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Monday, June 1, 2009

What I'm Reading: The Book of Fate

I used to write once a month about the books I was reading, but I did not feel like I was giving each book the amount of time it deserved, and I never wrote about more than 4 books a month. I am hoping by writing about 1 (or two if they are paired well) at a time will be better for everyone, more books talked about, more frequently. Also, I might remember more about each title if I do them right away.

So, I begin with Brad Meltzer's political thriller, The Book of Fate. I listened to Scott Brick's reading of this title for the upcoming Adult Reading Round Table audio book bibliography. I picked this title because I volunteered to listen to a book read by Scott Brick, one of the leading audio book readers today, and thrillers are his specialty. Meltzer is also a very popular author. Sharon, at the BPL RA desk has read a few of his titles; check her shelfari shelf to see what she thought.

The story begins narrated by a young man, Wes, who is the personal assistant to a fictional president, Leland Manning (who is supossed to come after the second George Bush). Wes is injured at the Daytona Speedway when there is an assassination attempt on the President. One of the President's cabinet members, Ron Boyle, is killed.

Flash forward 8 years later and Wes still works for Manning, but it is in the post-Presidency years. While giving a speech overseas, Wes sees the supposedly dead Boyle and so begins a fast paced story full of many twists that leads Wes, his friends, and a newspaper reporter, on a whirlwind journey to uncover a deadly conspiracy that goes straight to the top reaches of our government.

The appeal of The Book of Fate lies in its unrelenting and its numerous twists and turns. Wes is an extremely sympathetic character who grows from a boy into a man throughout the course of the novel. We can also palpably feel Wes's stress and are thus compelled to continue following his quest for justice. In true Meltzer fashion, the reader never knows which characters, beyond Wes, to trust. Also, you get the villain's point of view. There are some grisly scenes here, and innocent people do die, but the violence is not gratuitous. The Book of Fate also has plenty of comic relief (especially in the form of Wes's roommate/lawyer), a bit of romance, and a resolved, happy ending.

In terms of readalikes for The Book of Fate, another master at the political thriller is David Baldacci. Those who enjoyed the Presidential angle could start with Absolute Power and those who were more drawn to the conspiracy theory parts of the book should try the Camel Club series. Stephen Frey and Joseph Finder are also good readalikes for Meltzer.

I also wanted to identify a writer who captured the essence of Meltzer without the political aspects. I think Harlan Coben with his twist filled suspense novels about ordinary people put under great stress is a good match for fans who liked the twists upon twists upon twists, and the sympathetic main character in The Book of Fate. Try Tell No One.

After finishing The Book of Fate readers may also be interested in nonfiction titles about the Freemasons (which plays a very small part in this story) or about life in the White House.

I do want to mention a bit about Brick's narration, since his style is so unique. As AudioFile Magazine has noted:
In all his work, Brick almost sings in a youthful, manly voice brimming with personality and gusto.” He seems to have an intuitive ear for the authorial voice, an uncanny ability to portray the personality of the author as well as those of his characters. As Musselman says, “He lets the author’s words do the work." Scott himself characterizes his approach more modestly: “I’m not one of these guys who do a lot of voices. Accents, yes; characterizations, yes; but I can count with one hand the times I’ve done a serious, heavy, over-the-top character voice--probably because, when I hear those tapes later, it makes me cringe. For some people, that style works brilliantly, and I love hearing it. For me, not so much.”
Finally those who particularly like Scott Brick's reading style, here is a link to his complete audiography.

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