Sunday, July 11, 2010

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Best Book of Summer

Yes, I know we have a lot of summer left.  But nothing I read will be better than The Passage by Justin Cronin. I finished this book several weeks ago and haven't written about it because words fail me.  I babble about it to everyone I meet and I carry images from it with me still.  So here's my feeble attempt to tell you about it.

In the not distant future, the government is tinkering with a newly discovered virus.  The virus has the potential to extend human lifespan indefinitely, if it can be buffered enough not to kill the infected person.  In order to engage in final testing, death row inmates are convinced to be test subjects.  Something goes terribly wrong.

Does this sound like a dozen science fiction/end of the world books you may have read?  The Passage has been compared to The Stand (King) and The Road (McCarthy).  Justin Cronin elevates this material to a new level.  He populates his huge canvas with characters rich and compelling and flawed and human.  He does not demonize his demons nor does he glorify his heroes. Read it simply as a story and it's a great one. Read it as a fine piece of literature as well.  While the premise is genre-restricted, the scope and wonder of this novel transcends genre.  It is, like most great books, about being human. Just read it...then come talk to me. There's much to talk about.

Summertime...and the reading is easy (Part 1)

After a dry spell when I started many books and finished none, I read three fabulous books in a row. Whew...I was worried that I had fallen out of love with books.  So here they are, in no particular order.

City of Dreams by William Martin tells parallel stories. In the present, antiquarian bookseller and unlikely action hero Peter Fallon accepts a challenge to locate a cache of New Emission Money. These bonds were issued to finance the fledgling American economy in the 1780's. They may now be worth billions. In the past, a street boy and a prostitute fall in love during the American Revolution and their fates are forever tied to those same bonds. The backdrop to both stories is New York City and offers a fascinating peek at the city of the past and of the present. The mystery of the present day features amusing twists and lots of action.  But the real heart of the book is the love story of Gil and Loretta and their fabulous city of dreams.

WWW: Watch by Robert J. Sawyer is the sequel to WWW:Wake.  In Wake, the world wide web becomes sentient.  His awakening as Webmind is the result of a new technology which allows 16 year old Caitlyn to see after being blind her entire life.  In Watch, Caitlyn begins the hard task of teaching Webmind to understand human concepts like compassion, morality,and love.  At the same time, governments around the world discover Webmind and set out to destroy him because he is a security risk and potential terrorist tool. This is a clever and thought provoking tale from the author of one of my favorite books: Flashforward. A satisfying conclusion also hints at another book to come.

Jeffrey Deaver's The Burning Wire is another mystery featuring brilliant investigator Lincoln Rhyme. Rhyme is confined to a wheelchair but with the help of his brilliant partner Amelia Sachs he is able to track down murderers using forensics and logic.  Electricity looms large in this installment: a murderer is using the power of the grid to kill innocent people all over Manhattan.  Ironically, the instrument of death is also part of what keeps Rhyme alive.  As Rhyme and Sachs struggle to track down the killer, Rhyme's own health is in jeopardy and the killer keeps one step ahead of them.  A pretty satisfying mystery which will give you pause every time you plug in your toaster!