Thursday, March 8, 2012

A Smattering of Reviews

The Wolf Gift
Anne Rice
Knopf, Feb 14 2012, $26.95
ISBN: 9780307595119

San Francisco Observer reporter twentyish Reuben comes from a privileged heritage filled with a stately mansion. His editor sends him to interview elegant and exotic late thirtyish Marchent Nideck who desperately wants to sell the estate in Mendocino County she inherited from her great Uncle Felix who vanished two decades but only now is declared legally dead. Used to Russian and Nob Hills, he still finds the isolated mansion, four hours from San Francisco and miles even from the village of Nideck, incredibly beautiful, nicer than any home he has ever seen before. Reuben feels an obsession to know the recent tragic history of Nideck Mansion. Though he has a girlfriend Celeste in the city, Reuben and Marchent make love.

When he awakens from a nap, Reuben hears Marchent scream. He races to the noise only to be attacked by two men; one cuts him with a knife and a ferocious dog bites him. As he thinks he is dying, first responders arrive, but the intruders are gone and his hostess is dead. A few weeks later, a still traumatized Reuben begins displaying strange physical and mental changes. He fears what he has become, but seeks similar beasts to mentor him.

This is an entertaining Wolf-man urban fantasy starring a beleaguered protagonist who loses his innocence with the assault. The storyline is fast-paced as the hero changes in a sort of horror coming of age theme. Although longtime fans will see parallels to the good and evil theme of the Vampire Chronicles and the personality metamorphose similar to Jack Nicholson’s middle-aged Will Randall in Wolf, readers will appreciate Anne Rice latest horror thriller. Harriet Klausner

Spellbound Falls
Janet Chapman
Jove, Feb 28 2012, $7.99
ISBN: 9780515150360

Mother of eight year old Sophie, thirtyish Widow Olivia Baldwin and her Inglenook Camp counselor twentyish Mark Brier are at elderly widower Ezra’s trading post. Olivia hopes to buy Inglenook from her mother-in-law Eileen although she prefers to hide and run ever since her mom died when she was four and her dad stopped seeing her soon after. Mark assaults Olivia, but camp guest Max Oceanus intercedes. Max was unaware he sired his six year old son Henry until the child’s mom died two months ago; at the camp he plans for them to get to know each other.

Max thinks Olivia will provide him a pearl of wisdom on raising a child. She tells him he needs to understand Henry and they journey as a team. Their kids want the parents to date, but wise Sophie reflects that everyone eligible in Spellbound Falls is afraid of the ghost of Olivia’s late spouse Keith. Ironically Olivia hates Keith who failed to tell his parents they were divorcing when he got killed in combat. Over parenting lessons, the teacher and the student fall in love though she has childhood fears and he family issues keeping them apart. Additionally she, her daughter and her “guardian” Ezra recognize strange unexplainable behavior from his father and so that has her choosing flight.

The protagonists and the ensemble support cast are fully developed in this engaging romantic urban fantasy. The otherworldly elements blend smoothly with modern technology to bring about a fascinating environment that will turn even more uniquely. Although the storyline is thin and the children are too precocious, readers will enjoy learning just who Mr. Oceanus is and look forward to more adventures with the lead couple’s extended families (especially his). Harriet Klausner

Rob Thurman
Roc, Mar 6 2012, $7.99
ISBN: 9780451464446

After killing the monstrous Auphe race (see Blackout) who believed they belonged at the top of the food chain, half human/half Auphe Cal Leandros assumes his monstrous problems are gone. He is unaware that another hybrid beast lives and comes to him with a special purpose in mind. His brother Niko has family issues when his biological father, whom he never saw before, arrives in town to get help locating and disabling the “burden” in order for the siblings to return it to the Voyash Clan. The brother have no time for him as thy host a party for the Puck race (to include pal Goodfellow) who as Cupid look a-likes have lived for hundreds of thousands of years.They need a census to determine how man Pucks need to procreate.

Cal gatess Niko’s father to Central Park and after the gala, the burden JLanus the mechanical sentience being crosses through a gate and tries to kill anyone with Voyash blood. Another gate opens enabling Grimm to cross over to tell Cal he wants to join forces with him to get rid of the human race; he wants Cal to mate with a succabae so the progeny will one day take over the human world. To defeat his insane peer, Cal fights a mad god, several Cyclops and other creatures in an attempt to neutralize the Grimm.

The latest Cal and Niko dark urban fantasy (see Roadkill) is a fascinating entry that focuses on Cal who once again proves he is more human than Auphe as the heart of the series and this tale remains the powerful sibling relationship. Adding to the fun of Doubletake is meeting Niko’s scandalous biological father who is an absentee dad until he needs his son’s brother. The aurhor. Rob Thurmond provides another strong tale in a great saga. Harriet Klausner

Mass Effect: Conception
William Dietz
Del Rey, Jan 31 2012, $7.99
ISBN: 978-0345520739

The Reapers starships have entered the galaxy where earthlings have joined other alien sentient races mostly in harmony (see Drew Karpyshyn entries - Retribution; Ascension; and Revelation). As they have done for every fifty millennia these bellicose outsiders have come with one purpose in mind; “harvesting” the organic.

Earthlings and their allies have tried several ploys with some success at the immense collateral cost to the innocent in order to prevent extinction. Former Navy admiral David Anderson and his partner ex Council Director Kahlee Sanders have proof the Reaper threat is genuine, but the Council members refuse to accept extinction is a viable event. While the leaders remain in denial, The Illusive Man, head of top secret military unit Cerberus, learns the pair knows too much about his operation. They must die. However, the beleaguered couple meets Gillian Grayson, who suffered hideous experiments that have left her with incredible power. When she learns the Illusive Man killed her father Paul, she obsesses with a bone marrow deep need to execute him.

As with Mr. Karpyshyn’s entries, this exciting military-political science fiction taled, based on the Mass Effect game, contains strong timely moral questions. The action-packed storyline asks the audience to ponder when does personal need supersede the greater societal good and whether there are scenarios in which not executing a cold killer who deserves to die is needed to save trillions of lives. Filled with action, fans will relish William Dietz’s first Mass Effect galaxy thriller. Harriet Klausner

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