Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Parasite by Mira Grant

Parasite really ups the creep factor with a slow building sense of dread.  Mira Grant takes current medical technology and moves it into the near future in an all too believable direction.  Much like she did in Feed and the wonderful Newsflesh trilogy, she has created an all too believable world.  Instead of zombies, the world of Parasite is one where genetically engineered tapeworms are voluntarily implanted in virtually everyone to regulate our bodies and cure everything from allergies to diabetes.

We live in a world where we hear about antibiotic resistant bacteria and children and adults being so isolated from germs that they don’t build up tolerance for them.  It’s very easy to believe that a medical industry that promises relief from this as well as better overall health and a freedom from pills and shots in the form of a tapeworm would be welcomed with open arms.  It’s even easier to believe that a company that gets rich off this development will go to almost any lengths to protect its investment.

The heroine of the novel is Sal (Sally) who awoke unexpectedly from a coma, her body repaired -- thanks to her tapeworm, but her memory lost and her personality changed.  She is both grateful and mistrustful of the company that is responsible for saving her.  She chafes at her dependence on them and their desire to not only monitor her health but to study her.  She loves her family even as they both care for her and mourn the person she used to be before the coma.  

Grant does a great job of building sympathetic characters, as well as characters whose surface politeness makes you question their real motives.  Where she really shines though is in the creation of absolute terror from her depiction of the sleepwalkers.  Ordinary people who without warning shut down and seem to vacate their bodies.  Sal’s encounter with this, first in a crowded mall and later on a sidewalk with a man walking his dog are absolutely chilling in the sense of fear and dread they create.  

Sal’s fragility is a little annoying at times, but her desire to find answers is the driving force of this novel.  The tension mounts steadily as Sal gets closer to the answers.  The main mystery is pretty much understood by the end of the book, but the implications and resolution are left for the next book in the series.  One I’m very much looking forward to.  Highly recommended.

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

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Razor's Edge: Star Wars (Empire and Rebellion) by Martha Wells

It’s a tall task to take iconic characters and weave them into a story of your own invention.  Martha Wells does this very successfully in Razor’s Edge:  Star Wars (Empire and Rebellion). Her task is made all the more difficult by the setting, which takes place shortly after the events in the original Star Wars, pegging the personalities of Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, Princess Leia and Chewbacca as very close to how they were portrayed in the movie.  

The characters and their interactions felt very authentic.  The plot involves a meeting at the out of the way location that gets derailed when Leia runs into a pirate attack led by a ship from her destroyed homeworld of Alderaan.  Leia and Han wind up on the Alderaanian ship headed toward a pirate base on an abandoned asteroid mine.  Leia must try to protect the Alderaanians, convince them to join the rebellion, rescue hostages from a captured freighter, defeat the sinister pirate leader, complete her mission and do it all before the Empire shows up.  Luke and Chewy are left to catch up and try to bail out their captured comrades.

This story was a lot of fun.  The pirate base on the abandoned asteroid mine was a fascinating and vividly described setting.  The characters, both familiar and new, were interesting and complicated.  The battles and fight scenes were wonderfully depicted and ratcheted up in intensity as the plot moved along with rising stakes at each step of the way.  I’ve long been a fan of Martha Wells and she certainly doesn’t disappoint here.  The Star Wars universe is incredibly vast with plenty of room for stories to tell.  Wells proves that there is plenty of fertile territory left to explore.  Both casual and die hard Star Wars fans will enjoy this story.  Highly recommended.

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


Never Go Back, by Lee Child

It’s impressive that a character can feel so fresh this long into a series, but Jack Reacher is as dynamic as ever and Lee Child continues to churn out exciting action thrillers.  Never Go Back starts with Jack Reacher letting his curiosity about the sound of a woman’s voice at the other end of a phone conversation lead him back to 110th Military Police Unit he used to command.  He winds up called back to active duty just to be charged with homicide and accused of having a daughter he didn’t know about.

Reacher finds the woman he came to meet and ends up leading the military, the FBI and a group of shadowy government operatives on a chase from the east coast, to the west coast and back again.  The strength of these books is Jack Reacher, and Never Go Back is no different.  Reacher is intelligent, clever, a skilled fighter and always as cool as a cucumber.  He is a dynamic character and his magnetism leaps off the page.  

Child skillfully plays out the clues that lead you and the characters from one conclusion to another and take you from one action scene to the next.  Reacher acknowledges the role that chance plays when you have limited options and confidently follows his decisions.  The fights in this book are as good as it gets.  The stakes are highly personal and though they have some international implications, it’s not an end of the world situation.  These sort of stakes only work if you care about the characters, and Lee Child makes sure that you always do.  This is a great book for anyone who likes strong action heroes and should appeal both to newcomers as well as long-time fans.  Highly recommended.

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