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text 2020-02-15 18:54
The Ultimate 'Skin in the Game'....
Blood Work - Michael Connelly


Another exceptional tale from the pen of Michael Connelly, though again this book strays from my ‘as the crow flies’ list of novels featuring Harry Bosch. Instead, the author introduces the reader to ex-FBI agent, Terrell (‘Terry’) McCaleb, who will (I am reliably informed) cross paths with Bosch further downstream in the series. Recently retired on health grounds, McCaleb is grappling with profound changes in his life. On the upside he is living on his late father’s boat, ‘The Following Sea’ and planning a permanent move to his spiritual home, Catalina Island. More challenging, McCaleb is recovering from a recent heart transplant, but just as the reader is processing this interesting scenario, Connelly wrings more intrigue from it, by engaging the reluctant retiree in a search for the murderer of the organ donor, indirectly responsible for his own survival. Still, if the central idea is cleverly innovative, the execution of the fairly complex plot is at times simply sublime.


In my earlier review of novel, ‘The Poet’, I observed that there were similarities between the main character (journalist, Jack McEvoy) and Harry Bosch and the same can be said of former agent McCaleb, but that does not detract from the slick plot, wherein he must operate without the authority that an FBI badge provides. Moreover, the posse of new characters arranged around McCaleb help develop the story in ways that might be more difficult for officers of the law, bound by the processes of criminal justice.


The frail condition of McCaleb post-op’ is both a catalyst for action and an attendant risk, with potentially fatal consequences if he can’t nurture his new heart. Indeed, the rhythm of the book has the reader’s pulse eerily paired with McCaleb and the trials of a painstaking investigation. That his involvement is at the emotional request of his saviour’s bereaved sister (Graciela Rivers), just ramps up the pressure on McCaleb and the imperative that her sister’s sacrifice and his survival is justified. The guilt that swirls around McCaleb, as the unwitting recipient of the young mother’s life chance, beset by a debt he can’t possibly repay, is poignant and sensitively handled by the author. However, inevitably McCaleb must also overcome the competitive architects of, thus far, fruitless investigations by LAPD, the bureau and a local Sheriff’s department, if he is to put things right (as far as he can) and combat the notion that he had most to gain from the donor’s death!


In common with the earlier novels, Connelly’s gritty portrayal of Los Angeles and its environs suggests a warts and all fondness for the area, which seeps into his characters. Certainly the boat into which McCaleb has been cocooned may yet see him emerge a quite different man, especially if he can land a suitable companion for his onward voyage.


I really enjoyed this book and look forward to the meeting of McCaleb and Bosch anticipated in Book 7 in the series (‘A Darkness More Than Night’). Once again Michael Connelly has created a puzzling and compelling page-turner, with a main character, in this instance, destined to literally have ‘skin in the game’. I toast the author’s ingenuity and the strength of his imaginative powers with 4.5 well-deserved stars.


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review 2018-09-29 14:18
Paradigm Shifting Technology: “Steel Beach” by John Varley
Steel Beach - John Varley

(original review, 1998)

I liked “Steel Beach” by John Varley much more than I expected, as the AI is much more insidious that we usually see in most contemporary SF. Most of the others assume that an AI would go rogue, but "Steel Beach" assumes the opposite, that the AI would work exactly as designed. In “Steel Beach”, the residents of Lunar all live under the benevolent auspices of the Central Computer, which has essentially replaced even the idea of government, automating all the boring jobs, inventing paradigm shifting technology & freeing up humanity to live a life of ease (with near immortality thrown in). Problem is that humans aren't built to live that life.
If you're into stuff like this, you can read the full review.


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review 2018-09-28 17:36
SF Taxonomy: "The Complete Morgaine" by C J. Cherryh
The Complete Morgaine - C.J. Cherryh

I agree, for example, that we'd probably align in terms of what was 'fantasy' and what was 'science fiction' based on the rather limited selection of books you find on the shelves at my local Bertrand Bookstore in Lisbon (or Waterstones if you like in the UK; take your pick). Where my vision might differ from common opinion regarding SF, I think, is on how hard and fast the difference is in the wider genres. To take as one example C. J. Cherryh's 'Morgaine Saga'. It uses all of the tropes of 'fantasy' - a warrior protagonist with a 'magic' sword, pseudo 'medieval' societies to who she is a demon/goddess.
If you're into stuff like this, you can read the full review.


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review 2018-09-05 15:30
Pollyanna Principles: "Dhalgren" by Samuel L. Delany
Dhalgren - Samuel R. Delany

“Really? Samuel Delany has written "unreadable garbage"? Would you care to share with us the precise nature of the stories or novels which qualify as such, or have you not, as I strongly suspect, actually read any of his work? I presume this is the same Samuel Delany who has been a professor of English and writing at numerous American universities, who was named a GrandMaster of the field? The author of "Time Considered as a Helix of Semi-Precious Stones", “Babel-17” and “Nova”? That Samuel Delany? Or is it instead the case, as I suspect, that you have allowed yourself to fall foul of the cliché that if it's SF, then by its very nature, some of his work must be bad?”

That’s, more or less, how I answered someone who commented on the novel’s review back then.



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

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review 2017-12-11 02:50
Bag of Bones Hardcover - September 22, 1998 - Stephen King

I cheated in my Stephen King chronological reread series. Desperation was up next, but... I really dislike that book, okay? I wanted to get to a King novel I love before the year’s end, so here we are.


This was my third reread of Bag of Bones; this time it hit me deeper than ever before. Now that I’m familiar with Kong’s entire oeuvre, connections big and small (Thad Beaumont gets a shoutout, there’s a scene with Ralph Roberts and Norris Ridgewick, names like Polly Chalmers and Bannerman are mentioned) stood out, deepening my enjoyment of this novel.


This is King’s grief story. Yeah, his early ‘80s works deal in grief, too, but this 1998 tome is steeped in the blues. Four years after his wife’s death, author Mike Noonan moves from Derry to their summer home in TR-90. Dealing with writer’s block and haunted by ghosts both physical and metaphorical, it is a period of intense mourning. This has been a year of mourning, for me, so this particular narrative really hit me hard.


A gorgeous, spacious look at romance and small town life and mourning loss, this is a King classic. If it isn’t in my top five, it’s certainly in my top ten. This is when, I think, King went to a whole ‘nother level in his writing. The move to Scribner did him a world of good. Equal parts moving and terrifying, I cannot recommend this one enough.

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