Matthew Quick: Sorta Like a Rock Star

Sorta Like a Rock Star provided an interesting juxtaposition to The Boy Who Couldn’t Sleep and Never Had To: Amber Appleton’s high school life is pretty rough — she starts the novel sleeping in the school bus her alcoholic mother has somehow not gotten fired from driving — but at least none of the challengesContinue reading “Matthew Quick: Sorta Like a Rock Star”

John Harwood: The Seance

I liked Harwood’s previous novel The Ghost Writer very much. The Séance shares several of The Ghost Writer‘s hallmarks: reserved, chilly, almost 19th-century flavored prose*; dark, complex and secret-spiked family histories; an elaborate, almost meta-textual, structure with multiple layers of nested stories; a brooding, slow-growing aura of menace; and lingering questions about which — ifContinue reading “John Harwood: The Seance”

Glen David Gold, Sunnyside

On the whole I liked Glen David Gold’s Sunnyside, even if I’m not quite sure what to make of it. It shares only superficial similarities with Gold’s debut novel, Carter Beats the Devil: like the earlier book it seamlessly blends historical and invented characters in a story fully of derring-do, heartbreak, and coincidence-fueled plot twists.Continue reading “Glen David Gold, Sunnyside”

Michael Rubens: The Sheriff of Yrnameer

The book jacket flap of Rubens’ comic science fiction novel explicitly invites comparison to Douglas Adams (also Terry Pratchett). I can’t decide if that’s terrible idea, or a pretty good one. One the one hand there are some superficial similarities to the milieu of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy so perhaps naming the elephantContinue reading “Michael Rubens: The Sheriff of Yrnameer”

Peter David: Sir Apropos of Nothing

I can’t help but think this heroic fantasy parody would be substantially better if it were a lot shorter. It opens with a rather laborious description of personal combat ending with a gag death. The humor relies on the reader’s visualization, and I think it would have worked much better as a handful of pagesContinue reading “Peter David: Sir Apropos of Nothing”

Charlie Huston: The Shotgun Rule

When writing about Huston I have to resist the temptation of tired metaphors: electricity, velocity, whips, blisters. They’re especially inappropriate, because one of Huston’s tricks for avoiding noir clichés is to avoid metaphor and simile almost completely. Huston’s crafts terse, almost reportorial, prose enlivened by a practiced eye for the telling detail, and an earContinue reading “Charlie Huston: The Shotgun Rule”

Charlie Huston: Six Bad Things

I liked Six Bad Things, but not nearly as much as its predecessor Caught Stealing. In first novel Hank Thompson is a basically ordinary guy abruptly thrust into an over-the-top noir situation; by the time the second novel opens, Thompson isn’t so much a regular Joe anymore, so the book lacks the charm of theContinue reading “Charlie Huston: Six Bad Things”

Carrie Bebris: Suspsense and Sensibility

Suspense and Sensibility wasn’t without its charms, but I didn’t think it lived up to its predecessor, Pride and Prescience (a surprisingly successful sequel to Austen’s Pride and Prejudice in which Darcy and Elizabeth find themselves in a whodunnit with overtones of Jane Eyre). Suspense and Sensibility ramps up the silliness considerably. It follows directlyContinue reading “Carrie Bebris: Suspsense and Sensibility”

Mike Brotherton: Spider Star

At the library the other week, the slightly goofy title and cover tease (“A dark-matter world holds the key to a weapon from the heart of the sun”) caught my eye. There was exuberant praise for Brotherton’s previous novel and lots of info on his real science cred, and I thought to myself, “I haven’tContinue reading “Mike Brotherton: Spider Star”

Jonathan Barnes: The Somnambulist

Barnes’ first novel is promising, if less than entirely satisfying, and certainly not lacking in ambition nor scope. It’s set in a fantastic London peopled by flamboyant, unlikely charactersat the close of the 19th century. Several folk are Not As They At First Seem, including the narrator, who does, it should be noted, remark inContinue reading “Jonathan Barnes: The Somnambulist”