To escape his awful Real Life, Wade Watts spends a lot of his time immersed in an online world called OASIS. His goal is to locate an Easter Egg, an oTo escape his awful Real Life, Wade Watts spends a lot of his time immersed in an online world called OASIS. His goal is to locate an Easter Egg, an object much like Charlie’s Golden Ticket, that upon redemption will make him the heir to the eccentric founder’s estate. After discovering the first key he must battle enemies, real and virtual, to claim the prize. Although this novel is written by a self-proclaimed gamer geek, the pop culture references and intense action appeals to a diverse readership....more
If you enjoy both sci-fi and mysteries, investigate the Last Policemen Series. The first two books in the three-part series by Ben H. Winters bagged aIf you enjoy both sci-fi and mysteries, investigate the Last Policemen Series. The first two books in the three-part series by Ben H. Winters bagged an Edgar and a PKD award respectively. The third has just come out. The books follow the movements of Hank Palace, a new young detective in a small New Hampshire police force. He made detective early not so much because he is a rising star on the force, but because there is an asteroid careening toward Earth and many of the police and detectives are running off to satisfy their bucket lists. Nonetheless, he takes cases seriously even though the world is coming to an end and his colleagues shake their heads and snicker. The cases themselves are interesting enough: a missing person’s case, a suspicious death and the disappearance of his sister. But this is also a pre-apocolyptic look at society slowly becoming unraveled and it is interesting to see Winters vision of it. Fortunately, it’s not so bleak or terrifying as The Road, partly because our protagonist is so dependable and his pursuit of the truth sustains us as the end nears. These are quick and enjoyable reads....more
Jason already blogged about the first book in Suzanne Collins‘s series, which, along with a front page review in the New York Times Book review for MoJason already blogged about the first book in Suzanne Collins‘s series, which, along with a front page review in the New York Times Book review for Mockingjay (third book), got my attention. These were quick, exciting reads and lots of fun.
So much fiction targets a specific gender, that if you can write something that crosses over, you can have an enormous hit on your hands. Risking some gross stereotypes here, Collins offers video game style violence for guys (sudden, lethal, inventive), and costumes and relationships for girls. Since we mostly know how epic battles are going to turn out, Katniss’s dilemma of choosing between Gale and Peeta is what kept me reading.
Even then, I wasn’t quite right about the outcome of the battle. Collins pulls off surprises in each book, which are often pretty audacious. --John
On the first page of William Gibson’s latest book, he describes a character’s clothing this way: “wrapped in Japanese herringbone Gore-Tex, multiply fOn the first page of William Gibson’s latest book, he describes a character’s clothing this way: “wrapped in Japanese herringbone Gore-Tex, multiply flapped and counter-intuitively buckled.”
On the same page, Gibson describes a taxi: “Pearlescent silver, this one. Glyphed in Prussian blue, advertising something German, banking services or business software; a smoother simulacrum of its black ancestors, its faux-leather upholstery a shade of orthopedic fawn.”
Folks, this is TMI, not in the sense of being embarrassingly personal, but in that it impedes the flow of the story. OTOH, the actual plot is maybe the least interesting aspect of Zero History. Did you know there are secret brands? Know what aubergine is? Piblokto? An Ekranoplan? The Wild Hunt? International Klein Blue? Keep a line open to Google, and you can learn some fascinating stuff.
Most of the characters return from 2008′s Spook Country. Former rock star Hollis Henry once again finds herself roped into working for Hubertus Bigend, a marketing genius, who suspects the cutting edge has moved away from him again. Former addict Milgrim, after extensive and expensive treatment financed by Bigend, finds himself coming back to life after a lost decade.
The story itself boils down to a generic industrial espionage yarn with a kidnapping twist, but the characters are pretty cool. If you read this tho, read it for Gibson’s laser prose and arcane knowledge. Orthopedic fawn, huh? --John
It’s been five years since The Da Vinci Code triggered an avalanche of imitators–thrillers featuring codes and ciphers, arcane knowledge, and ancientIt’s been five years since The Da Vinci Code triggered an avalanche of imitators–thrillers featuring codes and ciphers, arcane knowledge, and ancient conspiracies. To me, the book that most resembled it was Katherine Neville’s The Eight, which was actually written 15 years before the Code. Positing a thousand year old chess set with alchemical powers, and a larger Game with geopolitical implications, the book acquired something of a cult, and, after 20 years, a sequel.
The Fire finds Alexandra Solarin, a former child chess prodigy who gave up the game after her father’s murder, summoned to her estranged mother’s home in Colorado. Her mother is missing, but carefully encoded clues, and the arrival of several other people place her smack dab in the middle of the Game’s newest round, forcing her to decipher both the rules and the roles of others (friend or foe?) as she goes. The action moves to Washington, DC, Jackson Hole, Kamchatka, and back in time to France, the Sahara, and the Greek islands where we find Lord Byron and Tallyrand, among others, involved in the intrigue.
This sequel seems to me less successful than The Eight. Neville has done so much research that it slows the action, and I struggled to keep up. The rules of the Game remain unclear, and a half-resolved ending suggest that another volume might be in the works. Still, one could do worse than a book this brainy and ambitious. --John
From Chapter One: "Be warned. This book has no literary merit whatsoever. It is a lurid piece of nonsense, convoluted, implausible, peopled by unconviFrom Chapter One: "Be warned. This book has no literary merit whatsoever. It is a lurid piece of nonsense, convoluted, implausible, peopled by unconvincing characters, written in drearily pedestrian prose, frequently ridiculous and willfully bizarre. Needless to say, I doubt you’ll believe a word of it "
It’s not THAT bad. The prose, for instance, is obviously pretty clever. Implausibility is an issue tho. Consider the opening murder–a ham actor being lured to a sumptuous room by a luscious tart, only to have his mother appear to berate him, and some kind of beast, which climbs up the walls, attack him. Our detective Edward Moon, who is also a stage magician, never quite turns out to be as infallible as he thinks he is. And how DOES the Somnambulist, part of Moon’s act, survive swords thrust through his body? Who is the mysterious narrator? What kind of bizarre plot to destroy London is taking place? And what role does the dead poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge play in it?
"I suspect by now that your disbelief is not so much suspended as dangling from the highest plateau of credulity." Yup, but as compensation, I never had a clue where this weird story was taking me. Part of the fun is figuring out just what rules apply here, what genre conventions are being followed or violated–Victorian mystery, science fiction, conspiracy, or horror. A fun book that keeps you off balance. --John
I’m in awe of William Gibson. I’ll read anything he writes, and hope to outlive him, so I don’t miss anything. He’s SO much smarter than I am, I can nI’m in awe of William Gibson. I’ll read anything he writes, and hope to outlive him, so I don’t miss anything. He’s SO much smarter than I am, I can never guess what’s going to happen next, and often have to re-read to be sure I’ve got what just happened. (Thomas Pynchon also goes over my head pretty often, sometimes for pages at a time. Gibson’s a little more gracious about eventually connecting the dots.)
What we have here is three narrative strands. In one, a former rock star, now a journalist, is writing about "locative art," virtual installations that depend on the genius of Bobby Chombo, who’s also involved in locating or hiding the location of a particular shipping container, this book’s MacGuffin.
A second strand involves a highly trained (he can access Santeria spirits) Chinese-Cuban member of a crime family, who seems to be delivering misinformation about this shipping container.
Finally, a genial addict, skilled in translating a particular idiom of Russian, is being held captive by a humorless, by-the-book spy. Actually, the spy just gives the addict drugs, so he has no inclination to escape.
Gibson cuts from one story to the others in quick chapters, throwing out concepts and ideas like sparks from a fire. He’s erudite, funny, and so hip that I’m always a little amazed someone like me gets to read him. He’s moved away from science fiction in recent years, as technology overtakes the genre’s possibilities. Spook Country is set in our own world, tho it’s so high-end and cosmopolitan that it seems foreign. --John
"I’m not a criminal. I didn’t steal a car. I didn’t sell heroin, or steal an old lady’s purse. I built a quantum fusion reactor in 1978, and an orbita"I’m not a criminal. I didn’t steal a car. I didn’t sell heroin, or steal an old lady’s purse. I built a quantum fusion reactor in 1978, and an orbital plasma gun in 1979, and a giant laser-eyed robot in 1984. I tried to conquer the world and almost succeeded, twelve times and counting."
This is the story of Doctor Impossible, smartest man on earth, and evil genius (tho he admits that some days he just doesn’t feel all that evil.) He’s locked up now, but that won’t last, coz he has a plan, a plan to take over the world, by increasing the moon’s gravity to pull earth out of it’s orbit, causing an ice age, unless the world submits to his rule.
Not a bad plan, and his nemesis, CoreFire ("I didn’t ask for a nemesis") is missing, possibly dead.
Alternating chapters with Doctor Impossible, we hear from Fatale, half woman, half cyborg, who’s brought in to replace CoreFire in the Champions. She has nagging feelings of inadequacy, and has trouble fitting in. This is a conventional novel, not the graphic kind, which gives first-time novelist Austin Grossman a chance for a little more introspection than you might find in an illustrated version.
"You keep going. You keep trying to take over the world." You might just find yourself rooting for the best villain since Elphaba. --John
I’ll admit I took this book off the "New" shelf because of the title. I wasn’t familiar with the author, who apparently has a cult following, especialI’ll admit I took this book off the "New" shelf because of the title. I wasn’t familiar with the author, who apparently has a cult following, especially in Europe. I was hooked on the first page. A woman named Jane Charlotte sits in a bare, white room, in handcuffs. She’s being interviewed by a man who introduces himself as Dr. Vale. She’s been charged with murder. What follows is her fantastic tale to the doctor about how she got there.
Her story begins when she’s a child and her younger brother is kidnapped while under her care, and follows her troubled life and recruitment into a huge, secret organization. She claims to work in the organization’s Dept. for the Final Disposition of Irredeemable Persons, otherwise know as Bad Monkeys. Her job is to kill evil people with a NC (Natural causes) gun that causes non-suspicious deaths from heart attacks or strokes.
Full of plot twists and turns and unbelievable situations, the book moves in and out and around both psychological and science fiction, and ends up somewhere in between. Always in the background are the questions of what is real and who is evil. And did I mention that The Organization also has a Scary Clowns department? --Ardis
I still remember being twelve years old and walking home after seeing Ray Harryhausen’s movie Jason and the Argonauts. I was absolutely exhilarated. WI still remember being twelve years old and walking home after seeing Ray Harryhausen’s movie Jason and the Argonauts. I was absolutely exhilarated. While Harryhausen’s style of stop action animation seems primitive compared with today’s CGI effects, it was state of the art at the time, and I realized that movies could show me things I’d never see in real life.
I just found out this year that there was a text version, rather than an oral tradition, so I ordered Jason and the Golden Fleece (the Argonautica) by Apollonius of Rhodes. It’s a pretty dry read, but I was surprised how much of the story found its way into the 1963 movie.
The catalog of Greek heroes, for instance, who joined the voyage, shows up in both the movie and book. So are the giant statue Talos (who attacks the ship), the Harpies who plague the prophet Phineas, the clashing rocks (held apart by Athena in the book, Poseidon in the movie), the giant serpent guarding the fleece (a Hydra in the movie), and the army that springs from the ground when the serpent’s teeth are planted (skeletons in the movie).
Harryhausen and nominal director Don Chaffey rearrange many of the scenes and omit others all together. Medea’s role gets reduced to that of babe in skimpy outfit and she deserves better. While I can’t in good conscience recommend the book (which lacks the Bernard Herrmann score, among other things), the movie still gives me a thrill. --John