Monthly Archives: September 2010

Booking Through Thursday — Jump the Shark

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Suggested by Jennifer:

If you read series, do you ever find a series “jumping the shark?” How do you feel about that?

And, do you keep reading anyway?

Honestly, it depends on the series and how much of an investment I have with it.  For example, the last DiscWorld novel wasn’t up to the usual standards for Terry Pratchett, but that doesn’t mean I plan to give up on the novels.  In fact, it makes me look forward to the next one a bit more to see how Pratchett will get things back on track.  Of course, part of that is the DiscWorld novels are a bit more standalone than other series.   You can jump in and out at most points and while reading them in order will reward you by getting some jokes, you won’t feel left out if you start in the middle.

As I said, part of it is how much time I have invested in the series and my interest level.   If it’s the second book and I’m already feeling a bit bored or unhappy with things, I’ll give up.   Or seek out a summary on Wikipedia to at least satisfy my curiosity on how things come out for certain characters.

Or if a series starts to do what I engage in unnecessary sequelitis, I’ll give up.  Yes, I’m look at your “Dune” books.  The original trilogy is fantastic, but the follow-ups written years later by Frank Herbert and then those by his son and Kevin J. Anderson are just unnecessary.    (This also applies to some of the later books by Issac Asimov, where he worked waaaaaaaaaaay too hard to tie together all his universes).    Sometimes it’s just better to let fans clamor for a sequel and wish it could be as amazing as the originals rather than to give them one that tarnishes the original.  And don’t get me started on the trend in sci-fi and fantasy novels today that everything that comes out has to be a series.  I think a stand-alone novel is a perfectly acceptable thing and we could use more of them.

Another thing that will make me stop is when a series loses sight of what made it originally so good.   I’m looking at you Laurel K. Hamilton.  When the Anita Blake books started, they were a fun, urban fantasy series with an interesting heroine and universe.   Now all they are is vampire porn.

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It’s Monday. What Have I Been Reading?

What Are You Reading, is where we gather to share what we have read this past week and what we plan to read this week.  It is a great way to network with other bloggers, see some wonderful blogs, and put new titles on your reading list.

With the return of football and the new fall season,  I haven’t quite got as much reading done as I normally would.  However, I am still reading.  Here’s what I’ve read lately:

Five Days Apart by Chris Binchy
Doctor Who and the Terror of the Autons (audio) by Terrance Dicks
Intent to Kill by James Grippando
The Arrival by Shaun Tam
The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett
Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins

And here’s what I’m reading:

Boneshaker by Cherie Priest
Darkly Dreaming Dexter (audio) by Jeff Lindsay

And hopefully I’ll get to start World War Z by Max Brooks this week.

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Booking Through Thursday — What Are You Reading?

I missed last week’s BTT.  But I’m back this week!

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What are you reading right now? What made you choose it? Are you enjoying it? Would you recommend it? (And, by all means, discuss everything, if you’re reading more than one thing!)

I just started Cherie Priest’s Hugo-nominated novel, “Boneshaker.”   I’m a bit behind this year on my usual “read all the Hugo finalists” effort, but I’m making an effort to catch-up.  (I’d only read one of the five novels this year, which is rare for me).

The novel is part alternate history, part steampunk, part zombie story.  And so far, it’s all a lot of fun.  Set in Seattle during the later half of the 19th Century, inventor Leviticus Blue created a device that would help find gold in the Alaskan ice.  His first test of the machine created a huge earthquake in downtown Seattle, resulting in chaos and a new yellow gas rising up out of the Earth.  The gas turns those exposed to it for long periods of time into (essentially) zombies.   Walled off, that portion of the city can still be reached via airships and the underground sewer pipes.

Zeke is the son of Blue and the grandson of a hero who set free a group of prisoners who would have died of exposure to the yellow gas.  He wants to clear his father’s name and heads into the walled off city (the walls are 200 feet high), much to the chagrin of his mother.  When an earthquake seals off the underground tunnels to escape, his mom decided to go in via airship to rescue him and bring him home.

So far, the book is great.  I am loving the world-building that is taking place and the characters are interesting enough.   The concept of people boiling down the yellow gas into a drug similar to crystal meth is fascinating and I have a feeling will come back later in the story.

After picking up two not so hot reads in the past week, it’s nice to get back to a book I’m really enjoying.

So, that’s what I’m reading.

I picked it up because a)it’s been on my TBR pile for far too long and b)I wanted to read all of this year’s Hugo finalists.  I hoped to read them before the winners were announced but time got away.  It’s also part of my project to read the books I’ve purchased before I buy any more.  (Yeah, so far that’s not been as successful as I’d hoped…)

As for recommending it–I do.  Wholeheartedly.

How about you?

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“The Traveler” by John Twelve Hawks

The Traveler (Fourth Realm, #1)My rating: 2 of 5 stars

When the most intriguing question about a book is the real identity of the author, you know something isn’t working.

John Twelve Hawks lives “off the grid” and his novel, “The Traveler” is a warning to the rest of us do consider doing the same. We may not know it, but our world is just one of many realms, though only a special few people can break the barriers from one realm to another. These people are called Travelers and they’ve apparently been at war with a group called the Tabula for years. The Travelers are protected by the Harlequins, who consider it a duty and honor to protect them and possibly lay down their lives for them.

Apparently, the Tabula are winning the war, using the horrors of modern technology to track down and destroy all the Travelers and Harlequins. Except for two brothers, both of whom are Travelers. The book becomes a race against time for several players on both sides to try and get to the two brothers. One of them, Michael, is kidnapped and brainwashed by the Tabula. The other, Gabriel is saved and goes to an Indian reservation to begin his Traveler training.

If it sounds like a lot of popular movies you’ve seen in the last twenty years or so, it’s probably because “The Traveler” has borrowed a lot from the best of them. The story wants to have the same sense of pervasive paranoia that is a highlight of the stories and novels of Philip K. Dick, but it comes up woefully short. Passages about how Maya, one of the last Harlequins, must change her physical features to avoid the vast machine seem to be ripped right out of the page of any good spy thriller of the past twenty years or the Bourne movies.

The story is full of mystic mumbo-jumbo, little of it delved into at any great depth or even explained. Basically, we’re supposed to fear the machines and the only way to live is without the intrusion of machines into our every day life. Well, except for the occasional quick jaunt around the Internet to find information…but only as long as you don’t leave a footprint, of course.

The novel plunges forward from one absurd moment to the next without any logic or reason, before coming to a close with a cliffhanger. It’s one that you’ll see coming, if only because looking at the number of pages left will clue you in that Twelve Hawks won’t have time to wrap it all up in the time he has left.

If the story were a bit more compelling, a bit less cliched and the characters anything more than archetypes, I might be a bit more inclined to wonder more about the identity of John Twelve Hawks. Given how pedestrian and cliched the novel is, I find myself wondering if the author is more or less hiding behind the identity of Twelve Hawks not so that he or she won’t be discovered by the vast machine, but so his or her name won’t be associated with this lackluster novel.

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“Still Missing” by Chevy Stevens

Still MissingMy rating: 4 of 5 stars

Realtor Annie O’Sullivan is thinking about giving up on her open house a bit early when a single man shows up to look at the property. Or so she thinks.

Before she knows, Annie is kidnapped and held prisoner by the man she dubs The Freak for more than a year, systematically abused, stripped of her identity and raped each evening. During her year of captivity, Annie gives birth to a daughter, only to see the child die of complications from a cold when The Freak won’t allow Annie to seek medical care for the child.

Annie’s story unfolds in confessional sessions with her therapist as she seeks to recover her life and her self-worth. Annie is also seeking to come to grips with the things she had to do to survive and escape The Freak as well as the death of her daughter. But as the therapy sessions unfold, Annie and readers began to suspect there may be something more to her kidnapping than just a random stalker.

Annie’s relationship with her mother is a strained one, at best. Annie’s father and older sister were killed in a car wreck years before and the lingering bitterness and pain from that event still lie beneath the surface, ready to rear their ugly head at any time.

Debut author Chevy Stevens writes a fascinating, compelling and, at times, frightening memoir of not only Annie’s year of captivity but also the time before and after Annie was taken and the impact those events have had on her. At times the novel moves as a quick, deliberate pace while at others it lulls you into a false sense of security before pulling the rug out from under you. But one thing “Still Missing” is never guilty of–being boring. The pages fly by and Stevens sets up the final twist of how and why Annie was kidnapped extremely well. While I began to suspect what was coming a few pages before Annie did, the moment of realization is still one that is stunning, shocking and well foreshadowed by what we’ve seen of the various characters up to that point.

“Still Missing” intrigues me a great deal and gives me high hopes we’ll see more books of this quality from Stevens in the future.

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Booking Through Thursday — Splish, Splash!

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You’ve just dropped your favorite, out-of-print book into a bathtub, ruining it completely … What do you do now?

Well, this probably wouldn’t be a huge problem for me since I never read while in the tub. Odds are that it would be far more likely to occur at the pool during the summer, where I love sitting by the pool and reading after I’ve done my laps for the day.

If it did occur, it’s not quite as horrible as it could be. At least not in the Internet era. That’s what E-Bay, Amazon Merchants and Alibris are for–finding those hard to find books easily. And, of course, there’s always the haunting of my local favorite used bookstore or even trying to trade it via the various social networking sites that allow such things.

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Review: Night of the Living Trekkies

Night of the Living TrekkiesNight of the Living Trekkies by Kevin David Anderson
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Ever since zombies invaded the pages of Jane Austen with great success, publishers have been searching for the next great mash-up novel. Earlier this year, we got "Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter," a funny take on the historical biography that asked what if Honest Abe was really a vampire slayer? On the other end of the spectrum is the Hugo-nominated zombie/steampunk novel "Boneshaker."

And then, somewhere in the middle is the mash-up, "Night of the Living Trekkies." The story is a satire, bringing the horror of the zombie apocalypse to a "Star Trek" convention.

"Trekkies" is a clever satire that works well enough in small gulps. Each chapter title is cleverly taken from the title of an episode of "Star Trek," and each chapter is packed with in-jokes and one-liners for fans of each generation of "Star Trek."

The story finds Jim Pike, a former special forces soldier who quit the military after stints in Iraq, working at small hotel that is hosting the local "Star Trek" con. After Iraq, Jim wanted a quiet job where he wouldn’t have to think too much and working at the hotel seems to fit the bill. However, as the con gets up and running, Jim finds that things are slowly getting more and more bizarre, leading up to the discovery that zombie are attacking the hotel. Jim becomes the reluctant leader of a small group of survivors who work their way through the hotel, trying not to become zombies themselves and to escape.

One of the big problems with satirical genre stories is the author or authors try too hard to emulate the style of two of the greats in the field–Douglas Adams and Terry Pratchett. Both men make being funny, satirical and witty look easy as you read it, but anyone who’s tried to emulate their style knows it’s not easy to do. "Trekkies" isn’t in the same stratosphere of an Adams or Pratchett story, but authors Kevin David Anderson, and Sam Stall are able to keep the jokes coming at a reasonable pace and to have the story keep moving. My big fear picking up the novel was that it could become like an "SNL" skit and overstay its welcome. And while the story, as a whole, loses a bit of momentum from the time we figure out zombies are attacking the con and our team of heroes getting together to try and escape, the story and jokes never go hopelessly off the rails.

Reading "Trekkies," I kept having flashbacks to Sharon McCrumb’s two classic murder-at-genre-convention novels, "Bimbos of the Death Sun" and "Zombies of the Gene Pool." And while "Trekkies" isn’t quite as entertaining as those two novels, it’s still a fun little read. It’s a far more specific genre satire than either of McCrumb’s novels.

If you love and know your "Trek," there are a wealth of in-jokes and fun to be had here. The novel may not be as clever as some of the other zombie mash-ups, but it’s still a fun read and well worth picking up if you like zombies and you like "Star Trek."

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