May 4th, 2007

Reading List 2007 (9/110)

This week’s reading:

The Empty Chair, Jeffrey Deaver
The Stone Monkey, Jeffrey Deaver
The Vanished Man, Jeffrey Deaver
Twisted, Jeffrey Deaver
Adverbs, Daniel Handler
The Necropolis Railway, Andrew Martin
The Hard Way, Lee Child
Sunstroke, Jesse Kellerman
Titan, Ben Bova

A couple of big frustrations this week. First, I hate, abominate and despise reading books in a series out of order - and only now that I’m halfway through it do I realize that Titan is tenth in a series. Tenth! I may have to poke out my own eyes! It’s even more frustrating because I really like the book, much more so than most hard sci-fi. It’s well-written, the characters are believable, and the tensions and conflicts don’t have a predictable ending (Geeky Yet Rugged White Male Scientist Does Heroic Thing, Saves Day). So, bah. But at least now Ben Bova’s going to get a lot more of my money.

The second big disappointment was The Necropolis Railway; with a title like that I was expecting, well, plot. Instead it was apparently random events with a wholly unlikeable protagonist who’s obsessed with, yes, trains. There was a lot of potential here, but the author sacrificed interest to atmosphere (and even that, only partially successfully).

The biggest disappointment, though, was the Handler book. This is the guy who wrote the Lemony Snicket books, so you’d think that his adult collection of short stories would be piercing, witty, mordant, satirical or at least readable. Right? Yeah. And now I’m out $12.99. These stories range from unreadable to uninteresting, with a couple managing to achieve actual mediocrity. He tries to blend magical realism with realistic vignettes in the form of a linked series of short stories, but it comes out as unreadable mush. Perhaps he should stop trying to write about love? Or maybe he should stick to the proto-gothic form he’s so clearly good at, instead of trying to shove his formidable talent into an avenue that doesn’t suit him just so that he can be shelved in the adult section of the store.

The rest of the reading week was exactly what I needed it to be: light but engaging, so that when I finally could take a break from finals and grading I could practically disappear into another world. The Deaver was generally good; he does a great job of giving his forensic inspector challenges that don’t amount to YYASK (Yawn, Yet Another Serial Killer), and his short stories were punchy and clever. Sunstroke read like Chandler by way of Fuentes, even if I found the ending a bit of a letdown given the excellent twists and turns along the way.

Finally, I’m shamefully addicted to Lee Child’s work. His protagonist is totally implausible - the bad-ass lone wolf ex-military guy that every role-player creates, sooner or later - but he manages to make the situations so interesting that it absolutely works. I’m personally tracking the ways that a guy who carries nothing but cash, a toothbrush and his passport gets along in our society. It’s a hell of a lot of fun.

It’s almost Shabbat here, folks, so Shabbat Shalom, and happy reading! Next time I write a post like this, I’ll be done with finals, done with grading, and a much happier woman!