Sunday, November 25, 2007

Read: "Engaging the Enemy" by Elizabeth Moon

Read: "Engaging the Enemy" by Elizabeth Moon, 2006, 0345447565.

Fairly decent but ultimately unfilling. I'm not sure what Science Fiction sub-genre Engaging fits into but Moon wrote a good book. The problem is that I don't like sci-fi series. The stories never seems to get anywhere. I dislike reading seven books to finish a story and dealing with constant referrals to previous entries in a series that I did not read. The next novel in the series is on the shelf so there is a good chance I will try it.

Moon does not suffer too much from Sci-Fi Bloat. The novel is 400 pages but Moon doesn't get carried away creating goofy names and intricate foreign cultures. No aliens or annoying crackpot philosophy. I liked that.

Ky Vatta is one of the few survivors of the Vatta Transport Co. Vatta was an old, very successful, family owned, interstellar cargo carrier. Pirates attacked the Vatta headquarters with the collusion of government authorities and killed off most of the family. At this point Ky has taken over a pirate ship and is manuevering literally and figuratively to rebuild the company and assemble an armed merchant fleet to battle the pirates.

Moon solidly and believably creates Ky's legal, financial, and familial difficulties. Ky has to contend with several jurisdictions and ships over the vast distances of space without real-time communication - said communication being knocked out by coordinated pirate attacks. The parallel plot line of an elderly aunt trying to uncover the people behind the pirate conspiracy takes a backseat to the action in space.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Read: "Cripple Creek" by James Sallis

Read: Cripple Creek by James Sallis, 2006, 0802733824.

Good, well written. Sallis wastes no words. There was no padding in 192 pages. This is at least the second novel with this character, I once tried to read the first one but lost interest and quit.

Sallis does not give a lot of description and does not dwell on characters and locations. I had to go back several times to reference things and the flashbacks begin without notice. Sallis also does not go into detailed histories of his characters, he gives just enough to explain some things and wonder about the rest. That's fine.

Turner is a former Memphis cop, ex-con (shot his partner in Memphis), and mental health counselor. Turner landed in small town Tennessee and was kindly pressured into helping the local cops with a case. Turner is now a regular deputy after turning down the Sheriff position. I'm not sure how a former ex-con (11 years in prison) is supposed to be eligible for police work.

A mobster from Memphis is busted for drunk driving, the current Sheriff and secretary are busted up as the mobster is busted out of jail, and Turner goes after the bad dudes. The bad dudes and the resulting hit men after Turner are a small part of the story. Sallis does not delve into the sleuthing, planning, details on guns, breaking into a mobster's house, or fistfights. The events are told with a real economy of language.

Mostly this is about Turner, his girlfriend, and his suddenly appearing, long-lost daughter. Not to mention his friends in town and his ongoing adjustments to being a cop again and getting old.

EDIT, 6 June 2011: This novel always reminds of the flick One False Move and Bill Paxton's sincere but unskilled sheriff.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Read: "The Follower" by Jason Starr

Read: The Follower by Jason Starr, 2007, 9780312359744.

I was greatly impressed with Starr's writing after the first few pages. He did an excellent job with three very different characters. Andy the Frat Boy, Katie the Victim, and Peter the Stalker were all really well done. Starr wrote from the perspective of each character and did a great job in a short amount of space. Too bad the story petered out at the end.

Each character has their own misperceptions and delusions and it's fun to read how foolish or clueless they look from another character's perspective. Peter the Stalker is so convinced that Katie will immediately fall in love with him; he has everything plotted out like cheesy movie and is shock and confused with things do not work out as like his obsessive plans.

Andy has been dating Katie for a couple weeks. He really likes Katie but is more concerned about getting laid and holding up his ladies man reputation. Andy also has an obsession with doing anal and is angry at himself for never doing so. Starr has a funny bit where Andy is thinking back to two years previous when he was in college and was convinced one gal liked it in the ass. After Andy adn the girl get naked Andy pulls a small tube of vaseline out of his pocket and danglesit in front of her with a smile.

Almost all characters are Manhattan-ites in their twenties and say "cool" and "definitely" a lot.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Finished Listening to A Few Days Ago: "The Penultimate Peril" by Lemony Snicket

Finished Listening to A Few Days Ago: The Penultimate Peril by Lemony Snicket, downloaded from

Pretty good, one of the better ones from the series, better than the last few anyway. Things are getting progressively worse for the Baudelaires. The Baudelaires are forced to make some morally ambiguous, but necessary, decisions and even join with Count Olaf to flee a burning hotel.

Penultimate has more revelations and teasers about the Baudelaires' adventures, family history, and V.F.D. members.

Another very fine narration by That-Gay-British-Guy-With-A-Beard.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Read: "Winter Soldiers" by Garry Douglas Kilworth

Read: Winter Soldiers by Garry Douglas Kilworth, 2003 (U.S. Edition), 0786711116.

Fairly good. I reserved this after reading positive reviews of the series in Library Journal or Booklist. A rough description of the series is: Sharpe in the Crimean War.

Sergeant "Fancy Jack" Crossman joined the British Army after having enough abuse from his wealthy father. Crossman was part of the gentry but enlisted under an assumed name to disappear into the ranks. Crossman has been successfull as a soldier and is employed under a Colonel who sends Crossman and his small group out on "fox hunts". The "fox hunts" are sabotage and spying missions against the Russians.

The novel covers several months with Crossman going out on several missions. This was not a straightforward novel, more a collection of tales about Crossman's combat missions and rear area activities. The continuing theme in the novel is Crossman's odd position as a gentleman among enlisted rogues. He fears discovery by his father who is a Major in another unit. Crossman also has to deal with a now-married former girlfriend and his newly arrived female "cousin" from England. A romance never quite develops between the cousin and Crossman but I reckon that is for the next installment.

No damn maps included in the book. I hate that.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Read: "Death Head Crossing" by James Reasoner

Read: Death Head Crossing by James Reasoner, 2007, 9780786018895.

Fairly decent. A quick paperback Western. Another Crider recommendation; maybe I should start to think for myself more.

Drifting gunman Hell Jackson is traveling through West Texas when he comes across three toughs torturing an old Indian man. Hell doesn't want to interfere but ends up killing the three toughs. Bidding the old man's dying request, Hell travels to the town of Death Head Crossing to give the old man's granddaughter the man's religious "treasures".

Jackson stays in Death Head for a short while and out of curiosity gets involved in a local murder mystery involving the Hand of God The Hand is an unknown man murdering locals for their sinful behaviour. Jackson and a New York journalist band together to look into the murders.

This is a quick entertainment read. Reasoner's characters are fun and the novel does not pack in a bunch of the standard Western cliches. Death Head does not have the gore and sex of some other western series. Reasoner has written a ton and a half of westerns and I wonder if he skips from sub-genre to sub-genre; write a sex Western here, a violent western there.

According to Crider, and some other dudes posting on Crider's website, Reasoner has done some ghostwriting for other big name authors. Reasoner refuses to give a clue about who he has ghostwritten for. I reckon the penalties for spilling the beans would be financially severe.