"Get Real" is the fifteenth and last of the Dortmunder novels, and was published after Westlake's death a few years ago. It, like the other Dortmunder...more"Get Real" is the fifteenth and last of the Dortmunder novels, and was published after Westlake's death a few years ago. It, like the other Dortmunder novels, involves the work of a small gang of working class criminals who find something worth stealing, work out a foolproof plan to steal, and then run into ridiculous complications along the way. If you're a fan of the books then you're more then familiar with the characters: Dour John Dortmunder, who belongs in a 50's caper movie and distrusts everything; Cheerful Andy Kelp, who likes technology (and locks like him); Stan Murch (and his mother), the consummate driver; the Kid, the new guy who can charm ladies and is learning is place in the business; and finally Tiny, who isn't tiny, and can probably pick up a car if he needs to.
This book is about Dortmunder and his gang being approached by a reality TV show producer who wants to film them doing a crime - an activity that John points out is the reverse of how they usually like doing their work. They come up with a work-around, however, and move forward across various setbacks such as having a girl added to the group (because you can't have a tv show without a female character) and an extra crook (because the producers want to have an in on what gets planned). Things build up very nicely, as Westlake brings us into the minds of these television folks as the gang builds up their crime... and then the plot kind of stops.
It doesn't really _stop_ stop. Plot threads get ended, the gang does their crime, and the tv show stops being made. But with all the build up in the first parts of the book, the ending feels... like more of a first draft, the pieces put into place for an ending without all of the detail imparted. For instance, the girlfriend and the ringer are whisked away off-screen and never seen again, and the humor of Stan's lifting of cars from the ground floor never quite pays off either. Basically, I think this book wasn't quite finished when Westlake passed on, and it kind of shows at the end.
That said, this is hardly the worst thing that Westlake has ever written, and even if it were it'd still be better than 90% of the crap out there. If you're new to the series, I'd suggest going back to either "The Hot Rock", the first Dortmunder book (in which a valuable gem is stolen... and then re-stolen... and then re-stolen...) or "What's the Worst That Could Happen?" in which Dortmunder tries to get back a ring of sentimental value, and keeps lucratively failing at it.
(If you're thinking of the movies, I'd skip the movie of "What's the Worst That Could Happen?", but the movie of "The Hot Rock" is actually pretty good, although Dortmunder isn't as pretty as Robert Redford.)
On the other hand, if you've read the other 14 Dortmunder books, be happy that there's one more to read, and sad that it's the last one. (less)
This is some really good stuff here. Barry Hughart's version of China is amusing, adventurous, entertaining, occasionally sexy, and often romantic (in...moreThis is some really good stuff here. Barry Hughart's version of China is amusing, adventurous, entertaining, occasionally sexy, and often romantic (in the old sense, not in the kissy kissy love love style). I think of the three books, I'm most satisfied with Bridge of Birds, partially because it's the first and thus everything was fresh and new, but also because it just seemed to hang together better. Barry Hughart says he's not writing any more of these books because he was afraid they would fall into a rut, and by the third book I could sort of see what he meant, although it was a very nice rut with some excellent humor and adventure.
That said, if you're at all interested in Fantasy adventure novels involving a 100 year old criminal mastermind who took up private eyeing because criminal masterminding was too easy, and a big strong man named 'Ox', then these really are the best ones to read. (less)
The Hunger Games is an astonishing piece of writing. Consider: It's a youth-oriented bloodsport novel that isn't prurient or graphic, it features...moreWow.
The Hunger Games is an astonishing piece of writing. Consider: It's a youth-oriented bloodsport novel that isn't prurient or graphic, it features realistically drawn characters who are all generally in a poor spot and want to make the best of it. The main character, Katniss, has been hunting to support her family for years, so when she enters the games we both feel she has a chance because of her abilities, but feel she may be doomed because of her opponents, some of whom have been training for just this event.
The book grabbed me up and didn't let me go, making it a struggle to put the book down at night. If they manage to distill half the wonders of this book into the movie, they're going to be swimming in money... which doesn't hurt, because apparently there's two sequels to this. Sequels which I'm probably going to be buying later today!(less)
This here is a great book. I'd picked it up on a whim, used, without knowing much about it other than it says it's one of Kage Baker's "The Company" s...moreThis here is a great book. I'd picked it up on a whim, used, without knowing much about it other than it says it's one of Kage Baker's "The Company" series.
Amusingly, it's not obviously part of that series, and if you're worried about picking this book up and not knowing what's going on, don't worry - there's no obvious metaplot here, and although it's apparently part of the future history of her series, there's no reference to any other part of it.
The story is basically one of pioneers, and particularly about Mary Griffith, mother of three and ex-scientist for the British Arean Company, which has an unfortunate habit of firing people without enough money to get back to Earth. So she opens up the first bar on Mars and does her best to thrive in one of the most inhospitable places man has tried to settle, in the face of intolerance, infighting, and (at best) careless neglect.
The story about her and the folks she gathers around her is both interesting, charming, and impossible to put down. Apparently it was originally a novella, and in that form was nominated for both the Hugo and the Nebula, and won a Sturgeon. (less)
A light-hearted romp through a southern town menaced by the sort of unknown things that H.P. Lovecraft first wrote about, this book stars the Earl of...moreA light-hearted romp through a southern town menaced by the sort of unknown things that H.P. Lovecraft first wrote about, this book stars the Earl of Vampires and the Duke of Werewolves... or at least, a Vampire named Earl and his friend Duke, the werewolf. Their pickup almost runs out of gas as they arrive at an all night diner out beyond a small southwestern town, and as Duke fills up on some grub, zombies attack from the local graveyard.
Of course a couple of zombies don't bother Earl and Duke, but they stick around to try and figure out what's going on, and to lay in a new gas line for the diner, as they meet the local sherriff who has seen more than his share of weirdness, some local kids, and undead cows and ghost dogs. It's all a lot of fun, and wraps up nicely by the end, but it's a fun book to read and I recommend this. I picked it up by chance, but this lead me to read the rest of A. Lee MArtinez's novels, and they're all good stuff. (less)
Terry Pratchet, in his five millionth instant classic of a book, writes a book about reinvigorating a post office that's been given up for dead - and...moreTerry Pratchet, in his five millionth instant classic of a book, writes a book about reinvigorating a post office that's been given up for dead - and makes it interesting, exciting, and fantastically funny.(less)