Monday, May 9, 2011

Some overdue reviews from 2009


I'm not sure if I'm a Michael Crichton fan or not. I've read a lot of his work, enjoying most of it, and I'm certainly conscious of the impact his imagination has had on our culture over the last few decades (Jurassic Park, ER). I've just never been bitten by the smitten bug -- excuse the unintended rhyme - when it comes to Crichton.

Which has nothing whatsoever to do with the task at hand. Pirate Latitudes is a Crichton book allegedly discovered on his computer after his death a few years ago. It is what it sounds like; a more or less true pirate tale set in the Caribbean. I thought it started out rip roaring but the energy petered out as it went along, even as the events on the page grew more volitale. It was odd, like watching a car tire spin all the faster even after it lost its air.

Still, a good effort for a dead guy.


Speaking of dead guys, The Gathering Storm is Book 12 of the late Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time Series.

The series is now continued by author Brandon Sanderson, and while some fans got all icky-ick over the idea of someone else taking the helm, I think he's done a heck of a job. It's rather seamless, with the only stylistic change I noticed being the introduction of contractions (I'm, you're, etc). Otherwise its all good, and I like the way he's picked up the pace and actually moved events along.

I liked it a lot.


The Looking Glass Wars by Frank Beddor is a young adult novel set in the world of Alice in Wonderland. Now if you know me, you know I wish that Alice in Wonderland would be retired for the duration of my lifetime. And the next, if possible, as I think it's so repetively re-used it might as well change its name to A Christmas Carol.

Beddor's novel doesn't change my mind, but it came close. It showcases a darker world where Alice's world is at war and the popular version of her tale nothing more than the twisted interpretation of Alice's memories.

Now, please bear in mind Beddor is to writing style what I am to succesful weight loss. It's a great reimagining somewhat weighed down by his clunky prose. But the magic of that reimagining - Hatter Madigan in particular - make it worth overlooking.


[BTW, I don't know why that segment of 2009 lent itself to young adult novels, but I also read "The Giver" around that time]


I really enjoyed Erik Larson's Devil in the White City. It's most often described as being about a serial killer that prowled Chicago at the time of the Worlds Fair, but that does it a disservice. Yes, that plays a part in the text, but I personally found the book to be first and foremost of a study of the Worlds Fair itself; its creators, its construction, its soul.

How great a compliment to Larson's skill that he can take a simple tale of archeticural history and craft into a compelling and riveting narrative.

Very, very good.

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