Saturday, May 28, 2011

#22: Nineteen Seventy-Four by David Peace

Set in an early 70s northern England, a crime reporter tries to unravel some grisly murders that end up taking a psychic and physical toll on him in David Peace's blistering noir Nineteen Seventy-Four.

Peace writes in a raw but realistic voice and the storytelling is dense and electric.  Although I enjoyed this immensely, I would only recommend it with reservations as it is very, very mature in situations and content.  Peace's novel makes the bleak noir of Jim Thompson and James Ellroy seem like a Hardy Boys mystery.

This is the first of four novels that Peace wrote in this setting, to great acclaim.  I have also seen the first movie based on the series, Red Riding 1974, shot for British television and worthwhile in its own right.

I bought this from a neat bookstore in Hampstead while visiting England and consumed it in a single day waiting at the airport. 

Thursday, May 26, 2011

#21: Tehanu by Ursula K. LeGuin

A former adventurer, who eventually chose life as a farm wife, finds herself thrust back into the spotlight when she helps a dying wizard and an abused child in Ursula LeGuin's Tehanu.

I recommend Ursula LeGuin's Earthsea Trilogy to anyone (and just recently hooked my brother up with the first one) not only a great young adult fantasy trilogy but just a great fantasy trilogy in general.  This entry was written long after the original series of novels and features older and more reflective versions of the main characters from the earlier works.

Light on action, this book--billed as the last Earthsea novel--is more meditative, focusing a lot on the roles of women in the world.  It is a worthwhile adult conclusion to a series mostly read by younger eyes.

I picked this up at a library book sale for a quarter and read it over a few days on a trip to Europe.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

#20: City of Illusions by Ursula K. LeGuin

The Shing have destroyed the League of Worlds, keeping the planets apart and in a semi-barbaric state; until an alien-eyed man with no memory appears on Earth ready to challenge the status quo in Ursula LeGuin's City of Illusions.

This novel is an early entry in what became known as LeGuin's Hainish Cycle, which features some of her best-known works, including The Left Hand of Darkness and The Dispossessed.  Nonetheless it really stands on its own, though the main character hails from the planet featured in Planet of Exile

This is a trippy sci-fi adventure from the 60s with a lot of neat ideas in a straightforward quest-style plot framework.  I got this from in a bound edition with two earlier works in this series, Rocannon's World and Planet of Exile, good reads all.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

#19: Arms of Nemesis by Steven Saylor

In ancient Rome, a detective called The Finder tries to prove the innocence of a runaway slave in Steven Saylor's Arms of Nemesis.

This was given to me by a friend to read on a flight to Rome, and I took it with some reservations, thinking the premise sounded a little cute, a mix of Raymond Chandler and PBS; but I ended up reading it in a single day.  It is penned in a tough, credible style, and seems to me to be written with a great attention to detail.

The larger backdrop is the Spartacus slave revolt, and there is also gladiator combat, a tumultuous ride on a slave galley, and a visit to an Oracle, as well as more subtly dramatic and domestic scenes centered around the crime. 

Overall I found this quite satisfying and was happy to hear it is part of a larger series of novels about The Finder.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

#18: Dexter is Delicious by Jeff Lindsay

Crime scene analyst by day, serial killer by night, Miami's own Dexter Morgan goes up against a thrill-seeking cannibalistic cult in Jeff Lindsay's latest series entry, Dexter is Delicious.

The first two books in this series were great, the third a strange misfire (with a wrong turn into the supernatural) and the fourth only a slight improvement, so I was really not that eager to pick this one up.  However, I can say this is the first I would recommend in a while. 

The story is dark and tight, and returns to some of the sharp humor that reminded me of Patricia Highsmith's Ripley novels.  This one also marks the return of Dexter's brother, who figured into a memorable finale at the end of the first book.

Fans of the TV series will find that some people who are alive are dead in the books, and vice versa (with a few only slightly deadish); but both the book series and the television series have their relative merits.  Until this entry I would have given the edge to TV, and now I might consider it a draw.

I picked this up on audiobook from the Morrison-Reeves Public Library in Richmond, Indiana, read credibly by the author.