Month: March 2013

Monthly Review – March 2013

Posted March 31, 2013 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Monthly Reading / 0 Comments

Happy Easter everyone, hope you are all enjoying the long weekend. I hope everyone has had a wonderful month of reading and had time to fit Lolita into their busy schedule. I’ve noticed a lot of mixed reactions to this book which would mainly be a result of the controversial nature of this book but it really is one of those books that have helped shape twentieth century literature, so well worth checking out. Still a lot of action happening with the reading challenge as well; looks like two hundred books been added this month. For those who don’t know about the reading challenge, there is still time to join in the fun, so check out my introductory post here.

A reminder that next month’s book will Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World by Haruki Murakami for our Japanese literature theme. I haven’t read much Murakami but expect some great discussion on this book, hopefully with some thoughts to the Magical Realism genre.

Highlights for my month’s reading included Infinite Jest which I’ve finally finished; the beautiful painting of Painter of Silence by Georgina Harding; Lolita; and In a Lonely Place. I would like to mention two other books that really blew me away. First, Pride and Prejudice which I finally got around to reading after putting it off for far too long (also have you seen the Lizzie Bennett Diaries?). Also Tenth of December; while I’m not much of a reader of short stories George Saunders showed me just enough to change my mind. What have you been reading this month and what were the highlights?

My Monthly Reading


Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov

Posted March 30, 2013 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Book of the Month, Classic / 0 Comments

Lolita by Vladimir NabokovTitle: Lolita (Goodreads)
Author: Vladimir Nabokov
Published: Penguin, 1955
Pages: 390
Genres: Classic
My Copy: Hardcover

Buy: AmazonBook Depository
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Lolita is the highly controversial novel of Humbert Humbert, a middle-aged literature professor and his obsession with twelve year-old Dolores Haze. Of whom he becomes a step father as well as being sexually involved. Considered one of the most controversial novels of the twentieth century, Lolita is known not just for the disturbing nature but for the unreliable narration and sophisticated writing style.

Vladimir Nabokov’s masterpiece, Lolita, is one of those books that are worth reading even if it makes you very uncomfortable. The protagonist is the villain who tries so hard to gain the readers sympathy through his sincerity and melancholy. But as the story progress you can even see that he has lost of sympathy for himself and starts referring to himself as maniac who deprived Dolores of her childhood. The novel provides a remarkable perspective into the mind of a man you just want to hate and I will admit it can be a little exciting to watch him go through hell. Nabokov writes a hated character in the hope to knock him around and give him some humility and the reader is left wondering if he will learn from his mistakes.

This has often been described as an erotic novel, even the Great Soviet Encyclopedia called Lolita “an experiment in combining an erotic novel with an instructive novel of manners”. Personally I think of this book as a satirical tragedy with elements of eroticism and remorse. The narrator spends a fair chunk of the book begging the reader to understand that he is not proud of his actions and he is often stricken with guilt at the awareness of robbing Lolita of her childhood. But there is a case to be made at the fact that this is just an exploitation of a weak adult by a corrupt child but this can be problematic and not something I wish to go into great deal about.

The novel as a whole is a very one sided argument, we know how Humbert feels about the entire situation; we hear this to a very sickening degree. He has remorse but his obsession keeps him from ever changing, but one has to wonder what was really going through the mind of Dolores. I have to wonder how she sees the situation or even what she was thinking or feeling throughout the novel. We, as readers, can only surmise since we are forced to absorb Humbert’s feelings.

It is interesting to point out just how two dimensional all the characters are; all except himself and Dolores (Lolita), which he goes into great detail.  It reminds me of life; people tend to describe each other in a two dimensional manner unless we are obsessed with or interested in the person. This technique of writing really added to the realistic feeling of this book.

Lolita was a really awkward and sickening novel to read, there aren’t many books out there that have made me sick to my stomach. Lolita pulls off that feeling that horror novels try to achieve yet often get wrong – that feeling of uneasiness for the reader. This is my second read of this novel, so I knew what to expect and I was able to look past the controversial elements and focus on what this book can offer to the literary world.

Apart from the elements of oppression and an authority figure trying to assert their dominance this book explores tragicomedy, unreliable narration, irony and because Vladimir Nabokov is a Russian it could be a metaphor for totalitarianism. There are many themes you can explore within the novel but the one that will stick in most people’s minds is the lasting damage created by child sexual abuse.

Interestingly enough Vladimir Nabokov is a surrealist often linked to Gogol, Dostoevsky, and Kafka which make you wonder about some of the elements of this book even more. With a love of intricate word play and synesthetic detail Lolita turns into a wry observation of western culture. The novel is full of cleaver word play, double entendres, multilingual puns and in the end when you boil done to why people love it, it is just  a beautifully written novel.

You may not enjoy reading this book but you might enjoy having read it. I have to admit that I enjoyed this book more the second time around; there is great beauty to be found in this book and while content makes this book difficult to get through it is well worth the effort. I remember one of my first blog posts on literature was called “What Would You Read in an Introduction to Fiction Course” where I listed the books I’d include if I was to create an introduction to Fiction course and Lolita was one of my choices. Having now reread this book, it just validates my choice even more, there is so much to explore in this book that it has been put back on my list of books to reread.


What Books Have Been Trending – January-March 2013

Posted March 29, 2013 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Book Trends / 0 Comments

It seems to me that 2013 has been off to a great start in the world of literature. I have already managed to read a fair few books released this year and for the most part they have all been wonderful. Most of you will already know how much I enjoy this series, so I hope I do not disappoint. I know I will have missed some books but for the most part this is just the five books that I think have gotten the most buzz each month. I do try to offer a cross section of different genres, so if you feel a book has more buzz then one I’ve picked, chances are that I cut it for already picking something in that genre already.

January

The Wheel of Time series finally comes to an end with A Memory of Light. Brandon Sanderson has been praised for his job in finishing the Robert Jordan series. Now we can finally have the conclusion for this extraordinary saga upon us; fourteen books later.

 

Gun Machine is the result of Warren Ellis’ reimagining of New York City as a puzzle with the most dangerous pieces of all: GUNS. This blends Ellis’ humour and takes on crime novels with another quirky mystery from this twisted mind known mainly for his graphic novels.

 

Tenth of December is another collection of short stories from one of the biggest living legends in this medium, George Saunders. The collection sees the return of the thought provoking and satirical style that this man is known for. Deliciously dark while packed with some clever humour.

 

The Aviator’s Wife pulls back the curtain on the marriage of one of America’s most extraordinary couples: Charles Lindbergh and Anne Morrow Lindbergh. This is a vividly imagined novel of a complicated marriage—revealing both its dizzying highs and its devastating lows.

 

Y by Marjorie Celona is the highly acclaimed and exquisitely rendered debut about a wise-beyond-her-years foster child abandoned as a newborn on the doorstep of the local YMCA. The ravishingly beautiful novel offers a deeply affecting look at the choices we make and what it means to be a family, and it marks the debut of a magnificent new voice in contemporary fiction.

February 

Etiquette & Espionage is the latest book from Gail Carriger and a brand new series. It’s one thing to learn to curtsy properly. It’s quite another to learn to curtsy and throw a knife at the same time. Welcome to the Finishing School series. Fourteen-year-old Sophronia is more interested in dismantling clocks and climbing trees than proper manners–and the family can only hope that company never sees her atrocious curtsy.

Scarlet is the second book in The Lunar Chronicles series by Marissa Meyer. This is not the fairy-tale you remember, but it’s one you won’t forget.  Scarlet Benoit’s grandmother is missing; the police have closed her case. The only person Scarlet can turn to is Wolf, a street fighter she does not trust, but they are drawn to each other.

 

If you are an Australian, then you would have seen The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion everywhere you look. A moving and comic novel, sustained by a remarkable narrative voice, takes the reader on an immensely satisfying journey as Don seeks to see more within himself than he ever thought was possible.

 

The Storyteller sees Sage Singer befriends an old man who is particularly beloved in her community who asks her for a favour: to kill him. What do you do when evil lives next door? Should you offer forgiveness to someone if you aren’t the party who was wronged? And most of all – if Sage even considers his request – is it murder, or justice?

 

Bestseller Lisa Gardner returns with a heart-thumping thriller about what lurks behind the facade of a perfect family; Touch & Go. Justin and Libby Denbe have it all: a beautiful daughter, a gorgeous house, a great marriage, admired by all. Arriving at the crime scene of their home, investigator Tessa Leoni finds no witnesses, no ransom demands or motive – just a perfect little family, gone.

March

Calculated in Death sees a well-off accountant and a beloved wife and mother, Marta on someone’s hit list. But when Eve and her partner, Peabody, find blood, the lieutenant knows Marta’s murder was the work of a killer who’s trained, but not professional or smart enough to remove all the evidence.

 

Clockwork Princess has danger and betrayal, secrets and enchantment, and the tangled threads of love and loss intertwine as the Shadowhunters are pushed to the very brink of destruction in the breathtaking conclusion to the Infernal Devices trilogy.

 

Fade to Black by Francis Knight is about the city of Mahala–where streets are built upon streets, buildings upon buildings. A city that the Ministry rules from the sunlit summit, and where the forsaken lurk in the darkness of Under. Because when Rojan stumbles upon the secrets lurking in the depths of the Pit, the fate of Mahala will depend on him using his magic

He makes things disappear. It’s what he does. This time he is tidying up the loose ends after a casino heist goes bad; The loose ends being a million dollars cash. But he only has 48 hours, and there’s a guy out there who wants his head in a bag, if he can find him. They don’t call him the Ghostman for nothing…

 

How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia is Mohsin Hamid’s spectacular, thought-provoking novel of modern Asia. Fast-paced, vivid and emotionally absorbing, this novel creates two unforgettable characters who find moments of transcendent intimacy in the midst of shattering change.

 

I know there are many more books that have been trending, I actually started out with fifteen books from each month but thought that would make for a very long post, so I culled. Now is your turn to tell me what books I’ve missed and think deserves to be mentioned and also what do you expect from the next few months coming. I suspect Life After Life by Kate Atkinson, And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini and The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman  will be on everyone’s radar already, but what else?

 


Snow White Must Die by Nele Neuhaus

Posted March 28, 2013 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Crime / 0 Comments

Snow White Must Die by Nele NeuhausTitle: Snow White Must Die (Goodreads)
Author: Nele Neuhaus
Translator: Steven T. Murray
Series: Bodenstein & Kirchhoff #4
Published: Minotaur Books, 2013
Pages: 384
Genres: Crime
My Copy: Library Book

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Skin as white as snow, hair as black as ebony and lips as red as blood… Snow White Must Die is far from a fairy Tale. In a small German town, after serving 10 years for the murder of two 17 year old girls, Tobias Sartorius is released. The town is not happy with his return and when another pretty girl goes missing the suspicion obviously is put on him. As the police race to find the missing girl they start to discover things are not as black and white and maybe Tobias isn’t the killer they all thought he was.

Snow White Must Die is my first German crime novel and I was very impressed with the way this book played out. You start off with a suspicion and slowly through the complex twists you discover that this is just a huge web of lies. The book starts off with Tobias return and the whole town angry toward him, it reminded me a little of We Need to Talk about Kevin with the author exploring the psychology of trying to live in a town where everyone hates you.

Then you discover all the evidence that convicted Tobias was circumstantial and that’s when the questions start. I spent a lot of time trying to understand the motivations of each of the characters, always suspecting they are hiding something. Nele Neuhaus plays with the reader really well, always hinting but never showing her hand too early. The complexity of this case grows but Neuhaus beautifully handles it all without going overboard.

I love the way Nele Neuhaus starts off the story with Tobias as the lead and then when things start getting more centred around the crime it shifts focus toward the detectives working the case. I think this was masterfully done and left it open to kill off lead characters if she wished without throwing the story out. As the corruption and the conspiracy within this town begins to be uncovered, no one is safe and this leaves the reader with an anxiety when they put the book down.

I don’t remember the last time I’ve read a police procedural that I’ve enjoyed this much, I’ve noticed this is book four in a series but it reads like a standalone book. I really hope they translate more of Nele Neuhaus novels because I’m really impressed with her style and would love the chance to enjoy more of her books.

Snow White Must Die is a well crafted thriller that while brutal and violent, it still remains accessible. I would have liked this book to be a little darker but it was still a brilliant book of lies, greed and corruption. I would love to read some more German novels, crime ones in particular if anyone has some good recommendations. Nele Neuhaus showed real skill when she wrote Snow White Must Die and it was a real pleasure to experience it. I wish I could read German to enjoy this book in its original text.


Altered Carbon by Richard K. Morgan

Posted March 27, 2013 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Pulp, Science Fiction / 0 Comments

Altered Carbon by Richard K. MorganTitle: Altered Carbon (Goodreads)
Author: Richard K. Morgan
Series: Takeshi Kovacs #1
Published: Del Rey, 2002
Pages: 526
Genres: Pulp, Science Fiction
My Copy: Personal Copy

Buy: AmazonBook DepositoryKindle
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In the twenty-fifth century, technology has advanced so much that human personalities can be digitally stored on what is known as a Stack. These stacks can be downloaded into new bodies or sleeves, so when you die your stack can be stored indefinably and you can be resleeved and continue living. Death is virtually impossible, when Laurens Bancroft commits suicide (destroying his stack) he is resleeved from a backup, he has no memory of his actions but believe this was an actual murder attempt. He hires Takeshi Kovacs to investigate his death and find out what happened in those 48 hours between his last back up and suicide.

Altered Carbon is a cyberpunk hard-boiled novel that really reminds me of When Gravity Fails, they have similar genre style and while both of them have a completely different feel to them, both well worth reading. Takeshi Kovacs is a former United Nations Envoy; an elite solider whose last death was a particularly painful one. He finds himself being resleeved one hundred and eighty light years from home back on earth.  Without time to deal with his own issues, he is thrown in to solve this dark and disturbing conspiracy.

In this dystopian like future, death is never something to fear, a resleeving will fix things and if you have the money you can put yourself into a better body at any time. If someone is murdered they are resleeved to testify of the crime. This makes the Catholics a popular target for murder, as they have arranged not to be resleeved if they die so their souls can go to heaven instead. The reason I bring this up is to give you an idea of what the world is like in Altered Carbon. In fact there is a subplot involving the UN altering its legal position to authorise the temporary resleeving of a Catholic murder victim to testify in her murder trial.

I was eager to pick up this book as I’ve heard so many great things about it and I love the idea of a good cyberpunk hardboiled novel; it reminds me of Blade Runner and how much I loved that movie as a kid. Technology has advanced so much in this word but people haven’t, there are still divisions between the classes, races and religions. Mankind has not evolved at all, they have just found a way to cater to their vanity as well as immortality.

Altered Carbon by Richard K. Morgan is one hell of a journey; there are all these little plot threads blended together with the real story arch to help build this dark and gritty future. Being the winner of the Philip K Dick award for best novel in 2003  told me that not only was it going to be a great science fiction novel but winning this award meant there will be some interesting ideas that will stick with the reader well after finishing the book. Like Philip K Dick, Morgan has put a lot of thought into his future and came up with a great concept that really works.

I’m so impressed with Altered Carbon I’m thinking about reading the rest of the series; only problem is I’ve heard the other books don’t really work in the same way. So I would love to know of more cyberpunk hardboiled novels worth reading; I think When Gravity Fails is probably the only other one I’ve really read and enjoyed. I know people will probably tell me Snow Crash or even The Diamond Age and yes, I will get to those books eventually. But I’m sure there are plenty of great books in the style out there.

I’m so happy to have finally read Altered Carbon; there is so much in this book we can talk about. I have avoided the main story line in the hopes that I’ve left this review relatively spoiler free. I would love to talk more of the world and the concept of resleeving but  most of my readers may not have read this book yet. For fans of science fiction and even crime novels, don’t be scared of Altered Carbon; it is worth your time and effort.


Kill Decision by Daniel Suarez

Posted March 26, 2013 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Thriller / 0 Comments

Kill Decision by Daniel SuarezTitle: Kill Decision (Goodreads)
Author: Daniel Suarez
Published: Dutton Books, 2012
Pages: 400
Genres: Thriller
My Copy: Personal Copy

Buy: AmazonBook Depository
(or visit your local Indie bookstore)

Unmanned weaponised drones already exist—they are widely used by America in our war efforts in the Middle East. But what would happen if these drones became so advanced that they are programmed to seek, identify, and execute targets without human intervention? Daniel Suarez is back to take a look at the real science and then take it one step further to show the frightening results.

Daniel Suarez is really becoming the go-to-guy for techno-thrillers that look at current technology and then show the possibility of what they can do. In his first series Deamon, Suarez looks at the possibility of a computer program running without human control and what it could do to make a new world order. In Kill Decision he takes a look at the unmanned drones and then builds on the existing technology to make a thrilling and frightening tale of the future of war.

This is a fast paced techno-thriller so don’t expect huge character development but Suarez did do a decent enough job at adding some depth to his characters. Sure I would have loved more to them but they never felt unreal or one dimensional. As far as the technology advances that he explore in this novel, that feels very real, like the natural progression of war and that is what is frightening.

This book is nothing special, it takes the standard thriller architecture and Daniel Suarez just builds from there. I wanted to read this book because I loved Deamon but even though the sequel Freedom TM did get a little far-fetched the series was really enjoyable and geeky. With Kill Decision I kind of felt like it was too similar but rewritten to make it feel like a war techno thriller instead. While it was fun to read, I never felt satisfied by the end result. I’m a nerd and I was hoping for more of the computer side of things not the war elements that I got.


Gun Machine by Warren Ellis

Posted March 25, 2013 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Crime / 0 Comments

Gun Machine by Warren EllisTitle: Gun Machine (Goodreads)
Author: Warren Ellis
Published: Mulholland Books, 2013
Pages: 308
Genres: Crime
My Copy: Library Book

Buy: AmazonBook Depository
(or visit your local Indie bookstore)

Warren Ellis reimagines New York City as a puzzle with the most dangerous pieces of all: GUNS.

After a shooting on Pearl Street claims the life of Detective John Tallow’s partner, he unwittingly stumbles into an apartment stacked high with guns. When examined, it is found that each gun is connected to a previously unsolved murder. Someone has been killing people for twenty years and keeping each gun as a trophy. Tallow has been put on the case and with the help of two CSU employees they are soon on the hunt for what could be the most prolific mass murderer in New York History.

I recently read Warren Ellis’ Crooked Little Vein and while I enjoyed the book I felt it was missing something. Gun Machine has that missing element; blending Ellis’ humour this book offers the violence with that dark cynicism that his other book was missing. Gun Machine starts out with the loss of Detective Tallow’s partner and while he should be mourning this tragedy he has been forced into what could be the biggest case of his career. Pairing with a couple of gothic CSU agents to help with forensics, Tallow begins to uncover a huge New York conspiracy.

Tallow is the perfect lead for this type of story, stuck between hating his job and the sudden loss of his only friend and partner; he is thrown into the deep end with no help at all. He struggles to make sense of this room full of guns and with the help of his two misfit sidekicks they begin to form an unlikely team.

While Ellis does favour the hard-boiled genre a little, this is more of a crime thriller than anything else. The blend of humour and his cynical outlook are what make this book worth reading. Crooked Little Vein tried to blend the two together but ended up focusing too heavily on the humour and the weird fetishes to really work too well. Gun Machine seems to get that balance right, turning this into a purely entertaining escapist novel.

Gun Machine really works at what it sets out to do, not too heavy on the humour, violence or dark aspects. It’s been creating a buzz about it and it is well deserved, I loved reading this book and didn’t want it to end. Sure it’s not without its flaws but for the escapist element, this book really is worth reading.

 


March Violets by Philip Kerr

Posted March 24, 2013 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Pulp / 0 Comments

March Violets by Philip KerrTitle: March Violets (Goodreads)
Author: Philip Kerr
Series: Bernard Gunther #1
Published: Penguin, 1989
Pages: 256
Genres: Pulp
My Copy: Personal Copy

Buy: AmazonBook Depository
(or visit your local Indie bookstore)

Bernie Gunther investigates the murder of the daughter of one of German’s wealthiest industrialists while the 1936 Summer Olympics play out in Berlin. Gunther is an ex-policeman that thought he had seen everything, but becoming a freelance Private Investigator has found him being sucked into the horrible excesses of Nazi subculture.

This is classic hard-boiled/noir fiction; it has the hard-hitting detective, a fast-paced plot and the everyday violence you come to expect. But this time that everyday violence comes in the forms of anti-Semitisms and the Nazi regime. The Nazi German backdrop is a great location for noir novel and makes for a whole cast of strong and interesting characters.

While the plot does need some polish, as it’s not a very strong crime plot, the interference from the Kripo and Gestapo did a great job of masking the flaws. March Violets reminds me a lot of Fatherland by Robert Harris with the concept but for me March Violets concept was much better just not as well executed.

The over used metaphors and attempts at humour really took away from the richly developed backdrop and while at times it did drag on a little, I really found myself enjoying this book. I’m not sure how well Philip Kerr researched this novel but the way he portrayed Nazi Germany felt right in my mind; the strong police state trying to play nice for the Olympic games and then the inability or unwillingness of ordinary Germans to try stop the crimes or injustices, while spending most of their time worrying about the coming war.

March Violets is the first in the Berlin Noir series and based on this book, I’m looking forward to reading the next two books. Not sure if I will continue the series after that but I will start with them. Bernie Gunther is a great protagonist with his hard hitting ways that seem like they will land him in a KZ (Konzentrationslager or Concentration camp). I’m glad I picked this book up, while there are some weak points, like I said before, they seem to be easily missed with everything else happening in this book. Well worth reading for pulp fans, it’s a fresh take on this genre.


Casino Royale by Ian Fleming

Posted March 23, 2013 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Thriller / 0 Comments

Casino Royale by Ian FlemingTitle: Casino Royale (Goodreads)
Author: Ian Fleming
Series: James Bond #1
Published: Vintage, 1953
Pages: 228
Genres: Thriller
My Copy: Library Book

Buy: AmazonBook DepositoryKindle
(or visit your local Indie bookstore)

Ian Fleming introduced the world to James Bond; British Secret Service agent and womaniser out to keep the world safe, time after time. Casino Royale is the first in the huge 007 franchise where Bond’s adventures lead to a card game to bring down SMERSH agent Le Chiffre.  But there is more at stake than just money.

This isn’t my first Bond book, I read Jeffery Deaver’s 007 novel Carte Blanche but this is my first Fleming book. So Fleming’s Bond is very different to the movies or Deaver’s secret agent. All the main elements are the same, the womanising and the witty comments but in Casino Royale it’s a lot different to the movie of the same name. There is less action adventure and more attempts at the espionage genre.

The first half of the book is set in the casino playing high-stakes baccarat; a game I know nothing about but was interested to learn. In the end the game is supposedly easy but I still have no idea how to play it. James Bond is trying to bankrupt Le Chiffre; the treasurer of a French union and a member of the Russian secret service. The idea is pretty simple; bankrupt Le Chiffre and prevent him funding any Russian missions. Which is well and good but once this part of the book ended, that’s when this book started going downhill.

The second half of the book was pretty weak, especially when it came to Vesper. The suspense and tension end abruptly and falls flat on its face. There are a few incidences of adventure but it almost tries to turn into this romance but Fleming and the character are such huge misogynists that it doesn’t work at all. Bond is supposed to be very much in love with this woman but he knows there is something she is hiding; but it doesn’t get explored very well in the book.

Now let’s talk about that one phrase in the book that really sets people off; “sweet tang of rape”. I get what Ian Fleming is trying to say and do there, but really that phrase is not the best way to put it. All it does is just prove that Fleming is a sexist and that never really helps the book. I want to say that the idea of wanting to have sex with this woman even though it’s not the right move for Bond is a great idea but it could have been explore and worded differently.

After reading this book, I’m not sure whether I should read more of the series or just stick to the movies. I wanted to read this book to get a sense of what the book was about and also it’s on the ‘1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die’ list, but I  really struggle to see how this book turned into a successful series let alone movie franchise. This is a simple case of ‘the movie is better than the book’ and it’s rare but it happens. Casino Royale may be very different, but it managed to keep the tension and explored the basic concept a whole lot better than this book ever did.


Retribution Falls by Chris Wooding

Posted March 22, 2013 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Science Fiction / 0 Comments

Retribution Falls by Chris WoodingTitle: Retribution Falls (Goodreads)
Author: Chris Wooding
Series: Ketty Jay #1
Published: Gollancz, 2009
Pages: 384
Genres: Science Fiction
My Copy: Library Book

Buy: AmazonBook Depository
(or visit your local Indie bookstore)

While sky piracy is not what Darian Frey wants, fate has not been kind to the captain of the Ketty Jay. Along with his crew, Frey finds himself involved in an attack that goes horribly wrong resulting in them being on the run. Hunted by the elite Century Knights and bounty hunters, the airship goes into hiding in the hidden legendary pirate town Retribution Falls but only to discover just how deep this conspiracy runs.

Most of the people would compare this book to the cult classic TV show Firefly; a band on misfits on the wrong side of the law struggling to make things right. Sure there are some similarities and that was the main reason I picked up this book but it really isn’t the same. Firefly has these great complex characters that somehow gel together really well, but in this book while they do seem to mesh well, the complexity of the characters is missed. There are some characters like Jez and Malvery who have the complexity to make great characters but I feel like the author Chris Wooding showed his hand way too early by revealing big secrets that tell the reader just who they are. I’m sure there are other secrets to these characters but with such a big reveals, it’s lost something and now the characters are just two dimensional.

Retribution Falls is a fast paced adventure story but without anything special about the characters, it just becomes an entertaining book with no surprises. Captain Frey is the most annoying, scared character I’ve met in an adventure story; I really don’t know how you can lead a group of pirates if all you want to do is run and hide. This really destroyed the book for me; while there was a hint at complex characters (up until half way through), the coward of a captain really didn’t work for me, especially in the situation they have gotten themselves into.

Adventure trying to be a conspiracy of world domination worked in parts but it wasn’t as strong as it needed to be to make this book special. The narrative and plotting was so basic that most things felt predictable and empty threats. This story continues onto two more books in the series and while entertaining there is nothing holding my interest.

A homage to Firefly that fell flat on its face, this book is a good example of what not to do; never reveal to much of the characters and don’t try to be complex in such a short period of time; it doesn’t work. I won’t be continuing the series unless I hear good reports about it. While I did enjoy reading this book, it really lacked in so many ways. The target audience wasn’t even for young adults so I’m not sure what Chris Wooding was trying to do with this book, but for me it didn’t work.