Lexifabricographer For when the right word just won’t do…

June 5, 2012

Books of 2012 – May

Filed under: books of 2012,books read — lexifab @ 12:13 am

May’s reading was about on par with the pace I’ve set since January – six new books read. Here’s the rundown:

The Obituarist by Patrick O’Duffy (ebook versions at Smashwords or Amazon) – For some reason I wrote a full review of Patrick O’Duffy’s deft crime novella to post to various book review websites, but I forgot to post it here as well. So here it is in full:

Patrick O’Duffy’s smart little crime novella ‘The Obituarist’ started from a cool character idea: someone who makes a living from methodically closing down the online presence of the recently deceased on behalf of their technologically-challenged bereaved, setting up memorials on their social media sites, removing their personal information and subscriptions and shutting down opportunities for the theft of their identities. O’Duffy could have gone almost anywhere with so solid a concept. He plumped for a tight yarn of a week or so in the life of Kendall Barber, the obituarist in question, whose attempts to unravel the fate of his client’s dead brother run afoul of violent bikers, slovenly cops and ambitious gangsters.

This is a wise-cracking, confident story that twists like a cracking whip and runs hot on a fuel of lies, secrets and hammer beatings. It’s not too long that the pace starts to stretch believability, and at 20K words it’s all too easy to inhale in a sitting. In a way that’s good though, because I got to the end and immediately wanted to start it again. It’s a different meal the second time through, but it tastes just as good.

Brave New World: Revolution by Matt Forbeck – This is the first novel produced out of Matt Forbeck’s ambitious plan to write 12 novels in 12 months (not counting several other projects he has going, apparently including a monthly comic, several game-related works, short stories and at least one other novel. The man’s a demon). I supported the Kickstarter awhile back, because I like mad ambition. I was, unfortunately, only kind of so-so about this particular book. Revolution (which is based on Forbeck’s RPG from the 90’s) is set in an alternate-history version of America where super-powered hijinks have resulted in a glassy crater where Chicago used to be and a repressive law requiring that supers be registered and work for the government or face imprisonment. The action – of which there is a lot – revolves around an underground movement helping Deltas (the superheroes) get out of the country. There are a lot of suitably destructive fights, plenty of shadowy government black ops shenanigans, desperate people with desperate plans that involve explosions and a couple of very effective plot twists to keep things from being a straightforward romp.

But despite all that I was not all that engaged by most of the characters. With the exception of a husband and wife team drawn back into the war they thought they’d escaped, I was unmoved by the plight of most of the cast. There was nothing particularly wrong with any of them. I just couldn’t much invest in their problems. Except for the guy who breathed poison gas, who I thought got a pretty raw deal. Despite these misgivings, I’m up for reading the sequels (which I will get in any case, as a supporter of the initial pledge drive). The big-screen action and provocative setting details revealed in  Revolution are worth a look. I just hope that in the next volume Forbeck shows me someone I’ll care about more.

Status Anxiety by Alain de Botton – I’ve has a copy of this floating around in my pile of shame for…um, at least three years. Maybe four or five. I finally decided I’d better pick it up and clear it out, though to be honest that decision was probably motivated more by the vague inclination to stir some non-fiction into my reading list than any real compulsion to be inspired to wisdom. At Goodreads I wrote  “Well researched and argued, but the conclusions felt a little insubstantial. “…there is more than one way…of succeeding at life” is undoubtedly true. I think that I may have been expecting something a bit more profound.” And, well…yeah, I don’t have anything to add to that.

Blackbirds by Chuck Wendig – I’ve been waiting a while for this book to arrive, so it’s going to get its own full review. Long story short: it’s very good.

Dinocalypse Now by Chuck Wendig – Kickstarter has been good to me this month. I reviewed this first part in what will eventually become a rather epic Spirit of the Century fiction collection just a couple of days ago, and found it good.

Dead Harvest by Chris F. HolmI reviewed Chris F. Holm’s short story collection 8 Pounds a while back and mentioned that I was looking forward to his first novel. It doesn’t disappoint. What starts as the simple story of a possessor spirit charged with collecting damned souls for Hell blows out into a violent apocalypse. Go figure. Dead Harvest is a solid hardboiled crime thriller buried neck-deep in the supernatural. That it walks a tightrope between the two genres without compromising on either is impressive – the central mystery is compelling, the narrator is heroic but horribly flawed and the stakes are both intimately personal and cosmic at the same time. This was such a satisfying read that I don’t really want to spoil anything. I highly recommend it. (Also, I try to resist the urge to judge books by their cover, but the design of this book – old-fashioned pulp with added scuff marks – is sublime.)

The first thing I note is that in terms of the spirit of the Australian Women Writers Challenge, I have comprehensively dropped the ball. No women at all this month, and in fact only one Australian (Patrick O’Duffy). I have  a long way to go to realign my unconscious preferences, it would appear. The first step is acknowledging the bias, though – at least I have that bit covered. The next step will be to make a conscious effort in June to redirect my efforts towards reading the several eligible works (including books by Kaaron Warren, Jo Anderton, Andrea Host and Keery Greenwood) currently burning a hole in my Kindle.

Two of this month’s novels – Dinocalypse and Revolution – were rewards for fiction projects which I backed through Kickstarter. Both will deliver sequels in the future (another six novels in the case of the Spirit of the Century Kickstarter, and two more from this particular Forbeck project) so I can expect to see a steady stream of  similar material flowing through my reading list over the next year or so.

The de Botton I read out of a sense of obligation – surely no book should have to languish so long unread? I suspect I read it in the hope – forlorn, as it turns out – that I would prove an intellectually stimulating diversion from the rather pulpier fare I was otherwise devouring. In fact I found that Blackbirds and Dead Harvest were both more eye-opening and challenging reads than Status Anxiety, which may say more about me than about works of popular philosophy.

Total book count for the year so far is 29, which makes my projected target of 80 books begin to look a little out of reach. (Especially since I plan to include fat-arsed shelf-breakers by Neal Stephenson, George R. R. Martin, Peter F. Hamilton and John Birmingham amongst them).

8 Comments »

  1. Besides the eleven books on Goodreads, I read three of John Marsden’s “Tomorrow” novels last month, and possibly one or two other small fluffy things I’ve forgotten about. This frenzy of reading activity is just because I got sick. :/

    Comment by Chris Fellows — June 5, 2012 @ 7:39 am

  2. I got sick and I didn’t read much! It was the worst case scenario.

    How are the Tomorrow books? I’ve always wondered. They kind of look like the Australian answer to Red Dawn, if perhaps a little more politically nuanced.

    Comment by Lexifab — June 5, 2012 @ 9:21 am

  3. That is a really bad scenario 🙁

    This is a weird thing for me to say, but I would recommend seeing the ‘Tomorrow When the War Began’ movie first. It is a very faithful adaptation. I think a foreign audience would see it just as a version of ‘Red Dawn’ with local colour, and the things that make it good are unexportable and tug at very specifically Australian fears and sensibilities. Though I haven’t tested this theory on actual foreigners.

    I liked the first book better than the second one, and the second book better than the third one. The plot got too implausible in the third book, and the characters (as is of course appropriate and realistic) got too hard and bitter for me.

    Spouse-of-Clam has read through to #9 or #10 and says the later ones are very good.

    Comment by Chris Fellows — June 5, 2012 @ 9:42 am

  4. Holy crap there are nine or ten of them? I was startled to hear there were sequels!

    Comment by Lexifab — June 5, 2012 @ 9:52 am

  5. Thanks for the kind words! Glad you enjoyed DEAD HARVEST.

    Comment by Chris F. Holm — June 6, 2012 @ 3:57 am

  6. BTW, there is only one George R. R. Martin novel anyone need ever read. And it ain’t all that long. 😉

    Comment by Chris Fellows — June 7, 2012 @ 10:24 am

  7. Tee. I like Fevre Dream too, because riverboats and vampires. I’ve never heard of Tuf Voyaging, but I note that it has just been reprinted by Gollancz, so I will check it out.

    Comment by Lexifab — June 7, 2012 @ 11:35 am

  8. Chris Holm: If anything, I loved the snippet in the back of the next book even more – looks like a fun setup! I am looking forward to it.

    Comment by Lexifab — June 7, 2012 @ 11:36 am

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