Nov. 19, 2014:
This week I have three outstanding novels to recommend for your reading pleasure, two of which won the Pulizer Prize 50 years apart.
To Kill a Mockingbird is a modern classic novel from Harper Lee that is often read in high school English classes. If you somehow missed this novel like I did, do yourself a favor and put this at the top of your reading list. It’s told through the eyes of a young girl and provides a captivating look at life and racism in a small southern American town in the mid-20th century.
The Orphan Master’s Son from Adam Johnson just won the Pulitzer Prize in 2013 and it submerges the reader in a totalitarian world that seems unbelievable but is completely based on the present day reality of North Korea. This is a harrowing book that is not for the faint of heart but if you can handle the extreme violence and disturbing content, this novel should not be missed.
Finally, Number 9 Dream is another outstanding novel from one of my favorite writers, David Mitchell. This novel involves the coming of age story of a young man in Japan but it also turns into a violent thriller when the young man comes face to face with the organized crime of the Yakusa.
Aug. 31, 2014:
I didn’t get much time for reading this summer because there were just too many things going on. I took more time off for vacation than normal which made the times when I was as work busier than ever. The only time I really spent reading was when I took another business trip to Germany.
In any case, I have two new reviews. The first is a quick fast-paced read about a future where superpowers have become all too common. The book is called Resistance and it’s written by a writer from India named Samit Basu who has been successfully writing comics and graphic novels as well as conventional novels. Resistance reads like a movie based on a graphic novel but has a surprising amount of substance and an abundance of plot twists to keep the reader guessing. It’s highly recommended for anyone who enjoys comics or graphic novels involving super powers.
The second book is another hard to classify novel by Haruki Murakami called Dance Dance Dance. This is a novel that combines weighty thoughts about relationships and life with the action and atmosphere of a noir thriller. It’s highly recommended for those looking for a something a bit more challenging than the average crime thriller.
May 4, 2014:
Just in time for summer, I have three new top recommendations for your reading pleasure. With too many things going on, it’s been tough for me to find reading time lately. However, on a recent business trip to Germany I was able to read one complete novel on the way over and another on the way back. All told, I have 4 new reviews with 3 receiving high recommendations.
First, I have a review of a new debut novel titled The Martian that totally blew me away. On his first attempt at writing a novel, Andy Weir succeeded in crafting an unforgettable thrilling adventure that highlights the indomitable spirit of mankind. More than a novel of science fiction, this is a novel of survival unlike any other which is so realistic that it could almost pass for nonfiction. It’s the story of an astronaut stranded all alone on Mars and his fight for survival which requires every ounce of ingenuity, scientific knowledge, and perseverance he can muster. Do yourself a favor and read this inspirational novel as soon as possible. The Martian just landed in 5th place on my all-time list of greatest science fiction novels.
Second, I have a review of an older novel from Jon Courtenay Grimwood that turned out to be one of the wildest and most fun rides through fiction that I’ve made recently. With a title that’s not supposed to be capitalized, redRobe, delivers non-stop action with a serious noir bent through a richly imagined future based on highly entertaining extrapolations. This will make a terrific summer read for anyone looking for a high octane novel that doesn’t take itself too seriously.
Third, I have Shovel Ready which is another impressive debut novel. This is kind of a post-apocalyptic novel that takes place in a New York City which has been devastated by a dirty bomb. It’s an ultra-hard-boiled noir detective novel where the main character is a hit man. Shovel Ready is a quick read that provides major action and violence of the satisfying variety that will be another great pick for the summer.
Last, I have The Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes which is a novel about a serial killer who has access to time travel. This is a generally well received novel that has high quality writing but fell a bit flat for me. It’s much more a novel about serial killers and shocking violence against women than a novel of science fiction. It wasn’t what I was looking for even though it had a remarkable heroine and a despicable killer.
Feb. 22, 2014:
I just received an advance copy of a new zombie apocalypse novel titled Coldbrook from the nice folks at Titan Publishing. It’s a novel written by Tim Lebbon which is set to be released in the US on April 10. With the seemingly ever increasing number of zombie novels being published, I didn’t have high expectations. However, when I opened this novel up to read the first few pages to see whether it would be worth my time, I was hooked right off the bat. Mixing a scientific breakthrough enabling travel to alternate worlds with a zombie apocalypse just seemed like a stroke of brilliance that I couldn’t resist. And the more I read, the more I wanted to keep reading. For anyone interested in a rousing new take on a Zombie apocalypse with plenty of extreme violence along with intriguing mysteries involving alternate earths, I highly recommend that you place your pre-order for Coldbrook right away.
Jan. 26, 2014:
I recently picked up used copies of early novels from two writers who I’ve come to count on for great reads. Caught Stealing is Charlie Huston's first novel and it contains the mixture of extreme violence and black humor for which Huston has become well known. It might not be quite as polished and his recent works but it’s a visceral thriller about a guy in New York who finds himself being chased by multiple criminal groups who want something from him. The only problem is he doesn’t know what they want.
I also read an early novel from Greg Bear, Blood Music, which was the novel that really jump started his career. This is an innovative science fiction novel about bioengineering and artificial intelligence that combine to create a pandemic which threatens the future of the human race.
Last, and certainly not least, is a very well written detective novel from Jon Courtenay Grimwood called 9 Tail Fox. This novel contains an entertaining twist on the traditional detective novel which is enabled by a science fiction device that technically places this novel into the science fiction genre. However, 99% of this novel is straight forward crime fiction with the wrinkle that the detective is investigating his own murder.
Nov. 12, 2013:
If you’re looking for a good book to read, you’ve come to the right spot. Today, I’m publishing new reviews of three novels which I can all highly recommend.
First up is new spy thriller from Charlie Huston named Skinner. Now, I read this novel when I still had a low fever while recovering from the flu so I may have been a bit delirious which could have influenced my review. However, there is no denying that this novel completely sucked me into a world of astonishing violence and espionage where I no longer noticed the pain wracking my joints from fever. The characters were off beat and intriguing while the action was as good as it gets. If you have any liking for international spy thrillers and don’t mind extreme violence, make sure to put Skinner at the top of your reading list.
For science fiction lovers, I have reviews of two very different science fiction novels. One is titled Moxyland which turns out to be the best South African science fiction novel I’ve ever read. Well OK, it’s actually the only South African science fiction novel I’ve ever read but it really is a well written novel that provides a completely unique reading experience. It essentially drops you into a very near future dystopian world dominated by social media. You get a direct window into the lives of 4 young disenchanted members of society who get involved in social protests that escalate completely out of control. This is an impressive debut novel from Lauren Beukes.
Last, The Dog Stars by Peter Heller is another debut science fiction novel from an author who exhibits extraordinary promise. This is a post-apocalyptic science fiction novel that proves science fiction includes great literature. It has some of the most lyrical writing I’ve read. Descriptions of the countryside read like poetry while the thoughts and feelings of the main character reach sublime heights. However, to keep everything grounded, there are also bouts of extreme violence and an air of unrelenting bleakness.
Oct. 18, 2013:
After taking the summer off from writing reviews, I have three reviews this week from three authors I have never read before including two first novels.
Ernest Cline's debut novel is named Ready Player One and it is one of the most fun and satisfying novels I've read in a while. It includes an exciting virtual reality competition along with real world danger. It also highlights the issues with making virtual relationships and translating virtual relationships into real world relationships. This is a novel that almost everyone is sure to like.
Ecko Rising is the debut novel from British author Danie Ware. It contains a dystopian future of extreme violence and then moves to an alternate fantasy reality with more violence and plenty of darkness. This novel mixes sword and sorcery fantasy with a bio-enhanced assassin from the future.
Angelmaker by Nick Harkaway is a really hard novel to classify neatly into a genre. It mixes steampunk elements with a James Bond spy plot and adds in some dry British humor to create a challenging and rewarding read. See more details in the full review here.
May 27, 2013:
I finally managed to publish 3 reviews this week and the good news is that they offer a wide variety of challenging science fiction material with real substance.
First up is Light by M. John Harrison who recently released Empty Space which has been widely praised as the third novel of a trilogy. I had not read any of Harrison’s works so I decided to find the first novel of the trilogy. This turned out to be one of the more unique and challenging works of science fiction that I’ve read in some time. For those of you who assume literary science fiction is an oxymoron, this novel will change your mind.
Next up is The Dervish House from one of my favorite authors, Ian McDonald. This novel throws the reader into an exotic location, Turkey, which has been a place where eastern philosophies mix with western ideas for centuries. In the near future, Turkey has become a center of technological innovation but it has also become a favorite target for terrorists. This novel combines high technology with mysticism and high tension action.
Last, I happened to see a used copy of Peter Watts first published novel, Starfish, and after being so impressed with his more recent novel, Blindsight, I couldn’t pass it up. Starfish turned out to be my favorite read of the last few months. It has fascinating psychology, brilliant extrapolations, and exciting tension. As long as you don’t mind a lot of hard science in your fiction, this is a novel that should not be missed.
March 1, 2013:
A small publisher, See Sharp Press, recently began publishing science fiction novels and sent me three novels to review. I have reviews of two of the novels which were both by new authors publishing their first science fiction novels. I also have a review of a novel from an author who is currently at the height of his powers, David Mitchell.
The Hour of Lead is the first science fiction novel from Kathleen De Grave and her second published work of fiction overall. In this novel involving futuristic psychological treatments, small changes are made to the past which lead to alternate realities in a future dominated by catastrophic climate changes. The beginning of this novel seemed a bit awkward and simplistic but when the main character began to make tweaks to the past, everything came together to provide an entertaining and satisfying read.
Free Radicals is a debut novel from a musician turned author who is using the pseudonym of Zeke Teflon. This novel also started off a bit rough with too much exposition. However, when the main character gets exiled to a prison planet the action picks up and the main character encounters a series of widely differing communities founded upon extreme ideals.The Thousand Autumns of Jacob De Zoet is a fabulous historical novel from David Mitchell which was published in 2010. I am continually amazed by the breadth and quality of works from Mitchell who has been in the limelight recently thanks the movie based on his book Cloud Atlas. The Thousand Autumns of Jacob De Zoet takes place 200 years ago and follows a young Dutch clerk assigned to the only existing trading port at the time between Japan and the Western world. It’s filled with mysteries and conflicts and I can’t recommend it highly enough.
January 19, 2013:
Happy New Year to everyone! Now that we survived the end of the Mayan calendar, we can be relieved to have survived one more prediction for the end of the world. It should be obvious by now that what we should fear most is ourselves and, of course, the best way to prepare for the future is to read good science fiction novels like those found in my Right On Book Picks.
Speaking of the end of the world, I just finished reading Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World by Harki Murakami. After reading 1Q84 recently I was excited to try another novel from Murakami. This ended up being another off-beat and entertaining novel but it didn’t quite match the lofty heights achieved by 1Q84.
I also read another novel in the Culture series of science fiction novels from Iain M. Banks titled,The Hydrogen Sonata. By coincidence, this novel also involved the end of a world as it focused on the last days of a highly advanced civilization as they approach the time of ascendance to another state of being in the Sublime. This was a lighter novel than most of Banks previous works that I’ve read and for anyone who’s enjoyed the culture novels; this one is well worth reading.
The holiday season is already upon us. For those book lovers on your gift list, you can find my most highly recommended novels on my Right On Book Picks web page. All of these novels are guaranteed to provide a quality reading experience.
Today, I have reviews of two excellent literate comedies. A Brilliant Novel in the Works is a new first novel from Yuvi Zalkow that shows how bad writer’s block can get.
A Confederacy of Dunces is a novel written in the 1960’s by John Kennedy Toole which was not published until 1980, years after the young author committed suicide. Despite the tragic circumstances of the author, this is one of the funniest novels I’ve read.
Another great gift idea is a graphic novel or compilation of comics. I don’t have reviews of these items but in the spirit of the gift giving season, I’ve posted links to purchase some of my favorites below. These include the following:
Calvin and Hobbes: Terrific humor for all ages from Bill Watterson. The Essential Calvin and Hobbes is a great place to start and is quite reasonably priced. For the serious fan, a complete hardback collection is also available.
Dilbert: Best office humor ever created by Scott Adams. It's Not Funny If I Have to Explain It is one of the best collections with the author's favorite strips along with added comments.
Flash Gordon: Classic science fiction comics for all ages. A series of new hardback collections with beautifully restored artwork are very reasonably priced.
Alien - The Illustrated Story: For fans of the Alien movies, a new remastered version of the original graphic novel based on the popular first movie in the series has been recently published with beautiful color graphics for a bargain price.
Tank Girl: British comic for adults only. The complete collection in hardback is reasonable and the softback collections are even less expensive.