Thursday, December 31, 2015
Currently, for the things I enjoy in fiction, videogames are just not a medium that allows for creativity. Crysis Legion does have tons of cool action, but it's mostly repetitive. Even worse, the main character has barely any character and even less agency. It's a first-person shooter, so the story is basically on rail road tracks. Watts writes it like he is an observer, which I suspect he was, probably basing the storyline on watching walkthroughs of the actual game. Worse, he relies on a few gimmicks over and over again, in paticular italicizing words constantly (really, like when describing big destruction he will do it several times in a paragraph). It gets really grating.
It has bits and pieces of Wattsian crazy science reality gussied up into science fiction and the way he describes the final exposition is pretty compelling. Also, at times you can feel Watts himself exasperated with the constraints and even poking fun at them (or at least pointing them out). It's a valiant effort, but ultimately, nobody is connected to anything going on (neither Watts nor us) and it became a real slog to get through. I have been reading this book for over two years! (and man, what a relief to get it done.)
I love the idea of real authors doing the story behind videogames (Richard Morgan was the writer for the videogame and Watts worked under him for the novel) and I hoped it made the game better. But going the other way, taking a game to make a novel out of, seems like basically cheap heroin for the Crysis addict who has already finished the game and wants more. I also hope that it made Watts a good chunk of cash so he could go on writing the books he wants to write.
Wednesday, December 30, 2015
It's the story of a young divorcee traveling by herself in Greece when through some mix-up ends up delivering a car to an unknown man in a small village near the Oracle at Delphi (which had been on her tourist wish-list). The man turns out to be a dashing British archaeologist who was also looking for the dying place of his brother, who had been killed at the end of World War 2. It takes a ton of meandering, having to do with visiting a bunch of ruins and the picturesque greek town and a bunch of random people about two-thirds of the book before we figure out that there is a solid story here. Maybe Mary Stewart wanted to do justice to a place she had visited or maybe that kind of travelogue is a big part of the sell of this genre, but it wasn't working for me. Also, there is always that weird layer of British female romance of this period where they are all weird and coy about whether they are into the guy or not, trying to always be all practical while there are constant looks and finger brushings on cheeks or backs of arms ("like a moth").
It all did tie together and the ending is actually quite intense and brutal, restoring my faith in Mary Stewart. But this one needed a tougher editor, in my opinion.
Tuesday, December 29, 2015
Play Dead is told from the perspective of Poppy Tasker, a 50-year old recent divorcée in late 80s London who has reluctantly taken on the job of nannying her grandson. She struggles with the role, feeling pegged into the role of a gran when she still has career and romantic aspirations. Despite her reluctance, she does begin to enjoy the social complexities of the other caregivers at the play group where she takes her grandson. Things get more than interesting when a man is seen creepily peeping at the children, then ends up dead–stripped naked, his genitals decorated with flowers– a few days later, in the park where the children play. There are also several other plotlines going on, involving a squat of radicals, the local election and her own romantic involvement with several men in the community.
The mystery was really quite good and complex and I enjoyed reading from the perspective of this different character, who was not happy with her situation, but never became maudlin or annoying. You slowly realized what a remarkable person she was despite her own inability to see it. Still, it was all just a tad too reflective (though some of the reflections were quite interesting) for me to be drawn in and I'll definitely continue to read Dickinson, I believe my initial hesitations were not misplaced. He is a great author, but perhaps just a tad too intelligent for a simpleton like me.
Saturday, December 26, 2015
It's a thoroughly enjoyable read, that I am guessing really captures many of the major issues of living in London today, it's massive increase in wealth, the political and social challenges of the muslim populations living there (and other immigrants) and an overheated real estate market. Lanchester treats the characters with a lot of respect and bad things happen, but never extremely so and you hope the best for all of them.
Wednesday, December 23, 2015
Saturday, December 19, 2015
It starts out intense and brutal and grabbed me right away. After that, it was the setting of Mali that kept me hooked. It's the story of a French cop of Malian origin who is forced to flee France after a revenge killing. He is now a private detective in Mali, who earned the moniker the White Leopard in the local papers, due to his detecting exploits and light skin. The story is fast-paced and relies too many times on last minute rescues (he is well-connected), but ultimately pulls together well. Really enjoyable.
Guillaume has written several thrillers in french. This one was translated by lefrenchbooks, a line that sources out good french genre books and translates them into english. If White Leopard is any indication, this looks like a line worth keeping an eye on.