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Comment of the Fortnight
8 August 2000

Book Reviews

I was on vacation last week visiting my mom in Florida, so I had some time to read several books.

The Last Coyote, by Michael Connelly

A mystery novel about detective Heironymous (Harry) Bosch's search for his mother's killer. The protagonist is a bit depressed and depressing, but the character is well drawn. I actually found myself getting to like the character of the police psychiatrist, who was at first portrayed in a very unsympathetic light. As for the mystery itself, there are many clever twists and turns. An enjoyable if violent and bloody book.

No Deals, Mr. Bond, by John Gardner

It's a James Bond novel. Need I say more? Oh, very well, I shall. Bond revisits a case that had him smuggling people out of East Germany; five years later someone is killing off the people he helped rescue. Who's the double agent? Who's behind it all? Will Bond survive? Suspend your disbelief and enjoy the ride. On a side note, Gardner's Bond is nowhere as sexist as Ian Fleming's was.

Skylar in Yankeeland, by Gregory McDonald

Skylar Whitfield, from the hills of Tennessee, goes to visit his rich relatives in Boston before registering as a student in a Boston music school. Theft and murder ensue, and Skylar is in the middle of it all. Gregory McDonald doesn't seem to think much of the East Coast aristocracy or “modern music,” and it shows. As with all of his books, it's a very pleasant read.

The Burning City, by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle

Take Niven's novel, Destiny's Road. Add The Magic May Return. Mix well. Serve up at a length of 400 plus pages. You get a book about Whandall Placehold, a Lordkin child growing up in a world where magic still works -- in places -- and gods still live, but can “go mythical” if the conditions are right. If you're confused, then you know exactly how I felt at the beginning of the book. Niven and Pournelle drop you into the world they've created, and you have to figure it out as you go along, much as the protagonist must do. It's a very good book with interesting characters and high adventure, but it's not the best I've ever read from them. If you want to read them at their best, The Gripping Hand is the one you want.

Jupiter's Bones, by Faye Kellerman

Another Peter Decker/Rina Lazarus mystery. This one involves the death of Dr. Emil Euler Ganz, an astrophysicist who dropped out of the academic scene, only to reappear as “Father Jupiter,” the leader of a religious cult. There is a subplot involving Decker's sons, but it doesn't blend in well with the rest of the novel. Towards the end, Kellerman shifts focus off Decker and onto Marge Dunn, one of the detectives who works for Decker. She takes over a fair portion of the book, and quite effectively, too.

Net Force, created by Tom Clancy and Steve Pieczenik

I saved the worst for last. Clancy and Pieczenik may have created it, but goodness only knows who actually wrote it. And, as Mae West said, “Goodness had nothing to do with it, dearie.” This book is just dreadful. The villains are so totally evil that you expect to see Snidely Whiplash stride onto the scene, twirling his mustache and saying, “I'll get you yet, Nell Fenwick!” The heroes are little more than cardboard cut-outs of Miss Goody Two-Shoes, so perfect and honorable that you cannot but hate them. The author's attempts at writing dialogue between computer-savvy high school students is laughable, and the subplot involving one of the students' romance seems to have been thrown in to take up pages. The only character with whom I could empathize at all was “the Selkie,” the mysterious assassin, hoping against hope that she would be able to kill off everyone else and have done with this miserable literary exercise.

Let me know what you think.

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