Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Books I read January 2011

Guillermo Del Toro & Chuck Hogan-The Strain
Being a huge fan of Del Toro's cinema I knew it would simply be a matter of time before I got around to reading this. First and foremost you can absolutely feel the cinematic quality to this book, and while flawed, I did ultimately enjoy it on a pulpy level.
The authors do a fine job of building tension early on, and the characters are mostly appealing, if somewhat cliched.
For me, the biggest problem here is that the climax felt rushed. While the book was moving along at a nice clip, it was as though the authors realized that they needed a big scene all of a sudden to wrap it up and justify the succeeding volumes. If fast-paced, pulpy writing appeals to you, then this will also.

James Fenimore Cooper-The Pioneers
I finally pulled this volume off my unread shelf, delved into the first novel and was rewarded with a richly textured, beautifully painted portrait of life in the wilds of upstate New York near the end of the 18th Century.
The Pioneers is the first of Cooper's Leatherstocking novels and much of what is written about the burgeoning town that serves as the setting of the novel, was culled from Cooper's own reminiscences of his father and the founding of Cooperstown, New York.
The novel beautifully juxtaposes the lives and philosophies of the white settlers and the natives, who were quickly being crowded out. Cooper never judges either perspective, and explores, much earlier in history that I had thought extant, ideas of conservationism and proper use of nature.
A beautiful novel, and one that has me salivating for the remaining Leatherstocking tales.

Graham Joyce-The Facts of Life
Graham Joyce is one of my favorite contemporary novelists, but the multiple-award winner seems little known here in the U.S. This is the 7th novel of his that I have read and they are all well worth the time and effort.
The Facts of Life tells the magical tale of the Vine family, the mother, her seven daughters and their spouses, and her youngest daughter's newborn, illegitimate son Frank, and is set during the hellish, blitzkrieg raids over England during WWII.
Joyce writes lovingly of the family's personal trials and tribulations and, as he does so deftly in most of his books, sprinkles it with just the right amount of the supernatural. Heartily recommended.

Kenneth Fearing-The Big Clock
Written in 1944, The Big Clock is a swiftly-paced noir set in the publishing world. While it lacks the swagger of Hammett or Chandler, the grit of David Goodis, or the psychological depth of JIm Thompson, The Big Clock strings you along its not too many pages and drops you off unruffled, but entertained.

Kirill Bulychev-Gusliar Wonders
I have read quite a bit of Soviet science fiction, and after the Strugatskys, Kirill Bulychev is probably the best of the bunch. This collection of short stories, half of which are loosely connected through their locale and central character, is full of insight, comic touches, clever circumstances, and assured writing. If you have exhausted the works of Boris and Arkady Strugatsky, which I nearly have, give Bulychev a try.

Robert Kirkman-Invincible Volume 5-The Facts of Life
Invincible is off to college, falling in love, battling supervillians, foiling plots, and ultimately finding time for his mom. Good stuff.

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