Tag Archives: michael shea

Michael Shea — The Extra

Set at an unspecified time in the future, The Extra details a Los Angeles in which the poor live down on the ground in a lawless mess called the Zoo, the middle-class live in high rises that aren’t a whole lot better, and the rich live above all of them, separated and safe. And the movies are “live action,” where extras who volunteer to enter the sets risk a 1 in 6 chance of surviving to the end of the film, where they receive rich bonuses. The latest of these films is Alien Hunger, where the APPs (Anti-Personnel Properties, the monsters of the movie) are some of the most terrifying yet. Into this mess, Jool, Curtis, and Japh decide to try their luck, teaming up in hopes of surviving to the end of the film. Into this mess are thrown Kate and Rod, two assistant directors who have annoyed Val Margolian, the godlike and slightly nutty director of this monstrosity.

Sound ridiculous enough for you yet? It only gets more ridiculous from here. A sharp satire (though of what I’m not quite sure… so many targets) with a numerous shift of viewpoints, The Extra combines humor, action, and very colloquial writing. The last was one of my main problems with the book, though, the “future” slang/speaking patterns was a little grating, especially when the book switched so rapidly between jarringly different voices. The pacing was also a little odd; the first half a slow build-up (not quite boring, but at a certain point you kind of just want him to get to it already) and then the second half is just non-stop chaos.

Still, mostly enjoyable, and certainly very readable, it’s possible to blow through this book in an hour or two. Shea has managed to create a somewhat frighteningly plausible scenario, and then presented it in an engaging manner. If you like slapstick, occasionally horrific violence, a fast-paced plot that doesn’t give you much room for a pause, and inventive monsters (both of the APP and human kind) then you’ll probably enjoy The Extra. It won’t be making a permanent space on my shelf, but I’m not sorry I read it.

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The Free Library of Philadelphia

Today, I decided to go to the Free Library of Philadelphia, Central Branch. It’s a gorgeous building and today was a gorgeous day. Since I needed the exercise, I decided to walk there. It ended up being about two miles, and took me about an hour to get there, because I stopped to take photographs along the way–and get shooed off the set of the Bradley Cooper and Robert DeNiro movie, which is shooting on Market Street right now.

The library building itself, as you can see, is both gorgeous and gigantic. It’s right next to the Family Court, which is a building of similar style, and taken together they are quite impressive. Both of them are right on the Parkway, so there are wide streets, trees, greens, and fountains all around. It’s our Champs-Élysées, from what I hear.

Just in case you didn’t know it was free. It’s Free!

The library is gigantic, but I spend most of my time in the Philbrick Popular Library, since that’s where the majority of their fiction is. Even though this is only one section of the library, it’s two stories! Against the back wall in the high stacks is most of the fiction, in the middle of the floor, you’ve got everything from mass market paperback sci-fi to audiobooks to new arrivals. It’s easy to waste an hour or two in here. The only problem is that you sometimes have to watch out who’s in the stacks with you: the very first time I came down here, two drunk homeless guys were arguing loudly in Spanish in the lower stacks, and then started fighting. They were ejected after the library called the police, but it’s usually a lot quieter than that.

Here are the stacks from the top view. I enjoy going up there, though the stacks are very close and the light is rather dim.

It’s a little eerie, as you can see:

I also like the “Just Returned” section. Not only can you sometimes snag a book right out from under the queue’s nose, but I also like to see what Philadelphia’s been reading. Surprisingly, it’s not as dire as you’d think, some of the titles people are checking are really great. There were also a surprising number of returned copies of Ulysses. I wonder if the checkers actually read them, or just returned them in frustration.

Finally, here are the fruits of my labor. I didn’t take too many out because I was planning to walk home again. Unfortunately, my messenger bag doesn’t provide the best support… so I thought it would be better to keep it light.


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