Tag Archives: Review

Whiskey Sour by J.A. Konrath

Whiskey Sour (Jack Daniels Mystery, #1)Whiskey Sour by J.A. Konrath

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A decent crime novel, my only criticism is a standing one of most crime fiction: Why is violence towards women ALWAYS sexual violence? Men *just* get killed (with exceptions, of course), women get killed, raped, and tortured in hideously graphic ways – pretty much every time. This does, I suppose, reflect reality up to a point, particularly in reinforcing the fact that rape is a crime of anger and NOT attraction. So it works both ways.

Jacqueline “Jack” Daniels is a police Lieutenant in Chicago. A string of (sexually) brutal murders of women by the self-proclaimed “Gingerbread man” are the focus of Jack’s and her partner Herb’s investigation. The FBI in this novel are portrayed as incompetent, coming up with off-the-wall criminal profile details, which (if you read my review of Mindhunter by John E Douglas, and the book itself) shouldn’t be how a profile is generated; but it serves the purpose of this story. Jack and Herb follow the evidence, as an investigator should. Jack, being a “woman” ends up becoming the focus of the Gingerbread man’s rage, and is therefore taken off her own investigation (officially). Which does lead to the men in the story essentially being awarded all the credit, despite Jack being both lead investigator and target. She saves her own life more than once!

The details of the crimes are quite jarring as described, and the pace of the novel is quite fast, keeping the reader moving forwards at a steady rate. Jack is a competent investigator, and deserves more credit for the work she put in! Hopefully, when I read further novels in this series, she gets the accolades that should be coming her way.

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Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman

Good Omens

Good Omens by Terry Pratchett

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A bit of fun at the end of the world. A collaboration between Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett sees the antichrist being born into the world, and through an all mighty cock up gets adopted by the wrong family. Intended to be the son of an influential American diplomat, he instead grows up in the village of Tadfield Oxfordshire, England. No one saw that coming, not the Angel Aziraphale, not the Demon Crowley, only a long dead witch by the name of Agnes Nutter who wrote a book of Nice and Accurate Prophecies, which didn’t sell precisely because it got things right.
Pursued by heaven and hell, the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, and the incompetent Witchfinder Army; Aziraphale and Crowley work together to stop, or indeed start the end of the world.

Initially a riveting read, it got very “middle” two-thirds of the way through. When all the disparate characters were each finding their way to the same location, it was no less funny, but a little repetitive. However that’s a small niggles in an otherwise enjoyable read. The irreverent yet satirical humour of Terry Pratchett is offset by the historical fantasy elements of Neil Gaiman.

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Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman

Norse MythologyNorse Mythology by Neil Gaiman

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Neil Gaiman re-tells the old myths and legends from Norway/Scandinavia.
Odin All-Father is wise, but vengeful. Thor is headstrong and cocky.

Loki Lies. All. The. Time.
And yes, at one point does turn himself into a mare to distract another horse – and gives birth to am eight-legged foal! And has other bizarre children who may be destined to bring about the end of the world.. Ragnarok.

We learn about Asgard, and Midgard, and the world tree Yggdrasil. We learn how Thor gets his hammer Mjollnir, and how other gods gain the items which make them unique.

Neil Gaiman states in the beginning, that the occasional detail in his re-tellings are either his own additions, or an amalgamation of several shorter tales into one. Therefore, not the text-book resource for if you were to study mythology. It does however, give you a great and easy to read insight into the topics and themes of Norse Mythology; the characters of all the players, and ultimately the culture of the Ancient Norse peoples.

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On The Beach by Nevil Shute

On the BeachOn the Beach by Nevil Shute

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

After a nuclear war, the remainder of the world survive as long as they can. Spoiler: it’s not very long. Quite a sad book. Even more sad when you think that it could actually happen.

WARNING: Review Contains Minor Spoilers

The nuclear war seemed to take place almost by accident, as the first missiles that came from (apparently) Albania were thought to have come from elsewhere, and thereby causing various nations to attack each other following this snowball of misunderstandings. Again, with the current political climate, this also seems scarily possible.

The fallout from the nuclear bombs has rendered the entire northern hemisphere uninhabitable. The survivors all flee to the southern colonies, particularly Australia, where this novel is set. Slowly but surely the radioactivity is spreading southwards. The human race is frankly doomed, and those that remain deal with the coming definitive end of the world in their own ways. The character of Moira understandably comments that “the people are slowly going mad” and behave either as if the coming tragedy is not going to happen, or they are trying to use up the remaining resources (such as fuel for motor vehicles, or rare alcoholic beverages!) as fast as they can.

The last remaining operational US submarine is sent on a few final missions to test scientific theories that there may be survivors elsewhere, or that the radioactivity may be decreasing in some areas. The commander of the submarine, Dwight Towers finds some respite from thoughts of his wife and children with his new friends Peter Holmes and his wife Mary, their friend Moira Davidson, and scientist John Osborne.

Dealing primarily with the characters and their mental states, more than the environmental disaster itself, it’s an example of how humans may behave in the face of the worst possible outcome of war. Haunting.

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Contact by Carl Sagan

ContactContact by Carl Sagan

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

You need at least a minor background in science to understand the themes and terminology. But it’s worth it.

Contact – the movie – is one of my all-time favourite sci-fi films. It’s a slow burner, and full of political machinations, but the payoff is quite profound. The book is very similar in tone and the story is basically the same, however some events happen to different people, the time period begins some years before the setting of the movie (but spans a greater time period in total), therefore impacting the technology involved in the narrative, some characters are involved less heavily than they were portrayed in the movie, and relationships differ greatly. In my opinion, I think the book has greater realism compared to the movie, simply because it focuses more on the science, the mathematics, and the ingenuity of the people involved in decoding the “message” and building the “machine”.

Eleanor Arroway is a brilliant scientist working on the SETI – Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence. Using radio telescopes, she and her team search the skies for possible transmissions from outer space, from potentially advanced civilisations in the far reaches of the universe. A signal is received containing a questionable message, huge amounts of data in a language unknown to human kind, and completely changes the entire perspective of the people of the world. All the countries of the world put aside their political differences, and for at least a few years are all completely cooperative in trying to work out the mystery of the message, and what the function of the “machine” actually is…

Probably one of the most clever narratives in science fiction that I have read or seen (to date). I don’t know much about radio telescopes and the related technologies, but with google at your side, you can definitely begin to understand more and more of how such a thing would work. I’ve learned a few things reading this book.

Thoroughly enjoyable. I recommend to anyone with even a minor interest in space.

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