Fog Coast Runaway – Linda B. Myers (Review)

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Young Adelia Wright is left alone in the wild back country of 1890s Oregon to deal with her unpleasant brother, puberty, and not much to eat. So she takes matters into her own hands and sets out to find a better life.

Fog Coast Runaway is in the best traditions of novels from the 19th century. We have a tough young heroine with a kind heart – and she needs to be both tough and kind, because scarcely a paragraph goes by without a birth, death, fight to the death, or romantic gesture.

Continue reading “Fog Coast Runaway – Linda B. Myers (Review)”

The Strategist – Gerrard Cowan (Review)

The Machinery is broken, and the old order cannot hold. Its downfall has let back into the world many creatures once forbidden, and they have begun to build strongholds and armies for the struggle to come. Charls Brandione, a former general, Aranfal, a secret policeman, and Canning, a merchant-turned-mandarin-turned-something-else-entirely, must learn what they can about this brave new world. Most of all, they must learn how to stay alive in it.

Perhaps I can best give the feel of The Strategist by  quoting a line of dialogue that comes up a lot: “What is this place?” Continue reading “The Strategist – Gerrard Cowan (Review)”

The Machinery – Gerrard Cowan (Review)

41ctGTurmuLThe Overland have just finished conquering the Plateau on which their civilisation exists. No-one else stood a chance; the Overland select their leaders according to the whims of an omnipotent (and titular) Machine, which has given them an edge for the last ten millennia. Hegemony beckons.

But overshadowing all of these achievements is a prophecy that the government have done their best to stamp out. A faction of Doubters claim that the machinery has begun to break down and soon will halt completely. A secret police of hideously-masked Watchers scour the crowds for signs of this heresy, disappearing and torturing anyone they deem guilty. Among all of this a range of viewpoint characters, including Katrina Paprissi, a young woman whose brother vanished in mysterious circumstances, navigate a complex web of power games mediated by the machine’s whims. Continue reading “The Machinery – Gerrard Cowan (Review)”

Stalker – Lars Kepler (Review)

51fPJZKNKIL._SY346_A video is sent to the National Crime Investigation Department in Stockholm. It shows a normal woman in her own home, doing nothing very exciting. By the time the police identify her, she’s dead. More victims are found, and it becomes clear that the killer is not going to stop. Each video sent to the police means another butchered woman.

Margot Silverman is tasked with catching the killer. Heavily pregnant, she’s determined to solve the case before going on leave. Erik Maria Bark is a hypnotist who thinks the crimes may be linked to a case he worked on years ago. And everyone thought Joona Linna was dead.  Continue reading “Stalker – Lars Kepler (Review)”

Three Reasons to Read Steve Alten’s “Meg” series

I’ve read a lot of books, and watched a lot of films, about monsters. In so far as “monster attacks group of people” is a genre, it’s one of my preferred genres. I have thrilled to tales of liopleurodons, Humboldt squid, sabre-tooth tigers and titanoboas. I have watched, due to the prominence of sharks as the antagonist, countless films with a two word title in which the second word is “shark” (or, to be fair, “sharks”). The first word of the title allows more variation, including “snow“, “swamp“, “Jurassic“, and “raging“. I’ve even had the privilege of enjoying a whole bunch of works which just jammed two words together to create the title, like Sharknado, Sharktopus, and Piranhaconda

I mention these works to establish that I know what I’m talking about here, rather than as recommendations. I’m not recommending them because, in all this time of monster books and films, a common element has come clear: most of these works are absolutely terrible. Sturgeon’s Revelation states that 90% of everything is awful, but I believe monster stories to be a special case; I think the percentage for this specific genre might be closer to 98%.

For some reason, authors seem to feel that they can get away with more poorly-written books than in other genres. This might be attributable to the fact that a higher proportion of monster books seem to be self-published than in other genres, so there’s no one to enforce editing and proofreading. I don’t think that’s entirely it, as there are many traditionally published monster books that are terrible, and several well-designed self-published ones. In general, it just seems that monster books are where authors dump all their plot holes and inconsistent characterisation – it’s not a genre that is taken that seriously, or regarded very highly.

Now, this doesn’t particularly bother me. I like monster stories enough that despite (and occasionally because of) their terribleness, I still enjoy them. I will struggle through countless clumsy coincidences and grammatical errors to read about a deranged businessman being devoured by ptero-wasps. However, I’m aware that not everyone is as forgiving of, or as engaged in, the genre as I am.

MEG1I thought I’d use this post, after trashing the genre as a whole, to recommend an author who not only writes monsters books, but does so well. One of the few authors who manages to write a coherent plot in coherent English that’s also about a shark killing people.

Steve Alten’s “Meg” series is one of the stand-outs of the monster genre. The books are based around the idea that Carcharodon Megalodon, an ancestor of today’s great white shark, survived into the modern era; when one of these antediluvian murder machines comes into contact with humans, it’s up to a tortured marine biologist to stop the carnage. Continue reading “Three Reasons to Read Steve Alten’s “Meg” series”