Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Do You Not Instinctively Fear Me?

Rob Thomas & Jennifer Graham “Mr Kiss & Tell” (Vintage, 2015)

Here’s a quick synopsis for anyone who is unfamiliar with Veronica Mars.  She’s a post-Buffy Nancy Drew – solving mysteries in a small Southern California town.  The TV show lasted for only three seasons, but there was a kickstarter funded film set 10 years after the end of the series.  This is the second novel.

This is clearly a story set deep into continuity.  There are references to past cases, characters, and relationships.  If you aren’t familiar with this, it’s probably a bit confusing at times.  Or at least you just won’t care.  If you are a fan of the series, however, you’ll find lots of details that will delight you.

This isn’t a great book.  It’s not going to sell you on Veronica Mars.  But if you are already a fan, you are definitely going to enjoy this.  The character voices are all there, and it’s an opportunity to revisit some old friends.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Old Grey Stone

Laurie R King “Dreaming Spies” (Random House, 2015)

An advantage of a long running series like King’s Russell Memoirs is that you have the time and space to stretch out and explore questions and situations that otherwise would be seen as tangential to the core of the stories.  For example, what fan of Sherlock Holmes hasn’t wanted to see Holmes in a non UK setting?

It may be simplest to think of Dreaming Spies as King’s Japan book.  The plot centers on a favor that Holmes & Russell did for the Japanese throne some years earlier, when they were in Asia.  There is a framing story set in Oxford, but the bulk of the narrative occurs in flashback. 

I think that reviews will be split over the pacing of this book.  I’ve never read a book with ninjas that had so little action.  This is not a fast, action packed narrative.  Instead it seems to be an opportunity for King to explore portions of Japanese culture that interest her.  It’s rather contemplative.  Personally, I’m interested in Japanese culture, so I was thoroughly entertained by these leisurely strolls.

Dreaming Spies was a wonderfully entertaining book for a cold winter night.  It’s comfortable like a good conversation with an old friend.  Absolutely delightful!

Not What I Expected!

Karen Lord “The Galaxy Game” (Del Rey, 2015)

A quick bit of background:  I loved The Best of All Possible Worlds.  I thought it was a fascinating world explored in a classic literary manner.  Needless to say, I was excited to see that The Galaxy Game was going to be published.  Not only another book by Lord, but a sequel of sorts to a novel that I really loved.

It turns out that The Galaxy Game is a bit of a sideways sequel.  The protagonist is Rafi Delarua, the nephew of Grace Delarua from The Best of All Possible Worlds.  After the events in that book, Rafi has been send to a special school, where the government can monitor his psionic abilities.  He’s a teenager, and like teen protagonists everywhere, he runs away, to another planet where his abilities are the norm.

In hindsight, going into this expecting any sort of a sequel was a huge mistake.  While The Best of All Possible Worlds had a retro Golden Age feel, The Galaxy Game at its core is a contemporary YA novel.  Part of the failure is my fault:  I just don’t much like teenage protagonists.  So many factors that make them actual kids are the same things that make them insufferable to me. Unfortunately it’s not all my fault:  The Galaxy Game is very talky, with long tell not show sections set up early in the novel.   It kept me from gaining any momentum reading, and made it feel too much like a chore.

Lord is a very talented writer, but I think that the YA nature of the story should be emphasized to anyone thinking of reading this.