This novel was broken into three sections -- 1. World Without End, 2. The Year 22, and 3. The Last American -- that were interspersed with two "Quick...moreThis novel was broken into three sections -- 1. World Without End, 2. The Year 22, and 3. The Last American -- that were interspersed with two "Quick Years" segments that pushed the story forward decades at a time. The first section, where protagonist Isherwood Williams survived a plague, was an extremely strong opening, and felt timeless -- right up until about the time Ish started interacting with other people. The more Ish interacted with others, the more cracks started to form in the narrative.
It really started breaking down after the first section, where uneven pacing and didactic storytelling started creeping into the story. There was lots of telling -- all the quick years segments, the kids' journey, the death of Charlie, the typhoid epidemic -- and no showing. Opportunities for tension or conflict were glossed over or skipped outright in favor of recapping them in retrospect.
Ish was kind of a dick. He was easy to anger, and had a very high opinion of himself and an even lower opinion of other, except his "chosen" son Joey. Then there was Ish's hammer. It is fitting that it was a hammer, as it was used to bludgeon the reader with its metaphorical value as the superstition/taboo/religion/symbol of the Tribe's little society. There was no subtlety to how these allusions were made whatsoever.
This book was, I'm sure, in some ways progressive for its time, as Ish married a woman that is at least partly black -- there are subtle allusions to her dark features and "half moon eyes" and she later mentions the treatment of her people by society before the change -- and there was also a polygamous family in the Tribe. However, it was also racist -- early on, Ish considered staying with "negro" folk and being their king, as they were used to serving the white man -- and also incredibly sexist -- the female characters range from stupid, to ignorant, to half-witted, and absolutely no chance to disparage them was missed.
The rising action of the second section, The Year 22, where Charlie returns with the boys from their journey and the resulting consequences, was a clinic in bad writing:
For starters, the foreshadowing for Charlie being evil was anything but subtle -- he was repeatedly mentioned to be dirty, sweaty, fat, pig-eyed, boar-eyed, etc. -- before he had done anything untoward. And Ish's instant dislike and slander was not solely because Charlie was an outsider, as it was mentioned earlier that the Tribe interacted with others occasionally.
When it was made clear that Charlie would try to bed Evie, a beautiful, vacant-eyed blonde that had absolutely no function in the story until that point, and was clearly written solely to be the impetus for this conflict, the reader is supposed to be against their coupling because Ish was, but Ish's reasoning is flimsy at best, and more likely just self-serving, as Ish feels threatened as the alpha male of the community. Why not just let Evie be with Charlie? Why deny her? She was so excited by the prospect they were literally considering imprisoning her to keep her away from him.
The climactic resolution was entirely skipped over. How exactly did the community separate Charlie from his derringer and kill him without him fighting back? How is it that Em got to vote about the handling of the situation, but not Ezra or George's wives? How did Ish change the minds of the younger kids so quickly that there was no resentment to him murdering their new friend for an act he hadn't yet committed? This second segment of the book raised many more questions than it gave answers, and few of these points were addressed afterward.
But enough about the second section. The segment that followed was another quick years segment, that while it read a bit like an almanac, was brief enough not to cause offense or too much boredom.
The third and final section, The Last American, was a strong, if imperfect ending. I liked Ish's contemplation about the state of the world and his ancestors, who now care for him and even revere him, up to a point. The bit about the bows and arrows was a nice touch, as was the destruction of Ish's childhood home and the conclusion on the bridge regarding the inheritance of the hammer.
While I had a long list of complaints about this book, in the end I am definitely glad to have read it, even if I wasn't loving the process of reading it. So it goes for most classics. It is also a good exercise to revisit the roots of an interesting genre. Stephen King acknowledged this book as an influence in The Stand, so any fan of that book, as I am, will certainly see the value of reading this, if for no other reason than to see how that was built on the foundation this laid.(less)
Reading this book was a struggle. It is definitive proof that humor is subjective. After seeing so many reviews comparing this favorably to Christophe...moreReading this book was a struggle. It is definitive proof that humor is subjective. After seeing so many reviews comparing this favorably to Christopher Moore, I figured I'd love it, but man was I wrong.
The endless insect asides, complete with Latin names and detailed descriptions, distracted from what should have been a fast paced, light read. The writing was subpar in an amateurish way. Neither the tone, nor the humor worked for me, although the story did pick up toward the end as the assassins converged on New York City, so maybe it deserves 2.5 stars -- but not enough to round up to 3 stars.
Also, I cannot wrap my mind around a critical question with Bob's plan to start an all-natural pest control business. He plans to use assassin bugs to kill the roaches and other insects infesting restaurants and businesses, but then how are the assassin bugs killed? It is mentioned that they need to breed in order to work, so they aren't sterile. It just makes no sense, the business would just then have an infestation of infinitely more terrifying hybrid assassin bugs.(less)
I added this to my to my ever lengthening to-read shelf based on this Buzzfeed listicle that said "if you loved The Westing Game, you should read Robi...moreI added this to my to my ever lengthening to-read shelf based on this Buzzfeed listicle that said "if you loved The Westing Game, you should read Robin Sloan's Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore."
I loved it. I honestly can't praise it highly enough. The book's pacing was great, brisk but never unbearably so, the cast of eclectic characters were each more charming than the next, there was real tension and mystery, but also a lighthearted humor running through the entire novel. I will definitely be buying it as a present for more than one person -- basically anyone that likes books, mysteries, and whimsy.
I will leave you with this excellent -- and spoiler free -- quote from near the end of the book: "All the secrets in the world worth knowing are hiding in plain sight."(less)
This book was a return to form after the last entry in the series, A Serpent's Tooth, didn't meet my highest expectations of the Walt Longmire series....moreThis book was a return to form after the last entry in the series, A Serpent's Tooth, didn't meet my highest expectations of the Walt Longmire series. The plot was tight, the characters diverse, the mystery elusive, and the subplot of Walt's daughter's giving birth created a tension -- can Walt crack the case in time to fly to Philadelphia for his grandchild's birth? -- to the entire book. This volume also ties up some loose ends (view spoiler)[how Vic and Walt's relationship was affected by Vic's gunshot wound abortion and inability to have children (hide spoiler)] and left some possibilities for the future of the series (view spoiler)[the revelation that Tomas Bidarte is alive and put out a hit on Walt (hide spoiler)].(less)
This white-knuckle, edge-of-your-seat novella about an emergency flight through a blizzard from Absaroka to Denver puts the author's previous holiday...moreThis white-knuckle, edge-of-your-seat novella about an emergency flight through a blizzard from Absaroka to Denver puts the author's previous holiday short stories in Christmas in Absaroka County to shame.
This story, a flashback to when Walt had just become sheriff, was unique in that there was no mystery to solve, and it showed the older-generation of characters -- Walt, Lucian Connally, Doctor Bloomfield -- in a very different scenario than usual, under a great deal of stress.
While the suspense was hollow, as we know Walt and company must have survived the harrowing flight, which (even if you haven't read the series) the novella's framing device gives away, I wasn't put off by that because I read this as Christmas miracle tale, and enjoyed seeing the displayed bravery as a form of heroic, action-packed character background for these older gents in the series. In that respect, I also liked the mentions of A Christmas Carol throughout the novella.(less)
This article, about author David Gordon being famous in Japan and not even realizing it, made me curious enough to read the book that made him an acci...moreThis article, about author David Gordon being famous in Japan and not even realizing it, made me curious enough to read the book that made him an accidental, foreign celebrity.
The book starts with a really great, memorable opening, including this line -- which isn't the first line of the book, but the last line of the first chapter:
It all began the morning when, dressed like my dead mother and accompanied by my fifteen-year-old schoolgirl business partner, I opened the letter from death row and discovered that a serial killer was my biggest fan.
That hook follows a bit of preamble, including this line, which is the first line of the book:
The first sentence of a novel is the most important, except maybe for the last, which can stay with you after you've shut the book, the way the echo of a closing door follows you down the hall.
These two lines should give you an idea of both the humor in the book, and how it plays with the narrative structure, as the narrator, Harry Bloch, is a writer of pulp genre fiction novels. His bibliography, all written under pen names, includes an erotic space opera series, an erotic detective series starring a black man from Harlem, and an erotic vampire series.
It becomes quite interesting to note that Bloch discusses, near the end of the story, how writing the middle of his books is the trickiest part, after I had -- naturally -- already finished the middle of the book and thought it dragged a bit. It seemed like a bit of a postmodern mea culpa.
But this slight drag in the middle is more a speed bump than an impediment. This story is well worth the read. The opening scenes, introducing the characters in Bloch's struggling existence, are funny and occasionally poignant, and the meat of the story, when Bloch's agreement to ghostwrite a serial killer's memoirs turns dark, is captivating. And the crux of the mystery was sufficiently tricky -- which was impressive and a bit infuriating, as Bloch points out more than once that the clues are already laid out in what he has already written to discover exactly whodunnit before he reveals it.
Another narrative twist is that about half a dozen chapters of the novel are chapters from these various pulp novels, interspersed throughout the narrative. While they aren't necessary to the story, or allude to events that are concurrently happening, they give Bloch's character some depth since it gives an idea the kind of writer he is. For any reader not enjoying these brief infrequent intermissions, know they can be skipped with no loss whatsoever to the main story.
Finally, I feel compelled to mention the narrator of the audiobook, Bronson Pinchot, as I listened to this book. I would deduct a star from this book solely for its narration (although I did not, as I didn't want to punish the author for this shortcoming). Despite Pinchot being a professional actor, his voice work is lacking, at best. He gave Harry Bloch a whine that made the first person narrative difficult to listen to at points, and every female character sounded like Mickey Rourke in drag. While I would heartily recommend this book, especially to fans of the genre books it plays with, I would not recommend the audio version.(less)
While there were a lot of interesting aspects to this addition to the series, there were also a lot of little niggling things that bothered me. There...moreWhile there were a lot of interesting aspects to this addition to the series, there were also a lot of little niggling things that bothered me. There isn't too much I can say without spoiling the story, but here are a few random thoughts (all of which may have mild spoilers, although I will hide any bigger spoilers):
- Walt went around punching people all book, didn't arrest those that were clearly guilty, and the one guy he did sort-of arrest, he let slip from his control multiple times. Walt was definitely carrying the idiot ball this book.
- The relationship between Walt and Vic that had been glacially developed in fits and spurts over the course of multiple books suddenly took a huge leap forward to a cliffhanging revelation (view spoiler)[There was a huge love-fest confessional between the two of them right before the climax, and then boom, Vic went and got gut shot and her pregnancy, which Walt had not known about, was terminated. Of course, this is exactly where this book leaves off with this relationship. (hide spoiler)].
- Henry Standing Bear, proprietor of the Red Pony Bar, rode along with Walt for most of this book as some sort of volunteer unpaid deputy -- almost taking the role of Dog. I love The Bear's character, and enjoyed spending the extra time with him, but usually he is inserted into the plot more deftly than this, and to greater effect.
- The Powder Junction deputies' plot line(s) were handled awkwardly, although I did enjoy seeing more Double Tough in this book (view spoiler)[And I don't mean that they killed a character, which adds a certain element of gravitas to the series -- even though Frymire was a tertiary character at best -- I mean that they burned Double Tough and had him miraculously survive, only to have Frymire murdered unceremoniously less than a day later. It was an oddly handled bait-and-switch; we got the unearned death of Frymire instead of the earned death of Double Tough. I did like how that plays into Double Tough's macho man nature, though. (hide spoiler)].
- I wish the Mormon splinter cult was explored in greater detail, instead of the left turn that plot-line took (view spoiler)[They wound up being an oblivious front for an illegal oil drilling operation that was siphoning off the Bakken pipeline (hide spoiler)]. Also, the action movie ending didn't fit the tone of the rest of the series (view spoiler)[Especially them not being able to find the body of the bad guy after he'd been shot so many times. That felt like a cheap sequel set-up for a Die Hard movie. (hide spoiler)].
- Did the CIA need to be involved in any way in this already convoluted plot? And did the random rancher that showed up in the beginning really need to turn out to be retired CIA to facilitate that load of coincidences?
- On a less serious note, I loved the introduction of Van Ross Lynear, the crazy patriarch of the Lynear family, that was building spaceships in his yard, and was sure this amazing locale would be revisited for the final showdown, but alas, it was not to be. (view spoiler)[Lynear just fell of his roof naked and died, and the plot-line disappeared completely. (hide spoiler)].
Now that I look back up at that lengthy list, I realize it could be misconstrued that I disliked this book, but that isn't true. I enjoyed it a good deal, I just have high expectations for this series after so many quality entries, and all in all, I think Johnson may have bitten off a bit more than he could chew here. The numerous characters, and their many intertwining actions over the course this book created a bit of dissonance with the overarching theme of parent/child relationships, which is even found in the title, taken from Shakespeare's King Lear:
How sharper than a serpent’s tooth it is To have a thankless child.
Moore brings back everyone's favorite court jester, Pocket of Dog Snogging from Fool, as well as his apprentice Drool and his monkey Jeff, and sends them to Venice to intertwine with Othello, Iago, Shylock, Antonio, and even Marco Polo, among other senators, merchants, soldiers and whores. It was a deftly plotted romp, with plenty of deceit, treachery, and villainous plotting -- which Moore has a habit of referring to as "heinous fuckery most foul" -- which is never allowed to overshadow the riotous humor, and the occasional appearances of a bloody ghost and a sea serpent that likes to shag.
I feel compelled to point out that I listened to the audio book, since the performance by Euan Morton was out of this world. I had thought it odd that this wasn't listed as "read by" or "narrated by," but as "performed by," but the flourish is more than earned, as this is a marvelous performance. The character's distinct voices, especially the fourth-wall-breaking Chorus, made this like listening to a radio play.
In summation, I highly recommend this book, and if you are the audio book type, I strongly recommend listening to the audio book performance of it. (less)
I added this book to my to-read shelf after reading this blog post. After reading it, I fully endorse it as worthy of adding to your to-read shelf as...moreI added this book to my to-read shelf after reading this blog post. After reading it, I fully endorse it as worthy of adding to your to-read shelf as well.
The premise is straightforward. Binder -- who is, to give a modern equivalent, very similar to Michael Scott from The Office -- is leading an expedition to ascend to the top of the Rum Doodle mountain peak. His companions include a translator that appears to not know the native language, a doctor who remains sick with various maladies, a navigator who gets thoroughly lost at every turn, a strongman who is weakened by "altitude sickness," a scientist who is convinced they are 153 feet above sea level while out at sea, and a group of hundreds of native porters, including Pong, a cook that makes inedible every food item he touches. Bedlam, naturally, ensues.
This book holds up very well for a book that's almost 60 years old, as, at its core, it is a comedy about human nature, which hasn't evolved nearly as much as we'd like to believe, despite all our technological advances.(less)
Coming after Hell Is Empty, the previous book in the Walt Longmire Mysteries series, this book is a bit of a let down. But that is not much of a knock...moreComing after Hell Is Empty, the previous book in the Walt Longmire Mysteries series, this book is a bit of a let down. But that is not much of a knock, as that book was near perfect.
In this one, sheriff Longmire is preparing -- poorly -- for his daughter's impending wedding and out-of-town in-laws arrival, when he and Henry Standing Bear witness a woman fall off a cliff and die. The death occurring on Rez land leads to confrontations with new tribal police chief Lolo Long, a peyote ceremony with Longmire as the guest of honor, and the involvement of the FBI -- including Walt's old friend Cliff Cly.
While I figured out certain aspects of the mystery quicker than the protagonist, I did not figure out whodunit until the simultaneously tense and satisfying big reveal.(less)
The author of this series, Craig Johnson, is not content to churn out paint-by-number mysteries. With each book, he pushes the boundaries of his craft...moreThe author of this series, Craig Johnson, is not content to churn out paint-by-number mysteries. With each book, he pushes the boundaries of his craft -- integrating flashbacks, different settings, non-linear storytelling, playing with tone, etc. -- but what he does in this book may be his crowning achievement.
There is actually no mystery in this Walt Longmire mystery -- it is made clear at the beginning that Raynaud Shade, the prisoner that Walt is transporting, is guilty of killing a child. This book's journey is simply Walt's hunt to find the escaped convict.
The reader, in the absence of a mystery, is treated to a complex and moving character study as said character, protagonist detective Walt Longmire, is put through extensive and numerous trials as he literally climbs more than 13,000 feet to Cloud Peak after Shade in a blizzard, while metaphorically traversing the nine circles of hell accompanied only by -- naturally -- a battered paperback copy of Dante's Inferno, Indian recluse Virgil White Buffalo, and borrowed supplies from big game hunter Omar.
The skill of the writing left me feeling as cold, alone, confused, and exhausted as Walt, but the intensity also left me needing to know what happened next, and how would this resolve when, inevitably, Walt and Shade met at the climax. And despite my earlier insistence that there was not a mystery, there is the very intriguing, if ethereal, mystery of what exactly happened to Walt during his journey up the mountain (view spoiler)[Did he meet up with Virgil at all? Did he hallucinate? Were Indian spirits guiding him? Was that Virgil's hand with the ring on it? Etc. (hide spoiler)].
Note to fans of the Longmire television show: The first episode of season two, Unquiet Mind, is based on this book, with the set-up of that episode being almost identical to the first third of this book, as well as many thematic elements later. If possible, I'd try to read this first, but I didn't do that and I still enjoyed this book immensely. ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
First of all, I should state that I really liked the concept of a zombie glimpsing the memories of their victim while eating their brain. Admittedly,...moreFirst of all, I should state that I really liked the concept of a zombie glimpsing the memories of their victim while eating their brain. Admittedly, I have not read near enough zombie fiction to know whether this addition to zombie canon was made by Marion or existed beforehand, but either way, it made a lot of sense. That said, I did not like any other aspect of this book.
For starters, the main linchpin of the story is that R takes Julie home to his zombie nest after her scrounging mission is interrupted by R's pack of zombies. While his infatuation with her is easily explained by him eating her boyfriend's brain, the near instant connection she forms with him is well beyond my suspension of disbelief. The nearest thing I could see it being is Stockholm syndrome, but even that sick bond takes a longer time to form.
Also, I don't know if you caught the previous mention of the main characters' names, but they are R and Julie, because :: bangs head against wall :: this is a modern day zombie retelling of Romeo and Juliet.
Then there is R, the zombie protagonist, who is also the story's narrator. Naturally, Marion couldn't feasibly have R narrate in grunts and groans, but his decision to have a zombie -- one that cannot remember his life before death, is incapable of reading, and struggles to grunt anything longer than two syllables -- narrate so eloquently, and to delve into such deep philosophical waters, was again beyond my suspension of disbelief.
One final frustration was the "zombies" themselves. They have a zombie church, where R is married to another zombie, and is given zombie children to care for, who he takes to zombie school. I am not saying this is reaching the levels of sparkling vampires that play baseball... wait, no, that is exactly what I am saying. These are not zombies, they are shark jumping, fridge nuking, sparkling vampire zombies, and they make no sense.
Note, despite the fact that I could not finish this, I am giving it a second star for the creativity of the idea behind the story, despite how little I liked the execution of that idea.(less)
The best way to highlight what this book is, is by going over what it isn't -- there is no non-linear storytelling, no flashbacks to Vietnam, and no t...moreThe best way to highlight what this book is, is by going over what it isn't -- there is no non-linear storytelling, no flashbacks to Vietnam, and no trips to Philadelphia or anywhere else. While I liked the books that featured those various aspects, I enjoyed this book going back to its roots and what made me fall in love this this series in the first place, a small town character-driven story with its interesting cast of characters in sharp focus.(less)
I bumped this up my reading list after reading the prequel short story, Free Fall, which was action-packed and left off on a cliffhanger, and was then...moreI bumped this up my reading list after reading the prequel short story, Free Fall, which was action-packed and left off on a cliffhanger, and was then a bit disappointed reading this, as that story was more exhilarating than this novel.
This novel -- after wrapping up the cliffhanger of the prelude short story, which had nothing to do with novel's the main plot -- centered on Fed conspiracies, CIA black projects, a Dan Brown-like historical tour of Boston, and a killer eerily reminiscent of Dexter. Also, as far as the Fed bit goes, there were a few infodumps on its history, as well as a fair amount of soapboxing about how evil they are. Note that I am not saying the Fed is or isn't evil, just that these portions were not very deftly inserted into the text.
This story left very little for super-spy Scot Harvath to do except follow around a Boston police detective (who was super sexy and exotic looking, of course), which is fine, except for the fact that was allegedly a Scot Harvath thriller. The other plot thread that ran concurrently was much more interesting, and did eventually converge into an engaging third act, although after that it wrapped up just a bit too neatly in a meeting with the president and an epilogue on the beach.
Update: Brad Thor just released a second epilogue to the book as a bonus chapter, and it's really good. It can be found here.(less)
What we have here is a time capsule from 1961, when Harrison, the author of Make Room! Make Room!, wrote a pulpy sci-fi adventure as an homage to prot...moreWhat we have here is a time capsule from 1961, when Harrison, the author of Make Room! Make Room!, wrote a pulpy sci-fi adventure as an homage to prototypical science fiction adventures of an even earlier era.
While this didn't age as well as one would hope, and may get knocked down by fans of more contemporary science fiction on that account, I enjoy occasionally looking back in time and reading influential genre works, as they give a glimpse into how the genre was built and evolved into what it now is. This work is a particularly good example, as I am not sure sci-fi gets Han Solo without first having Slippery Jim diGriz, a.k.a. the Stainless Steel Rat.
And Jim is the kind of brash, rapscallion anti-hero with a heart of gold that sci-fi is littered with. And we love him for it.
One early plot development that did not sit so well with me, however, was how easily Jim was turned by the Special Corps. On his first job for them, for example, he is given a luxury spacecraft that he uses to catch another criminal, and at no point does he consider stealing it himself and disregarding the mission.
Also of note was that while at first, the treatment of females in this novel left a bit to be desired, that gets turned upside down when the mastermind antagonist turns out to be a femme fatale that is so manipulative, she ensnares Jim, a master con artist in his own right, with little effort.(less)
This series is settling into a very good place. The main cast of characters all return -- Quinn, Lillie, Caddy, Boom, Johnny Stagg -- and grow, which...moreThis series is settling into a very good place. The main cast of characters all return -- Quinn, Lillie, Caddy, Boom, Johnny Stagg -- and grow, which is an important element to a series like this. The cast continues to slowly expand -- adding convict-turned preacher Jamey Dixon and coroner Ophelia Bundren -- as the darker corners of Tibbehah County continue to be explored.
One of the strongest elements of the book was the ambiguity of Dixon's reform, giving the reader ample time to decide if he had found God or was still a con-man -- conning both Caddy and the reader. Another was a scene in which Quinn beds a woman whose identity is kept secret from the reader. Both show the growth of Atkins writing since the beginning of the series.
I look forward to further entries in the series, which although are not yet announced, are almost certainly forthcoming considering the state of affairs at the end of this book.(less)
This book, as everyone not living under a rock knows by now, was written by she-who-was-not-named-on-the-cover: J.K. Rowling. And w...moreFirst things first:
This book, as everyone not living under a rock knows by now, was written by she-who-was-not-named-on-the-cover: J.K. Rowling. And while I do read a lot of detective and/or mystery novels, this one was not on my radar before I knew she was the author, so that obviously influenced me to pick it up and read it. And it handily proved that she is a very capable adult author that can craft a "real world" narrative -- although I swore at points that I would have figured out she was the author solely from her overuse of descriptive modifiers.
On to the actual review:
This novel was an ode to the classic British whodunit, reminiscent of the mysteries of Agatha Christie's Hercule Poirot or Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes, with slowly developed leads through a number of interviews, and almost no action whatsoever. While others mileage may vary, the lack of action and repetitive interviewing of different suspects did not bother me in the least, because the mystery, and all the characters surrounding it, were so interesting.
The mystery was exceptionally plotted, to the point of being air tight (view spoiler)[However, for a good portion of the book, it infuriated me that Strike did not ask John Bristow for the cell phone records of Rochelle Onifade, a phone for which his family continued to pay, as Strike suspected she had contact with the killer. Until, of course, it was revealed at the end Bristow was the killer, so Strike doing that would have tipped him off that he knew (hide spoiler)]. But beyond that, the characters, each sleazier than the last, really jumped of the page and into the imagination. One thing I could have done without, however, was the book being broken into so many parts -- in addition to chapters -- and having obscure quotes prefacing each of them.
I very much am looking forward to reading the next adventure of Strike and his secretary/assistant/partner-in-crime Robin, which according to Galbraith's website, will be out next year.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
This is Scalzi's first novel, which he was unable to sell and instead self-published online. It is actually still available for free here, with an int...moreThis is Scalzi's first novel, which he was unable to sell and instead self-published online. It is actually still available for free here, with an introduction detailing his process writing it, where he writes:
I offer it freely to give new readers a sample of my writing (perchance to tempt them to pick up one of the other books), and to say "thanks" to those who picked up another of my books and were curious enough about the author to find their way here. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it, and have enjoyed all the writing since.
The book follows the life of Hollywood agent Tom Stein and his motley assortment of clients while answering the question of whether or not we are alone in the universe (spoiler alert: we're not). While a bit raw, his talent is nevertheless on full display.
It can be easily seen how he would grow into the author that would write Old Man's War, The Android's Dream, and Redshirts -- all of which maintain his trademark humor and banter, while treating their subject matter more seriously than that tone suggests possible.
While the middle of this book dragged slightly because of some clunky expository dialogue, the imagination behind the story and the humor in its telling more than make up for those small blemishes.
Also, I should note that I did not read the online version I linked to above, I listened to Wil Wheaton's narration of the audiobook. Wheaton did a phenomenal job with said narration -- he is especially good at bringing Scalzi's material to life.(less)
While I really enjoyed the first book in this series, The Ranger (review), Atkins really seems to hit his stride in the second book in the series. The...moreWhile I really enjoyed the first book in this series, The Ranger (review), Atkins really seems to hit his stride in the second book in the series. The cast of Tibbehah County characters returns -- new sheriff Quinn Colson, deputy Lillie Virgil, one-armed army vet Boom, Quinn's troubled sister Caddy and her son Jason, and sleazier than ever Johnny Stagg. Add to that illegal baby sellers, Mexican gunrunners, a redheaded vixen ATF agent, and a childhood friend of Quinn's headed down the wrong path, and you have a recipe for a compelling read. Highly recommended.(less)
When the Jack Reacher movie trailer first came out, and I found out it was based on a book, I was intrigued enough to pick it up. Unfortunately, my lo...moreWhen the Jack Reacher movie trailer first came out, and I found out it was based on a book, I was intrigued enough to pick it up. Unfortunately, my logical brain assumed they would adapt the first book in the series, Killing Floor, and so I read the wrong book, as they took the screenplay from this book, the ninth in the series.
Anyway, while I liked that book well enough (review here), this book showed how much the author has improved since writing it, his first published book. The plot was tighter, more suspenseful, and less derivative, the action scenes flowed better, and the pacing kept me engaged for the entirety of the novel. It also made it more clear in retrospect why this book was chosen to adapt into a movie, and not the first book in the series.(less)
This entry into the Walt Longmire Mysteries is an interesting one. While the actual mystery, unraveling the truth of what happened between an unhinged...moreThis entry into the Walt Longmire Mysteries is an interesting one. While the actual mystery, unraveling the truth of what happened between an unhinged wife and the loathsome husband she already confessed to killing, doesn't take him far from home -- just into the next county -- it gives us a number of new perspectives on the protagonist and the setting. This is a reoccurring theme of the series, which, to its credit, is far more character driven than most mysteries.
This book serves as a bit of a coming home for Longmire, as he grew up in on a ranch in this very same neighboring county he returns to here. It also serves as a fish-out-of-water tale, as he makes his first attempt at going undercover -- and likely his last, as he realizes his shortcomings in this department rather early on.
This book also highlights the hardscrabble, frontier town of Powder Junction, a harsher, sparser, piece of Wyoming than where Longmire normally sheriffs. The wonderfully written supporting cast that populates this town includes an aging cowboy, a jackass bar owner, a four-foot tall child bandito, his illegal barmaid mother, and, of course, a dark horse. The only let down is how little of the Absaroka residents -- Henry Standing Bear, Vic, Lucian -- are present, and even then only in brief, unnecessary flashbacks.
Overall, another excellent entry in an excellent series. As I've said before, the highest compliment I can give it, as with any series, is that I have already started the next Walt Longmire Mystery, Junkyard Dogs.(less)
This book immediately enters my top five all-time favorite sci-fi books (a category that is admittedly weighted heavily towards cyberpunk entries).
Th...moreThis book immediately enters my top five all-time favorite sci-fi books (a category that is admittedly weighted heavily towards cyberpunk entries).
The set-up is fairly simple, although the world and its technology get complex quickly. Takeshi Kovacs is killed on his home world, Harlan's World, and is resleeved -- a process where a conscience can be ported to another body or synthetic body -- on Earth. As a former United Nations Envoy, his skills are required by a wealthy business magnate named Laurens Bancroft, a "Meth" -- one who has been able to avoid real death by continuous resleeving for centuries -- who needs him to investigate his previous body's suspicious death. If Kovacs solves the mystery, he earns his freedom. Of course there are complications, the first being that his current sleeve is that of a disgraced local cop.
This book has an intricately crafted world, with every detail working in perfect concert to create a setting that was tangible as it was futuristic and exotic -- and without creating any obvious logical holes in it (view spoiler)[For example, at the beginning of the book, I opined that there would be nothing in this world that would stop a person from double sleeving and cloning themselves which, were it not addressed would have been a logical hole. But before the end of the book, not only had they made reference to Kadmin having done it, but Kovacs does it himself to great effect (hide spoiler)].
For all the resleeving the book had, it also managed exceptionally vivid characters that transcended the sleeves they occupied, while maintaining a nuanced cyberpunk/noir vibe, no easy feat considering everything else going on simultaneously -- especially considering this was Richard K. Morgan's first novel.
Added to the world building, the memorable characters, and the hybrid cyberpunk/noir voice, is the depth of political, religious, philosophical, and economic threads woven in and out of this story, with an amazing absence of info dumping, and you have a masterpiece. This book is a must read for anyone interested in science fiction, especially cyberpunk, as well as any open-minded fan of the noir detective story.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
An excellent non-linear first-person narrative told by Michael -- writing from prison -- about how he grew up to become a safe-cracker, or "boxman." E...moreAn excellent non-linear first-person narrative told by Michael -- writing from prison -- about how he grew up to become a safe-cracker, or "boxman." Each puzzle piece of the disjointed tale is interesting enough as a singular vignette, but together they fit together to form a perfect narrative.
The writing is beautiful. There are powerful scenes, and tense scenes, and particularly vivid scenes -- ones I don't think I will ever forget. Michael's talents -- artistic and illegal -- are written in a way that makes them at once magical and believable, and immediately able to be visualized.
It is a complete success as a coming-of-age story, a heist story, a crime story, and a love story. A definite must-read.(less)
Ace Atkins' protagonist, Quinn Colson, is in the mold of Elmore Leonard's Raylan Givens, Lee Child's Jack Reacher, and Craig Johnson's Walt Longmire....moreAce Atkins' protagonist, Quinn Colson, is in the mold of Elmore Leonard's Raylan Givens, Lee Child's Jack Reacher, and Craig Johnson's Walt Longmire. If none of those literary references work for you, the plot of this novel is very reminiscent of this: But this simplistic plot -- a soldier returning home to find his idyllic hometown corrupted while he was away -- is pushed to a new level by the author's ability to write realistic, interesting characters. Nothing about Colson, or the supporting cast around him, is one-dimensional. There are layers to each of the characters, both the protagonists and the antagonists, and moral shades of gray for both as well. This depth and shading made what I thought to be a simple page-turning action-revenge into something much more interesting and memorable.
The highest compliment I can give this book is that as soon as I finished it, I bought the second in the series, The Lost Ones, and started reading it that same night.(less)