I’ve had a long-standing policy that I will not read an unfinished sci-fi/fantasy series because I spent ovI got nobody to blame but myself for this….
I’ve had a long-standing policy that I will not read an unfinished sci-fi/fantasy series because I spent over a decade waiting for a certain master of horror to get off his ass and finish what he started. Plus, I have no urge to join the ranks of fans of other fantasy writers who seem to spend more time coming up with excuses and side projects rather than producing new books to finish their on-going series.
Ignorance isn’t a good defense, but it’s all I can claim. I picked this up on a whim after hearing it mentioned on the Incomparable podcast. I was a little leery when I saw it was almost 600 pages, but I didn’t bother looking into exactly what I had gotten myself into until I started the book That’s when I freaked the hell out:
“9 novels?!? 9 goddamn novels and they’re all this long? Holy shit! Only 5 have been released? It’s an unfinished series?? IT’S AN UNFINISHED SERIES! Oh, sweet jebus what have I done? And holy shit snacks they’ve been releasing off-shoot novels! ARGGHHH!! This is a nightmare…. OK, calm down. Let’s see, there’s actually two guys writing it under one pen name. Two guys can keep each other focused and moving forward. They’ve been releasing books like clockwork and have a schedule to bring it home. That’s good news. And these off-shoots are Kindle shorts so it looks like they’re really just true extras and not them filling their pockets while dawdling on the main series. Oh, and the Syfy network is doing a TV series based on it? That could be cool. Maybe this isn’t so bad after all. Wait, one of the authors also works as an assistant to….Uh oh. Well, maybe he’s learned what NOT to do when you’re working on a series…Or maybe I‘ll end up not liking it very much and can just stop here.”
No such luck. Damn it. I’m a sucker for the kind of sci-fi where even though they’re in space the characters have dirt under their nails and skinned knuckles rather than lounging around in pristine uniforms on ships that look like corporate cube farms. I’m also much more of a believer in the idea that if humanity does make it to other worlds that we’ll be dragging all our collective baggage out there with us rather than being explorers from a utopian society. Plus, I’m a big mystery fan and one of the main characters is a burned out space detective with a cynical outlook. And I also like (view spoiler)[zombie stories. So when it’s alien vomit zombies? (hide spoiler)] Oh, yeah. I’m in.
I particularly liked the push/pull between the two main characters. Holden is an idealist who thinks that people will make good collective choices as long as they’re told the truth, and that contrasts well with Miller’s bleak outlook that people are stupid sheep. Put those two guys in a society built out among our solar system’s asteroid belt that is about to go to war with Earth and Mars as they try to unravel the conspiracy behind it, and you’ve got yourself a pretty damn compelling sci-fi story.
I still kinda feel like a rube though….["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
I love Scott Snyder writing Batman, but this is one of those cases where he tried to put 10 lbs. of story in a 5 lb. sack.
The rebooted origin continueI love Scott Snyder writing Batman, but this is one of those cases where he tried to put 10 lbs. of story in a 5 lb. sack.
The rebooted origin continues with a fledgling Batman trying to stop a complicated scheme created by the Riddler involving Doctor Death that leaves Gotham devastated. He’s also struggling to figure out where Bruce Wayne fits into his vigilante plans as well as coming to terms with characters like Jim Gordon and Alfred.
As I noted when I reviewed Zero Year - Secret City, Snyder wisely sped by the standard points of the history of Batman. Bruce Wayne’s parents are murdered in front of him, he travels the world learning crime fighting skills, he realizes that he needs a symbol to bring justice to Gotham, yada, yada, yada. Those are the fixed points in the Batman universe, and while you can tweak them, you can’t change the basics.
Snyder treats Bruce donning the cape & cowl as the beginning of this rather than the end point, and that’s the best part of the story. Seeing a younger, reckless and more arrogant Bruce think he can wage a one-man war on crime with no help and getting taught some harsh lessons is great stuff. The character interactions between an angry young Batman and Jim Gordon and Alfred were some of the best bits. Snyder also continues to deftly weave in some nods to past versions of Batman like things will remind fans of No Man’s Land, The Dark Knight Returns and The Dark Knight Rises movie.
Unfortunately, the story starts collapsing under its own weight and at times feel like it’s descending into a Grant Morrison level of confusion. I would have preferred if Snyder would have focused in on a young Batman dealing with one major villain rather than two and operating in essentially a post-apocalyptic Gotham for a large chunk of the story. I guess you could make the point that it required something that catastrophic to get Batman recognized as a force for good by the city so that the cops aren’t constantly chasing after him, but it really feels like way too much is going on at times. ...more
Hawkeye goes to LA. Maybe they’ll reform the West Coast Avengers?
Not likely as this isn’t Clint Barton, it’s the other Hawkeye, Kate Bishop. After KatHawkeye goes to LA. Maybe they’ll reform the West Coast Avengers?
Not likely as this isn’t Clint Barton, it’s the other Hawkeye, Kate Bishop. After Kate gets tired of Clint’s messy personal life turning him into a grumpy bastard, she takes Lucky the pizza dog and heads to LA to get some space. However, since she’s an Avenger (Or practically an Avenger as she often has to clarify.) Kate soon finds herself on the bad side of Madame Masque as well as having her finances cut off by her rich father. Rather than call Clint or anyone else for help, Kate decides to set up shop as a Rockford-style PI with her own trailer on the beach.
I was let down by this one at first. Kate’s misadventures in LA didn’t seem to have the same kind of zing that the Hawkeye title had when it focused on Clint Barton. Maybe that was because Clint’s story has been about what it’s like for a regular guy who works with superheroes when he’s not helping to save the world. Clint being kind of a screw-up who insists on trying to do things himself makes sense when you know the history of him always feeling second rate compared to the other Avengers. But Kate had also come across as pretty confident and sure of herself. She was the kind of young woman who just decided to be a superhero and claimed Hawkeye’s name when he was mostly dead for a while.
This Kate seemed more Barton-esque at the beginning, doing things the hard way when there were far easier and smarter ways to go about it, and that seemed to clash a bit with what I knew about the character. So it took me a while to warm up to the story. Eventually, the idea of a superhero that no one knows trying to play LA private detective won me over. Kate emerges from this a bit beaten up but an even more interesting character.
Oh, and I really liked the joke about The Champions, too....more
(I received a free advanced copy of this from NetGalley in exchange for this review.)
Most of us like to act like our jobs are hell. But what if your j(I received a free advanced copy of this from NetGalley in exchange for this review.)
Most of us like to act like our jobs are hell. But what if your job actually was in Hell? Then bitching about the broken microwave in the break room would seem kind of silly.
Hell may no longer go in for casting sinners into burning lakes of fire, but it’s still all about the eternal torment. Now human souls are fished out of the sea of Limbo and crammed into human meat suits and live a grubby existence where they are abused by the demons who treat them like second class citizens. The lucky ones may have some kind of factory or farm job where they get to toil all day and live in crowded shabby rooms with few comforts. Unlucky ones get jobs like being sex toys for the demons, and they have a very short shelf life.
And just because you’re dead and in Hell doesn’t mean you can’t be murdered. Demons routinely kill the humans which sends their souls back to Limbo. Thomas Fool is one of Hell’s Information Men, a kind of detective who gets his assignments via Hell’s vast bureaucracy and spends most of his time stamping paperwork Did Not Investigate for the many crimes committed by the demons against the humans. As he’s acting as an escort for a couple of angels on an official trip from Heaven, Fool is assigned to look into a brutal and unusual murder where there are no traces of the soul left in the body, and the Information Man finds himself actually following through on an investigation for once which causes ripples of change throughout Hell.
The idea of a detective in Hell could have been the premise for some kind of urban fantasy novel with a Fool being a smart-ass anti-hero with the rough edges of the setting sanded off for easy consumption. However, debut novelist Simon Kurt Unsworth does a very nice job of creating a Hell that really feels like hellish. The descriptions of the graphic violence don’t skimp on the horror, and he’s come up with some truly terrifying types of demons. There's also some nice world building done with Hell's history and how it operates.
What’s best is the tone he hits at making Hell feel like a place devoid of hope in such a regular everyday way that it’s the banality that is ultimately the worst part of it. With a grungy, dismal vibe to the place, and the blah meaningless of people doing thankless tasks for a faceless bureaucracy, it’s kind of like Fool is working for a large corporation in the setting of the movie Seven. It's an especially nice touch that none of the humans have any memory of who they were or what their sin was. They just know that they did something they deserve to be punished for. The mystery part seemed kind of obvious to me,but there’s still a great ending I didn’t see coming.
All in all, this was a clever and unique debut novel that makes me hope we’ll be seeing more from Unsworth.
Leave a copy of this laying around the office and see how your boss rates you in your next performance review after he or she gets a look at the coverLeave a copy of this laying around the office and see how your boss rates you in your next performance review after he or she gets a look at the cover….
San Pietro is a small city with a bustling bookie business thanks to its horse racing track, but the local criminal kingpin Tom Fell, hasn’t been seen in a month after leaving his flunky Pander in charge. Pander sees this as his chance to take over for good so Fell’s loyal minion Cripp fetches the boss. Unfortunately, Fell has been getting treatment for a manic disorder at a sanitarium, and his doctor warns Cripp that taking him away and putting him a stressful environment could have dire consequences. But what could be stressful about an underworld fight for control of a city?
I heard about this one from Donald Westlake’s non-fiction collection The Getaway Car in which he raved about it in an introduction he wrote for a book of Rabe’s stories. I don’t think it quite lives up to the billing that Westlake gave it, but it’s still an entertaining piece of hard boiled crime writing.
I very much enjoyed the first half in which Fell is trying to wrestle control of his organization back from Pander with the criminal syndicate watching to see which man deserves it. However, that piece gets wrapped up very quickly, and then the book shifts into a second phase which I didn’t like quite as much. It wasn’t bad, it just seems to sag a bit when compared with the earlier part and dropped it from a fun 4 stars to a solid 3.
The rating is helped because I picked this up cheaply on Kindle as part of PlanetMonk’s e-reprints of old pulp novels they offer for 99 cents. I certainly got my money’s worth out of it, and I’ll probably be checking out more of them....more
It’s nice to know that when everyday life starts to seem kind of depressing that you can escape into a good book. Unless that book is by Jim Thompson.It’s nice to know that when everyday life starts to seem kind of depressing that you can escape into a good book. Unless that book is by Jim Thompson. Then you’re screwed.
Frank ‘Dolly’ Dillon will tell you that he’s a hard working joe saddled with a lazy wife, and he just can’t catch a break at his job as salesman/collection agent for a company that sells cheap goods on credit to poor people. While making his rounds Dolly meets Mona, a young woman who is being pimped out her by nasty old aunt, and Dolly finds himself sympathetic towards her even though he’s got his hands full with his own problems at work.
In some ways this is a typical noir story with a small time loser coming up with a criminal scheme to get the better life he thinks he deserves. However, since this is Jim Thompson the plot takes enough twists and turns to keep you guessing even if you have a pretty good idea of the outcome. What I like best about Thompson is the way could write lead characters who tell us one thing in their narration, but whose actions say a whole lot more about what they’re really like. Dolly is a nasty little piece of work, and he’s what makes this one really hum. At least until the very end. I didn’t much care for the last chapter which knocked this down a bit for me.
It’s exactly what you’d expect from Jim Thompson telling this kind of story, and that’s pretty damn good....more
Rob Ryan is a veteran homicide detective with the Dublin police along with his best friend and partner, Cassie Maddox, and the twThis book is tricksy.
Rob Ryan is a veteran homicide detective with the Dublin police along with his best friend and partner, Cassie Maddox, and the two start working a case involving a young girl found murdered at the site of an archaeological dig. Sounds like it could be the cold open of an episode of CSI: Ireland, right?
Ah, but that’s only part of the story. Rob is actually from the area where the girl is found, and 22 years before he and two friends went to play in the nearby woods and something very bad happened. Rob was found with blood covered shoes and no memory of what happened to the other kids. They were never found, and Rob has done his best to disassociate himself from the event. When they find a piece of evidence that seems like it could link their fresh murder to the disappearance of his friends, Rob and Cassie decide to keep this under wraps so that they can investigate without potentially dragging up Rob’s history while they determine if the two crimes are related.
But that’s only part of it. As the case progresses it sprawls to also involve a hot button issue of a new motorway being built through the archaeological site, potential political corruption and indications of child abuse while Rob and Cassie find themselves under the increasing pressure to solve the crime. The added burden of Rob’s secret takes an increasing toll on them as they have to find ways to include his knowledge without admitting how they got it.
I told you it was tricksy…
This is a really nice piece of work and a solid debut novel from Tana French that starts off like a crime thriller with the twist of Rob’s history, but there’s more going on here than that. I particularly liked the way she portrays Rob and Cassie’s close relationship in the early stages of the investigation, and then how it the plot tests it. French also has a nice way of leading a reader down a path that seems somewhat familiar to any fan of crime fiction, but then zigs and zags into different directions. It was a particularly nice touch that with his first person narration that Rob would typically be the most sympathetic character, but French doesn’t hesitate to have him do things that make him downright unlikeable at times. I had three or four occasions where I was seriously hoping that someone would punch him in the balls.
However, there are some pacing problems where things seem a bit repetitive and slow that probably could have been hurried along a bit. I’ve also seen a fair amount of complaining about the ending, but I actually loved it. (view spoiler)[French pulls off a nice two-fer here. First, decoying us into thinking that Cassie and Rob got their killer only to pull the rug out from under it, and it’s even worse that she gets away with it because it was one of Rob’s numerous fuck-ups that really enabled it. As for not knowing what happened to Rob’s friends, I’m OK with that. The story wasn’t so much about what happened to them as it how effected Rob, and how his failure to ever really face and deal with what happened leads him to disaster here. I also give French credit for not giving into a temptation that a lot of writers would have and having Cassie forgive Rob. He was pretty much a bastard, and her dumping of him as a friend, partner and lover then moving on without him was a powerful statement about how badly he managed to botch his life, not just the case. (hide spoiler)]
I was leaning towards 3 stars when it seemed that things slowed down in the middle, but some of the clever twists and turns at the end got it back to 4 for me. ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more