It's no secret that the state of African politics is corrupt and dirty. Still reeling from decades of colonization by Western nations, riven by tribalIt's no secret that the state of African politics is corrupt and dirty. Still reeling from decades of colonization by Western nations, riven by tribal loyalties, brutally ruled by an ever-changing assortment of strongman rulers who can temporarily unite a people before collapsing into the ever-familiar patterns of megalomania and constructing their own cult of personality, the continent seems like the nearly perfect place to set a tale of intrigue and betrayal of the sort that John le Carre has been spinning for years. With the end of the Cold War in the early 1990s, le Carre lost his thematic touchstone and was forced to look beyond the Balkan settings of his famous spy novels. Some new settings have been found wanting, such as in his forgettable Tailor of Panama, while others have been positively inspired, such as in Absolute Friends, his look at the German revolutionaries of the late 60s and early 70s. Never, though, has he been able to weave a web of intrigue as well as he does when he's charting the recolonization of Africa by various corporate powers who manipulate desperate governments and corrupt militaries to win concessions to either pillage valuable resources for export to the all-consuming American maw, or to use these developing nations as test beds for new drugs and procedures that would never pass the scrutiny of any regulatory agency as he did in the masterful The Constant Gardener.
Not content to merely reveal the effects of those decisions made in secluded board rooms atop large skyscrapers and carried out in the backwater locales of the Congo, The Mission Song puts us in the room with these decision-makers as they weigh the worth of human lives against the possible profits to be squeezed from their blood-soaked land. Bruno Salvador, or Salvo to his friends, is the bastard son of an Irish priest and a Congolese woman who has used his extensive knowledge of various tribal languages to secure a much-valued post in the translation department of British Intelligence.
All goes swimmingly for Salvo until he is asked to serve as translator at a conference to be held at an undisclosed location for undisclosed African power brokers to hammer out the details of a new coup that will bring "peace" to his war torn homeland and enormous profits for the coup's faceless backers. Inadvertently overhearing (and recording) a torture session used to sway a recalcitrant plotter back into the conspiracy, Salvo realizes that this coup is just another aspect of business as usual for his masters. What follows is an exercise in futility as Salvo attempts to gain the ear of someone, anyone, in authority who can call off this coup before yet more blood is poured on the earth.
This is not the greatest le Carre that I've read, but neither is it the weakest. It has the feel of a dashed-off effort used to fulfill some contractual obligation more than as a labor of love- those stories that well up inside you and demand to be recounted. Still, it is a fast and entertaining read that provides all the suspense that le Carre is rightly renowned for. Perfect for reading in the park on a sunny day or at the beach as you keep half an eye on your wayward children....more
I should have known better than to segue from Mario Vargas Llosa into the cheap pablum of another Repairman Jack adventure. I should have realized thaI should have known better than to segue from Mario Vargas Llosa into the cheap pablum of another Repairman Jack adventure. I should have realized that it would be akin to drinking a shot of Eagle Rare, neat, with a Kool-Aid back. I should have known this and, to be fully honest, a part of me did admit to it on some deep down unconscious level. Yet that did not stop me at all. I had a new Jack book in my hands- not just any Jack but the second to last book in a series that has stretched so long Wilson could have given The Wheel Of Time pointers in how to draw out unnecessary story lines. I was nearing the cusp, the coup de grace, the finishing move with which Wilson would unleash his literary fury and leave his opponents/readers teetering, knocked out on their feet like so many Mortal Kombat matches.
I should have known better. For the past three or four books, Wilson has been saying that he's had a grand plan for Jack, his eminently entertaining antihero. This was all building for something and if readers had patience it would all be revealed in good time. Well, I've finished the penultimate Repairman Jack and I know where this has been going since Day One: a new series for F. Paul Wilson to dick around his readers with. Yep. There won't be any conclusion to the next Repairman Jack book, just as there wasn't for this one, or the previous five or six. Instead there will be new battles to fight in the apparently unceasing struggle between the Ally and the Otherness.
He's the stereotyped pusher on the corner, slinging sub-par product to desperate junkies who want their adrenaline fix. Instead we get this ridiculous story that adds up to 80% baby laxative, 10% fiddling while Rome burns, and 10% recap of everything we've already read. Wilson has a plan all right- keep pumping out tripe like this for as long as it takes until he is either imprisoned for crimes against the written word or he loses enough of a fan base that he experiences a moment of clarity and renounces his hack past. It's going to be a train wreck waiting for this moment though....more
You can stop now. You have officially sucked all the life out of all of your characters and made them all eminently dislikable.Dear Charlaine Harris,
You can stop now. You have officially sucked all the life out of all of your characters and made them all eminently dislikable. I know this is your cash cow but, please, let Alan Ball take over for you and you can go and do... whatever it is that you do to occupy your time. Bake moon pies? Write Robert Pattinson fanfic? Hunt for the long-mythologized swamp weasel of South Carolina? Anything would be an improvement over you letting your imagination continue to run amok in Bon Temps.
I probably wouldn't mind so much if ANYTHING HAPPENED in this 300 page travesty of a "book" but I guess you were too busy counting your True Blood royalties to bother too much with a little detail like that. Instead you wanted to write 20 page scenes about taking Sookie's telepathic cousin to the park or the funeral of an incredibly minor character who you have only ever mentioned in passing before. Why should we care? You allude to much, but in the end you say NOTHING and I'm left bitter that I waited anxiously for this book to finally be returned to the library so that I could read it.
I would have been better off watching this Snoop Dogg fan video again. In summation, you and I are through. Please stop taunting me with your stupid ass book covers and ridiculous sex scenes.
Let it never be said that I am immune to the international hype machine. Previously this pernicious influence has led me to a mixed bag of authors andLet it never be said that I am immune to the international hype machine. Previously this pernicious influence has led me to a mixed bag of authors and books from Tom Clancy, She's Come Undone, Harry Potter, and Three Cups of Tea to the Sookie Stackhouse books, Stephen King's Dark Tower series and The Life of Pi. Needless to say, I am leery in my approach to books that everyone and their sister is reading and try to put off reading them until the furor dies down and people are able to evaluate their quality outside of the bandwagon effect.
With the third book in the series having just been released Stateside, film adaptations of the first two books garnering numerous plaudits from critics and the inevitable American remake preparing to suck what life there was from the Swedish original, there seems little hope of waiting for the hubbub to subside anytime soon. Love her or hate her, Lisbeth Salander is going to be a part of the cultural lexicon for the foreseeable future.
As half of an investigating duo trying to unravel the forty year old mystery of the disappearance of Harriet Vanger, there are few tropes overlooked in making Salander the epitome of "badass antisocial hacker who lives by no rules but her own." Tattoos, piercings and a distrust of law enforcement do not a heroine make. If they did, Portland would be the most peaceful city in the world. Her cartoonish aspects aside, I do have to admit to a certain fondness for her (eep- does that make me as paternalistic and creepy as her security firm employer?) and I relished the scenes where she interacted with Mikael Blomkvist, the dour and discgraced financial reporter that composes the other half of this detecting duo.
With the plot functioning as a boilerplate murder mystery with few surprises, it is instead the interaction between Blomkvist and Salander and the entertaining peak into Swedish life that kept me enthralled page after page. Larsson thrills on the little details of day to day life; no chair is simply a chair when he can make it an Ikea chair, characters are never just reading a book but instead are reading an Astrid Lindgren book, no one ever uses a mere laptop when they can use the iBook G4 Titanium. While this constant labeling of objects drags a bit at the beginning, and gave me flashbacks to American Psycho, it also provided a higher degree of detail than you would expect from a run of the mill beach read.
This book isn't Great Lit as I've come to understand the term, but is still a cut above your Harlan Coben or James Patterson mystery-of-the-week. Yet, as best-seller shelves everywhere can attest, most people aren't looking for Great Lit. We're looking for a distraction, for a world that isn't this one to dive into for a short time. Those looking for something to occupy their minds while slowly simmering at a beach could do a lot worse than The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo and I fully intend to read the next two books in the series....more
Reading the Repairman Jack series is starting to remind me of listening to old 1930s radio serials when I was a kid. Whether it's Dick Tracy unravelinReading the Repairman Jack series is starting to remind me of listening to old 1930s radio serials when I was a kid. Whether it's Dick Tracy unraveling the Mystery of the Pharaoh's Scarab or The Shadow trying to stop a notorious arsonist, Wilson definitely draws much inspiration from the radio heroes of yesteryear in the construction of his bite-size thrillers and his reluctant hero, Jack.
In Hosts, Jack's conflict against the inter-dimensional Otherness gets personal when his estranged sister contacts him out of the blue for help in freeing her girlfriend from a creepy cult. Of course when Jack is involved things are never as cut and dry as a mere cult. Before he knows it, Jack is fighting off an especially malicious virus doing what viruses do best (spread their contagion as far and wide as possible) and trying to keep his family out of the increasingly dangerous crossfire.
Wilson is setting Jack up for some big events further down the line but the story in this one suffers from looking ahead too much. It's as though Wilson was more interested in framing events for the series' climax than in crafting a truly captivating story. There were some fun additions to Jack's rather familiar bag of tricks and some rather chilling flash forwards of a strife-filled future in which the contagion has run rampant, but all in all this book seemed like a build-up for something farther down the road....more
So we've made it up through book 4 of the Repairman Jack series now. The friend of mine who is lending me this series has been using this book as a luSo we've made it up through book 4 of the Repairman Jack series now. The friend of mine who is lending me this series has been using this book as a lure to keep me going: "Oh yeah, that part that really bugged you in book 2? Well, it'll all be worth it once you get to All the Rage." While David is often wrong on a good many subjects, on this occasion he has been proven correct. I will forgive much of what has come before because I had so much pure fun with this read. In fact, this is probably the best of the Repairman Jack books that I've read thus far.
Wilson ties together the various disparate threads from the first three books- a familiar baby-snatching rakoshi is revealed to be alive and well, Professor Roma moves in the shadows manipulating events and Jack with equal aplomb, and the cursed township of Monroe (that almost-beachhead of the Otherness in our reality) makes another appearance. This go-round has Jack tussling with a Serbian drug lord who is peddling a drug called Berzerk that performs a Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde metamorphosis on its users, making them more confident, aggressive, and, finally, violent. As already-rabid New Yorkers get even more juiced up, Jack has to track down the source of this new drug, protect those he loves, and avoid getting dosed himself- an event that would let the tightly-leashed beast inside Jack run amok throughout the five boroughs.
Fun, fast and relatively mindless, this book hit me at just the right time. With the change of seasons and increasing demands from employers, I was struggling through three other books that weren't particularly gripping me and I just needed something frivolous to get me back into the reading habit. Fortunately, the adventure stories of Repairman Jack were just the fluff I needed to get myself back on track and excited for a full Winter of reading. Recommended for those who've read the first three books or anyone with a tedious several-hour flight ahead of them who wants it to pass without notice....more
I don't even know how to begin a review of this "book." It's a "book" only so much as it is a bound collection of words that form a "story" (I guess).I don't even know how to begin a review of this "book." It's a "book" only so much as it is a bound collection of words that form a "story" (I guess). Though to use either term in describing this incredibly juvenile masturbatory fantasy is an offense to books and stories everywhere. I started reading it at the behest of a neighbor with normally impeccable taste in books- he's previously turned me on to both Carson McCullers and Dow Mossman. Sure, I was forewarned that it wasn't very good but that he had "loved it when he was a teen."
Now, I love people's guilty pleasures when it comes to reading. The books that people don't really even want to admit to reading, let alone enjoying. I probably think that one of my guiltiest pleasures is the John Steakley human-in-powersuit-fights-giant-ants scifi schlockfest Armor. I like to think (delude myself into thinking) that if I read someone's guilty pleasure then I'll get some sort of insight or understanding into their character. My penchant for "me vs. the horde" tales like those in Armor or the countless zombie books I've read probably speaks volumes about my distrust for large groups or what-have-you. All I learned about my neighbor by reading Van Lustbader's The Ninja is that he was an exceptionally horny teenager (but who wasn't).
One would think that with a book titled The Ninja that the pages would be a blood-spattered mess right out of some John Woo spectacle. Instead the bulk of this 500-odd page book are filled with 75% porn of a decidedly uninteresting (or at least extremely poorly written) variety. Mailer and Updike are often derided as writing some of the worst sex scenes in print but they don't even hold a candle to the mess that Van Lustbader contrives here. I don't know. Perhaps he's unlucky in love and feels the need to write out rather than act out his various fantasies. After reading some of these fantasies I could definitely understand why he'd be unlucky. Still, why share this with the world? Is it really necessary?
I'm not even going to talk about the "plot" of this mess. I could easily deride the writer for his endless stereotyping of Asia, in general, and Japan, in particular, (I mean really how many times do I have to read that Japanese are "inscrutable" and "hard-eyed" or that tired old phrase "East meets West?" In fact, I am banning the use of that phrase forever more. Hollywood, take note!) but really what would be the point? Instead, I'll leave with a quote from the book that brought home to me within the first 30 pages just how bad the experience of reading this would be. I should have thrown my copy at the wall immediately upon reading "East meets West inside me like swirling currents and there is a kind of tug of war." Really? ...more
I knew my continued persistence with this series would eventually pay off! Too many readers who's tastes are similar to mine have recommended it for iI knew my continued persistence with this series would eventually pay off! Too many readers who's tastes are similar to mine have recommended it for it to be a total wash. Sure, the first two books were so-so verging on mediocre, but that's to be expected in a 15 book series. Some of them are going to be throwaways. Fortunately, I am whorish persistent when it comes to my fluff reads, because Conspiracies finally revealed to me what all the fuss about this Repairman Jack character is all about.
This go-round, Jack must infiltrate a convention of conspiracy theorists in order to locate one of the group's leaders who was about to reveal her much gossiped about Grand Unification Theory of all conspiracy theories. This plunges Jack into a world where Black Helicopters are going to crush militias and institute a New World Order, where the only question about UFOs is whether they come from outer space or from the Earth's core, where Satanic Cults, with the complicity of government agencies, implant 666 mind control chips in the minds of the especially devout to sway them to Lucifer's will. Sounds like a perfect atmosphere for a private detective like Jack- he of the ever-changing identity and who exists in no government database.
Wilson makes great strides in this book and answers every complaint that I voiced in my reviews of the first two books. He's strung together a grand unification theory of his own to help make the continuity between The Tomb, Legacies, and Conspiracies flow better- Jack bears the scars of his battle against the demonic Rakoshi of The Tomb and references are made to the characters of Legacies. Most importantly, in this book Jack acquires his own nemesis- a man known only as The One- who's goal is to open a portal that will allow a vast and malevolent Otherness to devour our world (think Cthulhu with less tentacles). Happily, as the book draws to a close, Wilson resists the impulse to tie everything together into a neat bow and lets The One escape, meaning that he should be dogging Jack's heels for books to come....more
F. Paul Wilson's Macguyver Redux is back in the second book in his Repairman Jack series. (Note: it took every ounce of my self control to resist typiF. Paul Wilson's Macguyver Redux is back in the second book in his Repairman Jack series. (Note: it took every ounce of my self control to resist typing "Jack's back" and linking it to a picture of Kevin Spacey's backside, and the only reason I finally didn't was because I couldn't find said picture.) It's been a few years since the adventures that took place in The Tomb, but things are near enough the same that I don't feel the need to flesh out the backstory too much. If all you know is that Jack helps people fix their problems in ingenious and often violent ways, that he's pedantically "off the grid," and that he's (for whatever reason) dearly devoted to his on-again off-again girlfriend Gia, then you're as caught up as you need to be.
Legacies finds Jack taking on as a client an AIDS doctor who is involved in a fight (both in the courtroom and out) with her half-brother (backed by a shady and mysterious Saudi) over the inheritance of their father's house. Of course, shady Saudi guy has hired mercenaries to track and intimidate the doctor into selling and, of course, this strengthens Doctor's resolve to do no such thing which, of course, sends her to Jack. Jack just wants to know what's so dad-gummed important about the house to blow up a lawyer's car (other than for him just being a lawyer) but, of course, none of the parties involved want to tell him.
Which leads me to my problem with the series thus far. So far (and, yes, I understand I've only read 15% of the total series) the main struggle in the books seems to be about somebody knowing what's going on, Jack needing to know, and then 300 pages of struggle to learn said info. There's no sense of a struggle between two great minds, no real suspense in that regard (sure, Jack is often in danger but... he's Jack- that's his bread and butter). Jack runs circles around the baddies until he delivers them all wrapped up in a cute bow. I don't know, maybe later on he'll fight his Dr. No or his Karla, but for now I'm just left thinking that things are too easy for him.
Still, it's a really fun read that will probably not take most people longer than a day or two to tear through. Perfect for beach reading or a long commute. In fact, I think I should go grab book three right now....more