CYBORGS JUST WANNA HAVE FUN: ALL SYSTEMS RED

You probably think you’ve heard this one before: a cyborg is attached to a mission of explorers on a distant planet, and the cyborg has detached itself from the governor that’s supposed to make it an obedient servant of the corporation that’s supplied the expedition, and there’s something not quite right about the expedition and the planet.  Sounds like the plot of many science fiction movies and stories, right?

all systems red

That’s sort of the premise of Martha Wells’ All Systems Red, but I can assure you, you have NOT seen this story before, certainly not with these characters.

 

All Systems Red is narrated by the self-named Murderbot, the self-aware cyborg that was originally supposed to be a security bot with (as it notes) limited education and controls from the Central Hub that keep it behaving in appropriate ways.  Murderbot has, before the beginning of the novella, hacked into the controls and disabled its governor, unbeknownst to the people for whom it’s supposed to be working.  

 

However, Murderbot doesn’t particularly want to destroy the humans it’s working with. It mostly wants to do its job, or the least amount of its job it can possibly get away with (which means not reading all the introductory information sent to it explaining what this mission is all about), keeping away from awkward interactions with humans, and absorbing as much of the downloaded entertainment it can (it is very fond of a particular serial, which seems to have hundreds of episodes and is a sort of soap opera in space).  Is that too much to ask?

 

Well, apparently so, because it turns out that there’s danger afoot on the planet, and Murderbot has an obligation to keep its humans alive.  Not, it would assure the reader, because it cares about those humans, but because otherwise it would get into more trouble if it let them go and get killed.

 

This is a novella, not a full-scale novel, so (a) it’s a really quick read, and (b) there isn’t as much world-building and character development as you’d be able to get in a novel.  However, Murderbot is such a great narrator, funny in a dry way and sweetly awkward around humans (and the humans it’s with are, for the most part, lovable in their own ways as well), the book is a great read, and I was delighted to see that this is going to be the first in a series. I, for one, will look forward to spending more time with Murderbot and whatever other humans it finds itself with.

HONEY, I BROKE THE TIMELINE: ALL OUR WRONG TODAYS

This is the second in what may turn out to be a continuing series of review posts following up on preview posts, and just because the first one (and this one) have to do with time travel books, don’t worry, I won’t be limiting myself to time travel books in the future.

all our wrong todays

Back in February of this year, I wrote a preview of All Our Wrong Todays, by Elan Mastai (see WHICH 2016 DO YOU WANT: ALL OUR WRONG TODAYS ), a book in which our protagonist comes from one version of 2016 and ends up in another version, which turns out to be our 2016, which to him seems like a dystopia.  When I wrote the preview, I thought the premise was intriguing and different, but, as always, what the previews tell you about a book is not enough to give you a real feel for the book itself.

 

In this case, intriguing as the premise was, the book was much better.  The preview, and the jacket copy, fail to give you a sense of how rich and funny the book is, how enjoyable the voice of the main character is, and how the author manages to jump from humor to sorrow in a virtual blink of an eye, not to mention how the characters change but remain recognizable from one version of the future to the other.

 

What I really liked about the book was the narrator/protagonist, Tom Barren. In the reality in which he was born, he was the son of a genius scientist father and a miserable, self-sabotaging mother.  His father’s major project, to which he’d dedicated his whole life and all his brilliance, was time travel.  Considering that in this world there’s no energy shortage, no pollution, no imbalance of wealth, no war, where everybody more or less works in laboratories of one kind or another, what else is left to conquer but time itself?  Tom’s father may be incredibly brilliant, but he’s a complete jerk of a father, the sort who pays attention to no one but himself and his work, not even noticing all his wife does for him until she’s killed in a freak accident.  Possibly because of his odd family situation, Tom always feels out of place, a loser, a stranger to the wonders of his world, which colors the way he tells his story (with a wry sense of humor that led me to laugh out loud more than once, especially in the early stages of the book).  His mother’s death unmoors him totally, and his father, in an effort to get Tom out of his hair (more or less), gives him a job as an alternate chrononaut in the time travel project.  This brings Tom into contact with Penelope, the almost perfect young woman who would have been an astronaut except for a tragic flaw and who is now going to be the first time traveler in history.

 

Except that, thanks to Tom, that doesn’t happen, and he ends up going back in time himself, which is actually the cause of the splitting of the timelines.  I’m not going to describe how this happens (the twists and turns are part of the fun), but it feels perfectly reasonable when you’re reading it.

 

He wakes up in our 2016, where everything is different, not just the world itself (and it’s fun to see our world which we take for granted through Tom’s eyes), but Tom’s immediate world, his professor father and professor mother, and his sarcastic sister who didn’t even exist in his original reality.  It turns out that Penelope also exists in this reality, though she, too, is very different from the driven woman he knew in his 2016.  Here, he’s a famous, successful architect (building things that would have existed in his original reality), kind of a jerk with women, but otherwise doing well and well-adjusted to the reality he lives in.

 

For various reasons (and again, I wouldn’t dream of spoiling your fun by explaining them, because they are not what you would expect in a time travel novel), Tom sets out to find the genius who set his world on its path, and who he stopped from doing the same in this world, and when he finds the man, that’s when the really fun paradoxes and mind twisters come in.

 

It’s entertaining, it’s mind-boggling in a good way, and the characters are terrific.  It’s a fast read (you have to keep reading to find out what’s going to happen next, because you can’t imagine where it’s going) and a wonderful one.  You don’t have to be a science fiction fan to enjoy this book: give it a try and see for yourself.

BESTSELLERS FOR THE BEGINNING OF SUMMER

Yes, I know, technically it’s not summer until June 21, but for most people, summer begins with Memorial Day weekend and ends with Labor Day weekend, so we can consider ourselves to be standing on the verge of summer, ready to dive into some good books for summer.  And our bestselling authors are happy to oblige, releasing new books just in time for the beginning of the new season, so come to The Field Library and get the hot new books first.

gwendy's button box

When you’re talking about bestsellers, one name that comes up all the time is Stephen King’s, and no wonder: practically everything he writes leaps to the top of the bestseller lists.  Gwendy’s Button Box, his newest book, co-authored with Richard Chizmar, will almost certainly do the same.  Unlike many of King’s recent books, though, this is a novella, and a short one, so you can probably read it in a day or two.  King and Chizmar take readers back to Castle Rock, location of many of King’s works, and bring onstage one of King’s most famous and feared characters, the man in black, here calling himself Richard Farris, to offer a deceptively simple offer to the title character, Gwendy Peterson, an overweight middle school student trying to remake herself.  He gives her a box with buttons she can press and levers she can pull, all of which do different things, including a black button that could destroy the world.  He asks her to take care of the box and then he leaves, and the rest of the story turns on what she does — and doesn’t do — with the box and its powerful buttons and levers. With great power comes great responsibility, and be careful what you wish for.

nighthawk

But if creepy Stephen King style novellas aren’t your style, don’t worry.  Clive Cussler has a new volume in his NUMA series, Nighthawk, coming out on May 30.  The plot revolves around a missing U.S. military aircraft, one of the most advanced in the world, which disappears suddenly.  Naturally there are other countries which are very interested to get their hands on the aircraft and its technology, which is (naturally) highly classified, and the Russian and Chinese interest in the disappeared plane would be worrying enough, but they don’t even know the most dangerous secret about the plane: it’s carrying some exotic material extracted from the far reaches of the atmosphere, which will remain inert as long as the stuff is kept close to absolute zero. If it thaws, however, it will unleash a worldwide disaster of unthinkable proportions. The entire NUMA team is chasing down the plane, racing against time as well as against their enemies.  A suspenseful page-turner in the classic Clive Cussler fashion.

come sundown

Not interested in reading about the potential for worldwide destruction?  Then maybe you’d like to read Nora Roberts’ new book, Come Sundown. The book is set in a 30,000 acre ranch and resort in western Montana, owned for generations by the family of Bodine Longfellow. Bo’s aunt, Alice, disappeared years before and everybody has been assuming she’s dead, but she’s not; she’s close by, though not at all the same person she was when the family saw her last.  First a bartender and then another woman are found murdered, and then Alice reappears on the ranch property, with a story about where she’s been and what happened to her, and what trouble is following after her, that unnerves everybody in the family and sets the stage for greater danger than Bo has ever had to face before.  A master of romantic suspense at the top of her form, Nora Roberts delivers another blockbuster for her fans.

 

KOREA, DINOSAURS, TIME TRAVEL AND TUDORS: NEW HISTORICAL FICTION AT THE FIELD

This month we have a great breadth of new historical fiction, ranging in location from Korea to the American West to Siena, Italy, to England, and ranging in time from the 14th century through the 1950’s, so whatever your taste in history, we’ve probably got you covered.

the scribe of siena

There probably are purists who turn up their noses at the device in which a person from the present travels through time to a point in the past, though there’s no reason for snobbery.  Many excellent historical novels (Anya Seton’s Green Darkness, Jack Finney’s Time and Again, Diana Gabaldon’s entire Outlander series, to name a few) have used that device to fine effect. The Scribe of Siena by Melodie Winawer, starts in the present but then brings its main character back to 14th century Siena, where most of the story is set. Beatrice Trovato is a brilliant neurosurgeon who’s starting to crack under the pressure of her own empathy when her brother dies unexpectedly, and she travels to Siena, Italy, to resolve his estate and deal with her grief.  She discovers evidence of a 700 year old puzzle, a possible conspiracy to destroy the city of Siena.  One of the central figures in the plot is Gabriel Accorsi, an artist, and as Beatrice sees her own face in one of his paintings, she’s transported back in time to Siena in 1347, just before the Plague hits and devastates the city.  When she actually meets Accorsi, she falls in love with him and with the world in which he lives.  Now it becomes even more essential for her to find out who’s behind the plot to destroy the city, in the shadow of the oncoming Black Death.

anne boleyn a king's obsession

Alison Weir is an expert in the ins and outs of medieval England, so when she writes about the Tudors, you know you’re in good hands.  Her newest book, Anne Boleyn: A King’s Obsession, part of her Six Tudor Queens series, takes us into the world of a famous (or infamous) woman who changed the course of history.  Anne’s family was noble and ambitious; she knew from a very young age that she would be a pawn in their schemes for power.  However, she saw how Henry VIII used and discarded Mary, her older sister, after he’d taken Mary as his mistress, and when Henry turned his attentions to her, she had no desire to follow in her sister’s footsteps.  She refused to be Henry’s mistress and insisted on his divorcing his queen, Katherine, and marrying her instead.  Was she a heartless monster who didn’t care about anything other than the fulfillment of her ambitions, or was she instead an intelligent woman, ahead of her time, doing her best to survive in dangerous circumstances?  There have been many portraits of Anne (check out Wolf Hall  and Bring Up the Bodies, by Hilary Mantel, for a start), but if you’re at all interested in the Tudor era, you owe it to yourself to check out Alison Weir’s version in Anne Boleyn: A King’s Obsession.

dragon teeth

The late Michael Crichton and a previously undiscovered book concerning dinosaurs?  Sounds like a recipe for a wild read, and Dragon Teeth promises to be a wild read.  Unlike Jurassic Park and its sequels, this one is based on real history, and covers an amazing period in scientific history, the late 1870’s in the Western United States, known as the Bone Wars, when two of the major paleontologists of the 19th century crisscrossed the West in search of dinosaur fossils, each one trying to outdo the other.  The Wild West was still pretty wild during this time, the Indian Wars still underway and frequent gold rushes adding to the lawlessness of the frontier.  Not, you would think, the sort of place for an effete and arrogant Yale college student to be looking for work, but William Johnson lands a job with Othniel Charles Marsh to fulfill a bet and then finds himself in more trouble than he expected. Marsh is paranoid about his rival, Edwin Drinker Cope, and when he decides that William is secretly working for Cope, he abandons William out in the middle of Cheyenne, Wyoming, a scary place.  William finds Cope for real and joins his expedition, making a major discovery of historic proportions.  Naturally (this is a Crichton book, after all) this puts William in great danger from some of the most notorious characters of the Old West.  Crichton clearly did a lot of research into a historical period that’s full of fascinating characters and situations, and he applied his brand of bestseller page-turner writing to produce a historical novel that’s sure to be a hit.

the frozen hours

Anyone can name famous novels from most of America’s wars, with the exception of the Korean War, which doesn’t seem to have found its version of Michael Shaara’s The Killer Angels or Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried or Joseph Heller’s Catch-22.  Now Jeff Shaara, son of Michael, is trying to remedy that lack with his new book, The Frozen Hours, which focuses on one particularly terrible battle in the Korean War, the battle of Chosin Peninsula in November, 1950. The American forces were caught completely off guard by both the brutal winter weather and the Chinese forces that surrounded them on the Chosin Peninsula, outnumbered by 6 to 1 and in danger of annihilation. Shaara takes us inside the people caught in the middle of this nightmarish situation: the commanding general of the American forces, a Marine veteran of WWII facing the battle of his life, and the Chinese commander, always aware that his actions are being watched (and judged) by Chairman Mao Tse-Tung, who does not tolerate failure.  If you want to know more about the Korean War than you learned from watching seasons of M*A*S*H*, The Frozen Hours is a great place to start.

 

 

CROOKED HEART: THE NEXT BOOK GROUP READ

The next book we’re reading at the Field Notes Book Group, on June 24, 2017, is Crooked Heart by Lissa Evans.  It’s a novel set during the Blitz in World War II London and the surrounding area.

crooked heart

Noel Bostock, our protagonist (one of our protagonists), is a unique young man.  He’s ten years old, an orphan, brought up by his godmother, a former suffragist (with the pins and the scars to prove it), who had fairly liberal and unconventional ideas for how he should be raised, which included opposition to all wars and a refusal to send him away from London during the Blitz.  As a result of his unusual upbringing, Noel doesn’t really fit in with anyone, peers or older people. This proves to be a problem when he is evacuated with all the rest of his school to the suburbs west of London.  While other kids are snapped up by willing host families, he ends up one of the last to be chosen, by one Vera Sedge, a thirty-something widow in difficult circumstances.

 

Vera’s quite a character, too: she’s always in desperate need of money, and she’s not too careful about what she’s willing to do to get it.  She’d be a grifter if she could; she certainly tries to be one, but she’s too nervous and too bad at planning and reading people to con people with any success.  She’s living with her mother and her son, neither of whom is any help to her, and at first she figures the last thing she needs is this peculiar evacuee.

 

But Noel turns out to have some of the qualities Vee is lacking, and when the two of them find their rhythm, they’re quite a successful team, though with some quirks.

 

Imagine Paper Moon set during the Blitz, with the genders reversed, and you’re beginning to get a sense of what the book is like.  The characters are vivid and believable (with all their oddities), and the setting is so realistically depicted that you feel as if you’re there, behind the blackout curtains, huddled in bomb shelters or wandering through a darkened and damaged landscape.  It’s a quick read, and will lead to interesting discussions.

 

Come and join us at 11:00 a.m. (through 12:30 p.m.) on Saturday, June 24, at the Field Library Gallery, for discussion and coffee and donuts.  Copies of the book will be available at the Circulation Desk by Memorial Day.

WHY I LOVE HARRY HOLE — THANKS, JO NESBO

Why do I love Jo Nesbo’s Harry Hole novels so much?  Why, when I first learned that his latest book in the series, The Thirst, was coming out in May, did I jump up and down and squee with delight, putting it on hold so fast your head would spin?

 

Part of the reason is that I have read every other book in the series, starting with the first one translated into English, The Redbreast (I read the first two books written in the series when they were translated, six years after their original publication in Norwegian), and continuing breathlessly through Police in 2013.  I’ve been waiting four years for this latest book, when all the previous books in the series came out annually.

 

But that’s not really an answer, is it?  Something made me fall for the series so that I leaped at each new installment, even knowing (as I certainly did after a couple of the books) that they would be incredibly dark and creepy (which they are) and increasingly violent (reaching a near climax in terms of graphic brutality in The Leopard, which I would not recommend for anyone with delicate sensibilities or a weak stomach).

 

It’s the writing, certainly: Jo Nesbo knows how to tell a story, how to set a plot in motion, how to surprise a reader (and even though there are certain tricks he uses frequently over the course of the series, I still fall for them every time, because he handles them so well), how to ratchet up suspense.  There is a point in every one of his books that I’ve read, usually at the ¾ or ⅚ point, where the plot is racing headlong to the climax and I am unable to put the book down until I finish it.  

 

He’s also excellent at creating memorable characters, good and bad (and he’s used that skill more than once to make me care about a character he casually kills off a few chapters, or a couple of books, later).  While (now former) Inspector Harry Hole is the central character of the series (and what a character he is!), there are plenty of returning characters who just gain more depth and detail over time, complex and flawed, starting with Rakel, the love of Harry’s life, Oleg, her son, and continuing with characters like Harry’s friend, Stelle Aune; a fellow police officer, Bjorn Holm; his former supervisor, Gunnar Hagen, and others.  

 

Harry isn’t just the classic noir detective, always at odds with his superiors, a drinker and smoker, though he is all of those things.  He’s complicated, battling his alcoholism even as sometimes (as in The Thirst) he falls off the wagon spectacularly.  His past is full of losses and deaths, and his specialty of serial killers has given him insight into the worst people can do to each other.  He’s brilliant but makes bad mistakes often enough to make him human, and one of the things I admire about him as a character is his ability to keep going after he’s made a serious mistake in an investigation, as well as his ability to put his life and safety on the line when it really counts (usually in the final stages of the pursuit of a killer).  Harry has been damaged, over the course of the series, physically and emotionally, and I like that in a main character, too: the acknowledgment that when horrible things happen, you don’t just bounce back without a scratch; you carry scars of one sort or another.

 

So if you’re interested in a great, engrossing series of Norwegian crime novels, very dark but fascinating, with a cast of unforgettable characters and twisting plots that keep you turning the pages compulsively, check out Jo Nesbo’s Harry Hole novels.  You can start with The Redbreast, which was the first one translated into English, or you can start with the first book in the series, The Bat, but I would definitely recommend reading the books in order, to revel in the development of the characters, the vividness of the world of Oslo and environs in which the books take place, and the thrills of the detection of crime and the chase.

 

OTHELLO IN MIDDLE SCHOOL: THE NEW BOY

We’ve been following with interest the Hogarth Shakespeare series, in which modern writers write their own versions of famous Shakespeare plays, things like Anne Tyler’s Vinegar Girl (a retelling of The Taming of the Shrew), and Margaret Atwood’s Hag Seed (a retelling of The Tempest), like The Gap of Time by Jeanette Winterson (The WInter’s Tale), and Shylock Is My Name by Harold Jacobson (The Merchant of Venice). There’s something piquant about placing the basic plot or concept of a Shakespeare classic in a modern world context, and sometimes it can reveal a great deal about the author and the original play (I personally can’t wait until Jo Nesbo’s take on Macbeth comes out in 2018).

NEW BOY

The latest addition to the series is a version of Othello as written by Tracy Chevalier, called New Boy.  She takes the twisted story of jealousy and racism and deception from the original and sets it over the course of one day at a Washington, D.C. suburban middle school in the 1970’s. Sound intriguing?  

 

Osei, known as O, is the 11 year old son of a diplomat and a veteran of many different schools.  As the perpetual new kid, he knows what he has to do in order to fit in to a new place, and he’s lucky enough (he thinks) to win the affections of Dee, the golden girl at his new school on his first day there.  However, Ian, another boy in the same class, is furious to see Dee give her affections to O, who’s not only new (and athletic) but also black, and sets out to destroy the relationship between Dee and O, no matter what the cost, to himself, to Dee, to O, to anyone.  Is the outcome as terrible and mortal as in Othello?  You’ll have to read to find out.

 

THE BOOKS OF SUMMER: TIME TO ANTICIPATE!

It’s May, the weather is just starting to change to late spring and the first hints of the heat and humidity of summer are in the air, so of course it’s a perfect time to start reading the new summer books at The Field Library.  Can’t get to the beach yet?  Dreaming of going to the beach?  Sate your need for sea and sand and all the drama of summer by checking out these new summer reads, available now.

the forever summer

What happens when you discover that everything you believed about your life was wrong, and you find yourself on Cape Cod with family you’ve never met before?  That’s the premise of Jamie Brenner’s new book, The Forever Summer.  Good girl Marin Bishop has always done what she was supposed to do, and it seemed as if it was working out: she had a great job, a fiance, and the hard-won admiration of her father, but then it all fell apart. Reeling from the loss of her job and fiancee, she meets a woman claiming to be her half sister, and finds herself on a road trip with this woman to meet the grandmother she didn’t know existed.  As Marin spends the summer in her grandmother’s B&B on the Cape, she discovers more and more truths about her family, her life, and where she’s going next.

same beach next year

Dorothea Benton Frank is a past master at bringing summer to life, and her latest South Carolina Lowcountry book showcases her magic.  Same Beach, Next Year is set on the Isle of Palms, one of South Carolina’s beautiful barrier islands.  It happens that two former sweethearts and their new spouses run into each other there, and at first there’s rekindling of old flames, flares of jealousy from new spouses and all the sort of drama you’d expect from a situation like that, but as the two couples return, year after year, to the same condominium complex, their relationships change and deepen.  Their friendships nurtured in this beautiful summer setting have to see them through life changes great and small, as the years and the summers pass.

secrets in summer

Nantucket is the setting for so many of Nancy Thayer’s bestselling summer reads, and once again it’s the scene of her newest book, Secrets of Summer.  Darcy Cotterill is a year round resident of Nantucket, living in the same home she grew up in and inherited from her grandmother, and she looks forward every year to Memorial Day and the beginning of the vacation season.  This year, however, she’s surprised to see her ex-husband, Boyz, renting the house next door with his wife and step daughter, and she’s even more surprised as she’s drawn into his life and concerns again.  Not that she’s just focused on him: there’s her relationship with a local carpenter to navigate, and her attraction to a new musicologist staying on the island, and her growing connections with a charming elderly neighbor, a teenager in trouble, and even her ex-husband’s new wife.  By the end of the summer she has to decide whether to stay with the comfort of her island life, or to take a chance on finding true happiness elsewhere.

 

REIGNING CATS AND DOGS: A DOG’S WAY HOME AND MOLLY AND THE CAT CAFE

Why should people have all the books written about them?  Just because people are the ones writing the books, that doesn’t mean every dog — and cat — shouldn’t have his or her day in literature, and there are two new books at The Field Library that give dogs and cats pride of place as protagonists and prime movers in novels. 

a dog's way home

Bruce Cameron is practically making a living writing about and from the point of view of dogs.  His earlier book, A Dog’s Purpose, was a bestseller and has been made into a major motion picture, and was followed by A Dog’s Journey and The Dogs of Christmas and his new book, A Dog’s Way Home.  Bella, the pit bull protagonist of this book, is a puppy who finds her person, Lucas, when she jumps into his arms from out of an abandoned building. She doesn’t understand why she’s not allowed to bark in her new home or why Lucas is trying to pretend she doesn’t really live there.  She loves going with him to his work at the local VA hospital, where she brings comfort and joy to the patients who need her.  However, her happy life is changed when she’s picked up by Animal Control because the city of Denver, where she lives with Lucas, has a rule against pit bulls.  Lucas tries to do the right thing by sending her temporarily to a foster home, but Bella has other ideas.  She wants to go back to her person and go back she does, over four hundred miles of Colorado wilderness, a journey that should be impossible but turns out to be an unforgettable adventure for all concerned.

molly and the cat cafe

Of course, not everybody is a dog person, and for the cat lovers out there (like me!), we have Melissa Daley’s Molly and the Cat Cafe.  Molly, a tabby cat, had a perfectly good life until her beloved owner died, leaving her to be re-homed with a household containing three cat-hating dogs.  Sure she can do better than this, two year old Molly sets out to find a good home.  The search is not going well until she finds Debbie, the warm-hearted single mother who owns a local cafe.  Debbie is struggling to make the cafe work and take care of her daughter, which becomes more difficult when a local troublemaker reports her to the board of health for having a cat in her restaurant.  Will she have to choose between Molly and her business, or is there a way Debbie and Molly can create the first Cat Cafe in the area?  Well, I’ve already told you I’m a cat lover, so you have reason to suspect this is not going to end badly for Molly, but if you’re in the mood for a heartwarming story about cats and their people, check out Molly and the Cat Cafe.

 

KEEP THAT PULSE POUNDING: NEW THRILLERS AT THE FIELD

Are you ready for a good, pulse-pounding thriller that will keep you turning the pages even after you’ve told yourself you really need to be doing something else (something unnecessary, like cooking dinner or going to bed, or going to work)?  That’s great, because The Field Library has some new thrillers that will give you that kind of fun and exciting reading experience.

full wolf moon

If you like a little paranormal with your mysteries and thrillers, why not take a look at Full Wolf Moon, by Lincoln Child?  Jeremy Logan, the protagonist, bills himself as an “enigmalogist”, a man who’s willing to consider nothing too weird or outlandish to investigate.  In this book, he’s at a remote writer’s retreat in the Adirondacks, hoping to finish his book at long last.  Now, anyone who’s ever seen a horror movie or read a horror book (or a good serial killer type book) knows this is a mistake: isolated group of more or less strangers, out in the middle of nowhere, you’re practically guaranteed to have something terrible start happening to them.  And so it is here: a dead hiker is found on a nearby mountain (named Desolation Mountain, because we want to make sure you know the place is going to be scary), mauled and mutilated beyond what one would expect even for an attack by a wild bear.  Logan begins investigating, discovering, as one does, that there are many people who might have been capable of the murder, and finding more and more evidence that the real culprit might be someone, or something, more horrible than anything he’s ever encountered before.  A book to read in the middle of the night, on a camping trip, by flashlight.

g-man cover

Or what about a little history with your modern day thriller?  The new book, G-Man, by Stephen Hunter, snaps back and forth between the present time and the 1930’s.  In the era of gangsters and rumrunners, Lester Gillis, better known as Baby Face Nelson, was one of the most feared and dangerous, and the fledgling FBI (then known as the U. S. Division of Investigation) chose one Charles Swagger, World War I veteran and known as the most skillful gunmen of the time, to catch Nelson.  Eighty years later, Swagger’s grandson, Bob Lee Swagger, is selling the family homestead and finds some odd mementoes hidden there, things relating to his grandfather’s time chasing gangsters.  Bob Lee knows very little about his grandfather, who died before he was born, and about whom his father seldom if ever spoke. Trying to find out what those items mean and what his grandfather was really doing, Bob Lee comes to realize that someone else is also obsessed with the significance of Charles Swagger’s mementoes.  Between Bob Lee’s hunt for his grandfather’s past and the story of Charles’ Swagger’s hunt for Baby Face Nelson, the tension rises inexorably.

price of duty

I’m not going to say that a particular thriller has been ripped from today’s headlines, but I will say that Dan Brown’s newest book, Price of Duty, seems disturbingly prescient in light of recent cyberevents.  The Russian President has been developing a devastating program of cyber warfare against America and the West, and now he has chosen to deploy it, first striking Warsaw, Poland, and wiping out nearly all banking records in the country, walloping the country’s banking system and striking fear throughout the west.  That’s just the beginning, a sample of what this malware is able to do: a hijacking of a commercial airliner, an attack on Europe’s power grid, and worse.  When the American President is unable to do anything to stop this attack, Brad McLanahan and his group of Scion warriors are thrown into the breach, with all the high tech weaponry the country has been able to develop.  Will it be enough to stop the Russians before the West is destroyed?  And even if it is, what will the cost of this kind of warfare be?

exit strategy

Who do you root for when everybody seems to be a bad guy?  That’s part of the problem in Exit Strategy, by Steve Hamilton.  Nick Mason, the protagonist, owes his life to a really dangerous gangster (as you’d know if you read the previous book, The Second Life of Nick Mason).  In an effort to break free of the crime lord who controls him, Nick takes on an almost impossible task: to find the three witnesses who are going to testify against the crime lord (Darius Cole), and kill them.  Which would be difficult in any event but is even more complicated because, owing to Cole’s infamy and the government’s deep desire to keep this man locked up forever, the witnesses are in deep protection, well-hidden and locked down 24-7.  As Mason races against the clock to find and kill these people, things get even more complicated.  One of those witnesses, the man whom Mason is replacing as Cole’s go-to assassin, has broken out of the witness protection program and is coming after Mason himself.  This isn’t really cat and mouse; it’s more like lion and saber tooth, the tension cranked up to 11.

 

You don’t really need to eat or sleep, do you?  Of course not.  Come in and get some thrilling reads to replace that nonessential stuff.