I rarely talk about other writers. It's like fight club. The first rule of fight club is you don't talk about fight club. Other writers. You don't talk about them. But if you do, it better be good. See, we're a pretty close community. Of the three authors I mentioned, I know Peter, I'm going to appear at an event next week with Pierce, but I don't know Russel Banks yet. Chances are I'll meet him eventually. So when I do talk about other authors it's always because I'm so damned thrilled to be able to share something special. And let me tell you, these guys are special.
Peter Straub is one of my top five literary idols. I absolutely cherish the fact that I've not only been able to meet him, but that I've also been able to share many private moments with him over the years. For a long time I felt The Throat was his best work. It's a dark mystery with characters so well-wrought, I had actual emotions about their fates. But I recently read a book that's been sitting in by TBR pile for about two years. Every do that? Ever grab a book of your To Be Read pile because it's next in line only to berate yourself for not reading it sooner because it was that good? Well, I did that for A Dark Matter.
It's the story of a group of young adults who fall ensnared by the cult of personality of Spenser Mallon, who takes all but one of the group into a field one night where something spectacular and terrible and magical happens. I love it that the main POV character is the one who didn't go. You feel his regret even though he denies it. That feeling of regret is the thru line for the novel. Everyone has it. Some regret having seen it. Some regret not having done something specific. (Sorry, have to be vague here). Everyone has some form of regret or another.
We all know regret. It's one of those emotional responses for which there is no cure. Once a moment is gone, once a chance isn't taken, it's gone. Perhaps this resonated with me so well because I was reminded of my own regret when reading this. A Dark Matter is Peter's greatest work and I'm not only proud of him for writing it, but feel extremely lucky that for it to exist.
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I first met a Russel Banks book in an airport in D.C. I had nothing to read and the cover of The Reserve caught me. I opened it up and the words grabbed me. I finished it that night. So when I was perusing Powell's Books in Portland five hours after I finished A Dark Matter and saw the cool cover of Rule of Bone, I snatched it. What can I say about The Rule of Bone? It's a bildungsroman- a coming of age story. Written from a 14 year old delinquent's point of view, The Rule of Bone creates its own mythology, populated by mythological characters like I-Man and Froggy and Evening Star. It's a young man's search for his place in the universe, his father, and a reason to not snap and kill everyone in sight. I began reading it at the airport the next morning, and finished it late that evening. It's that good.
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The following weekend I did a book signing at Mysterious Galaxy in San Diego where I premiered by new novel, Grunt Life. I asked Patrick Heffernan, the store manager, which book I should read. He pointed to Red Rising so I bought it. I began to read it the next morning as I waited on the airport shuttle to return home and finished it that night. Pierce Brown hit it out of the park on the first try. Yes, it's his first novel. Rather than envious, I'm very proud to welcome him to our field. But I almost didn't grab it. The cover, for as bold as it is, I thought it was about angels and I didn't feel like reading another angel novel. And the blurb in the cover compared it to Enders Game and Catching Fire. Wow, that was gutsy. Seriously? But Patrick is a good sort so I took his work on it and by am I happy I did because it is like Catching Fire and Ender's Game. I don't want to spoil it. It's a science fiction book that takes place in a far distant future where Mars has already been colonized and terraformed. It's about class systems, revenge, and honor. It's a pretty miraculous book. Not only is the book a cousin to those others, but it broke new ground. Really looking forward to meeting Pierce next week.
Reading three amazing books in a row got my juices flowing. I finished a novella and wrote a story since then. Now to work on two outlines for novels, and to start my next one. I've been contracted to write two more Grunt Life novels. Fans are already clamoring for more. And yes, that's a good thing.
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Weston Ochse is the author of twenty books, most recently two SEAL Team 666 books, which the New York Post called 'required reading' and USA Today placed on their 'New and Notable List of 2012.' His newest novel is Grunt Life and is already in its second printing. Visit him online at www.westonochse.com