Thursday, October 16, 2014

Top Secret, by W.E.B. Griffin

My excuse is that I'm an optimist at heart.  Yes, the last book I read by this author was not very good.  And yes, I've leafed through other of his books at the library and unimpressed didn't bother with them.  But for some reason when I saw this on the library shelf I thought, this will be worth reading.

I was of course quite wrong.

The novel is set immediately after the end of World War II.  Admittedly I dislike historical fiction so that was a negative.  The positive was that the main character, Cronley, was young, inexperienced, less bright than he imagined, and naive.  So I thought we might see interesting character development as the boy grows to become a man, or some such.  Not so much.

The highlights:  don't think of these as spoilers (though they might be; if that is a concern just stop here), think of them as completely predictable.  Just run through your list of trite spy book scenarios:   Love interest dies tragically?  Check.   Brash young hero says inappropriate things to superiors yet doesn't learn?  Check.  Brash young hero makes terrible and repeated error in judgement, even as the reader says aloud, "oh no, don't do it!"  Check.  Brash young hero turns out to be wealthy?  Check.  Has ridiculously well connected and wealthy friends?  Check.  The US President has so little on his plate that he can spend time on this stuff?  Check.

Sigh.   On the plus side, I did finish the novel, so it held my interest -- at some level -- to the end.

I hope to do better than the main character of Mr. Giffin's novel and learn from my mistake: I won't read another of these novels.

Top Secret (A Clandestine Operations Novel)

The Heist, by Daniel Silva

In most respects, this the 14th novel in Mr. Silva's series featuring spy Gabriel Allon, was better  than the last.  But there was a negotiation at the end of this book that was so clumsily done as to really annoy me.  To avoid spoilers, I'll just say that it doesn't make sense to pay $6 for something you could easily get down to 50 cents.   That was not in line with the characters behavior at least as I've interpreted them over the prior 13 novels.  And the emotional call to do so, absent thoughtful discussion, also seemed out of kilter with my expectations for Mr. Silva's characters.

So would I recommend this novel?  Nah, not so much.  The hero is getting a bit long in the tooth, and I can confidently predict what will happen in his personal life and to the folks around him in the next novel in this series.  It is time for Mr. Silva to invent a new character to take the lead in his spy stories; until then there are other authors to read.

The Heist: A Novel (Gabriel Allon Book 14)

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

The Magician's Land, by Lev Grossman

This is the third volume in Mr. Grossman's trilogy, and it is the best by far.

The Magician's Land: A Novel (The Magicians Book 3)