Saturday, June 27, 2009

A Sci-Fi Thriller I Could Have Done Without

I recently finished Gray Apocalypse by James Murdoch. I have not been a habitual reader of thriller novels for several years now. I read them often in middle school, a bit less in high school, and now, very rarely read them. I thought I would give this read a chance, but you need to read this review from the perspective that I am not the hugest thriller fan, anymore.

Part of the reason may be that I think I now am more interested in identifying with the characters than with plot. Thrillers are about suspense, and a lot of times, you kind of take it for granted that you should be rooting for the good guy, and throwing popcorn at the bad guy. In this book, that certainly feels like the case.

It's not that I wasn't rooting for the good guys - in this book, the fate of the world kind of depends on them. Well, not kind of. It does depend on them. I guess I just didn't care about them much otherwise. The love story lines in this book kind of felt like they came out of nowhere and were ridiculous. Don't get me wrong - if I thought it very plausible the world might end, I would definitely want a good screw. I don't think it would cause me to fall in love with someone, though. And you definitely cannot fall in love with someone because you see their picture.

Love is magical and inexplicable, but part of it comes from knowing a person. Understanding what makes them tick, and sharing jokes, and...not from a picture.

Anyway, overall the plot is interesting. There's definitely suspense, although the story might be a little slow in the beginning. Basically, the idea is that there really was alien interaction in the fifties, and the American government entered into a secret contract with these aliens, who claimed they wanted to help humans, but are now about to crash an asteroid into the earth and kill all of us.

The biggest flaw in this book is the ending. But, I don't want to give that away in case you want to read it.

It definitely isn't a horrible book, it's just not the book that I'm going to gush about and say is a "must read." It is a debut novel, however, and as far as first novels go, it's nothing to be ashamed of.

If you're interested in reading it, or in at least checking it out, here's the Amazon page.

Happy reading!

Friday, June 26, 2009

An Author to Check Out

I have lately come across the Twitter feed and livejournal of Sarah Rees Brennan, an Irish YA author who recently released the novel The Demon's Lexicon.

I have yet to read her book, though I want to. (Lack of financial resources, and bills to pay are resulting in few to no books being bought at the moment, however...) I can say that what I have read shows her to be funny, clever, and good at writing.

What I really want to bring to your attention, however, is the promotion she's started. Every week that the sale of her book does well, she is going to post a short story on her Livejournal.

I think this is a great idea, for it rewards her steadfast readers, as well as gives people who are just discovering her a way to glimpse her writing before paying for it. (I hate buying a promising book to be disappointed by poor writing.)

The first story is up. It deals with some of the characters and settings that are in her book, but she promises it isn't filled with spoilers.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Teaser & Question

First, watch this:

I'm curious - does the idea of meshing Austen's beloved characters with supernatural horrors intrigue you, or enrage you?

Austen made it clear that she thought gothic novels could be taken too seriously in Northanger Abbey. So what would she make of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and Mr. Darcy, Vampyre?

I am inclined to think that she would disapprove, as her novels tend to support the value of thinking sensibly and clearly.

Yet, I like horror novels, so I'm tempted to try reading one or both of these novels.

What are your thoughts?

Edit: The author, Amanda Grange, is giving away a free copy to people who advertise the contest she is holding. Interested? Here's the link.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Purporting to be Austen

I recently read Charlotte, Julia Barrett's continuation of Jane Austen's last written work-in-progress, revolving around a place called Sanditon. If you are an avid fan of Austen (and if you're not, I kind of have to assume you have no soul; (shrugs) sorry), I do not recommend this book.

This continuation is an ambitious project. While Jane Austen only wrote six complete novels during her lifetime, each of those novels is beloved by many, each of those novels is distinct, and a work of art. The beginning of the novel Jane Austen tentatively entitled The Brothers is a promising one, and causes the reader to want to know what happens next, and to be further saddened that Ms. Austen was taken from this world so soon. To ruminate on where the story might have gone, and publish those ruminations for other Austen fans to read takes courage, imagination, of course, and I admire Julia Barrett for sharing her thoughts with the world.

The manner in which this book is packaged, however, led me to believe that Julia Barrett's writing is supposed to resemble that of Ms. Austen's. The transition from Austen's writing to Barrett's is not at all seamless, but is instead rather abrupt. The first sentence of Barrett's, in fact, changes the attitude of the main character.

One thing I did like about this book is that Julia Barrett re-formatted Ms. Austen's writing so that it reads a little bit more like a more modern novel. This re-spacing was done, undoubtedly, to help make the transition to Barrett's writing less distinct.

Another thing evident in the book is that Barrett obviously did research on the time period. She also writes using archaic vocabulary, and really does try to make the reader feel that they are reading about people in the nineteenth century.

The difference between her writing and Austen's is evident, however, perhaps because Austen is writing from the vantage point of someone living in the nineteenth century. Rather than the point of view of someone looking back on that time and trying to recapture its essense, Austen WAS part of the nineteenth century, herself.

Barrett does research, and has some interesting ideas as to where the book was heading. Personally, I don't agree with her. I feel that Barrett changed some of the characters too drastically too fast, and while certain parts of her storyline seem accurate, many of them do not, to me.

Thus, while I congratulate Barrett on her thorough research, and for the mere fact that she attempted to complete a novel by such a famous author, I do not think that this book does justice to the story that Ms. Austen's fragment begins.