Monthly Archives: November 2008

“The Graveyard Book” by Neil Gaiman

At this point, if Neil Gaiman writes it, I’m going to read it. He’s just that good and while “The Graveyard Book” isn’t his best novel to date, it’s still an enjoyable story and well worth the time.

It’s a dark sort of fairy tale, the kind of thing Gaiman has excelled at telling since his days working on “The Sandman.” The story follows Nobody Owens, or Bod for short. When his family is killed by the mysterious Jack, Bod escapes into a cemetary where he’s adopted by the local residents and raised there. Bod is protected from Jack, who is searching for him to complete the task of killing the entire family.

It’s this aspect of the story that is the most frustrating. The threat to Bod is brought up early and resurfaces throughout the novel at various points. We know Bod is in danger, but we’re never explicitly told why his family was targetted. In the final pages offer some hints, but Gaiman doesn’t put all the pieces together for readers to offer the satisfying conclusion the story needs or demands.

Which is a shame becuase that weakness mars what is, otherwise, a fine book. The characters who inhabit the cemetary are wonderful, memorable and what you’ve come to expect from Gaiman

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“Sweetheart” by Chelsea Cain

Chelsea Cain’s follow-up to her “Heartsick” reunites readers with Susan Ward, Archie Sheridan and serial killer Gretchen Lowell for a fast-paced story that works better if you just switch off your disbelief and just go with the story.

Picking up a few months after the end of “Heartsick,” Archie has stopped visiting Gretchen, but remains obsessed with her. He’s in the midst of trying to solve a case involving a body in a local park. Susan is hot on the trail of a story involving a local Senator who had an affair with the-then fourteen year old family babysitter. Just as her story is about to hit print, the Senator is killed along with a fellow journalist and her source has disappeared.

Freed of the need to introduce us to the world and characters of Archie and Susan, “Sweetheart” is able to dive into the story and never let up. The twists and turns come at a fast pace, keeping the pages turning. Eventually, all roads lead back to Gretchen Lowell and Archie’s strange obsession with her. Cain provides a few more clues about the nature of their relationship and delves into what makes Archie tick.

The interesting thing about “Sweetheart” is that it’s a story full of anti-heroes. Lowell is a killer, but she’s a compelling and fascinating one. Archie is driven to self-destruction and is so absorbed in his own issues he can’t or won’t change to save himself or his family. And then there’s Susan, who is secretly in love with Archie and trying to pursue the big story, despite who it may hurt or the consequences. These are real people, drawn well and while we shouldn’t like any of them, we still find ourselves intrigued by them. Cain does a great job of allowing their motivations to be understood and while we may not always agree, their actions make sense based on clues provided early in the story.

And Cain does know how to tell a great story. I’ll admit I wasn’t as thrilled with “Sweetheart” as many others were, but this one had me hooked from the first page. A sequence in the middle of the book when Gretchen escapes and is potentially holding Archie’s children at school had me breathlessly turning pages, wondering what twist would happen next.

Like I said, the story does require some huge leaps from the reader, especially as things progress toward the novel’s conclusion. But if you’re willing to suspend your disbelief at the door, you’ll find a suspenseful ride.

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“Dorsai!” by Gordon R. Dickson

It’s interesting that I’d book end the reading list for my SciFi and Fantasy book discussion group with two novels, published in the same year, both up for the Hugo that year and credited with the rise of military sci-fi. The two novels are Gordon R. Dickson’s “Dorsai!” and Robert A. Heinlein’s “Starship Troopers.” Both are heralded as influential and classics of their particular little cul-de-sac of science-fiction literature.

But go into any bookstore today and you’d easily find multiple copies of “Starship Troopers” on the shelf. I’d dare say it’d be a bit more difficult to find a copy of “Dorsai.” I’m not saying you wouldn’t but it seems that “Troopers” has withstood the test of time while “Dorsai!” has become something of an afterthought.

And reading “Dorsai!,” I can see why Heinlein’s military science-fiction novel has withstood the test of time better than this one has.

It’s not that “Dorsai!” is necessarily a terrible novel. I think the problem I had with it is, I don’t necessarily think it’s a novel. It’s a lot of snippets and (at first) unconnected dots about a great military commander and his rise through the ranks. But early on, you’d be hard pressed to say exactly what the driving narrative of the novel is. At times, “Dorsai!” is terribly episodic in nature, with a few characters coming in and out at various points to connect things, but frustratingly not adding up to a complete narrative. The story does start to come together in the last third of the novel, but by then I was so frustrated with the book and the episodic nature that the best narrative tie-up in the world wasn’t going to help things. Continue reading

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What is my bookreading personality?

Your Reading Personality: Eclectic Reader!

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You read for entertainment but also to expand your mind. You’re open to new ideas and new writers, and are not wedded to a particular genre or limited range of authors.

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