6.28.2007

Lean Mean Thirteen, by Janet Evanovich

Lean Mean Thirteen cover
Lean Mean
Thirteen
Lean Mean Thirteen is the latest in the Stephanie Plum series by Janet Evanovich. Many members of my family have been eagerly awaiting this book, and I am so glad that Evanovich can churn out a book a year. And, more importantly, she can turn out a good book a year. Even more importantly, a good funny book. I don't know how she does it.

If you're not familiar with the series, the Stephanie Plum books are a series about a New Jersey woman who becomes a bounty hunter in a desperate attempt to make some money and gets involved in a series of mysteries. High jinks always ensue. In the last few books, Evanovich has always come up with something so unexpectedly hilarious that I laugh out loud several times during the book. I hate to ruin it for people, but I have to say that I really enjoyed the exploding rodents and the running joke about the cable company. (Those fuckers.)

By book thirteen, in my experience, a lot of writers are running out of steam and are struggling to 1) take the series new places, and 2) keep the fans happy who have come to expect from the series. And, unlike some other writers, Evanovich isn't getting bogged down in holdover plot from previous books. She writes great brain candy.

6.25.2007

Fifty Degrees Below, by Kim Stanley Robinson

Fifty Degrees Below cover
Fifty Degrees Below
Fifty Degrees Below is the sequel to Forty Signs of Rain, and continues Robinson's story of abrupt climate change in the near future. In Fifty Degrees Below, we're facing the first couple of winters of a slide into a new ice age (like the Younger Dryas--see my post on Forty Signs of Rain for links to more information about abrupt climate change).

In Fifty Degrees Below, Washington, D.C. is hit by no-fooling Arctic temperatures, temperatures that few people outside of northern Canada, Siberia, or Antarctica know how to deal with, and that stick around for months. The winter seems to have finally convinced people that now is the time to try and reverse the effects of mass industrialization and consumerism, and try and get a grip on abrupt climate change. (I would have said global warming, but apparently, in the world of fiction, global warming is going to lead to an ice age. I am not sure of the science because I am not a climatologist, meteorologist, or hydrologist.)

At this point, I think I've given up trying to impose a traditional plot structure on this series. It's starting to seem like Robinson is trying to model this story on the way things happen in real life. What I mean is that there are a lot of characters, each of whom have a piece of the narrative, who may or may not be working together or even towards the same goal. It's reminding me a lot of when I read Robinson's Mars Trilogy. There were unifying elements, but it was very hard to summarize the plot.

In a way, you could say that everything that has happened in these books is peripheral. And I'm really enjoying that. There have been a lot of times when I've read a book, and the hints about what is going on in the background are as interesting or are more interesting than what's happening to the plot. This might be a further sign of my Wikification, because I want to pursue all the tangential plot elements, back stories, and histories that the narrative introduces.

6.14.2007

Forty Signs of Rain, by Kim Stanley Robinson

Forty Signs of Rain coverKim Stanley Robinson's Forty Signs of Rain is the first in a trilogy (for now) about abrupt climate change. It's the stuff of disaster movies, but it has enough grains of truth in it that it started to freak me out as I read it, because I could definitely see some of the events of the book actually happening. Forty Signs of Rain follows several scientists as they identify the necessity of scientists becoming actors rather than just being advocates. By actor, I mean taking an active role in policy changes.

When I  first started reading the book, I though maybe a wrong signature from another book got stuck in my copy because I couldn't see how the beginning had anything to do with the plot I was expecting.

Forty Signs of Rain really sets up a dire scenario. Years of pollution and interfering with the environment have caused the planet to heat up, the polar ice caps to start to melt, caused droughts and altered weather patterns, and is starting to shut down the North Atlantic current. (The shutdown of this current was the probable cause of the Younger Dryas ice age.)

I wasn't happy with the abrupt end of the book. It felt more like a chapter ending than the ending of a book. But I am definitely hooked on this series.

Books that freak me out

Every now and then, I read a book that freaks me out. It takes a certain kind of book to weird me out. It has to been plausible, and make me think that the reality of the book could happen to us. This why I can't read true crime, but I can read very gory mysteries. I think it's because I can distance myself when I read fiction. If it gets to be too much, I can always tell myself, "This didn't/couldn't happen."

So, here's my list of books that freaked me out to the point that I either wanted to put them in the freezer, or had to take breaks and read something silly in order to get though:
  1. 1984 by George Orwell
  2. The Stand by Stephen King
  3. Rainbows' End by Vernor Vinge
  4. Forty Signs of Rain by Kim Stanley Robinson
  5. Fifty Degrees Below by Kim Stanley Robinson
  6. Maus by Art Spiegelman

6.07.2007

The Harlequin, by Laurell K. Hamilton

The Harlequin cover
The Harlequin
I won't say that The Harlequin is a return to form for Laurell K. Hamilton, but I will say that this book is the best of maybe the last five or so books she's out out in either one of current series. At last! Plot! More plot than sex! Hurrah!

I actually enjoyed this book, rather than feeling like I was slogging through just to find out what happens next like I have been doing for the last few titles in the series. Even though, chronologically, things moved forward only a few hours in real time, this book was very satisfying in that it wrapped up some loose ends that have been dragging on for many books.

There were a few points in the book where I thought there was too much standing around and taking, some really foolish standing around and talking given that the baddies were in the room at the time waiting for an opening. :) And that's always been a flaw in Hamilton's books--too much talking. And it's kind of bizarre given that these books were really action-driven in the first half of the series.

When I picked up my copy of this book, I was surprised. The increasing size of the last few books made me expect another tome. The Harlequin, though, was good enough that I wish it had been more than an inch wide. Plus, Hamilton is getting into some really interesting back story with her vampire mythos and I really want to know more about the Mother of All Darkness and the vampire council.

One of the things I really like about contemporary fantasies are the histories that the author's get to build. In Hamilton's case, I wonder how much she makes up as she goes along because these little bits and pieces keep popping up and she rarely just lays everything out. I think I like this way, too. Given the slow pace of the plot to date, I don't think I could handle extensive worldbuilding.

So, kudos to Laurell on this one. Write more like this!

A couple of days ago, Hamilton put this funny excuse note on her blog. I wonder if J.K. Rowling will do something similar when Potter hits the shelves