Reviews by eknapp
Well-constructed YA short stories.
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[SPOILER in the second paragraph]

A group of dogs (plus one cat) finds itself protecting a rural community called Burden Hill from a string of strange threats: ghost, witch, werewolf, human... Told as a series of interconnected short stories.

Beasts of Burden is basically Scooby Doo with a dog/cat cast: the goofy/heroic/comic relief characters stumble from one wacky, spooky situation to another. It's apparent that it's a young adult book, tugging carefully at the occasional heartstring but then immediately retreating so as not to cause too much upset. In the meantime there are plenty of animal puns and Saved by the Bell-style one-liners to keep things light. There are a few sad or scary moments (as when a Weimaraner mom drowns herself to be with her dead puppies) but nothing too taxing. Each story's ending is bittersweet or just happy.

Jill Thompson's watercolors are absolutely gorgeous. The woman knows how to paint animals. Landscapes, action, unusual perspectives, she does everything in this book and she does it well.
A graphic novel account of a serial killer who plagued New Orleans in 1918 and 1919. He would chisel out a back door panel in the middle of the night before assaulting the occupants with their own axes or hatchets. Italian grocers seemed to be his preferred targets.

Really short, and really dry. It almost reads like a legal document. The black and white ink illustrations add to this effect.

There is a brief but delightful history of the city of New Orleans at the beginning. Worth reading just for that.
Straightforward and well-made.
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A graphic-novel account of Green River killer Gary Ridgway's decades-long murder career and his eventual capture by the King County sheriff's office. It's a look into the mind of a serial killer and the cops who hunted him.

The story jumps around in time but focuses mostly on the seven months of interrogation in which Ridgway tried to locate his many victims as part of his plea agreement. It's a long slog of incomplete information and weirdly polite interactions between the police and the killer.

There are some nice emotional and personal moments scattered throughout, like when the protagonist learns that his partner has Lou Gehrig's disease, or when he promises a missing girl's mother that he will always call before visiting so as not to scare her.

It's not dazzling or anything, but Green River Killer is a solid, well-told, interesting story.
Not quite as good as Altered Carbon but still a top-notch read.
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It's early in the 22nd century. Genetic engineering has produced a number of human "variants": bonobos, submissive female super-geishas; hibernoids, who go into a catatonic sleep state four months a year; and thirteens, an alpha-male throwback variant, last seen in pre-civilization, pre-agricultural times. Thirteens are stronger, tougher, more remorseless and single-minded than mere humans. All the variants experience some level of resentment and fear from "normal" humans, but only thirteens are forced to live either in internment camps on Earth or in the budding Mars colony.

When a thirteen stows away on a Mars-to-Earth shuttle--methodically butchering and eating everyone else on board over the long flight home--a thirteen bounty hunter is called in to track him down. This leads to plenty of fighting, international politics, a little sex, a lot of murder mystery, abundant future-style bigotry, and the long slow unwinding of a complex conspiracy.

Morgan spent a lot of time hammering at the differences between humans and thirteens. Like, A LOT of time. I think he felt compelled to do so because it didn't hold water very well. The concept is interesting--übermales bred out of the species during the transition from hunter-gatherer to agriculture--but he founded it on a lot of weird assumptions about masculinity/femininity. Embracing negotiation, group cooperation, NOT leaping to join the army...these things don't strike me as strict functions of femininity, they're just functions of having more options and opportunities due to the stability and wealth provided by farming. This constant harping on how very alien thirteens are psychologically was tiring. The thirteen hero keeps acting like a standard-issue tough guy, then tossing out a comment about he's "wired" for it.

Aside from that repetitive annoyance, Thirteen was terrific. It has a sprawling but logical conspiracy, a wonderfully detailed and logical future political landscape, three-dimensional characters with complex and believable motivations, and plenty of surprises. The US has splintered into three nations, the wealthy and tech-savvy Pacific Rim, the liberal and powerful UNGLA in the northeast, and "Jesusland", the poor backward states in between. This allows Morgan to look at modern issues like immigration and abortion through fresh eyes. These aren't big plot points by any stretch, they just give the story more punch.

Not quite as good as Altered Carbon but still a top-notch read.
Unfortunately dull and pointlessly gross.
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"Rant" is written as a collection of anecdotes about the life of Rant Casey, a fictional charismatic redneck who spreads some kind of epidemic. After an interesting introductory section about a salesman who meets Rant's father on a plane, the anecdotes became random, confusing (what the hell are those suns and moons supposed to be indicating?), disgusting, and--worst of all--boring.

I managed to soldier through the chapter about Rant identifying folks by sniffing the used condoms and tampons in their trash. I quit reading it shortly after the two-page description of him picking his nose and gluing it all over his bedroom wall. I'm not generally prim or squeamish--hell, I'm a Garth Ennis fan--but this stuff seemed pointless. Gross for the sake of gross. I wish I could remember who recommended this book to me so I'd know who to stop listening to.