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Tuesday, November 7, 2017

What I’m Reading: Booklist Reviews-- Raid and Down and Out in Purgatory

Two reviews today. These are my draft reviews with more information added. For the official reviews you need to go to Booklist Online

Speaking of, the first review appeared online only.


Merbeth, K.S.
July 2017. 368p. Orbit, paperback, $9.99 (9780316308731); e-book (9780316308724)First published October 12, 2017 (Booklist Online).
Merbeth is back with her second book set in the world of 2016’s excellent BITE but this is a parallel novel, not a sequel, told in the same world but from a different perspective, that of notorious, but principled, bounty hunter Clementine as she kidnaps the ruthless leader of the Eastern Wastelands, Jedediah Johnson. These two young but experienced survivors make their way towards the border with the West, where Clementine hopes to turn Jed in both for the bounty and accolades, but of course, this is a post-apocalyptic landscape where nothing is easy and things quickly take quite a different turn. Just like in BITE, Merbeth throws action sequence after action sequence at us with plenty of breath catching breaks to develop the characters we meet along the way, even allowing our old friends from BITE a few cameo appearances, all the while peppering the entire story with sharp humor and a serious contemplation of the place of “morality” in such a harsh world. But it is Clementine and Jed who steal the show. Their frenemy relationship, clashing world views, and struggle to figure out the best way to live in the Wastelands are what keep you turning the pages. Think Thelma and Louise meets Mad Max and you understand a what you get with this original, thought provoking, and fun post-apocalyptic adventure.
YA: With young adult main characters at the story’s core and lots of action, albeit with plenty of violence to go along with the action, this is a title perfect for teens looking for a new post-apocalyptic tale, especially those looking for a little more depth. 
Further Appeal: This is a series that is perfect to suggest to anyone who likes well developed characters, lots of action, and a post-apocalyptic setting. The focus here is on the action and characters, not on the details of the dystopian world, so if you are looking for details as to how America got to be this way, that's not here. But how to live in this world is here in spades. These are characters that don't know any other way. Watching them navigate their reality is interesting and though provoking.

I also like the way Merbeth tells the story with the intense character focused sections alternating with crazy action and battle scenes. You don't get bored with the storyline or the character development, you just keep wanting more.

This is page-turning, pulp, speculative fiction at its best. I dare you to put either book down once you start them.

Three Words That Describe This Book: parallel novel, action, great characters

Readalikes: Click here to see my review of BITE for readalikes. To this list I would also add, Y: The Last Man graphic novel series by Brian K. Vaughan and Pia Guerra.

The next review is in the November 1, 2017 print issue and I gave it a STAR

Down and Out in Purgatory: The Collected Stories of Tim Powers.

Powers, Tim (author).

Nov. 2017. 496p. Baen, hardcover, $25 (9781481482790)
First published November 1, 2017 (Booklist).
Powers has been writing some of the best and most influential science fiction, fantasy and horror since the 1970s, winning numerous awards. He is a master of blending the very best of all of these genres into compelling yet intricately plotted, atmospheric stories that tend to feature real figures from history but in situations, that with just a small injection of speculative elements, get a whole lot more interesting, very quickly. With such a large body of work, it may be hard to introduce new readers to the very best of Powers, but with this new collection of 20 previously published and 1 brand new story, readers are privy to breadth of Power’s vision in one volume, including the award winning stories “The Bible Repairman” and “Down and Out in Purgatory.” Set mostly in California, but not the state of sunshine and Hollywood, rather the California and its people who are in the shadows, both literally and speculatively, these are snippets of dark, thought provoking goodness that are just frightening enough to make you keep the lights blaring but not enough to give you nightmares. The never before published, “Sufficient Unto the Day,” serves as a good example to his style, as it describes an typical, unhappy family at Thanksgiving dinner, except for the family ghosts who join them, in fishbowls, on the table. However, what elevates this collection is the commentary on the tales by Powers himself which are included after each story, commentary that is both deeply personal and instructive. A treat for fans and newbies alike, put this collection into the hands of your readers who enjoy genre blending authors as varied as Jim Butcher, Dean Koontz or China Mieville.
Further Appeal: Tim Powers is I name I barely knew before a few years ago, but he is extremely influential and we need to introduce him to younger readers. This is the book to do that.

Many of the stories felt like they could be new even though they are not. That says much about his writing and its timelessness.

The appeal here is for fans of weird, dark fantasy, but what is so cool are his statement for each story. There is a very good introduction also.

Read a few or read them all.

Three Words That Describe This Book: slightly askew, dark, intricately plotted

Readalikes: The three I mentioned above are a nice example of writers of well-plotted, atmospheric, speculative fiction. But really, anyone who enjoys atmospheric stories that straddle horror and fantasy are potential readers here.

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