Great Reads

Buckley, Christopher. Boomsday

 After her father stakes (and loses) her tuition money on a dotcom startup, our heroine sheds her family name and takes to the blogosphere as Cassandra Devine. An aggressive, uber-caffeinated voice in the night, she unwittingly mobilizes her brethren into a battle with the “Ungreatest Generation” – their parents. The baby boomers are retiring en masse, buckling the social security system as they reach for their nine irons. Cassandra Devine is not prepared to foot the bill.

 Her big idea to right the ship – offer huge tax breaks to seniors who agree to kill themselves by age 65. She enlists Senator Randolph Jepperson to get the “voluntary transitioning” bill on the floor. He wants a shot at the presidency. She wants a serious national discussion about social security reform. They both may be in over their heads as the issue goes viral.

 Christopher Buckley brings his trademark wit to this irreverent comedy. The characters are eerily recognizable and the dialog lights up the pages. The author of “Thank You For Smoking” hits another national nerve. Debt and social security issues have only become more ominous since this book’s publication, making it funnier still. Or does that make it less funny?

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Lindholm, Megan and Robin Hobb. The Inheritance and Other Stories

Robin Hobb is one of my favorite authors, and though I knew she also wrote under the name Megan Lindholm, I had never read Lindholm previously. This anthology is a wonderful introduction to both of the author's signature styles. Standouts in the Lindholm section include the delightfully odd tale of “The Fifth Squashed Cat,” and the first story, "A Touch of Lavender."   The real standout in the Hobb section was, again, the first story, “Homecoming.” Sure to appeal to any fans of Hobb’s Liveship Traders series, “Homecoming” provides a fascinating glimpse at the early years of Rain Wilds settlements.


Over all, this is a most satisfying collection. Whether you're a Lindholm fan, a Hobb fan, or a fan of both, you will find much to enjoy here!

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Bear, Elizabeth. The White City

In a loose sequel to Bear’s alternate history-cum-mystery “New Amsterdam,” we are taken from the New World into the depths of the old. Immortal vampire detective Don Sebastien de Ulloa seeks rest and healing, both for himself and for the human members of his court, the inimitable forensic sorceress Lady Abigail Irene and the lady author, Phoebe Smith.  The trio travel to the depths of Russia, to the White City of Moscow…a place Don Sebastien has not visited in many years.  While he seeks respite, what he finds is only more death. Visiting an old friend, he finds instead a cooling corpse and no trace of the lady he seeks. A mystery he thought was done and gone has re-emerged from hiding, embroiling Don Sebastien and his court in the dangerous jealousies and ancient rivalries of Moscow’s vampire community.

The mystery here is hardly the point. While the motivations are realistic and the crimes dramatic, what readers will find most fascinating are Bear’s characters: the ascerbic Abigail Irene, the unprepossessing Phoebe Smith hiding unexpected depths behind her smile, and, most of all, the ancient, conflicted, and decidedly post-human Don Sebastien. Bear’s vampires definitely do not sparkle, but they captivate nonetheless.

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Roy, Lori. Bent Road

Lori Roy’s debut novel is creepy from the start. It opens at night on a lonely road full of shadows and tumbleweeds where Celia Scott struggles to follow her husband’s disappearing truck around unfamiliar twists and turns. The plot of the novel is similarly dark and serpentine with a few twists of its own. The Scott family returns to the Midwest from Detroit to find a better life for their children and instead finds themselves mired in domestic violence and haunted by family secrets.  Arthur struggles to protect his sister Ruth from her violent, alcoholic husband Ray who becomes even more sinister once he is investigated in connection with a young girl’s disappearance. What’s more, the new charges call to mind the death of another sister, Eve, years before. Many suspect Ray had something to do with Eve’s murder as well.

Although the ending may seem over-the-top to some, this dark, gothic tale of family secrets makes compelling reading. Roy develops interesting characters and keeps the plot moving. Readers will be drawn into the dual mysteries, past and present, that Roy so skillfully creates.

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Just a Thought ... Genre Crossing

While it can easily be argued that the earliest forms of literature were all what today might be called fantasy –Beowulf, The Odyssey, the epic of Gilgamesh—and that the fantastic was a part of mainstream literature for a long time after—Shakespeare, anyone?—in recent decades fantasy and its younger sibling, science fiction, have been relegated to the fringes—read and loved by many, certainly, but not considered to be literary by the cognoscenti and often dismissed in favor of more realistic works. This, however, is a trend that seems to be reversing itself.  The current interest in George R.R. Martin’s “Song of Ice and Fire” book series, prompted in part by the popular HBO miniseries based upon the books, is but one example. In addition to the public’s discovery of SF-F authors like Martin, those who have been writing in the genre for many years, there is an emerging trend of literary fiction authors turning to more speculative themes. The success of Michael Chabon’s The Yiddish Policeman’s Union, Lev Grossman’s The Magicians and, more recently, Justin Cronin’s The Passage seems to have opened a door for other authors to walk through.  A variety of other authors, best known for their previous works of literary fiction, have recent or forthcoming works of science fiction, fantasy, or horror.

 

Bohjalian, Chris.  The Night Strangers

Duncan, Glen.  The Last Werewolf

Jordan, Hillary.  When She Woke

Koryta, Michael.  The Ridge

Perotta, Tom.  The Leftovers

Shteyngart, Gary.  Super Sad True Love Story

Whitehead, Colson.  Zone One

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