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)
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.
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, we 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 each having obscure quotes preface 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)
After reading Lord of Light, I thought I knew what to expect from Roger Zelazny. I was very wrong. That was in the third person, this was in the first...moreAfter reading Lord of Light, I thought I knew what to expect from Roger Zelazny. I was very wrong. That was in the third person, this was in the first; that was in a distant fictional world, this starts in our world and expands to a multiverse of worlds; that was a story told in a single volume, this is part of a lengthy series. I wouldn't have even guessed it was the same author had I not known he wrote both books.
As for this book, the plot reminded me of three other books* -- The set-up of the story is reminiscent of The Bourne Identity, with the mysterious protagonist waking up with amnesia; the middle of the story is reminiscent of The Gunslinger, with the background on the multiverse and the protagonist's history slowly expounded; and the end is similar to The Count of Monte Cristo, which even the protagonist narrator was aware of, as he references the fact while he is imprisoned in the dungeon.
While I enjoyed this book a good deal, and may read the next in the series (view spoiler)[if only to see if Corwin's struggle for the crown is resolved (hide spoiler)], it is not on the top of my to-read list by any means.
* I don't mean that this is derivative of these works -- it is published before the first two books, and references the third itself.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
I am filled with reader's rage. No preamble for this review:
Problem 1: Just because Somec, a drug/technology where people could sleep for years withou...moreI am filled with reader's rage. No preamble for this review:
Problem 1: Just because Somec, a drug/technology where people could sleep for years without aging, exists, doesn't mean everyone would agree to take it -- which is exactly what happens on Capitol. Everyone in society is okay with skipping through years and decades of life and watching their peers and families grow old while they age unnaturally simply because either a) it is good for society or b) it is an honor to be given Somec. And there is no resistance to this. This idea was very hard to swallow, and also happened to be one of the main conceits of the book. (This concept was handled much more deftly in Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom.)
Problem 2: My misguided assumption that because this was a science fiction book about a starship pilot that it would be somewhat futuristic, and occasionally exciting, and be set in the stars. Instead, much more of it, especially the frame story (more on that clusterfuck later), is set in something akin to the Dark Ages, and involves and describes, ad nauseum, the creation of pre-industrial societies. Zzzz. It is almost as if Orson Scott Card wrote segments of this book between playing marathon sessions of Civilization and/or SimCity.
Problem 3: The inane, boring frame story -- which was actually just a device for OSC to be able to tie all of these barely related short stories together into one steaming collection of manure. The protagonist of the frame story, Lared, is a whiny boy who is surrounded by an unbearable family, and then chances upon Jason Worthing and his daughter Justice, who are distant and fickle god-persons. There were literally no likable characters until the tinker came along for a few blessed scenes. Most of the frame story, in fact, is devoted to Lared performing menial tasks for his parents and his village. The upside, however, is now I have a greater understanding of how to properly sew leather boots, fell trees, and know which animal's urine makes good soap. Seriously, WTF. And in between these tasks he has dreams, which are actually the short stories OSC is collecting into a "saga," in what I am sure he thinks is a clever manner.
Problem 4: The coolest character found in the entire book, Abner Doon, is given so precious little time and attention. And every time his name is mentioned by future persons, they allude to his being evil or call him the devil, without the reasons fully fleshed out. Which leads me to one last point...
Problem 5: I feel like most of the book was some sort of pseudo-religious grand standing, although it was so muddled -- this is early writing of OSC's -- I can't even tell what moral I was supposed to come away with, other than, possibly, that pain is good? Wait, that can't be it -- although the entire frame story leads to that conclusion -- because in the final pages, Justice breaks her vow to not heal others, and becomes the healer to the whole village, undoing this moral for the sake of a happy ending.
And it was a happy ending for me, as well as the villagers, because I was very, very happy it was over. Fin.(less)
While it was really nice to revisit two of my favorite gunslinging lawmen -- Virgil Cole and Everett Hitch -- the writing, while passable, was just no...moreWhile it was really nice to revisit two of my favorite gunslinging lawmen -- Virgil Cole and Everett Hitch -- the writing, while passable, was just not the same as when the late Robert B. Parker wrote the pair. Although this was, in fairness, completely to be expected, it was still mildly disappointing.
Robert Knott, the author that continues the series with this entry, is actually familiar to the characters, having written the screenplay to the film adaptation of Appaloosa, the first book in Parker's series.
Knott's experience as a screenwriter is apparent from the direction the series takes. The action is intensified and hits hard right from the beginning, with the book opening with a train heist gone wrong -- wrong for the robbers, that is, because Virgil Cole and Everett Hitch happened to be on the train at that time.
I won't say more about the plot for fear of spoilers, but will say this is definitely worth reading for fans of westerns, but only after reading the preceding four volumes written by the characters' creator first.(less)
Before getting into my review, I have to give full disclosure -- I almost never read historical fiction. In fact, the only other historical fiction no...moreBefore getting into my review, I have to give full disclosure -- I almost never read historical fiction. In fact, the only other historical fiction novels I can think of that I've read are Operation Napoleon (review) and The Guns of Navarone (review). Also of note is that I am a poor student of history, and did not know that Otto Skorzeny or ratlines were real, non-fictional aspects of this book, though the specifics of the plot were entirely fabricated.
With that out of the way, I'll admit that I enjoyed this book, although not as much as I thought I would from its description. The prologue -- where an as-of-yet unidentified murder palavers with and then kills a former Nazi -- was great for setting the mood, but that same slow, tense, minutely descriptive style ran through the entire book, slowing the pace down far too much for my personal tastes.
For example, if two characters are having a conversation in this book, and one is smoking a cigarette, and the other is drinking a whiskey, the reader will be made aware the cigarette being lit, how many puffs were taken of it, how many pulls were taken of the whiskey, which of its owners' hands they were being held in, and where they were ever put down, if, in fact, they were.
Also slowing down the plot were the flashbacks to Skorzeny's time in Spain, which added little to the overall plot of the book. And then there was the anti-climactic climax. (view spoiler)[I spent the entire book waiting for the main antagonist, Otto Skorzeny, to get his "just deserts," and instead, Ryan kills the Mossad agent, who was swayed by his greed, but still was a far lesser evil than Skorzeny. (hide spoiler)]
Despite the issues I had with the pacing and climax, this novel has a lot of good qualities -- the aforementioned prologue, a few very well written torture scenes (this book is not for the faint of heart), the overall tension, and a number of interesting -- if not thoroughly developed -- characters.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
I wanted to like this book more than I actually did. The premise was interesting enough -- Carl Mørck, a brilliant but depressed curmudgeon of a detec...moreI wanted to like this book more than I actually did. The premise was interesting enough -- Carl Mørck, a brilliant but depressed curmudgeon of a detective, and Assad, his mysterious but ever-helpful assistant, open Department Q, a cold case department, due to bureaucratic pressure, and Mørck begrudgingly starts investigating a case to justify having his job. The characters of Mørck and Assad and the interplay between the two were the highlights of the book, as the characters were fully fleshed out and three-dimensional, and more importantly, quite interesting.
However, the segments focused on the victim and her captivity were much less interesting, as neither she nor her captors were very compelling, and the segments became very repetitive, adding little to the narrative, and grinding the book to a halt whenever they came up. Add to that that the mystery was incredibly easy to solve, made it quite a slog at some points.
The book did somewhat redeem itself with an exciting, action-packed third act, but then immediately followed that with an uninteresting epilogue, leaving an unsatisfying taste in my mouth. While I don't regret reading this book, I wouldn't go out to read the next book in the series either.(less)
My wife and I took a long road trip to visit relatives for Thanksgiving, and decided to try listening to another audiobook together. This is tricky, a...moreMy wife and I took a long road trip to visit relatives for Thanksgiving, and decided to try listening to another audiobook together. This is tricky, as we do not have similar tastes in books at all. Previous trips had me suffering through Eat, Pray, Love and One For The Money, and I was determined not to suffer a similar fate again. Fortunately, we had recently seen the movie trailer for The Silver Linings Playbook movie adaptation, and both were interested in seeing it, so we decided to check out the source material ahead of time.
Now while I haven't yet seen the movie, I can tell you that it is not a very close adaptation solely from having seen the trailer. For one, in the book, Tiffany is older than Pat. In the movie, she is played by Jennifer Lawrence, who is 22, while Pat is played by Bradley Cooper, who is 37. For another, the movie seems to have a light, comedic tone, with a romantic arc, whereas the book was dark, and touched on a lot of the realities of mental illness and human nature, and did not really have the silver lining alluded to in the title.
There were highlights to the book -- the narrative voice is strong, the main characters are unique, and the integration of the Eagles season (the actual 2006 season) was a great touch. However, the lack of character growth from both Pat Jr. and Pat Sr., as well as leaving too many unresolved threads -- including the Eagles season the book was using as a narrative device -- and too little closure really left me with a bit of a sour taste in my mouth.(less)
First of all, I read this because, as is my standard, I like to read the book before I see the movie. Well, I was fooled, the movie is actually based...moreFirst of all, I read this because, as is my standard, I like to read the book before I see the movie. Well, I was fooled, the movie is actually based on One Shot, the ninth book in the Jack Reacher series. Oh well, at least I am familiar with the character now.
The best way for me to describe this is by using the three act structure.
SETUP: First Blood
CONFRONTATION: Spenser for Hire
If the writing was better, this could have been a four star book, and if there were a few less coincidences/plot holes, it could have been merited a full five-stars.
But since the character is still pretty awesome, and I could see myself spending more time with him, I have a question for those of you that have read the other additions to this series: Does Lee Child's writing improve as the series goes along?(less)
I wish I had read this book when I was a high school freshman. Of course it did not yet exist then, so that is just wishful thinking.
Regardless, it is a powerful coming of age story, and I think every kid about to enter high school should read it, although I don't see it as a "young adult" book, anymore than The Catcher in the Rye is -- they are books that speak to different generations about the myriad experiences and transient mindsets of youth, not books with streamlined plots and an absence of bad language and adult situations tailored specifically to "young adults." (Although, if I am being honest, I do sometimes find that young adult books have the best stories, as they are not trying so hard to be mature or pretentious.) And as far as this book goes, it is definitely not that kind of book, as there is underage drinking, smoking, drug use, sexual abuse, physical abuse, rape and abortion all hiding between its covers. Not that my copy had covers. I had an audio book. Does that still count as reading? Or is it just being read to?
Getting back to The Catcher in the Rye, I don't think it is an accident that this book reminded me of that, as Charlie reads it multiple times in a row when his teacher Bill gives it to him to read, which definitely seems like a tip of the cap from the author, as although there are many books Bill gives to Charlie to read, this is the only one he reads multiple times. I am really glad that Bill did not molest Charlie, because it seemed like the kind of book where it was a definite possibility.
Wow. This was a brilliant story that -- while wasting no words -- gave more depth and layers to its plot and characters than some books ten times long...moreWow. This was a brilliant story that -- while wasting no words -- gave more depth and layers to its plot and characters than some books ten times longer. It is an exceptional take on mental illness as a super power, with a flawed, yet likable hero/narrator. I hope to see more of Stephen Leeds, a.k.a. Legion, in the future.
I highly recommend this, and it is only 88 pages or two-hours on audiobook. Speaking of which, audiobook narrator Oliver Wyman did a fabulous job of bringing this story, and the many aspects of the main character, to life.(less)