Monday, February 13, 2012

What I've Been Reading--Adult Edition

The Thousand--Kevin Guilfoile

This is an odd hybrid of mystery, thriller and science fiction that centers on Canada Gold, a pro gambler with a neurotransmitter implant to control her severe ADHD. The implant, or "spider" as she calls it, allows her to focus and process minute changes in the environment and gives her near superhuman powers of observation. (Yes, in case you hadn't thought of it, she's a veritable Lisbeth Salander clone.) Anyway, so there's a lot about her father the composer/murderer, the murder of her friends, a mysterious job she's given, a schizophrenic artist, and a giant society dedicated to mathematical secrets of the universe that's fighting amongst its two branches. Crazy. There's some interesting stuff here, but any time you've got some sort of gigantic secret society fighting over the mystical secrets of the universe, I snort and grow bored.

Guilfoile did write a hilarious series of stories about atheist Madalyn Murray O'Hair as a detective in hell.

Gunshot Road--Adrian Hyland

I reviewed the first book in this series back in 2008, and this is a worthy sequel. Emily Tempest has a new job with the police as an aboriginal community police officer, but on her first day of training the superior who hired her and likes her winds up injured and off the job. So Emily has to face racism, sexism, assholism, and the death of an old friend of her dad's, a miner who was also a passionate philosopher. Her digging into the case leads her across the outback, into tiny towns and roadhouses, and into a ton of danger. It's a hard read, but has beautiful language and an economy of description that really gets the feel of Australia across with lines like "I threw a scrap of turkey, a lump of roo-tail and an orange in my little saddlebag and headed for the track to town."(5)

Tooth And Claw--Jo Walton

I first found Jo Walton through her Small Changes trilogy. Check it out, it's an awesome read. It's a fantasy series with aspects of mystery and thrillers. The story takes place in a Great Britain that made its peace with Hitler after the Battle of Dunkirk. But this book is even trippier. It's a Victorian novel in spirit and themes--but with dragons. The central conflict is the aftereffects of the death of a patriarch. He left clear instructions on the dispersal of his gold amongst his two sons, married daughter, and two unmarried daughters, but his intent for the dispersal of his body was less clear. (Yes, dragons eat their dead and their weak--this detail lends a great fraught quality to the story). His louish son-in-law eats more than is fair, and one of the sons decides to sue. Throw into the plot other wickedness of the son-in-law, the marital prospects of the daughters, the attempts of the son to rise in the legal ranks, and a Catholic-Protestant simile, and still more plot and excellent characters in this detailed world. A great read!

Knowle's Passing--Edith Forbes

I read her novel Alma Rose back in 2006 and recently decided to finish up reading her novels. Bless you, Phoenix Public Library for your interlibrary loan services! This is an interesting meditation/mystery looking at the after effects and cause of Vernon Knowle's death by gunshot in his Vermont farmhouse.

Stumptown--Greg Rucka

A graphic novel set in Portland about a PI with a gambling problem. So I've been really interested in this but it was $30 for a 159 page hardback. Thank you, ILL because this really was not worth the money. Dex Parios is set up to be a classic noir badass detective with her own code and a heart of gold, but she leaves me cold. I just didn't find the character interesting or sympathetic, even with the brother with Down Syndrome and the gambling problem. Too much action and not enough character-building. And the artwork is all hard edges and gray and blue and makes Portland look really ugly and kind of like Cleveland or Detroit. And the ridiculously leg-humping fanboy introduction doesn't help.

What's next--

We Need To Talk About Kevin--Lionel Shriver

I was on the reserve list for this book for 3 months. Since it's publication in 2003, it's been a perennial book club read because of its polarizing narrator, and the essential question of whether a psychopathic school shooter is born or created. It's now a film with Tilda Swanson. I've read about 10 pages and it floors me with its intensity.

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