Tuesday, April 30, 2013

A Wanted Man, by Lee Child

I had all the best intentions about chores this afternoon.  But there, on the new releases shelf at the public library this morning, the "Jack Reacher" novel that I'd not yet read.   Well it's never difficult to postpone chores...

I liked this book.   The pace was relaxed (some reviewers think too relaxed), but I enjoyed it.  No complaints:  true to my expectations for Mr. Child's novels.

Surprising, then, the number of negative reviews.   As of this writing, on Amazon's review page there are 2,337 reviews of which 22% are negative.  That seems to me a large number.  With 16% undeclared (three stars), that leaves but 62% positive.   Words used include:  sluggish, running out of steam, and too much like the rest.

Maybe all true, but it did keep my full attention this afternoon.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Black Pawn, by Mel Lebrun

The book could have been good.  The plot was interesting and nearly believable, as were the key characters (with some caveats to follow).   So what went wrong?

The author writes like someone who has taken writing classes and done well.   He uses clear and descriptive sentence.   Unfortunately, though, there's a palpable absence of - well, soul isn't precisely the right word.  Energy?  The sentences are grammatical and "well written" yet flat.  That's it:  flat.

Another problem is that one of the major characters, Jessica, is so deeply flawed and unlikeable that her magical and convenient (to the plot) relationship with hero Michael Cailen strains credibility.

I suspect there will be a sequel and I will try to avoid it.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

The Orphan Master's Son, by Adam Johnson

Read this book.  I've been recommending it to everyone I know who enjoys literature.

So what else can I say about Mr. Johnson's work?   I'll just quote Sam Sacks' comments from his Wall Street Journal article:
"...the single best work of fiction published in 2012. The novel is set in North Korea, and Mr. Johnson's imagined rendering of the late dictator Kim Jong Il gives us an apotheosis of modern-day insanity. The tyrant (who actually wrote and directed movies in real life) acts as though the whole world is his personal reality TV show. But though this world is profoundly absurd, Mr. Johnson unforgettably depicts the savage measures needed to uphold the delusion. The book's cunning, flair and pathos are testaments to the still-formidable power of the written word."
Oh, and Mr. Johnson won the Pulitzer Prize for this novel.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Cold Days, by Jim Butcher

The sub-title is, "A novel of the Dresden files," which makes this a continuation (the 14th) of Mr. Butcher's series about Chicago -based wizard, Harry Dresden.

When I wrote about Mr. Butcher's earlier book in this series I said I wouldn't bother reading the rest.  But this was on the library shelf just at eye level and I'd forgotten about my earlier comments.

So the good news:  well written, interesting, good plot.  All said with the grain of salt that it is, after all, about a wizard for heaven's sake!  There are weird books and then there's this one; weird with a splash of loony.

The bad news:  for much of the book, the Harry Dresden is a wise cracking, obnoxious and annoying caricature.  You know the type: the hero who has a smart ass comment about everything, especially when it is inappropriate and especially when it will lead to more trouble.   It is this that I dislike about the novel.  Although the character did get a bit better towards the end.

I'm reversing my earlier comment; I will continue to read this series.  And I will continue to think of it as weird and loony.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

The Twelve, by Justin Cronin

This novel is a continuation to, and expansion of, Mr. Cronin's The Passage.   I was quite taken by the earlier book, but am far less enthusiastic about this one.

Some background:  both books fit in the post-apocalyptic genre.  A branch of the US defense / intelligence community does biological weapons research with a twist:  they've decided that creating an enhanced human fighter would be useful.   The enhancement in this case is vampire -like capabilities.  They do their testing on a population of convicted criminals; not, in general, good guys.   The monsters get out, havoc ensues, and there's a new civilization across North America that doesn't go out at night.

The Twelve continues the story of key characters in The Passage and introduces many new ones.   Almost too many.   And while the character development is quite good, there are all sorts of crazy things going on.  Well, you might say, that's the point, right?

I didn't find this novel scary, the way you might think about a Stephen King novel.  It certainly was creepy.  There were plenty of positive scenes, but my overall sense was despair fatigue.  In fact, that was my predominant emotional reaction; this book just wore me out.

If you're curious about what might happen next after reading The Passage, you'll find answers here, but I'm not going to recommend you bother with it if you're on the fence of disinterest.   There will probably be a third novel in this sequence, and I doubt that I'll read it.