I'm not sure there can be a more compelling, exciting, adventurous, and smart thriller than Michael Crichton's "Jurassic Park".
I read the book for a...more I'm not sure there can be a more compelling, exciting, adventurous, and smart thriller than Michael Crichton's "Jurassic Park".
I read the book for a second time because my 6th grade son had an assignment to read a novel recommended by a parent. I thought this would be a fun book and he wanted us to read it at the same time. Not only did I have the opportunity to read this again after almost 20 years, but also I've been able to enjoy it through the eyes of my son.
Crichton's writing reads effortlessly. His language is simple, his descriptions clear. Combined with the excitement of the story, so clearly laid out, the book is an extremely fast read. I’m sure the science has changed, but the book holds up extremely well 22 years after it was first published.
I'll skip a detailed plot description, since everyone knows the story of a man's attempt to build a zoo of genetically reengineered dinosaurs. Things go horribly wrong during a private tour of the park, which includes two expert paleontologists, a theoretical mathematician and two grandchildren of the park's visionary leader.
The first third of the book is like a roller coaster, slowly rising during its initial ascent, building with tension as it approaches its peak. The second two-thirds of the book play out like the roller coaster rumbling downward at breakneck speed, turning unexpectedly, tossing the rider from side to side, and providing only brief respites, before zigging and zagging towards its conclusion.
One can't help but compare the novel to Steven Spielberg's classic film. The movie did a remarkable job of following Crichton's original story. He, in fact, co-write the script making small modifications in the characters, their roles, their relationships, and their fates.
One scene in the book didn't make it into the movie that I remembered from my first read: a sequence where the T-Rex chases Dr. Grant and the two children, in a raft, down a river and into the park's aviary. I believe parts of this sequence found its way into the third movie, and though this scene is rather short, it stands out to me as a bit of a disappointment for not being in the film.
Crichton uses Dr. Ian Malcolm, the mathematician, as the story's moral mouthpiece. Malcolm emphasizes the dangers of science unabated, questioning how modern science has become an effort in achievement, focused on the ‘how’, while sacrificing its conscience without consideration of the ‘why’ or whether something should even be explored.
My son loves the story. He can certainly connect with the 11-year old dinophile who finds himself in numerous heroic situations. And what's not to like in a story filled with dinosaurs and near-miss escapes?
Crichton always does an amazing job of writing cutting edge science in an attainable way, and “Jurassic Park” holds up as a particular strong example of his deft handling of complicated subjects.
My only complaint is the relative translucence of Crichton's characters. They have enough flesh to make the reader care, but not all that much. It’s a quality that I seem to recall from most of Crichton’s work.
This is a minor criticism because I simply love this story. Based on my son’s enjoyment, the book is appropriate for fifth graders and up (depending on an individual's reading level, of course). The only dicey parental considerations are the level of violence, which is high, and the potential for a sleepless night or two due to the intensity of the story. (less)
Altar of Eden is a fun, exciting and fast read. If you're looking to escape in a tv-movie sort-of-way, then this is a good purchase.
James Rollins writ...moreAltar of Eden is a fun, exciting and fast read. If you're looking to escape in a tv-movie sort-of-way, then this is a good purchase.
James Rollins writes short and to the point. His characters and plot are somewhat similar - short and to the point. And it's enjoyable. The first half of the book sets the stage for genetically altered animals escape into the Bayou after an attempt to smuggle them into the U.S. goes awry.
Rollins writes adventure and pseudo-science well. Think Michael Crichton lite. But that's not a bad thing.
The book is full of gun fights and nasty animals attacks, plus the obligatory evil-scientist-explaining-his-nefarious-plot-to-the-protagonist. But it wraps up the story nicely.
If you're looking for something deep, then keep looking. You can stop looking, however, if you're in the market for a rock solid adventure, with mutated jaguars and super-smart hominids.(less)
Many familiar with Gary Jennings' "Aztec" series will enjoy this book. Expectations should be measured, however, because "2012" is only Gary Jennings...moreMany familiar with Gary Jennings' "Aztec" series will enjoy this book. Expectations should be measured, however, because "2012" is only Gary Jennings 'Lite'. Since 'Lite' is all one can get, then one should go for it. At the end of the day the book is enjoyable.
The delight I find from Jennings' original two "Aztec" books (and to a lesser extent in his Marco Polo-based novel "Journeyer") is the emotional depth and range of the key characters. It's been almost two years since I first discovered "Aztec" and I still find my thoughts drifting to the myriad tales of Mixtli Dark Cloud. Mixtli's inner monologue and narrative is what defines Jennings' characters. I find that tone very recognizable and comfortable.
"2012" bounces back and forth between early 1000 A.D. and modern day. The plot lines of the two times generally follow each other on a search to answer the questions of when, why, and what cataclysmic end will come to the earth. There are about twice as many pages dedicated to the main Aztec character, Coyotl, and his adventures than the modern day vignettes. If the book is Gary Jennings 'Lite', then you'll be as pleased as I was that the focus is on Coyotl, who could justifiably be considered Mixtil Dark Cloud 'Lite'.
"Apocalypse 2012" is purportedly based on Jennings' own notes found after his death in 1999. This book is not great. The storyline is unbalanced and, at some points, a little nonsensical. I found myself thumbing back through some sections trying to reconcile some of the actions. Ultimately, I threw my hands up and let myself enjoy the ride.
Though 384 pages (MUCH shorter than "Aztec"), the book is an extremely easy and quick read. Few chapters run more than 10 pages long.
If your expectations are set appropriately, and you pine for Gary Jennings, then buy this book. If you're looking for another "Aztec", then you'll have to keep searching. For those who haven't tried Jennings, this isn't a terrible introduction. But just be aware that this is more of an appetizer - the main course is "Aztec".(less)
"Deep Storm" is a solid and serviceable techno/scifi-thriller. The characters are not deep, but the story is both engaging and exciting, and I was ver...more"Deep Storm" is a solid and serviceable techno/scifi-thriller. The characters are not deep, but the story is both engaging and exciting, and I was very motivated to read it all the way through.
Lincoln Child's story is of a secret submerged deep water facility built to uncover a mysterious energy source. Dr. Crane is asked to join the effort in order to uncover a series of illnesses sweeping through the employees of the facility (scientists and military).
I've read Preston and Child before - "Ice Limit" and "Riptide" I found to be particularly good. The characters, I felt, were much stronger in those stories. But it didn't matter in "Deep Storm". The book is a very quick read, heavy on action and science.
As long as you can live without strong characters, I'd recommend this well-written and exciting book.(less)
"In the Courts of the Sun" is an interesting novel, built Frankenstein-like from the elements of a Michael Crichton techno-thriller, Gary Jennings' "A...more"In the Courts of the Sun" is an interesting novel, built Frankenstein-like from the elements of a Michael Crichton techno-thriller, Gary Jennings' "Aztec" series, and one of Stephen Baxter's novel spins on time travel. I enjoyed the book, but it's uneven. The book was written by artist Brian D'Amato and is being publicized as the first of three books in a Sacrifice Game trilogy.
The story is heavily character-driven, led by Jed DeLanda, a supremely intelligent, anti-social, hard-core gamer...of Mayan descent. DeLanda is one of the few people in the world who can play an ancient Mayan game used to help see into the future. Capitalizing on the real-world 2012 doomsday popularity, D'Amato's story places Jed in position to help decipher a recently discovered Mayan codex, and play his game to help unravel mysterious clues about the end of the world as predicted to take place on December 21, 2012.
Jed, connected through an insanely rich man and organization, is given a chance to go back in time to find the author of the codex which predicts this 2012 doomsday. He's not actually going back in time himself, but his consciousness is transferred to an individual in 664 AD. The original target for Jed's consciousness is the ruler of the Mayan city of Ix. Instead, Jed2 (as the consciousness part of Jed is referred to) misses the target and is placed in Chacal, a champion Mayan ball player who's been selected as a sacrifice in place of the Mayan ruler.
About one-third of the story takes place in 664 AD in Central America and Mexico with Jed2 narrating his search for the author of the codex and how he might be able to play the game and determine the details surrounding the foretold 12/21/12 holocaust. Jed2's narration is sandwiched between Jed's narration leading up to the consciousness time travel and its aftermath.
The story is carried by a heavy amount of Jed's inner monologue, which at times is quite good and insightful. I was particularly appreciative of his well-stated rants of self actualization, and his introverts' perspective on other personality types. Jed's very snarky, which at times was wonderful at lightening the mood but at other times a little grating and rambling. He spends a good amount of time detailing the Game.
The conclusion is disappointing. I don't know how else to put it. Part two is due later in 2010 and I'm finding myself only moderately interested in finding out what happens next. As a big fan of Gary Jenning's "Aztec", I'd like to see a return to the world of ancient America, and perhaps D'Amato will keep to a crisper storyline.(less)
"Black Rain" is a good, fun read that nicely sets up a sequel without sacrificing a solid ending. This book fits squarely in the realm of the lighter-w...more"Black Rain" is a good, fun read that nicely sets up a sequel without sacrificing a solid ending. This book fits squarely in the realm of the lighter-weight Dan Brown-esque genre of thrillers. Leaders of this genre include James Rollins and Jeremy Robinson, whose stories are a bit formulaic and their characterizations often thinly built.
Graham Brown brings new energy to the genre. His core plot involves the Mayan creation myth called "Popul Vuh". In reality, this document has been handed down through history only due to the work of a Dominican Friar who, in the 18th century, made a copy of the Mayan legend rather than follow suit of most of his forebears who feared the devilish presence of another religious doctrine and burned almost all other native documents in the New World.
After having discovered several crystals that suggest the existence of a tremendous new energy source, a semi-secret non-governmental organization goes to Brazil to find their source.
Brown picks apart certain stories from "Popul Vuh" and develops historic explanations for their origins as his team of ex-military and researchers uncover clue after clue surrounding the origin of the crystals. The story contains government conspiracies, hidden jungle pyramids, helicopters and big guns, war-ready natives, and monstrous animals. It also contains a tease of science fiction which nicely sets a tone for the rest of the series.
Brown captures the texture of Brazil including the jungle-embedded pyramid and the centuries-old tribe that endures it's ancient lifestyle. Brown paces each new clue, each newly unraveled mystery at a solid and steady pace. There was very little plot disclosed without a reasonably good rationale. There was very little mystery solved without it fitting in well with the rest of the tone, texture and pacing of the rest of the story.
The story isn't deep enough to warrant a 4-star rating. But it's better than most supernatural thrillers I've read and I was drawn into the story enough to want to read the sequel, "Black Sun". If you enjoyed the opening sequence of the original Indiana Jones, then imagine a full books' worth of that style adventure and you have a decent preview of what you'll get.(less)
When I got through the first quarter of "Lucifer's Code", I started considering whether I should give this pulp archaeo-historical-thriller four or th...moreWhen I got through the first quarter of "Lucifer's Code", I started considering whether I should give this pulp archaeo-historical-thriller four or three stars. The introductory scenes were that good. High action, quick and witty dialogue and a reasonably smart storyline. Honestly, I was teetering on the 4-stars v 3-stars debate through the first half of the book. Unfortunately for me, and for the potential 4-star rating, this is when things started falling apart.
The first half of the book is a single, continuous, non-stop action sequence. A kidnapping leads to to an escape, involving international travel, gunplay, witty reparte (with sexual innuendo), interspersed with clues surrounding a mysterious scroll and the potential for the "end of the world". The story is nothing unique: a world-renowned linguist has a knack for reading ancient languages; he's already discovered Atlantis (in a previous book), and is now pulled into another world-shattering mystery. Yes, it sounds an awful lot like Dan Brown's Robert Langdon, but I assure you that this is but a comic book in comparison to the depth and breadth of Brown's best.
The opening sequences read right out of a strong mainstream thriller and would be totally film-ready. It perhaps points to its lack of originality that one could easily envision the car chases through Turkey and gun-shot dodging escape through the catacombs near Istanbul. But the writing is smooth and the reading is fast, easy and fun. I'm not ashamed to say that I thoroughly enjoyed the early going.
I really wanted the mystery to have a strong payoff, but it was not to be. In fact, I lost interest in keeping tabs on all of the loose ends and only hours after finishing, I'm still not sure if they were tied up, nor do I particularly care. All aspects of the final quarter of the book felt like the author was in a rush to be done...or that an editor got a little eraser-happy and managed to strip out all semblances of the strong build up from the first part of the book. I liked the characters, I liked the dialogue, and I liked the outline of the story...but they all dissipated like ancient paper blown in the wind.
If you like this style of story: Dan Brown Lite (VERY lite), then this is worth a read...in paperback, or perhaps borrowed from a friend. All that said, I've put Charles Brokaw's first book, "The Atlantis Code" on my wishlist, and I'll keep an eye out for his second. There's more good than bad in "Lucifer's Code", but beware of the second half.
I received "The Lucifer Code" as part of the LibraryThing Early Reviewers program. (less)
I was prepared to not love this book. Brown's "Da Vinci Code" is a really fun book. "Angels and Demons" is better. I bought "Symbol" as soon as it was...moreI was prepared to not love this book. Brown's "Da Vinci Code" is a really fun book. "Angels and Demons" is better. I bought "Symbol" as soon as it was available as an e-book and sat on it for a while. But once I got started, I was pulled right in and ended up flying through the book.
If you're not familiar with Brown's hero in his previous two books, Professor Robert Langdon, and his penchant for finding trouble and solving complex historical riddles, you"ll be underwhelmed by the opening chapters. The opening sequences started to feel like Brown had developed a series of clues in search of a plot. But once the problem-solving gets underway, the story simply flies.
"Symbol's" bad guy is real nasty. While he's not all that complex, he's reasonbly well-rounded and creepy to follow. Langdon has become Tom Hanks...and I couldn't NOT picture him running around "Symbol's" locale of Washington, D.C.
Brown's dialogue is hoky at times. The characters aren't the deepest, and the book could've been 25-40 pages shorter. But the story-telling is solid. It's extremely well paced, and infused with surprises. I simply enjoyed the book. (less)
Wil Lavender's "Dominance" is smart, dark, intense and deeply moody. This thrilling murder mystery is part "Silence of the Lambs", and part Agatha Chr...moreWil Lavender's "Dominance" is smart, dark, intense and deeply moody. This thrilling murder mystery is part "Silence of the Lambs", and part Agatha Christie and is driven by Lavender's slow and purposeful development of characters and clues and revelations around key plot points.
Lavender bounces the reader between past and present building up the mysteries and tensions surrounding a 20-year old pair of murders and a recent murder that brings former college classmates together for a macabre reunion.
Both past and present mysteries revolve around former professor and convict Richard Aldiss. This very Hannibal Lecter-like character continually dances along the fine line of being good and evil as he helps guide his students to first finding the truth behind the murders he was accused of over 20 years ago, and then the more recent murder of their classmate. 20 years ago, the top 9 students in the Literature program at a small Vermont college take a course that promises to unravel the mystery of who novelist Paul Fallows really is. It's taught by Aldiss via closed circuit TV under heavy guard from his prison cell.
Lavender does a masterful job at building and connecting multiple mysteries while teasing the details and leaving the reader salivating for more. The interactions between Aldiss and his students, particularly Alex Shipley, will evoke memories of Lecter and his "student" Clarice Starling. Aldiss is extremely smart, deep and bizarre and has a way of pulling all of those around him into his own cult of personality.
Some of Lavender's clues are a bit clunky. Some of the dialogue feels too forced. The conclusions left me a bit disappointed, but any book that keeps me up late riveted and excited for more while keeping me more focused on every shadow and creak in my house than on getting a good night's sleep, will get a high recommendation from me. (less)
Author Kitty Pilgrim does a terrific job setting up the locations within her debut novel " The Explorer's Code". While I've never been to Monaco, Turk...moreAuthor Kitty Pilgrim does a terrific job setting up the locations within her debut novel " The Explorer's Code". While I've never been to Monaco, Turkey or the English countryside, Pilgrim is at her best in establishing the locales for mystery-adventure, and connecting the reader to these beautiful locations. One will pick up a strong sense of the mystery and allure of a Turkish bazaar, and the outrageous wealth and glamour of the Monaco coastline.
Unfortunately, the thin plot and inconsistent characterizations weaken a promising book.
I really wanted to like it. The story was right up my alley and it seemed like a terrific summertime beach-read. Pilgrim spends a lot of time on vapid dialogue, without providing strong enough emotional associations between characters and readers. The plot is interesting, but 1/3 through the book feels more tv-movie-of-the-week rather than blockbuster, and it was clear 2/3 of the way through that there would be no strong finish.
If you’re looking for something very lightweight, this might not be a bad choice. The book really isn’t terrible…it’s just not very good. (less)
David Ignatius creates and builds upon an engagingly textured environment of spies and third world nuclear threat to create a realistic and fun espion...moreDavid Ignatius creates and builds upon an engagingly textured environment of spies and third world nuclear threat to create a realistic and fun espionage thriller. While I'd give Ignatius' effort three starts for the intricacies of the fiction as literature, I'd move it to a solid four stars for the well-woven and well-paced plot.
The story revolves around a young Iranian scientist who sends the CIA a subtly coded message exposing Iran's efforts in developing nuclear weapons. His mode of communication is the "contact us" link available on the CIA's public website. Ignatius writes, "...occasionally the strange people who sent anonymous messages to the CIA were for real. They knew secrets; they were angry at their government, or the security service, or maybe just at the boss down the hall." In this case, the message was very real, and this communication becomes the launching point for Ignatius' tautly written novel.
The story bounces between CIA headquarters outside of Washington, D.C., Iran, London and other points in the Middles East. It's in London where we learn the meaning behind the novel's title. The Increment is the informal and off-the-books British force that's pulled into only the highest of security missions, and the only forces that truly have James Bond's legendary 'license to kill'.
The plot hums along, and the characters, while sometimes clichéd, are believable. The main threads of the story follow an aging America CIA agent in charge of operations in Iran. He's grizzled and jaded, and the most morally consistent and clear of all characters in the story. An old friend and colleague is a senior officer in the British spy agency who's brought in to help with the operation as it moves to Tehran. The Iranian scientist is sincere and sad. While not terrifically deep, Ignatius crafts this character strongly enough that the reader will actually care and root for his success and safety. Few characters are exclusively what they seem. They're a little good, and a little bad. Characteristics lean towards one side or the other based on whose side they appear to support. But as the plot develops, it becomes clear that some larger chess pieces are orbiting around the primary characters.
I don't read particularly quickly, but this story I knocked off in only 3 days. At times "The Increment" is more mystery than adventure, and the thrill is in the creation, build up and execution of Ignatius' well though-through plan. He smoothly slams home a twisty, curvy conclusion that I wasn't expecting. All in all this was a satisfying read for what it is: a fun thriller with a very old-school spy vibe. I definitely recommend this read.(less)
I really enjoyed this book. Two easy indicators of when I know I'm immersed in a compelling read are: a) I finish it off (at just over 400 pages) in l...moreI really enjoyed this book. Two easy indicators of when I know I'm immersed in a compelling read are: a) I finish it off (at just over 400 pages) in less than a week, and b) I'm actually looking forward to my commute because I know I'll have a solid 45-60 minutes to dive into the story.
I was completely enthralled by the Lisbeth Salander character presented in the first half of the book. She was just so dark, so closed, so cold, and so persistently herself that I found myself completely drawn into her character. I felt that author Stieg Larsson strayed a bit from Salander's core in the second half of the book as he sketched out a softer, and more emotionally developed character. The change and growth was gratifying, but I felt it happened a little too quickly. That being said, it's her character that sticks with me longest now that I've finished the book and it's her story I'm looking forward to most as I jump into the rest of the Millennium Trilogy.
Larsson's writing style is very stark and simplistic which propels a very fast flowing plot. And really there are two primary plot threads: the investigation into the disappearance of a girl over 30 years ago, and the exposure of a very crooked Swedish businessman. The plots are intertwined, but not all that closely and while either could stand reasonably well on their own, the case of the missing girl is the main course.
All nuances aside, this is a terrific thriller. It's intense. The plot threads are well crafted and the characters well defined. (less)
This book is full of clichés - the dialogue, the narration, and the plethora of borrowed plot lines from "Jaws". You know the good characters from the...moreThis book is full of clichés - the dialogue, the narration, and the plethora of borrowed plot lines from "Jaws". You know the good characters from the bad. You can predict which ones will die violently (and deservedly so), and you know which bad guys will turn out to be good guys.
But you know what, I thoroughly enjoyed this thriller and I'm not ashamed to admit it. I found myself staying up through the wee hours to get through "just one more chapter". At first I felt a little embarrassment at enjoying it so much. But ultimately I gave in and just went with it.
Now, it's a fact that I was a hardcore Loch Ness Monster fanatic growing up in the 70's. I'm pretty sure I was the only kid in my school that kept checking out the thin "Mystery of Loch Ness" from our school library, as I'd pour over those images of what couldn't be anything OTHER than a huge dinosaur that was alive and well. So maybe I’m a little bit biased towards the whole Loch Ness Monster “thing”. But be that as it may, I just enjoyed this story.
I had to overlook the melodramatic romantic interest. I flew by the stilted conversations with nary a grimace, because I wanted to find out more about the monster in the lake. I wanted to see who was going to die next and by what monster-ific means. And I was even engaged in the way that Alten integrated a Template-theme subplot in a (mostly) seamless way.
Alten writes smoothly and he keeps the story moving at a rapid pace, so that even the most modest-paced reader will have no trouble flying through its 500+ pages.
I highly recommend this fantastic thriller. It’s not literature. It’s great for the beach. And it’s just a lot of fun. (less)