Had a fun book-hunting expedition with a friend yesterday. We hit four used book stores and the local comic/RPG shop.
Here’s what I bought (all yesterday with the exception of the first item):
- Passport to Peril by Robert B. Parker (this month’s Hard Case Crimes book, which I subscribe to).
- Three Perry Rhodan books [#2, 6, 9] (I have been curious about this long-running series for a long time, but haven’t read any of them yet; still don’t have #1 yet, darn it, but I’m guessing that it doesn’t matter much).
- Three of Alan Burt Akers’ Dray Prescott series [#6, 7, 20] (a planetary romance series I have been interested in for a long time; still missing #5, among others; once I get that, I have a long continuous run of the books an can start reading them).
- Lin Carter’s The Immortal of World’s End (still missing a couple from the series, but I’ve been slowly compiling them).
- James Bond: The Authorized Biography of 007 by John Pearson (I am skeptical of this one, and didn’t even know that it existed, but for $1.50, I couldn’t pass it up).
- John P. Marquand’s Your Turn, Mr. Moto (first of the Mr. Moto series; I have heard these are very good, and much darker than the old movies).
- Dorothy Gilman’s The Unexpected Mrs. Pollifax (first of the Mrs. Pollifax series, a “cozy espionage” series — are there any more series like this? — about an old lady who joins CIA).
- Matthew Woodring Stover’s Heroes Die (new-ish SF novel that sounds like it has an interesting premise, reminiscent of Dream Park).
- Taylor Anderson’s Into the Storm (fist of the alt history Destroyermen series, which sounds interesting, though the premise of John Birmingham’s Axis of Time series and William Forstchen’s Lost Regiment series).
- Katherine Neville’s The Eight (an interesting re-release of an older book that’s being heavily pushed by it’s publisher; historical chess-related mystery/thriller; I suck at chess, but have always been fascinated by it).
- E.C. Tubb’s Melome, #28 in the Dumarest of Terra series (none of which I’ve read yet, though I have a bunch of them).
- Edgar Rice Burroughs’ The Oakdale Affair (this was probably the only real treasure in the bunch, as I had almost given up hope of finding it; just a handful of additional ERB books and I’ll have a copy of everything he ever wrote).
- The first Planetes manga (a little bit of anime usually goes a long way with me, but this one has always looked interesting to me).
- Some RPG stuff: GURPS Traveller Behind the Claw (error-ridden, but it’s one of the few GURPS Trav books I didn’t already own); Jovian Chronicles main rulebook, the Space Equipment Handbook, and the Europa Incident (I have always been curious about this game and have been on an anime kick of late); and Fully Strapped, Always Packed gear book for Mayfair’s old Underground RPG.
Nothing truly outstanding, but some good stuff overall. A nice day, despite pulling a muscle in my lower back yesterday morning.
This was a fun, fast read full of non-stop action that delivered exactly what it promised, no more and no less. A police detective is recruited by a secret government agency to stop an impending release of zombies by Islamic terrorists on an unsuspecting American public. The zombie scourge is caused by genetically-manipulated prions; these zombies are “fast movers,” more akin to those in 28 Days Later than the George Romero kind. The action is fast and furious, with vivid, well-described combat sequences throughout the book. It would probably make a fun summer action movie.
It’s not entirely clear how the protagonist, Joe Ledger, a detective who has never been in combat becomes such a killing machine. We are told many times that he is simply hero material, so we just have to accept that, I guess. He generally deals better with trauma than most of the Special Forces troops placed under his command (which is an odd arrangement, but again, we are asked to accept that). This need to suspend disbelief is common in both technothrillers and horror novels, so it’s not out of place, or any more egregious than in most novels of either genre.
There are a few silly bits in the book, however:
- It’s typical of technothrillers, I suppose, but it’s darn silly to provide makes and models of every piece of equipment mentioned, including gym bags and watches. It could be a subtle gibe at the genre, I supposes, but there’s not enough evidence for that argument.
- Everyone refers colloquially to the Department of Homeland Security as “Homeland.” That’s unrealistic. I worked for ten years in government service , including two there, and everyone, civilian, military, law enforcement, intelligence, refers to it as “DHS.” Likewise, Maberry has named the “black ops” organization the Department of Military Sciences (“Science” on the back cover), which is also silly. “Department” has a very specific meaning in government parlance, and it doesn’t work here. Also, “Homeland” is often used as a generic term for the U.S. intelligence community, as though DHS had the lead. That is almost never the case. DHS has a small intel shop of its own, but let’s be honest: it’s small, ineffectual, not particularly influential, and half the people working there are detailed from other agencies, either inside or outside the department. On matters like the ones depicted in the book, CIA and FBI would have the lead. I tended to mentally substitute “the IC” for “Homeland” because all those references really irked me.
- “Hooah” is (sadly) not just a Ranger term, it’s widely used throughout the army (and I’ve heard it used by the other services s well).
- Perhaps the silliest bit of all: one of the major characters is a British woman who is purportedly a major in Britain’s SAS who heads up one of DMS’ field teams. Now, to the best of my knowledge, women are not permitted in the SAS, so her background doesn’t make sense, and why would a British citizen be recruited into an elite, “black” combat unit? If she had been described as a liaison officer, I might accept it, but she’s not. There’s really no good reason for her to be a Brit in any case. It’s a bit of an oddity.
Little things like that. I hate to criticize a book for such niggling errors, but when a technothriller purports to depict the military and intelligence comunity realistically, I do think that the book must be evaluated on its own terms and flaws have to be pointed out.
The book ends with closure — the current threat has been decisively ended — but it is clearly set up as the first book of a series. I liked this one well enough that I plan to pick up the next. Yes, the action and twists and turns of the plot are eminently predictable, but that’s not always a bad thing. It’s a fun, light read, and I enjoyed it tremendously. If you like zombies and technothrillers, this is an obligatory purchase.
The publisher has also made available a short story that elaborates on the opening scene of the novel, which you can sign up to receive here.
Review copyright 2009 J. Andrew Byers
Today was productive, even though I only had time to work on one thing. My wife is out of town for the next couple weeks, so I should have more time to devote to projects like this.
- Finished my two draft Carcosa hexes, along with some rumors, and a new monster. Uploaded all that to our master Google doc. One of my other collaborators will call dibs on a couple more hexes tomorrow he says, and I hope to hear back from the other soon as well.
Tomorrow my goal is to — if I hear back from both — lay claim to a couple more hexes and begin work on those as well as get started on a more detailed outline for the Assassins novel. Need to finish brainstorming that, but that will come along with the more detailed outline.
The last few days have been pretty productive, even if they haven’t directly led to a vast amount of new wordcount.
- Had a great meeting on Thursday with my writing partner. We traded comments on each other’s new chapters. I like where both novels are (we have 10-11k for each written so far, with a goal of 100k for each; each is therefore 10-11% completed). I think this meeting and new verbiage — after an extremely long hiatus — is exactly what we needed to rejuvenate our interest in both projects.
- I have turned around my draft to him incorporating his comments and tonight I began brainstorming and initial research on my next chapter (for the other novel, since we trade off each time). This next chapter I write is going to be a cool action chapter set mostly in a small castle on the Isle of Wight, and if it comes off well, will be something straight out of a James Bond movie.
- Wrote out one fairly complete Carcosa hex (the project has 18 total, though my two collaborators will do some of them) as well as a handful of rumors.
My goals for tomorrow are to continue researching, outlining, and brainstorming the novel chapter as well as complete a second Carcosa hex.
Writing accomplishments today:
- Finished chapter two of the collaborative novel. It’s ok. It’s a little too workman-like, and first they did this, then this, then this, for my liking, but hey, it’s done. Commented on my partner’s chapter four of the other novel. That’s good stuff. I am liking what he put together there and looking forward to picking up where he left off.
- Have my novel meeting, which should only inspire me on these projects. Need to read up on the other two novel projects so we can brainstorm about those in greater detail. It’s been a loooong time since I’ve looked at or thought about those.
- Will hopefully put some words down on the Carcosa project.
I haven’t been updating this sucker as frequently as I would like, but then again, there hasn’t been a great deal of progress on the writing front anyway.
Writing accomplishments of the last couple days:
- Nearly finished the draft of chapter two of one of the four (!) collaborative novels I am working on with a partner. Only two of the four are actively being worked on. The other two are just at the conceptual stage. We had been working diligently on these last summer, but they have been on hold since August 2008 because of our school responsibilities. We have restarted work on both and intend to put some wordcount in on each over the course of the next year, despite the fact that my partner will be in Germany doing research for a year. Hopefully we can stick with them. We trade off the two novels each month, each writing one chapter, so that both active books get a new chapter every month. If we did this for a year, we’d probably be darn close to having two completed drafts.
- Put down a few words on my D&D setting/campaign. Need to do more with that so I can run my wife through her first old school dungeon crawl before she heads off to California.
Tomorrow I plan to finish off chapter two of the collaborative novel I’m working on and send the draft off to my partner. If I still have some writing time left over, I need to put some words down on my joint Carcosa project.