Laird Barron’s X’S FOR EYES is the first five-star book of 2016. I predict it will be this year’s A HEAD FULL OF GHOSTS or SLOWLY WE ROT — a book that readers talk about throughout the rest of the year and an early, almost certain contender to appear on many Best of 2016 lists twelve months from now. A television reviewer once described Adult Swim’s THE VENTURE BROS as “JOHNNY QUEST on acid.” If that’s so, then X’S FOR EYES is THE VENTURE BROS on acid. A loving homage to all things pulp — Lovecraft, Robert E. Howard, Doc Savage, etc. — with nods to everything from Arthur Machen to James Bond to The Hardy Boys, X’S FOR EYES is glorious, smart, whip-crack fast fun. Even the really disturbing parts (including one particularly gruesome scene where a Ben Grimm-like teen gets possessed by….well, spoilers). Available right now in paperback and Kindle.
I raved about Nick Mamatas’s THE LAST WEEKEND a year ago, when it was only available as a signed, limited edition hardcover. Now it’s available in paperback and Kindle. Like Bryan Smith’s SLOWLY WE ROT, Nick’s new book is a zombie novel that’s not about zombies. Instead, it uses that tired old trope as a backdrop for something more. In Smith’s case, that was an examination of social anxiety, loneliness, alcoholism, and insanity. In the case of THE LAST WEEKEND, alcoholism and social anxiety are once again present, but so is an examination of labor and employment, conspiracy theories, prepper culture, city government, revolutionaries, and the starving artist. It’s funny, it’s frightening, and it’s got mad, mad heart.
If, like me, you’re currently snowbound, you can download both of those books to your Kindle right now, and have something to do during the apocalypse. I highly recommend both.
As for me, it snowed all night, and is still coming down. Forecast says 28 to 30 inches now, possibly more. The snow has blown in off the river all night, drifting against my front door and making going outside an exercise in futility. The backdoor is still clear, should I need an emergency exit, although any retreat would be on foot as the roads are currently impassable. But I don’t really see myself going anywhere. Both of my sons are home safe (my oldest at his apartment and my youngest with his mother), and I’ve got enough food and water to support a small army. My plan for the blizzard is to just keep writing and reading and listening to music. While everyone else was fighting over the last loaf of bread and the last roll of toilet paper yesterday, I was at the record store, buying some new vinyl to listen to while the snow falls:
*The 2nd Annual Berkeley Blues Festival — a live recording from 1966 featuring a favorite of mine, Lightning Hopkins, along with Mance Lipscomb and Clifton Chenier.
*Metallica’s Master of Puppets — First pressing, still in the shrink wrap.
*Frank Sinatra’s September of My Years
*John Lennon’s Rock ‘N’ Roll
*Alice Cooper’s Flush the Fashion
*12-inch of “Only Buggin’ by Whistle — old school hip-hop that probably only people over 40 will remember.
That’s how I’m spending the apocalypse — good music and good coffee and writing. Later, when the power goes out (as it’s almost certain to do if the winds coming off the river are any indication) I’ll switch to bourbon, or freeze-dried coffee brewed atop a kerosene heater, and writing by hand in a notebook.
Miles to go before I sleep…