- Theories of Flight – Simon Morden – Orbit, 368 Pages, 2011.
I read the first of Morden’s Metrozone novels last fall, and found it to be an effortless and thoroughly enjoyable action-cyberpunk tale. This, the second entry in the series, retains much of the sense of fun and momentum—rushing wildly towards a running action sequence that makes up most of the book’s back half—but it does feel an awful lot like a bridge story…Taking the various characters and MacGuffins from the first novel and shuffling them around the board to make way for (what was, at the time) the closing entry in a trilogy. That can be a difficult bullet to dodge, though, and it doesn’t take away from the good time that I had with this.
- The High Window – Raymond Chandler – Vintage Crime, 272 Pages, Original: 1942, Reprint: 1988.
Read this one to sort of get myself back into the hardboiled mindset after spending so much time away from the novel. I’m always amazed by Chandler: The depth of his observations, the simple economy of his descriptions. I could read and reread this novels again and again and still find something new to love about them. The High Window, in particular, is the third in the series and is the entry that really cements Marlowe as a kind of self-righteous sad-sack who isn’t as clever as he thinks he is. He’s never quite ahead of the game in this novel, not until the very end, and nobody is ever really interested in buying what he’s selling.
- The Wrong Quarry – Max Allan Collins – Hard Case Crime, 256 Pages, 2014.
I’m a big fan of Max Allan Collins’s The Road to Perdition. It’s the kind of slow-burn Mafia story that knows to break up its heavier character work with bursts of violence only occasionally. This…This isn’t that. The, apparently long-running, Quarry series is pure, double-fisted pulp storytelling delivered with a knowing sneer. It’s a lark. A bit of sex and violence and sarcasm, and I really had a pretty good time with it.
- The Voyage of the Space Beagle – A.E. Van Vogt – Collier, 244 Pages, Original: 1950, Reprint: 1992.
The novel that ultimately, kind of, sort of inspired the film Alien. The different chunks of this story were originally published independently, and then stitched together into a larger narrative later. It isn’t always the most successful merging, and the seams show badly in places, but the individual stories are fascinating in their own right. With its episodic nature and focus on action brought about via science and exploration, it plays more like classic Star Trek than anything else. It’s a little more ruthless than Roddenberry’s vision of the future, though; less optimistic and more willing to acknowledge the petty rivalries of and aggressive responses that sit at the heart of most large-scale human interactions. The ending is surprisingly dark as well, with the scientist hero edging further and further into a tyrannical leadership over the Space Beagle’s crew and the mentality that the ends justify the means. It hasn’t aged quite as well as some classic science fiction, but it’s very much worth reading for those interested in the history of the genre.
- One Summer: America, 1927 – Bill Bryson – Doubleday, 528 Pages, 2013.
I’ve always said that Bill Bryson can stuff more fascinating facts and anecdotes into a single page than most non-fiction authors can work into an entire book. One Summer doesn’t change that opinion. Much like his previous work, At Home, Bryson uses the rough framework of exploring a single eventful summer in American history to bounce back into the events that laid the groundwork for these goings on…And forward into their repercussions as they resonate through the “American Century.”