December 31, 2010

Reading Books 2010

1. Dearly Devoted Dexter *****

This one was great, the best of the series so far. Deliciously dark, morbid humour.

2. Dexter in the Dark ***

A pretty big departure from the previous novels. Gets into some "supernatural" stuff that really doesn't work that well. Still pretty entertaining, though.

3. Dexter by Design ***

Gets back to the original tone of the series, and yet doesn't quite hit the mark. It's just not as funny or engrossing as the second novel.

4. Mickey Spillane: I, The Jury *

Even if you can ignore the racism, misogyny, and juvenile wish fulfillment that this novel is so full of, it's still not a very good novel. It reads like something drummed up by a twelve year old boy with poor grades and raging hormones. Sorry, I just don't see the appeal of this novel.

5. A Place of Execution *****

Excellent book! It did seem slow paced at times and the main story seemed to end at the book's halfway point, but from there it builds up to a pretty terrific ending!

6. The Stars My Destination ****

An entertaining novel, very much like Phillip K. Dick's stuff. It's funny how they have instant teleportation and space travel, but tattoo removal? Impossible, I tell you! I've read "The Demolished Man" as well, another great story from the same author.

7. Deja Dead ****

The TV show Bones is based of this book series and this is the first book of that series. The book is nothing like the TV show, thankfully, as the TV show is pretty horrible in a lot of ways. It's set in Montreal and seems very genuine and authentic - the author lives and works there and Carolina, so she has good firsthand knowledge of the city. While it's a pretty good book, especially for a first novel, it also has some glaring, annoying flaws - the characters aren't very sympathetic, the men in the book are almost always ugly, repugnant, filthy pigs [which becomes a bit tiresome after awhile] and the ending has a very long conversation with two characters [although it's mostly one character talking] where they tie up every loose end leftover from the story's climax. Ending the book like that really exposes how contrived much of the plot was and is a rather contrived way in itself to tie up all those messy loose ends. Despite that, I still liked the book, it had a good "Silence of the Lambs" vibe to it.

8. Point Blank ****
Having seen both movies based on this book [1967's Point Blank with Lee Marvin and 1999's Payback with Mel Gibson], I thought I'd check the book out and see how it compares. Pretty good book, not terribly well written as such, but the Parker character is quite the badass and it's fun reading about his exploits. He's definitely one of the more amoral anti-heroes I've ever come across.

9. The Scar ***
This was a brilliantly written book, very imaginative if a tad verbose. Unfortunately, it has a couple of glaring problems. One is a very unsympathetic main character, the same problem I had with Perdido Street Station. I started off not liking Bellis Coldwine from the very beginning and by the end of the novel, I hated her. Self-absorbed, judgmental, bitch. Also, the end was a total dud. Everything leading up to the end was pretty great, but then... nothing. Just a totally useless, meaningless ending. The novel also starts off very slowly, it took awhile to get into. So close to being great, but in the end, it left a bad taste in my mouth.

10. Hominids **
The Neanderthal world presented in this book was pretty cool, but other than that, this book was disappointing.

11. Broken Angels ***
This was a pretty fun novel. Not terribly deep, but the Takeshi Kovacs character was a hoot, a badass with a wicked sense of humour.

12. Frankenstein ***

Pretty good book, very different from the old Universal classic movie. The "monster" in this book is literate, intelligent and quite eloquent [more of a Golem than a monster made from body parts from dead people], the act of creating the monster is not really explained in any detail and Victor Frankenstein comes across as a bit of a twat. No Igor! No castle laboratories or lightning bolt powered, life-giving mechanisms. I guess the story went through many transmutations in the century between the publication of the book and the release of the movie.

At one point we have Walton writing to his sister about Victor Frankenstein who in turn is narrating the story of how he created the monster, and again, within that narrative, we have the monster himself speaking of his first few months on earth after his creation, all told within the novel by Mary Shelley! Yikes, talk about stories within stories!

13. The Ministry of Fear *****

This book was a hoot. Very bizarre, funny and sad. I had already seen the movie with Ray Milland, so I knew most of the plot. But it was still fun to read and there are a few plot points that differ from the movie. It was nice to get inside the head of our tortured protagonist, Arthur Rowe.

14. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo **

The Vanger family background was fairly compelling, but that part of the story takes up practically the whole first half of the novel, with next to nothing happening in the "present" of the novel. The plot then quickly wraps up the main story in a rather ho-hum, predictable manner, leaving us with another 100 pages of a really boring wrap-up of the financial scandal plot thread. Ick! The Blomkvist character is very flat and unremarkable, yet he seems to get lucky with every female character he runs into! Salander is more interesting, and yet she is such a cliche, it's hard to take her character seriously. An introverted, tattooed girl whom everyone seems to dismiss, turns out to be this magical, uber-hacker who comes to save the day at every turn! There's also the constant references to how supercool everything made by Apple is - give me a fucking break!

15. A Canticle for Leibowitz ****

A pretty intense, dense novel. Very funny at times, in a rather sardonic way. Overall, a dark, depressing novel about the fall of man via nuclear war and how doomed we seem to be to keep repeating our mistakes. It was written during the Cold War when any day could end with nuclear annihilation and that bleak prospect hangs over this novel like a cloud. In a good way though, it's very well written.

16. The Beekeeper's Apprentice *****

A well written and very enjoyable novel. :)

17. Black Echo ***

Not a bad book. It took me awhile to warm up to the main character, Harry Bosch, but he grew on me, somewhat, towards the end. The plot was pretty well constructed and entertaining, though there's a bit of a twist at the end that felt a bit strained.

18. Revelation Space **

This novel had some interesting ideas - the Amarantin, the Shroud, the Jugglers etc. These nicely fleshed out concepts almost make this book worth reading. Unfortunately, those virtues are overwhelmingly negated by atrocious characters and a stagnant plot. Nothing very much happens for most of its length. And the characters are very, very shallow and not very sympathetic nor interesting. I grew to hate Khouri and Volyova, and by the end of the novel, I just wanted them to die. It became a real chore to finish this book and I doubt I'll pick up any more in this series. A huge disappointment. :(

19. Murder on the Orient Express ****
Fun little whodunit by the great Agatha Christie. Rather bizarre ending for this type of story, although it wasn't a surprise to me since I had already seen the movie. I like the acidic whit of M. Hercule Poirot, fantastic character.

20. Smilla's Sense of Snow ****
I saw the movie based on this book a long time ago, and I rather like it, so I thought I'd give the book a shot. It was pretty good, the writing was much better than "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo", better plot and characters, too. It's told from the first person perspective (Smilla) and Peter Hoeg, for the most part, pulls it off. There's a lot of 'asides' dealing with the relationship between Denmark and Greenland, which would be irritating if the information wasn't usually so interesting. There's a lot of interesting information on snow in this book, too. The protagonist can be a little cold and aloof though, so it can be a little hard to feel for her at times. I'm sure the ending pisses off a lot of people who like their loose ends all tied up by the last page, but I thought it ended at the right spot, dutifully explaining every last detail would have been boring and unnecessary.

21. The Outfit ***

Not as good as the first couple of books in this series, but still a fun read. The mob tries to kill Parker, Parker gets mad and gets even. The plot was just a little too simple, even for a pulp novel like this.

22. The Devil Rides Out **
Modern day (well, 1930's) Satanists in London, England manage to draw a young man into their fold and it is up to his friends, Rex and the Duke, to save him from their wily clutches. Had Dennis Wheatly stuck to this basic premise, he probably would have had a cracking good story. Unfortunately, he had to throw in some astrology, numerology, hypnotism, astral projection, vampires, Egyptian mythology, Catholic dogma and who knows what else into the mix and it doesn't quite come together. Some of it works and is pretty cool (Egyptian mythology), some of it is pretty embarrassing (numerology) and some of it is downright annoying (Catholicism). So, it's a mixed bag of a story, but enjoyable enough if you can tolerate a lot of silliness. Or you could just watch the movie with Christopher Lee, which is a pretty good adaptation of the material.

23. The Algebraist **

Some cool ideas in this book - the dwellers, wormholes etc. - but the characters weren't very interesting nor sympathetic and the plot was rather boring. A lot of the subplots were of no consequence to the main plot and served no purpose but to pad the length of the book. Not recommended.

24. A Morbid Taste for Bones ***
A pretty good book. Well written, well rounded characters and a decent plot. The story does get wrapped up a little too neatly at the end for my tastes though. It's basically a medieval whodunit, with a priest playing the role of detective or sleuth.

25. Fever of the Bone ****

The latest Tony Hill book from Val Mcdermid. Very good mystery novel, captivating plot and good characters - this one flew by. My only complaint is that I figured out the ending about 50 pages from the end, so I had to wait for the characters and plot to catch up.

26. The Big Time **

This was like some weird, Twilight Zone story. I spent half this novel just trying to figure out what the hell was going on. It had some cool stuff going on, but overall, I wouldn't recommend it.

27. The Cement Garden ****

Engrossing read, if a little bizarre, to say the least.

28. A Great Deliverance ***

This one started off pretty slowly and the main murder seemed pretty mundane, but after about a third of the way through, it got better. The plot seemed to pick up and the characters and their interactions were pretty well done. Unfortunately, as you reach the end of the novel, it all falls apart. The resolution to the plot was so annoying, the author should "show, don't tell" but she went on and on about how horrible this crime was instead of just describing it to the reader and letting the situation speak for itself. Also, Havers, one of the detectives in the novel, is self-centered, obnoxious and not at all likable at the beginning of the novel. And by the end of the novel, she is... well, pretty well unchanged. Argh, I hate that! This could have been a great novel, but the ending really ruined it for me. :(

29. The Mourner ****

Another great Parker novel by Richard Stark, number 4 in the series. I actually liked this one better than the previous "The Outfit". The plot was pretty straightforward, for the most part, but it had some interesting characters. Menlo was a total sleazeball, but an interesting sleazeball nonetheless. Bett and her dad, Handy and Kapor were all a lot of fun and I'm sure they'll turn up in more of the Parker novels.

30. Triplanetary **

This novel started off with an interesting idea - two psychic, ephemeral alien races go to war with each other, using other aliens as surrogates to go at each other. Earth is caught in the crossfire between the "good" Asarians and the "evil" Eddorians. We see their manipulations of the populace throughout history with Atlantis [!], Roman Empire, modern [1950's?] America and finally the future. It's when we get to the "future" part that the story really fell flat for me. The writing is just so horrible, ridiculous characters and dialogue, it just descends into a cookie-cutter space opera mishmash. I had a hard time sticking with it to the end.

31. The Big Sleep *****

After reading "I, The Jury", I was a little leery of tackling another pulp fiction novel from that era, as I didn't really care for my first foray into the genre at all. Nor did I care for Mickey Spillane's writing, it was a bit amateurish to say the least. Luckily, Raymond Chandler was a much better writer and I really like "The Big Sleep". Although I had seen the movie already, so I knew what the plot was about. The movie did capture the essence of the book pretty well. The book was a bit grittier, as it had some stuff that wouldn't be shown in movies of that era, mostly having to do with sex. One of the great things about this novel is how the author has a way with words that is so unique and well, just really cool, quotable.
I don't mind if you don't like my manners. They're pretty bad. I grieve over them during the long winter evenings.
You know what Canino will do? Beat my teeth out and kick me in the stomach for mumbling.
Dead men are heavier than broken hearts.
As honest as you can expect a man to be in a world where its going out of style.
An army of sluggish minutes dragged by.

32. Dark Water ****

I quite enjoyed this book. I thought it would be a novel telling the same story as the two movies (both of which I very much enjoyed, the Japanese original and the American remake, and I hate remakes!), but it was a collection of short stories with only the first story dealing with the events in the movies. Not only that, but the "Floating Water" story ends very abruptly and only deals with a very small part of the story you get in the movies. All the stories are horror, dealing with the theme of water, although the horror is very subdued. The one with the girl on the island (Solitary Isle) was pretty creepy and twisted though. Apparently, this author also wrote a series of novels that were the basis for the Ringu films, so I"d like to track those down too.

Wikipedia entry.

Aha, the short story Dream Cruise was made into an episode of Masters of Horror. I thought it sounded familiar!

33. Brighton Rock ***

A pretty dark, bleak story. It reminded me of "A Catcher in the Rye" somewhat, except that story was rather funny, and this one, not so much. A big problem is the lack of any sympathetic characters. The Boy - Pinkie - is pretty evil and irredeemable, while his girl, Rose, is rather pathetic. Not sure what I thought of Ida, but I wasn't crazy about her. I did like that last little bit at the end - talk about ending on a sour note! LOL

34. Dexter is Delicious! ****

This one started off great, really witty writing in the first 100 pages or so. After that though, things kind of slowed down and the plot was rather so-so. For me, the second book in this series [Dearly Devoted Dexter] was by far the best and so, while this one was very enjoyable, it could be better.

35. Zero History *

Very crappy novel. I think I'm done reading anything by William Gibson for awhile.

36. The Talented Mr. Ripley *****

This is a great novel, very enjoyable. Although I didn't particularly care for old Tommy boy, it was fun getting inside his paranoid, deluded, self-obsessed head and I was kept on the edge of my seat wondering if he would finally get caught. Good stuff.

37. No Enemy But Time ***

This was a well written book but it did have a couple problems - the science was a little far-fetched, if not downright silly; and the protagonist was a bit of an idiot. Also, the plot was a little slow-going with an ending that I found rather unsatisfying. The chapters alternate between the past and the present, as well as the POV - first person and third person. I liked that aspect of the story, it kept it interesting, even when the story was a bit of a bore. There's a fair amount of humour in the book as well, some of it works, some doesn't.

38. The Woman in the Dunes ****

I've seen the movie that was based on this book, so I was familiar with the story before reading it. The book is very much like the movie, a bit more cerebral in that you spend most of the novel inside the protagonist's head. I couldn't help but think of what I would do in his situation, I'm sure I could find a way out of that hole, somehow! I guess this novel had a lot to say about post-war Japan, although I can't say, personally. It also has an interesting point of view on male/female relationships and life in general. Woman trap men in inescapable sand pits and men abuse them because they resent being stuck in these pits of despair! [Or something like that.]

39. Gateway ***

Robinette Broadhead was a bit stupid, cowardly and a jerk, but it was still fun to read of his neurotic exploits on Gateway. The science was a bit dated, too. And I can't say the ending was terribly satisfying either. Despite all that, it has a sense of humour and wonder at the Heechee technology that makes it a worthwhile read.

40. Miami Blues ****

I've seen the movie more than once and really love it. So reading the book was a lot of fun, although the movie follows the book almost exactly, so I knew the plotline pretty well already. Still, there's a lot of wry, witty humour in this book that make it such a fun read. And both characters, Moseley and Junior, are great in their own ways. I think Junior is a little less sympathetic in the book than in the movie, especially towards the end where he's a tad abusive towards Susan. And speaking of Susan, she's as dumb as a post. I wonder if Jeff Lindsay has read this book? He writes in a similar vein. And of course, they're both set in Miami - the Dexter books and this one. They both share the same kind of wit and feature amoral characters - although Junior is rather less sympathetic and more psychotic than Dexter. This was the first book in a series of four featuring Hoke Moseley and I hope to read the rest!

41. The Woods *****

Very good book!

42. The End of the Affair *

This is the first Graham Greene novel that I really didn't care for. There's not much in the way of plot and the protagonist is so insecure and quite frankly, unlikeable, it's just a hard novel to get into.

43. Accelerando [zero]

Shallow, unlikable, uninteresting characters in a completely nonsensical plot that goes absolutely nowhere, told in the most annoying, self-indulgent techno-babble ever created, I fucking HATED this sad excuse of a novel. Pure shit.

Posted by Fungii at December 31, 2010 11:59 PM |
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