In a flooded 15th century Holland there are very few opportunities available. Jan may have an amazing opportunity at a life full of riches, but it’s hidden somewhere at the bottom of a flooded town. To reach his greedy goal in the dark moldy depths, Jan enlists the help of a wild young girl with a knack for swimming. Add Jan’s slightly psychotic but ever-faithful partner Sander to the mix and you have yourself a watery adventure with a cast to remember.
In both of his previous books, The Sad Tale of the Brothers Grossbart and The Enterprise of Death, Jesse Bullington went to great lengths to defy our expectations in every way. His characters were immoral, his language was foul, his violence was graphic, and his subject matter was often nauseating.
His fans will be pleased to know that The Folly of the World is full of the same decadence, degeneration, and gut-wrenching twists and turns we’ve come to know and love. The Folly of the World proudly carries the Bullington torch of depravity, but it’s applied in a more focused, less liberal manner — like using guided missiles instead of napalm.
The characters in The Folly of the World are as you would expect from Jesse Bullington — flawed, violent, and disturbed — but this time he has taken extra care to build a backstory that lets us understand why they turned out that way. Empathy can be a cruel tool for an author to wield. This was done so well that I was horrified to find myself actually feeling sorry for these despicable people. Readers who didn’t like The Sad Tale of the Brothers Grossbart because of the characters may feel differently about this novel.
But as usual, Bullington still takes delight in making his readers very uncomfortable — The Folly of the World is filled with sexual tension, unwelcome surprises, and short lifespans, all of it weaved with masterful wordplay and dark humor. Bullington has perfected his voice in this novel. He’s taken the elements that his fans loved from his previous work and incorporated them in a manner that addresses the critiques of those who didn't appreciate his earlier work. I think this demonstrates a sense of self awareness and growth as a writer. He was scary good before, and he just keeps getting better.
The Folly of the World is Bullington’s best work to date. I love his previous work, but this is something special. When I recommend his work to others, I’ll suggest this book first. Thanks, Mr. Bullington, for an excellent piece of fiction. And if you’re one of the readers who were grossed out by the Brothers Grossbart, try The Folly of the World.(less)
WWW: Wonder is the third and final book in Robert J. Sawyer’s WWW trilogy. It continues the story of visually challenged Caitlin Decter and the self a...moreWWW: Wonder is the third and final book in Robert J. Sawyer’s WWW trilogy. It continues the story of visually challenged Caitlin Decter and the self aware web-based intelligence that she has named Webmind. Caitlin and Webmind struggle to deal with the sudden attention Webmind’s emergence has brought on them all. Caitlin believes that Webmind is a benevolent entity, but the government considers it a threat and wants to eradicate it. There are a couple of other subplots that come to together in WWW: Wonder, but the story mostly revolves around the few key characters. Similar to the previous books, Wake and Watch, Wonder tackles the philosophical themes of self identity, personal responsibility, and the greater good. The messages Sawyer delivers are positive, and thought provoking. In fact, Robert J. Sawyer’s writing is always thought provoking and he is never shy about providing his own answers to the questions he asks. I like the clarity and honesty in his approach. Wonder ties up the story nicely. Make sure you’ve read Wake and Watch first since Wonder does not stand alone. I listened to the CD audio version released by Brilliance Audio, narrated by a team of four voice actors (Jessica Almasy, Jennifer Van Dyck, A.C. Fellner, and Marc Vietor), and even a little by Robert J. Sawyer himself. Each character has their own voice, and it makes for an awesome listening experience. This is one series that should be listened to on audio — I think it’s actually superior to the written one.(less)
Jack Nightingale was a cop, a negotiator to be specific. He becomes a private investigator after a series of strange and tragic events. Things get rea...moreJack Nightingale was a cop, a negotiator to be specific. He becomes a private investigator after a series of strange and tragic events. Things get really weird for Jack when he finds out the parents he lost as a teenager had actually adopted him, and his real father has left him a huge mansion in the countryside. I should also mention that his biological father was an evil bastard who sold Jack’s soul to a demon, and only a few days remain till said demon comes to collect. Jack the level-headed investigator doesn’t buy into any of it, until his loved ones start having “accidents.” He tries to find out who is doing the killing while trying to unravel the mystery of his family’s past.
Nightfall is a bloody mystery thriller with fantasy elements mixed in. It had its scary moments, but didn’t keep me up at night. I found much of the story to be very sad, actually. The things Jack has to deal with in this story will break your heart. You can feel him suppressing his reactions to the events as they happen. That’s where the book lost me a bit; Jack handles all of this a little too well. I know he is a hard bitten ex-cop, but there are times he seems psychopathic in his emotional detachment.
The writing itself is top-notch. Nightfall is precisely plotted, with tension, action, and humor in all the right places. The characters are engaging and the action is intense. I found the mystery elements of the story to be its strongest parts, which comes as no surprise, since mystery thrillers are Leather’s bread and butter. This book would be a great gateway into fantasy for someone who’s into mystery or crime novels.
I listened to Nightfall on CD from Brilliance Audio, narrated by Ralph Lister. Mr. Lister did an excellent job with the gritty crime noir feel the novel exudes. I would highly recommend this version to readers. Amazon is currently selling the audiobook version for $10. At that price, this is a no-brainer.
What would it be like if Neanderthals had become the dominant race of humans on the planet? Hominids by Robert J. Sawyer explores that very idea. This...moreWhat would it be like if Neanderthals had become the dominant race of humans on the planet? Hominids by Robert J. Sawyer explores that very idea. This book follows a brilliant Neanderthal physicist named Ponter Boddet. Ponter and his partner, while working on experimental quantum computers, accidently open a bridge between universes. The bridge leads to the world we (Homo sapiens sapiens) currently reside in. Ponter fell into our world accidently and has now become stranded here. Robert J. Sawyer is a master at taking an interesting thought experiment and turning it into a full-length novel. What would a Neanderthal world be like? What would a modern Neanderthal do if he were dropped into our world? It’s fascinating to think about. Sawyer answers those questions in a thoughtful, heavily researched, and entertaining manner. Ponter Boddit is one of the most dynamic and interesting characters I have ever read. He is thoughtful, intelligent, and quick-witted. He is the key to making Hominids an amazing work of fiction, and is a big part of the reason it won a Hugo Award. As with many of Sawyer’s books, Hominids has a bit of a mystery novel woven into the overall story. Since Ponter totally vanished from his own world, his partner Adikore has been accused of his murder. Adikore has been left trying to prove his innocence. The problem is that is he trying to explain a hiccup in advanced quantum computing to laymen who believe he’s murdered his best friend. Adikore’s part of the novel is a riveting legal fight taking place in the Neanderthal world while Ponter is trying to adjust to his surroundings in the other universe. There is not a single wasted word in this entire novel. I listened to this on Brilliance Audio CD, narrated by Jonathan Davis. Davis is smooth as butter, and provides so much life to the characters he reads. I highly recommend getting the audio version of Hominids if you can. —Justin Blazier for FantasyLiterature.com(less)
The main character of Lauren Beukes’s Zoo City is a former freelance journalist named Zinzi December. Zinzi is cool, intelligent and carries some big...moreThe main character of Lauren Beukes’s Zoo City is a former freelance journalist named Zinzi December. Zinzi is cool, intelligent and carries some big mental baggage. Despite her flaws, you will love her almost immediately. Zinzi lives in Zoo City, which is essentially a slum in Johannesburg for people who have been burdened with animals. In the world of Zoo City, people are magically attached to animals after they’ve done something particularly awful. People with animals are the outcasts of society, and the more conspicuous the animal the harder it is to lead a normal life. Zinzi carries a sloth, which isn’t the easiest critter to conceal.
Since Zinzi is not able to work a real job due to her fuzzy companion, she makes ends meet by using her natural ability to find lost things for people. On one of this lost item cases she stumbles onto a murder, which starts a chain of events that will change her life forever.
The South African setting is unique, and I was completely immersed in the world. Beukes paints a hip and gritty view of Johannesburg that is totally captivating. Her writing is sharp with detail, but never overburdened with description. I was able to get a feel for the environment everywhere Zinzi went.
The characters in Zoo City are clearly defined and interesting to read about. Everyone has a dark past that lurks in the background. You are constantly left wondering what they did to get their animal. This can be frustrating at times since those back stories are only lightly touched upon, even those of the main characters. In later works, I hope Beukes continues some of the stories she started in Zoo City.
My experience with Zoo City was one to be remembered. The story takes many unexpected turns. Things that seem important at the time often turn out to be not much at all. At times this left me scratching my head wondering what just happened, but it usually worked out in a surprising way. I recommend keeping an open mind to the flow of the story when reading Zoo City and trust that the end will justify the means.
Beukes is a gifted writer. Her abilities with description and dialog alone put her in a special category. Zoo City is a clever and unique piece of fiction, and a fantastic addition to the Angry Robot library. I listened to Zoo City on CD from Brilliance Audio. The narration is done by Justine Eyre. Justine does a wonderful job giving life to the characters, and I highly recommend the audio version of this book. —Justin Blazier for FantasyLiterature.com(less)
Bull Ingram is a very big fellow. He’s a former Marine who is still a little raw from the war like most men in the early 1950s. Bull works as paid mus...moreBull Ingram is a very big fellow. He’s a former Marine who is still a little raw from the war like most men in the early 1950s. Bull works as paid muscle and his primary job is finding people who owe his employers money. When he finds them, he “convinces” them to pay back their debts. He is very good at his job. A folk music dealer wants Bull to locate a mysterious blues man by the name of Ramblin’ John Hastur. Hastur’s music has strange effects on those who listen to it, and Bull’s new employer wants him found. The job leads Bull down a strange and violent path through the underbelly of the 1950’s American South.
John Hornor Jacobs sets a furious pace in Southern Gods. It doesn’t let up till you hit the epilogue. I was sent an audio copy of this from Brilliance Audio, and I was so desperate to keep reading the story that I actually purchased the Kindle version to read on my phone when I was not able to listen to the audio. While reading this book I ran a gamut of emotions. I was excited, amused, scared, and also totally disturbed. I’ve read some messed-up stuff, and Southern Gods was the first to give me serious nightmares.
The heroes of the story battle evil foes and make the occasional bad joke in classic urban fantasy style. The story also contains some truly horrific scenes of violence. Some of it was hard for me to handle — and I’m an avid Joe Abercrombie fan. The frightening and disturbing parts fall well within the horror category of fiction, but the campy urban fantasy moments didn’t always mesh with the disturbing horror, thus creating a kind of identity crisis.
I recommend Southern Gods to fans of both horror and dark fantasy. At 300 pages it is a bit short. With some more space I believe Jacobs would have made the story flow even more smoothly. I would also recommend the audiobook version published by Brilliance Audio. The story is read by Eric Dove, and he is amazing. A voice actor can make or break a story, and Eric made this book a thrill to listen to. I will certainly look into other books he’s voiced. —Justin Blazier at FantaslyLiterature.com(less)
Writing this review is going to be impossible without spoiling some of the series for those who have not read through Changes, just a little warning....moreWriting this review is going to be impossible without spoiling some of the series for those who have not read through Changes, just a little warning. No Ghost Story spoilers, it's just that the entire plot of this book may spoil earlier novels. The title of this book, Ghost Story, does a pretty good job of revealing the entire premise of the story: Harry is a ghost. Like all ghosts he has a task that must be completed in order to be at peace. A lot of what was planted in Changes bears fruit in Ghost Story. Harry is now forced to deal with the horrible decisions he was forced to make while the Red Court held his daughter. To the living, Harry has been gone for six months. All hell has broken loose in Chicago without Dresden around. Harry is now dropped in the middle of all this and is practically helpless is his current state to do anything about it. Add that to the emotional turmoil of losing Harry, and well you got a pretty good idea of how things are going at the beginning of Ghost Story.
There is a formula to the DRESDEN FILES novels. They very rarely deviate from the rhythm Jim Butcher established in the very first book. Changes broke away from that formula, and in Ghost Story we fall back into the structure of the pseudo detective noir novel that we are used to. That's a good feeling. Changes was amazing, and it certainly shook things up. However, I was surprised at how much I missed that familiar Dresden feel. Ghost Story tries to bring the Dresden universe back to some state of normalcy.
The characters in Ghost Story are plentiful. Many older characters are brought back from the early books, and a lot of new characters come into play as well. Jim Butcher spends a significant amount of time on the emotional state of the characters. Ghost Story emphasizes the mental and physical trauma that is weighing on them all. There were moments where I felt real empathy for many of them. I love these characters and it is painful to see them changed in irreparable ways. Dresden, in particular, wrestles with some rather big issues carried over from previous novels.
The writing in Ghost Story is solid. Jim continues to improve upon perfection and the last few DRESDEN FILES books are damn near flawless. Ghost Story continues in the trend of mixing suspense, mystery, drama and humor. I also felt that Jim has become more relaxed in his voice as Dresden. The geek culture references are more prevalent, and maybe a bit more obscure. There is even a beautiful homage to a Star Trek battle in there somewhere.
I've reviewed a lot of the DRESDEN books and I'm finding it more and more difficult to find different ways to say how awesome these books are. They changed the way I read fantasy. I have driven 3 hours to wait in line at a signing. I have gotten my brother, father, and several friends addicted to these stories. I talk so much about these books that I sometimes feel I should be on the Penguin Group payroll. I remember reading Patrick Rothfuss' blog when he discovered the DRESDEN FILES. How vindicated I felt when a best-selling author of his caliber squealed about them as much as I do. You must read these books. You have to read THE DRESDEN FILES. That is all. —Justin Blazier from Fantasy Literature(less)