Archive for September, 2014

I haven’t posted about what I’ve been reading lately, and now seems as good a time as any to catch up. Below are some thoughts about some of the books I’ve read in the past few weeks (A graphic novel post is forthcoming).

Reading is fun.

Lexicon – Max Barry

What if language gave people the power to control someone? And what we thought of in the past as wizards, were just people who were able to wield words like a weapon? What if these people were still around, and recruiting others for something big? Something biblical?

Well, that’s the premise of Lexicon. And it’s a hoot. Barry uses the time-tested magic-school premise to launch into a crazy story that just gets bigger and bigger. I would characterize it as action-mystery, full of like-able characters and thought-provoking ideas. Barry’s prose is getting better, too. This is his best yet.

Leviathan Wakes – James Corey

Space Opera! And a good one! This epic space story takes places hundreds of years in the future when humans have spread all across the solar system. There is a tentative balance between the three major governments (Earth, Mars, and The Belt). But something sinister has arrived from another world and it’s starts threatening that balance in a big way.

It’s told from the point of view of a Belt cop investigating a missing person case (straight from a film noir), and a ice-trawler captain who both just happen to get sucked into the middle of this whole galactic mess. It’s written simply, but balances the science and the politics and the action quite nicely.

After awhile, small cracks in the narrative start to show. The authors aren’t quite up to the task of keeping everything perfectly cohesive. But, really, it doesn’t matter. The book is just too much fun to read.

Steelheart – Brandon Sanderson

Sanderson has a gift for making what I would call Hollywood style books. Good hollywood. The three-act structure is clear as day. The characters have just enough depth to them to keep things interesting. The pace keep moving, and the set-pieces are exciting. Combine that with really cool story concepts, which Sanderson has a great track-record with, and you get some great books.

Steelheart is one of those. I mean, just read the synopsis:

“Ten years ago, Calamity came. It was a burst in the sky that gave ordinary men and women extraordinary powers. The awed public started calling them Epics. But Epics are no friend of man. With incredible gifts came the desire to rule. And to rule man you must crush his wills.

Nobody fights the Epics…nobody but the Reckoners. A shadowy group of ordinary humans, they spend their lives studying Epics, finding their weaknesses, and then assassinating them.

And David wants in. He wants Steelheart – the Epic who is said to be invincible. The Epic who killed David’s father. For years, like the Reckoners, David’s been studying, and planning – and he has something they need. Not an object, but an experience.

He’s seen Steelheart bleed. And he wants revenge.”

This delivers on it’s exciting premise. Not deep, but solid and engaging.

All You Need is Kill – Hiroshi Sakurazaka

I read this because I enjoyed the premise of the film (Edge of Tomorrow) quite a bit, and, frankly, I think the title is awesome.

A soldier relives the same doomed battle against an alien race over and over. Teaming up with another soldier who used to have that same power, they try to figure out a way to win the war.

The prose is pretty juvenile, but that could be a result of the translation. Otherwise, the premise was interesting but I found the film presented the idea in a much more engaging way. However, where the film flopped at the end, the book did not. The ending was much more interesting and more fulfilling than the generic Tom Cruise action set-piece we got on the screen.

Run! 26.2 Miles of Blisters and Bliss – Dean Karnazes

Don’t read this book unless you really like running. It’s poorly written, unsubstantiated, and faux-inspirational. Classic Dean. Still, it was about running so… that’s good I guess.

The Song is You – Megan Abbott

Damn, Megan Abbott can write. This early novel of hers takes place in 40’s Hollywood and just drips with the atmosphere of the time. An actress has gone missing. Could it have been an abortion gone wrong? A depraved sex-act and murder? Or something even more sinister? Enter our anti-hero, studio PR fix-it man Gil Hopkins, who gets sucked into the mystery that is more personal than he would like to admit.

Great dialog, great prose. Snappy, pretty and clever, but a bit too flowery at times. Story-wise, the twists and turns hit and miss. As do the characters and the arcs. The bottom line is that the book is carried by its style, which is substantial, especially if like the genre or just appreciate a good turn of phrase.

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