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review 2019-06-17 20:20
"Recursion" by Blake Crouch - Abandoned at 10%
Recursion - Blake Crouch

"Recursion" was a mis-buy on my part. An intriguing premise but written in a way I struggled to engage with-


I pre-ordered Blake Crouch's "Recursion" because I thought the premise, the emergence of a disease labelled False Memory Syndrome was intriguing. I also wanted to give Blake Crouch another try. I didn't get on well with his "Pines" trilogy, opting out after the first book. Given the reviews his books get, I wanted to see what I was missing.


The premise is an intriguing one: in 2008, a well-intentioned and heavily funded scientist sets out to save the world from Alzheimer's and ends up creating a technology that will undermine our whole sense of who we are. Ten years later, a New York City Robbery Division Detective with a tragic history and a drinking problem is present at the suicide of a woman suffering from False Memory Syndrome. He starts to research the phenomenon and can't let it go.


With a premise like that, I should be happily hip-deep in a mystery /thriller with some cool science at its heart rather than writing a review of a book I've abandoned at the 10% mark.


I abandoned the book because of a number of small things that, when I added them together, told me I wasn't looking forward to spending another ten hours with this book.

The plot structure, with the two asynchronous but converging timelines is a nice idea but the delivery is dull and the pace is slow.


The NYC cop didn't interest me. He's a fully-loaded cliché: late middle-aged white man, divorced, the tragic death of his daughter has broken him and his marriage, lives alone, drinks too much and is married to the job. Are you bored yet? I was. There was nothing distinctive about the man to make me care whether he's going to get involved in hunting down the cause of False Memory Syndrome or not.


The scientist is a mirror image, thirty-eight-year-old scientist, still seeking funding for her big idea, nothing in her life but her work which is in part a crusade to help her mother who is suffering from Alzheimer's.


Then there's the memory science, which seems to model human memory as if it where computer memory only on a larger scale in terms of data set size and complexity. My understanding is that memory doesn't work like that. It's not a tape we play, it's something we reconstruct each time we recall something.


Setting the science aside, how these characters remember things doesn't match my experience. They seem to be watching 4K HD TV while I'm tuned to the radio.

So I'm putting this one down as a mis-buy and sending it back to audible.

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review 2019-06-15 09:25
"The Wall" by John Lanchester, narrated by Will Poulter
The Wall - John Lanchester,Will Poulter

"The Wall" is a grimly plausible, deftly told, brilliantly narrated tale of what happens when we lock the rest of the world out to protect ourselves from climate change.


John Lanchester's"The Wall" is an extended metaphor for the direction Britain seems to be heading in. In a not too distant future, when the oceans have risen, beaches are a thing of the past and much of the world's population is homeless and or starving, Britain has built a massive wall around the island to lock out "The Others" who are desperate to make a life in Britain. The idea is grimly plausible and as hard to look away from as the scene of a car wreck.


When I bought "The Wall", I wondered whether the extended metaphor thing would work as a novel or whether it would feel too much like a didactic tool or a Cassandra-like warning. The warning is definitely there but most of my attention was on Joseph Kavanagh, a young man telling the story of his time as a Defender on The Wall and the things that happened to him afterwards.


In this society, every young person serves two years on the Wall as a Defender. Well, except for the Elite who are suspected of finding a way around such things. Defenders keep The Others out. Others who make it through the Wall, become Help, indentured servants whose children will be born as citizens. If Others make it over the Wall, Defenders equal in number to the Others who made it through, are put out to sea in an open boat and banished.


Kavanagh is bright, observant, has a vague ambition to work his way up to the Elite, tends towards introspection and sometimes, even poetry. He describes the experience of the Wall as "Concrete. Sea. Sky". He educates us on the different kinds of cold you feel on the wall and how to survive a twelve-hour shift by learning to let time pass through you rather than trying to pass through time.


As he works his way through his two-year tour of duty on the Wall, he becomes a Defender. His fellow Defenders are his family. They share a bond that only ex-Defenders recognise.


Like his comrades, Kavanagh spends his time in the cold on the wall thinking about food and sex and what he'll do after the Wall. His routine is broken only by trips home to parents he can't communicate with. Parents who've never been on the Wall. Parents who are part of the generation whose choices caused the Change that raised the oceans and created the wall.


Kavanagh tells his story plainly in a way that is intimate and honest and also laden with a sense of doom and foreknowledge of regret. Even when he is describing combat, he is calm and untheatrical. This makes him easy to like and to identify with and gives what happens to him and the people around him an emotional impact stronger than the words he uses.


"The Wall" will make you think. It will also make you cry. I recommend it to you if you want a fresh, clear voice to help you explore a possible future as a warning to our present.


The audiobook version is narrated by Will Poulter, who gets the pacing and the tone exactly right and adds power to the text. 





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text 2019-06-14 20:22
Reading progress update: I've read 11%. €20 - really?
The October Man - Ben Aaronovitch

Moving the action to Germany is refreshing  and is working well.


One thing just made me raise an eyebrow.


Our German counterpart to Peter Grant has just tipped away half a glass of a good vintage Mosel wine dating, somewhat improbably, back to the 1930s. His colleague upbraids him for wasting it, saying ^That was a€20 bottle of wine."


Perhaps my ezperinece was skewed by living in Switzerland, but €20 seems way too low a price for a collectable wine.

What do you think?

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review 2019-06-12 13:03
"Death Without Company - Walt Longmire #2" by Craig Johnson
Death Without Company - George Guidall,Craig Johnson

So this is my second visit with Walt Longmire, long-term Sheriff of a very small town in Wyoming. Everything that I liked about the first book, "The Cold Dish" continues to be present but gets richer with familiarity.


The main attraction is still being inside Walt's head. He's a smart, compassionate man, trying to do the right thing, not always sure what that is but willing to put in the effort to work it out. His sense of humour is as deep as his compassion. He's prone to introspection with undertones of depression and from time to time needs to be rescued from the inside of his own head by friends who'll make him act rather than just think and remember.


Walt's closest friend ins Henry Standing Bear, Vietnam Vet and owner of the Red Pony bar. Henry is not a sidekick in the traditional sense. He's Walt's peer. They have similar (slightly frightening) abilities to see through lies and to use violence to deliver their version of justice. Their values and motivations overlap but are not exactly the same. In other words, they are friends. Not the Facebook type of friend that clicks approval but the face to face kind of friend who's there when you need him.


The relationship between Walt and Henry is the bedrock on which the series is built, so, not surprisingly, Chapter One spends some time re-immersing us in how it works. Here's how it starts:

"It was just after Thanksgiving and we had consumed the better part of single malt Scotch. When I woke up the next morning, Henry had already pulled a couple of leatherette chairs in front of a double fifty-gallon drum stove. I pushed off the sleeping bag and swung my legs over the side of the pool table on which I had fallen asleep and tried to feel the muscles in my face. He had hauled his bag with him and sat hunched over the stove.
I watched as steam blew out with my breath and I scrambled to get the down-filled bag back around me.
'Heat's off'
He turned his head and the dark eyes looked through the silver strands in the black curtain of his hair.
I joined him at the stove in my socks. The floor was cold and I regretted not slipping on boots.
'Do you want some coffee?'
'Then go and make some. I am the one who built the fire'."

I think this is a good introduction to both men and to the style in which the novel is written. There is a friendship deep enough to afford silent companionship and humour that annotates their relationship and their shared understanding of the world.


The other person who casts light on Sheriff Longmire is his predecessor, Lucian, who hired Walt more than twenty years earlier. In the first book, Lucian came across to me as a relic of the old west: authoritarian, violent, intolerant and a law unto himself. In this book, Walt learns more about who Lucian is and how he came to be that way and in the process, starts to see himself becoming the Lucian who hired him.


The title "Death Without Company" refer to the fate that befalls people who live without friends. In this case, the death is that of woman resident in the Durant Home for Assisted Living, where Lucian is also a resident. Walt is called in to investigate the death after Lucian declares that the woman was murdered.


To figure out what is going on, Walt has to look into Lucian's past and understand what happened to a young man who fell in love with a young Basque immigrant and the consequences it had for her and her family.


The tale is a dark and violent one that changed my perception of Lucian. He was who he needed to be at the time. Much as Walt is, except without the compassion.


The plot is a satisfying mix of past sins and current avarice delivering death to many of those involved. It gives a picture of how Wyoming used to be and makes Walt reflect on who he is.


There's a lot of action in the book, including some great stand-alone scenes with Walt in peril. What I like about the action scenes is that they're never the see-how-I-got-up-and-shrugged-off-being-hit-with-that-steel-bar kind of movie violence. These scenes are about struggle and threat and maybe not making it this time.


"Death Without Company" confirmed this as a must-read series for me. I'll be listening to the audiobook version because George Guidall's narration is a big part of my enjoyment. He gets squeezes every ounce of goodness out of the text and does it with no apparent effort.

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review 2019-06-09 23:57
"Storm Cursed - Mercy Thompson #11" by Patricia Briggs
Storm Cursed (Mercy Thompson #11) - Patricia Briggs,Lorelei King

I came late to the Mercy Thompson series. I read the first book, "Moon Called"in January 2017, nearly eleven years after it was published and was hooked immediately. This was Urban Fantasy as I'd always hoped it would be. I've been playing catch up ever since and it's been tremendous fun.


"Storm Cursed", book eleven in the series, was the first one I'd had to pre-order (OK, was too impatient NOT to pre-order) so I'm finally up to date.


I did wonder how this book would go. Many series start to fade by the time they get to book eleven. Book ten, "Silence Fallen" had tried to stay fresh by moving the venue to Europe and telling some of the story from Adam's point of view. It was fun but I hoped for a return to a Mercy-centric story.


When "Storm Cursed" arrived, I pushed my current book aside and dived in.


It was wonderful: familiar but vibrant and with enough new things to keep it fresh. I love that feeling of coming home to a book.


The good things were:


  • "Storm Cursed" goes back to telling the story from Mercy's point of view. I like being inside her head. She's not quite the same Mercy. She's a little more cautious, a little cannier, a lot more powerful and very, very aware of her need for friends and allies.
  • The witchcraft-centred plot worked well for lining Mercy up to call on all of her allies, vampire, fae, goblin, even her half-brother, to win the day.
  • Mercy's snarky humour still works for me and the action scenes delivered.


The things that didn't work well:


  • Pack dynamics haven't moved on. I struggle to believe that Mercy is still getting hassle from the likes of Mary-Joe
  • Yet again, Adam, the Pack and Bran get sidelined. I see that this puts Mercy centre stage but it's wearing a little thin.
  • Yet again we have evil but incompetent government folks making a mess. I know that, given the current occupant of the White House, the government being evil and incompetent might be taken as a given but in Mercy's world I'd hoped for a little development.
  • The whole thing with the cutlas seemed odd. An M16 or even a Ka-Bar knife I could see coming in handy but a cutlas only works in video games.


I'm a fan, invested in the series and I had a good time but… I do wonder where we go from here.


Nevertheless, I'll pre-order book twelve when it becomes available. In the meantime, I'll catch up on the Alpha Omega books where I've only read book 0.5 and book 1.

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