Saturday, June 30, 2012

Windeye, by Brian Evenson

Windeye is a collection of short horror stories by Brian Evenson.  Most of the stories are quite short, 10 pages or less, but no less powerful for their brevity.  In many ways, I think it takes more skill to write a complete, self-contained and satisfying story in so few words.  Brian Evenson has this skill in abundance.

These are not ghost or vampire or zombie stories.  Nor are they even bump-in-the night stories.  These are stories that worm their way into your subconscious and fill you with a sense of dread and disquiet.  They contain ideas that take root and become more horrifying the longer you contemplate them.  Evenson skillfully makes use of the natural fear that exists in the unknown, both external and internal.  What you can’t see or understand is much more frightening than what you can.

I enjoyed some of the stories more than others, as might be expected in any short story collection.  All were very well written and often produced strong reactions.  Think a blend of Edgar Allen Poe and The Twilight Zone.  I didn’t consume the stories all in one sitting.  Each story almost demanded a pause for reflection upon completion.  The titular Windeye, as well as the story of a woman falling out of time were among my favorites.  People trapped in unfamiliar places or situations, identity confusion, loss of control, and loss of a sense of self are all themes that occur in these stories.  They are frightening as well as thought-provoking.  

Windeye is a collection for anyone who enjoys horror stories, as well as anyone who appreciates a well-written short story of any genre.  I was fortunate to receive an advance copy of this book.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

The Risk Agent, by Ridley Pearson

Risk Agent, by Ridley Pearson is a very interesting thriller/espionage story.  It pairs a male  American ex-military (or as good as) with a female Chinese accountant (and ex-military officer) to track down two kidnap victims and important financial information belonging to an American company operating in China.

The chinese setting and cultural differences make for an interesting backdrop.  The story is layered like an onion with each layer pulled back only to reveal another mystery.  The protagonists are developed nicely and easy to root for.  They function well as a team in spite of, or perhaps because of, their cultural differences.  There are a number of less developed secondary characters whose motives are harder to fathom, but they keep the story spinning in unpredictable directions.

There are a number of good action sequences but this book is more espionage and suspense than high octane thriller.  Pearson does a good job of keeping you engaged and thinking, trying to unravel the mystery as clues are uncovered.  Motives are complicated and trust hard to earn.  The story concludes nicely, wrapping up all the major storylines while still leaving an opening to continue following these characters in future novels.   

This is a well-written and interesting book, but not a pulse-pounding one.  The action moves forward steadily, but never really builds to a crescendo.  If your taste in thrillers runs more to the espionage side than the action side, you will likely enjoy this book.

I was fortunate to receive an advance copy of this book.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein

Code Name Verity is a story of friendship and courage told against the backdrop of World War 2.  The story is told from the point of view of an unreliable narrator who is held captive by the Gestapo in occupied France.  She is there after crash landing with her best friend and pilot, Maddie.  The story is “Verity’s” confession and is told in a narrative of how she met and became best friends with Maddie in wartime England, detailing their activities during the war.  

This is an incredibly heartwarming story that is both tragic and heroic.  The last quarter of the book was literally read with a lump in my throat.  While the story and some of the locations were fictional, they were based on real locales.  The details provided by author Elizabeth Wein were well-researched and add to the realism of the story.  The story highlights the heroic actions of those not on the front lines, but who served in the resistance or served in whatever capacity was available to them.  

The friendship of the two girls is the driving force of the novel and is truly compelling.  The pages fly by as you are drawn further into their lives.  The bravery in the face of evil and danger is admirable.  The complicated lives and actions of people on both sides of the conflict is handled deftly.  This is a story that will linger with you long after the final word.  A truly amazing story that should appeal to all ages.

I was fortunate to receive an advance copy from netgalley.