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The Gum Thief (Review) PDF Print E-mail
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Sunday, 16 December 2018 00:00

like Douglas Coupland's work. I really enjoyed Generation X and his gritty observations of modern Americana. And The Gum Thief, which I'd intended to last a week of easy reading got brushfired-off in one weekend (I was at a train operating session and there was a lot of down time between runs).

So the novel is an interesting store about intertwined relationships, all that begins, laughingly (or depressingly enough) in a Staples store. Two of the drones here, Bethany the goth chick and Roger, the washed-out forty-year-old life failure, suffer through their days in this bleak consumer hell. But the funny thing is, there is no verbal interaction between them.

Bethany is pissed because she found Roger's diary and he's been writing observations about her. So she picks up a bic (plenty around in a Staples) and writes her own comments back. In no time, they realize that they share a same chord of desperate humanity, a craving for more. Still not speaking, the book becomes a cross-cut of their written letters, each observing life in the store and their own rocky pasts. Add to this Roger's strange little novel he's felt obliged to write (as all writers are obliged), a quirky little eoffrt titled Glove Pond. So now our cast of characters grow. Besides the drunk and the goth, the goth's mother get's involved (small world – she'd dated Roger briefly in high school). We also view some of the emails between the store drones (mostly concerning Bethany's and Roger's strange antics) and some side characters, too. All in all, it's strange how phrases used in one context suddenly show up in another. And through it all, the most uncomfortable dinner party ever imagined grinds to its sad conclusion (in Roger's book); so there are four more characters there.

Overall, I really enjoyed this one. I'll even think I might hang onto this – it might be worth reading again in a years time, just to see all the clever side-references as they unfold. So, yes, if you haven't read Coupland, have a look. And this book is a great place to start.


Last Updated on Sunday, 16 December 2018 09:29
End of Watch (Review) PDF Print E-mail
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Sunday, 09 December 2018 00:00

icked this one up (as I usually do) in a used bookstore. And as I started reading, I realized it was a continuation from another Stephen King novel I’d read, Mister Mercedes. And that crazy kook from the first novel (with his nasty backstory) is now geeked up in an intensive care hospital, his brains all mushed from a sack of ball bearings swung by plucky Holly just as he’d been about to detonate his bomb in a kiddy concert and scythe down something like 2,000 preteen girls (you say it like it’s a bad thing, right?).

But let me put this down first – you don’t need to have read the first book to pick up this one. I’d pretty much forgotten most of it and I made it through fine.

So what good is a killer who is confined to a wheel chair in intensive care, his motor functions shot? Well, unfortunately for the world around him, his smarmy rich doctor has been trying out experimental drugs on the fellow, slipping around various regulations, using young Hartsfield as a limp guinea pig. And now young Brady is beginning to show improvement. Just not in the way one would like to see it.

Add to this a very addictive game (mesmerizing, actually) that a literary volunteer finds and gives to Hartfield, one that allows mental suggestions to be planted in the subconscious. This will allow Brady to go to town, literally, suggesting actions and eventually controlling other people (i.e. victims).

But Retired Detective Bill Hodges is not out of it yet. Convinced that Brady Hartsfield is still conscious and hiding in his vegetative state and should stand (or wheel-chair sit) trail for the blood he’s shed, he begins to put the pieces together, to figure out just what the killer’s game is. But he’s got his own deadline to deal with – the doctor’s report has come in and it’s not good.

So this is another spinoff for King, a bit of a crime/mystery novel. It’s a good read, as solid as anything King’s produced. My only negative was the whole idea that the chairbound Hartsfield had some sort of minor telekinetic power from his drugs. Frankly, that’s like two amazing things that happened to him and really didn’t have any bearing on the outcome of the story. It could have been left off. And really, I just realized a bit of a plot hole – telekinesis is tied to the mind, not the soul. I can’t say anything without a spoiler but it was a mistake I only just realized. So, whoops. Sorry, King – you should have me as an editor.

But yes, I still liked this one and would recommend it, even Mister Mercedes unseen.


Last Updated on Sunday, 09 December 2018 15:12
The Massacre of Mankind (Review) PDF Print E-mail
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Sunday, 11 November 2018 00:00

I always wanted to write my own version of a sequel to my favorite novel of novel, War of the Worlds. Read it at least twenty times and thought about it often. But now that Steven Baxter wrote this version (with the full backing of the Wells estate), I can move on to some other Great Novel.

Here’s the first thing – if you are going to read this work, make sure you go back and breeze through the original. It’s far better to know the story, the details and the characters than to hit them cold. And pretty much all the characters are there (including the narrator, who is interestingly reevaluated based on his actions during the original). I had to smile when phrases were reused from the original work, sometimes with ironic effect. And, yes, had to laugh when someone pointed out that the unnamed curate was named “Nathanial” (a toss to Jeff Wayne’s musical version, quite clever).

So, yes, with this forewarning, we find an England a decade after the first war radically changed. Parts of the country are still destroyed, and the new government is very dictorial (including the fact that civilians cannot own telescopes, lest they see new launches and panic). But new launches there are (for the first war was nothing more than a scouting mission). Instead of ten cylinders, there are one hundred this time. And the Martians have learned – not only are they fully aware of the diseases that laid them low the first time ‘round (their shots are now up to date), but they are fully aware that they cannot allow humans to ring their pits, cannot waste a day manually unscrew their cylinders, and cannot allow the Earthlings to get a clear shot with their artillery again. The smoke, that was a quick fix that, on a wet world with rain and dew about, was pretty useless so they’ve largely given it up. But on all other fronts, they are ready. They are coming, all over the world.

Like I said, I was really surprised by how much effort the author took into matching the mood and getting it right. Oh, there were some things I disagreed with (such as the compassion the Martians showed for each other). But otherwise it was spot on. And the action keeps shifting, from the closest detail of muddy marches to the strategic efforts and cities around the globe are overrun. The solution to the war, unique, and it didn’t end there. So, yes, brilliant book. For you WOTW fans, a must-have for your shelf. Check it out. Five out of five tripods on this one!


Last Updated on Sunday, 11 November 2018 20:10
The Last Days of Magic (Review) PDF Print E-mail
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Sunday, 28 October 2018 00:00

o imagine that all you stuff you wish, think, or dream was true – fairies, elves, giants and, of course, magic - really was. And that you (as a modern twenty-first century human) know it is only myth because books tell you the real history of the world. But maybe that is only a false narrative.

What if there really had been magic, all the way through until the late fourteen hundreds, that various civilizations slowly spread, conquering the magic on their frontiers. The Vatican, of course, with its own league of magic-using exorcists, continues to fight actual witches, not because it is unholy but because they want a monopoly on that power.

And so while the world is slowly becoming normal, Ireland, a place long imbedded with magic and isolated by its position off Europe, is one of the last places of magic. And now England wishes (with Vatican backing and Vatican gold) to invade…

This story was a tricky one – lots of characters and concepts that all go together in weird ways. And it’s not conventional – not to spoil but heroes fail and villains surprise, to delightful consequences. And while I would have liked a touch more description about what I was seeing (exactly how tall were the giants? And how exotically beautiful were the women?) it still was capital storytelling with twists and surprises and tears and laughter. And, frankly, I loved the “Shortest reign in history” line.

So yes, if you like fantasy novels and especially novels of the Ireland that might have been (and should have been), this is the book for you. A perfect little novel to cozy up with around Halloween, when the ghosts moan and witches soar! Check it out!


Last Updated on Sunday, 28 October 2018 05:47

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