Sometimes I think every novel is wonderful. And then I realize it’s just that I choose good books. Or, more likely, that my brief foray into James Patterson a few years back has damaged me so badly I am now incapable of criticizing any book not written by a entitled hack who utterly despises his audience.
Enough preamble! Here’s three (count ’em!) book reviews for your perusal, complete with media-friendly blurbs should you only have ten seconds or so before your internet-addled attention wanders away to another cat video. Damn you, Banecat!
The Magician’s Land — Lev Grossman (Viking, 2014)
Ah, Fillory, how I’ve missed you. Like many out there, I anxiously awaited the third instalment of Grossman’s urban fantasy trilogy like some people await the Rapture. Difference is, I got my wish. The Magician’s Land finds former King Quentin Coldwater adjusting to life on Earth as Fillory exile, taking up a teaching position at Brakebills before a mysterious chance for adventure beckons. Meanwhile, Fillory appears on the brink of its own Armageddon, and Quentin’s former classmates are desperately seeking a way to save the world they’ve come to love beyond all measure. As with Grossman’s earlier books, Land is a practically flawless adventure novel, replete with magic, monsters, Gods, and left turns. It’s also a fine finale to the Goldwater bildungsroman, charting Quentin’s evolution from snarky teenage brat to mature individual who understands the world beyond himself. If this truly is the end, then it’s a damn fine sendoff; if there’s possibly more to come, then don’t tease me, Grossman! I can only take so much suspense!
- Cover-friendly blurb: Corey Redekop (author, Husk) raves: I believe in magic, at least where Lev Grossman is concerned.
The Last Policeman — Ben H. Winters (Quirk Books, 2012)
Considering the plethora of quality detective fiction out there, coming up with a unique setting can be difficult. Winters, in the first of many brilliant elements of The Last Policeman, sets his mystery in the last six months of life on Earth. The book would likely be worth it for the premise alone, but Winters knocks the production out of the park, giving us a neo-noir police procedural set in a world facing extinction by asteroid. Harry Palace, newly-minted police detective, still finds it morally important that he solve a murder even if no-one else cares. Winters sets his world down in bold, bleak, unforgettable strokes: gasoline is rare, suicide is rampant, and yet people still go about the business of living. The mystery is tight, the atmosphere is gloom and doom, and the writing is pitch-perfect. Damn great book, and I’m tracking down the other books in the trilogy now. I gotta know how this ends! HBO, get on adapting this now. I’m seeing a set of three movies, and then you’re done!
- Cover-friendly blurb: Corey Redekop (author, “Moot” in The Exile Book of New Canadian Noir) raves: I feel better about the apocalypse with Ben Winters guiding me.
Niceville — Carsten Stroud (Knopf, 2012)
I met Stroud when we read together at the Ottawa Writers’ Festival in 2013. He’s a lovely man, very generous. Which is somewhat surprising, as Niceville ain’t at all nice. It’s a brutal place, a township of twisted cops, missing people, blood feuds, shady deals, and an evil far more than an abstract concept. It starts with a disappearance straight from The Twilight Zone, moves into a Elmore Leonardesque crime thriller, takes a hard left into the seedy exploits of a voyeur with a grudge, and overlays it all with a heaping (and deadly) dose of Southern gothic supernatural. It’s amazing Stroud keeps it all straight, and a pure miracle it comes together as well as it does. I was never sure of where he was taking me, but I had a hell of a good time getting there. And since Stroud has been nice enough to continue the exploits of Niceville (in The Homecoming), I’m booking myself a return trip.
- Cover-friendly blurb: Corey Redekop (finder of lost keys [underneath the newspaper, of course!]) raves: Not a nice place to live, but a hell of a fine place to visit.