Thursday, June 12, 2014

Book Reviews (June, 2014)

Book Reviews! Each of the following books may be purchased through any large book store or online through www.amazon.com.

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REVIEWED: The Abominable
WRITTEN BY: Dan Simmons
PUBLISHED: October, 2013

I find that one of the greatest indications of talent in authors is the ability to write in entirely different styles and voices, and this Dan Simmons possesses in excess. He has the ability to weave tight narrative, to fill dialogue with humor and insight and fear, has the ability to create worlds set in the future, present, or past. Quite simply, he outputs vast diversity amongst his many stories. The downside of this talent is that the reader doesn’t know what to expect when beginning one of his new works. Perhaps my mind just had expectations of heart-pounding action or of supernatural mayhem, but reading ‘The Abominable’ was somewhat boring.

I love historic genre fiction, and I think Simmons is one of the absolute best in this field. His prose is beautiful and carefully crafted to convey the spirit of the era he’s writing in. Simmons knows every detail of every manufacturer, every geographic element, every slang in vernacular that his characters encounter. But in this latest book, he simply takes it too far. Tens of pages go into the detailed explanation of climbing shoes and chapters of description explain the ins-and-outs of scaling every type of ice, differences in toeholds, variations of granite, distribution practices of pack suppliers, etc.

The author has done his research and he seems to want to cram every footnote of those studies upon you. The story itself is a well-crafted drama, written in memoir fashion, but Simmons could have cut out half of it and the novel would have succeeded twice as well. Overall, it’s a rich and magnificent book, but entirely too slow-moving for my subjective taste.

Four out of Five stars

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REVIEWED: Clean Freak
WRITTEN BY: Sean M. Davis
PUBLISHED: August, 2013

‘Clean Freak’ is the first novel written by author Sean M. Davis, and it’s certainly a freshman triumph. The main character, Clarence, suffers from OCD germ avoidance. Naturally his occupation is as a janitor, and he takes his job seriously. At first, the in-depth description of Clarence cleaning door handles and desk surfaces seemed to be a bit over-indulgent, but that sense quickly gave way to a dark humor mirroring the character’s actions and thoughts, which led to more than one out-loud chuckle; in the most unseemly moment of suspense or danger or development, Clarence’s thoughts invariably turn to fears of some strange germ or illness developing from said event. The protagonist’s back story slowly comes through, so his actions and motivations begin to make more sense. I never quite understood the reason why his fellow janitors obsess in their own way to include Clarence in their games, nor did I relate entirely to the boss who seemed to waffle one way then the other, making contradictory decisions. But all that didn’t matter so much, as the grabber of the story is the dream-like little girl, Lucy, whom he befriends when her voice begins to speak to him from the bathtub drain. Who she is and what she represents offer Clarence’s most meaningful obsession.

Four and a half out of Five stars

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REVIEWED: Annihilation (Book One of the Southern Reach trilogy)
WRITTEN BY: Jeff VanderMeer
PUBLISHED: February, 2014

Ugh, so many trilogies these days! You get hooked into a story and have to wait several months to find out what happens next. Such is the case with ‘Annihilation’ which speaks credit to author, Jeff VanderMeer; I want more of this book, and I want it now. It’s a wonderful, strange tale of exploration by four women – each with their own specialty – placed in a coastal point of the country which is mysteriously manifesting unexplainable occurrences. The style of writing and mood it sets is part ‘X-Files’ and part ‘Lost’ in that there are so many layers of peculiar doings, of conspiracy, of monsters and violence, and confusion, that the reader will either dismiss it all as arbitrary or find themselves drawn inexorably into its mysteries. I happen to be in the latter camp, though find no fault with those of the former; this book is truly not for everybody.

I happen to love the unknown and I love to explore and I love mysteries, and ‘Annihilation’ is all these things and more. I questioned some of the characters’ actions as stray or not true to themselves, but in a story like this I soon found it easy to suspend my disbelief, as at later points the author adds touches of further information which then lends credibility to earlier actions. This is a psychological thriller as much as anything; characters’ thoughts have been implanted, hypnosis is abundant, and the protagonist is infected by a mind-altering organism, so truly, ‘anything goes,’ though VanderMeer is respectful of this self-granted license; it’s not a self-serving experiment, but rather a deep character study in grief and resolution.

Five out of Five stars


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Midnight cheers,

Eric J. Guignard


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