I came across this by way of recommendation and am delighted I listened to those who shared their opinions with me.
The writing is beguiling. It has aI came across this by way of recommendation and am delighted I listened to those who shared their opinions with me.
The writing is beguiling. It has a rhythm, like a reassuring pulse, that means the density of the book never feels heavy. Like any pulse there is variation in power and speed that relate to the situation at any given point. There are many facets to the novel to savour, including alterations of form and voice and the author shows a tremendous versatility in this respect.
The work of Italo Calvino came to mind. Mr Calvino and Mr Williams are alike in that just when I feel I'm grasping their whole and sense what is to come, they change direction like a well-bowled googly to remove my middle stump.
My mention of cricket isn't entirely random. This work is surrounded by Britain's colonial past, possibly even exposing aspects of the illusion of a colonial present.
Evie Steppman has lived a wonderfully rich life. Through her ears we follow the world as it was and as it has become. Not that it's all been sweetness. Her early days reminded me of The Secret Garden - a child of the colonies loses her mother. In this case, the poor unfortunate is so overlooked she isn't even given a name and when she does so...well, I'll leave that for you to find out (and urge you to do so).
It's a story that's full of complexity that also has humanity and warmth, not an easy thing to pull off.
I believe that Luke Williams won the prestigious Saltire Award for The Echo Chamber and I'd back the judges wholeheartedly on their decision.
Chuck Wendig writes like a tornado might – brutal force and energy with the power to create havoc with the merest change of direction.
Having just finiChuck Wendig writes like a tornado might – brutal force and energy with the power to create havoc with the merest change of direction.
Having just finished his novel ‘Blackbirds', I feel like I’ve passed through the storm, or even like I’ve been passed through the eye of a needle (and at 13 stone, that’s not an image that should be possible). I’m glad to be at the other side now, but I’d happily jump right back in there for seconds.
Mr Wendig clearly knows his craft. His work is full of baited hooks that look so wonderful that they’re impossible to resist. This achieves the effect of making the act of removing oneself from the pages something that’s very difficult.
Better still, he’s come up with an amazing premise – a girl who has the ability to see a person’s death, something that comes to her through the simple act of touching skin. I guess that in itself that might not work, but throw in the fact that the she’s as much a victim of fate as the subject of her visions and it becomes much more complex. Thankfully Mr Wendig doesn’t leave this situation alone and gently picks at it until he’s explored it completely.
The seer is called Miriam. She’s a tough, rugged chick who lives on the road and feels she’s doing well if she gets to sleep in a motel.
Miriam’s all prepared for difficult situations, as she should be. In her bag, as well as her all-important diary, she carries a can of pepper spray, a butterfly knife, another can of pepper spray and a hand grenade. Most of these she’ll use at one point or another.
She’s using her power as a seer to take advantage of those who will die soon. It’s a clever twist that makes a lot of sense.
Things go to pot, or more to pot, when she meets a trucker and discovers that she’ll be there for his last moments and that his last moments will be with a murderous, bald man who seems keen to stab out his eyes. This seed is planted at the beginning of the book and will return as an ending, something that’s clear early doors, yet there has to be a twist and it’s worth the journey to find out exactly what that’s going to be.
I’m not sure I can think of a book that has so many unique and poetic images. There’s a phrase on every page, in every paragraph almost, that is so beautifully turned and appropriate that it’s as if Mr Wendig has a genius form of Tourette’s Syndrome. It’s amazing the way they inhabit the page and more amazing that they’re entirely appropriate. These are not darlings that need to be killed by the writer because, in a sense, they’re like a skeleton throughout the story and they are part of the rhythm of this life. Even more impressive, the book feels like it’s been written in one swoop as though the words have poured from the author without being engineered.
I wouldn’t really like to be pinned down as to the genre of this novel. There’s the central fantasy element, an on-the-road story with a buddy movie element, there’s crime, layers of horror, comedy, poetry and philosophy. These all co-exist with ease. Thing is, and I think I mean this, it must be one of the quirkiest romances that’s ever been written.
Yes, I reckon Mr Wendig’s really a sweet honey with a heart of gold down there under all the warts and false-trails, a little like the character of Miriam herself.
Regardless of which genre it might be, this is a book that’s worth its weight in gold – witness the oily slicks of the rainbows reflected in the blackbirds’ wings, I urge you. The brilliant cover is matched and then some by the words inside, I promise.
A slight aside, I'd pick up the paperback if I were you; the cover really is something you'll want to have on your shelves.
I’ve emerged through this side of the storm, have been completely emotionally engaged throughout, and here I sit too nervous to put down my umbrella as I know this tale will follow me around for a good while yet.
The main thrust of Hard Bite is a brilliant conception – the victim of a hit-and-run accident (Dean Drayhart) loses his daughter and his ability to moThe main thrust of Hard Bite is a brilliant conception – the victim of a hit-and-run accident (Dean Drayhart) loses his daughter and his ability to move and sets out on a mission to avenge any victims of hit-and-runs.
Of course, it takes more than a great concept to make a great book, but Anonymous-9 has pulled this off with a good deal of skill to get the most from her initial idea. Drayhart’s accomplice is a monkey (Sid) who has been trained to kill. As well as being a killer, Sid is also a big help around the house and is an assistant driver.
Their first victim happens to be seriously involved with the Mexican mafia and his connection to the cartels seriously thickens the plot. The other aspect of the novel, and the aspect I think I enjoyed the most, is the local sheriff on the case, one Doug Coltson. Coltson’s in charge of putting together the pieces from a number of investigations. He’s a fantastic creation and I hope he might feature in future novels.
The whole read is one of adventure and entertainment. There’s plenty of humour, violence and action to engage a reader, as well as a sensitive handling of characters that makes them ever-so human (even Sid). This one’s a real pleasure and it’s a must for anyone looking for something that doesn’t do the reader the disservice of simply joining up the dots or finding the lowest common denominator.
Here’s a great read for fans of the hit-man genre. Hell, here’s a great read for anyone who likes a good tale that’s well told. Eric Beetner takes a nuHere’s a great read for fans of the hit-man genre. Hell, here’s a great read for anyone who likes a good tale that’s well told. Eric Beetner takes a number of clichés and twists them until they become new and fresh. Lars has been working in the one hit for seventeen years. During that time he’s kept his killing skills sharp and has taken up yoga to keep his body keen. He’s been hanging around New Mexico in the hope that he’ll finally complete the contract put out by his employer Nikki Senior. Unfortunately for Lars, Nikki Junior is in the process of taking over the family and he’s not showing his father the respect that he might. Nikki Junior hires a young buck, Trent, to get together with Lars so that the job can finally get done. The relationship between Lars and Trent is a tricky one. Maybe that’s always the way when the next generation steps up. Thing is, Trent has his ways and means even if he is young, foolish and uncouth. He’s soon leading the way to Mitch the Snitch and the hit that Lars has been waiting to make for so many years of his life is finally about to happen. Nothing plays out as might have be expected by this reader or by any of the characters involved. You’ll know what I mean when you get there (and get there you should). The upshot is that Lars ends up on the run with Mitch’s daughter, being chased by Trent and all of Nikki Senior’s resources. Which is just the beginning of Lars’s problems. His past (and a very interesting one he has, too) is to catch up with him, the FBI poke in their noses and the relationship with the teenager (Shaine) is far from easy. There are a number of layers to the story. I’d pick out the battle between the old and new as one strong theme and the relationship between parents and children as another. Most of all, I’d pick out the fast pace of the story and the way the characters and settings are so well handled. As an example, I’ll highlight the way the description of the heat and environment of the desert had me sweating and reaching for cold drinks. He really nails the atmosphere through his characters – Lars has grown used to it and has altered his pace accordingly, Shaine has never known anything else and Trent is hitting the wall for the first time. This means that the description flows within the story itself and never gets in the way, which takes some doing. The whole piece is very entertaining and the outcome ties everything up in a very satisfying (and rather unexpected) way. There’s also an opening for a sequel here. I can see this moving in to the territory of Leon by Luc Besson and doing something rather special. I wonder if Mr Besson’s busy just now. Mr Besson? Mr Besson... ...more
Hard Change is a very good title for the novel; I'm not sure I'd ever really thought about local politics working at such depths.
What is clear here isHard Change is a very good title for the novel; I'm not sure I'd ever really thought about local politics working at such depths.
What is clear here is that the author has a strong grasp on processes that may often be invisible to those living and working outside the world of policy makers. Given the importance of what happens in this world, I suspect it's time I paid a little more attention.
It took me a little while to get into the swing of the book. In part, this is due to the 'political thriller' tag it carries. I'm not sure 'thriller' is the right categorisation. To me, it's more of a literary novel.
As the plot unfolds and the authorities try to come to terms with a serious alcohol problem, the book reveals the complexities of meetings and human interactions and the role of ambition and passion and how, when all the ingredients are put into the mix, making decisions is far from being a simple process.
Dawn Reeves is a fine writer. The prose is clear and clean and flows nicely. Her characters are very well-drawn and the detail of her characterisations suggest that she must be a fine observer.
Of all things in the story, I think I particularly enjoyed the humour - it ranges from gentle to dark to observational to cutting and it's very well played.
This is a very good debut and I think there will be some great Dawn Reeves books to look forward to in the future; I certainly hope so....more
Gravesend is a stunning read. It takes an area of Brooklyn and makes it a central character in a novel that ignites the attention from the oAMAZING...
Gravesend is a stunning read. It takes an area of Brooklyn and makes it a central character in a novel that ignites the attention from the off. The story swirls around an incident from years earlier like a whirlpool of water preparing to disappear down the plughole. The incident in question is the killing of a young, gay man (Daniel) who was lured down to the beach for some action by a gang of thugs and bullies. Daniel’s death has touched so many lives. Most importantly it has wrecked his brother, Conway, and shattered his father. Things come to a head when Ray Boy, the leader of the thugs, is released from prison. This forces Conway’s hand as Conway has been planning to kill Ray Boy from the off. The only problem is the Ray Boy that Conway meets isn’t the one he hates. In a cruel twist, Ray Boy’s tattoos tell Conway of his enlightenment and this changes everything. In some ways, Ray Boy’s change also had a big impact on me as a reader, the villain coming as close to being a hero as anyone else in the book. This dynamic simply adds to the energy and the tension of the read. Conway’s on the skids. He takes a day off to lick wounds and drink himself safe. He considers his failures: ‘It wasn’t even noon. On a Monday. Pretty much every self-respecting person was out in the world working. Hauling trash, conducting trains, butchering meat, fighting fires, teaching, doing construction, whatever. And here they were. ******. People to pity. Not even noon on a ******* Monday. No wonder the Irish girl gave them that Spaghetti Western death stare.’ Ray Boy’s change isn’t lost on his nephew, Eugene, now a feisty teenager who wants to claim a reputation like his uncle’s as his own. Eugene is devastated by the changes in the man who has returned from prison and sets up a plan that might just bring the old Ray Boy back. There’s a whole chapter dedicated to the things Eugene hates about life. On the surface, this may seem a little negative, but it’s full of contrasting shades that it gives an incredibly detailed sense of who he is – by focusing on the darkness, it draws attention to the light and to just about everything else. It’s a fantastic piece of prose. Allessandra is another of Gravesend’s lost souls. She’s back to live with her father after missing her mother’s last days. She’s been out in LA and is struggling to find her way in an area of town that lacks the sophistication she’s become used to. Allessandra was one of Conway’s crushes back in the day and she also happens to develop a thing for Ray Boy and his good looking, easy action. There’s a short passage that I loved in which Allesandra considers giving in to the booze. In doing so, she describes some the people of her town: ‘Drink every day at The Wrong Number. Say to hell with work. Become one of these neighbourhood ghosts, old alkies in wrinkled black clothes that just skeleton around on feet like broken shopping cart wheels. When it got real bad, she could just dig in trash bins for bottles like the old Chinese, haul them down to Waldbaum’s for drinking money, live in this house until her father died and they took it away from her and then she could go to a home, the one over on Cropsey, where she’d wear Salvation Army clothes and lose her hair and teeth in the sink. An actress? Forget it. Once maybe, in another city, another time. Just wispy bones and yellowing skin now. The old boozer that kids throw rocks at for kicks.’ The characters in the story are perfectly linked. They live in a world where ‘everything’s some kind of sad’ and do their best to stay afloat. Thing is, we know from the off that there isn’t room for everyone on the raft and that someone’s going to go under, we just don’t know who’s going to end up where. I really loved this book. By focussing on the one area and the people brought together by the one incident, Boyle manages to talk about the whole of the human condition. There are beautifully constructed descriptions, not least when dealing with the introspections of the characters. Boyle allows the reader to get inside the minds of all who inhabit the tale and this is wonderfully handled. The stark writing style allows for a ‘warts and all’ description of a gritty environment as well as a poetic sense of the wonder and fragility of the world. Top marks at every level. A must read from a real heavyweight. ...more