Favorite Movies of 2014

I’m squeaking this last list in just under the wire. Of the two I’ve already done, this one definitely comes with a couple of caveats. First, there are several films I would have liked to have seen, but short theatrical runs aligned poorly with time I had free to go to the movies. That’s a problem that comes around pretty much yearly, though the trend of films getting to VOD or streaming faster definitely helps alleviate that. Second, there’s a slew of films out now in limited release I haven’t gotten to, and most likely won’t until the open slightly wider in the beginning of 2015.

Those factors might change one or two titles here, much the way eventually seeing The Raid 2 knocked John Wick off this list, but overall I’m extremely happy with the movies I saw this year. As ubiquitous as these lists tend to be, for myself I find it a helpful exercise to engage in. With movies particularly the trend is for most award-worthy films to come at the end of the year, and that sometimes leads to an assumption that the months before were filled with dreck. The attention movies such as Trans4mers and TMNT got helps contribute to that feeling, so it’s nice to take a moment and reflect on the actual good movies I saw, and that I’ll happily rewatch, and that I’d recommend you track down (if you haven’t already).

Snowpiercer and Captain America: The Winter Soldier – Can we start talking about what a great actor Chris Evans really is? First with Cap 2, where Steve Rogers continues to embody everything we want in a hero. In a world where heavy surveillance and pre-emptive strikes against possible enemies can so easily be misused, Evans grounded the larger-than-life patriotism and heroism of Cap (Also, it’s interesting that one of the few cultural commentaries on US military policy this year came in the form of a blockbuster superhero film). Then in the even more overtly political Snowpiercer, where his Curtis is the perfect inversion of Rogers, a coward forced into action when all hope has been stripped away.

Guardians of the Galaxy and Edge of Tomorrow – Where Cap 2 got it’s structure from emulating paranoid 70’s political thrillers, Guardians seemed to steep itself in tropes I associate with 80’s action films; building off outsized characters and a script chock full of quotable lines to make something purely escapist and fun. Meanwhile, the criminally underseen Edge (or Live. Die. Repeat., or whatever the title morphs into next) makes me hope Emily Blunt keeps getting action roles, and reminded me that the sheer effort Tom Cruise puts into being a star really pays off in the right film with the right director (see also: Ghost Protocol).

The LEGO Movie and Big Hero 6 – I nearly added the caveat that I only saw these because I have a kid, but honestly I would probably have gone to both regardless. Both were far more playful and inventive than I expected, with LEGO subverting the “Chosen One” cliche nicely, and Big Hero centering itself on a hero whose greatest power is compassion. Bonus points to LEGO, for including the best big-screen Batman since Michael Keaton’s run.

The Guest and The Raid 2: Berendal – Where The Raid: Redemption was a tight, focused action sequence occasionally paused for character moments, Berendal sprawls. The wider scope ends up working nicely, offering more breathing room between brutal fights and heart-stopping chases. The Guest, on the other hand, has fewer, faster moments of violence, and focuses instead on building an air of constant threat. Adam Wingard uses Dan Stevens’ considerable charisma well, building a character who’s equal parts charming and frightening, a palpable danger you never feel betrayed by, because you’re shown early on he’s capable of anything.

Blue Ruin – You can find this movie on several streaming services, and I highly recommend you do. A slow burn piece of noir, Blue Ruin is a breath of air, particularly among all the stylized violence most of the other films I watch present. This is about the actual consequences, the gutting of lives and the stain violence leaves behind. It’s a film with a lot of weight that never feels heavy to watch, and I’m eager to see what comes next from Jeremy Saulnier.

Boyhood – I have a deep and abiding love for Richard Linklater’s movies, he constantly impresses me with the simple humanity of his characters and the effortless charm of his writing and directing. Boyhood topped many “best of” lists this year, and it would be easy to dismiss that based on the gimmick of filming in stages over twelve years. What keeps that from feeling gimmicky to me is the way the story stuck with me like actual memory, rather than simply recollecting a film. To offer one example; I worked in a bookstore for several of the Harry Potter releases, and the scene of young Mason dressed as Harry for the Half-Blood Prince launch felt like my own memory those nights. Many other moments and flashes felt like my own childhood, and what I see and hope to see as my son grows up. the “gimmick” of Boyhood never feels artificial or unnecessary, just as the nine year breaks between Before movies never felt forced. Where other films I saw this year used CGI, or music, or established stars, Linklater used time, in a beautiful, perfect way.

Favorite Music of 2014

Rather than explain why these albums were my favorites of 2014, I’ll just leave a sampling from each here so you can see for yourself. Enjoy!

Jenny Lewis The Voyager

The Hold Steady Teeth Dreams


Shakey Graves And the War Came

Cory Branan The No-Hit Wonder

Shovels & Rope Swimmin’ Time

Lee Bains III and the Glory Fires Dereconstructed

Against Me! Transgender Dysphoria Blues

King Tuff Black Moon Spell

Perfect Pussy Say Yes to Love

FKA Twigs LP1

Favorite Books of 2014

2014 got away from me as far as blogging goes, and posts have been… sparse around here. How much that changes in 2015 is still up in the air, but until then I wanted to at least finish the year with the ever-ubiquitous Favorites lists. I don’t have any intention to present this (or the movies and music ones that’ll follow) as comprehensive or definitive, it’s just nice to gather a list of those works I happened to particularly enjoy this year in one easy to access spot. These are the books published in 2014 I most enjoyed, and a couple published previously that also blew me away. I recommend each one unreservedly.

Shovel Ready: Adam Sternbergh’s debut about a hitman in a post-apocalyptic New York City is as razor sharp as the box cutter Spademan uses to dispatch his victims. The spare, near poetic style of the writing is visceral, shot through with pitch black humor. It’s doubly worth picking up before the next installment hits in early 2015.

One Night in Sixes: I’m admittedly a sucker for Fantasy stories with a Western setting, but Arianne ‘Tex’ Thompson’s debut mixed the two far better than most. The way she used language and dialect to mark different classes of people was very well handled, and the scenes of frontier life and cattle drives read like McMurtry.

The Three-Body Problem: Cixin Liu’s award-winning novel (the first in a trilogy, with parts 2 and 3 coming very soon) is now available in English, thanks to a fantastic translation from Hugo and Nebula winner Ken Liu that ably brings a new audience all the complex science and heartfelt prose that made this a bestseller in China.

Broken Monsters: Possibly the most astute piece ofsocial commentary I read this year was woven into a dark and twisted piece of horror fantasy. Broken Monsters is what The Wire would have been if David Lynch had written it. Between this and last year’s The Shining Girls, fans of Stephen King who are still unfamiliar with Lauren Beukes need to rectify that gap in their reading.

Afterlife with Archie: Hands down my favorite comic currently running, the combination of Francesco Francavilla’s distinct artwork and Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa’s efficient scripting makes the zombie apocalypse’s arrival in Riverdale more horrific and heartbreaking than you’d think possible, and elevates this run well past the gimmick it appeared to be when it was first announced.

The Last Policeman: Ben H. Winter’s fresh take on the police procedural didn’t come out in 2014, but it’s easily one of the best books I’ve read in a long time, and certainly worth inclusion, regardless. The final book in the trilogy actually did come out this year, and if that Henry Palace adventure’s even close to this one, it’s a lock for one of my favorites next year.

Phantom Instinct: Meg Gardiner deals strictly in barn-burners. Every book of her’s I’ve read flies along with a wicked mix of breakneck action and clever banter, and Phantom Instinct is no exception. The combination of a former cop with trust issues – thanks to a disability that makes his judgment suspect – and a heroine with a hell of a past makes for a seriously entertaining read.

Silent City: I started Alex Segura’s debut shortly after takeoff on my flight back from Ireland this summer, and don’t look up until landing. I devoured this Miami set mystery, and really want to see more Pete Fernandez stories in the future.

The Martian: Originally self-published a couple of years back, then released traditionally to great fanfare earlier this year, Andy Weir’s book deserves all the praise it’s gotten. The varied ways Mars tries to kill Mark Watney, and his humor and determination in the face of each one, had me grinning almost constantly as I read.

The Girl with All the Gifts: I was reluctant when I wrote about this earlier to give details, and that hasn’t changed. I still think this book is best approached knowing as little going in as possible, but I will say that, even among this list of excellent books, The Girl with All the Gifts is flat out the best thing I read all year.

So what’d you all enjoy reading this year?

A @YouAreCarrying Flash Fiction Challenge

This week’s Terribleminds flash fiction challenge is to retrieve an inventory from the @YouAreCarrying twitterbot, and use those items in a ~2000 word story. Here’s mine, a sub-2000 words spin on a pumpkin-themed fairy tale classic. I cheated slightly, turning the business card into a visiting card, but otherwise fit the remaining items in nicely.


How The Determined Earn Their Admittance

Ella lies nestled in the soft fur of a bearskin rug set before the fireplace, and waits. She has been left here, shoeless, ragged. The hem of her once-vibrant gown is frayed from how they abused her into this room. The door behind her is locked, and will remain so until her captors request her. Her crime? She dared to dance with a prince, but was not royalty herself. That is not permitted here.

She is still, as unthreatening in appearance as she can manage, in case pity lives in any of her jailer’s hearts. Time creeps, and she remains, listening for the occasional click! of the peephole in the door, noting each time how the space between clicks grows wider.

If her guards haven’t pity, perhaps she’ll find solace in their neglect? Her hope is stoked by their dimming vigilance; they assume she merely sleeps in their makeshift prison. It soon becomes apparent they do not fear any girl brought so low.

Hours seem to pass before the interval between patrols widens enough, and she dares to move. The merest tilt of her head, enough to see the doorway, confirms the peephole is shut. Only then does Ella push up and take in her surroundings. Aside from the fireplace and rug there is a small table, with a pitcher and bowl upon it. The room is otherwise bare.

Ella checks the handle of the door and confirms it is locked. She still has the key given to her earlier, but the door it opens is at least two floors above. For now she is trapped, until others are ready to settle her fate. Ella moves to the bowl and pitcher, but the water in each looks as if it’s been standing since well before this evening. There’s a film on the surface of each, they are too dirty for washing or drinking. In frustration she snatches up the porcelain bowl and throws it into the fireplace. The water it held kills some of the fire. Her fists are balled, pressed hard against her mouth, holding back a scream. She implores herself to control her temper. Rage or despair would be indulgences now, with no discernible gain.

When the bowl exploding brings no attention she sits, and considers the weakening fire. She’s curious about the only unguarded exit to this room. Moving closer, she leans under the mantle to examine the damper guarding the flue, hoping the caretakers are as negligent in their maintenance as they are in their housekeeping.

Where the plate covers the throat of the firebox there is a gap; a flaw Ella has seen before in older, equally poorly maintained fireplaces. This small discovery, informed by a childhood spent tending hearths, offers a shard of hope. She prays the peephole remains shut.

Ella douses the rest of the fire with the stagnant water from the pitcher, and clears the spent logs aside. She stifles another cry – this one triumphant – upon finding the thin iron plate that covers the ashbox. She lifts the still-warm plate free, and tips it against the edge of the hearth to cool further.

She tears strips of cloth from her ruined gown to wrap over her hands and feet, for some meager degree of protection from whatever residual heat the chimney bricks hold. She drags the rug into the hearth. Then, using the iron lid as a wedge, Ella levers the gap between the stone and the flue guard wider until it comes free and drops, its fall muted by the plush bearskin. What little sound there is brings no investigation, so Ella proceeds. She ties a strip of cloth over her face, before ducking beneath the lintel, to shimmy into the now exposed flue.

Bracing against the chimney walls, Ella begins her slow ascent. Her gaze focused downward to prevent ash and creosote from blinding her, she claws and shoves her lithe frame further up into the narrow crevice. The climb is agonizing. Her hands and feet are barely insulated from the still hot bricks. The air is sharp with carbon, and the cloth over her face is a poor filter against the acrid stench. With steady, hard fought progress, she makes her way upwards through the pitch black shaft. Tar cakes the chimney, sometimes sticking her in place, other times slick, as she struggles for purchase.

The castle is unknown to her; even more so here, literally within its walls. But the lack of any stiff breeze tells her the shaft she’s in will bend eventually; there she can take a moment to rest. Hoping to find it soon, she continues to crawl upwards slowly, guarding against the shock of bumping too hard into the ceiling of the joint. That jarring blow might send her crashing back down the shaft. The bearskin still down there is soft, but it hardly offers enough padding to protect her if she stumbles now.

When her head gently presses against brick, she stops. Her legs and back brace hard against the chimney walls, though her muscles burn from the exertion. Tentatively, she feels for the angle of the bend, and shifts with great care, until she can wedge herself into it. Here she can savor the smaller effort needed to remain in place, partly reclining within the angle of the vent.

It’s a short climb from here to the peak, where this flue joins another, before the shaft continues up to the rooftop high above. But exhaustion consumes her, and there’s good reason to doubt she has the strength to make it the full distance. As she lies there, catching her breath a moment, Ella feels a tickling on her bare shoulder. An earthworm has crawled onto her. It no more belongs here than she does, and that strange kinship inspires her to spare it. If you hold on, little friend, she thinks, I’ll free you…once I’ve freed myself, of course.

Reaching down into the shaft at the other side of the junction, Ella doesn’t detect any heat. Probing the contours of the adjoining flue, it seems wider than the one she just climbed. It’s very reasonable for her to hope this one leads down to the kitchen, or at least an unoccupied room – ideally with no locked door to imprison her again. Taking great care, she climbs over the peak, swinging her legs into the other vent, and begins her slide down.

The journey down this side is faster, and slightly less painful. She can let gravity assist; using her battered hands, feet and back only as much as is required to slow her descent. The shaft opens into an enormous hearth, with fresh wood visible beneath an iron grating in the fireplace floor. The kitchen, mercifully empty. Ella drops down, then slides out, coming to rest on the stone floor.

She tears the cloth from her face, breathes deeply, and slowly removes the wrappings from her hands. With the cleanest strip of cloth she can find, she smudges some of the chimney’s filth from her eyes, nose and mouth. She’ll need proper dunking to come truly clean. For now she can see, but still cannot smell or taste more than black soot and ash. As she’s catching her breath a wiry man comes in from the yard, carrying a basket. They form a ridiculous tableau; the slight, tired girl, pitch-black and ragged, and the shocked, wiry cook, egg-laden. Neither is certain what to do.

The cook moves first, dropping the basket, racing for the door out of the kitchen, slipping on broken eggs as he runs. He tries to shout, a prelude to the alarm he’ll raise once the kitchen door is opened. Ella springs to her feet, grabbing the nearest weapons she can find – a pair of thick stirring sticks close by the hearth – and intercepts him, just as he reaches his mark. With the first stick, she collapses his knee. The blow brings him crashing against the door. He bounces off, stunned with pain.

Without pause, Ella brings the second stick down on his neck, and hears the meat give way beneath his skin. His eyes burst wide, but he can no longer shout. She stands over him as he gasps. After another moment, When she’s certain their scuffle hasn’t summoned the curious, Ella rolls him into the buttery and conceals him. No one will come for wine for hours. His body will remain there, undisturbed, for most of the day.

Cloaked in black soot and predawn shadow, Ella picks her way through the castle halls, avoiding guards who, by this time, must surely notice she’s gone. She is searching for the chamber unlocked by the key she was given. Taking utmost care, she finds the proper room, unlocks it, and slips inside.

“My God, it’s you! What’s happened to you?” The prince had been pacing, not sleeping in bed as she expected. His face brightens at the sight of her, regardless of the filth coating her. To him, she is no more than the girl he danced with for most of the night, and desperately wanted to bring to his chambers. Ella touches a blackened finger to her lips, and he quiets, abashed.

“It’s no matter now,” he whispers, “I thought I’d never see you again my dear.” he rushes to her, arms open, paying no attention to the boning knife she took from the kitchen until the blade slides between his ribs. She sets her mouth on his to muffle any cry, before leaving him, bleeding, on the chamber floor.

Ella wipes the blade clean. She secrets the knife against the small of her back in case it is required again. The dead prince’s visiting cards are stacked neatly on his writing desk. She takes one, and dips a corner in his blood. Her proof collected, she slips out, pausing to lock the room behind her as she leaves.

Ella heads back through the kitchen, the simplest route to the yard. It takes no more than a moment to find the mews. The shed doors are locked for the evening, their handles are bound fast by a massive chain. The surge of energy she felt during her escape and the prince’s assassination has long since deserted her, and the weight of all her exertions pervades her. No! And so close to safety! She picks her way around the mews, clinging to hopes she’ll a way inside. An unlatched window in the back of the structure is her salvation. Ella hoists herself awkwardly through, crashing into a pile of hay beneath. Inside there is no carriage awaiting her, as promised. In its place sits what looks like a cruel joke – a large, ripe pumpkin.

A gentle tickle at the nape of her neck reminds Ella of her own promise. She carefully removes her companion, and sets it on the ground. There you go, she thinks, even though I’m not yet free myself. Drawing out the knife, she looks for a means to escape this new prison.

No way out presents itself. Ella cries out, despairing, and stabs the blade into the gourd, bringing forth a gentle, crystalline sound. Curious and hopeful, she cuts, and discovers the impossible; a small brass bell, secreted inside. She rings the bell, and hopes.

Ella hears a voice behind her, as improbable and clear as the tiny bell. “Well?”

“It’s done, milady, just as you asked. Here is my proof.” Ella turns, and the woman now standing there takes the bloodstained card she offers. The card flares, instantly reduced to ash in her hand. She smiles warmly at Ella, who returns the matronly smile with a teary-eyed one of her own.

“Well done my child! I congratulate you, and welcome you to the ranks of my Godchildren.” The woman reaches out a hand, which Ella takes without hesitation. “Now, let’s get you home to clean up and rest. We’ll discuss later what the future holds for you, dear.”

I Owe Joey Ramone Big Time

Tommy Erdyeli passed away yesterday. A couple years ago I wrote about what the Ramones meant to me, giving a big portion of the credit to Joey, but Tommy, Dee Dee, and Johnny were equally responsible for shaping my attitude towards music. Tommy maybe moreso thanks to him also producing the Replacements and Red Kross. I’m reposting this piece with that addendum to give credit where it’s due, and to say thanks to someone who’ll be greatly missed.



In looking forward to Rob Reid’s book Year Zero, I’ve been thinking about music. I mentioned in an earlier post Rob’s TED speech on Piracy’s impact, and read the first chapter posted on Wired (definitely looking forward to this book). All that got me thinking about when, growing up, music first started really meaning something to me. It damn sure wasn’t what I grew up with in the 80’s.

I mention that because there’s a lot of 80’s fetishism going on nowadays. Between Ready Player One (awesome, by the way), Rock of Ages (which I’ll skip, thanks), Drive (I’ll be catching that on Netflix) and plenty more that decade just keeps spinning right ’round, you know?

I really didn’t enjoy a lot of what I was hearing at the time. I didn’t hate it, but I wasn’t inspired by it. I blame MTV. When having visual instincts started trumping…

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Flash Fiction Challenge: Killing Dan Malmon

So Dan O’Shea wants Dan Malmon dead. I don’t know Dan (either one) beyond following both on Twitter and having Dan O’Shea’s books on my TBR list, but this seemed like a cool challenge, so I took a swing. I probably had more fun killing him than is appropriate, but I really enjoyed writing this, and I hope you and Mr. Malmon, good sport that he is, gets a kick out of reading it.


Ever gotten a song stuck in your head? I mean really deep in there, where you’ve gotta hum the whole thing to get rid of it? That’s what I was dealing with on this job. Looking back, I wouldn’t’ve had this problem if I hadn’t taken the phone, but the client insisted. Long as I was getting paid, I did whatever he’d asked.

I might have been a little starstruck too. I mean, it’s not every day you get hired by a multiple Grammy winner. At first I thought the meeting request was a joke, but there he was, sitting across from me, offering to pay triple my normal rate. I took the job, even though it meant carrying a burner to confirm when it was over. “If I’d picked a more notable target, I wouldn’t worry. Him? I’d be surprised if the news went beyond local.”

Curious, I asked, “why this guy, anyway? I mean, people hiring me usually have a score to settle. What’s yours, if you don’t mind me asking?”

“Dan Malmon isn’t remotely connected to me, which makes him perfect. I’ve been recording for longer than you’ve been alive – making millions, winning awards – yet I still get slagged on. Eventually, that mocking gets to you. One day, I’m looking over what I’ve accomplished and earned, and realize I’ve got the means to get myself some payback. Not in a big way, but I could find your average blogger, someone who won’t be traced back to me at all, and…” He snapped his fingers on beat, with a true percussionist’s sense of timing. “It’s a good feeling having the cash to know you can arrange it so one less guy’s out there, taking pot-shots at you online.” I just nodded. It was ’round-the-bend looney, but still not the craziest reason I’d ever been given, if you can believe it. We shook, and I walked out with a couple thousand dollars and the phone.


Dan parked in a garage up near Mass Ave. I’d tailed him easily, but didn’t park quickly enough to catch him before he was out on Newbury. I considered sitting there until he came back, but it was a nice day, and I hate waiting. I slipped a length of piano wire into my pocket and followed him. I knew I couldn’t do anything until we were back in the garage, but the idea of hanging there indefinitely made me antsy. I strolled a short ways behind him, enough to keep track without being obvious.

I didn’t realize the ringer was on until I heard an insistent rhythm, like a heartbeat. It took me a second to realize where the sound as coming from – Phil, that impatient fucker, was checking on me. As I pulled it out to silence it I heard “Come stop your crying, It’ll be alright….” I looked sheepishly about, as one does when their phone goes off in public, and hoped Malmon hadn’t noticed. I saw him step into O’Shea’s without so much as a glance my way, by some miracle. I hadn’t gone into any of the stores he’d visited before this one, figuring he’d be more likely to notice me indoors than outside. But O’Shea’s is this great upscale kitchen store, and I needed gloves.

I’d actually brought a pair of old driving gloves, but had forgotten them in the car. I wouldn’t have time to retrieve them when we got back. If O’Shea’s stocked them, the gloves you use to shuck oysters are reinforced, and would keep the piano wire from digging hard into my fingers. I didn’t bother searching, just grabbed the nearest clerk and asked if they carried them. I waited by the register as he checked, hoping Dan wouldn’t leave first.

As I stood there, I caught myself tapping out that heartbeat rhythm on the counter, murmuring “Come stop your crying, It’ll be alright….” Dammit. I mean, it’s an OK song, but I was surprised it’d stuck like that. I think the last time I’d listened to it was forever ago, when people listened to radio, and stations played tunes like that.

The clerk came back successful and I paid in cash, stuffing the change and the gloves in my pocket. I left and crossed the street to wait for Dan to come back out. He reappeared, heading back towards where he’d parked.

As we walked I couldn’t get that fucking song out of my head. I cursed the phone, and the asshole who’d given it to me. I made the best of it by trying to remember how the rest went. “You’ll be in my heart, yeah you’ll be in my heart….” I was shocked at how much of it I could recall. I’d never really been a fan of that song back when it won him an Oscar, but I could see why it’d won. In fact, I kind of understood then why Phil hired me. I mean, objectively, someone pours their heart into something – which is obvious, if you listen to him sing – it’s got to be galling to know people like Dan sneer at it, at you. Sure, making it the ringtone was obnoxious, but really, why shouldn’t he be proud of his work? I took pride in mine, after all.

By the time we reached his car I was up to the “Just look over your shoulder” bit, which was ironic; that’s the last thing I wanted him to do. I slipped on the oyster gloves, and wound the wire around my hands. As he went between his car and the one beside it, I slipped it over his head, shoving him off balance so he’d fall forward. As he fell, I pulled back against the momentum. It was over by the time I finished humming the song. Once he was still, and I could find no pulse, I headed to my car. I took out the phone and dialed before driving off. “Mr. Collins? It’s done.”

The Girl With All the Gifts Not-Quite-Review

It might be folly, as I’m sure many other reviews have already given away the first reveal of M. R. Carey’s new novel, The Girl With All the Gifts, but I’m going to try and avoid detailing it here. This makes my thoughts on the book a little more difficult to form, but hopefully they’ll still make sense.

My reason for not exposing that first twist is to hopefully preserve for you the genuine moment of being struck dumb by it, and fully enjoy the compulsion to see how the rest of the story unfolds from there. There are very few stories I sincerely wish I could experience again for the first time, and this one shot straight to the top of that list. Carey does an incredible job, very similar to the way Shirley Jackson often did, of coaxing you in with his strange, off-kilter depiction of a world before you find yourself unable to resist continuing deeper into it. He builds a desperate desire to know what happens next by employing a genuine empathy with, and fascination for, his characters.

Those opening pages form a skillfully crafted trap. Not only do they present a fascinating lead character in Melanie, the young girl we’re initially introduced to, but they provide the perfect setup for the horrors that unfold as the book continues. Carey builds a delicious air of dread, presenting the reader with a situation that isn’t remotely tenable, and teasing it out with immense care for as long as possible until that tenuous balance is shattered. This is a violent book at times, with furious bursts of action. Those scenes are orchestrated and executed with skill and precision, enhanced by the emotional investment we’ve developed for the characters through the intimate details he’s built into them during the quieter moments.

The entire story builds to an incredible crescendo, and a satisfying and strangely (unsettlingly) hopeful conclusion. The only thing stopping me from going immediately back and rereading the book again is the knowledge it won’t be exactly the same experience, which is why I sought to give as little away as possible. That makes this piece more my general impressions rather than a complete review, but I hope it still convinces you to try it, and have that first-read experience for yourself. Because those first few pages are most assuredly a trap, but they’re an enticing one you’ll deeply enjoy stepping in to.