Sunday, June 29, 2014

Review of The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet's Nest

Book #23. The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet's Nest, by Stieg Larsson. Unabridged audio.

The last book in the “Millennium Trilogy,” this novel deals with the plot and character consequences of the first two novels. This novel turns into a police procedural, a spy novel, and then a legal thriller. Lisbeth finds that she has to testify in court, and then later has to accept the responsibilities that accompany legal adulthood in Sweden. These situations take her on an interesting journey.

The parts of this novel not involving Salander are less compelling. We have action taking place at two publishing concerns in this novel, and the novel drags in those places. And the same complaint I had about Mikael Blomkvist in the prior novels, that he is a wish-fulfillment “Mary Sue” for the author, are as strong as ever here. The virtuous journalist (Larsson was a journalist) finds himself desired by every woman he comes across, who willingly and regularly offer themselves up to him, with no questions asked and no consequences.

But the novel moves at a brisk pace, and the tension that arises in the last third of the novel is worth any slow points and other issues I had along the way. And the subplot of corruption in the intelligence service brought a nice second plot to accompany the strong Salander plot.

There were rumors floating a few years ago of the possibility of at least a half-dozen sequels that were in various stages, based on notes and drafts found after Larsson’s death. I hope that those books never reach publication, as the novels in the current “Millennium Trilogy” hold together as a completed work.

Endings are hard, and all things considered, this ending was quite satisfactory.

Source: public library

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Review of Identical

Book #22. Identical, by Scott Turow. Unabridged audio.

I have read nearly all of Turow's novels (including Innocent, reviewed here), and have enjoyed most of them.

Taking place again in the fictional Kindle County, this book involves a set of identical twins, one of whom is just out prison after a 25-year sentence, after confessing to the murder of a family friend.

A quarter-century later, the father of the murder victim believes (rightly as it turns out) that the story is not true, and that perhaps the wrong brother served the sentence. And as the novel unfolds, we learn that the crime may not have been committed in quite the way that anyone imagined. There are family and political dramas at work as subtext to the story, as well.

The advances in the science of detection serve as a nice backdrop to the story, as the changes from fingerprinting to DNA mean that the identical twins may not be as identical as was once thought.

There were some stereotypes among the mostly Greek-American cast of characters, but none of these traits seemed too out of line. In terms of what really happened, and who the real perpetrator of the crime was, I was in the dark until more than halfway through the book. At that point, the political aspects of the book (there is a race for Mayor taking place, and a gubernatorial election is part of the mystery's backstory) came to the forefront, and knowing Turow's affiliations, it was pretty clear who the murderer would end up being.

The characters are well-drawn, and the portrayal of the relationship between the twins was one of the strengths of the novel.

source: public library

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Review of All-Star Western 0, 17 & 18

All-Star Western, issues 0, 17, & 18. Written by Justin Gray & Jimmy Palmiotti, with art by Moritat. DC Comics, cover-dated Sept 2012, April 2013 & May 2013.

The “origin story” of the Zero issue gives us a more fully-formed version of Jonah Hex’s childhood than has been seen in other versions of the character. The answer to the question of how he got his scars is both touching and revealing. The problem with DC’s “zero month” idea was that stories were interrupted to varying degrees to present the origin stories. All-Star Western did give us a story that interrupted the ongoing narrative, but it was told within the context of the story, and for the most part, that strategy worked well.

Issues 17 & 18 tell a nice short arc in which a plague hits Gotham. In an echo of the epic "No Man's Land" storyline, Gotham walled off the poor neighborhoods, and turned its back on the victims. Catherine Wayne, wife of businessman and casino owner Alan Wayne, was kindnapped as she secretly delivered supplies and food to the victims. Hired by Wayne to recover his wife, Jonah Hex (and his sidekick Amadeus Arkham) ventured into the plague-ridden area to retrieve the woman. 

They come face-to-face with the extremely long-lived Vandal Savage. But Jonah is able to (seemingly, for a page or two) kill Savage, and his body is buried in Slaughter Swamp. There is a nice sense of cross-time continuity among the people and locations in these issues. By the end of the sotry, our heroes are heading out West. Well, at leat Jonah is, having tossed Arkham off the train. We'll wee if and when the pair is reunited in the future.

Issues 17 & 18 also contain backups of Steampunk Stormwatch, although this story is not wrapped up by the end of 18. All we get in these two stories is the beginnings of the 19th Century version of the team, featuring Jenny Freedom and Doctor Thirteen. Interesting stories in and of themselves, but there is no sense yet of where the bigger story is going.

Source: My daughter and I are purchasing these regularly from various local comic shops.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Between Audiobooks (5)

I have written before of my habit of listening to a few episodes of PodCastle or Escape Pod in between audiobooks -- short story palate cleansers between novels. I am still waaaay behind (12 months!) on these podcasts), so I listened to a bunch of Podcastles last week, just after The Athena Project. I listened to these episodes:

PodCastle 234: The Tricks of London, by Elizabeth Bear. A terrific long short-story by a terrific novelist.

PodCastle 238: Sleep and Wake, by Holli Mintzer. A fairy tale retelling, this time of Sleeping Beauty, and what happens when she is awakened in New York City after a century-long slumber. A very sweet story, truth be told.

PodCastle 239: Catching the Spirit, by Heather Shaw. A predictable Christmas story about how giving is good and capitalist commercialism is bad.

PodCastle 240: Seeking Caption Random, by Vylar Kaftan. Looking for the person of one's dreams is different from looking for the person of one's dream.

PodCastle 241: Everything You Were Looking For, by Samantha Henderson.A heartbreaking story of love, loss, and earthquakes.

PodCastle 242: A Memory of Wind, by Rachel Swirsky.Distinctive mostly because it is written in second person.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Review of The Athena Project

Book #21. The Athena Project, by Brad Thor. Unabridged audio.

This is my first Brad Thor novel. I have seen and heard him interviewed, and he seems like a fine fellow, and my father is a fan of his works, and I like thrillers, so ... I figured this book would work for me.

And it did.

The premise is simple: The first all-female Special Ops squad has been assembled, tasked to handle assignments where their genders provide an additional asset. In this case, they take down a leading arms dealer, which provides a lead as to a potential plot against the Denver airport. There are great action scenes, fun interaction between the "Athenas," bad Federal agents, Nazi science, and dangerous conspiracy theorists.

My only quibble is the inclusion in the novel of wild extrapolations of "transporter" science. There are two problems I have with this, actually. The science is presented in the novel as dating from the middle of the century, when in fact the little bit of real-world science upon which this is based is very recent. That would be fine inmost novels -- I understand that this is fiction. But te novel opens with a Dan Brown-style statement to the effect that all the science in the novel is real. Without that single line, I would have enjoyed the book even more than I did.

There is at least one sequel to this novel, and I anticipate adding it to my list, as well as looking into other of Thor's work.

source: public library.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Teaser Tuesday

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along!

Just do the following:
Grab your current read.
Open to a random page.
Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page.

BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)

From Chapter 1 of Ghost Train to New Orleans, by Mur Lafferty.
"The death goddess and Morgan the water sprite had been Zoe's first friends in the office. But the death goddess was the polar opposite of the bubbly water sprite ... it also wasn't comforting that Gwen could sense at any time how close Zoe's death was, and sometimes seemed comfortable telling Zoe when her offs of dying changed.”

Friday, June 6, 2014

Podcasting Update!

The Relatively Geeky Podcasting family just released the last episode of a 3-part crossover extravaganza with comics podcasting veteran Michael Bailey. We covered the 12-issue miniseries The Kents, written by John Ostrander, with art by Tim Truman and Tom Mandrake.The story tells the tale of the Clark Kent's earthling family in the days before, during, and after the Civil War. Family drama, social issues, hard decisions, consequences -- this story has it all.

The discussion for the first four issues was hosted by Emily & I, and was released as episode 18 of the Shortbox Showcase podcast.

The discussion for the middle four issues was hosted by Michael, and was released as episode 185 of his Views from the Longbox podcast.

The discussion for the final tour issues was back at our site, and was released as episode 19 of Shortbox Showcase.

This was the first podcasting crossover that we've participated in, and it was quite an enjoyable experience. Michael is a great podcaster, as well being a general good dude.

Download all the episodes!

Sunday, June 1, 2014

May Reading List

20. The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime (ua), edited by Phyllis Tickle
19. Billion Dollar Batman (ua), by Bruce Scivally

18. Wonder Woman: Iron (gn), by Brian Azzarello, Cliff Chiang and others
17. The Innocent (ua), by David Baldacci
16. Song of the Quarkbeast (ua), by Jasper Fforde
15. Uncle Scrooge: Only a Poor Old Man (gn), by Carl Banks

Earlier in the year:
14. Doom's Day, Book #1: Rampage (pb), by Danny Fingeroth and Eric Fein
13. The Guild of the Cowry Catchers: Book 5 (ua), by Abigail Hilton
12. Aquaman: The Others (gn), by Geoff Johns, Ivan Reis, and Joe Prado
11. Doing Hard Time (ua), by Stuart Woods
10. Star Wars: Scoundrels (ua), by Timothy Zahn
  9. Shadow Ops: Control Point (ua), by Myke Cole
  8. Little Black Sheep (Nook), by Ashley Cleveland
  7. The Last Dragonslayer (ua), by Jasper Fforde
 6. Before Watchmen: Comedian & Rorschach, by Brian Azzarello, J.G. Jones, and Le Bermejo
 5. Inferno Revealed (hc), by Deborah Parker and Mark Parker
 4. The Gearheart (ua), by Alex White
 3. The Great Fables Crossover (gn), by Bill Willingham, et. al.
 2. Silent Partner (pb), by Terrence King
 1. His Last Bow (ua), by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle