Monday, November 25, 2013

The Eye of God

by James Rollins
432 pgs  (Sigma series #9)

The Eye of God is the latest in James Rollins' highly-imaginative Sigma Force series. The usual cast of characters is back, and once again the fate of the world lies in the balance . . . this time the end is in four days.

The book begins around 450 A.D. at the deathbed of Attila the Hun. Then it jumps forward to modern times with a Roman priest who has come to possess an ancient artifact along with a book--bound in human skin, which together reveal that the end of the world will begin in less than 100 hours. Meanwhile a satellite crashes in Mongolia, but not before transmitting an image showing the cities of Boston and New York, along with Washington D.C. laying in ruins. Rollins' books always contain an element of suspended disbelief, and here it is in this book--the image was taken in the very near future. With the prophecy and the satellite image lining up, Painter Crowe and the team at Sigma have very little time to put the pieces of the puzzle together and save the world.

One thing that can definitely be said about Rollins and his books--they're consistent. His books invariably involve some ancient mystery or artifact. One that once brought out of obscurity promises to reshape or destroy life on earth as we know it. The Sigma team will always utilize cutting-edge technology at their disposal to intervene without a moment to spare, just before the planets align or the countdown reaches "00 00 00."

But included with that consistency is a story that's always exciting and is sure to suck you in. My brain knows that what I'm reading is not just implausible, but impossible when I'm reading Rollins' books. But I really don't care at the time. They're fun, and they're exactly what I want to find when I read them and what I'm hoping for when there's a new one coming out.

★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

Friday, November 22, 2013

Hitler's Peace

by Philip Kerr
448 pgs

In the winter of 1943 Roosevelt, Churchill, and Stalin met in Teheran to discuss the war efforts. With the Allied forces having won key victories over Hitler recently, it was becoming obvious that they
would eventually win the war and the Big Three were meeting to discuss the opening up of a second front to the west of Germany as well as their eventual post-war plans for Europe.

Philip Kerr takes the events leading up to that conference, along with the meeting itself, and uses them as a backdrop for his alternative history story of espionage, backdoor politics, and an attempt by an SS general to assassinate the Big Three. 
Just as I have with some of his other books, I found Hitler's Peace just good enough to keep me interested and reading on, but never so good as to suck me in and lose myself in the story. Kerr seams content to move his stories along at a meandering pace most of the time. His characters, both the fictional and non-fictional ones in this story lack any real depth and likeability. I'd recommend the book primarily to those with a strong interested in WWII history, as it does offer up a fairly interesting alternative version of one of its key events, but not to those looking for a compelling read that will keep you up late at night eagerly turning pages.  
★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆

Sunday, November 10, 2013


by Austin Grossman
383 pgs

Russell has recently left the fast-paced lifestyle of an up-and-coming attorney for the all-night-subsisting-on-skittles-and-mountain-dew lifestyle of a computer game programmer. Back when he was a teenager, Russell and three of his closest friends had been some of the first people in the world to see the potential of computer gaming when their teacher gave each of them 15 minutes alone to play around on a new Apple II computer the school had bought and didn't know what to do with. Each of them finally found something in the world that they could relate to and that they could interact with naturally. And from those few minutes alone, the future of online computer gaming was born.

Russell eventually parted from his friends and went off to pursue the type of career his parents would be proud of, while the other three created their own company and launched the highly-successful Realms of Gold game series. Now, in an attempt to fill the void in his life created when he left the world of computer-generated magicians, thieves, princesses, and dragons, he has quit the law firm, swallowed his pride, and come back to the company he wishes he'd never left.

The company is at the early stages of creating the next game in the series and Russell has to quickly get back up to speed and prove to everyone there that he can contribute and help the company return to the levels of success it once enjoyed.

YOU is the second book by Grossman. His first book Soon I will be Invincible was a highly imaginative tale of superheroes which I enjoyed a lot. This one is just as imaginative, but unfortunately it fell flat for me. I don't write computer programs, I don't know HTML or C++ and I moved on from playing video games when I was 18 years old or so, right around the time Super Nintendo came out, so much of the story was uninteresting to me. I wish that Grossman had made YOU more accessible to a broader audience. He's such an intelligent writer and I wanted to like the book more than I did. But it read more like a memoir than it did a thriller. I kept waiting for some dramatic climax which unfortunately never materialized. I'm sure a geekier person than me would enjoy this book much more, unfortunately for both Grossman and myself, I was just a little too cool for this one.

★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆

Tuesday, November 5, 2013


by Robert McCammon
296 pgs

In the Old Testament the Prophet Elijah demonstrated the impotence of the god Baal by having the priests of Baal build an altar of wood to their god and call on him to ignite it himself. When nothing happened, Elijah built an altar to the true God, dowsed it repeatedly with water and then called on the Lord to do what Baal had been unable to accomplish. In Baal, Robert McCammon creates a character that is anything but powerless, and he places him in the modern world.

Baal begins with a woman leaving her job as a waitress at a diner to walk to the bus stop. Before she gets there she's attacked by a man who rapes her. That "man" leave her with first- and second-degree hand prints burned into her skin anywhere he touched her. He also leaves her expecting a child. The child, who she tricks her husband into believing is his, is born nine months later and is unlike any other child ever born. He's disturbingly quiet and eerily aware of the world around him. They name him Jeffrey, but he will eventually go by his true name of Baal.

Baal ends up at a Catholic orphanage where he grows into his full powers, destroying all who oppose him and selecting his first followers from the other children there. From there he begins his ultimate quest of revenge and power.

Written in 1978, Baal was both McCammon's first book written and published. McCammon himself has acknowledged that it and his other earlier books are not his finest work and that they represent an author learning how to write. I'd agree with his self-assessment. Baal is nowhere near the same level  the books he's writing today are at. His Matthew Corbett series and books like The Five and Boy's Life are fantastic. But I'll still be going back to read all of his earlier books. I'll just be doing so with different expectations. It'll be interesting to see how he's progressed as a writer.

★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆