Tuesday, September 13, 2011

A Few Reviews

Been away awhile.  I suck at this blogging thing.  In better news though, the (novel) writing is going well, so there’s that.

Some Reviews:
Raising Stony Mayhall – by Daryl Gregory
Best book I’ve read all year.  They can stop writing zombie books now.  Somehow, Gregory has written an entirely human book with a zombie main character.  Remember when Clint Eastwood put out The Unforgiven and the response was, “Well, that’s pretty much the last word on westerns for awhile, thank God.”  Well, Gregory has done this with Stony Mayhall.  My first reaction when I heard Gregory had a new book was, “He wrote a zombie novel?  Seriously?  Oh crap.”  But man, he nailed it.  Smart, well-written, and heartfelt.  And yeah, it’s about zombies.   Just read it.  Trust me.

Ready Player One – by Ernest Cline
I was really looking forward to reading this.   Loved the set-up – a virtual world contest set in 2044 but based on 80’s pop culture – it was all right in my wheelhouse.  And I loved the pop culture nostalgia it filled me with and the subtle references to the movies and music and games I filled my (nerdy) life with as a teenager, but by the end of the novel, I just felt a bit too empty.  It became more a novel written by someone hoping it would become a movie rather than a novel about characters.  The novel didn’t start that way, but that’s what it became, unfortunately.  Still, I go thumbs up for the reasons above – and it is a really fun story – but it’s a sort of disappointed thumbs up.  (Extra bonus points for Cline’s use of “Setec Astronomy” as one of the passwords Wade uses.  Loved the movie it’s a reference to ((although, technically, not an 80’s film)). Underrated, in my opinion.  In fact, all of Cline's passwords are fun references to song lyrics and movie lines.)

Southern Gods – by John Honor Jacobs
When you’re a writer, reading novels by other writers you know personally (or biblically, be that the case) can be a tough situation.  If the book is terrible, how do you tell them?  Or if the book is great, is it possibly only great because you consider them a friend?  I’ve learned to be objective, but that only goes so far with me.  I have a hard time detaching the reader from the work.  So as I read Southern Gods by JHJ (who I don’t know biblically, in case you’re wondering, but do know personally) I had to keep asking myself, do I like this because I know and like the writer, or because it’s a good book?  Now that I’ve put some distance between myself and the book – I finished it about a month ago, right after it came out – I can honestly say that, “Yeah, this is a good book.”  On one level, some might say this is a pretty straightforward detective story – “find this missing guy who may be involved with or a victim of something sinister” - but the devil is in the details and the reason this novel works.  The setting, the musical history, and the world building JHJ does all raise this above standard horror/crime fare.  For me though, it’s the mood and tone of this novel that really make it effective.  I felt unsettled as I read this, and that’s difficult to achieve.  The novel does have its ‘first novel’ moments – the dialogue reads stilted to me in some places, the action scenes go on a bit long for my tastes – but it’s obvious JHJ has a bright career ahead of him.

Sixkill –by Robert B. Parker
This is the last Spenser novel Parker wrote before he died.  I listened to this on cd (Joe Mantegna does a great Spenser, by the way) and really enjoyed it.  Parker was (likely) setting up a new character, Zebulon Sixkill, for a series, and he is introduced here and plays a major role in the plot.  As with a lot of the last few Spenser books, the plot is a bit thin, but I just never really cared.  I’m incredibly forgiving of Parker’s flaws (his books are all pretty much the same, really) because I love the characters and the dialogue.  It makes me sad to know there won’t be any more Spenser novels, but this was a solid finish, I thought.  What’s regrettable is that Hawk wasn’t in the book at all, “off doing some work in Asia” we’re told.  Too bad.  But if you’ve read the other Spenser novels, you know that’s somehow fitting, Hawk being as he is.

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