11.16.2009

The Girl Who Played With Fire, by Steig Larsson

Girl Who Played With Fire
The Girl Who Played
With Fire
Just like The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, The Girl Who Played With Fire by Stieg Larsson takes a while to whip itself into a frenzy. The first 100 pages or so are used to catch the readers up with Mikael Blomkvist and the always fascinating Lisbeth Salander. After the events of Dragon Tattoo, Blomkvist goes back to his magazine and his new status as a celebrity journalist. Salandar takes her stolen rewards and travels around the world. But almost as soon as she gets back to Sweden, the plot takes off.

Three people are killed in one night in Stockholm, and Salander's prints are on the murder weapon. Plus, on the victims was Salandar's bastard of an advokat. Almost immediately, the police latch on to her as a prime suspect. As the incriminating evidence starts to roll in, things start to look more dire for Salander. Blomkvist, Armansky, and the rest of her friends know that she didn't do it and start their own investigations to find the real killer or killers. Larsson made a genius move her by taking Salander out of the story for this section. You don't get her side of the story until later and things start to look really dire for a while. And since everyone is heading in a different direction, following up on different leads, you as the reader are not sure what really happened on the night of the murder.

The truth seems to get further away until some key information from Salander's past comes to light. The mystery turns into a conspiracy that involves the government and the GRU. I'm not going to give anything else away. But I will say that the first 100 pages are a small price to pay for the almost non-stop action of the last 300. The climax of the book is shatteringly exciting and I have to admire Larrson's guts for what he puts his characters through.

What amazes me still is how much I like Lisbeth. I probably shouldn't but I do. She's difficult. She's untrusting. She has almost no social skills. But I still feel protective of her, just like her allies in the book do. Even as she's going out to get revenge, you're rooting for her and hoping like hell she doesn't get caught. Most of all, I hoped that she wouldn't got through with it. I've only known her for two books, I know that it's a line she really shouldn't cross.

And now I have to wait until next year to see what happens next. Argh.

Ghost Ocean, by S.M. Peters

Ghost Ocean
Ghost Ocean
I finished this book last week and actually wrote a post about it, but Wordpress ate it. So, here I go again.

S.M. Peters' Ghost Ocean is a contemporary fantasy that's closer to the fantasy end of the genre than the contemporary part. It's set in a city named St. Ives that could be anywhere in America, but might not be either. There are three plots that weave in and out of each other, but by the final third of the book, things get a little abstract. They could be taking place in St. Ives, the underworld, or in the main characters' heads and it gets really hard to tell what's real and what's just a metaphor.

The first plot centers on Te Evangeline, a young girl who comes to discover that she's at the center of a massive conspiracy. What most people don't know about St. Ives is that it's a prison for supernatural creatures. Te might be the key needed to let them loose again, and there are a number of characters who want her to do just that. Towards the end of the book, she has to decide if it's really humane to keep those creatures locked up or whether its' worth the price of letting them all free.

The second plot follows Evangeline's erstwhile boss, Babu Cherian. Cherian used to be a cop before he ran into something that couldn't be explained by rational science. After that, he becomes a part of a group of people who have the ability to capture and lock up supernatural things. Because of what happened to his brother, Cherian has a deep hatred of supernatural creatures--which causes a rift when Evangeline starts to manifest abilities that aren't strictly human.

The third plot was a little hard to nail down at first, because it's narrated by an 'I.' After a chapter or two, it becomes clear that I is Angreal, a fortune teller who turns out to be a lot more than human by the end of the novel. She's in on the conspiracy, which makes her sections interesting reading. Most of the time, in any book that involves a mystery, the reader doesn't get to see what's happening on the criminal's end of things. You get the investigator's side and you get the pleasure of figuring out what happened along with them.

Ghost Ocean is a very interesting read, but I'm not sure I'm entirely satisfied with it. I really enjoyed the first two thirds, when the plots were pretty grounded in reality and folklore. But when things start to go abstract, it gets hard to determine what's really happening and what's just a vague metaphor for something really, really weird. It's been a week and I still haven't made up my mind. I have another book by Peters, so we'll see if I can make up my mind after that one.

11.08.2009

Darker Angels, by M.L.N. Hanover

Darker Angels
Darker Angels
This sequel to Unclean Spirits is, I think, even better than the first book in the series. In Darker Angels, we meet up with our heroine, Jayne Heller, and her gang about six months after the events of Unclean Spirits. Jayne gets a call from a former colleague of her mysterious uncle asking for help in New Orleans. What follows is one of the best plots I've seen in contemporary fantasy lately. Not only is there a great mystery to be solved, but there's some fascinating incorporation of Louisiana voodoo that had me on Wikipedia for hours after I'd finished the book.

Almost immediately after getting off the plane in New Orleans, Jayne is attacked by an incarnation of Papa Legba and the plot kicks off with a bang (or, more accurately, with a big serpent). Jayne and her crew are swept up in what remains of the voodoo aristocracy with a former FBI agent and plot trips along so fast that there's almost no time for anyone (even the reader) to get their bearings and figure out what's going on. Readers who are more familiar with mysteries might suspect that something is fishy about the situation, but the big plot twist about two thirds of the way into the book is a magnificent shocker.

This book was so good that I wished it would have gone on longer. I look forward to more from M.L.N. Hanover and Jayne Heller. I'd write more about this book, but I don't want to give any thing else away.

On a side note, I apologize for not posting recently. For a week or so, I was rereading old Terry Pratchett novels, which always happens to me after I read his latest. Then I read some fluff that, while entertaining, doesn't really lend itself to posting. And then NaNoWriMo started. I expect the reviewing to be pretty light until the end of November.