Thursday, October 3, 2013

Reggie's Round Up: Things To Distract You From Planning Halloween

It's October, you guys. OCTOBER! HALLOWEENTIMES! Until today, I did not know what I was going to be for Halloween.

I now know. And knowledge is good.

We shall speak more of the Halloweentimes later.

Here are my thoughts on some of the things that kept me distracted from obsessing about the Halloweentimes...

Lauren Beukes' The Shining Girls

What It Is: A novel listed as belonging to the Horror genre which is an Inadequate Description of what is contained therein. Harper Curtis is a serial killer fixated on female victims who shine. Their shine comes from within and is so bright that the glow transcends time and space, or at least it does as far as Curtis is concerned. That's right, TIME-TRAVELLING SERIAL KILLER!

Why It Is Awesome: Did I mention that there is a TIME-TRAVELLING SERIAL KILLER? That, as a storytelling concept is amazing all on its own. Where this book really shines (Shut up. I know. I can't help it.) is in the execution of this particular idea. Every character sparkles from the second they are introduced on the page.

We meet Mister Slaughter-britches, ie: Harper Curtis in 1929 and events conspire to lead him to a house which enables him to criss-cross time so that he can commit gruesome murders ranging from his own time-line to 1993. One of his intended victims, Kirby Mazrachi, survives his attack and once physically recovered, decides to solve her own unsolved crime. Kirby is angry, funny, likable, punk-rawk, sweet, vulnerable and kick-ass all at once.

With a serial killer at the center of a book, one can always expect a high body count. What I did not expect was how gracefully each death is handled by the author. Through the gore and time-travel, Lauren Beukes manages to make the lives of each intended victim matter to the reader, making the horror of the crime aspects of this story all the more of a gut punch. Horror with heart and meaning is delivered from within these pages. Not only are the victims fully developed with lives and wants and obligations and needs and thoughts and emotions, the readers also get a sense of how community is affected by their loss. This is done deftly, creeping up into the story as part of the landscape, which makes this horror tale a particularly strong indictment of violence.

There is more here than gleaming guts and the marvels of time-travel. Elements of historical fiction are, as a matter of course, found throughout the novel, so that pigeonholing this work of fiction into one genre does the book a huge disservice, IMHO.

It's brilliant.

Haim's Days Are Gone

What It Is: An album by three sisters, soon to enter pop maven-hood.

Why It Might Be Awesome: Okay, so I can't say it's totally awesome. But I am including it in the Round Up because it is a Thing of Interest and I really want to like this because, dude, rock-n-roll sisters. And a story evocative of the band Heart piques my interest, even if Haim sounds absolutely nothing like Heart.

This is one of those bands that sort of might be genius or they might be something else. Which means, of course, that they are probably genius.

It is undeniably POP. Folks are saying otherwise, but it is pop.

Saying it is pop does not mean it is bad... just. You know. Call it what it is.

The album Days Are Gone is extraordinarily polished. Some are saying they sound like Fleetwood Mac. I can hear some of that, in the vocals, which are at turns angelic and sultry-silky in the way of Christine McVie, but musically it sounds a bit like a mash-up of 80's pop and some late 70's pop with 90's sensibilities and tomorrow's musical engineering tech. (There's that word again - pop. It seems I can't stress the pop description enough. Pop. POP.) If I were to draw a comparison to other pop-icons from the 70s, though, I would say that Haim sounds and feels more like a modern, female version of the Bee Gees. Listen to the rhythm guitar.

But then, just when you think you've figured it out, their sound changes just enough to keep you guessing. They dance right up to edginess and slip back into polish, often within the same song, like an aural post-modern collage. So we, the listening public keep looking for Something That Has Come Before on which to hang an appropriate comparison that will stick, but there are so many varying elements of Things That Have Come Before that all comparisons are bound to be slippery.

That is what makes Haim impressive.

One minute they sound like the Eagles, the next they sound like T'Pau (yeah, I went there) and neither of those things really work, so that ultimately, they sound like themselves.

However, I shall offer two videos to compare... Pretty much just the first few measures of each song works in comparison to the other, but I leave this here as an example about what I mean re: Haim and slippery comparisons.


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