Here’s a link to my review of Jeff VanderMeers Area X The Souther Reach Trilogy— Annihilation, Authority and Acceptance
A link to my review of Adrian Tchaikovsky’s science fiction novel, The Children of Time, posted on my Virtual Reality Afterlife blog:
This was unexpected. I have read sixteen McCammon novels. Whether involving the supernatural, an alien invasion or the exotic criminal world navigated by 18th Century New York detective Matthew Corbett, The Listener, like all Robert McCammon novels, offers detailed settings and lots of characters in a good story.
The Listener takes us to the Deep South of the 1930’s.
A charming grifter, John Pearly, a bible salesman with the face of a choirboy and the soul of a snake intends to fleece a widow and her children. But the steely-eyed widow knows a liar when she sees one and sends him on his way.
In a rage, John kills a litter of puppies belonging to the widow’s children. No redemption there. And time to move on. Destiny calls when John stumbles in to a “sex education” course in another county.
A voluptuous woman named Ginger is doing illustrations on a blackboard, information much appreciated by a crowd of horny farmers, who give her their rapt attention. Ginger’s waiting for the seriously intoxicated “doctor” to show up and continue the “lesson” when she spots John, a kindred soul of the grifter persuasion.
So of course, John is somewhat smitten, though he knows that she is like a black widow spider, and wouldn’t hesitate to enjoy him as a tasty meal after sampling his smarmy charms. In all his evil deeds, John has never murdered anyone other than puppies. With breathtaking efficiency, Ginger completes John’s bad guy training. The doctor’s last appointment is with the business end of a gun. John is officially a murderer. What could go wrong?
There’s a wealthy businessman with two children. What if someone kidnapped those rich brats? Their rich father would pay a lot to get them back. If John helps her, he can go to Mexico and live like a king.
a term he learned when he was a small child. His mother took her strange little boy to a local shaman (or is it shay-woman—the shaman was a she). Regardless, Curtis kept talking to people in his head and his mother feared he was hallucinating. We learn that Curtis is telepathic. Throughout his life, Curtis has linked minds with other telepaths. Occasionally, when encountering someone less than hinged, he would leave his telepath receiver off the hook.
His mother, a widow in her thirties, has become a childlike hypochondriac who demands too much of his attention. When a girl breaks Curtis’s heart, it is Nilla who comforts him.
I’ll leave the spoilers there.
a perfect way to spend the weekend on the couch. But it’s Robert McCammon and there’s something missing for me. There’s very little depth to any of it.
Curtis lets nothing deter him in his efforts to rescue Nilla. In the process, he endures a savage beating, a byproduct of the racism of the 1930’s South. And he still keeps going. Curtis is angelic, self-sacrificing and a perfect hero. He does finally set his mother straight, telling her she’s not sick and that she should get a life. Other than that,
John Pearly resembles a character from McCammon’s alien war story, The Border. Pearly’s character reminded me of the preacher who becomes a sex slave to an alien whose cartoon sexuality reminds me of Ginger’s hyper-nasty but seductive black widow venom. And like The Border characters, they engage in ritualistic twisted sex.
Although Pearly is given an abusive childhood that explains his character, I never did get a sense of what drove Ginger’s hate.
The Devil in the Deep Blue Sea: A review of ARARAT, a novel by Christopher Golden
Two bloggers, Adam and Meryam, travel the world and document their adventures.
Adam is American and Jewish. Meryam is English and a lapsed Muslim. Adam wants Meryam to marry him, but senses that Meryam is delaying her decision. Meryam insists that they travel to Turkey and climb Mount Ararat. She’s found evidence; Noah’s Ark has been located. Meryam is determined to lay claim to it by getting there first.
The lovebirds are experienced mountain climbers and they intend to call in some favors. Along the way, Meryam butts heads with the sexism of the local mountain climbers, fellow Muslims who disapprove of her uppity ways. They are skeptical of her conclusions about the Ark. Meryam wastes no time swatting down their macho attitudes. Her grudging guides agree to help her and Adam climb the mountain. In the meantime, others are trying to reach the Ark before she and Adam do.
Meryam and Co gets to the site first. Soon after, her competitors arrive as well, including scientists and a priest, bringing their equipment and expertise.
There it is, Noah’s Ark. But there’s something strange about these ruins. Among the cages and ship cubbyholes, the artifacts and petrified wood, they discover a mummy.
Not your garden-variety, wrapped, foot dragging former Egyptian/Incan/Viking warrior, this one’s pretty strange, with its pointed head and menacing wrapping covered with ancient writing of undetermined origin.
Apparently those forty days and forty nights on Noah’s floating menagerie were action-packed. What was left of humanity was forced to outsmart an evil stowaway.
At that point, the premise of a devil tormenting Noah and family as they waited for the floodwaters to subside made my long-ago Catechism lessons float to the front of my brain. I didn’t buy the idea of a devil stowaway on Noah’s Ark. Couldn’t the devil have hidden on some other guy’s ark? Someone saw what Noah was up to as the clouds gathered and put two and two together as the animals, two by two, boarded the Ark.
Who’s got the devil in him and who’s the next victim and where’s the devil now?
It was a surprise and yet tied everything together. The characters had some depth. I wish I knew more about them. Adam’s childhood reflections helped define him. Meryam was unlikeable, but I did develop an understanding and sympathy for her.
Like the other two novels by Christopher Golden that I’ve read, the action sequences of ARARAT were written well and were suspenseful. However, like the other two (SNOWBLIND and DEAD RINGERS), the supernatural underpinnings were so flimsy that they threatened my suspension of disbelief. Reading these was like enjoying a tasty meal that gives you heartburn.
If you enjoy novels that deliver a good scare with well-drawn characters, check out books by Christopher Golden. But keep the Tums handy.