I tried really, really hard to like this one, but it just didn't do much for me.
The concept is ridiculously awesome. It starts out like a Depression-eI tried really, really hard to like this one, but it just didn't do much for me.
The concept is ridiculously awesome. It starts out like a Depression-era gangster story, replete with hoods and crooked cops. Vampires show up at the next step out of the gate, and just as we're getting comfortable with that, the narrative shifts to outer space, with an alien fugitive on a crash course towards Earth. While the vampires attempt to fulfill an ancient prophecy, a gangster with a heart of gold teams up with the inscrutable alien to defend New York City.
On the surface, this seems like everything I would want. There were too many seams for me, though. The plucky reporter that begins the story falls into a very predictable story niche, which ultimately goes nowhere. Dragomir is a good choice for the name of the vampire scion family only if Draculafang was your alternative choice. The story is fun, but hard to follow and full of holes. Edwards' character art is gritty and attractive, but some panels were so confusing that I literally didn't understand what had happened, even after spending some time going back for a second look.
The thing is, Ross builds a world with a lot of promise. Squeed, in particular, has a tantalizing backstory that doesn't get the attention I would have liked it to. A human-vampire-alien turf war set in the 1920s is such a frigging cool idea that I enjoyed reading it despite my complaints.
I wish this one would have baked a little longer. I finished it feeling like it was merely okay, when it had the potential to be great. If nothing else, though, it's a quirky and diverting read that's worth a look for sci-fi readers....more
I first read this book for a class in high school, and remember being completely enamored of it. Rereading after an intervening fifteen years of readiI first read this book for a class in high school, and remember being completely enamored of it. Rereading after an intervening fifteen years of reading experience has given depth to that appreciation. Immediately after finishing, I left the book nonplussed and somewhat unimpressed. After thinking about the story for a day or two, though, I’m in love all over again.
The Maltese Falcon is an essential detective novel and, along with Raymond Chandler’s works, a hallowed progenitor of the hardboiled genre. For those that haven’t already seen Humphrey Bogart’s turn as Sam Spade, I don’t want to ruin any part of the tangled, complex mystery, because all of the fun in this story is in trying to make your way through its moving parts. Let’s just say it starts how you would expect: sullen, sarcastic private eye Sam Spade sits in his office, flirting with his secretary and shooting the breeze with his somewhat oafish partner, when the dame walked in. It started as a simple case, tailing a shady character in order to track down his beautiful client’s sister, but things get complicated quick, and people end up dead. Soon, a host of shady characters are calling on Spade, offering him vast sums of money in exchange for a mysterious black statue that one of them likely already has. Meanwhile, Spade’s acquaintances in law enforcement are increasingly suspecting him of foul play, and his client seems to shift her allegiances whenever the wind changes. Using only his wits and his cool, Spade has to get to the bottom of things without getting wrapped up in them himself... hopefully ending up with a pocket full of cash, to boot.
I finally realized why I had to think about this one for a bit before reaffirming that I love it: Hammett leaves a huge amount of subtext up to the reader to decode. The story is classic noir, and reads just like watching a noir film. In fact, there are no internal monologues, omniscient narrations, or transcriptions of character thoughts. Everything is in the dialogue, and it’s up to the reader to determine what the characters are thinking, which is easy sometimes, but intriguingly impossible much more often. And man, what dialogue it is. Hammett’s writing is whip-smart, and the snappy patter never lets up. Sam Spade, in particular, is a bottomless pit of cool. He’s got a line for everything and everyone, and he never sounds trite or overdone, despite being the literal template for every booze-soaked, cigarette-rolling, skirt-chasing private dick since. He is the best kind of detective to read: the guy that always gets his man, but is quick to acknowledge that he’s always out for number one and never quite clear on just how corrupt he may or may not be.
The other characters in the story are considerably more stereotypical; they fit their assigned roles and play their assigned parts. Again, though, the beauty of Hammett’s writing makes them stand out, in that nobody’s motivations are ever revealed, and the reader only gets a glimpse of what’s really going on. This carries through to the plot, in that while Spade eventually solves one mystery, there are plenty of questions that go unanswered. This isn’t a tidy drawing-room mystery. This is a crime story mixed with an intrigue tale, and it's delightfully messy.
The 1941 film is probably the version of this story that most are familiar with, and rightly so, considering that it’s one of the best films ever made. But Hammett’s original story is a must-read, especially if you like detective fiction or film noir but haven’t yet seen Bogie do Spade. There’s a certain kitsch factor at work, considering that the book will fulfill every last expectation you might have of a book about a hardboiled private eye and the femme fatale that showed up at his doorstep one evening. But having those expectations fulfilled is the best part about this classic....more