"Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested." (Francis Bacon)

Saturday, January 19, 2019

Countdown City

TITLE: Countdown City (The Last Policeman Book II)
AUTHOR: Ben H. Winters

There was no letdown from the first book in this near future trilogy. This time, Hank Palace is no longer a police detective, but he's still obsessed with solving a mystery, a missing person case. With the asteroid Maia hurtling toward Earth, the husband of Hank's long ago babysitter asks him to find her husband and bring him back home. Hank's search for Brett takes him into an increasingly chaotic and lawless landscape. He has to deal with anarchists forging their own society with their own rules, groups of hoarders, and a lack of the basics of life we all take for granted.

The mystery is almost beside the point, its main function being the thing that gives Hank's life meaning when life is slowly eroding into meaninglessness. The details feel alarmingly real as Winters weaves his simple story with big ideas. This is a future that could realistically happen and Winters covers a myriad of human reactions that are just as plausible. Given the current political climate, this series feels incredibly relevant.

Tuesday, December 04, 2018

Dublin Murder Squad Series

This has me very excited: Starz is adapting the Dublin Murder Squad books for next year. If you've been reading this blog, you know how much I love Tana French's series. I can't wait to see this. The first two books will be adapted for the first of what I hope is a continuing series.

Thursday, November 15, 2018

The Last Policeman

TITLE: The Last Policeman
AUTHOR: Ben H. Winters

The premise of this first book in a trilogy is killer. A giant asteroid is on a collision course with Earth. Suicides are up. So why does newly-minted police detective Henry Palace think an obvious "hanger," an insurance investigator found with a belt around his neck secured to the grab bar in a bathroom stall in a MacDonald's, is really a murder victim, especially when no one cares.

With six months until impact -- the exact location is still unknown -- Henry throws himself into the perceived mystery while everyone around him reacts to the impending doom. The things we currently depend on and take for granted -- cell phone service, the internet, etc. -- start to fail because people are killing themselves or quitting their jobs to spend their last days enjoying the time they have left.

Winters has fashioned an old-fashioned mystery as well as an exploration of the human psyche and the meaning of life. Henry's dogged pursuit of truth, of the why as well as the what and how, makes for compelling reading. Throw in some personal drama that Henry has to deal with, involving his flaky younger sister, and you get a very accessible work of near-future science fiction. I can't wait to start book two.

Friday, October 19, 2018

Spoonbenders

TITLE: Spoonbenders
AUTHOR: Daryl Gregory

I'm torn between calling this a work of science fiction, fantasy, or plain fiction, though there's nothing plain about it. The protagonists are the Amazing Telemachus family. Patriarch Teddy, now in his 70s, was a top stage magician who feigned magical powers. His three now adult children and grandchildren, however, have true magical abilities, which they inherited from their late grandmother, Maureen Telemachus, a talented astral traveler. Youngest Buddy sees the future, middle offspring Frankie has unreliable telekinesis, and oldest Irene is a human lie detector. Her teenage son Matty, at the start of the novel, has discovered his ability to travel outside his body. Despite of or due to their abilities and one-time claim to fame as a family act, before they were disgraced on national television, the Telemachuses are a dysfunctional bunch, constantly at odds with each other and their own ambitions.

Frankie, in financial difficulty, is looking for a quick fix. Irene, unable to accept the everyday lies people tell her, is distrustful of everyone. Buddy, having seen a bleak future, is stuck trying to live out the life he's foreseen. Teddy has befriended the daughter-in-law of the mobster he once worked for until things went sour. And Matty has discovered both the thrill of OBEs (out of body experiences) and puberty. Then, to give the dynamic more gravity, there's the specter of the government operative who once used psychics to spy on Russians during the Cold War. Maureen had been his star psychic warrior and he's hoping one of her grandchildren, mainly Matty, can fill her shoes.

Gregory weaves the stories of the Telemachus family in alternating viewpoint chapters, slowly bringing all the disparate elements together in a madcap climax that is both thrilling and poignant. I came to love these quirky characters and I would love to read more about them.