The premise may sound wacky, but "The Arcanum" was much darker and more disturbing than I expected (a definite plus for me!). Wheeler's first novel is...moreThe premise may sound wacky, but "The Arcanum" was much darker and more disturbing than I expected (a definite plus for me!). Wheeler's first novel is a thoroughly entertaining alternative history/steampunk/horror concoction, which would indeed make a great action film. It probably helps to know something about Biblical apocrypha, hermetic occult circles, voodoo and Lovecraftian horrors . . . but if even one of those is your bag, dig in for a rollicking read which also delivers several serious cases of the creeps.(less)
All Men of Genius is a charming foray into a developing genre that might be called "whimsical adult fiction." (See also Gail Carriger, Lev Grossman,...more All Men of Genius is a charming foray into a developing genre that might be called "whimsical adult fiction." (See also Gail Carriger, Lev Grossman, etc.) Drawing on both Shakespeare and Oscar Wilde for tone and characterization, Lev AC Rosen’s debut novel is a sparkling Victorian steampunk concoction of romance, intrigue, cross-dressing, mistaken identity and lots and lots of moving parts – some of them quite dangerous.
When Violet Adams, a talented and visionary young scientist, applies to the exclusive college of Ilyria, she is quite confident of her acceptance. The problem is that Ilyria is an all-male institution, and she has applied under the name of her twin brother Ashton. Can Violet maintain the gender-bending ruse for as long as it takes to prove she (or any woman) is as skillful as any man working in her field? Need I say that complications ensue? If you've ever read Twelfth Night or The Importance of Being Earnest you’ll have a sense of where this is going . . . except you’ll have to add a lot of gears, steam, and creepy subterranean vaults into the equation. (And if you've read neither, it's okay. You'll still enjoy this clever book, and it might inspire you to do so!)
Peopled with lively characters, full of witty banter and romantic mistaken identity, All Men of Genius still has enough dark moments to make it a thrilling steampunk adventure. But don't mistake this book for young adult literature, as despite the book’s comedic tone, some very adult situations are presented without ambiguity: sexual situations (and misunderstandings) abound; booze flows; there is some rather impressively foul language (although it’s mostly from a rabbit); and a great deal of evil-robot perpetrated violence. For sure, this one’s a delight for the all grown-up kids out there, and I’m looking forward to more from Rosen and hope he continues to impress with his unique take on the classics – both literary and sci-fi. (less)
If you could change the past, would you? And, perhaps more importantly -- should you?
King hits another one out of the park with the absolutely engross...moreIf you could change the past, would you? And, perhaps more importantly -- should you?
King hits another one out of the park with the absolutely engrossing story of Jake Epperson, a high-school teacher from 2011 who finds himself saddled with the improbable task of preventing Kennedy's assassination. On the assumption that the world will be a better place (starting with no Vietnam) if he can take out Oswald before November 1963, he agrees, and finds himself a stranger in a strange land: America, 1958. (The impetus and details of his trip there, I will leave for the reader. Suffice to say it's the only supernatural device in the story. All the monsters here are human.)
The nod to Bradbury's "A Sound of Thunder" (from which the "butterfly effect" theory takes its name) is made loud and clear -- one character even mentions the story -- but King's fleshed-out version of the tale hits closer to home, with fully-realized characters who become much more to the reader than players in a cautionary tale. The meat of the story takes place as "George Amberson" builds a double-life for himself in the years leading up to that fateful day in Dallas.
After some eventful stops, including the grim and familiar Derry, Maine, George makes his way to Texas, where he finds himself a job teaching high-school (back when you could easily fake your resume and identity) in idyllic small-town Jodie. There, he makes friends, falls in love with Sadie, the lovely high-school librarian with a tragic past, and drives a bitchin' car . . . all the while also observing Lee Oswald and his sad little family from near and far . . . and changing the course of history just a little bit every moment he spends there.
While there are obviously science-fictional elements to 11/22/63, in some ways it's one of the most realistic of King's novels. It feels true, if you get my meaning. Take a spectacular attention to -- and obvious love for -- the period's details, add in what must have been an ungodly amount of research about that terrible day in Dallas, and finish with a star-crossed, complex, grown-up love story that gives The Time Traveler's Wife a run for its money, and you've about got the idea. And of course all of this is overlaid with the gripping sense of a ticking clock, as George's purpose draws inexorably closer. Can he do it? Will he?
Ultimately, 11/22/63 isn't a book about the Kennedy assassination, about bad guys or monsters, or even about time-travel. It's a book about choices, about the paths we take and the ones we miss, about how our best intentions can still go not-so-well. About how we change lives and let our own be changed in return. It's also propulsive, humane, sad, funny and thrilling reading. I do not know how Stephen King works his magic, but it just gets better with time. (less)