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

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.

Monday, July 30, 2018

Underground Airlines

TITLE: Underground Airlines
AUTHOR: Ben H. Winters

The title isn't literal. It refers to the modern equivalent of the underground railroad that sneaked escaped slaves from the American south to freedom in the north. In the alternate reality Winters imagines, Lincoln was assassinated before he took office, compromise prevented the Civil War, and in the present there remain the Hard Four states where slavery is still legal. Victor is an escaped slave who's been forced to work with the US Marshals to hunt down other escaped slaves. All Victor cares about is himself. All he wants is to remain free, or the semblance of freedom that marks his life, the ability to move around the non-slave states, staying in nice hotels, eating good food, and trying to not think about the tracker inbedded in his spine. But his latest case, to find a runaway slave called Jackdaw who reportedly is hiding in Indianapolis turns out to not be the routine assignment he'd thought, and the things he learns cause him to question what he knows about the country and himself.

This novel works on many levels, but mostly, it's a personal journey for Victor and an incredibly relevant commentary on the state of the US today. The provocative title caught my attention in the bookstore, the blurb made me buy it, and the words inside lead me to highly recommend it.

Monday, July 23, 2018

Libraries vs Bookstores

I used to have a blog for political posts. I mostly post that sort of thing on Facebook now. But since this is book related, here it is.

I read a lot about this last night, but this, so far, is the best article about the Forbes op-ed calling for Amazon Bookstores to replace publicly funded libraries. This quote from the author Panos Mourdoukoutas, in a followup Q&A with Gizmodo, sums up the author's sense of greed and entitlement: "That’s something that some people do not understand. And I want to repeat it: Local libraries aren’t free. In my community, they are financed by a fee. It is added to school taxes. I paid $495 last year..."

Clearly, he's not using his library, or not enough to get more than $500 worth of value from it. But he could, if he desired. Because, unlike him, the library doesn't decide that if you can't pay, you don't get to use their services. He doesn't think people should have access to information if they can't afford it. Much of what they seek from libraries can't be found in a coffee shop or bookstore. Does he think children should hang out in retail establishments after school to do their homework? Does he think bookstores will help people learn to read or look for a job? Does he think these services are not valuable or necessary or desirable? People are calling him a moron, saying his idea is stupid. I don't disagree, but I think he's mainly greedy. I'm not sure what valuable thing he'd rather spend that $500 on, but I'm betting it isn't anything that will help someone else or better his community.