Tag Archive: Detective novel


What would you do if you were given everything you could possibly want or need in exchange for a little slice of yourself?

Tony Bertauski has written a novel that is one part Peter Pan and one part Matrix. He successfully combines these and elements of other SF works in an original and compelling plot that could be tomorrow’s news. TB’s dystopia is not some artificial alternate reality.  It’s the world we take for granted.   The story carries the feel of every day right down to the mundane rituals we all endure.  There is plenty of life sucks and then you die.  It’s just not the same.

The Annihilation of Foreverland isn’t a dystopian novel.  It’s more the story of a 21st century Dr. Moreau.  The island is a paradise, every want and need has been arranged for. Soon, however, the reader is confronted by something much more cold-blooded and malicious.

There are no good guys or bad guys in The Annihilation of Foreverland. There are only victims and benevolent predators.  From the first scene you sense something is off; too many things are happening to determine where things might go bad, you just know they’re going to go bad.

Bertauski challenges the reader to connect with his characters and see the world through their eyes.  Danny Boy knows there is a cold, harsh world out there somewhere.  He also knows whatever lies behind this magical playground is much colder, and much harsher.  What he doesn’t know is how or why.   While Danny Boy struggles to keep his internal world intact, we are thrust into a continuously shifting scene where we are compelled to seek answers even as they twist and slide into new more sordid motives.

What makes this novel appealing? The hero is everyman, handicapped by age and inexperience, disadvantaged by authority, most of all, hindered by the loss of his memory.  There is nothing for him before his arrival in Foreverland.  The setting is a dream come true for our hero, yet he has the courage to take that dream apart to see what makes it tick.

Tony Bertauski successfully splits the climax into two elements causing you to hold your breath not once, but twice. Danny Boy discovers the true nature of the evil being done while rescuing the others.  But what Danny Boy discovers, a supreme evil itself, is not, and has never been, the underlying reason for Foreverland.

Evil takes many forms and sometimes it takes no form at all.

Side Note:

***It’s not my job to tell you a story.  It’s my job to convince you to read the story for yourself.  In the end I don’t care if you agree with what I have to say, as long as you take the opportunity to decide whether a book has merit.  In any review I write, I’m hoping for a little, “What the hell is she talking about?” I’m hoping to give a hint at the treasure within. ***

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There are no ghosts here.  There is only the house.  Therein lies the tale.

House of LeaveI’m not sure why I was under the impression that this was a horror novel.  It doesn’t try to be horror in the traditional sense.  When the climactic moments of the story occur halfway through, you stop thinking about the story and start thinking about the story, and the story fills me with questions.  Let’s talk about the story within the story shall we?

Meet Johnny Truant.  He has a story to tell, but how much do you say about this story before you address whether it’s real or it’s Johnny ‘s fabrication?  If you decide the story is a figment of Johnny’s imagination, how do you reconcile the intricacies of detail including footnotes, appendices, exhibits?  Can a psychotic break produce such a finely tuned “reality”?  Is it possible that some of it is real and some of it is Johnny?

Meet Will Navidson. He’s a Pulitzer Prize winning photojournalist. He has a house. His house has a yawning, chasm of an abyss in it.  This abyss swallows all light, all hope, all sanity. The abyss is nothing and consumes everything within it’s reach. It grows greater every moment, every day they remain.  Navidson records every single minute of what transpires.  Johnny tells us all about it.

Meet Zampano`.  He has spent years collecting the story of Will Navidson. He has detailed the events of the house.  He catalogs all the ‘details’ of the public response, the academic papers, the film critics’ reviews of Navidson’s ‘documentary’.  But Navidson hasn’t created a documentary, which implies evidence or proof of something.  He has simply recorded in the way he knew best, the events surrounding his house and the abyss within it.   Zampano` puts together all the details of the story of the house.  And Johnny tells the story …of Navidson.

Is Johnny having a psychotic break?  Has he invented an elaborate fiction about a house and a family and a gaping hole in reality?  It’s enough to understand that Johnny has his own issues, and as his story progresses, and here we’re referring to Johnny’s story and not the story Johnny is telling, we see his own gaping hole.  His childhood is littered with physical and emotional trauma.  His story illuminates the darkness he hides from himself.  He describes how his apartment continues to shrink around him, how his abyss continues to consume him and his efforts to keep that nothingness at bay.

Which is it? Johnny tells the story of Will Navidson’s house as discovered by Zampano` or Johnny spins a tale of darkness and obsession.  If  Navidson (and Zampano`) truly exist, why does Johnny include letters from his mother, describing her descent into schizophrenia, yet leaves other details, frequently alluded to, aside?

If we go with the psychotic break theory, and Navidson/Zampano’ are Johnny’s psychotic construct… what’s the deal with the footnotes and other academic detritus?  It almost sounds like the transcript of multiple visits to an “in-house” psychiatrist. “…You think I’m crazy? …well, let me tell a tale or two for you.”

The whole house thing…  Johnny thinks it all happened.  Doesn’t he?

What does it mean to be consumed by nothing?

 House of LeavesMark Z. Danielewski

My thanks to Eric and Cory.

 

With the end of 2012, I realize I have five fiction and two non-fiction books that need reviews.  Clearly that’s not going to happen, so let me sum up here and provide a more in-depth review of the one book that was
particularly worth it.

Argo and VRIN:

Argo and Vrin are short novellas science fiction novellas. VRIN tends toward a Christian analogy while Argo is more of dystopian off planet space fiction.  What they both lack is depth of story and of character.  You spend most of the story trying to figure out what exactly is happening rather than why the characters act the way they do.   In the case of Argo, I’m pretty certain the author wants you to feel the similarity to our world and possible future existence, but it never really works.  VRIN’s difficulty is that there is a world that may or may be a virtual existence that our protagonist enters unknowingly, and he dithers over the reality of this world and his role in it, yet when a choice is made he doesn’t hesitate to act, even though it might mean the existence of the entire world.  The analogy is weak and is only developed in the last several pages.  Both of these are read if you want, but don’t feel you have to go out of your way.

Housewife Assassin’s Handbook:

This is a goofy story.  It’s supposed to be goofy, but it’s always best to have your goofy come with some level of credibility.  Plus, goofy of plot and goofy of character are not synonymous.  If you want me to believe that you are a successful, savvy, efficient assassin, then don’t play the breathless, wanton housewife.  More importantly, if you husband shows up under odd circumstances after 7 years of pretending he’s dead, first don’t be in a quandary, where your desire lies, and second, don’t be an idiot about where his loyalties lie.  Yours aren’t with him and his aren’t with you.  Does the company have to spell it out for you?  I actually wondered if I was giving something up here, but realized that the plot turn was more obvious to the reader than it ever was going to be to our erstwhile housewife.  Or erstwhile assassin however you want to look at it.  There are other books in the series, but I won’t be wasting my time.

Artemis Fowl:

This is the first in a series of YA novels.  I really like novels like this because you don’t have to think too hard to keep up, you can read it in one sitting without being fatigued by the story, and the story gives you something to think about after you’ve finished reading it.  If you’re not familiar with the story, Artemis is the son of a major crime lord.  His father has been killed or kidnapped, and Artemis takes it upon himself to improve the family’s fortunes.  Which he does with a flair only genius child criminals can do.  He has a butler, Butler, who handles his err, heavy work, and as a friend, as only a family servant can do. I’m already scoping out the rest of the series before I get too far behind.
Bad Radio:

Here is a well-crafted plot, finely tuned dialog and an understanding of the human condition, that tells the tale of a man who has sequestered himself from society, presumably because he has nothing left to live with but his past.  But when his past comes calling, he gets drawn into a web far more complicated than any around him can comprehend.  He knows how terrifying facing his past will be and yet he entangles the granddaughter of an army buddy in his desperate drive for redemption.

Langlois weaves  a philosophical argument on the nature of good and evil into a tale of supernatural forces, a trek across the country to meet an old enemy and a journey of self-discovery.  His prose is taut and languid at the same time an he has an ear for the symmetry of language that can’t be taught.  (“It was that golden time of the day, between the platinum of dawn and the coppery red of sunset…”)

As the story unfolds, Abe is approached by the granddaughter of an old army buddy who asks for his help as part of her grandfather’s final days.   On arriving at his friend’s assisted living home, his past explodes into a bloody and … He carefully exposes the nature of our hero and the face of his opponent as they come closer to confrontation.

Hopefully, without telling you too much, but enticing you just a bit:  Think Hellboy with better acting and a better plot.

Two nonfiction books:
Murder Room:

At first I was under the impression this was a series of short stories there based on the stories of Sherlock Holmes being solved under current day circumstances.  But instead it is the story of a group of major crime fighters and how they have come together to solve some of the hardest cold cases in history.  Be forewarned most cases are gruesome and there is a level of detail not for the faint of heart.  They don’t always get their “man” even though they know who it is.  They operate under one major presumption and that is they will not involve themselves in a case with out the agreement of the local jurisdiction.  Members of this group are from most of the major investigative organizations in this country as well as some from Britain and France.  If you like true crime, this is definitely a book for you. The author, Michael Caputo is also the author of other books of a similar nature.

Nurture Shock:

If you are the parent of young children, or thinking about being the parent of young children, this should be mandatory reading.  Not all of the chapters are topics that can be incorporated into domestic child rearing, but there are some really, really outstanding ideas that can be used to give your child a headstart in vocabulary, math (yes, math for preschoolers), social interaction and functional organization.  The chapter on functional organization is simply amazing.  There are ideas presented here that adults can apply in daily life for a higher level of productivity.  Best part?  They are ideas that are geared toward five and six year olds, so they aren’t overwhelming in application.  As children incorporate such ideas in their daily life, they provide themselves with the ability to perform better once they begin school.  Finally, if you want to be effective in the lives of young children that are around you on an occasional basis, there are chapters that will benefit you as well.  If you just happen to be into developmental psychology, this is definitely a worthwhile read.