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review 2020-01-03 23:14
Talking Truth to Power
The Poet (Jack McEvoy #1) - Michael Connelly

“Death is my beat…” is the kind of dramatic opening at which Michael Connelly excels and it’s a fitting introduction to the main character of this 1996 novel, ‘Rocky Mountain News’ reporter, Jack McEvoy. I should perhaps stress that this is NOT a Harry Bosch detective story. Notwithstanding my intention to run down the lengthy Bosch series of novels, my learned friend and aficionado in such matters advised there was value in this (not so short) diversion that would see seeds sown, to be reaped later. Time will tell. However, the sure-footedness of the author’s writing style certainly made this standalone companion to my literary pilgrimage, worth paying homage to. Indeed, there are parallels between the detective and the journalist and just as Harry Bosch has previously found himself enmeshed in the FBI, so in this novel, it is the turn of Jack McEvoy to work alongside the Feds, in an investigation spanning a number of states.


The catalyst had been the death of Jack’s twin brother. The lead investigator on a horrific murder case, Detective Sean McEvoy had allegedly committed suicide, overwhelmed by the attendant emotional trauma. The evidence had been weighed quickly, to turn an embarrassing page for the local police department, only Jack wasn’t buying it. What if, instead of assuming suicide, it was assumed that Sean McEvoy was the victim of a homicide? Could the evidence support such a radically different interpretation? The police aren’t the only agency with investigative resources and by pulling hard on the loose threads, Jack begins to unravel a whole world of pain.


Not only is the dynamic flow of the plot reminiscent of the Bosch novels, in Jack McEvoy, the author has also embedded some very familiar traits. Intelligent, but stubborn, rebellious, but loyal, determined, but at times naive, there is something very satisfying about the maverick character cocking a snook at authority and in so doing establishing his integrity. Of course, as a former crime reporter for the LA Times, Michael Connelly is well-placed to lift the lid a little on the role of the investigative journalist and the inherent tensions between the guardianship of the public’s ‘right to know’ and those clandestine operatives tasked with keeping the public safe from harm, on a ‘need to know’ basis. With trust on both sides in short supply, the author also has fun with it, in the inevitable romantic incursion across boundaries. Though this lighter plotline perhaps eases the discomfort, which flows from the disturbing portrait of a clinical serial killer.


All-in-all a very satisfying, but challenging read and the sequel (‘The Narrows’) comes in at number ten in the Harry Bosch ‘hit parade’. In fact, last week the third book in the ‘Jack McEvoy series’ has been announced (‘Fair Warning’ due out in May 2020). This intertwining of characters and series is turning my simple trek through an interesting body of work into something of an odyssey, but the journey is made all the more interesting for it. Still, I am also indebted to my Twitter buddy @JoeBanksWrites who is up ahead on the reading list climb, like my very own literary sherpa! Next stop for me, Book 5, “Trunk Music” (1997). See you at the top!

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review 2018-11-17 17:33
Binary Equivalents: "Starman Jones" by Robert A. Heinlein
Starman Jones - Robert A. Heinlein


(Original Review, 1980-07-24)



Random rumblings on our inability to predict the future.

Pop-up display screens and visual aiming (guiding a missile by looking at the target) for fighter pilots is discussed in the recent fiction paperback "FoxFire.'' The technology for visual aiming is actually quite old. It is derived from the device (I'm not sure what it is called) used by psychologists to measure eye movements.
 
 
If you're into stuff like this, you can read the full review.
 
 

 

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review 2018-08-31 16:26
Unhook the Modem: "Neuromancer" by William Gibson
Neuromancer - William Gibson


“Cyberspace. A consensual hallucination experienced daily by billions of legitimate operators, in every nation, by children being taught mathematical concepts . . . A graphic representation of data abstracted from the banks of every computer in the human system. Unthinkable complexity. Lines of light ranged in the nonspace of the mind, clusters and constellations of data. Like city lights, receding.”

In “Neuromancer” by William Gibson



A friend of mine tried to read "Neuromancer" and he really struggled to follow what was going on, he told me. Who was doing what to whom, and were they in the real world or a virtual world? Were the characters alive, dead or artificial? I think there was a section where the protagonist was experiencing things via another person's eyes, adding to his confusion. There were some space Rastafarians and a woman who spoke like Lady Penelope towards the end, whom at least he could tell apart from the others. The book was like a mix of Blade Runner, Tron and The Matrix. For him, I think it might have worked better as a graphic novel. And I said, "WTF?? [...]"

 

 

 

If you're into stuff like this, you can read the full review.

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review 2017-12-02 21:02
The Risks of Universal Enfranchisement: "Starship Troopers" by Robert A. Heinlein
Starship Troopers - Robert A. Heinlein
Word of warning. I’m going to discourse both on the book and on the Verhoeven’s movie.
 
He didn't include them as "grunts" probably because the training was sufficiently hard that most wouldn't have made it. If you read the description of the training it wasn't just 12 weeks square-bashing, it reads far more like Special Forces.
 
It might also have been because he was paying lip service to a society kind of modelled on 50s America where the ladies were the home-makers and females in the frontline weren't even on the radar.
 
However, having said that, we have the fabulous line about females in high rank and esteem:
 
"If the Almighty ever needs a hand to run the universe: hot ship pilot Yvette Deladrier" after Starship commander Deladrier brakes her ship's orbit to recover a lander that has blasted off late and which otherwise would miss rendezvous and all on board would perish. I’ve heard from a lot of my friends saying the movie version is utter shit. I’m not so sure. The thing is, Verhoeven was a master of taking existing texts and subtly pushing them into satire by overdoing Hollywood/MTV filming tropes. The viewer was encouraged to look at the films as broad entertainment and then ask what the actions of the heroes had to do with American culture. He did the same with Joe Eszterhas's scripts for “Basic Instinct” and “Showgirls”. “Basic Instinct” is a detective story where the 'hero' is someone who's already gotten away with murder because of his badge, and who shoots another innocent victim before the film is out, while the 'villain' is never actually shown to kill anyone. She's chiefly a suspect because of her sexuality (which is why GLAAD picketed the film) and lack of shame about it. “Showgirls” meanwhile depicts a vision of Las Vegas as a patriarchal dystopia where every woman is judged on her body and literally every male character is a predator of some kind. 
 
 
If you're into SF, read on.
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text 2017-04-18 13:34
13th April 2017
Opened Ground: Selected Poems, 1966-1996 - Seamus Heaney

If you have the words, there's always a chance that you'll find the way.

 

Seamus Heaney

 

Irish poet and Nobel Prize-winner Seamus Heaney (born April 13, 1939) enjoyed both critical acclaim and widespread popularity. By 2008, two-thirds of poetry books sold in the UK were by Heaney.

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