Tuesday, January 31, 2012


Micro by Michael Crichton & Richard Preston

Jurassic Park meets Honey I Shrunk the Kids. That's the best way I can describe this final offering from the mind of Michael Crichton. Micro was an unfinished manuscript Crichton had been working on when he passed away from cancer in 2008. It was finished by Richard Preston, brother of Douglas Preston, who wrote The Cobra Event, and The Hot Zone. I've enjoyed books by both authors and I think Preston was an excellent choice to finish Crichton's story.

Seven graduate students have come to Hawaii to look into working for Nanigen, an obscure, high-tech company that's at the cutting edge of medical research and nano-technology. Nanigen claims the ability to construct tiny robots, some of which are mere millimeters in diameter. They use these robots to perform research, gathering samples in the microbiological world in order to develop new medications.

What these students learn when they arrive is that Nanigen's technology isn't in creating these minuscule robots. Their technology is far more advanced and dangerous - it shrinks things, and not just the robots it builds, it can shrink anything: robots, equipment, scientists, and graduate students. Unfortunately for the students, they're shrunk against their will having uncovered the sinister side of Nanigen's psychopathic president.

The idea behind the story is outlandish, but that didn't detract from my enjoyment in reading it. The world is a far more dangerous place when you're half an inch tall and have to survive in the Hawaiian forest. Crichton (and Preston) do a great job of creating a sense of what that world would be like and creating the same level of fear for me that I felt for T. rexes and velociraptors only this time they did it with birds, wasps, spiders, and ants.

★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Get Shorty

Get Shorty by Elmore Leonard

My favorite thing about discovering an author that's been writing for awhile is the fact that there are a backlog of books already written that I can look forward to reading. Discovering Elmore Leonard a couple of years ago is the epitome of that experience. The man is in his mid-eighties and just released his 45th book - Raylan, which is near the top of my TBR stack.

Get Shorty is only the fourth book of his that I've read, and to be frank, it was a let down. With is other books, I came to appreciate his no-nonsense, right-to-the-point writing style, but with this one, I found myself getting restless, wondering when he was going to get to a point. The premise of the book was interesting, but the characters were atypically one dimensional and I didn't form any type of emotional attachment to any of them.

Chili Palmer is a loan shark whose collection activities take him from Miami to Hollywood. He's chasing a man who committed insurance fraud against the airline industry, collected hundreds of thousands of dollars from them, loses it gambling, and then tries to skip town before paying up. Once Chili arrives in Hollywood, he becomes enamored with the seedy underbelly of the movie-making industry and decides he wants to be a part of it. He decides that the story of the man he's actively chasing would make for a great movie, so he starts meeting with movie makers in an attempt to pitch the idea.

Both plot lines play out simultaneously throughout the book, but unfortunately, neither one of them was very entertaining. I'm still looking forward to reading many more books by Leonard, but will probably be a little more selective in choosing them going forward.

★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆

Friday, January 20, 2012

The Alloy of Law

The Alloy of Law by Brandon Sanderson
(Mistborn: Era 2 #1)

Technically speaking, The Alloy of Law would be considered the fourth book in Sanderson's Mistborn Trilogy - but that's incorrect by definition. Also, according to Sanderson, the first trilogy (Mistborn, The Well of Ascension, & The Hero of Ages) was just the beginning of a much larger series. Sanderson says that he plans to write two more trilogies, each taking place centuries after the events of the preceding one. Would that ultimately make the series a "novology?" In addition, The Alloy of Law isn't a part of any of the three trilogies slated. It's just a little extra something, like the peanuts offered at Five Guys - just there to add to the total level of my enjoyment. So I don't know what to call the series, a "decology"?

I read the first three books before I started this blog, so let me just quickly mention that they're excellent. Those books put Sanderson near the top of my list of favorite authors. They're very imaginative and a blast to read.

The Alloy of Law takes place about three hundred years after the events of The Hero of Ages. The world has moved on to an era consisting of locomotives and the introduction of electricity.  But the different magical systems such as Allomancy and Feruchemy are still present. A small minority of the population possesses the ability to ingest small amounts of various metals and burn them internally, giving them temporary supernatural abilities - Allomancers. Some have the ability to make themselves temporarily lighter or heavier at will - Feruchemists. Waxillium Ladrian can do both.

Wax is a sort of frontier lawman who has had to return to the city of Elendel to set his family's household back in order. He's saved from the prospect of the lifestyle he shunned years ago when he gets involved in the investigation of a string of train robberies that have been taking place. 

Like the first Mistborn trilogy, this book was a lot of fun to read. The battle sequences involving the two magical systems are unlike anything I've read anywhere else and I'm looking forward to the other books to come.

★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

Friday, January 13, 2012


11/22/63 by Stephen King

Ten years ago this month, Stephen King made the announcement that he was retiring from writing. I remember hearing the announcement and feeling a sense of desertion. I've mentioned it in another post, but it was King's book Misery that I read as a senior in high school that started my love for reading. Since then, I have read all of his books and while some have been better than others, I've enjoyed every single one of them. Fortunately, King has not been a man of his word. Since he announced his retirement, King has published a dozen or so more books and there's both another Dark Tower book and a sequel to The Shining coming soon

One of my favorite early books by King is The Dead Zone. In it, the main character Johnny Smith wakes from a coma to discover that when he touches people, he has a brief vision of their future. When that ability reveals to him that a local politician will eventually become the President of the United States and start a nuclear war, he struggles with what steps, if any, he should take to prevent that from happening. He asks himself the question: If I had the ability to go back in time and kill Hitler before he became the leader of Germany and caused World War II, should I do it? In 11/22/63, King comes back to that idea of going back and changing the past to create a better future, but instead of Hitler, this time it's Lee Harvey Oswald's life that he explores whether the world would be better off without.

There's a hole in the state of Maine, a hole that a person can enter and arrive at 11:58 A.M. on September 9, 1958. The hole is in the backroom of a local diner, a diner owned by Al who has been going through the hole for quite some time. Initially it was just to buy his food supplies at 1950's prices, but eventually his purpose in going back became more substantial - to prevent the assassination of JFK in 1963. But Al's time is running short. Even though every time he returns through the hole, only 2 minutes has passed in 2011, he has been spending years at a time in 1958 and his life-long smoking habit has put him on death's door. So he introduces Jake Epping, a loyal customer of his, to his secret and wants Jake to try to do what Al has been unable to accomplish.

I should say here that I love stories about time travel. I love the paradoxes it creates and the usually unforeseen ripple effect that comes with it. There have been a lot of great stories that involve it and 11/22/63 is one of the best. As he usually does, King has taken an otherwise ordinary character and placed him in extraordinary circumstances and then just seems to take a step back and watch along with all his readers to see what happens.

It's not rare that I enjoy a book that I'm reading. But what is rare is when a book is so good that I'm tempted to skip to the end of the book to see how things turn out. I've never done that, and I never will, but I was constantly fighting the urge to do it with 11/22/63. The story is fantastic. Needless to say, I'm enjoying King's retirement immensely.

★ ★ ★ ★ ☆