Griffiths, Elly. The Crossing Places.

NY: Houghton Mifflin, 2010.

This is the first entry in a lengthening series featuring English archaeologist Ruth Galloway of northern Norfolk and it’s a first-rate piece of work. Ruth is not unattractive, but she’s pushing forty and weighs in at 180 pounds. She concentrates mostly on her career, both teaching at the local university and excavating in the nearby coastal marshes, which she has come to love, and where she lives in a small wind-and-rain-swept cottage.

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Maas, Sarah J. Throne of Glass.

NY: Bloomsbury, 2012.

The author has apparently aimed this series (it’s up to at least eight books now) at the teen market — and I mean that in the most denigrating way possible. She seems to think that as long as there’s a swashbuckling female lead, plus magic and a bit of romance, the reader won’t notice the plot holes, the seriously non-credible characters, or the gratuitous overwriting. Celaena Sardothien is the most able and successful hired assassin in the kingdom (or empire, or whatever it is) of Adarlan, even though she’s only eighteen.

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Blish, James. A Case of Conscience.

NY: Walker, 1958.

James Blish was one of the more intellectual science fiction authors of the mid-20th century and this is probably his most important work, for which he won a Hugo in 1959. “Religion in science fiction” leads most fans to think of A Canticle for Leibowitz, published at about the same time, but there the Catholic Church was simply the background for a post-holocaust plot line. Blish — who was a thoroughgoing agnostic at the least — is more interested in actual questions of theology. And that makes for a fascinating and involving story. Moreover, it’s only the first of his four books on similar themes.

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Macdonald, Ross. The Drowning Pool.

NY: Knopf, 1950.

In many ways, Los Angeles private eye Lew Archer was to the 1950s what Philip Marlow was to the same city a generation earlier, but he doesn’t seem to be much read these days. Which is a shame, because Macdonald was an excellent writer of noir-ish crime stories. This was Archer’s second case, in which he tries to find out who’s attempting to blackmail the young wife of the heir to a large, oil-rich estate in the hills north of LA. But she’s not going to give him much to work with.

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Stephenson, Neal & Nicole Galland. The Rise and Fall of D.O.D.O.

[My apologies for the long gap between posts. I was out of the country for most of a week and for some reason was unable to access my blog.]

NY: HarperCollins, 2017.

I have a very short list of “automatic” authors — novelists that, whatever they write, I want to read it. I don’t even bother to read the reviews. Neal Stephenson was one of my earliest additions to that list, back when I read Snow Crash and then Cryptonomicon, and he’s never disappointed me. Still, I have my favorites among his works, and there are also those books that I really had to work at. This one falls somewhere in the middle, I think, but I still don’t quite know how I feel about it.

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Keen, Greg. Soho Dead.

Seattle: Thomas & Mercer, 2017.

Kenny Gabriel is a couple years short of his sixtieth birthday and with less than three hundred quid in the bank. He’s a creature of Soho, having lived and worked in that London neighborhood since supposedly going off to university in the mid-’70s, and both he and Soho have changed over the years. He’s a skip-tracer most of the time, working for a corpulent, agoraphobic computer nerd who hasn’t left his flat in a decade.

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Taylor, Jodi. A Second Chance.

Abercynon, Wales: Accent Press, 2014.

The “Chronicles of St. Mary’s” series, about time-traveling British historians in the not-too-distant future, has more than a few strange elements, including a bit of mythological fantasy thrown in (Kleio, the Muse of History, is also the Director’s steely-eyed PA). This third episode takes the mix to a whole new and rather complicated level.

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Dessen, Sarah. What Happened to Goodbye.

NY: Viking, 2011.

Dessen is a first-rate author whose novels are directed at young adults but which should be of interest to anyone who enjoys a good story and thoughtful writing, regardless of age. The protagonist of this one is seventeen-year-old McLean Elizabeth Sweet, who was named after her basketball-fanatic father’s favorite college coach. But then the coach retired and his younger replacement ran off with McLean’s mother, which kind of soured both of them on the sport.

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Perry, Thomas. Strip.

NY: Houghton Mifflin, 2010.

Manco Kapak is a middle-aged, relatively low-ranking gangster in Los Angeles and he takes it poorly when he’s robbed while personally making a late-night deposit of the receipts from one of his dance clubs. If people in his gray world begin thinking he’s an easy mark, it will damage his reputation badly. Especially since he’s also laundering drug money for the Colombians, and they can smell weakness.

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Modesitt, L. E., Jr. The Magic of Recluce.

NY: Tor, 1991.

Modesitt is one of those fantasy authors who specialize in long series of fat novels mostly relying on magic. I’ve been aware of him for some time but have never read any of his stuff. I have attempted to read similar authors — Robert Jordan, Terry Goodkind, Tad Williams — but the plots tend to be childish, the characters cardboard, and the prose excessively purple. Everyone deserves a chance, though, so I thought I should try this opening episode in the “Recluce” series, of which there are now eighteen thick volumes.

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Published in: on 24 October 2017 at 12:20 pm  Leave a Comment  
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