Saturday, July 13, 2013

Gameboard of the Gods by Richelle Mead

Gameboard of the Gods by Richelle Mead is an interesting blend of dystopian science fiction and fantasy.  Set in a future ravaged by a genetic disease, one part of the world responds by severely curtailing religion and enforcing strict genetic diversity requirements.  They emerge from the decline as the most powerful and technologically advanced country.  A dystopia is only as good as it’s premise, and I loved the premise here.  Devastating biological disaster and a harsh, far-reaching response.  The society that sprang up in response is fascinating and very clever.

Mead creates very interesting characters and a fascinating world.  She develops the world in an unusual style, throwing the reader into the deep end and only slowly explaining throughout the book the reasons this world is the way it is and the reasons these characters came to be the way they are.  It’s different, but I found it to be refreshing and enjoyed the way explanations were slowly meted out.  

The book also deals with gods trying to reinsert themselves into a world that has turned their backs on them and the personal and political stakes that go along with that.  The mystery that is set to be solved, a series of murders with supernatural overtones, is mostly a device to move the characters from place to place and create a deadline for resolution with consequences for failure.  The solving of the mystery does reveal critical information about the state of this world.

This book crosses multiple genres, science fiction, fantasy, and a little romance.   I found the world of Gameboard  fascinating and the characters very enjoyable, if a little blockheaded sometimes in terms of their personal relationships.  While a complete story in and of itself, Gameboard of the Gods also creates a world and characters with a lot left to explore.  

This is a great springboard into a new series and Richelle Mead is obviously a very talented writer. I look forward to seeing what happens next.  Highly recommended.

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

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Eye for an Eye by Ben Coes

When they talk about fast-paced, adrenaline-filled nonstop action, Eye for an Eye by Ben Coes is the type of book they are talking about.  It’s a little (ok a lot) over the top, but man is it fun.

Dewey Andreas is a great action hero.  He’s impossibly handsome and incredibly good at his job.  When his fiance is accidentally killed by Chinese agents during an attempt on Dewey’s  life, a fiance who happens to be the US National Security Advisor, it sets Dewey on a mission to kill the head of Chinese intelligence.  A mission that will take him back and forth across the globe leaving a trail of destruction behind him.

This is the kind of book where you check your critical thinking at the door and just relax and have fun.  A lot of the action strains believability, as well as the laws of physics, but you are so invested in the characters and story, you don’t really care.  The bad guys are ruthless and evil, the good guys are determined and on the side of angels, but they are not one-dimensional.

Coes does an incredible job of fleshing out his characters and making them three dimensional, while also delivering an incredible page-turning action filled book.  This book starts fast and stays fast.  When you get used to the pace, Coes kicks it up another notch.  There is a car chase scene on the highways of Portugal that has the pages turning so fast they almost catch fire.  Coes’ style of short passages and alternating perspectives really works to ratchet the action and the tension up.

The story uses China’s dominance in both the financial market as well as electronic surveillance and hacking as key parts of the plot, which gives an anchor of believability to the story.  Coes is a talented writer and Dewey Andreas is a great action hero.  I look forward to more entries in this series.  A great summer read and a top-notch thriller.  Highly recommended.

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

Monday, July 8, 2013

Stoker's Manuscript by Royce Prouty

Stoker’s Manuscript is an interesting first novel.  Royce Prouty goes for more of the classical vampire with a gothic feel.  It doesn’t get more classical than the son of Dracula.

Prouty does a good job of creating a gothic feel to the novel.  The mood feels dark and foreboding.  The landscape itself is menacing.  The problem is that in creating the atmosphere, the book sacrifices pacing.  The first half of the novel moves very slowly.  Even the violent scenes, and some are quite violent, are written so low-key that they do not inspire a great deal of horror. The characters are well-written and interesting, but none of them are terribly charismatic.  The second half of the novel moves along more quickly and comes to a satisfying conclusion.  

The plot itself is quite interesting.  A mystery surrounding the original manuscript of Dracula that may hold clues to the location of bodies the family of Dracula would very much like found.  The clues themselves are quite clever, although the intuitive leaps to decipher them come a little bit too easily.  

Prouty is a good writer and the novel itself is well-written.  I look forward to seeing where he goes next.  If you are looking for an atmospheric thriller with a gothic feel that builds slowly to its conclusion, you’ll enjoy Stoker’s Manuscript.  3.5 stars.

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

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

The King's Deception by Steve Berry

Secret societies, british and american spies with hidden agendas, and a centuries old secret involving Henry VIII and Elizabeth I lie at the heart of The King’s Deception.  Cotton Malone is dragged unknowingly into a CIA plot to discover a secret the British government would prefer to remain secret.

This book is a lot of fun.  Part of the fun is the excellent historical detail which Steve Berry sprinkles into the story.  A generous helping of fact with some plausible speculation form the backdrop for an exciting thriller.  Cotton Malone is a great character.  He is clever, resourceful and, while not superhuman, still pretty good at handling himself in a sticky situation.  Elevating the tension here is that his son is in jeopardy, along with a british boy Malone was delivering to authorities in London.

The action moves along swiftly, aided by short passages shifting perspective among the many characters.  The backstory involving the british monarchy is perhaps the most interesting part.  The only drawback in this story was that the bad guys didn’t really seem to be all that much of a threat.  They were violent, ruthless, and arrogant, but not very competent.  Malone and others seemed credibly in danger much of the time.  They were so clearly superior to their adversaries, though,  that the threats didn’t seem all that scary.  That being said, Cotton and some of the other characters, particularly Miss Mary and her sister were very likeable.

This is a quick, fun book and a great summer read.  The historical backdrop was both informative and entertaining.  The theories behind Elizabeth I are perhaps the thing that will stick with me longest.  I look forward to reading more Cotton Malone thrillers.  Highly recommended.  3.5 stars.

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