Tuesday, March 13, 2018

"Mississippi Blood" by Greg Iles – Beneath the Veil of the Deep South

Into Cruel Territory with Greg Iles

The United States might officially be a single entity, but one could make the argument the divisions between its various subcultures are so pronounced the country is in fact composed from a few smaller countries roughly-slapped together. The difference in the people's mentalities and customs are quite noticeable from coast to coast and border to border, and I believe it's fair to say the Deep South is certainly one of more interesting microcosms on this continent. Seeped in cruel and violent history, it's a place where traditions of old mix with progressive ideas, one where glamour and blood appeared in equal measure. In the final chapter of his Natchez Burning trilogy titled Mississippi Blood, Greg Iles takes us back there once again as we follow Penn Cage on what will perhaps be the most trying and critical time of his life.

Wednesday, March 07, 2018

“The Gift” by Louise Jensen – The Balance of Life and Death

Exploring a Cycle of Mysteries with Louise Jensen

Organ donation is the kind of topic most of us are going to ignore until either something very interesting happens in that world, or it begins to concern us directly. However, if we stop to think about it just for a little bit, it must be an incredibly bizarre experience to be living with someone else's organ beating inside of you, especially if the donor in question had to be dead to make that happen. The cycle of life and death is a curious one, and organ donation (or recycling, if you will) only adds to the strangeness of the whole affair. For authors such as Louise Jensen, it can set the perfect stage for a gripping and unsettling thriller mystery, as it did for her novel The Gift.

“Points of Impact” by Marko Kloos – The Critical Turning Point

Marko Kloos Turns the Tables

In the previous books of the Frontlines series by Marko Kloos we were presented with a vast and long-standing conflict between Earth and a race of alien invaders known as the Lankies. Despite the enemy's technological superiority, earthlings managed to hold on by a thread and have slowed the invasion to a screeching halt. However, they aren't exactly out of the woods yet as the great conquerors are looming above them and have still a considerable amount of fight left in them. The struggle between humans and warring aliens is one that has come back time and time again throughout science-fiction literature, and there are seemingly a million different outcomes to this sort of scenario. In some of them mankind prevails, but in many others it gets obliterated, assimilated or enslaved... in the sixth novel of the series, titled Points of Impact , we get to witness the turning point of a critical stalemate.

"Two Nights" by Kathy Reichs – A Life Buried Deep

Kathy Reichs' Ode to the Lonely

The scars we bear, both physical and psychological, ultimately shape us more than we would ever like or care to admit. We live our lives in accordance with the things we want to avoid, with the knowledge that tremendous pain and suffering not only exist, but can only be staved off rather than circumvented. Many people who end up living lonely lives have been hurt and scarred in some ways, enough to make them lose faith in the world around them. In Kathy Reich's Two Nights we are presented with just such a heroine, named Sunday Night.

“Dark Network” by James McCrone – An Election of Spies and Traitors

James McCrone and the Sanctity of Balloting

While countless critics of the United States election system will always be present, and generally not without reason, there are few out there who would deny the sanctity of the voting process itself, the tremendous importance it has in determining a country's future. It shouldn't come as a surprise that some people have been found guilty of voter fraud, risking their life in freedom to give their favourite candidate an ever-slighter chance of winning the election. The extremes people can go to in order to decide on the future of an entire nation have no limits, and as we see it in Dark Network by James McCrone, the second book in the Imogen Trager trilogy, the line separating friend from enemy is razor-thin in that atmosphere.

“Awakening Macbeth” by Carmen Amato – Staking a Soul

Awakening Macbeth by Carmen Amato (Book cover)

Carmen Amato's Historical Nightmare

Books can contain within them anything ranging from the tamest and most hopeful words to the darkest and vilest accounts of human behaviour imaginable. When we open the pages of a book and begin to invest ourselves in it, we are invariably affected by what we read, and each bit of information we absorb will influence is in one way or another. At the end of the day though, we have the power of closing the book and moving on to something else, dissociating ourselves from whatever disconcerting information we may have acquired. Unfortunately, in Carmen Amato's Awakening Macbeth, that is not an option for University of Virginia professor Brodie Macbeth.

“Phenomena” by Annie Jacobsen – The Top Secret U.S. Telepathy Program

Into the Extra-Sensory Perception Tunnel with Annie Jacobsen

Coined by Frederic W. H. Myers all the way back in 1882, telepathy is a concept which involves the transference of ideas from one person to another without using any sort of physical interaction... in other words, mind-reading. Many experiments were conducted since then in an attempt to prove the concept truthful, but ultimately none of the ones yielding positive results were remotely in line with standards by which reputable scientific trials abide by; they lacked proper control and weren't repeatable. Long story short, no real evidence exists to suggest telepathy to be anything more than fantasy, but that of course hasn't stopped us from believing in it... or more precisely, it hasn't prevented the U.S. government from pouring innumerable funds to research it across multiple decades. In her book titled Phenomena, Annie Jacobsen chronicles the government's research program into what is essentially the paranormal.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

"Hannah's Heirloom Trilogy" by Rosie Chapel – A Double Life 2000 Years Apart

Hannah's Heirloom Trilogy by Rosie Chapel (Book cover)

The Rosie Chapel History Tour

Time travel is a concept that has been approached from many different angles by countless authors, each one trying to accomplish something specific, to materialize their concrete view of the concept's realization. While some like to get down into the details, there are others for whom it's really more of a way to transport the reader into an unfamiliar setting while sticking with a familiar type of character, sometimes even being a stand-in for the audience. For authors like Rosie Chapel, time travel is more part of the plot than the actual plot itself, at least if we just take a look at the three novels which constitute Hannah's Heirloom trilogy. Just to give you the lay of the land, they follow the titular heroine as she travels the world in modern times and in each book finds herself transported into the past as a woman she seems inexplicably linked to. Juggling life between the past and present, she experiences the attack on Herod's Fortress, the eruption of Mount Vesuvius, and life in the badlands of Northumbria... all while trying to further her search for her ancestor's carved pomegranate and feed a blossoming love with her best friend, Max Vallier.

Wednesday, December 06, 2017

"Provenance" by Ann Leckie – A Political Coming-of-Age

Provenance by Ann Leckie (book cover)

A Return to the Imperial Radch with Ann Leckie

When Ann Leckie began penning her now-famous trilogy, she had no idea the extent of the world she would end up creating and how many stories it would be able to encompass within itself. Throughout the three novels she developed it to such an extent that the world itself became a character of its own, one that begged for further exploration... which is precisely what she gave us in her latest novel, Provenance . Before having a look at the story itself, I'd just like to mention that while the novel does take place in the same general setting, it isn't really related to the afore-mentioned trilogy and can be completely read on its own. With that being said, the more background knowledge you have about this world and the fresher it is in your mind, the better of a starting understanding you'll have about the dynamics at play here.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

"Home" by Harlan Coben – Bring the Boys Back Home!

Harlan Coben's Take on Hope

Hope is a rather funny concept, for on one hand it can give us the will to live, to continue fighting and enduring, while on the other hand, it can deceptively lead us from the frying pan into the fire as it becomes an obsession and an inability to accept reality. Luckily for us though, literary characters are fortunate enough not having to contend with such frustrating real-life dilemmas. For them, hope is without a question the path (and literary device) to follow and cling to, as Win Lockwood does for over a decade in Harlan Coben's Home .

Thursday, November 02, 2017

"Midnight on Mars" - The Many Faces of Fear

M.C. Glan's Fading Humanity

The idea that one day we'll be forced to leave Earth and look for a shelter elsewhere is certainly not without foundation. With each and every second we are further exhausting the non-renewable resources that make our civilization turn round, and even if we manage to move on to completely recyclable energy and solve all the critical worldly issues (such as hunger and diseases), we'll still have to deal with a dying sun. In other words, whether it takes two thousand or two billion years, one day we'll have to leave this planet of ours if we want to survive. M.C. Glan is an author who decided to play on that aspect in her first published effort, the novella Midnight on Mars.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

“What the Hell Did I Just Read” by David Wong – The Unreliable Narrators

Into David Wong's Absurdity

David Wong is a writer that doesn't need much of an introduction for those who are into horror comedies. His John Dies at the End and This Book is Full of Spiders have catapulted him into relative stardom, demonstrating his capability of bringing something original and hilarious to the genre. Perhaps without really wanting to, Wong created one of the most memorable and likeable trios in recent memory with Dave, John and Amy; a band of arguable losers and definite misfits who seem to be drawn to circumstances as strange as they are themselves. Reluctantly, they've saved their worthless little town of [Undisclosed] on more than one occasion, battling threats that seem much more ridiculous and nonsensical than actually deadly (despite it being the case). With the third book in the series, What the Hell Did I Just Read, Wong returns to our three beloved stooges and has them recount a rather unbelievable story.