**spoiler alert** This is a short novel in a style the author calls 'Country Noir'. It takes place in the Ozarks, during the modern day. It follows 4**spoiler alert** This is a short novel in a style the author calls 'Country Noir'. It takes place in the Ozarks, during the modern day. It follows 4 people from the wrong side of the tracks, essentially poor white trash.
Three are related; a faded prostitute mother, Bev, and her two semi-grown (teenage) wild offspring, They despise their mother and want to escape the life their birth place, and family name guarantee them in this small town. The problem is they both lack the education, the polish or the smarts to escape. It doesn't help that they mostly eschew hard work in favor of petty crime (that escalates as the story progresses).
The fourth member is an older guy (mid to late 20s), very similar to them, but with actual prison experience. Sammy is able to reflect on what he is, and where he will end up if he keeps on, but unable to make a change. He is a drifter constantly looking for a ready-made family to take him in. He finds that family with the Merridews.
He notes the brother and sister are a bit too familiar with the parts of each other that siblings usually keep private from one another. The boy, Jason is the prettiest boy in the Ozarks, and can't quite decide if has the courage to be gay. His sister, Jamalee feels the world owes her something, and is easily angered by everyone and every interaction. She is the brains behind their escape, and is willing to use Sammy to make that happen. Sammy wants to fit in and if Jama won't have sex with him, he is fine with getting freebies from their mother Bev, in between her clients.
The story follows them for a short time as they hatch plots, and commit crimes often at the spur of the moment. The crimes are either to help them get out (in Jama's mind), or to hand out revenge to those whom Jama thinks have wronged them. There is no thought given to the consequences, or to the fact that because the place is so small it will be known who committed the crime.
Their misdeeds eventually result in the death of one of the four, when they anger those is power. Besides Sammy, who can see the train wreck coming, but can't get out of the way, Bev is the wise one of the four. They are also probably the only sympathetic characters.
The book has a predictable ending, given the characters and their actions. It wasn't bad, but it really doesn't have a point. It is more like a fly on the wall type of read, where you can visit the type of people and life most would have nothing to do with in real life....more
**spoiler alert** I read this book for a local book group. It is large and set during Victorian times.
I tend to dislike books set in the near past be**spoiler alert** I read this book for a local book group. It is large and set during Victorian times.
I tend to dislike books set in the near past because the authors try to duplicate their writing style. That usually leads to slow, bloated, boring, badly written stories. This book uses the style of the past where the main character/narrator is completely detached (example: where the current Prince of Wales refers to himself as 'one', as in 'One tries to do one's best'.), so there is almost no emotion. The main character Edward, talks about feelings but its like reading a newspaper account, no real emotion. Given the main character, who is hardly better than his adversary, its OK, though usually the detached style produces a dry lifeless tome.
Surprisingly this book actually flows and is not really a tedious read, though it has a few slow patches. Parts were too long, and too full of detail but mostly it was compelling, sort of. It was the type of book that once you picked it up and started reading, you didn't want to put it down. Once it was down though, it was easy not to pick it up (except is a few places towards the end - were you wanted to find out what was going to happen). So all in all it was not bad, but also not great. It was OK, was a bit of a long read, had lots of interesting period details, and a so-so ending.
The story is told like a confession in written form, a journal or memoir by the main character. It starts in his present day, goes back in time and then joins the time of the start of the book, and moves forward. There isn't much forward movement before the book ends, most of the book is focused in the character's past.
It has a compelling start - about having a meal after killing the red-haired man (not too much of a spoiler, its on the back of the book).
The main character's life has been thwarted at every turn by his adversary. Even as children at school, Edward has been ruined by Phoebus. As Edward tells the story, it develops he has even been betrayed by his mother and actions she took soon after he was born. She is gone, and with her the proof he needs to prove the truth, and set his life in its proper course. The book is his story of how he found out about the betrayal, and how he is trying to gather proof. Throughout he is beset by Phoebus, and it turns out that Phoebus stands to gain from Edward's misfortune.
The story while setting out the facts of the betrayal and the quest for proof, shows how the main character is little better than those who are working against him. It shows the depths a person can sink to, while rationalizing his behavior because he is the initial 'victim'. Edward is self-absorbed, and greedy. He has little thought for the people or the feelings of those involved, but immediately focuses on the material items he will gain, or that are due him. I have tagged it as horror, because it is about the horror in the soul, not the fantasy monster type.
The author gives lots of period detail, and tries to write and have the characters behave like Victorian times. He mostly succeeds. He locates all the places visited or talked about, and he uses real places of the time. There are lots of footnotes, which I think I heard are also in Susanna Clarke's Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell . But for me it is reminiscent of Mary Gentle's earlier Ash: The Secret History or the excellent 1610: Sundial in a Grave . The footnotes also cover the literary works that are discussed, and translations from Latin and French.
The options for endings are tragedy, or a happy ending or something interesting. The author wisely bypasses the first two, but fails at the third. For such a long read, the book ends with a whimper. There should have been something as surprising and twisty as the main story. It does wrap up what happened to the characters, but still its a fizzle.
I wouldn't rule out another book by this author, but would probably not read another long work of his. ...more
**spoiler alert** This is a quick read, a first book, and the start of a new series, and clearly more of an adventure book, than an idea book.
It is ab**spoiler alert** This is a quick read, a first book, and the start of a new series, and clearly more of an adventure book, than an idea book.
It is about a woman who has a special gene that allows her to navigate through Grimspace, a place between here and there. where ships go when they jump using FTL to travel. There is no real scientific explanation about Grimspace or FTL, its just a given. There is an interesting note that the navigator's ability is to sense beacons that have been left in Grimspace to mark exit and entrance points to jump. The beacons are near the locations they wish to go to, and have been left by ancient aliens, no longer around.
The gene has a side-effect in that it eventually burns out the person, and though they may physically come back from Grimspace, their mind/soul does not. The navigator bonds with a pilot and through the bond he can drive the ship to the beacon the navigator senses. It is never stated, but the implication is that navigators are always female, and pilots are always male.
The story is that the main character, navigator Jax is the only survivor of a crash, and the ruling corporate/military (C/M) complex wants to blame her. Rather than accept their actions, she escapes and joins the rebels who are trying to end the monopoly on jumpers/space travel that the C/M complex enforces.
The other thread running through the story is a romantic plot. Jax lost her lover/pilot, and is in mourning. One of her rescuers is a man she hates, but has an instant reaction to (ho hum). The rest of the book they play at come-here/go-away. It reminds me of a nominally SF version of the paranormal urban romance fantasy that is so popular.
The writing is good, the characters are good, and I am a sucker for FTL Jump stories. The story seems to be a hodge-podge to set up one action scene after another. The romance is predictable. Its not great, but its not terrible. I am now reading the sequel Wanderlust ...more