6.15.2008

Fire Study, by Maria V. Snyder

Fire Study
Fire Study
Fire Study follows Magic  Study and Poison Study, a pair of books I discovered last year. This book wraps up the plot threads started in Magic Study. I find that I don't have a lot to say about this book. It feels a lot like the second half of Magic Study. In this novel, Yelena finds out who is really behind her enemies (and who is behind those puppet masters). And, with some help from her friends and allies, she foils their plots and save her countries. But apart from some revelations about our heroine Yelena's magic, there isn't really anything new in this novel. I enjoyed seeing the characters again, though.

One thing I will say about this book is that it's Dickensian--but not in a good way. In a lot of Dickens' novels, there are tons of amazing coincidences and things just falling into place and making everything shiny so that the hero and/or heroine can have a happy ending. There was a lot of that at the end of the book. It was remarkable how Yelena's plan to save the day all comes together with just a few words to her friends. A lot of that master plan happens off-stage, as it were, and very quickly. So quickly, it's rather unbelievable. The last fifty pages or so felt really rushed.

After I read the ending, I wonder if Snyder is going to write more books in this series. The news from Snyder's website tells me that she plans a new series--set in the same world--but featuring different characters.

6.10.2008

Barking, by Tom Holt

Barking
Barking
One of my co-workers got me hooked on Tom Holt a while back. I've been working my way (slowly) through the backlog of titles Holt wrote before I got clued in. Barking is the newest book, and tells the story of Duncan Hughes, a lawyer-turned-werewolf who has to fight off vampires, hostile werewolves, an undead shapechanger, and his inability to do math.

One of the things I love about writers like Holt and Terry Pratchett is how they can take an absurd little idea like, in the case of Barking, someone being out of step with reality by 0.1% and spin 400 pages or more of absurdist plot around it. Barking is wonderful absurd. It hooked me right from the start. (I read more than 250 pages of it last night before I made myself pack it in.)

I think this book was the perfect storm for me. It had great characters. At first, I was a little leery of the main character, Duncan Hughes, because he sounded like many of the mild-mannered wimps that often get sucked into evil corporation/contemporary fantasy novels. But Duncan surprised me. Well before the end of the book, he was tough and wily--just what you want in a werewolf. It had a fantastic (in both senses of the word) plot, with plenty of twists and turns. There was even a false ending in there, for good measure. And it had humor. I've mentioned before that a book has to be extraordinarily funny to make me laugh while I read it. Barking had me laughing through out. It was a very fun read.

6.07.2008

Infected, by Scott Sigler

Infected
Infected
Infected, but Scott Sigler, is one of the many books I've picked up recently. I'm not sure why, but I always end up buying more books than average during the summer. This book is another one that I read about on John Scalzi's Whatever blog, in one of the Big Idea posts.

This story is told in several parts. One plot follows a man who has the infection, a mysterious and very scary type of parasitism. Another follows the doctor tries to figure out what's going on. A third is told by a government agent (working of the CIA but not an official member of that organization) who is trying to keep the public at large from learning about this disease. The last plot thread is a third person narration of the progress of the disease.

As I read this book, I found Perry's plot (the guy with the infection) and the thread about the disease the most engaging and the most horrifying. As the disease progresses, you get to see how far Perry is willing to go to eradicate the parasite. And things get pretty graphic. I think part of what got to me about this book--and a book hasn't gotten to me since I read The Stand the first time--was that it was medically graphic. As an academic librarian, I've seen so many pictures in journals of surgeries and dermatologic conditions in medical journals that my imagination didn't need a lot of help picturing what Sigler was describing. (*shiver*)

*SPOILER ALERT*

But I have to say that the ending pissed me off.  I hate it when it turns out that it was aliens all along. It always feels like a cop out ending, especially when the author does so much research into epidemiology and microbiology. (I was impressed.) And in this case, I think there are so many scary diseases and parasites out there that you don't need to bring in extraterrestrials. Up until it turned out it was aliens, I was hooked. And freaked out. Which is what you want from a horror novel.

6.03.2008

Shining Through, by Susan Isaacs

Shining Through
Shining Through
Susan Isaacs' book, Shining Through, has a bad reputation, primarily because the movie version--by most accounts--sucked. Even though I kind of liked the movie, I can only watch it when I'm sick or other wise not in a critical mood. I've always been kind of curious about this book, especially after I read on Wikipedia that the movie omitted about three-quarters of the book. I spotted a copy of this book in my library's book sale items, which are kept near my work area, and asked to borrow it.

Shining Through is the story of Linda Voss, a half-Jewish, half-German native of Queens New York. The first three-quarters of the book shows the love affair between Linda, a bilingual legal secretary, and her boss, John. The last quarter of the book (the move bit, essentially), is where most of the action is. Because of her accent and knowledge of German and Germany, Linda manages to become a spy for the OSS. It's still over the top, but it's a fun, mindless read.

I don't have a whole lot to say about this book (because it's fluff), but I will say that having read the first three-quarters of the book doesn't really add the to the story I knew. It does, however, make me like Linda a lot more. In the movie, Linda's a bit bland. She's brave and quick, but in the novel she's wonderfully snarky and full of personality.

6.01.2008

The Edge of Reason, by Melinda Snodgrass

The Edge of Reason
The Edge of Reason
I saw this book discussed by the author on John Scalzi's blog, Whatever, as a part of his big idea series. In this series of posts, Scalzi asks authors to write about their inspiration or their line of reasoning about the premise of their books. The Edge of Reason by Melinda Snodgrass appeared a couple of weeks ago, and I happened to see it when I went to a Barnes and Noble a little over a week ago. In her big idea piece, Snodgrass wrote about her thoughts about the ongoing conflict between science (reason) and religion. Her idea was to take that struggle and amplify it, to the point where there's an out and out war between the two.

The Edge of Reason, the protagonist is an Albuquerque policeman turned paladin, Richard. After saving a young witch, he finds himself right in the center of this long-running war, working for Kenntniss, the embodiment of reason. Unlike a lot of other horror/mysteries, you know exactly who the bad guy is. What the good guys have to figure out how to take him down. Fortunately for Richard, he has friends to help him, especially since Snodgrass seems to have given him an extra helping of internal character conflict.

a lot. It's like we enter a kind of holding pattern where nothing much happens. The characters hunker down for the big showdown that you know is coming. It almost kills the wonderful tension, the buzz, that Snodgrass builds up in the first quarter of the book. It reminded me a little of Neil Gaiman's American Gods, where you have a great premise, characters, etc., but all the plot seems to happen at the beginning and the end of the book and the middle is just there to connect the two.

The other problem that I have with this book is the ending. I don't like it when the ending of the book is basically a set up for the next book. I have no problem with series, but I hate it when the point of a book is to set you up for the next book. If your characters are compelling and the story is intriguing, why make your ending a cliffhanger? Or worse, just a pause? If you've read this blog before (or you've talked to me about books), you know how much I dislike it when books don't have endings. I like plots to stand on their own for the most part. If an author wants to have the story from book one lead into book two, why not write a bigger book? I have no problem reading long books. (In fact, I tend to skip over books with spines that are less than an inch in the bookstores. I like long stories). Or, if you really want to have more than one book, why not end the first book a little sooner, like after the big showdown?