Friday, January 19, 2018

The Fever Code

by James Dashner
344 pgs  (Maze Runner series #5)

The Fever Code is presumably the final installment in James Dashner’s “Maze Runner” series. While it was written last, chronologically it’s the second book in the series, bridging the events of The Kill Order and The Maze Runner.

The book introduces five-year-old Stephen, soon to be renamed Thomas by WICKED. Thomas is taken from his family by soldiers from WICKED (World in Catastrophe, Killzone Experiment Department) and taken to their complex, where he meets Teresa, Newt, Minho, Alby, and Chuck. All of them except for Newt are immune to the Flare which has decimated the world’s population, and they’ve been brought to the complex so they can be studied by WICKED and assist them in developing the maze.

The book is the weakest, and thankfully, the last book in the series. It filled in the remaining gaps in the story, but it lacked much by way of surprises and suspense. Admittedly it’s hard to have those in a book which is a prequel to the most popular book in the series. You already know what the ultimate fate of the characters is, and the only reason to read it is to learn more of their backstory.

If you’ve read the previous four books, you’ll want to read this one. But if you haven’t, don’t start with this one. You’re not likely to read the others, if you do.

★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆

Thursday, January 11, 2018

After On

by Rob Reid
552 pgs

What happens when a social networking program and super-artificial-intelligent online dating app becomes sentient? Potentially, nuclear annihilation of the entire world, of course.

Kuba, Danna, and Mitchell are the owners of Giftish.ly, a soon-to-fail Silicon Valley start-up that provides internet pet food delivery services. But while their company hasn’t been a success, the incredibly powerful collection of algorithms and data-collection tools they created have made acquiring the company a priority for the owner of Phlutter, the social media and online dating app that has quickly grown to billions of users across the world.

The addition of Giftish.ly’s programing and datatools allows Phlutter to achieve what so far has alluded the tech world: true super-AI. But while a super-intelligent sentient being who can match those looking for love, or just a casual relationship with benefits, sounds like a good idea, it’s really not.

After On is a much more ambitious book than Reid’s first novel Year One. But it's got all of the characteristics that made me enjoy that one as much as I did. It’s funny, full of wit and sarcasm, ominous and scary, and told in a unique and entertaining way. On page one, the narrator dares the reader to finish and promises a gift to anyone who does. On the last page, the book delivers. 

★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

Sunday, December 31, 2017

A Review of 2017

Another year is in the books (ha!) and here's a summary of how things went literately. 

Ten best books I read this year (in no particular order):

1. Lost Gods by Brom
2. Dark Matter by Blake Crouch
3. Freedom of the Mask by Robert McCammon
4. Swan Song by Robert McCammon
5. The Secret Speech by Tom Rob Smith
6. Agent 6 by Tom Rob Smith
7. The Black Widow by Daniel Silva
8. The Girl with All the Gifts by M.R. Carey
9. Since We Fell by Dennis Lehane
10. The Life We Bury by Allen Eskens

The ignominious honor of the worst book I read all year goes to David Sedaris's Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk.

Number of books read – 71.

Book signings attended: 
Dennis Lehane - Since We Fell
Dan Wells - Nothing Left to Lose 
Mary Roach - Grunt: The Curious Science of Humans at War
David Sedaris - Theft by Finding: Diaries 1977-2002
Tad Williams - The Witchwood Crown
Craig Johnson - The Western Star
A.J. Jacobs - It's All Relative

2018 books I’m looking forward to:
Iron Gold by Pierce Bronson
Omega Canyon by Dan Simmons
The Bishop’s Pawn by Steve Berry
The Cutting Edge by Jeffery Deaver
Head On by John Scalzi
Noir by Christopher Moore
The Saint of Wolves and Butchers by Alex Grecian
The Outsider by Stephen King
The Passenger by Cormac McCarthy
The Thorn of Emberlain by Scott Lynch (fingers crossed)
Early Riser by Jasper Fforde
Winds of Winter by George R.R. Martin (fingers and toes crossed)
Legion: Lies of the Beholder by Brandon Sanderson

Skyward by Brandon Sanderson

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Full Wolf Moon

by Lincoln Child
244 pgs  (Jeremy Logan series #5)

I’ve been pretty lukewarm on Lincoln Child’s series featuring history professor, and self-described “enigmalogist” Jeremy Logan so far. Truthfully, if I wasn’t such a big fan of the books he coauthors with Douglas Preston, I probably wouldn’t have read past the first book in the series. The books have always been relatively fun reads, but a little too campy for me. So, it’s hard for me to explain why I liked this one more than the four previous installments. After all, it’s definitely no less far-fetched than the others. Maybe it’s because I didn’t have very high expectations going in, and it exceeded them.

As the book begins, Logan has isolated himself in a remote “artists’ colony” located in Adirondack State Park in order to finish writing a paper he’s been meaning to get to for too long. Shortly after arriving, however, he’s contacted by Randall Jessup, an old classmate from Yale, who’s now a forest ranger in the park who hopes to enlist Logan in investigating the recent deaths of two hikers in the park. Logan has achieved some notoriety because of the unusual nature of the things he’s investigated in the past, which is why Randall sought him out. The men had been mauled and torn apart savagely by what local officials are considering a rogue black bear or wolf in the area. But based on the condition of the bodies, it’s clear to both Randall and Logan that the killings could not have been caused by either animal.

The killings occurred at night, during a full moon, which has led locals in the area to attribute the deaths to something from old horror movies. But as Logan unwillingly gets dragged deeper and deeper into the investigation, he becomes less and less skeptical of their theories.

Earlier I said I liked this book more than the others in the series. That’s not necessarily real high praise. But I enjoyed it, it kept me interested till the end, and it got me a little more excited for whatever Child will write next.

★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Agent 6

by Tom Rob Smith
407 pgs  (Leo Demidov trilogy #3)

Agent 6 concludes Tom Rob Smith’s fantastic trilogy featuring former KGB officer, Leo Demidov. The book begins with a flashback to 1950, when Leo is training a young agent in an investigation of an artist commissioned to paint a series of murals in Moscow. The investigation also coincides with when Leo met his future wife.

The story then moves to 1965, where Leo’s wife and two daughters are given the extraordinary opportunity to accompany a choir to New York to perform a concert at the United Nations to promote good relations between the two countries. Because of his past life as a former agent, Leo isn’t allowed to go with them and must stay home in Moscow. Tragedy strikes Leo’s family while they’re in New York and the rest of the book chronicles Leo’s efforts to get to the truth of what took place.

I can’t overstate how much I enjoyed all three books in the series. Child 44, The Secret Speech, and now this one, were each amazing by themselves. Together they tell a story which is as complicated and emotional as it is rewarding.  

★ ★ ★ ★ ★

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. 

★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆