Book Review – Deadly Heat by Richard Castle

Deadly Heat by Richard Castle

Deadly Heat by Richard Castle

The blurb heats up:

Picking up where Frozen Heat left off, top NYPD Homicide Detective Nikki Heat pursues the elusive former CIA station chief who ordered the execution of her mother over a decade ago.

For the hunt, Nikki teams once again with her romantic partner, Pulitzer Prize winning investigative journalist Jameson Rook, and their quest for the old spy and the motive behind the past murder unearths an alarming terror plot-which is anything but ancient history. It is lethal. It is now. And it has already entered its countdown phase.

Complicating Heat’s mission to bring the rogue spy to justice and thwart the looming terror event, a serial killer begins menacing the Twentieth Precinct and her homicide squad is under pressure to stop him, and soon. The frightening murderer, known for his chilling stealth, not only has singled out Nikki as the exclusive recipient of his taunting messages, he then boldly names his next victim: Detective Heat.

Although you could probably read this book without having read the previous one (the author is very responsible in explaining references), the two books are definitely more connected than the rest of the series has been. I mentioned in my review of the previous book that it felt like it was setting up the next book, and it turns out that I was right.  Some problems created in the previous book are solved in this one, some clues pan out etc.

I thought some of the events in the book strained credibility, but I guess the author was painted into a corner somewhat by the facts as laid out by the TV show.

Speaking of the TV show there were more references to it in this book, for example Castle’s “WRITER” bullet proof vest makes an appearance as Rook’s “JOURNALIST” vest.  I was surprised at that particular reference since it was in season 1 of the TV show but not until the fifth book.  In general the references got a little smile out of me, but as this has been going on for five books now it’s lost some novelty.

As the TV show has gradually beefed Castle up, in this book Rook takes a more physical role, fighting bad guys.  I think it’s actually more realistic for a hard-bitten journalist who hangs out with warlords to get his hands dirty than a fiction writer, but in both cases I worry that they’re changing the formula of stereotypical gender role reversal too much.

I could live without the romantic jealousy plotline, but I guess there are only so many directions to go once you get the main characters together.

There were a couple of pretty good twists in this book, although they weren’t as surprising as the ones in the previous book.

Book Review – Marrow’s Pit by Keith Deininger

Marrow's Pit by Keith Deininger

Marrow’s Pit by Keith Deininger

The blurb machinates:

Built to encompass the entire range of lifeless mountains, it had always, relentlessly, clanked on and on. Within, vast halls and endless corridors were filled with the sounds of metal on metal, with hissing steam, with squealing gears. In the eyes of its citizens, it was sacred, deified, omniscient. Enshrined in their mythology for innumerable generations, it had gone by countless designations, but its truest name was perhaps its plainest: the Machine.

I should have learned my lesson with Automatic Woman, but the blurb for this book was so tantalizing that I chose to read it even though it’s short.  It’s really short (126 pages).  Unfortunately that means that it’s more of a fragment than a complete story, which is just frustrating when you’re not expecting it (although I guess I should have been).

The author does a good job of describing the setting of the book and the effect it has on the characters, and he does a very good job in describing the main character’s relationship with his wife and the ensuing consequences.

The problem is that there’s no moral, no really clear idea of what’s going on or why.  Nothing’s explained and then the book just stops.

Book Review – The Long War by Terry Pratchett, Stephen Baxter

The Long War by Terry Pratchett, Stephen Baxter

The Long War by Terry Pratchett, Stephen Baxter

The blurb parallels:

A generation after the events of The Long Earth, humankind has spread across the new worlds opened up by “stepping.” A new “America”—Valhalla—is emerging more than a million steps from Datum—our Earth. Thanks to a bountiful environment, the Valhallan society mirrors the core values and behaviors of colonial America. And Valhalla is growing restless under the controlling long arm of the Datum government.

Soon Joshua, now a married man, is summoned by Lobsang to deal with a building crisis that threatens to plunge the Long Earth into a war unlike any humankind has waged before.

I found the first half of this book to be really slow going – the protagonists are obsessed with the virtues of primitive living (which I have no interest in) and the bad guys are the kind of small minded politicians that really annoy me in real life.

I won’t spoil it, but considering the book has “war” in the title, the war was a big letdown.

Several characters took book-long journeys with no payoff whatsoever, and some major plot point happened off-screen.

The ending was disappointing because the plot arc was weird, so the book didn’t feel like it had a proper climax.

I think the problem with the plot arc was that there were a lot of main characters, with more added in this book whose arcs started and didn’t come anywhere near resolving by the end.  Presumably this is setting things up for later books in the series, but it’s still not good for this book.

Book Review – Authority by Jeff VanderMeer

Authority by Jeff VanderMeer

Authority by Jeff VanderMeer

The blurb dreads:

After thirty years, the only human engagement with Area X–a seemingly malevolent landscape surrounded by an invisible border and mysteriously wiped clean of all signs of civilization–has been a series of expeditions overseen by a government agency so secret it has almost been forgotten: the Southern Reach. Following the tumultuous twelfth expedition chronicled in Annihilation, the agency is in complete disarray.

John Rodrigues (aka “Control”) is the Southern Reach’s newly appointed head. Working with a distrustful but desperate team, a series of frustrating interrogations, a cache of hidden notes, and hours of profoundly troubling video footage, Control begins to penetrate the secrets of Area X. But with each discovery he must confront disturbing truths about himself and the agency he’s pledged to serve.

In Authority, the second volume of Jeff VanderMeer’s Southern Reach trilogy, Area X’s most disturbing questions are answered . . . but the answers are far from reassuring.

The book is unsurprisingly similar to the first book in the series in that it starts off slightly uncomfortable and gradually ratchets up to seriously creepy.  The interesting twist is that this book takes place in the bureaucracy that is sending people into Area X rather than inside Area X itself.

Initially I was excited to learn more about the situation described in the first book on the assumption that the people in charge knew more than the people on the ground.  I guess I should have known better, since the hallmark of the first book was adding disturbing mysteries without really answering many questions.

It’s a bit hard to tell if the Southern Reach is despicable because of its close association with Area X or if it’s just an awful organization or if Area X has actually infiltrated it.  The book reminded me a bit of Gormenghast in that all of the characters were despicable or grotesque in some way.

Things aren’t wrapped up by the end of the book, but I didn’t really expect them to be – both because it’s the middle book of a trilogy and because this series doesn’t seem to be one that gives the reader closure.