Alec Austin (alecaustin) wrote,
Alec Austin
alecaustin

Books, Early October

Jo Walton, Among Others: I actually read this back at the start of September, but I went back to write a review of it for the NYRSF a couple weekends ago, so I think it counts. mrissa's review of it is solid, and the review I wrote for the NYRSF is *looong*, but the short version is: Very very good book, and if you're the sort of person who reads my LJ, you should buy it and read it and love it.

Marie Brennan, A Star Shall Fall: The best of the Onyx Court books to date (a title likely to be claimed by With Fate Conspire, if Brennan's upward trend continues), A Star Shall Fall deftly mixes the science of the 18th century with faerie magic and human/fae emotional interest. I mean, how can you go wrong with Halley's comet being a harbinger of doom? Though I was not entirely convinced at the necessity of the final alchemical solution. Possibly because I am a horrible person and could easily imagine implementing less noble alternatives. Still and all. Very fine book, highly recommended.

Dan Wells, I Am Not A Serial Killer: Apparently October is the month for Alec reading in the sympathetic serial killer genre. Though I guess John Wayne Cleaver *isn't* actually a serial killer in this one, since the clause "serial" requires a series of murders, and by the end of the book he's only killed one demon. (Technically correct! The very best kind of correct!)

It's a little hard for me judge this book, honestly, because I read it thinking that it was meant to be an adult novel and only realized afterwards that it was priced as YA. I think the structure was a little off-kilter, though. John figures out what's going on a little too early in the book, and then there's a really long build-up to the climax, during which... he doesn't *do* all that much, frankly. Plus, I think that Wells tries a little too hard to make John's antagonist sympathetic and to emphasize the irony of a demon that's more "human" than his protagonist (especially since I don't think I found John as creepy as I was supposed to, at least most of the time).

Dan Wells, Mr. Monster: The sequel to I Am Not... (which I always want to follow up with "...that scary at all!"), Mr. Monster starts out a little slow and bumpy, but ramps up nicely, and by the time it hits its climactic sequence, its stakes have escalated far beyond those of its predecessor.

There's a structural failing common to initial entries in the Sympathetic Serial Killer sub-genre, I feel, which is that they tend to lean too hard on the "Will the protagonist be driven to kill someone close to them?" And no. They won't. Of *course* they won't, because that would completely undermine the "sympathetic" bit, which is key to the sub-genre being artistically and emotionally (and commercially) viable. What Mr. Monster does well is that it doesn't try to lean too hard on the obvious questions regarding what John will and won't do, but instead leverages all the *other* ways in which a sociopathic teenager can screw up and fail, either tactically or emotionally, and uses them to good effect. I was especially fond of the ending of the book, which didn't carry the specific emotional load that I expected, but managed to be even more effective because of that.

Jeff Lindsay, Darkly Dreaming Dexter: The granddaddy of I Am Not... and its sequel, the first Dexter Morgan novel is an oddly self-contradictory book. I think, upon reflection, that it's probably best to read it as a very bloody comedy which is carried more by its narrator's voice than the plausibility of the narrative as a whole. Certainly none of the characters in the book take the series of murders that drive the plot very seriously, except inasmuch as they see them as aesthetic statements or in light of how they're likely to affect their career.

I was fond of the fact that the cops and lab boffins here had a deeply macabre sense of humor about their work (and none more than Dexter himself, for obvious reasons); there's often a ludicrously false solemnity to the depiction of that sort of thing in some TV and mystery novels, but not here. Dexter's voice is amusing and compelling, and that carries the book until its ending, which is about as plausible as the events of Arthur C. Clarke's 2010 happening tomorrow, on both a plot and psychological level. It also uses some of the cheapest techniques to generate false drama that I'm aware of. That said, like I Am Not..., the sequel's better. (And at least on a plot level, I suspect that the TV adaptation is also.)

Jeff Lindsay, Dearly Devoted Dexter: Where Darkly Dreaming Dexter leaned a little too hard on gimmickry and suffered thereby, Dearly Devoted Dexter doesn't and is a better book for it. In fact, I found both the comedy and the darkness heightened here. There's one motif that runs through the book which may be a tad on the heavy-handed side but which worked for me, and the various forms of emotional entanglement which Dexter finds himself trapped by reinforce each other well.

Dexter remains a perfectly horrible character, of course (I'm not the sort of person who finds his Dirty Harry-style "justice" terribly endearing - and I can't believe I missed that link to his adoptive father's name until now), but he's an entertaining narrator, and this is much stronger entry in the series than its predecessor.
Tags: books, dark danky doom
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