Zero Saints by Gabino Iglesias- A big ass review.

There is gonna be a LOT to unpack.

TL:dr- This is a great fucking book. If you like supernatural, crime and can handle some Spanish get it. Yes amazon link srry.

LONG VERSION. Some spoilers may happen.

I was given a copy of this book a bit after it came out by a dear friend who had read it and decided I HAD to read it.

Zero Saints starts with the kind of wry, first person humor during what builds to be an ass kicking that I like. The first four pages let us know that we’re in for a wild ass ride. The violence isn’t of the sort that is immediate and all the way in your face, Gabino’s style in this book is intimate, we are in Fernando’s skin (at least I am and we’ll get to that) so in the beginning of this book we know a few things. We know Fernando (not his name yet) is in trouble, big fucking trouble.

When I saw the line about Fernando praying to la Santa Muerta, y’alls….my lil woo self got all fucking excited. Following the mention came the first of much Spanish and I have enough Spanish to have gotten the gist of what was going on and this brings me to my first pointed remark. I have seen some reviews (too goddamn many) that make a point to complain about the amount of Spanish. Like…okay I don’t want to quote Junot Diaz but, the quote about folks willing to read Elvish or whatever and who will bitch about Spanish.

There is a lot of Spanish. Personally, I can read more Spanish than I can speak and I am not at all fluent. That said, when I felt like it really mattered, I looked shit up because like most of us I carry a computer in my pocket and the internet exists.

Anyway.

The action picks up very fast and things get real bloody. While the action is revving up, I really love that there is a low key grace in Gabino’s writing. It is brutal, it does go from 10 to 100 and there is beauty there. We know from jump that Fernando is no super badass, his fear is written in a very real way that gives us a glimpse of a well written and rich character.

Details like how Fernando stops being able to really think with everything happening, really grabbed me. This book is a really great example of why I love first person POV so much. Using this POV in this book gives us skin to skin contact, we get to be intimate with the story and with Fernando and that my friends, is my shit.

I don’t want to spoil stuff plotwise so let’s talk about skill and craft.

First let’s talk why I love how Fernando is written and thus love being so close to his skin. Fernando is written as a kind of mysterious type, we get glimpses of a life he’s lived before. he had problems. He has nightmares, he needs oxies to sleep on the regular but in particular during what’s going on in the book. We get this bloody meaty human which in noir circles can be sparse.

Gabino does a few sly little shifts to second person and I am here for it. What makes these so effective is that, the shift slows the eye. We are dragged into the reality of this situation almost gently and then there’s blood and teeth on the floor. Gabino does an excellent job of balancing Fernando’s horrific situation with glimpses into his tender heart.

He has a crush on a girl, this bit when we meet Yolanda is exquisite:

“How do you tell a woman you like that you’re a fucking coward?”

In the context of the things Fernando has experienced, the glimpses of his past we know he is not a coward and this line, just got me. I love a cis het dude with some self awareness and written with tenderness. Yes, this is a violent as fuck book that has a heart. Like most of the noir I love, our main character is someone I want to slap and hug and then put the fuck to bed.

It takes a firm grasp on one’s masculinity and a deft hand to write cis het men with heart. It just does. Especially in noir, especially when there is also violence. Too often, I think a lot of cis male characters wind up being all balls and no heart and that is boring. If you write cis het dudes, read this book.

Now, let’s talk about the super natural aspects of this book.

His use of diasporic spiritual practices is superb. When we meet Consuelo, that is where things get really deep to me. Again, I don’t want to be too spoilery but I do want to mention that, in researching to do this review, I noticed a lot of folks didn’t comment on the loveliness of the spirtuality and how the supernatural is handled in this book. That bugs me.

The introduction of Ogun changes the tone of the situation in this book. When I first read it, I said Oh Shit out loud. The violence and drug dealing by themselves didn’t quite give me the gravity of bringing in Ogun as part of the action. I think other readers, especially those unfamiliar with Afro/Latinx diasporic religions probably missed out on that. I am pretty sure that my familiarity, bred my excitement in this case.

In chapter 5 and the end of chapter 4, the depth of love Fernando is shown really touched me. Again I don’t wanna be spoilery but, the ritual and the egg, that’s fuckin love y’all. The novenas given to Fernando, the way in the book the prayers are set out in full touched my heart. These moments of love and hope are what balance the brutality of much of the book. I think in a lot of other reviews I read, I was missing the appreciation of as I said above, tenderness.

Ahem.

Before I go much further, let’s kind of ease to the end here because I wanna be super spoilery and I hate that.

The introduction of the Russian was another great touch to me and a perfect example of cross cultural understanding. This is transgressive because there is no push/pull in how Nando and the Russian communicate and come together. That is fucking real.

The thing I love best about this book is that without the tenderness, moments of gentle handling and sadness it would STILL be a good book.

Gabino Iglesias is a bad mother fucker.

WITH the tenderness, love, and tears this is a great book. Like most books I love, this little gorgeous thing is meaty. It is bloody not just in the violent sense but in the sense of it having a pulse, this work has a heart that as you are pulled into Nando’s fucked up life, you feel it in your hands.

And okay y’all, I don’t say this often but this book ended perfectly. Just, y’all it fucked me up in the best way. And like books I love, I want more.

What is greater is that I’m more familiar with Gabino’s work and hustle and I am here for it. This book is on my list of recommendations for actually transgressive work that lives outside of the Great White Western Ideals and does so in shining, haunting, bloody fashion.

Go read it. Read Gabino’s tweeter.

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Midnight Taxi Tango- The Big Ole Review

Midnight-Taxi-Tango-Hi-Res-635x1024
Yes this is a big ass image. But LOOK AT THIS FUCKING COVER.

This is my review of Daniel Jose Older’s Midnight Taxi Tango. First, I recommend going back here and reading my review of the first novel in this series Half-Resurrection Blues: A Bone Street Rumba Novel

Ahem.

The short version goes like this. I devoured about half the novel when it came in the mail, threw it on the floor and just sat muttering, “this motherfucker right here…” it is an excellent follow up to Half-Resurrection Blues. If grown folks urban fantasy and magic is what you like, this shit right here is what you want.

Okay, so I’m going to put a read more cause thar b spoilers and it’s about to get nerdy as hell up in here.

No, seriously, I’m about to dork out on a whole other level and if you want to not witness my nerd meltdown.

Y’all been warned.

Continue reading “Midnight Taxi Tango- The Big Ole Review”

The Grace of Kings- Review and Musings

I just finished Ken Liu’s epic, The Grace of Kings. I have some thoughts and we’re gonna get kinda nerdy.

I will put a read more in where spoilers start.

The short version. This is a silkpunk gigantic beautiful creation. There is an excerpt here and I highly recommend checking it out.

What I enjoy about this novel is the scope. I have the deepest admiration for writers in whatever genre who can create these huge worlds and do it with a fine enough eye to not lose the reader but still maintain the beauty of a new world.

I love the prose. Love it. The ease of the language that is unfamiliar is really well done. One of the things I am a huge fan of is when an author an take language that is all their own creation and make it seamless within the narrative. This from the glossary is one of my favorite things:

-tika: suffix expressing endearment among family members.

This is not an easy book. There are a lot of things to keep track of and people who aren’t fans of lots of background and detail won’t be fans. There are histories, poems, social information. It is a lot.

Personally, I love that sort of thing so it is right up my alley.

Overall, it is an intense and a lovely read. Totally immersive, almost to the point of distraction for me, but still very enjoyable. I did take a few issues, but there are spoilers, so read further at your own peril.

Continue reading “The Grace of Kings- Review and Musings”

Dr. Sleep a nerdy fangirl review.

So prepare yourselves. My review of Dr. Sleep is going down.

First remember I have been a King lover since I was in the third grade when I read Fire Starter.

I have read 90% of his work and I’m about to get real nerdy real quick. I’ll try to keep any serious spoilers to a minimum.

Ahem.

Short version I really enjoyed the book and felt it is a fitting end to the story that started with The Shining.

Long Version.

We start out with Dan Torrence all grown up. He is in rough shape when we meet up with him. First we find out the fall out from what happened at the Overlook. When I re-read the Shining as an adult these were things I wondered about because we don’t get to know these things in most horror novels.

Life for Danny is real bad. Logically if we follow the thread from the trauma at the Overlook, the trauma of life with his dad and everything else we can’t be surprised.

In the first part of the book the exposition of what is going on with Danny is beautiful and painful. It is so sad, and King as usual features the tension between the rational and the irrational so well. It’s a fine line to tread when you’re dealing with regular people who have extraordinary gifts. Too little of the rational and shit gets old, too much and you ,miss the supernatural elements.

Further in we start to see Dan get his life unfucked. The book is a bit heavy on AA aphorisms and culture, that’s okay.  If you don’t have addiction issues or are unfamiliar with the culture some of the book may pass you by a little bit but, it’s not insurmountable.

When Dan settles down we start finding out about the antagonists. The True knot. I love how King handles them, the leader Rose in particular with her tusk. The imagery of this beautiful ultimately awful inhuman creature is pretty great.

Let’s get nerdy. As far as horror goes, my favorite horror gets to the gristle of what makes humans cringe. Shit, the smell of death, the idea that someone could and will destroy everything you are by barely lifting a finger. This is one of my favorite things about King’s work overall. Way back when it was free I read an essay about writing by Chuck Palahniuk that talked about writing on the body. See a bit of that here at Litreactor.

This is something I feel like a lot of modern horror lacks. The real touch as it were. Some of the horror I’ve read in the past few years relied very heavily on the gross out. Ew fat people, ew the ghetto, ew periods. Being that I’m old enough to have seen quarts and quarts of blood coming out of my vagina and don’t ascribe to the ew fat people are gross mania that tends to be lost on me.

From a writing standpoint I believe in the body. Whether it is horror or not there are things that happen in the body tht when we write about them, we give our readers a bit of sure knowledge. I feel like it is empowering and gives writing serious urgency.

Back to Dr. Sleep.

Overall the first portion of the book drew me in very efficiently.

However.

Dude, Mr King. Come ON man.

The one trope King hits like a hammer came up but not in a huge way. The Magical Negro. We get to see Dick Halloran again and much as he was necessary it did remind me that I need for the Black folks in his books to not always be the kind of Old Magical Blues Man trope.

I do like that he tries to include Black characters in many of his books and has done so for a long time.

I don’t like that they are not just folks, or just magical folks without hitting those magical negro tropes so hard. The major Black characters are Magical Old Negroes full of wisdom who guide the White kids towards something.

Really?

Do we still have to do that?

The other thing is that there is always some hint at AAVE without t being full on AAVE. There is always some patois that feels to me like a yappy little dog jumping up and down while some human yells BUT LOOK THE ARE BLACK! LOOK HERE’S THE BLACK PERSON! LOOK LOOK.

It takes me out of the story.

Pro tip for White writers.

You can just say a character is Black and mention it periodically in a longer work, and that’s all you have to do. You don’t have to make them into the Magical Negro or change their speech pattern.

So through the book including a minor female character there were those moments that made me stop reading to roll my eyes.

Beyond that, I do love where Dan’s life starts to go. This is going to be vague but um…shit okay.

So remember Tony? His little voice. He comes back and I was afraid would be overused but actually King used that voice very effectively.

Next we meet the next iteration of a kid with the shining Abra, is a nice kid who has mega power. I like how he wrote her from birth.

I am awful at reviewing without spoilers.

I will point to the way Abra as an infant totally loses her baby shit because she knows something awful is gonna happen. It does put me in mind of infants I have cared for who seemingly totally lost it to the point of me panicking. For parents it’ll be a moment you know and probably remember with dread.

Can we talk about the villains?

The True Knot is a nightmare. If you don’t shine you’re not really in danger unless they rook you but they are fucking scary. It is way scarier to me to think of evil beings who look and seem like average Americans.

So basically it is pretty good. I think the end went a bit long for my taste.  There are also a few spots where I felt like the pacing was a bit dodgy. But if you want to know the end of the story started in The Shining read it.

Now okay, under this I’m gettin real nerdy. Spoilers. You’ve been warned.

Continue reading “Dr. Sleep a nerdy fangirl review.”