The Joy and Agony of Racing

I’m a race fan. Specifically an open wheel race fan (i.e. Formula 1, Indy cars).  I’ve been a race fan all my life.  I remember watching the Indy 500 every year with my dad.  It was and still is a big deal and a must watch every single year.  Memorial Day in the states would not be the same without the Indy 500.  There are many aspects about racing I love – the fast cars, the guys (and a few gals here and there) who can drive incredibly well, the skill it takes to maneuver a car at a high rate of speed in very small spaces or tight turns, etc.  The one thing I hate about racing is the deaths that happen because of it.

This weekend the racing community lost another soul. Justin Wilson, racing at Pocono raceway in Pennsylvania, was hit in the head by flying debris from a crash that happened seconds before. Watching the race, it was hard to see at first.  Then the broadcast slowed down the scene and viewers could see the exact moment a large piece of debris hit Justin on the head.  He was wearing a helmet, but a helmet is no match for a large object being hurtled at a high rate of speed. It was devastating to watch and I knew when nothing was being said about his condition that the news wasn’t good.  Last night came the announcement that Justin passed away from his injuries.  Sad, sad news.

This the agony of racing.  Yes racing in inherently dangerous, open wheel even more so due to the make up of the cars, but seeing someone get hurt and die is horrible.  When I hear someone say “I only watch because of the crashes” I want to scream at them “what is your problem? people die in crashes; crashes are bad.” I’d much rather see someone skillfully avoid a crash than see an actual crash.  Crashes are scary and not worth the outcome. I don’t care what anyone says, they aren’t worth it.

I grew up watching Indy cars in what was more or less their heyday.  The Andrettis, the Unsers, the Rahals, etc.  I got to see them all race and I loved it. Then I started watching Formula 1.  Though I missed F1’s true heyday, I still got to see a lot of great racers – Michael Schumacher, Mika Hakkinen, Damon Hill, etc. I even got a few driver autographs (Sir Jackie Stewart one among the few). F1’s heyday had rampant fatalities, so I’m kind of glad I didn’t see those happen. Through all of this time I’ve seen racers die – Greg Moore, Jules Bianchi, Dan Wheldon, Justin Wilson, and I’m sure others I can’t recall right now, and it makes me so sad.

Why do I continue to watch racing when tragedy occurs?  Like the drivers who participate and the crews who work on the cars, I love racing. It’s full of great competition and thrilling results. Those who race, love it and accept the dangers that come with it.  As with many other things in life, you either have to embrace something to feel its full effects, or chose not to partake in it. I chose to keep on watching races. Justin Wilson was able to save six other lives through organ donation. So, while his family grieves, they were able to help others live on. Hopefully this will bring some peace to his family.

I thank the drivers who are brave enough to get into the cars every time and risk their lives.  They have brought much entertainment and joy, as well as sorrow. They keep on racing, and I will continue to watch.

 

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Hostile Takeover by Shane Kuhn

HostileTakeoverWhat’s an amiable assassin to do when the woman he loves tries to kill him and the company he’s worked for all his life betrays him? the-mad-reviewer-reading-challenge-2015Why, marry that woman and aggressively take over the betraying company, of course. John Lago, the likable assassin from The Intern’s Handbook, is back in Hostile Takeover, by Shane Kuhn.  This time John is fighting for a life with Alice while at the same time trying to get Human Resources, Inc., running in his vision.  Though things don’t go as smoothly as John would like.  Helming HR, Inc. with Alice is troublesome.  Alice wants to run things her way while John wants it to go another way.  Add to that a mysterious client whom Alice is not willing to reveal to John, and you have trouble in paradise.

Hostile Takeover (HT) is the second book in the John Lago series.  I wouldn’t call this a sequel since the story stands on its own and there’s enough background on John and Alice’s past you don’t need to read the first book (though, I highly recommend you do).  HT offers more depth into John’s character and is really about John and Alice’s relationship.  Running a company is hard enough.  Throw your spouse into it and things get downright contentious.  John and Alice start things off great and the honeymoon stage is everything John dreamed of.  However when John and Alice get started with the business side of their relationship, things go downhill fast.  John has a weakness of not taking people out when he should, and that comes back to bite him in the ass in the most inopportune moment.  Alice is a cutthroat as ever, as well as a bad-ass who shouldn’t be messed with. John’s got a real battle on his hands this time around.

I’ve read comparisons where Shane Kuhn is said to be in the same vein as Quentin Tarantino in terms of the feel of his books (Dexter is another but I haven’t read/seen either so won’t speak to that).  I think Kuhn is more along the lines of Robert Rodriguez (Desperado, Once Upon a Time in Mexico). Kuhn’s stories have more substance and intelligence to them than coincidence and luck (Tarantino vs. Rodriguez).  HT has a bit of a slower pace than Intern’s Handbook, but the action sequences are well written and easy to visualize. John Lago is a fun and enjoyable character who is determined to find happiness in his life. Kuhn does a good job of tying things up at the end, while also leaving room for future stories to happen.

I highly recommend Hostile Takeover (as well as The Intern’s Handbook). It’s a good, enjoyable read, with a likable main character who is easy to root for.

The Dead Lands by Benjamin Percy

wpid-20150621_152529.jpgThere have always been the restless souls.  Those among us who have to break free, to see other sites, to find somethe-mad-reviewer-reading-challenge-2015thing new or different. The desire and need to explore has always been present.  This time, familiar names are once again exploring – Lewis and Clark.  Similar names, different souls. The route is similar as well, but the land has been ravaged.

Mankind, after an unstoppable flu swept through the land, let loose their most destructive weapons in hopes of stopping the unstoppable.  The land is now inhospitable and toxic, the sun’s rays lashing skin with reckless abandon, creatures, malformed from the fallout, lurk everywhere.  This version of Lewis is reluctant and unsure.  This Clark, a female, more confident in her desire that they will find a livable terrain.  Their home, St. Louis was their Sanctuary.  It was turned to a living prison by a megalomaniac mayor.  Lewis and Clark secretly head out, following Gaewa,  the mysterious black eyed stranger, to an unknown land looking for resources and a better life.  The search for a better life won’t be an easy one  – not for Lewis and Clark and not for those left behind in Sanctuary.  

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Me and B. Percy

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B. Percy

Benjamin Percy’s most recent book, The Dead Lands, has a quote on the cover from Stephen King reading “Good God, what a tale. Don’t miss it.” While my reaction to the book wasn’t quite as enthusiastic, I do agree with King.  The Dead Lands is a great tale and has the feel of an epic journey.  The story is engrossing and wraps you into a cocoon of a pleasing narrative.  Lewis Meriwether and Mina Clark, a post-apocalyptic rendering of the original explorers, make a good team.  Clark, an alcoholic, and Lewis, a drug addicted hermit, offer a good balance to one another. They eventually come to rely on each other as well.  The events in Sanctuary serve as a secondary story.  I enjoyed finding out how life continued on for those living in Sanctuary after Lewis and Clark’s departure.  Another aspect I liked was how, just as a chapter was leading to a exciting point, Percy cut away to action in another spot.  Initially making me want to keep on reading to find out what just happened, then finding myself engrossed in the new chapter, to only be ripped away again.

I had the opportunity to go see Benjamin Percy at a local bookstore as part of his tour in support of The Dead Lands. It has been my favorite author event to date.  Percy has a deep, booming voice reminiscent of a movie trailer announcer.  In person he’s an excellent storyteller and very captivating to listen to. One thing he mentioned was how sometimes the lead up to the conclusion was much more exciting than the actual ending.  The anticipation sometimes getting the better of you with expectations being much higher than they should be. He conveyed this in what I thought was an extremely funny, long-story joke.  The punch line was very “ugh, really?”, but the lead up to it and the story surrounding it was very satisfying, making up for the mediocre ending.  If you ever have the chance to go see him, don’t miss it.  It’ll be well worth your time.

The Dead Lands was an enjoyable read.  It’s definitely much more of a tale that engrosses you than a story you can read and set aside and go back to. The post-apocalyptic setting seems very feasible given the threat of mass-destruction weapons in today’s reality. Percy is a eloquent writer but sometimes tends towards the too wordy.  That being said, I’d take a well written, too wordy story over a badly written, short line story any day.

If you like books that take you on a journey this one’s for you.

Finders Keepers by Stephen King

wpid-20150621_152459.jpgA fan so obsessed with an author that he’s willing to kill that author in order to seek vengeance.  Vengeance solely for the fact he the-mad-reviewer-reading-challenge-2015didn’t like the direction of the last book and that the author hasn’t published anything new in years.  That’s the basic premise in Stephen King’s most recent novel Finders Keepers.  Morris Bellamy, the obsessed fan, does the unthinkable and breaks into author John Rothstein’s home, in order to find notebooks of unpublished material Rothstein is rumored to keep in his home.  And oh, there’s some money too, but that’s only an extra bonus for Bellamy.  It’s the unpublished material Bellamy is most concerned with.  The material that could contain more about his favorite character: Jimmy Gold.  After the break-in, murder of Rothstein, and subsequent theft of said notebooks and cash, Bellamy stashes his bounty with plans to read the notebooks at a later date.  Bellamy, being a criminal, ends up getting locked up for another crime, causing him to be separated for years from the one thing he believes will give him satisfaction.

Flash forward a few decades to come across Pete Saubers.  Pete’s dad was a victim of the Mr. Mercedes attack and his dad has been out of work since then due to the injuries he sustained.  Pete’s mom and dad are pushed to the brink financially and emotionally. The stress of living off of one paltry income is getting to them and they argue quite often.  During one of these arguments Pete runs out and retreats to the path behind his house.  He stumbles upon something buried and finds Bellamy’s buried treasure. The money can help his family out but the notebooks are what eventually capture Pete’s attention. This puts him on a collision course with Bellamy. Bill Hodges, Holly Gibney, and Jerome Robinson (the detective trio from Mr. Mercedes) must find a way to help Pete avoid a deadly encounter due to his find.

Finders Keepers is the second book in the Mr Mercedes trilogy.  However this second book didn’t read or feel like it was part of a trilogy. Yes there are connecting factors but this book does a good job of standing on its own.  The first third of the book didn’t even reference Mr. Mercedes, instead telling Bellamy’s story.  I found this refreshing since it allowed this book to not fall into any standard trilogy trope (this is what happened before, and these people are, etc.).  Even the appearance of the detective trio didn’t take center stage.  This was more about Bellamy and Saubers and how obsession can ruin a life if you let it.  This is the second time King writes about fan obsession and it was good to see he took a different approach this time. Every fan is different and a separate plot from a previous work is key to making the book interesting.

This isn’t King’s best work, it was a fun read but not quite on par with some of King’s better books.  Don’t get me wrong – I really enjoyed this book and I think most King fans and non-fans will as well.  There was a good pace and the story-line never felt bogged down.  The ending seems to allude to a potential thread into the third book so it will be interesting to see how all three fit together when the final book comes out.

As is usually the case with King books, this Constant Reader was very happy to have read this book and is looking forward to what comes next.