Monday, December 11, 2017

Prince Lestat and the Realms of Atlantis

by Anne Rice
440 pgs  (Vampire Chronicles #14)

Many years ago, I came across a signed copy of the 25th Anniversary Edition of Anne Rice’s Interview with a Vampire. That was my introduction to her as an author (as well as the beginning of my interest in acquiring signed copies of books). I quickly became a big fan of her Vampire Chronicles, which also led me to read many of her other books and for years I’d buy her books as soon as they were published. But then . . . she “rediscovered” her love for Catholicism and she started writing novels about the life of Christ, and I moved on.

Then, when she decided to go back to the story of “The Brat Prince” with Prince Lestat a few years ago, I thought I’d give her another chance. And I found myself once again enjoying the story of Lestat, Louis, Armand, David Talbot, and the rest. I thought the book was a promising “reset” of sorts for the series, and I was looking forward to what came next. Now that I’ve read “what came next” I’m still trying to decide how I feel about it.

Rice has taken things in a direction I’m confident none of her readers anticipated. Lestat is now the de facto ruler of all the vampires worldwide. And as soon as he became such, he learns of the existence of another immortal race of beings: the Atlanteans. The Atlanteans have existed for tens of thousands of years. They founded the great city of Atlantis, among others, and are a highly sophisticated, and technological race of beings, who have taken note of the vampiric race and have chosen now as the time to make themselves known to them.

As Lestat and the others learn about the Atlanteans, everything they thought they understood about their own origins changes. To say any more would spoil it for others, so I’ll say no more.

Fans of the Vampire Chronicles will enjoy the cast of familiar characters, but I’m sure many of them will also have mixed feelings about where Rice is taking them. Ultimately, I’ve decided to withhold my judgement until I read the next book. I’m hoping she’s able to justify the need for the direction she headed down with this one. And if she can, I’ll continue on. If not, I’m moving on for good.

★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Robot Uprisings

Anthology
476 pgs

Robot Uprisings is an anthology of short stories forewarning the eventual robot uprising, when the robots mankind has intentionally created in an effort to make life easier and more comfortable finally decide enough is enough. The stories were assembled by Daniel H. Wilson and John Joseph Adams, and while each is independent from the others, they all have their origins in real life technology.

Scott Sigler, Ernest Cline, and Daniel Wilson were the authors whose stories initially drew my attention to the book. But their stories, which didn’t disappoint, weren’t the only ones I ended up enjoying. Seanan McGuire’s story “Misfit Toys, about the abduction of the world’s children by their smart toys one night, was one of several others I enjoyed just as much, and one I’m not likely to forget anytime soon.

Overall, I enjoyed the collection of stories included, and If the goal of the authors was to make their reader pause and question the wisdom of automating so many aspects of our daily lives, they each succeeded. My wife and I might want to rethink the discussions we’ve had recently about buying a Rumba. 

★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Nemesis

by Jo Nesbø
474 pgs  (Harry Hole series #4)

Jo Nesbø doesn’t waste any time getting things going with his fourth book featuring Norwegian police officer Harry Hole. The book opens with a bank robbery in Oslo. The man robbing the bank gives the teller 25 seconds to give him all the money in the ATM. When the teller takes six seconds too long, he shoots her and flees, leaving no forensic evidence behind.

Harry is partnered with Beate Lønn, a young video evidence expert, to investigate what ends up being the first in a string of professionally-executed bank robberies. In her analysis of the surveillance video, Lønn becomes convinced from the robber and victim’s body language that the two knew each other.

During the course of the investigation, Harry is invited by an old girlfriend, Anna Bethsen, to have dinner together. The following morning Harry wakes up in his own apartment with a hangover and no recollection of the night’s events. Later that day, Anna is discovered dead, having apparently shot herself in a suicide attempt. But when Harry notices that the gun is in her wrong hand, he believes she was murdered sometime during the night he was with her, and he’s not certain he wasn’t the one who did it.

The deeper Harry and Beate get into the investigation, the more complex the case becomes.

Once again Nesbø’s ability to create intriguing characters and weave them into a plot containing enough twists and turns to keep you constantly on your toes is on full display. Four books into the series and Harry Hole is turning out to be a fascinating anti-hero. He’s constantly fighting his addictions to alcohol and heroin, all while committing as many crimes as he helps solve. 

★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Strange Weather

by Joe Hill
432 pgs

In Strange Weather Joe Hill takes a break from the longer novels he’s been writing recently to write four novella-length stories, which he describes in the Afterword as “all killer, no filler.” It’s a bold claim, but he backs it up with each of the stories included here.

The book begins with Snapshot. A story about a teenage boy who discovers the polaroid pictures being taken by a mysterious man in town are slowly sucking away bits and pieces of peoples’ memories and lives one picture at a time.

Loaded is probably my favorite of the four, but not surprisingly, it’s also the one that will be hardest to forget. It’s a very timely story of a shooting at a mall, and the security guard who took things too far in his attempt to take out the shooter.

Next is Aloft, the story of an insecure college student who agrees to go skydiving in order to impress the girl he has a crush on. The jump takes a bizarre, but wonderful turn when he lands (yes lands) on a cloud that isn’t a cloud. He’s all alone thousands of feet above ground, with no way to get down, and a story no one would believe, even if he does.

Last is Rain, a story set in Boulder, Colorado, where the term “deadly thunderstorm” takes on a whole new meaning, when one strikes the city and lets loose a downpour of razor-sharp nails.
All four of these stories show why Joe Hill has so quickly become one of the more popular writers in the genre today. If you haven’t read any of his books yet, it would be easy to assume his success is due to his lineage. But that assumption would be wrong. He’ll probably never be as successful as his father has been (it’s doubtful anyone ever could be), but books like this one show why he doesn’t need the name “King” on the cover.

★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

Monday, November 27, 2017

The Burial Hour

by Jeffery Deaver
464 pgs  (Lincoln Rhyme series #14)

One of the things that keeps me coming back to Jeffery Deaver’s Lincoln Rhyme series is the antagonist Deaver comes up with for each book. Each one features a killer who has a unique obsession or method for dispatching his victims, and it’s up to Lincoln, Amelia Sachs, and the rest of the team to try to outwit and eventually catch him.

The Burial Hour features on of the best in the series: The Composer. A man who live streams his victims’ deaths online as they’re slowly strangled to death. He sets his videos to an arrangement of haunting and disturbing music, which includes samples of the sounds his victims make as they struggle to survive.

After nearly being caught in New York, The Composer flees to Italy, where Rhyme and Sachs follow him and end up serving as consultants to Inspector Rossi, Prosecutor Dante Spiro, and officer Ercole Benelli in Naples.

This is the 14th book in the series, and Deaver shows no signs of allowing the series to get stale or even predictable. The change of scenery to Italy from New York, along with the ensemble of new characters introduced this time around are evidence that Deaver has much more in store for Rhyme and Sachs. In fact, based on the last chapter of the book, it looks like the two of them might soon find themselves involved in cases with far more deadly and impactful consequences.

Can’t wait!

★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

Monday, November 13, 2017

War Hawk

by James Rollins & Grant Blackwood
368 pgs  (Tucker Wayne series #2)

War Hawk is the second time James Rollins and Grant Blackwood have collaborated on their series featuring former Army Ranger Tucker Wayne and his K-9 partner Kane. As the book begins, the two are traveling through Montana, relaxing and getting used to being stateside again when trouble keeps managing to find them. The first time they find themselves having to disarm a group of thugs intent on harassing the Middle Eastern owner and operator of a gas station.

Tucker and Kane make short work of the group, but later that night more serious trouble finds them when a woman from Tucker’s past tracks them down needing help. Jane Sabatello, a former Army Ranger Intelligence Analyst who now works for the Defense Intelligence Agency tells Tucker how she believes someone is trying to kill her. Jane tells Tucker that a friend and former team member she worked with had disappeared recently, and how while investigating her disappearance she discovered that several people who had worked on the same project had either gone missing as well, or had died accidentally in recent months. Tucker is the last person she trusts and she knows he has resources and skills that could not only protect her, but that could help her uncover why members of her team are being eliminated.

What the two discover is a plot that involves some of the most powerful people in the U.S. government and which began in World War II and involved the genius mathematician Alan Turing.

War Hawk features all of the aspects you’d expect to have in a James Rollins book. It’s a thriller densely composed of action-packed sequences and state-of-the-art military technology. But for me the best aspect of the book is Kane. Kane is a fascinating character, regardless of the fact that he’s a dog. I can’t say I was a big fan of the occasional section of the book told from Kane’s perspective (Dean Koontz did the same thing a couple of times, and it’s one of the reasons I no longer read his books). But Rollins more than makes up for those sections by shining a light on army dogs and just how remarkable dogs like Kane truly are. The authors clearly have a deep appreciation for these dogs that serve our country and it’d be impossible for someone not to feel the same way after reading either book in this series.

★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Swan Song

by Robert McCammon
798 pgs

About seven years ago I read my first book by Robert McCammon: Speaks the Nightbird, and his Matthew Corbett series instantly became a favorite of mine. I subsequently began reading his back catalog and have yet to be disappointed. Even his first few books, which McCammon has said himself are not that great and were the ones he wrote while he was learning how to write, I found were worth the time to read.

Swan Song is one of his earlier books that I was looking forward to the most, but that took me the longest to get around to reading. My wife read it when she was in high school, and knowing that King’s The Stand is my all-time favorite book, would periodically ask me when I was going to read it. But it’s not an easy book to get your hands on in hardcover, so it wasn’t until Subterranean Press got around to issuing it that I finally got my chance.

It’s a fantastic book and was well worth the wait.

At the beginning of the book nuclear war breaks out between the USA and the USSR. When the Soviet bombs land across the country, millions are killed from the initial blasts and the subsequent fallout. Among the survivors are a Sister Creep, a homeless woman in New York City, Josh Hutchins, a giant of a man who used to play in the NFL and most recently toured the country as a professional wrestler, and a nine-year old girl named Swan.

As the story progresses, their paths cross and the three find themselves traveling across the country, being guided by a jewel encrusted ring of glass. Sister found the ring in the ruble of a jewelry store shortly after the bombs fell and it led her to Josh and Swan. But something else knows about the ring and is searching for it, an entity able to take human form that senses the power of the ring feels compelled to destroy it.

Swan Song drew me in immediately. It’s nearly 800 pages long, and while sometimes a book that long would be significantly improved if it were only half as long, that’s not the case with this one. McCammon masterfully paces his story, beginning it with the conflict between two countries, each with the ability to destroy the world, and ending it with the ultimate conflict between good and evil. One side trying to ensure the planet’s opportunity to start over, and the other determined to destroy it completely.

★ ★ ★ ★ ★