The Two Mikes

The Two Mikes
Ever wanted to talk with someone about a book you just read? You could just join a book group and talk about it, drink a little, veer off on tangents, work back around to the book again, and finally wrap it up by picking the next book.

But what happens when the book you just read is about about hungry zombies or a haunted house, and your Eat, Pray, Love–reading friends aren’t really into reading it, much less discussing its finer points? That’s what we’re here for. We Two Mikes will be your virtual book group for discussing new and interesting and old and half-forgotten horror books.

If you want to follow along with us, look at the next forbidden book on the table and start reading.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Episode 94 : Peter Cline's 14

The Two Mike's decided to sublet from Peter Cline in his novel 14.   If anything, it proves that you should look through your lease agreement carefully, because if you mess with the thermostat you might bring about the apocalypse. For sure you won't get your security deposit back. 

Cocktail Time!

The Lovecraft Daiquiri (or the Lovecraftaiquiri) 

In a cocktail shaker place:

Crushed ice
2 parts Berry Simple Syrup*
2 parts dark rum
Juice of one large lime

Shake, strain into a martini glass and garnish with a berry

*  Berry Simple Syrup

In a heavy bottomed sauce pan put in one cup sugar to one cup water and heat and dissolve. Do not bring to a boil.  Once the sugar is dissolved, crush in a1/2 cup of any kind of dark fruit and allow that to warm through. Take off heat and allow to cool. Once the mixture in cooled, stain and keep the dark syrup. ( You can put the berries on pancakes or something.)


The Far Stairs said...

Jesse Livingston here. I finally finished 14, and I have to say it was a real rollercoaster ride of disappointment. I LOVED the first half and HATED the second half. I think I had the opposite experience from Skeptical Mike — I found the buildup enthralling and the payoff excruciating. It was like racing through a fantastic wilderness and then slamming into a wall and getting dragged through a swamp verrrrry slowwwwwwwly.

Lost is one of my favorite things in the world, and I definitely saw the similarities. I'm one of the few who liked the ending of Lost, but the ending of 14 went in a very different direction. Like it or hate it, Lost created a pretty original mythology and ended on its own terms. 14 took a sharp turn into someone else's well-worn territory and ended as though the author were desperately pushing some broken-down, cobbled-together contraption to the finish line of a race no one came to see.

I'm a Lovecraft fan, but as soon as the name "Lovecraft" or any of his trademark monsters pop up in someone else's work, I brace myself for the worst. Almost nobody can do Lovecraft without the story becoming very silly. Even Lovecraft couldn't always do Lovecraft without the story getting silly. But he knew how to instill a kind of reverent weight in his creations and make the whole thing feel like a nightmare. The dream-logic of his stories is what makes them work. When you try to explain Lovecraftian things with regular logic, it sucks big time.

I once tried to read one of Brian Lumley's Titus Crow novels and couldn't get past the first chapter. It was like Lovecraft got assaulted by Jules Verne. There were a bunch of bearded Victorian adventurers running around in waistcoats, subduing the Cthulhu Mythos with very little trouble. It took all the fascinating madness out of the equation. I got the same feeling here. It literally made my skin crawl. I could barely make myself finish the book.

It's worth repeating that I absolutely adored the first half. It gave me otherworldly tingles in all the right places. It was a beautiful and genuinely unsettling mystery — and then came the squales. Yes, the monumental majesty and brain-shattering terror of Cthulhu was reduced to... a squale. Could there be any less impressive word in the universe than "squale"? I felt like the characters were getting chased from obligatory set-piece to obligatory set-piece by angry mice with wooden swords.


The Far Stairs said...


True, the characters were kind of underwritten and cutesy at the best of times, but I didn't care about that when they were given interesting things to do. Solving the mystery of the building was riveting — until they solved the mystery of the building. Then it became mundane and boring, and the shortcomings of the writing really started to bother me. People responded to the experience of an entirely new reality by cracking sarcastic jokes. A gruff older cowboy man that everyone looked up to died saying, "You've got to go on without me!" There were squales. A man said, "I know how to fix this and get back to our world! All we have to do is—" and immediately got eaten by a squale (that was the moment when I almost stopped reading). People raced from one place to another making snap assumptions about what was going on, and these assumptions were pretty much always correct, because it was just the author taking the lazy route to tell us what was going on. A mob of monsters chased our heroes, and they shut the door JUST IN TIME. The climax of the novel was people turning dials and levers and GOING TO THE STOREROOM TO GET FUSES because the machine JUST WOULDN'T WORK. Every time they tried to turn it on and something else went wrong, I groaned inwardly and looked to see how much time was left in the audiobook. The final earthshaking action moment was punctuated by someone saying, "Fuck you, bitch."

By the time the book was over, I wanted all the characters to be eaten by a squale. I wanted the world to end and squales to consume us all. Squales for everyone! I hated the ending with the passion of someone who has loved deeply and been betrayed. I'm not familiar with Peter Clines' other work, but I have to wonder: did he think he was writing something really good here? I'm always curious about an author's process. He seems like a very genre-aware writer — so much so that he constantly lampoons his own use of various tired horror or sci-fi tropes (but uses them anyway).

I can picture him one of two ways:

1.) He's sitting at his computer, trying to finish the novel, thinking to himself, This isn't great, but I've gotta get it done. I hope it sorta hangs together.

2.) He's typing furiously, thinking to himself, SQUALES! I AM A GENIUS!

Which one is it? I would honestly believe either scenario. He seems talented enough and self-aware enough to know that he's churning out some pretty ridiculous material, but then why doesn't he go back and make it better? Time constraints? Lack of inspiration? He just doesn't care?

Maybe this was a case where he had a great idea, ran out of steam halfway through, but kept convincing himself he was nailing it. Then again, the idea only seemed great when I didn't know what was going on. The mystery was brilliant, but the idea behind it wasn't so hot. I mean, I was into the world's population hitting critical mass and knocking down the dimension barriers, but Lovecraft's grandfather and Nikolai Tesla building a machine to save humanity? idk man.

So, thank you, Peter Clines, for telling me a thrilling half-story. You gave me several hours of top-notch entertainment before it all went so horribly wrong. (I’m trying to look at this from a squale-half-full perspective.) Some mysteries are best left unsolved, but I’m certain your publisher wouldn’t have let you write it that way. You did the best you could, and it was at least worth talking about. It was, indeed, superDUPERnatural.


PS — My suggestions for a better title would be The Id and the Squale, Lackadaisical Los Angelinos Unlocke Lovecraftian Lameness, or If the World Should End in Squales... said...

Hey Jesse!

I was just looking through old comments and saw this excellent comment for the first time. Sorry not to react sooner. Checking comments is just not something I do often enough here.

You're right about 14; the book has not long lived in my memory or esteem. I'd even forgotten about the squales, Clearly, though, The Id and the Squale is the better title.

Hope you're doing well. Keep listening!

Mike S.