The Big Sleep filled my yearly quota of misogyny and homophobia in one shocking shot.
I read this years and years ago, watching it somewhen around theThe Big Sleep filled my yearly quota of misogyny and homophobia in one shocking shot.
I read this years and years ago, watching it somewhen around the time I watched Bogie and Bacall in Howard Hawke's adaptation, although I can't remember in what order I read/watched the two versions. I do remember loving the book, though, and I have since seen the film a dozen times over thirty-some years. I remembered the hard-bitten cynicism of Philip Marlowe, I remembered Vivian Sternwood's languorous sexiness (although it turns out this is much more Bacall's performance as Vivian than Raymond Chandler's character). I also remembered the general nuts and bolts of the story. What I didn't remember, what I had no sense of at all, was just how normalized the disdain for women and homosexuals was in this book.
It is virulent.
Women are to be avoided at all costs. They are either the devil herself, or succubi there to tempt men into their own downfall. They are incapable. They are weak. They are irresponsible. They are foolish. They are objects in the worst ways. They are infantile. They are spoiled. And they are flat (which might not be saying much considering that every character in this story, including Philip Marlowe, is static and without a hint of growth). To read it now (or to listen to it, as I did) is to feel every moment of misogyny as a pinch to the nervous system. At least that's how it felt to me.
But then there is the homophobia, which isn't omnipresent like the misogyny (since women abound in the story) but is no less disgusting. The homophobia carries with it the stain of disgust that homosexuality carried with it in our general popular culture well into the nineties (and in so many places still today), and the gay characters in The Big Sleep are the worst kind of humanity. They are positioned as no better than vermin, and homosexuality is discussed in the book the way that child molestation is discussed today.
If the misogyny was a pinch to my nerves, the homophobia was a Vulcan nerve pinch to my bisexual mind (it's no wonder it took me so long to come to terms with my sexuality with such stories shaping my mind as a child).
Yet for all my anger and disgust over the misogyny and homophobia, I find myself guiltily admitting that I really enjoyed The Big Sleep all the same. I should probably be ashamed of myself, and I assure you part of me is ashamed, but Raymond Chandler could sure tell a tale. The dialogue was crisp, the pacing was taut, the story was compelling, the setting of 1930s' LA was everything my mind has come to imagine it to be, and The Big Sleep kept me so riveted I found myself setting aside the misogyny and homophobia as just a product of the time (yeah ... I know. I am guilty as charged).
I feel like there is more to say about all this, more I should say, and much self-criticism that I should ponder (and I will), but for now I will stop, and let you make of my guilt what you will.
One last thing, I listened to the Audible audio version, narrated by Ray Porter, and his performance was one of those uneven performances that drive me mad. His vocal feel for Marlowe and the other men in the book was spot on, and he really nailed the cadence of Chandler's dialogue, but his vocals for the female characters made Chandler's misogyny audibly tangible. He cannot do women's voices, so that every woman in the story sounds like the worst possible version of themselves. It is one of those cases where a shared narration with a woman performing the female dialogue would have elevated the production far beyond what it achieved. I will be avoiding Ray Porter narrations in the future. ...more
I needed a new series to make me fall in love with a clever detective (informer) all over again, and I really wanted it to be the M Didius Falco serieI needed a new series to make me fall in love with a clever detective (informer) all over again, and I really wanted it to be the M Didius Falco series. The long and short of it is that Lindsey Davis failed to make me fall in love. It was more like a mild like. I can't see myself coming back for more of this series.
I came looking for a genuine mystery. I was hoping for some Raymond Chandler style Roman detection, or some brooding Henning Mankell style Roman detection, or even some frustrating Ian Rankin style Roman detection. What I got was Moonlighting meets Remington Steele meets Hollywood-sword-and-sandal-romantic-mystery-lightness.
It's not horrible (I bet it would make a cracking and very watchable TV series), but not for me. ...more
A little friendly violence, a little friendly homophobia, a little friendly racism, and Tony Chu and John Colby (ex-partner turned cyber-f
Chapter 1 --
A little friendly violence, a little friendly homophobia, a little friendly racism, and Tony Chu and John Colby (ex-partner turned cyber-faced FDA newbie) are as partners-in-love as they ever were. So they start investigating a piece of shit, which leads to some pee, some more violence, a glimpse of Colby's cyborg powers and some actual detection (Batman Detective Comics could learn a valuable lesson). It is a fun though slight beginning to the second volume.
Chapter 2 --
Chicken is illegal in Tony Chu's world, so it is a black market item, but now, apparently, there is a plant that may taste like chicken, so Chu is off to Micronesia to track the plant (fruit?) down.
I must talk about something more serious, however. It is time to address the fact that the FDA and USDA of Tony Chu's post-Avian Flu world are as nasty, as intrusive, as violent, as powerful, as fascist as any of the genuine US security agencies today. Sadly, John Layman's satire has never once seemed far fetched in its political, governmental, security imaginings. It is scary that the para-militarization of two supposedly benign existent agencies barely registers as odd anymore. In a book packed with oddities and impossibilities, this is the one thing in the book I can see happening, and that is depressing, and I'm going to say it will likely be prescient. Just you wait.
Chapter 3 --
Chew is satire the way Soylent Green is people -- hell, it's reminiscent of Jonathan Swift -- so the powers of Chu and others, the speculative politics, the fowl dystopia, all these elements ease our potential tension in the face of the satire and make it completely palatable -- and believable.
Case in point: the personality of Chu. He started way back in #1 as a reserved man, an anxious man, a hungry man, a man full of self-doubt and nervousness. But when his cibopathy led him to the FDA and cannibalism-for-justice, all his traits morphed; Layman gets that change just right. Chu is becoming more intrepid with each bite of human flesh; he's becoming more aggressive and much angrier too. And this little bit of real world detail, this believable growth of character, makes the satire much more palatable.
Chapter 4 --
Vampires AND a Cibolocutor. Wht's that you ask? That is a guy who can translate any work of art -- like a play or a song -- into a dish, thus transferring the emotion generated by the art into the flavour tasted by the diner. C'mon! That is cool, isn't it? Not as cool as the fact that the Vampire is on the Micronesian Isle to liberate (or eat?) the Cibopath. But Tony Chu is on the case, so look out Vampire.
I don't care how silly this book can be. The moments of mountainous creativity on display, along with the scathing satire, make this one genius book.
Chapter 5 --
Another neatly and quickly wrapped arc is over, and for all the entertainment International Flavour gave me I feel cheated. Things went a little too fast this time, and the plot was a little too big for five short issues.
Still, I am digging the Vampire (not-Vampire?), which should make the future comics fun, but I think Chu's burgeoning romance with Miss Mintz is my favourite ongoing thread of the tale (which surprises the hell out of me). So even if things are moving too quickly for my taste, Chew is still a solid comic, and I must keep going, but International Flavour is definitely a let down from Taster's Choice.
Oooooooo! The Joker being all crazy. Again. Who fucking cares anymore? How about a decade without Joker to make his pasty fa
Batman Detective Comics #1
Oooooooo! The Joker being all crazy. Again. Who fucking cares anymore? How about a decade without Joker to make his pasty face relevant again. At least Tony S. Daniel added some freak called the Dollmaker to shake things up, and speaking of Daniel, he is the best Bat-artist (at least in my estimation) working on a Bat-book today.
Batman Detective Comics #2
Not much detecting happening in this "Detective" comic, and it is the detecting that I have always loved about Detective Comics. I have never been a big fan of Batman as Dark Knight, having first loved him as Batman, The World's Greatest Detective. Now, though, he is just NSA Batman, and his Holmesian detection skills are long gone, having been replaced by torture, hyperactive surveillance and luck.
Anyways, Bats walks into a trap, meets the Dollmaker, and we see that he's not alone. He is, it seems, the patriarch of a clan of skin peeling and knitting fiends (with one gratuitously-icky hot-naughty nurse. Not a fan of this touch, by the way), and they are all ready to rend the flexh off of Batman's body.
So ... Art good. Creepiness okay. Detection nil. Story barely keeping me interested.
Batman Detective Comics #3
The Dollmaker and his helpers are definitely spooky (and the wonderful art surely helps), especially the levels of control the Dollmaker has over his helpers (family), but none of it excuses Batman's torture of Jack in the Box. Batman tries to break Jack in the Box, one of the Dollmaker family, with the goal of making JitB reveal the location of the Dollmaker family. He beats him mercilessly, fails to make his victim talk, then realizes that JitB doesn't have a tongue and couldn't have spoken anyway. So what does Batman do? He kicks him in the face and fucks off. Wouldn't it have been cooler by far to have Batman detect something, like the location of the Dollmakers, instead? Maybe even that JitB was missing a tongue before the beating? Your damn right it would have.
Oh yeah ... there are multiple Jokers too. Yawn.
Batman Detective Comics #4
The Dollmaker story comes to a rather abrupt pause. Batman is "captured" then fights a bunch of thugs altered to look like Joker, then the shit hits the fan and their is the usual amount of violence is handed out and the Dollmaker escapes, but at least the Penguin is mentioned, so there's a chance for a classic, not-Joker villain for a bit. I'm not counting the Dollmaker out, however.
Batman Detective Comics #5
A short, short issue, this one. Batman protestors -- all sporting Joker masks -- are filling Gotham City's Old Grant Park, which pisses Batman off because he doesn't care about the public opinion that surrounds his "good works." He's too busy breaking up crime. Some masked bad ass shows up ahead of Batman during the crime he is trying to break-up, kills a bunch of gangsters, then slows Batman down and escapes. It starts and it's over, and then we're hanging out with the Penguin for a page at the grand opening of his Iceberg Casino. It is the most skeletal of stop gaps between issues where things actually happen (illness? lateness? I wonder what's to blame.). But there is a short story to fill space, so let's talk about that:
Russian Roulette-- This is a nice, tight little tale introducing us to an interesting alliance between Catwoman and Eli Strange, son of Hugo Strange, the great underused villain of Batman past. The art is gritty, scrappy, hard to make out, and generally too intentionally messy to be truly welcoming, but it is effective, and when Catwoman is shedding blood it expresses the killing mood well. I am curious to see how this will link to everything else, but I won't be surprised if there is no link at all.
Batman Detective Comics #6
Wham!!! Suddenly the story is all complicated and cool, although that short issue last issue could have gone a long way towards cleaning up the mess that is this issue. Too much happens too soon, and before we know it Batman and Bruce's lover, Charlotte, are in a trap.
Still, Penguin is busy playing the mastermind, putting a bunch of crimelords and supernaturally talented thugs under his thumb. Meanwhile, some jackpot named Snakeskin and his cycloptic colleague seem to be helping Penguin trap and do away with the Bat, being the hands in Penguin's typicaly hands-off scheming.
And there was a little bit of genuine detection going on at the beginning of the story. Unfortunately the detection had already happened and we were only "told" about the detection, but it was nice to see a hint of detection that had nothing to do with assault even if it was only narration in three panels. It's something, at least.
Batman Detective Comics #7
This underwhelming arc comes to a close much too quickly. Too complex for two issues. Once again a lack of any serious detecting by Batman (most of his conclusions this time come from stumbling upon things as they are happening and everything to do with doggedness and nothing to do with intelligence). No emotional core (as there was in New 52's Batman and Batman & Robin). And no clear consequences or conclusions. All of these flaws solidify that this is the worst opening for all of the New 52 Bat-titles, and considering the quality of the others it is a massive let down.
Of all the characters -- villains and heroes -- within Batman's sphere of influence, it is Dick Grayswritten by Kyle Higgins & art by Eddy Barrows
Of all the characters -- villains and heroes -- within Batman's sphere of influence, it is Dick Grayson, specifically Dick Grayson as Nightwing, who is the most important to our reading of Batman himself.
Many, if not most, would argue that the pride of this place goes to Joker. He is often seen as Batman's opposite: the dark to Batman's light, the crazy to batman's sane, the chaos to Batman's order. But that's not the case, as many great comic book writers have been quick to show us. Batman and Joker, who they are and their actions, are but shadowy reflections of one another, they are too similar to be opposites. They are both dark, both crazy, both chaotic, and if there is any difference at all it is the difference of motivation and what that does to their consciences, which is where Batman manages to separate himself from the Clown Prince of Crime.
And it is in the realm of conscience that Dick Grayson plays his fundamental role in the life of Batman. Dick is the Horatio to Bruce's Hamlet. Like Hamlet, Bruce's parent(s) are murdered and his actions from then on are motivated by vengeance. Like Hamlet, Bruce is a prince above the peasantry, a man untouched by the constraints of lesser men. Like Hamlet, Bruce is brilliant, makes connections others can't, and is capable of deep love and emotional pain. Like Hamlet, Bruce needs a Horatio. He needs Dick to be objective when he cannot, needs Dick to criticize his behaviour when others won't, needs Dick to offer opinions when Bruce fails to see something important, needs Dick to protect him from himself.
It is Dick who is uncomfortable with Bruce's more brutal moments; it is Dick who is most against Batman's relationship with Catwoman; it is Dick who will receive a request to join the Justice League from his benefactor and have the guts to say no; it is Dick who will step in to maintain the presence of Batman when Bruce is missing; it is Dick, even more than Alfred, who will turn his back on Bruce when he/Batman has gone too far. He'll always come back, sure, but he will stand by his principles even in the face of the man who took him in and made him who he is.
So Nightwing was one of the New 52 I was most excited to read.
Traps and Trapezes (Vol 1), the first arc of the series by Kyle Higgins & Eddy Barrows (whose pencils are fantastic in this arc), is glorious when it comes to Dick Grayson: it lets Nightwing be Nightwing, lets Dick be Dick, without Batman (at least until the last possible moment in issue #5). The influence of Bruce is all around Dick, of course. But for five issues we get Dick on his own, on his own and dealing with some pretty serious shit.
Haly's Circus is back in Gotham, the circus Dick was in as a boy, as one of the Flying Graysons. It is the big top under which his parents fell to their deaths, and Dick finds himself inheriting the circus from a family friend at the same time as he is being hunted -- as himself rather than his alter ego -- by an assassin named Saiko (think a pissy Wolverine-lite).
It all builds up to an arc-closing confrontation with Bruce in the Batcave and some serious revelations about what Dick was being groomed for before the death of his parents and his moving in to Wayne Manor.
There's nothing groundbreaking about the plot, the action or the dialogue. It's pretty tame stuff, although all those elements have enough quality to do their job. The arc is strong, however, when it comes to character, and that's what matters to me when I am reading a Nightwing comic. If I want deep plots I go to Detective Comics; if I want killer action and dialogue I go to Batman; but if I want to spend some time with the Bat-characters, I go to Nightwing, which is precisely where this arc excelled. We were given a touch of Barbara Gordon, a hint of Bruce and Alfred, and plenty of Dick.
And who would turn down plenty of Dick if given half a chance? (sorry ... how could I resist)...more
John Lee, the narrator of many of the more famous Miéville books on audio, has a voice made for very specific kinds of stories. The City and the CityJohn Lee, the narrator of many of the more famous Miéville books on audio, has a voice made for very specific kinds of stories. The City and the City is one of those stories wherein his voice works, as it also does with Miéville's Kraken. He has the kind of voice that perfectly suits the cynical world of our now. Hard without being harsh (and without the gravelly phlegm of smoking too much), almost combative in his delivery and mostly humourless (which worked oddly well in the very funny Kraken), Lee sounds like the sort of guy Miéville is usually writing about in his Earthbound books. So imagining Lee's voice as that of Tyador Borlu, even with the English accent when it should really be some form of Balkan accent, is not at all difficult. His voice is perfect for the jaded cop from Beszel, expressing pragmatism, annoyance and righteousness (though not necessarily of the "self") in turns. I'm not as big a fan of John Lee when he tries to read the Bas Lag books, but for Miéville's stuff on Earth, there is no one better. ...more
I heard about this book on a Guardian Books Podcast, and it sounded interesting enough for me to pick up one afternoon when I needed a book to fend ofI heard about this book on a Guardian Books Podcast, and it sounded interesting enough for me to pick up one afternoon when I needed a book to fend off the boredom of a grocery store line. It did that job quite well, but ...
... But it didn't do much else.
I'm a bit of a fan of asteroid-slamming-into-Earth-end-of-days stories. I guiltily admit that I love Michael Bay's (or is it really J.J. Abrams?) Armageddon -- so much in fact that I use it to introduce Marxist Theory to my first year students -- I kind of dig Deep Impact and Seeking a Friend for the End of the World, and I positively adore the great Canadian indy film, Last Night (a must for all SciFi geeks because it co-stars Leoben from BSG). So I was stoked by Ben H. Winters' end of world scenario and the coming of 2011gv1. A cop looking into a suicide that might be a murder while no one gives a damn about the investigation but him because the world is certain to end in six months. Sounds good.
And it was good at an okay level. Unfortunately, I figured out the "mystery" (although maybe it wasn't really supposed to be a mystery), almost instantly, and when a mystery is light on mystery I badly want strong character development, which was also lacking, and meant I didn't really care about what was happening.
Yet I find myself curious about where this story is going next, and there is a next: Countdown City. You see, there are some nice touches, some interesting additions to the asteroid-slamming-into-Earth-end-of-days genre; there's a cool time capsule being readies for orbit, some crazy conspiracy theory that Det. Hank Palace's sister is embroiled in, and a ten-speed that interests me in ways I can't explain.
So I will be moving on and reading more. In spite of the yawning I did throughout my reading of this first installment. Make of that what you will. ...more
A Swedish national, a "sports" journalist, goes missing in Budapest, behind the "Iron Curtain." It's the height of the Cold War, and Swedish homicideA Swedish national, a "sports" journalist, goes missing in Budapest, behind the "Iron Curtain." It's the height of the Cold War, and Swedish homicide detective Martin Beck, about to enjoy his vacation, is sent, instead, to look into the disappearance.
A Canadian boy would expect a 70s Budapest to be riddled with spies and spying and suspicion. A Canadian boy would expect oppressiveness and oppression at every Hungarian turn. A Canadian boy would expect high adventure mixed with the KGB and CIA. A Canadian boy would expect an international murder, with international implications. A Canadian boy would expect something thrillingly action packed. A Canadian boy would be wrong, though.
Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahloo were not as foolish as the Canadian boy. They didn't have his prejudices and indoctrinations. They knew the story they were telling, and they told it their way, with integrity. So their story has a beautiful Budapest, with bath houses, and quays and the Danube outside Metropolitan hotels. It has local police just like anyone else's police, no better or worse, just doing their job. It has a little danger at the hands of some German drug dealers who make their home in Budapest. And the solution to the mystery of the missing man is mundane and lying back in Sweden. Budapest was just a step in the path to the appropriately depressing conclusion.
It is what all the Martin Beck mysteries are -- true -- and that is the highest praise I can bestow on a work of fiction. ...more
I could plot out the book and discuss all that action rot, but what really matters in this eighth book in Sjowall and Wahloo’s masterwork can be boileI could plot out the book and discuss all that action rot, but what really matters in this eighth book in Sjowall and Wahloo’s masterwork can be boiled down to two points: 1. Martin Beck; and 2. the illusions of justice.
1. Martin Beck is in less than half of this eighth book. While his friends and colleagues are seconded to the Robbery department trying to solve a murder in a recent bank robbery, and to end a seemingly linked rash of bank robberies entirely, Beck has been handed a case (sort of an act of rehabilitation to ease him back into service after his recovery from a bullet to the chest) of apparent suicide, which turns out to be a classic "locked room" murder. When Beck is around, though, boy does he tower over the story. His quiet investigation is the one that matters; his scrupulous and plodding methodology is the effective methodology; his conscience is the moral core of the series; his love for Rhea Nielson (a lefty landlord he bumps into during his investigation) is a necessary lesson about the characters we’ve come to love in the series, and not just Beck, of whom we learn the most, but even those men who never meet Rhea. is Beck’s tale, even when he’s off-screen, and Beck’s denouement (because it is all his) is as satisfying for us as it is frustrating.
2. The illusions of justice loom even larger over the story than Martin Beck. I can’t help feeling that Sjowall and Wahloo don’t believe that justice is something we should aspire to let alone something that is even possible. Not that they come out and say that. But they ask questions and leave them unanswered, making us do the work: is it just for a man to be imprisoned for a crime he didn’t commit while being simultaneously acquitted for a crime he did commit? Does the success of one false conviction make up for the failure of what could have been a genuine conviction? Is it just for the perpetrator of one of the killings to go free due to her social standing and circumstances? Is the manipulation of data a just way to expand power? Is a class based society inherently unjust? Is it just to control a person? To impede a person? To listen to one person over another? To judge a person? To have one's own perspective? Is perspective inherently unjust? As I have said, they don't even try to answer these questions. They want us to think about the answers for ourselves, and I adore them for that.
This series is better with each installment, and I am increasingly convinced that this is detective fiction of truly literary calibre. Usually I wouldn't want a series of this quality to end, but this time I want to finish it as soon as possible so I can continue the reread I've already begun. It's THAT good.
When I finished Roseanna again last night I thought I should write a review talking about how rare it is for me to reread a book, and how Sjöwall &When I finished Roseanna again last night I thought I should write a review talking about how rare it is for me to reread a book, and how Sjöwall & Wahloo have conjured something exceptional from me as a reader. When I started thinking about how rare it is for me to reread, however, I realized what a load of crap that is.
So rereading Roseanna isn't so special after all. It isn't some rare occurrence. It's business as usual when I find something worth reading again and again. And this book is that.
I have been listening to these books for my "first reading" and I recently reached the seventh book, The Abominable Man, wherein the interdependence of Sjöwall & Wahloo tales suddenly focused into a clear picture. They wrote ten books in their Martin Beck series, and it struck me that it is one of the only series I've read (apart from Lord of the Rings) where the authors had the entire series mapped out before they started.
I decided to test that theory by actually reading Roseanna (rather than listening), and it appears that I was correct. Beck and Kollberg are fully conceived from the first moment. There is no authorial searching for what these men will be, no feeling out their relationship and personalities. Everything is there. Everything is ready, and everything that is coming for these men (the two constants in the series so far) are there waiting for them. I can see it in their decisions, their emotions, their concerns, their actions -- everything.
I gave this book four stars when I first read it, but loved it enough to pass it on to a good friend (she loved it too). Now I have to give it five stars. I think the series itself constitutes a masterpiece, but as first chapters go, Roseanna is perfection....more
I exhale my breath in a long deep sigh. I've just finished listening to what is probably the most cinematic of all the Sjowall and Wahloo Beck books (I exhale my breath in a long deep sigh. I've just finished listening to what is probably the most cinematic of all the Sjowall and Wahloo Beck books (maybe not the best, but certainly the most evocative), and for the first time (despite the excellence of the entire series) I want to drop everything I'm doing and get started on the next book.
I need to know how the serious cliffhanger resolves. I need to see the fallout of everything that's happened, I need to see how these men, some of whom I hate and some of whom I love, handle the carnage they've been part of and have helped to bring about directly or indirectly.
I sit here typing with a slight pain in my back when I should be cleaning or grocery shopping, and I think of writing a book with the qualities of The Abominable Man. Its unique in the Beck series for taking the shortest time from crime to resolution. A day passes. That's all. And that is a huge departure from a series that is all about the banality of police procedure. It is a crime where the criminal might actually want to be caught, but we can't know that for sure. It's a bloody crime that leads to a crime some might call crazed (with a lone gunman on the roof of an apartment block killing police) but I call desperate.
It moves from action to action to action. It throws together two pairings of cops who hate each other, separating them from their usual, comfortable partners. It makes us care about them all. It makes us care about two of the other victims, dumb ass radio cops from earlier books. It makes us care about the murderer, to see where he is coming from. It makes us loathe the murderer's first victim, and love our eponymous hero more than we ever have before. Thus I realize that I couldn't write a book with The Abominable Man's qualities. Not from scratch. The Abominable Man is excellent because it is preceded by six other books, and those books built the milieu through which all of these men heroes, villains, victims, victimizers and buffoons move. It is a book that only patience of purpose and playing the long game could create.
I'll need seven books to get there. Better get writing. ...more
All six forewords for all six Martin Beck books I've read (in order) have made much of the authors' Marxist backgrounds. I can't remember who wrote whAll six forewords for all six Martin Beck books I've read (in order) have made much of the authors' Marxist backgrounds. I can't remember who wrote what and what they wrote exactly, but most of them are quick to warn readers of Maj Sjöwall & Per Wahlöö politics, then -- most times -- they are just as quick to let us know that those politics rarely intrude on on their writing, so we readers shouldn't have any problem enjoying their mysteries.
The writers of the forewords talk a lot about their love of the police procedural as a form, or Sjöwall & Wahlöö's impact on the writers who've followed them and their relevance today, or they talk about how well the books hold up forty years on and how much fun they are to read. Then they remind us, once again, not to worry about the authors' Socialist ideals, as though they are apologizing for Sjöwall & Wahlöö, or are ashamed to admit they love the work of a pair of pinko-Swedes.
I have no such shame. If anything, I've been disappointed throughout the series that Sjöwall & Wahlöö's politics haven't been more obvious in their books. I want more socio-economic criticism from the radical left (although their brand of Marxism is hardly radical), so I am thrilled that Polis, polis, potatismos! (the original Swedish title of Murder at the Savoy) and its Marxist ending finally satisfied my craving for more.
The criticism is expressed in a feeling Martin Beck has while walking home after solving the murder of industrialist Viktor Palmgren. It's a feeling he can't shake because a poor man, a beaten man, a useless man waits to spend his life in prison for killing Palmgren, and Palmgren was the man who kept the poor man poor by making him poorer still, beat him into submission through the bludgeon of greed and made him useless to himself and everyone around him. It's Beck's sadness that carries the Marxist opinions of Sjöwall & Wahlöö, and in this series that I have thoroughly enjoyed, I have finally found a moment I can also love. Beck walking home is my favourite moment so far.
I'm not expecting to see much overt Marxism in the rest of the books -- Sjöwall & Wahlöö tend to be too subtle for that -- but that will simply make me savour this book's chapter all the more. ...more
Nolan himself recognizes Loeb's influence on his Dark Knight trilogy, and it is everywhere in these pages, but Loeb's The Long Halloween is much betteNolan himself recognizes Loeb's influence on his Dark Knight trilogy, and it is everywhere in these pages, but Loeb's The Long Halloween is much better than what Nolan did on screen. It takes the post-Miller Dark Knight back to his kinder gentler detective past without the cheese and stupidity. Loeb's Batman is morose and grey, but he's not bitter, nasty, or "dark," which makes him much more welcoming to the reader. I think this is the ideal beginning for anyone interested in Batman. Plus, it's not just a great place to start for Bruce/Batman, but also for an intro to all the major villainous players. ...more
I can't remember what I've said previously about the Martin Beck books (beyond my general positivity), so I apologize if you find me repeating myselfI can't remember what I've said previously about the Martin Beck books (beyond my general positivity), so I apologize if you find me repeating myself (I am too lazy to go back and read all my previous reviews). I think it is also important to note that my star rating here is contrasted with the other books I've read in the series. The rating doesn't reflect my feelings about The Fire Engine that Disappeared compared to all books -- only other Martin Beck books.
That business complete, I have to say "I dig these books!" They are amongst the best police procedurals I've read, and all Swedish crime fiction (perhaps all crime fiction) since the sixties, including (especially?) Steig Larsson, owes these books an immeasurable debt. But I don't care about the plot of this book tonight. I care about the characters, which is, I think, what Maj Sjöwall and Per Wahloo most wanted us to care about.
Martin Beck -- The man from which the series gets its name is not much more than a bit player in this tale, but he's still the place to start. He is the pivot around which everything else revolves, and the relationship between himself and his daughter, Ingrid, is one of the most beautiful father-daughter relationships I've ever read. It is true in a way that other manifestations simply aren't. At one point, she suggests that he should move out of the family home as she's about to do, hinting at a much needed divorce from the wife and son that make him so miserable. It is an expression of trusting intimacy that is potently honest. I can't help but love them both for that moment.
Kollberg -- Sarcastic, bombastic, sextastic, Kollberg has been my favourite throughout the series, and he remains so here. He starts out petulant and sarcastic, fucking with the rookie, Benny Skacke, incessantly, and winds up with nine inches of steel in his belly. It's a sweet little arc that keeps my favourite vibrant and alive. Will he still be anti-gun after his stabbing? I'm guessing yes. Dogmatically so.
Benny Skacke -- And speaking of young Skacke ... not too bad. He's a smart operator, and it is all down to his tenacity. I get the feeling that his desire to be Chief of Police is going to come to fruition by book ten. And his final error, the error that leads to serious danger, is the kind of error that will be misconstrued as heroism -- much to his benefit. Lucky bastard.
Gunvald Larsson -- Perhaps the most important man in this book, Gunvald Larsson is also the biggest prick, the most unlikeable, the most insufferable. He's the ugly cop. He's not dirty, no, no. But he is brutal, unswerving, unreasonable. He is a bully of the worst kind. He is mean, insulting, close-minded, foolish. Yet he starts this book as a hero, dragging eight people from a horrible house fire. And he milks it for all he can.
Einar Rönn -- He's Larsson's best friend, and he brings Gunvald a bunch of flowers while he's recovering from his heroism, to which his friend wonders aloud: "Did you pick them off a grave, Rönn?" Rönn winces, genuinely hurt, but his love for Larsson never wavers. Dumb? Yes. But I can't help loving him for it, and as cops go he's actually kind of okay.
Fredrik Melander -- is just plain old Melander. He pseudo-solves things early on. He loves his Plain Jane wife. He is his ordinary boring self. I can't do anything but love him for who he is.
And that, ultimately, is what makes me love these books. The characters. They are true. True and real. And I can't and won't ask for more.
When I read this back in 1988, while everyone was still wetting themselves over Frank Miller's Dark Knight concept from 1986, I was wetting myself oveWhen I read this back in 1988, while everyone was still wetting themselves over Frank Miller's Dark Knight concept from 1986, I was wetting myself over Alan Moore's one-shot bit of Joker genius, Batman The Killing Joke.
I read it numerous times during the nineties, then put it away (my reading copy nestled next to my mint, Mylar-bagged, first edition) and kept hold of my memories.
For me Killing Joke was much more interesting than Dark Knight because Batman was interested in understanding his enemy (and reconciliation) -- a concept that is much more foreign to literary figures (and real life people) than one might think -- and because I understood where Joker was coming from, and I thought that humanizing a dastardly villain like Joker was a brave thing to do.
Today I am a massive fan of From Hell, I've taught Watchmen and V for Vendetta countless times, and I fully expected Moore's Killing Joke to be as wonderful today as I remembered. I was confident I would still love it at least as much as Watchmen and V and maybe even as much as From Hell, but it was not to be.
It's good. Batman's attempted reconciliation with Joker is there. Joker is still struggling to make the world see that anyone could become him under the right circumstances. Barbara Gordon's shooting is still a shock (and important since it was the birth of Oracle). And Batman keeping his fists to himself when faced with Joker is an impressive achievement of the author's imagination.
But it doesn't do it for me anymore. It is good. Better than most writers can pull off, and the art is lush. But it's impossible for me to avoid comparing Killing Joke with Moore's other work, and it doesn't achieve Moore's personal level of excellence. Good for more is great for others, but it isn't great for Moore, and I expect great.
In 1988 this got ★★★★★ stars. Today, if this were anyone but Alan Moore, it would get ★★★★ stars. But it is Alan Moore, so it only gets ★★★....more
One of the things I dig most about the "Martin Beck" mysteries is that they are only named "Martin Beck" mysteries out of convenience. He's the highesOne of the things I dig most about the "Martin Beck" mysteries is that they are only named "Martin Beck" mysteries out of convenience. He's the highest ranking policeman in Sjowall and Wahloo's Stockholm Homicide Division, and a couple of the early books tended to focus on him, but as the series goes on the books can be about any of the men who work with Beck.
The Laughing Policeman revolves around two of the detectives: Lennart Kollberg and Åke Stenström. In fact, the central mystery of the book is the shooting of Stenström and seven others on a double decker bus on the edge of Stockholm and Skåne. No one has any idea what Stenström is doing on the bus, and the hunt for a mass murderer in 1968 Sweden is all a bit surreal to the detectives who expect that kind of thing in Vietnam war torn USA, but not late-sixties Sweden.
The investigation (refreshingly bereft of the "cop killer" chest beating we've come to expect from our police procedurals) digs deep into the life of Stenström, trying to figure out what he is doing and why he is on that bus. We meet his girlfriend and future cop Åsa Torell, we discover their sexual proclivities, Stenström's love of guns, and his lofty ambitions.
It is Kollberg who does most of the work on this front, befriending Åsa Torell after Stenström's death and going so far as to invite her to stay with him, his wife, Gun, and their baby (only one at this point) for a while. We discover much more about Kollberg's Socialist politics, his disdain for guns, his and Gun's sexual proclivities, and that he is a damn good detective. No wonder he and Beck get along so well.
The Kollberg and Stenström stuff is exactly the kind of stuff I love. Getting to know characters in the midst of whatever it is they are supposed to be doing. But what Kollberg is supposed to be doing, along with Beck and Melander, Larsson and Rönn, is finding a mass murderer. And that part of the story is as satisfying as it can possibly be. If you love mystery novels, and if you're even mildly interested in Swedish crime fiction, you will love this book. I did. ...more
I had no expectations at all when I downloaded this book. I only did it because one of my groups was reading it, and a fellow member chose it, so I thI had no expectations at all when I downloaded this book. I only did it because one of my groups was reading it, and a fellow member chose it, so I thought I would support him. I am glad I did.
It is a mash-up of something old and worn -- a couple of things that are old and worn, actually -- with a little of the new and kitschy. It's a bit of low brow hack and slash Fantasy fun with a kooky Goddess at its heart; it's a pretty straight forward Detective Noire -- including the requisite smart mouthed detective; and it's an Urban Fantasy with more than one urban centre.
It does them all with a refreshing bit of hip carelessness that manifests in the ways of Alex Bledsoe's world. The world is pretty much exactly like ours, except they're still using swords and crossbows as weapons and travelling on horseback. By exactly like ours, I mean that the concerns of any given populace are for working infrastructure, employment and getting by; I mean they're entertainment is the scandals of the rich and famous (in their case, Kings and Queens); I mean that nightclubs and casinos and bars are just like ours, name tags for servers included; I mean that leaving your horse parked somewhere overnight will get you a ticket, warning you not to do it again or face a fine; I mean that our hero is named Eddie LaCrosse, and the girls he loves are named Janice and Liz and Cathy. It's a clever way to approach a Fantasy world, this stripping away of all medieval pretensions, and it works wonders because it allows Bledsoe's sense of humour, which is decidedly contemporary, to come through without sounding dissonant. It fits because he makes it fit. And damn is it fun.
I want to keep going. I want more of Eddie. And that doesn't happen to me often when I stumble upon a series in the B-range of literature. Sure I'll bump against it, I may even like it well enough, but I tend to visit only once and never come back. I think this time may be different. The tales of Eddie LaCrosse are just too much fun for a one off. ...more
It took me nearly three years to get through Finch.
I picked it up the first time, got started and found myself stopping for what, at the time, was anIt took me nearly three years to get through Finch.
I picked it up the first time, got started and found myself stopping for what, at the time, was an inexplicable reason. I had already read and loved both City of Saints and Madmen & Shriek: An Afterword. The former for its insane originality and the latter for the way it appealed to my post-modern academic self. But I couldn't break ground in Finch, so I put it down and thought I'd take another crack later.
I don't know how much later I started my next crack, but I always have a book to read in the shower while I am letting the hot water work on my beard before a shave. Somewhere along the line I made Finch my shower book. I started again. Got a chapter or two beyond my first attempt, then moved away from my home for a year and a half, and left it sitting there in the bathroom awaiting my return. I hadn't been taken with it enough to take it with me, though, and I was starting to feel like Jeff VanderMeer had finally taken a misstep. I went to Anguilla and forgot all about Finch.
When I came home, there Finch was sitting in the bathroom, waterstained, slightly mouldy, a little bit daunting. I left it for a good while, just languishing on the bathroom shelf. I ignored it for magazines that talked about baseball and Star Wars and naughty sex, but then those all ran out, and I happened (as I always do) to be teaching excerpts from VanderMeer's City of Saints and Madmen again, and I grudgingly picked up Finch for what turned out to be the last time.
It was a slog, a tough read, it was dribs and drabs under the hot water. A page or two every couple of days at first, adding damp to the pages so the mould could take hold. I almost quit a couple of times. I started to piece together why I was having so much trouble with the book. I felt all at sea with the story, like there was too huge a gap between the tome that was City of Saints and Madmen, the meta-brilliance of Shriek, and I couldn't place it in the time or space of its predecessors. But worse, Finch was a first-person narrative of constant fragmentation that wasn't a first person narrative at all. It was a third-person limited narrator, limited to Finch's POV, but written as though first person. It was strangest, most prolonged bit of literary torture I have experienced. It was work. It was VanderMeer telling us to work. It was Finch slipping in and out of consciousness in the big scene with the Partial actually taking shape for a reader oneself.
I hadn't been willing to work before, but now, somehow, I was, and as the story unfolded, and the mould began to colonize the pages I had left behind and water continued to stain the pages I was reading, preparing them for the fungus that would conquer them, I began to see the genius of what VanderMeer was doing, had done.
Finch is a glorious completion to his Ambergris cycle. A bizarre, frustrating, oddly delicate, gynecologic, spore of a book that colonizes the reader the way Wyte is colonized by the Grey Caps. It is emotional; it is powerful; it is sinister; it is violent; it is fiercly imaginative; it is genius.
But it's not easy. Take your time. Give it a chance. VanderMeer deserves your loyalty. ...more
Of all the fictional coppers I read about on a regular basis, Detective John Rebus is the least likeable. Granted, I've only just finished the third bOf all the fictional coppers I read about on a regular basis, Detective John Rebus is the least likeable. Granted, I've only just finished the third book in the series (I am reading them in order), so he may become more likeable as I progress, but right now there is nothing I like about this character.
I connect on a shockingly deep level (could it be love?) with Henning Mankell's Kurt Wallander, feeling a kinship with the sullen Ystad detective that I've felt with few fictional characters in my life, and I enjoy the fictional company of both Martin Beck and Lennart Kollberg in Sjöwall and Wahlöö's police procedurals. But I find Rebus to be an insufferable prick.
Why do I loathe Rebus so much? At first I thought it must be because he was like me (that's always the place my self-critical brain first takes me when I meet or read someone I don't like), but it took very little soul searching to see that he's really nothing like me at all (apart from being in his forties by book #3 in the series).
No. I don't like him because he is arrogant without cause. I don't like him because he is a manipulative bastard when it comes to the people in his life. I don't like him because he is hypocritically self-righteous. I don't like him because he puts anyone and everyone in danger without thinking about the dangers so long as his goal of "catching the criminal fast" is fulfilled. I don't like him because of his wishy washy religious beliefs and his selfishness and his opinions about evil and bad teeth and mindless book collection and his self-righteousness (didn't I mention that already?).
Yet for all Rebus' dislikeability and the uncanny levels of luck he has when it comes to solving the crimes he's investigating, I find Ian Rankin's compelling. I get the sense that Rankin wants us to dislike Rebus. His detective is supposed to be a difficult man to like, a problematic protagonist who flies in the face of the classic police "hero." More than that, though, Rankin's an inviting writer. He knows pace. He knows how to build suspense. He knows mystery, and he keeps me wanting more from page to page and book to book.
I badly want to see a film version of Rebus. I'm guessing he'll be a much more likeable guy on-screen. I wonder if that will make me like the books more or less? I am curious to find out.
I had low expectations going into this. Being a big fan of Scottish lit, I've always kept Rankin at arms length, thinking that he'd be too pulpy and pI had low expectations going into this. Being a big fan of Scottish lit, I've always kept Rankin at arms length, thinking that he'd be too pulpy and pop culturey to be worth reading. I'm comfortable enough to own my snobbery.
Lately, though, I've felt Rankin's pull, especially since Henning Mankell's Wallander books reignited my interest in crime fiction. I have a thing for those damaged, brooding, middle aged, drink-too-much detectives, whose world view is so beaten and jaded by what they've seen and done that they are doomed to a slow path of self-destruction. So I thought it was probably time to give Rankin a try.
I have never seen an on-screen adaptation of Rebus, so I had no preconcieved BBC notions to overcome, but I decided to take a crack at Rankin's first novel, The Flood, first, hoping that a peek at one of his none-detective novels would seed an appreciation for his writing before I tackled Rebus. It didn't. I was mostly disappointed, and I appreciatred little that he had done. Still, I saw enough potential there in his writing to pick up the first Rebus book from my shelf and give it a go.
Surprise, surprise, I really liked it, and I was impressed with the way Ian Rankin used the obligatory detective's-family-in-peril cliche. Every police detective series with any staying power has one of these episodes, but they usually come deeper in the series, when the author and his audience have a more personal stake in the protagonist's life. (view spoiler)[In this, the first Rebus book, however, Rankin goes straight for DI Rebus' ex-wife and daughter as payback for a perceived betrayal. (hide spoiler)] There is no build up of love for Rebus here, no chance for us to overcome our disdain for some of his nasty behaviour (his petty theft and possible sexual assault of a one night stand), it's just straight into personal peril. I didn't expect that, so I was searching for other alternatives from the off, making the truth harder to see and far more effective.
I would have liked a more tragic ending, and I thought the lack of full out tragedy betrayed the character of Gordon Reeves, a character Rankin had done a marvelous job creating, but it was still emotionally satisfying, and if the rest of the Rebus novels are this good I am afraid my snobbery will be a thing of the past. I am such a pushover.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
There's something to be said for knowing the answer to a mystery while you're reading a mystery. I watched the first season of Wallander, of which OneThere's something to be said for knowing the answer to a mystery while you're reading a mystery. I watched the first season of Wallander, of which One Step Behind was the last episode, before ever cracking a Wallander book, yet it didn't hurt my experience reading the book. Henning Mankell did that quite well on his own (but more on that later).
When the book opened, and Wallander's colleague, Svedberg, was found murdered in his flat, I was thrilled with knowing who the killer was and how the killer was related to his/her past and future victims. The myriad clues that Wallander, Höglund and Martinsson were missing were clear to me in a way they wouldn't have been if I was reading this without prior knowledge (though I am quite observant in a literary-Sherlock way); I had no investigative work to do, so I could just pick up the clues and move along.
What this allowed me to do, in turn, was pay more attention to the characters. I was able to settle into the rhythms of their work, their relationships and their problems, which pulled me deep into the story at a rapid rate. It started well. I was enjoying One Step Behind more than any other Wallander I've read, then my enjoyment began to fall apart in the most unexpected ways.
I should mention, here, that while I was reading this Wallander I was listening (for the second time) to Sjowall & Wahloo's The Man Who Went Up in Smoke. I've found the Martin Beck books to be superior to the Wallander books, so I shouldn't be surprised that One Step Behind couldn't match its forebear, but the area in which Mankell's creation suffered most in comparison was the attitude towards the killer. Sjowall & Wahloo were not believers in the pure madman, the evil killer for the sake of evil -- nor am I. So Mankell's decision to cast his One Step Behind killer with that mould, to let a dust mote debate float throughout the book about the nature of the killer, then end it with the killer being mad and evil, left me disappointed.
Not nearly so disappointed, however, as I was at Wallander's personal turn as Dirty Harry. He was every bad Hollywood cop cliché: he was the unorthodox but effective copper; he was the cop obsessed with catching his (wo)man, all else be damned; he was self-righteous and full of venom for everyone he judged; he took unnecessary risks, put others in danger, fought off meddling bureaucrats, broke laws, all in the name of justice. I had come to expect more from Kurt Wallander in Henning Mankell's books, and the early stages of One Step Behind had promised that I would get what I expected. But no. All I got was disappointment.
What started as potentially my most favourite Wallander book turned into my least. I think I will watch the BBC version again soon (I've not seen it in a long time), and see if Wallander is as Hollywood there as he is in Mankell's pages. I sure hope not. ...more
There are many book related things I could say about the fourth Wallander installment -- The Man Who Smiled. Stuff about the excellent introduction ofThere are many book related things I could say about the fourth Wallander installment -- The Man Who Smiled. Stuff about the excellent introduction of Ann-Britt Höglund and Wallander as a character and the breakneck pace and the way the BBC adaptation of this differed in good ways and bad. But reading this particular book led me to a realization, and I'd rather talk about that.
I have often wondered why, even though I am compelled to read detective fiction -- which at its best still tends to see the world as more black and white than I -- the genre fills me with anxiety and sadness. The obvious answer is because "terrible things" happen in these books, and those things make me feel bad. But that answer has never flown for me, and I rejected it the very first time I wondered why.
I know the answer now, and it came to me in the final discussion between Dr. Harderberg and Kurt Wallander:
"You have to understand that [selling human organs] is but a tiny part of my activities. It's negligible, marginal. But it's what I do, Inspector Wallander. I buy and sell. I'm an actor on the stage govered by market forces. I never miss an opportunity, no matter how small and insignificant it is."
Human life is insignificant, then, Wallander thought. That's the premise on which Harderberg's whole existence is based.
And therein lies my anxiety and sadness. I myself believe that "human life is insignificant." Or rather that human life is no more or less significant that any other life, from microscopic bacteria to the smallest plant or insect to the largest and most complex of mammals. All of it. The whole shebang. And that these books I read situate what I believe in the black side of their balck & white outlook.
Every killer I've ever seen in every detective/mystery/serial killer book I've ever read is written to believe the same thing (The Man Who Smiled just happened to make it explicit in a revealing way), suggesting that people who believe that humanity is insignificant must be "bastards," must be traitors to humanity, must be, in some way, depraved. That stresses me out. And it is just not true.
That belief in human insignificance or the lack of human superiority does not equal evil or wickedness or wrong. Of course it can, but so can anything. The truth is that people who believe these things are just as likely to love all life. They are capable of great good too.
But I am faced daily by the fact that I am in an extreme minority. It is harder for people to understand what I believe than it is for the religious majority to understand how the atheist minority can behave morally without the dictates of a god (and that is a pretty serious misunderstanding, so imagine my despair).
When I read a book by an author like Henning Mankell, I am faced with what makes me a societal outsider in the starkest of terms.
Perhaps I should stop depressing and stressing myself, stop reading these stories, but I am compelled to continue reading them because I must remain engaged with the humanist majority, keeping the debate alive in my head. If I don't, I'll tuck my head in my shell and desiccate in the desert heat....more
I approached The White Lioness tentatively, afraid that I wouldn't like it and that it could very well mark the end of my appreciation for the writtenI approached The White Lioness tentatively, afraid that I wouldn't like it and that it could very well mark the end of my appreciation for the written Wallander.
Faceless Killers was a somewhat uninspired though compelling murder mystery. It was straightforward, and exactly what one would expect from the story of a taciturn Swedish cop in quiet Ystad. Coupled with the BBC movies, it was more than enough to make me want to proceed in the series. Dogs of Riga, however, was something else entirely. It wasn't bad, but it was thoroughly unexpected. It was a political thriller in the guise of a cop mystery, and Kurt Wallander's foray into Latvia felt too forced and uncharacteristic (despite the book's early place in the Wallander chronology) to rise above Mankell's personal, political agenda. It wasn't bad, but it made me wary of what might come next.
Once I saw the map of South Africa and the disclaimer at the beginning of The White Lioness, I was even more frightened: "Since The White Lioness was first published in 1993, some towns and areas in South Africa have been renamed. The names in use then have been retained here.”
“Uh-oh,” I thought, “Another Dogs of Riga. And to some extent it was, but in a more masterful and confident way. Mankell does with The White Lioness what he probably should have done with its predecessor. He tells two parallel stories: one is a tense murder mystery starring Kurt Wallander at his unpredictable best; the other is a suspenseful political thriller set in de Klerk’s Africa at the tail end of apartheid. This time, however, he doesn’t try to force Wallander into a foreign trip. He doesn’t embroil Wallander in a Jason Bourne style international action story. Instead, he lets these two stories bleed into each other in their separate countries, showing us how the actions of men and women in Sweden and South Africa simultaneously and unwittingly affect the other.
The two stories are constantly and necessarily tied together, but few of the important characters ever meet.
It is an impressive balancing act, and it ratchets up the suspense to a level I’ve never before experienced in a Wallander book. This was the first one I couldn’t put down, and I didn’t want it to end. It’s a real shame that The White Lioness is so rooted in its time and place. An assassination attempt on Nelson Mandela would not have the same implications today, which means that this story, barring an attempted big screen period piece, will never make it to the screen, at least not with Branagh as Wallander.
How I would love to see it, though. This really is an excellent Wallander tale. The Dogs of Riga have been put to rest....more
Well, well, well, this took me by surprise. I had fairly high expectations for Richard K. Morgan's first Takeshi Kovacs novel for a number of reasons:Well, well, well, this took me by surprise. I had fairly high expectations for Richard K. Morgan's first Takeshi Kovacs novel for a number of reasons: 1. many of y'all love these books, and plenty of you have told me to read them; 2. I have read and loved the first two parts of his A Land Fit for Heroes trilogy; 3. this book had seriously fast Hollywood attention; 4. I dig Sci-Fi.
So I tried to read it and reached page 10, then I quit. Then I tried to read it again and reached page 12, then I quit. But this last time I reached page 13, then kept going and going and going. It was even better than I expected.
Morgan smashes together Gibson's Sprawl with Banks' Culture with his own brand of sensual violence and comes up with a society advanced to near immortality without ever unshackling itself from market forces and the power elite, maintaining, further entrenching and magnifying our current inequities and iniquities. It is all done in the voice of Kovacs himself -- Envoy, mercenary with a salient conscience, sleeving master, and all around bad ass -- who turns out to be one of the finest first person narrators I've read. Whether he was in a fevered drug state, double sleeved, doing battle, or busy between a pair of muscled, toned legs, I believed in his existence.
Hell, Kovacs is so genuine I wouldn't be surprised if Morgan somehow tapped into Kovacs stack and ripped off his tale wholesale. He is just that real to me.
When I finished the book today, I drove into town and went straight to the bookstore, not imagining for a second that Broken Angels wouldn't be on the shelf. I didn't want to end my conversation with Kovacs, but it wasn't there. None of the Kovacs books were. If I'd had a splinter gun I might have taken off a head on my way out the door, but I had to settle for a head shake and a sneer. I guess I am going to have to wait a day or two longer (more like a week or two) to hear Kovacs whisper in my brain once again. I wonder if I could wangle a medically induced coma until my book arrives in the mail. Would that make the books arrival feel faster or slower? Hmmm. ...more
i. Shit. This is going into pause for now, until my copy turns up somewhere. It's probably in one of the many laundry baskets. Or somewhere. Rrrrrr. Ni. Shit. This is going into pause for now, until my copy turns up somewhere. It's probably in one of the many laundry baskets. Or somewhere. Rrrrrr. Now I have to choose another fun book from my shelves.
ii. So nearly two years ago I lost that copy, and it did eventually turn up in the shed, having soaked up water from a tiny leak. It was swollen to three times its size and overrun by fungus. But I brought it in the house, my very own Vandermeer, spore-laden tome, and I put it on the ledge beside the dehumidifier, started drying it out, and promptly forgot all about it.
A few weeks ago I needed a new shower book, and what better than a book already thoroughly water damaged, so I grabbed the book and started reading. I made it through 5 pages in the shower, but when I tossed it through the shower curtain and got ready to wash myself, my hands were covered in black spore. I went straight out and bought a new copy, which I should have done the year before.
Now that I am finished, think I will burn my old mossy copy. Not because I hate the book, but because I think a nice little blast of Fuego would be a fitting end to my wounded copy. Make of that what you will.
As for the story itself, Grave Peril is the best of the first three books. No question. Storm Front was very much a first novel, enticing, weak in parts, but fun enough to carry on. I remember enjoying Fool Moon, but I discovered that beyond a memory of loup-garouds, it was utterly forgettable. But Grave Peril elevated the Dresden books in both the consequences for Harry, and my personal enjoyment.
Harry loses and gains in this book, and not in simplistic ways. When he loses something he also keeps it, making the losing more tragic (I'm thinking the loss of Susan's love here). When he gains something, such as victory over Bianca and Kravos, he loses much more and starts a supernatural war to boot. Even in little moments, the bits of action or seemingly minor plot twists, the gains and losses have these double edges, like Amorrachius, the righteous blade of Michael, God's Chicago Knight.
Better still, Butcher manages to do cool shit with ghosts and everything else from the Nevernever, shit that actually surprised me. Barbed wire ghost torture? Crazy cool. Intentional death and ghostly manifestations? What?! A beautiful, made woman whose pharmaceutical for sanity is sex with a Vampire? Yep, that's what I said. It is all just cool.
So to sum up: cool, cool, cool. For a fun read, Grave Peril can't be beat. ...more
For a few years now, I've been interviewing my twins after they finish reading their books, posting those interviews on their own goodreads profile. MFor a few years now, I've been interviewing my twins after they finish reading their books, posting those interviews on their own goodreads profile. My boy, Miloš, finished reading The Tower Treasure a couple of weeks ago, and I reread it just this week (I always reread the books they've read.) You can see my interview with him at this link. And you can see his interview with me right here:
Miloš: Why was the book just okay?
Pa: Well, I enjoyed it for what it was. The mystery was fun, and I really liked that most of the mystery was about finding the actual treasure rather than finding the thief, but the fifties world that they lived can't have really existed, except in books and on early TV, and I didn't like the attitudes that Dixon, he's the author, had about society and good & bad. That kind of stuff.
Miloš: Okay ... which character did you like better, Frank or Joe?
Pa: Are they different characters?
Pa: I don't know. They seemed kind of hard to tell apart. I liked Oscar Smuff best actually. But I guess if I had to pick one of the brothers it would be Joe because he fell over the railing in the old Tower and caught himself. I think hints at a more physical role than Frank's, maybe he'll be more impetuous in other books.
Miloš: Do you want to know why they're different?
Pa: I'd rather "how" they're different, but you can tell me whatever you think.
Miloš: This really has nothing to do with it, but Joe is lighter haired than Frank, and Frank is older than Joe.
Pa: But those are purely physical things. It's not like they're behaviour is different at all, is it?
Miloš: I don't know.
Pa: Why not?
Miloš: It is different in a way.
Pa: What makes Joe Joe? Cause I know you like him best.
Miloš: The fact that at the very end he suddenly popped out good ideas, and he was the one that actually really made them find the treasure because he figured out where it was the old water tower.
Pa: He was the one who said it was there, but Frank was thinking the same thing, remember?
Pa: Is it that Joe wasn't afraid to think out loud, to maybe make a mistake, and Frank was keeping things to himself, and maybe was more self-conscious?
Miloš: But at the same time, Frank is sort of the hero of the tale.
Pa: So you like the underdog, the supporting character.
Miloš: Yeah, sometimes I do the same thing with villains. I like the villains better sometimes like the Evil Emperor Zurg, or something like that.
Pa: I do too. Which is why I like Smuff.
Miloš: Because he's an underdog. Yeah Smuff was a really cool character, and it was very rude to make him miss his flight.
Pa: I wasn't impressed with the Hardy's treatment of Smuff. Like you, that bothered me. it also bothered me that they always assumed Smuff was being "greedy" and wanted the reward, when they wanted exactly the same thing. So how can be better than Smuff when they have same motivation?
Miloš: True. And at the end there, you can see he sort of says something about, or he arrives last on purpose because he doesn't really like the Hardys, does he?
Pa: Or is it because he expects that they're going to humiliate him, so he isn't keen on showing up.
Miloš: Exactly. He doesn't want get mocked for not finding the treasure, and at the end he sort of tells us that since he's been a detective he never is the one to figure it out it is always someone else, which makes him feel even more stupid because he hasn't found anything. So he tells them that.
Pa: Yeah, poor Smuff. So do you have any other questions for me?
Miloš: Not other than, "Was it a good book?"
Pa: It was okay. I'm not sorry I read it again, and I am looking forward to reading the second one --