the Little Red Reviewer

Posts Tagged ‘Detroit

Last month,  Book Forager and I read Lauren Beukes’s Broken Monsters. This book came out a while ago, but we both realized it was a book we had been meaning to get to. . . and just needed a nudge to finally read.   As we each got through different portions of the books, we’d email back and forth our thoughts and questions for each other.  Our conversation morphed in a shared Google Doc for us to chat back and forth about our favorite characters, the weirdness of this book, the ending (holy crap that ending!!), and that a book that is ostensibly about a serial killer made me cry.

 

Below, is one half of our conversation,  head over to Book Forager this weekend to read the other half!

 

 

Who were your favorite characters?

Book Forager: I’m torn between Layla, TK and Clayton. Layla is such a badass and I still think she’s the hero of the book. Yes, she’s a teen who’s trying to sort everything out in her head and work out who she is, but she’s got some serious backbone. She takes on VelvetBoy and Travis (which was awesome!), and she seems to understand better than anyone else what’s going on in the factory at the end. She admires Cass without realising just how frigging awesome she is herself.

 

I loved TK from the moment he found those red shoes and handed them over to Ramón instead of keeping them for himself. Everything about his story breaks my heart. At the end of my copy of the book there was an interview with Beukes (was there in yours, Andrea?) and in both that and her acknowledgements she mentions James Harris from the NOAH project at the Central United Methodist Church in Detroit, who allowed her to use details from his personal history. I’m guessing that’s why TK feels so real. Real or not, he’s loyal and smart, an incredibly sympathetic character, and has an odd super power involving chairs.

 

And Clayton. He’s just so well written. I have a soft spot for characters who struggle to interact with the world in an acceptable way. He’s incredibly creepy, and deluded, and I’m not sure I can scrape up that much empathy for him, but I still have a little. At least I did at the beginning. I feel like he’s not quite fully formed, if that makes any sense? I’m guessing he may not be on your favourite characters list Andrea, but how did you feel about Clayton Broom?

 

Andrea:  You guessed right, Clayton totally creeped me out! And yes, I 100% get what you mean that he didn’t feel fully formed. Do you think that was on purpose?  That he’s looking for something that will make him feel (or literally be) fully formed? I’m such an idiot, I thought my book didn’t have the interview in the back. . . .  and I just looked again, just now, and of course it’s there. How did I miss that before??

 

At first I really liked Jonno, more on him in a bit.

 

It’s funny, at the beginning of the book, it looks like Gabrielle and Jonno are being presented as the main characters. And yes, they are both important, but I felt like as the book progressed, Layla, and by extension, Cas, become the main characters.  It is awful that this thriller about a freaky AF serial killer is really Layla’s coming of age book? She starts as this quiet “don’t look at me” kind of girl who is overshadowed by her boisterous best friend, and the tables kind of turn by the end, in a good way.   The crazy shit Layla and Cass do to Velvetboy? Holy crap! And like, I don’t think Layla figures out exactly who she is by the end, but she sure figures out who she isn’t. And wow, what a bonding experience between her and her mom!!!

 

Layla has a unique way of looking at the world,  and I think for teenagers, that unique way is totally normal.  But us adults, we’ve forgotten how to look at the world in such a unique way. If she hadn’t been at the warehouse at the end, the book would have had a much more gruesome ending, I think.  I wonder if Beukes sort of wrote the lead up to the end backwards? Like, she knew Layla had to be there . . . so how to engineer the scenes before to make sure Layla is there? I bet all authors do something like that, where they know certain characters need to be in certain places for certain things to happen, so how do to you make sure people have a legit reason to be where they are supposed to be at the right time?

 

Book Forager: Huh … this is going to sound dumb, but it never occurred to me that Clayton’s not-quite-fully-formed-ness was something deliberate. But that makes complete sense (I feel a real wally!) of what happens to him in the woods (even though I think Beukes is deliberately vague on that score, perhaps to keep the reader guessing about the supernatural elements until later on), and why.

 

Yeah, I felt like Gabrielle and Jonno were going to be the key players too, and I liked the way Layla and Cass slowly moved into the spotlight, how the whole book starts out feeling like a typical procedural and slowly twists into something much more.

Did your favorite character(s) change by the end of the book?

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Alex KourvoA few years ago at ConFusion, I met author Alex Kourvo.  We were on a Book Reviewing panel together, and while the other panelists were fiction reviewers, Alex runs a book review site called Writing Slices, where she reviews “the books that teach you to write”.   She’s reviewed books that focus on writing dialog, books that focus on writing exercises, books for young writers, books that focus on characterization, you name it. If you’re a new writer, a writer who wants to up their game, or just someone interested in craft of writing, Writing Slices can point you in helpful directions.

 

An author and editor, her short fiction has appeared in Fantastical Visions IV and Reflection’s Edge.  Along with her writing partner Harry R. Campion, she is the co-writer of the Detroit Next series of novels and novellas.  The newest book in the Detroit Next series is Living All Day, and if “series” make you nervous, the novels and novellas in this series can be read in any order.   I recent read the first book in the Detroit Next series, The Caline Conspiracy, and it was fantastic. Fast paced, great characters, and a thrilling story that pulled me right in.  Review coming soon!

 

Alex was kind enough to let me pick her brain about just about everything – writing with a partner, the Detroit Next series, the Writing Slices blog, teaching writing workshops, and a lot more.

living all day

LRR: I recently finished the first book in your Detroit Next series, The Caline Conspiracy (it was awesome by the way!), a near future thriller. You co-write this series with author Harry R. Campion. How is writing novels with a partner different than writing on your own? What are the advantages and disadvantages of writing as a team?

AK: Harry and I write short stories separately and I’m working on a solo novel, but our favorite thing is writing together. I couldn’t do this with everyone, but Harry and I share a brain. Often, after the book is published, we can’t remember who wrote which part! When you’re writing with a partner, the first draft goes more quickly, but the editing takes longer. You have to edit for consistency of voice as well as consistency of story. I think we do a good job of blending our voices. That’s why we chose to share the single pen name, “M.H. Mead.”

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Yesterday was such a tease, wasn’t it?  As promised, here is part two of John King Books, with the photos you’ve been waiting for of their famous Science Fiction section.

But first things first, a map.  A terrible picture, but it is a hella cool map. I love that it has a compass in the center, I wouldn’t be surprised if there are little “Here be Dragons” in the small print (and of course, matching pictures on the walls).

Sci-fi is on the 3rd floor,  with the paperbacks oddly mushed between Self Help and Biography, and the Hardbacks found between Automotive and Gardening. Hmm, thinly veiled message? I believe I’ll interpret that as reading Scifi works better than most self help books, and after you read it, you’ll want to build a spaceship (perhaps those automotive books will come in handy) and start a Martian colony (you’ll need some gardening books to get the soil mix correct).

Also, the map doesn’t show it, but the Paperback Sci Fi section has it’s own glass showcase of vintage magazines and a handful of extra bookcases that are TV and movie tie-ins and other more contemporary goodies.

I suppose I’ve teased you long enough, here are the long awaited photos, for your viewing pleasure!

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While in Detroit earlier this week for business, I happened to ask an associate “any good bookstores around here?” and he replied with “well yeah, there’s John King Books“.  Google map in hand, I ditched work early and headed down Jefferson Ave.  Said work associate promised he’d call me later to make sure I hadn’t gotten locked into the bookstore for the night.   My first visit to John King Books was simply amazing. I did get lost, many times, and those were the best way to explore and find things I didn’t even know I was looking for.  Staffed by people who love books, and know their trade, John King Books is a must-visit for any book lover.

I spent a few hours there that first day and shopped till my arms were full (they do have shopping baskets and will of course hold stacks of books at the counter while you continue shopping), and drove right back the next morning, camera in hand. And by the way, if you wish to take photos on your visit, please call ahead and ask permission first. It’s the polite thing to do.

Located right off the Lodge Freeway (M-10) in the business district of Detroit, and with free parking available in a gated lot next to the building, this famous bookstore is easy to find. and Yes, it’s famous as the largest used bookstore in Michigan, and most likely the largest used bookstore in the country.

Walking through John King Books feels a little like reading your way through the stacks and archives in Rothfuss’s Name of the Wind. It’s dark, it’s cold (bring gloves and a hat. I’m not kidding), the organization is based on where they have room at the time,  there are books literally piled everywhere, and a love for books trumps everything else. It’s places like this where the secrets of the universe lurk.

the view from the parking lot:


and let’s go inside:

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some of the books reviewed here were free ARCs supplied by publishers/authors/other groups. Some of the books here I got from the library. the rest I *gasp!* actually paid for. I'll do my best to let you know what's what.