Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Rough Day

Not feeling well. Bad respiratory bug has caught up with me. Kathy seems to have pneumonia again and will be out of work til Monday.

Here are a few reviews from Harriet to tide you over for today.

Ultimatum, Matthew Glass, Atlantic Monthly (Grove), Apr 2009, $24.00, ISBN: 0802118887, reviewed by Harriet Klausner.

In a short period of time the world can change and not for the better as 9/11 proved. By 2033, carbon emissions have ruined the environment while sea levels have risen at catastrophic rates leading to mass evacuations of people from what were once coastlines. The Florida Peninsular is going underwater with Miami on the verge of becoming a modern day Atlantis. The newly elected President Joe Benton plans to build an infrastructure so those displaced don’t fall into abject poverty and consequently take others down with them; the massive relocation will be destructive enough.

When Benton meets with the incumbent POTUS (President of the US) he learns that secret climate change talks with China produced nada. Benton knows an arrangement between the superpowers is critical to save the world. He is determined to partner with China, who has displaced America as the top polluter, in finding a global solution. China remains obstinate and uncooperative; reneging every time it appears a deal is set. Benton’s advisors tell him the Chinese will never sign a treaty, but the resolute president tries something new that he believes they want as he knows humanity is at stake even as the obstinate Chinese leaders demand more as if extinction is impossible with their population.

Joe Benton is a good person trying to be a good president after a dozen years of Republican denial behind the no tax and no negativity to the economy even as the ocean was coming ashore. Thus China assumes he is just another status quo buy American first. This cautionary tale is fast-paced with a frenzy of desperation to Benton’s efforts to turn around the environment before we reach the point of no return of humans becoming the twenty-first century dinosaurs. Although the ending feels required and rants about failed governments and media to take the environment issue seriously feel intrusive, Matthew Glass provides a deep look at what a world leader who strongly wants to make change must overcome the legacy of his or her predecessors.

Darling Jim, Christian Moerk, Henry Holt, Apr 2009, $25.00, ISBN: 0805089470, reviewed by Harriet Klausner.

In Malahide, Ireland, mail carrier Desmond arrives at a house to deliver letters. The kids claim the place is haunted. When no one responds to his knock, he takes a peak inside out of curiosity only to see a corpse. The police arrive to find the murdered bodies of an aunt and her two nieces.

The case remains cold although the townsfolk believe Desmond killed the three women as he has acted strange since finding the first body. Soon afterward Niall finds the diary of one of the dead sisters, Fiona. He reads about a traveling storyteller DARLING JIM who based on the entries entranced the three females. Unable to resist, Niall follows up the diary’s voice claiming seducer’s victims seeking to learn more about the women, their seducer Jim and a strange commentary in the journal about a wolf-prince leaving behind dead women.

This is a well written strange thriller that has the audience debating throughout whether DARLING JIM is an old fashion horror tale, a psychological suspense, or a serial killer gothic thriller. Keeping readers slightly off their contentment zone, Christian Moerk uses three subplots that intermingle; all are well written enabling the audience to understand what motivated the three dead women (especially the diary writer) and how they perceive their DARLING JIM, and what induced Niall to investigate. Fans who relish something different but very entertaining will enjoy this strong suspense thriller.

Dragon's Luck, Robert Asprin, Ace, Apr 2009, $15.00, ISBN: 9780441016808, reviewed by Harriet Klausner.

Siblings Griffen and Valerie McCandles were raised as humans unaware that they were the offspring of two half-dragons until their unique powers started to manifest. Dragons are a selfish species with a need to accrue more power, which makes them ruthless and avaricious. Griffen is different perhaps an anecdotal proof of nurturing over naturing, but he is only interested in running the gambling empire his mentor turned over to him. A George, a mercenary who kills dragons for a fee, is impressed with Griffen, who is learning to use his new skills. West Coast dragon Flynn watches the New Orleans based Griffen with a close eye trying to ascertain whether this new hybrid is a threat to him or will he be an asset if he decides to bring him into his organization. His lover Mei also keeps a close surveillance on Griffen because her Asian dragon cartel has their eye on him.

Griffen is content with his lot and cares about his friends including the ghost of the former Voodoo high priestess Rose. She asks him to host the Conclave where the various supernatural groups are coming to town to talk and have fun. Griffen agrees to be the moderator for the Conclave. His prime function is to keep the diverse parties from brawling with each other. However, when one of the conventioneers is murdered, someone insures Griffen looks like the culprit. Out of respect for their host and to keep the human police from meddling in supernatural species affair, the Conclave search for the killer.

Because Griffen is atypical of the dragon species, he has many diverse supernatural friends who come through for him when he is framed. That paranormal support cast is three dimensional with the various groups containing radically different overarching personalities; while within a group multiplicity exists just not as lucid. The whodunit is fun sort of a paranormal version of Fritz Lang’s M with the supernatural hunting the killer instead of the criminals.

Dead and Gone, Charlaine Harris, Ace, May 2009, $25.95, ISBN: 9780441017157, reviewed by Harriet Klausner.

Telepath Sookie Stackhouse works as a waitress at Merlotte’s Diner in Bon Temps, Louisiana. When Japanese scientists invented synthetic blood, vampires came out of the coffins and introduced themselves over TV. Although the new world needs some getting used to and help groups form, life for the most part have somewhat settled down as people realize vampires have been part of the assimilated population for centuries. It is now the shapeshifters turn to come out into the open.

However, some humans react violently towards the news. The owner of Merlotte’s stepdaughter almost kills her mother. Female shifter is crucified in Merlotte’s parking lot; she is the estranged wife of Sookie’s brother. Sookie’s great grandfather Niall is at war with an enemy who wants to kill and Sookie is sought by his adversaries as a potential hostage; several attempts to either abduct or kill her occur. Having a brother who is a were-panther means he will protect her but Sookie underestimates the threat to her and her loved ones by an ancient evil species more powerful than weres, vamps and humans combined.

True Blood is the TV show based on the Sookie novels and like this tale and previous entries are great urban fantasies. With all the different species surfacing who previously were assumed to be myths, Sookie and one other person are the only known telepaths in the United States. Although a bit less action oriented than other books in the series, Readers get to know the characters better and Sookie finally has some romance in her life. Charlaine Harris is one of the best urban fantasy world builders writing today.

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