While not as interesting as Ghostman, the first book in the series, this was a solid crime thriller told from the point-of-view of master thief "JackWhile not as interesting as Ghostman, the first book in the series, this was a solid crime thriller told from the point-of-view of master thief "Jack White," about his reuniting with an old flame that was also his mentor and partner-in-crime....more
This was a thrilling adventure, and Crichton gave the story a deal of credibility by interjecting so much scientific and technological detail into itThis was a thrilling adventure, and Crichton gave the story a deal of credibility by interjecting so much scientific and technological detail into it (view spoiler)[Remember, this is a story with a skydiving gorilla in it. (hide spoiler)]. Additionally, the characters tasked with finding the lost city of Zinj -- expedition leader Karen Ross, mercenary Charles Munro, gorilla expert Peter Elliot, and of course, female gorilla Amy -- were very well developed considering how fast the story moved and the length of the novel.
However, while I really do like the directness of Crichton's prose, the novel was a bit too frenetic to build the tension that Crichton seemed to desire, and the deus ex machina ending (view spoiler)[The remaining team members escaping in a hot air balloon found inside the crashed plane. (hide spoiler)] seemed rather convenient considering the difficulties the characters had travelling to that point. Overall, while not Crichton's finest work, which is a high bar indeed, this is easily worth a read....more
I've seen a lot of negativity for this final novel in the Reckoners trilogy, and while I don't agree with most of it, I understand it. The conclusionI've seen a lot of negativity for this final novel in the Reckoners trilogy, and while I don't agree with most of it, I understand it. The conclusion didn't go where I thought it would either, and there were some significant plot threads that were either under-explained (view spoiler)[Calamity's origins and motivations, the workings of the alternate realities Megan can access (hide spoiler)] or left hanging entirely (view spoiler)[Prof's reaction to the atrocities he committed as Limelight, Obliteration still being on the loose (hide spoiler)]. That said, I wasn't as let down by the events that did occur as others.
There were a number of highlights -- the addition of characters such as Knighthawk and Larcener, another city with its own complex rules and culture in Ildithia, and the continued evolution of newly appointed Reckoners leader David, as well as Megan's continued struggle to control and master her powers without letting them overwhelm her. To only focus on the novel's few shortcomings just seems unfair.
Honestly, while this novel might not have been perfect, and may not have met the high expectations set for it after the first two in the series, the highest praise I can give it -- and this series overall -- is that I desperately hope this isn't the last time Sanderson writes in the Reckoners world with these characters I've come to love....more
I was only made aware of this audiobook -- and the Pathfinder Tales series in general -- because Pathfinder publisher Paizo emailed me letting me knowI was only made aware of this audiobook -- and the Pathfinder Tales series in general -- because Pathfinder publisher Paizo emailed me letting me know it was available for free on Audible.
Well, their promotional strategy was a definite success, as I really enjoyed this novel, and would definitely read another Pathfinder Tales novel -- especially another audiobook from the creative team of author James Sutter and narrator Ray Porter. Seriously, Porter's narration is among the best I've ever heard, and especially chilling when he's voicing angels and demons.
Speaking to this novel, it is set in the Pathfinder role-playing universe, in a very specific land with a distinct Arabian flavor. This made the novel both familiar enough to be accessible and differentiated enough to be interesting. Anyone who has enjoyed the DragonLance and/or Forgotten Realms novels from the Dungeons & Dragons universe will likely enjoy this a great deal....more
This eighth volume in what will be a nine book series continued where Shattered left off, tying up loose plot threads and propelling the characters toThis eighth volume in what will be a nine book series continued where Shattered left off, tying up loose plot threads and propelling the characters towards the promised Ragnarok event. I enjoyed this entry's focus on vampires, especially Leif Helgarson, as well as the Hammers of Gods, and, separately, meeting Granuaile's step-father. I'm looking forward to seeing how Kevin Hearne wraps up this long running series....more
This really ought to be subtitled The Andromeda Strain: Or the Infinite Folly of Man. It excellently illustrates how incapable of planning for the unkThis really ought to be subtitled The Andromeda Strain: Or the Infinite Folly of Man. It excellently illustrates how incapable of planning for the unknown our society is, and how predictable the likelihood of breakdowns are at every level, due to both human error and technological malfunctions. It is fiction, but it has a ring of truth that insists it is real -- it just may not have happened yet. And while it was published in 1969, the story has a timeless quality that holds up equally well today. (view spoiler)[I also really liked how nothing the scientists did actually made a difference relating to the alien matter. While, yes, they did manage to learn some things about it, their actions didn't affect its spread nor cure its symptoms. They were simply lucky to outlast it while it was toxic to people. (hide spoiler)]
The writing skews very heavily toward science and technology, a strength of Crichton's, and very little to the characters and their interrelations. If the novel has a short coming, it is the one-dimensional nature of its characters. These characteristics, positive and negative, make the novel a notable example of the "hard science fiction" genre. This XKCD comic about a more recent hard sci-fi work reminded me of this one a great deal.
I'd highly recommend this to anyone that likes hard sci-fi, such as the more recent example The Martian, or any Crichton fan that hasn't yet read it.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
I really wanted to like this, and I'm not entirely sure why I didn't. I love detective stories, roguish anti-heroes, and New Orleans. I loved Will PatI really wanted to like this, and I'm not entirely sure why I didn't. I love detective stories, roguish anti-heroes, and New Orleans. I loved Will Patton's narration. But something about the story just seemed to fall in the uncanny valley -- it was too unbelievable to be realistic, but too realistic to accept as a noir or camp style decision. Also -- and this may have contributed to it feeling "too" realistic -- it seemed overwritten and unnecessarily descriptive at points. I couldn't even finish it, having left off at a critical plot moment (view spoiler)[Robicheaux, who was just force-fed drugs and alcohol, is trapped in a car with another beaten law enforcement officer that is dangling off the edge of a parking garage (hide spoiler)]....more
The only reason I didn't give this novel five stars is that a lot of the its plot-lines carry over into the next novel, Separation of Power, so in a lThe only reason I didn't give this novel five stars is that a lot of the its plot-lines carry over into the next novel, Separation of Power, so in a lot of ways this felt incomplete by itself. With that caveat, it's still a kick ass spy thriller, and Mitch Rapp is the pinnacle of a kick ass spy....more
In the same way non-inquisitors are not supposed to ask questions in this novel's setting, readers shouldn't ask too many questions, lest the thin facIn the same way non-inquisitors are not supposed to ask questions in this novel's setting, readers shouldn't ask too many questions, lest the thin facade Lethem built crash down and reveal his underdeveloped world building. Questions such as how society came to a point with such controlled media, freely available addictive drugs, evolved animals and "babyheads," and yet so few other technological advancements. Altered Carbon takes a similarly noir approach to science fiction, but Richard K. Morgan's universe feels real and lived in, while this feels like an Old Hollywood set.
Also, do women really need to be slapped in the face in every noir book? Was it not already clear this was noir inspired without that? And this from the P.I. that was gender transformed to have female sexual responses, a confusing subplot that did not serve the story in the least. Seriously, why even mention it? Just to make the story needlessly weirder? Or are we supposed to believe his attitude at the end of the book -- which made no sense -- was in some way related to not being a full, complete male? I think that may be overanalyzing a text that isn't that deep. The end really wanted to have the gravitas of 1984, but it just didn't feel earned in the least. (view spoiler)[In the few years he was asleep, he watched society degrade drastically, including near complete transformations of the few people he knew from before. And we are supposed to believe he was okay with going back in the freezer and reemerging years later again, with some naive idea it may somehow get better on its own? (hide spoiler)]
Don't get the idea I hated this book from my above criticism. It was okay, as long as you don't expect too much from it. But it is definitely not the best example of noir, science fiction, or dystopian literature, although it is a fairly interesting, if underdeveloped, mix of all three....more
When I was about sixteen years old, a family friend lent a paperback copy of this to me. I read a number of chapters, becoming less and less interesteWhen I was about sixteen years old, a family friend lent a paperback copy of this to me. I read a number of chapters, becoming less and less interested when each started out with an entirely new cast of characters and the previous characters never cycled back to the forefront. At that time, the fantasy I was reading was much more straightforward -- David Eddings, David Gemmell and the like -- so the impressive scope of the work was entirely lost on me, and I returned it shortly thereafter, mostly unread.
Now, as an adult, I have little doubt of my ability to handle the complexity of the work, but I also refuse to attempt reading it again until the author finishes the series -- my solution to the Rothfuss conundrum. So, someday in the distant future I may restart and finish this series, if GRRM sees fit to conclude it. Until then, I will be blissfully unaware of the significance of the water cooler chatter surrounding weddings both red and purple, and of winter coming, and of Jon Snow, et al....more
Of the three books in the series, this one is, by far, the most personal for its protagonists. Not only is the crime the novel centered on a personalOf the three books in the series, this one is, by far, the most personal for its protagonists. Not only is the crime the novel centered on a personal vendetta against Strike, leaving him to hunt down multiple demons from his past to narrow potential suspects, there is a lot of personal baggage being dealt with by Robin ahead of her marriage to Matthew. While the mystery was a bit more convoluted and a bit less intriguing than the previous two novels, that is offset by how much is learned about both Strike and Robin's histories. ...more
This novel -- which despite being listed as the third Mitch Rapp book is actually the first that Flynn wrote (he later wrote two prequels) -- may be tThis novel -- which despite being listed as the third Mitch Rapp book is actually the first that Flynn wrote (he later wrote two prequels) -- may be the perfect military thriller. I'd highly recommend this book, and the whole series, for anyone that likes or has any interest in the genre. Vince Flynn truly was a master, and he will be missed. Fuck cancer....more
If you liked Scarlet Hark's character in Honor Among Thieves, you'll like this short story that comes bundled with the novel. It features Hark workingIf you liked Scarlet Hark's character in Honor Among Thieves, you'll like this short story that comes bundled with the novel. It features Hark working solo on a sensitive mission for the rebellion. It's only twelve pages long, so I can't say more without giving anything away, but it does a good job fleshing out the rebel spy previously introduced by Corey in the novel....more
Having never read a Star Wars novel, I wasn't sure exactly what I was getting into. Were the lot of them just poorly thought out pulp slogs churned ouHaving never read a Star Wars novel, I wasn't sure exactly what I was getting into. Were the lot of them just poorly thought out pulp slogs churned out to cash in on the franchise's fame? I doubted it after seeing James S.A. Corey's name on it cover of this one, as Corey is the writing team behind the Leviathan Wakes series. While I didn't like the first book in that series enough to keep going with it, having read it made it clear that a) they could write well and b) they loved science fiction. I actually think the constraints of writing in the Star Wars universe helped them in this case, as it kept them from flying off the creative rails.
As far as this novel specifically, it was exactly what I hoped it would be -- a great Han Solo story. Corey captured the voices of familiar characters like Luke, Leia, and especially Han, but the focus remained on Han, Chewbacca, and the Millennium Falcon. Also introduced were Scarlet Hark and Baasen Ray, roguish characters fitting with the novel's title. The plot, which I won't spoil here, felt right at home in the Star Wars cinematic universe. There were a few lampshades I enjoyed, such as a throw away line about how Han likes to shoot first, and a scene in a temple reminiscent of Indiana Jones, but the novel took itself seriously, and never slid into farce.
While sometimes I feel it doesn't matter, in this case I feel compelled to mention that I listened to the audio book of this novel. Both the narrator, Marc Thompson, and the production quality were amazing. I am sure some people will be turned off by the sound effects -- beeping droids, blaster fire, wookie grunts, music from the cinematic score -- but I thought it added immeasurably to the experience. It was basically an audio play with Thompson voicing every character, and he did an amazing job with the voices, capably switching between all the different characters, male and female, and his Han Solo impersonation, second only to Harrison Ford himself, is alone worth the cost of the audio book....more
This being the twelfth book in the Longmire series, I have officially run out of superlatives for its' entries. The quality of the stories hasn't beguThis being the twelfth book in the Longmire series, I have officially run out of superlatives for its' entries. The quality of the stories hasn't begun to waver in the least -- this is actually one of the strongest in the series yet -- and the author's commitment to advancing the character's stories in organic, yet significant ways keeps impressing me, as nobody wants to read a series this long where Status Quo is God. And man, with the unexpected and gut wrenching event halfway through this book, that just can't be said here. If you haven't yet read any of these books, do yourself a favor and start back at the beginning with The Cold Dish, as this series is so much better read in order....more
This is a really enjoyable audio-only short story by Stephen King, as long as you are not expecting his typical spooky speculative fiction. King, whoThis is a really enjoyable audio-only short story by Stephen King, as long as you are not expecting his typical spooky speculative fiction. King, who is from Maine, instead weaves a small town New England tale of two families vying for the best firework show over Lake Abenaki, and the disastrous consequences of when things get out of hand....more
This novel alternates between a number of point-of-view characters -- one-armed treasure hunter Gus Lindquist, father and son shrimpers Bobby and WesThis novel alternates between a number of point-of-view characters -- one-armed treasure hunter Gus Lindquist, father and son shrimpers Bobby and Wes Trench, halfwit low-level criminals Cosgrove and Hanson, bayou pot farmers Reginald and Victor Toup, and BP oil representative Brady Grimes -- in the Louisiana bayou in the aftermath of the recent BP oil spill. Seeing the impact of Katrina and the oil spill from the points-of-view of these unique personalities, each more depressing than the last, gave the book a certain gravitas.
It also grounded the novel it a somber reality I was not expecting considering the cover art featured a pirate treasure and an X-marks-the-spot map. The pacing was a lot slower than the treasure hunting adventure I expected, more a character study of Barataria Bay, a land long ago forgotten by time, and its depressed occupants, unable to escape. Additionally, the ending really tailed off, with some characters, particularly Lindquist, getting an unsatisfying send off, while others, like Grimes, just have their narrative tail off without a proper ending at all.
This novel wasn't what I expected, but in some ways it was better. The southeastern Louisiana bayou setting was vivid and realistic, the characters were three dimensional, with believable desires and motives, and the writing was nothing short of excellent -- especially knowing it was the author's first book. If you are aware of what you are getting into, it is a really interesting, if bleak, read. But don't expect a light, treasure hunting adventure....more
I decided to read this after seeing Lev Grossman recommend it here. While I enjoyed this slow burning, globetrotting conspiracy thriller that followedI decided to read this after seeing Lev Grossman recommend it here. While I enjoyed this slow burning, globetrotting conspiracy thriller that followed three captivating, well-written lead characters, I have to note three specific things that may or may not influence others' decisions to read it:
1. This book is to Neal Stephenson what methadone is to heroin. While I understand the comparisons that others have made, and see them myself -- especially with the tendencies towards maximalism -- this is just not on the same level as Reamde, Stephenson's most similar novel thematically. 2. About half way through the novel, certain science fiction elements were introduced that may strain the limits of plausibility to the reader (view spoiler)[Specifically, the "eye test" (hide spoiler)], especially considering the lack of any foreshadowing. 3. This novel either a) has the most abrupt and ambiguous ending of any book I've ever read, or b) is setting up for a sequel. Since I cannot find any information about a second book, I have to assume it is the former. I know this will be a deal breaker for some people, and didn't thrill me either, as it felt like the author wasn't committed enough to take his ideas to their ultimate conclusion.
I enjoyed this second installment of the Cormoran Strike series as much as the first, The Cuckoo's Calling. Beyond having another compelling mystery,I enjoyed this second installment of the Cormoran Strike series as much as the first, The Cuckoo's Calling. Beyond having another compelling mystery, which was set in the exquisitely interesting and cutthroat world of book publishing, there was a great deal of character growth for both Cormoran and his assistant Robin. This novel very much left me looking forward to reading Career of Evil, the third in the ongoing series....more
A long running series will occasionally add a point-of-view character to liven things up, and the addition will come off as gimmicky and forced. HowevA long running series will occasionally add a point-of-view character to liven things up, and the addition will come off as gimmicky and forced. However, this series, which has already previously added Granuaile as a point-of-view character, seamlessly adds Atticus's former archdruid Owen in this volume.
Owen's chapters are distinct, interesting, and humorous, and we get to see Atticus from a different perspective -- and not just from his own complimentary perspective and that of his smitten apprentice/lover.
While this decision to add perspectives does mean we spend less time in Atticus's head, the story doesn't suffer for it. In fast, it has helped break a bit of a formulaic rut I worried about in my review of Trapped. These additional perspectives also allow the story to grow wider than Atticus's focus, which I see heightening to an epic conclusion with Loki's attempted Ragnarok approaching.
This installment also helped to tie up some loose ends and confusion by solving some of the earlier mysteries in the series, and made it clear the direction of the next volume, Staked....more
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 "QuickThis 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....more