Capsule reviews of my April reads…
The eighth instalment in the ongoing series about detective Anthony Chu, a chibopath capable of receiving psychic impressions from whatever he tastes, be it inorganic matter or fresh(ly deceased) flesh and blood. It’s been a wonderfully bizarre, over-the-top series but I feel the darkly humorous fun has took a turn for the darkly unhumorous a couple of volumes back with the gruesome murder of one of our main characters. That surprising development left a, er, bad taste in my mouth and has cast a pall over the ensuing madcap proceedings. It’s going to be tough to recover from that one, methinks.
About 50 pages into this novel comes this passage: “You do everything in your power to make the narrator shut up, but nothing helps. They’re too far gone to notice the signals. Above all, they’re addicted to themselves and their own crap about film.” And that pretty much mirrored my feelings about this book in the early going except that, instead of focusing on film, our narrator goes on and on about the different dishes he is served. Even the foodie in me found it incredibly tiresome. But stick it out and, about a third of the way through, things pick up in this suspenseful tale of murder and the lengths people will go to protect those they love.
In the late 21st century, society has stratified into the haves (genetically-enhanced individuals who live comfortable lives free of addiction and crime) and the have-nots (drudge workers who live in segregated, crime-ridden communities). Our protagonist, Jayna, is a hot up-and-comer at a corporation that track global trends. She has the perfect job, the perfect life and yet, she can’t help but feel that something is…off. Perfection aint all it’s cracked up to be and when Jayna decides to inject a little unpredictability into her ordered existence, things take a turn for the dangerous. A very smart book. My favorite fiction read of April.
50-something Parisian concierge Renee is a closet intellectual who keeps her interests and intelligence a secret from the upper class tenants of her building because she doesn’t want them judging her. Ironically, she spends most of this novel generalizing and judging the upper class tenants of her building – when she’s not going on philosophical tangents. Paloma is a young Parisian teen who has evidently read Mersault’s L’Etranger one too many times and is overcome by a pervading sense of ennui. She is so brilliant she doesn’t want to draw attention to herself and plans to commit suicide. Tsk, Parisian kids these days. These two insufferably annoying characters are the dual protagonists of this pretentious bore of a novel. If this books was someone you met at a party, two minutes into a conversation with her and you’d be heading for the door.
I love a good time travel story – but, alas, this one isn’t. A tale of a man who travels to an abandoned New York in 2071 to celebrate his birthday with past and present versions of himself. But, on his 39th fete, he discovers the corpse of his 40 year old self. A lengthy, meandering, convoluted investigation ensues.
Horace is a ship-wrecked soldier on enemy land. Soon after being sold into service as a house slave, he discovers that he is possessed of powerful magical abilities. With the help of two unlikely allies – a gladiator named Jirom and spy named Alyra – he must circumvent courtly intrigues and dangerous external conspiracies to win the freedom of the empire’s slaves. A rip-rousing opener to an ongoing series that offers great fun and adventure, but a little too much magic for my taste.
A clerical error sparks a property dispute between a former Iranian Air Force Colonel and a recovering addict, a conflict fueled by desperation and pride that eventually leads to tragic consequences. Dubus does a masterful job of presenting us with the very real and very sympathetic people on both sides of the issue. This one will stay with you.
I was expecting a crime thriller in the vein of Keigo Higashino’s The Devotion of Suspect X but, instead, got a plodding and unengaging mystery that wasn’t really a mystery at all because we know whodunit from the get-go . Ultimately, more of a character study of some very bleak personalities, the whole hampered by an awkward, at times stilted, translation.
Satan appears to struggling writer Billy Ridgeway one day and offers to make him a success IF he will do one thing for him: steal a cat statue with magical powers from a warlock hiding out in New York City. It’s a fun premise but this book is a good example of how over-the-top silliness can undermine any real sense of jeopardy. The loopier the narrative developments, the weaker the emotional investment so that, by the time you finish reading the novel, it’s already forgotten.
This visual guide to the comic book universe uses pie charts, venn diagrams, bar graphs, maps, and trajectories to highlight some fun facts. Whether it’s a rundown of DC’s alternate Earths, the pizza particulars of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, the alliances and connections of the denizens of Sin City, a Walking Dead kill counter, a map of Tintin’s travels, or a taxonomy of animal-named characters, there’s something here for most every fan to geek-out over. LOVED it!
An early collection of short horror tales by Joe Hill, this one is a mixed bag. Standouts for me included “Pop Art”, about a boy and his inflatable best buddy, “The Cape”, in which a boy discovers he can fly – kind of, and “Voluntary Committal” that tells the tale of a young savant’s ability to build complex cardboard mazes to other worlds. These three alone are worth the cover price. For those who aren’t fanS of short fiction but would like to check out Hill’s work, I would strongly recommend his latest novel, N0S4A2.
A king tries to toughen his young son up by telling him a tale from his days running a dragon-protection scam, a con that was going very well – until things were complicated by the appearance of an actual dragon. Not quite Pratchett but it has its funny moments. Still, as mentioned in a previous review, after a while silliness robs the narrative of any real stakes. Light, popcorn fun.