Monday, August 27, 2007

Bad Monkeys - Matt Ruff

Confession time; I loathe high-octane action novels following rogue CIA/FBI/NSA agents as they untangle a web of government corruption while saving the president's daughter. Luckily, Matt Ruff's Bad Monkeys is nothing like those. Sure, there's a national conspiracy, shadowy cabals on both sides of the good and bad seesaw, and a rogue agent shooting her way through the danger; but her weapon of choice is an 'NC Gun', 'NC' of course, standing for Natural Causes.

Bad Monkeys goes from airport read to a mindbender of a good time from the first chapter on. Ruff has done the action genre a service by weaving some fantastical elements into what would otherwise seem by-the-book spy fare. In fact, with these additions,The enigmatic Jane Charlotte is questioned about a murder she cops to in the name of The Organization. The Organization is an outfit dedicated to improving the world behind the scenes, and her branch takes care of the titular primates. Bad monkeys; too far gone to save, too diabolical to be allowed to go on living. It's Jane's job to hunt them down, using a variety of sci-fi tech and weaponry and the Big Brother-style surveillance provided by every eye they could hide a camera in.

Read on an action thriller level, Bad Monkeys would succeed easily. It's a good thing that Ruff wasn't satisfied with action thriller status. Jane's story is picked apart at every turn by a doctor and fed back to her in a more believable and less heroic form. The reader is left to figure out what's to be believed and who Jane is. The psychological aspect of Bad Monkeys is at least as important as the derring-do, and delivers on the Pynchon-esque promise of the premise.

Bad Monkeys reminds me of another twist-and-turn action story recently out in paperback; The Zero, by Jess Walter. I loved Walter's book for many of the same reasons I find Ruff's to be so engaging. It just goes to show; genre need not scare you away if it's used as a basis for expansion and experimentation. Both action novels succeed brilliantly by melding some sci-fi in with their grit.

Friday, August 24, 2007

'Sawdust: The Workshed Anthology' Update

Just a heads-up for all you readers in the Milwaukee area…

Sawdust: The Workshed Anthology is now available at:

Harry W. Schwartz Bookshop
2559 N. Downer Ave.
Milwaukee, WI 53211

Of course, you can still get it on the website as well.
Thanks for the positive response.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Wizard World Chicago Brings Families Together...

Or does it?

Flash forward ten years...

"Look, dad; I'm not Luke, you're not Obi-Wan, and mom DAMN SURE ISN'T YODA!!!"

Friday, August 10, 2007

Justin Pimps Yet Another Book.........This Time It's Personal!

As some of you may know, I do things other than read. Writing comics, for example. This week, I'm proud to announce the (self) publication of a trade paperback comic book collection I had a hand in. Sawdust: The Workshed Anthology is the collection of the four issue comic series of the same name put out by myself and the 'Shed Heads over the past year. It's chock-full of solid storytelling and eye-catching art; if you like action and adventure (ie. you are NOT a Jedi), check it out. Sawdust is available on the Workshed Studio web site (12 smackers and free shipping), Wizard World Chicago (special 10 buck convention price), and choice comic shops in the Milwaukee area (12 shekels and you get it with no waiting and a minimum of costumed fan interaction).

Still not convinced? Well, if you're in Milwaukee, here's some more food for thought...

Fun facts about Workshed Studio

-Workshed Studio is a group of local comic creators.

-Alan Evans (writer/artist Worldwide Solutions) was kicked out of The Taskmaster's Training School after repeatedly asking him to mimic wrestling moves.

-Radames Malave (writer/artist Ebon Guard) was convicted of a crime he didn't commit, but probably would have committed had he thought of it.

-Justin Riley (writer Worldwide Solutions, Fade) has all the rage of the Hulk, but none of the accompanying proportionate strength.

-No one at Workshed Studio has ever shot a man in Reno just to watch him die. Not in Reno.

-Workshed is based in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

-Alan has encyclopedic knowledge of early gangsta rap, and will quote it extensively with no provocation.

-Radames "ain't scared of no ghosts".

-Justin doesn't feel sorry for anyone working on the Death Star. It's called THE DEATH STAR! Lousy fascist collaborators.

-No one at Workshed knows the meaning of the word 'quit'. We will be a buying a dictionary soon.

-Did we mention we're from Milwaukee?

-Alan owes a LOT of money to the 'wrong people', but would like to keep his thumbs. So buy the book, please.

-Radames once hired, and then promptly fired the A-Team when it became apparent that they couldn't shoot straight.

-Justin has danced with The Devil in the pale moon light, and doesn't see what the big deal is.

-Workshed loves you for your mind. Everything else is just gravy.

-Milwaukee, Milwaukee, Milwaukee!

I'm done whoring for now. Whoring for funnybooks, anyway.