The 6th Extinction
James Rollins, William Morrow, 448 pages
The Sigma Force discovers a threat that could destroy the human race in James Rollins’ 10th book to feature his team of elite scientists and soldiers.
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In “The 6th Extinction,” a military research station near Yosemite National Park experiences a breach. When help arrives, every living thing within 50 square miles is dead, including the bacteria in the dirt. And this blight appears to be spreading. Trying to resolve the crisis, Sigma Force deciphers a clue that leads some of the group to Antarctica.
Readers who love over-the-top action mixed with fascinating characters, science and history will find joy in the treasure that Rollins delivers.
Poking a Dead Frog: Conversations
With Today’s Top Comedy Writers
Mike Sacks, Penguin, 480 pages
Mike Sacks, an editor at Vanity Fair, co-author of the parody guide “Sex: Our Bodies, Our Junk,” has a new volume of interviews. It offers a full hamper of humorists discussing what they do and how they do it.
The pleasingly thick work is a sequel to his 2009 “And Here’s the Kicker: Conversations with 21 Top Humor Writers on their Craft.”
Like its predecessor, “Dead Frog” offers learned advice for the aspiring comedy writer, with sections headed “Pure, Hardcore Advice” and “Ultraspecific Comedic Knowledge” alternating with longer interviews. The interviews are not particularly jokey, but they are anecdotal often in a funny way.
Every story being different, there is no universal set of instructions to make a career in comedy writing. At the same time, common themes do emerge.
You should watch or read a lot of the sort of comedy you’re interested in writing, and then write a lot of it yourself. You should write what you think is funny and not what you think other people will think is funny. You can’t learn to be funny, but you can learn to be funnier.
The subjects include Mel Brooks, not just telling the usual stories; sitcom guru James L. Brooks; “National Lampoon” co-founder Henry Beard; Monty Python’s Terry Jones; James Downey, who co-created “Saturday Night Live’s” Wild and Crazy Guys and the David Letterman “Top 10”; short-fiction writer George Saunders; graphic novelist Daniel Clowes; “Lemony Snicket” alter ego Daniel Handler; Bob Elliott, the Bob of Bob and Ray; Peter Mehlman, who coined “yada yada yada” and “double dip” for “Seinfeld”; Will Ferrell partner-in-crime Adam McKay; and “Parks and Recreation” writer Megan Amram, whose career began in Twitter, where she “started writing with the single goal to make myself a better writer and then, later, to get a job.”
Sacks is a fan, but he asks productive, genuinely interested, insightful questions throughout, and, just as important, good follow-up questions.
Los Angeles Times