dense that you have to digest it slowly. He has more or less removed any kind of exposition at all, an ultimate gesture of ‘show don’t tell’. Description and dialogue, mood and character. The sci-fi markers and associated language of slang and other misc. signifiers are set before the reader, demanding to be made sense of. I remember way back in HS when I tried to get a friend into Neuromancer and he couldn’t get through 50 pages, saying it was just too hard to understand. Neuromancer practically spoon-fed you by comparison. I think some of this has to do with the fact that Gibson knows he has the sort of rare cachet with his readers, he knows that they’ll not only do the work but will love to do it. It’s ambitious, period, and possibly only something that could’ve been done with the confidence that comes with having done something well for a long time and been recognized.

There’ll certainly be a lot more to connect these two current obsessions after I finally finish the book, but they keep screaming to each other across the nether regions of my brain. Both of the futures in The Peripheral are fractured, cascading, held together by grand walls of customized minutiae and thin black cables.

Misc. Ratings

Books

‘Bird Box’,  by Josh Malerman — 4

‘Asylum’, by Madeline Roux — 3.5

‘The Martian’, by Andy Weir — 5 !!!

‘Friendship’, by Emily Gould — 3.5

‘Gun Machine’, by Warren Ellis — 4

‘Virtual Light’, by William Gibson (reread) — 5

‘Pattern Recognition’, by William Gibson (reread) — 5

‘Ready Player One’, by Ernest Cline — 4.5

TV

True Detective (season 1) — 5 !!!

Masters of Sex (season 2) — 4

Film

House of Wax — 3

Mama — 3.5

Not much to note; have been getting some good reading in. Cannot overstate how good ‘The Martian’ is, better than all the hype had even lead me to believe it would be. So incredibly smart, funny, and well paced. Ready Player One was as well, a book I wish I had gotten around to reading sooner.  Warren Ellis’ latest was everything I hoped for — the man simply doesn’t know how to put bad writing out into the world. He’s just so damn funny, in the blackest way possible, and simply knows how to write a good story. I was building my altar to him after ‘Transmetropolitan’ back when I was 17, and he’s never once disappointed me since.  There’s something incredibly earnest about how he approaches writing and his readers, he’s simply harsh enough on himself that he’ll never let a piece of shit out and tell you it’s worth your time. If he puts his name on it, you’re going to get him at his best.

Reread a bit of Gibson as sort of an old ritual, as he has his latest coming out later this month. I don’t really mark my calendar for any writer except Murakami and Gibson. Everyone is I love is insanely great, but those two are floating in their own universe, and  getting new novels from both of them this year feels like winning the lottery to me. Was thinking of rereading the entire ‘Blue Ant’ trilogy, but I’d really like to clear off some other pressing to-reads, as after finishing Gibson’s new ‘The Peripheral’ I plan to very seriously set aside most if not all of my reading to focus on writing again. I’ve had a couple ideas really eating away at my skull the last few years. Not sure which I’m really feeling right now, but I’m starting to lean a bit, having begun spending my time (via catching up on Ellis’ newest comics work) with comics again. We’ll see.

Stopped very early in the ‘Under 40’ alt-lit anthology just because…I don’t know. I feel the ‘alt lit’ ‘thing’ here and there, it never seems to quite sustain for long. Then I caught the slightest whiffs of all the mega cluster-fuckery going around Tao Lin ant HTML giant and everything and I just didn’t feel like it. There’s great writing in this anthology and I plan to come back to it down the road, it’s just not ringing my bells right now.

I’m working through Yerra Sugarman’s ‘The Bag of Broken Glass’, but I only read it in the late hours when I feel most focused, and it’s easily the most emotionally charged poetry I’ve read in a very, very long time, maybe ever. It’s a truly heartbreaking collection and I just can’t read it quickly, so it’ll take a bit.

I don’t know what to say about True Detective (season 1). Like Breaking Bad, I was sure it was good and had heard enough about it from people whose taste I trust that I knew it’d be good, but I had no idea it’d be the truly dark and strange and perfect beast that it is. Whatever big awards it pulls in (especially MM) it absolutely deserves without reservation. It took me to places I hadn’t felt since maybe Twin Peaks. I think it may have shot it’s own load though, I don’t know if any further seasons will ever match the voodoo that season 1 did, but I’m happy to be proven wrong. Easily, easily the best writing / acting / direction of any TV show since Breaking Bad, hands down, no contest.

I HAD A SCHEME (a Warren Ellis blog post erasure)

I dreamed a Medium
that was nothing but the
apocalyptic, numinous future.

A Black Mountain
of the new normal.

The space within I’m feeling
the year I was born, NEW WORLDS
that contained a black-on-black graphic:

WHAT IS THE EXACT NATURE OF THE CATASTROPHE?

The answer is half of my brain
in deep. I have APOCALYPTIC WITCHCRAFT.

The Hunt as cover.

(God, what if it’s just The New Hauntology? “We are as ghosts and might as well
get good at it.”)

I’m a little ghost rattling on The Archaic Revival.

Anyway. I woke up and still dream.

MORNING, COMPUTER

TRANSMET01-WACHTER

There’s no writer / blogger / creator whose brain I most try to invade and shamelessly steal from as Warren Ellis.

Since 14 or so, every artistic obsession of mine (what I consume, what I want to create) is rooted in his varied, rich, visceral, staggering career.

Cityscapes, the dirty urban, the sprawling technet, the weird and shimmering PRESENT and all the ways it is tense, convulsing, reaching.

Rant over — but his scribblings over at are so beyond worth subjecting your eyeballs and feeble brains to.

Time for Dr Whisky and re-reading FreakAngels. Gnight dearest comrades.

Review: ‘Shovel Ready’, by Adam Sternbergh

Shovel Ready: A NovelShovel Ready: A Novel by Adam Sternbergh
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I will be honest and admit I wasn’t overly convinced of this novel right away; as a lover of William Gibson and Warren Ellis, the setting and premise felt a bit too familiar and overall the ground felt a bit well-tread. I knew right away I’d probably not be disappointed because this kind of gritty, noir speculative fiction is deeply in my wheelhouse, but I wasn’t sure it was going to live up to the expectations I had been building up for it for months.

In the end, I had really been swept up by this book, which manages to be more than the sum of its parts, which is not necessarily a knock on the parts. Adam Sternbergh has an obvious talent for pace and a heavily stylized narrative voice. The plot remains a bit well-worn, a heavy-drinking hitman anti-hero meandering about a dirty-bombed New York City full of shanty camp towns and the rich plugged into yet another flavor of a Matrix-like mass hallucinatory cyberspace bites off big on a strange job that only gets stranger. But Sternbergh is a fine storyteller and more than competently ushers along an engrossing tale. But the real strength here is in the frenetic tempo of the entire story, the way tension is elevated higher and higher and kept taut through the end.

The real danger of writing in a familiar genre is too easily falling into tired tropes and half-hearted style, and the book manages to mostly avoid it; the grit and noir are convincing and textured, rubbing the right away and making sure it burns. I really can’t commend enough Sternbergh’s risky approach to style, rapidly hammering one scene into the next with staccato, almost absurdly lean prose. The culminating effect feels like an action movie or graphic novel, with things getting hot early and never settling into any downtime.

I was happy to learn, as I suspected, that this isn’t a standalone debut but that at least one more ‘Spademan’ novel is in the works. I look forward to seeing how these characters and this refreshing approach to pace and structure bear out with more time. The world Sternbergh has created may not be as ultimately unique, but it’s an enjoyable nod to its predecessors and well worth spending your time in.

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Review, “Dead Pig Collector” (Kindle Single), by Warren Ellis

Dead Pig CollectorDead Pig Collector by Warren Ellis
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I found this Kindle single, a bit to my surprise, thoroughly enjoyable. Ellis’s unique style is always incredibly satisfying to me, and it continues to work well even in this bite-sized variety. It’s probably a good thing when my biggest complaint is that it runs so short and I wanted to enjoy this peek of a very dark protagonist a great deal longer. It may be for the best, though, as the grotesque and compelling sheen might have worn off a bit with too much exposure.

Ellis made his name in graphic novels and it shows here; he’s an adept storyteller and knows how to write in a shorter, ready-to-be-serialized mode. One is tempted to ask when the graphic novel adaptation can be expected–I do think a series of vignettes (perhaps not of this exact character, but the world hinted at) would an extremely seductive volume.

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