Review: Alive by Scott Sigler

Alive (The Generations Trilogy, #1)

With all apologies to our future dark overlord Scott Sigler, but I found his latest novel Alive to be the least enjoyable to date. Maybe I’m not the target audience for this one or maybe I just wasn’t in the right mood, but I found myself struggling to get into the book from the outset and it never really hooked me in quite the same way that previous Sigler novels have.

And yet I should have liked it. It’s a young adult novel that’s not driven by a love triangle or supernatural romance. It has teenagers working together to solve problems and a sense of mystery and paranoia to it.

But it still never quite added up to a complete story.

A group of young adults wake up inside mysterious enclosures. Getting free of them, they find they’re stuck inside a room with no memories of their lives before and vague ideas about who they are and were before.

In a lot of ways, the early chapters of this one felt like a mix of the old Infocom game Zork and certain episodes of Star Trek. Given that I like both of these things, this should have begun to push my buttons. But instead of doing that, it only created a sense of deja vu in me that never quite went away. Too many times I felt like I’d been where Sigler was taking us before — and despite my waiting for a twist or something unexpected, it never quite materializes.

I was hoping this might be a young adult novel (and start of a series) that would drive a stake through the sparkly vampire phenomenon. Instead, it’s a book that didn’t quite gel and never quite got going for me.

In the interest of full disclosure, I received a digital ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.
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Review: The Fold by Peter Clines

The Fold

Trying to find a new way to travel, a group of scientists may have made the breakthrough of a lifetime — a machine that allows you step from one distant point to another in the blink of an eye (think the Stargate from the movies on TV show). But the new technology may have some unintended side effects.

Enter Mike Erickson, a school teacher with a photographic memory and friends in high places. During his summer break, Mike is convinced by his highly placed friend to look into the new device and make sure that everything is on the level and that our government should continue funding.

Several times as I read The Fold, I found myself reminded of vintage works by Stephen King or Richard Matheson. I also found myself thinking this could have made a great installment of The X-Files back in the day (that may be my current re-watch of the series as well). Peter Clines creates a group of well imagined characters, spending the first half of the novel on character building and slowly foreshadowing what’s really going on with the fold. If you’re a science-fiction fan, you may be able to piece bits and pieces of what’s really going on here together but I will give Clines credit that while I pieced together part of what was happening, I didn’t quite think through the impact and consequences of it as well as he and his characters did.

The Fold is a suspenseful, mystery thriller that works on just about every level. Clines wisely allows us to have time to invest in the characters for the first half so that when things start to go awry and answers begin coming our way in the second half, there is an impact to it beyond the raised eyebrow. Clines has created an interesting character in Mike, especially in the way that Mike sees his photographic memory working. The ability to recall everything he’s seen or done is compared to ants, all swarming about with various pieces that Mike needs to solve the problem. Like ants, they can be organized or disorganized, depending on what Mike (and the plot) needs.

The Fold is a fun, entertaining novel that had me hooked from the first page and kept my interest for the entire story.

In the interest of full disclosure, I received a digital ARC of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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Review: Go Set A Watchman by Harper Lee

Go Set a Watchman

Harper Lee’s Go Set a Watchman will make you love and hate her literary agents.

It will make you love the agent who saw potential in this novel — but in an entirely different kind of story. It was that agent who nurtured Lee and helped produce one of the great pieces of literature in To Kill A Mockingbirds.

It will make you hate the literary agent of today who found this manuscript and decided that what the world most needed was more of the story of Maycomb and a chance to check in again with Scout, Atticus and the rest. I won’t go so far as to say that this one ruins the literary legacy of To Kill A Mockingbird (as others have), but I will go so far as to say after reading it, I wish it had stayed locked in a drawer and never seen publication.

An older Jean Louise returns to her home of Maycombe for a two-week vacation to spend time with her father. While there, she’s romanced by an old flame and makes some discoveries about her father, her town and her childhood that unsettle her and cause her to doubt if she ever really knew any of them.

I suppose you could argue that Watchman is about a girl growing up and struggling to reconcile the image she has of her father with the reality of who he is or aspects of his life that he kept hidden from her. But given what we see in Mockingbird, the revelations about the town and Atticus don’t necessarily add up in the final equation. I couldn’t help but find myself hoping this was all some trick or plan of Atticus’ for some reason beyond the obvious. But like Scout, I came away disappointed.

Watchman reads very much like a first draft — and one that could have used a strong edit. There are sections that are clunky and difficult to wade through while others will remind you of Mockingbird. Ironically, these sections are those that flashback on the younger days of Scout, Jem and Dill. One section sees the trio playing revival after the various churches of the town hold theirs while another gives us a glimpse of what Scout would be like in high school and Jem’s growing up to be the big fish in a small pond of the high school and town.

Had Watchman focused on these areas, it might have worked.

Alas, there are too many clunky moments in between to make this the companion piece to To Kill A Mockingbird that many of us hoped it would be.

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Re-Opening The X-Files: Tooms

skinner csm tooms

You think they would have taken me more seriously if I wore the grey suit?

Tooms

For the most part, The X-Files rarely brought back a monster of the week.  But when you’ve got an adversary as unique as Eugene Tooms and one with a backstory that requires resolution as his does, I suppose a return engagement was in the cards from the beginning.

It’s just a shame that “Tooms,” while creepy, isn’t nearly as unsettling as “Squeeze.”

The episode begins with Tooms getting released from jail, having convinced a slew of medical and psychological experts that he’s not bad, he’s just misunderstood.  It’s not helped by the fact that Mulder takes the stand and wants to enter into the record his theory on Tooms.   (At this point in the series, I have to question Mulder’s credibility as a witness.  Given what we saw here and in “Lazarus,” his proclivity to be overly dramatic on the stand really undermines the credibility of any case).

So, Tooms is released and he and Mulder begin a game of cat and mouse.  Tooms needs to feed on the fifth liver and go into hibernation.  Mulder wants to stop that so they don’t risk losing Tooms for thirty years. Continue reading

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Musing Mondays: Reading Friends

musingmondays51

Time to kick-off the week with Musing Mondays hosted by A Daily Rhythm.

This week’s random question asks: Have you ever made a new friend because of a book? (or books)?

I’ve made new friends both on and off line thanks to being a bibliophile.  I’ve met friends at book clubs and also through this blog and other reading related social media outlets.

It’s always interesting to see what others are reading, what they recommend and what they are looking forward to reading next.   And it certainly helps ensure I have a healthy TBR list on Goodreads and that my reserve queue at the library never gets stagnant!

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Re-Opening The X-Files: Miracle Man, Shapes, Darkness Falls

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Come on, Scully, it’ll be a nice trip to the forest.

Miracle Man

Two episodes in a row have a connection to my home state of Tennessee.  First up, we had the trucker on the road, listening to the Opry on WSM in “E.B.E.” and now we’ve got a small town with its own miracle worker.

This won’t be the last time the show pays a visit to the Volunteer State.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

“Miracle Man” is an episode with an interesting idea, though it’s not extremely well executed.   Watching it, I couldn’t help but be reminded of the Steve Martin film Leap of Faith and wondering if Samuel’s ability to heal might not be revealed to have started out as a scam but became something different.

The episode does try to tie in some continuity items — Mulder’s visions of the girl who may or may not be Samantha.  And we’re introduced to Scully’s faith — something which will become a major factor in the series and her character as we get deeper into the series and the overall mythology.

And yet beyond that, there’s not much else to really recommend about this one.  It’s a decent hour, but not a great one. Continue reading

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Re-Opening The X-Files: E.B.E.

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Langly: Yeah, UFOs caused the Gulf war syndrome, that’s a good one.
Byers: That’s what we like about you Mulder. Your ideas are weirder than ours.

E.B.E.

While we’ve had episodes leading up to “E.B.E.” that deal with aliens, it’s with this installment that the mythology arc really begins.  In fact, the episode serves as a preview of what’s to come for the next eight or so years — Mulder and Scully will chase a wild lead, get tantalizingly close to the truth, only to find the rug yanked from under them or not have the evidence they believed would be there at the end of the day.

“E.B.E.” came about because Morgan and Wong wanted to write a mythology story, tying things together that on-line fan were debating in the message boards.   Twenty plus years later, it’s hard to recall a time when message boards actually had an influence on a show or that producers actually surfed them to get feedback from most dedicated of fans.

After getting crumbs in the previous alien themed episodes, Morgan and Wong lay out a few more details and hints of what’s to come.   From the teaser, we see that the alien encounters aren’t just limited to North America, nor is the cover-up.   We also get the first hints of lies within lies that help to cover-up the existence of extraterrestrial biological entities (or E.B.E.’s from the title) all while hiding that evidence within plain sight.    Continue reading

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