Read Recently — December 2006

December was a slow month for reading. There was this big holiday in the middle that just cut into my totals.

Nightlife by Rob Thurman Young Caliban has a problem–one actually only peripherally related to the unpleasant name his trailer-trash mother saddled him with. The name and the problem are related (pun intended): Cal’s father is not human. He is in fact an extra-dimensional monster of a sort that Cal and his half-brother Niko have labelled, “Grendels”. Cal and Niko have been on the run from the Grendels since the night four years before when the Grendels set fire to their trailor, killing their mother, and kidnapped Cal into their own dimension. Somehow he escaped, and with Niko’s help has been running and hiding ever since. There’s a surprising amount to this novel, but the main mystery is the question of why the Grendels engendered Caliban; they obviously have some dark plan that requires his help, but what is it? We do find out before the end.

Not a deep novel, but a good one. A meditatiion on monstrousity and brotherhood, both of blood and choice. Recommended.

Cell by Stephen King Clay Riddell, a would-be comic-book artist, is in Boston to sign his break-out contract with a publisher when the world goes insane. Suddenly, everyone with a cell phone becomes a gibbering, homicidal maniac (I know, I know: how can you tell the difference?). Fearful for his 12-year-old son (and somewhat less so for his wife, from whom he was recently separated), Clay teams up with a gay man and a teenage girl to travel to Maine (where he lives) across a countryside that looks increasingly like something out of Day of the Dead. But while the Cellphone people start out acting like zombies, they act increasingly less so as time goes on–but they don’t act like normal people, either. They move in flocks, and exhibit strange powers. What made them this way, and what are they becoming?

King’s on a roll. This is pretty good shit; not going to change your life, but certainly entertaining. King’s anti-tech bias is still there, but less so than in the Dark Tower. Recommended.

Devlin’s Luck by Patricia Bay I wasn’t sure what to expect from this one, but it turned out all right. Devlin Stonehand is a former metalsmith who walks across the country to the capital to take on the roll of the Chosen One, the Gods’ champion in the kingdom. Of late most Chosen Ones have been dying within a year of taking on the job; will Devlin? (Hint: first book of a trilogy, all have his name in the title) Actually, Devlin hopes to die, to atone for a sin he committed. But perhaps he has a destiny? Anyway, I’m kinda committed to reading the rest of the trilogy now. Mildly recommended.

Cartomancy by Michael A. Stackpole The middle book of a trilogy is in an odd position. This one does well, though, with all the plots advancing and a genuinely surprising ending. Actually, lots of surprises throughout. However, it does not stand on its own; you must read A Secret Atlas first, and I cannot recommend that one unconditionally.

The Buried Pyramid by Jane Lindskold Retired British Army Officer turned amateur archaeologist teams up with his neice, an american frontierswoman doctor, a dilettante british hieroglyphics expert, and his former sergeant (turned Muslim trader) to track down the hidden pyramid of a forgotten pharaoh. But is the curse on the tomb only a legend? Lotsa fun, and the characters are better drawn then I make them sound. Not pulp, though it draws on pulp for inspiration. My main complaint is the long prologue, that should really be a flashback in the main body of the story. Recommended.

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