Saturday, June 28, 2008

Star Struck by Val McDermid


Star Struck
Val McDermid
1998, 1999, HarperCollins, London
0006498329
240p.

Kate Brannigan is a Manchester-based PI who takes on a body guarding job for one of the country's most popular soap stars. However, when a clairvoyant is murdered just after seeing her client, Kate is drawn into the investigation.

When I started this, I didn't realise it was a 'cozy', but I enjoyed it nevertheless. It's a solid mystery story with plenty of interesting characters, and enough depth to keep you guessing.

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Friday, June 27, 2008

Armageddon 2419 AD: The Seminal Buck Rogers Novel by Philip Francis Nowlan

Armageddon 2419AD: The Seminal Buck Rogers Novel
Philip Francis Nowlan
1962, 1978, Ace Books, New York
0441029396
195p.

This is an edited novel which integrates two original novellas published by Nowlan in the late 1920s in the Amazing Stories magazine. Buck Rogers is a chemical engineer living in the early twentieth century who becomes trapped in an underground cavern which leaves him in a state of suspended animation due to the cold and various gasses (rather dubious, actually!). He awakes in the 25th century to find America in a state of decay - the native Americans hunted by another dominate race, the Hans.

I would love to read this in it's original form, as this edition was changed to suit the 'modern' (1960s) reader. It's like a cross between a hard science fiction novel, boy's own adventure, and war drama. I found some of the science fascinating, such as inertron and the ultron universe, which is similar to matter/antimatter theories.

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Wednesday, June 25, 2008

The Autograph Man by Zadie Smith


The Autograph Man
Zadie Smith
2002, 2003, Penguin Books, London
0140276343
419p.

Alex-Li Tandem is a Chinese Jewish autograph dealer who lives in London. This book follows him through his life, his search for that elusive piece of paper touched by someone famous, and his search for enlightenment.


I really loved this book. As some of the reviews printed on the cover say, it is just a pleasure to read. The characters are beautifully drawn, and the prose expertly woven. It is a hard book to describe once you've finished, because of the many layers. So I will just have to mark it as highly recommended and leave it at that.

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Saturday, June 21, 2008

Invasion!: The Final Fury by Dafydd ab Hugh


Star Trek: Invasion!: The Final Fury
Dafydd ab Hugh
1996, Pocket Books, New York
0671541811
283p.

The fourth and final instalment of the Invasion! series, set aboard the USS Voyager in the Delta quadrant. Voyager receives a Starfleet distress call from the crippled shuttle flown through the wormhole by Lt. Redbay at the end of the second book, The Soldiers of Fear. When they investigate, they discover the terrifying homeworld of the Furies - a race of demonic beings which enslaved the Alpha quadrant millennia ago.

The first third of this book was a bit disjointed - and it's filled with annoying metaphors, such as page 64: "Kim was giddy, swaying in his seat; he grimly clung on consciousness as if it were a clarinet that some was trying to yank from his hand." Also, the internal monologues of the characters (how they are feeling, et cetera) is distracting.

Despite all that, it's a fantastic read! Ab Hugh always writes great banter between the characters, and this case is no exception. I also adore all the 'real world' Star Trek references in his novels (like Paris and the 'Starburst manoeuvre'). The science/technology side to this story is solid and interesting.

Overall, the series was very well written. By far the best Trek series that I have read.

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Friday, June 20, 2008

The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne


The Scarlet Letter
Nathaniel Hawthorne
1850, 2003, Barnes & Noble, New York
1598308207X
216p.

Set in early colonial America, this book centres around a woman guilty of the crime of adultery who is forced to wear a scarlet letter 'A' upon her breast. It's a tale of passion, jealousy and revenge.

I quite enjoyed this story. Although it was written in 1850 about the 1600s, the themes of human behaviour and relationships are still relevant and surprisingly potent. If this were a modern book, it would be described as being 'uncomfortably honest', however, the dated language leaves the modern reader at a distance.

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Sunday, June 15, 2008

The Big Bad Wolf by James Patterson

The Big Bad Wolf
James Patterson
2003, Headline, London
075530022X
314p.

Alex Cross joins the FBI and is immediately entangled in a case involving white slavery, kidnapping and the ruthless man behind it all known as The Wolf.

This was another so-so 'thriller' from James Patterson. The short chapters make it feel like a fast-paced ride, but it constantly loses tension, especially in the parts about Alex Cross' personal life.

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Saturday, June 14, 2008

Contamination by John Vornholt


Contamination
John Vornholt
1991, Pocket Books, New York
067170561X
273p.

A scientist working aboard the Enterprise - Lynn Costa - is murdered and Lt. Worf and Deanna Troi are appointed to investigate.

This was basically just a murder mystery set in the Star Trek universe. It was interesting to read about a section of the Enterprise and its characters not normally focussed on in the TV show or in the books - the science section and micro-contamination labs. However, as a mystery, it was a bit predictable.

And note to the author - there are no igloos in Antarctica ... the word you are looking for is 'Arctic'. There were a few typographical errors too, but that's Pocket Books' fault.

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Friday, June 13, 2008

The Bobby Gold Stories by Anthony Bourdain


The Bobby Gold Stories
Anthony Bourdain
2002, Bloomsbury, New York
1582342334
165p.

Bobby Gold is an ex-con heavy working for some of New York's finest criminal element. He is quite happy doing their dirty work until he meets Nikki, a chef, and then things get a bit out of hand.

I read this in one sitting, but not because it's the greatest book ever written ... it is written in a very simple style. I suppose this means it would be ideal for reluctant adult readers, but it had the potential to be a better book. Still, the set-up was good and the characters memorable, so I would say it's a fine example of the genre for the male I've-never-read-a-book-since-they-made-us-in-high-school crowd.

However, it says 'A Novel' on the front cover, so I would love to see this written as a novel, and not a novella. It leaves the reader itching to know more of the background of the characters. I mean, Bobby Gold, a Jewish pre-med student winds up in prison becoming best buddies with a bunch of huge Aryan Nation guys ... come on! That deserves more than two sentences in the middle of a paragraph!

I suppose there could always be sequels.

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Double Helix: The First Virtue by Michael Jan Friedman and Christie Golden


Double Helix: The First Virtue
Michael Jan Friedman and Christie Golden
1999, Pocket Books, New York
0671032585
271p.

The final book of the Star Trek Double Helix series. Set outside of television universe, it focuses on Captain Picard when he was in charge of the Stargazer. The Stargazer is sent to investigate a series of terrorist attacks which are set to start a war between two alien races.

This was an interesting read in that it is set outside of the normal Trek universe, and features Commander Jack Crusher along with Ensign Tuvok. It was hard to keep a track of all the different characters in the first half of the book, and a couple of the chapters just felt like padding.

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Tuesday, June 10, 2008

The Form Guide: The Customs of the Contemporary World by James Valentine

The Form Guide: The Customs of the Contemporary World
James Valentine
2007, Australian Broadcasting Corporation, Sydney
9780733319587
319p.

James Valentine from ABC Radio in Sydney hosts a weekly segment called The Form Guide where people call in with questions about various social situations. Some of these discussions have been collected together in this book.

This is a very amusing book, but I think it's certainly written for the culture of Sydney city. A lot of it remains irrelevant for me personally, and yet it is still readable. I liked how it was also a cultural history guide - if a little skewed. But the tiny proofing errors irritated me! It needed just one final check through looking especially at bolding and colon use.

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Saturday, June 7, 2008

Power Hungry by Howard Weinstein


Power Hungry
Howard Weinstein
1989, Titan Books, London
1852861487
273p.

The Enterprise is sent on a mission to the planet Thiopa to provide aid to the people there due to an environmental catastrophe. When they arrive they discovery the Government more concerned with protecting its own power than protecting its citizens.

This is a typical Trek plot - a little bit clich├ęd. Nevertheless, the lack of a unique premise is made up for with the quality of the writing.

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Friday, June 6, 2008

American Psycho by Brett Easton Ellis


American Psycho
Brett Easton Ellis
1991, Vintage, New York
0330319922
399p.

Patrick Bateman is a rich Wall Street banker living in New York City in the late 1980s. He has a fairly typical life except for one thing: he likes to do depraved things to women (well, maybe).

This was not really an enjoyable read, however, it was a very interesting book. I loved the contrast between the boring banality of Patrick's everyday existence, and the sheer horror the torture and murder scenes. My favourite chapter was the one on Whitney Houston - it was just hilarious.

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