Sunday, December 27, 2009

#52: The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

In a dystopian future U.S., a totalitarian central government forces the formerly rebellious outer districts to offer teenage "tributes' in a nationally televised fight to the death in Suzanne Collins' young adult sci fi outing The Hunger Games.

Collins throws in a little of everything from Lord of the Flies to The Long Walk to The Giver, and astute readers will probably find more stories that one could draw parallels from. But The Hunger Games tools along under its own steam, and has interesting characters and situations. I was a bit surprised, however, that despite its young adult label there is a very high body count, and there are plenty of stabbings, shootings, maulings, and general mayhem that skip through its pages.

This novel is reported to be the first of a trilogy, and I am interested in finding the next one to know what happens next (especially as this ends on almost a cliffhanger). I bought this for my beloved Kindle with some Christmas money and read it over two snowy days.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

#51: 9 Dragons by Michael Connelly

L.A. police detective Harry Bosch investigates a convenience store robbery that seems to have triad connections in Michael Connelly's latest thriller 9 Dragons.

I have been a longtime Connelly fan and find his Harry Bosch series one of the best contemporary mystery series (along with Walter Mosley's Easy Rawlins stories). After a bit of a lull, his last several novels have come back strong.

This one is a real change of pace, as Bosch's ex-wife and daughter, now living in Hong Kong, get caught up in the action when the daughter goes missing. Bosch immediately takes off for Hong Kong and ends up on a nightmarish journey as the clock ticks and the bodies pile up.

9 Dragons is especially high octane, and I have always enjoyed Connelly's clipped journalistic prose. A good jumping on point for thriller readers but more rewarding for longtime fans.

I checked this out from the Farmland Public Library in Farmland, Indiana.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

#50: The Long Fall by Walter Mosley

Extremely tarnished P.I. Leonid McGill tries to go straight (or at least less crooked) when he gets wrapped up in multiple revenge plots in Walter Mosley's The Long Fall.

Mosley is one of my favorite contemporary mystery authors, and I have found his Easy Rawlins novels consistently good. In that series, Mosley traces the adventures of an L.A.-based quasi-detective from the end of World War II through the Red Scare and to the Watts riots and beyond. The political and social milieu of the Rawlins series adds much to the storytelling.

Here McGill is a contemporary detective, on the other side of the country in New York. And where the Rawlins series is shot through with hints of Chester Himes and Ross Macdonald McGill is much more Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett. Mosley's writing is equally admirable here and I thought this was a great start for what I hope is a new series.

I am glad I reached 50 books this year with one of my favorite writers.

I listened to a very good audiobook version of this on loan from the Morrison-Reeves Library in Richmond, Indiana.

Friday, December 11, 2009

#49: The Kar-Chee Reign by Avram Davidson

In the far-flung future, Earth's citizens have left its depleted shores for space, and those staying behind have, over the centuries, devolved back to a Bronze Age state. Then, suddenly, an alien invasion arrives to pick the planet's bones in Avram Davidson's genre-bending The Kar-Chee Reign.

I have credited Davidson for my sudden interest in what I used to call "hippie-fi" after years of reading about lantern-jawed space heroes via Heinlein, Asimov, and those type of writers. From Davidson I decided I would take on Philip K. Dick, John Brunner, Samuel R. Delany, and others, and I haven't looked back.

The book that set me on that fateful journey was Rogue Dragon, and I was pleasantly surprised to find out this book was the prequel. In it, a group of makeshift heroes, proficient with bow and club and rousing speeches, outsmart the alien science of the insectoid invaders.

Avram Davidson is a solid storyteller, and used some interesting socio-political underpinnings to prop up his story.

I got this book from, an Ace Double which has Ursula LeGuin's very fine, similiarly-themed Rocannon's World (which I recently finished) on the flip. It may be the best combined Ace Double I've read.

Monday, December 7, 2009

#48: Citizen Vince by Jess Walter

On the eve of the 1980 presidential election, a semi-reformed criminal in the Witness Protection Program makes one last attempt to bury his past in Jess Walter's darkly comic crime novel Citizen Vince.

With its engaging characters, spot-on dialogue, and sense of time and place (early 80s Spokane) Walter brings to mind some of the best work of Elmore Leonard, Lawrence Block, and Ed McBain. Really fine writing--especially in creating a parallel story between our protagonist's troubles and the Reagan/Carter race--gives Citizen Vince a more literary bent.

I plucked this novel out of a 25-cent library book sale with no preconceived notions and found it to be highly enjoyable and engaging read. A cut above for mystery fans.