Archive for July, 2013

Inferno

Monday, July 29th, 2013

By Dan Brown

The Short Take:

This time Brown’s Professor Langdon is following clues related to Dante’s Inferno to tack down a hidden virus that could doom millions of people. If you like Brown, or Dante for that matter, you’ll probably enjoy his newest thriller.

Why?

Brown is not my favorite thriller writer. His lengthy descriptions just get me bogged down. I will say, however, that he can certainly sell a city. Large portions of this novel take place in Florence and Venice, and the way he wrote about them just moved those places to the top of my “must see” list. However, while encouraging tourism is nice, it’s not necessarily ideal in a thriller.

Beyond that, this outing overdid the red herrings and plot twists. After each new reveal, instead of going”gosh, that was cool” it was more like “wait a minute, that doesn’t quite jive with what (insert character name) has been doing.”

That said, Brown kept me anxious about the final outcome, and that’s the main point of a thriller.

A Little Plot:

Langdon wakes up with a head wound and no memory of the last two days or how he came to Italy. Before he can get his bearings, people start shooting at him and a young female doctor steers him to safety — for a short time at least.

His only clue is a strange object sewn into his jacket’s lining.

By the way, this is the second book I’ve read this year that focused on the major problems of over-population (the other was an older book of Christopher Buckley’s, Boomsday). The books couldn’t be any more different, but the message behind them both gives me pause,

Wool

Tuesday, July 9th, 2013

By  Hugh Howey

The Short Take:

This book deserves all the praise it has already received and more. Even though the setting is a post-apocalyptic world, calling  this tightly-knit novel science fiction is completely misleading. Community versus individuality, safety against freedom, conspiracy opposed to truth — this book is tremendously rich in thoughtful issues, detailed characters, and thrilling plot twists. Read it.

Why?

When I read about the highly unusual situation of Howey retaining the online/electronic rights to his self-published novel after cutting a deal with Simon & Schuster for a print edition, I couldn’t wait to try this book. It exceeded all expectations. No wonder the film rights have already been snapped up! This one has everything you could possibly want.

The true-life story is that Wool started as a self-published novella. Buoyed by its success, Howey continued to write, eventually producing five volumes that have now been brought together in the print edition. Along the way, he accepted input from fans, making this book the result of an interactive writer/audience collaboration.

All I can say is, maybe more books need to be written this way. Howey’s imagined world is rich in detail. His characters are complex and conflicted. The plot is dynamic and full of surprising revelations. You keep guessing and wondering until the very end. Then you sit back and wonder some more.

This might not be the usual book club fare, but it should be. It raises major questions about what is truly valuable and to what lengths one should go to protect what is treasured. I’ll say it again: Read it.

A Little Plot:

Mankind lives in a Silo that reaches over a hundred stories deep into the earth. Outside, the air is toxic and nothing lives. Inside, community traditions are carefully followed and personal roles strictly defined. Then the highly-respected sherif of this community decides he wants to go outside — a crime which is punished by sending him outside to die.

Still reeling from shock by this decision, the community’s leaders settle on a young, inexperienced woman to replace him. But the ordered community of Silo is already starting to unravel.

Howey maintains a lively blog on his website, which you can visit by clicking here.

The She-Hulk Diaries

Thursday, July 4th, 2013

By Marta Acosta

The Short Take:

This book is a perfect summer read. Just imagine all the fun of Bridget Jones Diary, yet this time your protagonist is a superhero struggling with a tendency to destroy  her surroundings rather than fretting over excess weight. Don’t worry if you aren’t a comic book fan, even a vague familiarity with The Hulk or Iron Man is more than enough.

Why?

This book is not fine literature by any means, but it sure is enjoyable. It’s as action packed as any summer movie blockbuster, only this time a woman holds center stage. And, what a woman! The diary is kept by She-Hulk’s human side, Jennifer Walters, who is a gifted lawyer and not too happy about the problems her heroic half causes for her. This includes getting them both on the naughty list for The Avengers, the ultimate superhero organization.

Whether Jennifer is dealing with her new job, an old flame, or the repercussions when She-Hulk lets loose to save the day, it’s all great fun. And, great fun is exactly what the summer calls for, right?

By the way, I’d never heard of She-Hulk before, but now I might look for one (or more) of her comic books — um, graphic novels. The world needs more super-powered, super-smart women like Jennifer/She-Hulk.

A Little Plot:

Jennifer is determined to improve her life; resolving to gain a new job, a new place to live, and a new boyfriend among other goals. She pretty much blames her super side, She-Hulk, for all her deficiencies in these areas. That’s partly why she has to see a shrink to try to reconcile her two halves.

There’s a high-profile law suit, an evil co-worker, an old rocker boyfriend, a prankster of an evil doer, and New Yorkers who are behaving mysteriously nice. The plots twine together and it’s all engaging entertainment. Enjoy!

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