These are outrageously overdue. Capsule reviews of my June reads. And there were a lot of ’em…
When a mysterious object crashes into the waters off the coast of Lagos, the lives of three strangers are forever changed as they become intermediaries between humanity and an alien race. A mix of scifi, magic, superheroes and Nigerian folklore. It’s certainly unique and an interesting study of Nigerian culture and society, but there’s little subtlety to the writing. It’s all surface with no real depth to the individual scenes and characters. At times, it feels like you’re reading an extremely long fable.
A seemingly unstoppable hundred mile-wide A.I. mining probe is headed towards Earth and the planet’s salvation lies in Malise, a broken combat veteran addicted to military hardware. Cyberpunk cool and incredibly confusing. If you’re able to slog through the first half of the book, things will come together for you at the end.
Well, they certainly don’t make ’em like they used to. And, sometimes, with good reason. Several people come across a body on the outskirts of a small English town and, as each assumes responsibility for the death, hilarity (?) ensues. Mired in silly improbabilities.
When her baby brother is spirited away by crows, 12 year old Pru and her nerdy sidekick, Curtis, embark on a grand adventure in The Impassible Wilderness (located somewhere in Portland). Spirited and enjoyable but doesn’t quite attain the heights of Harry Potter or Series of Unfortunate Events.
The sequel to Moore’s Fool is a bit of Othello, a touch of The Merchant of Venice, a dash of Poe’s Cask of the Amontillado, and a hell of a lot of fun. The rascal fool, Pocket, runs afoul of three dangerous enemies who drug, then entomb him alive. He makes good his escape and seeks revenge, but his plans are both helped and hindered by Othello the Moor of Venice, Shylock a Jewish money-lender, a mysterious sea serpent – and others.
A promising start is wasted in this tale about an introverted juvenile delinquent with special abilities who piques the interest of some very powerful, very dangerous people. The opening section that centers on the juvenile detention center is terrific, but when the action shifts away from the facility, the narrative devolves into all-too familiar territory.
The sequel to Ringu (The Ring) offers an engaging development to the familiar mystery as well as an interesting exploration of the “science” behind the curse but, inevitably, it all gets bogged down in the technical details.
Archie Andrews and the gang from Riverdale face a zombie apocalypse when their high school dance is crashed by the undead, forcing them to take refuge at Lodge Manor. Surprisingly dark, this grim take on the hitherto silly comic is shockingly effective. Right up there with The Walking Dead and World War Z.
A young, St. Louis orphan is taken under the wing of a charming old Svengali who promises to teach him how to fly. Of course learning to fly is a long and laborious process and, in the four years under Yehudi’s tutelage, young Walt develops a familial bond with the old man and a couple of the other colorful characters who make up his entourage. Eventually, Yehudi does teach Walt how to fly and they take their act on the road, wowing crowds across America and learning valuable, often difficult, life lessons along the way. Auster does a marvelous job immersing the readers in this 1920’s setting, and his well-drawn characters are alternately amusing, frustrating, and touching. At times, the story walks that fine line between fantasy and reality and it’s a tough balancing act to pull off. By book’s end, I’m not wholly convinced Auster was wholly successful.
One of the scariest “vampire” novels I’ve read, this book gets off to a resounding start, featuring some compelling characters and a horrifying contemporary scenario involving a viral outbreak and the government’s inability to contain it. Then, we jump forward in time and the story becomes a cross between Attack on Titan and The Walking Dead, with less interesting characters and a not quite as compelling narrative. It’s still post-apocalyptic fun with plenty of scares, but it pales in comparison to that riveting opening section. It also goes on a little too long.
Hmmm. I loved Christopher Priest’s The Inverted World and liked his The Islanders that, while engaging in its “unconnected connectedness”, nevertheless felt just a little obtuse. And while The Islanders may have been a little obtuse, I found The Adjacent downright unfathomable. I enjoyed the sum of its parts but, as a whole, it lost me.
Great adventure and fun characters in this high-flying actioner about a female mercenary who gets a job on a ship called The Glorious Fool crewed by some colorful characters possessed of secrets and hidden agendas. It’s a fast read and I would have absolutely loved it if not for an obtrusive romantic subplot that, unfortunately, undermines our protagonist’s kick-ass personality. And sense of logic.
The sequel to The Shining is significantly different from its predecessor, abandoning the original’s isolated setting with its claustrophobic creepiness in favor of a more open travelogue-like tale pitting a grown-up Danny Torrance against a group of roving white trash vampire-like beings. It’s a Stephen King novel so it’s chock full of great scares, but at times the open road narrative feels a little diffuse and, at the end of the day, less like a sequel and more like a whole other world with a couple of shared characters.
Jun Do is a professional kidnapper in the service of the great People’s Democratic Republic of North Korean. We trace his rise, from his humble beginnings in a work camp run by his father, up the ranks of the oft-bewildering paranoia-fueled system, to his position of power – and inevitable mental collapse. It’s at this point that the novel veers into ridiculous territory as Jun Do assumes the identity of national hero “Commander Ga” to win the love and freedom of famed actress Sun Moon. The only thing standing in his way: King Jun Il. An absorbing and harrowing social satire, but the quirky characters, with their unbelievable motivations, defy credulity.
A young adult coming-of-age tale set in a “perfect” future where equality and service to The Community trumps individuality. Young Jonas comes of age but, unlike his fellow Twelves who are appointed fairly standard careers, he is proclaimed the new Receiver of Memory, the vessel for all the memories of past generations. As he receives these exciting, bewildering, occasionally painful memories, he begins to question what is and begins a search for what could be. A relatively quick read that, while appealing in its premise, ultimately feels like the opening chapter in a much larger story. Soon to be a major motion picture!
Maia (Asteroid 2011GV1) is on a collision course with Earth. The planet is doomed. Society is coming apart at the seams. Many of its citizens “go bucket list”. Others choose suicide. But some persevere, maintaining their routines, going into work and doing their jobs. And, in the case of Detective Hank Palace, investigating a murder whose victim was discovered in a fast food rest room. A delightful pre-apocalyptic whodunit.
A story of two sisters and their incredible bond. Nell and Layla are inseparable, the best of friends, drawn even closer by their parents’ divorce. But Nell begins to notice a change in her sister. Layla becomes withdrawn and secretive, and Nell suspects it may have something to do with a popular high school teacher. Restrained and real. Wonderful but for the ending that leaves us hanging.
Lincoln O’Neill’s job is to read emails. Other people’s emails. As the newsroom’s Internet Security Officer, he keeps tabs on intra-company correspondence for possible red flag behavior. What at first strikes him as a suspect, even creepy task, grows increasingly fascinating as he begins to monitor the exchanges of two positively delightful employees. One, in particular, captures his interest – in more than a professional way. The novel presents a wonderfully dicey moral dilemma – that it fails to fully explore, ultimately letting our conflicted, guilt-ridden protagonist off the hook. Great, breezy, clever writing. Darkly humorous. Then, about halfway through, takes a turn for the implausibly cloying.