Sunday, December 27, 2015

“The Searcher” by Simon Toyne – The Abyss of Redemption

The Searcher by Simon Toyne - book cover
The search for oneself is perhaps the most gruelling and well-known quest there is for literary heroes. More often than not, following that path leads them to some treacherous twists and turns, ones that take them deep into the darkness of an abyss they can't help but look into. And yet, they are pushed forward by an inexplicable sense of purpose, of duty, just like Solomon Creed in Simon Toyne's novel, The Searcher.

In this book that is meant to kick off a 10-novel series, we are introduced to Redemption, Arizona, where weird occurrences just pile up on each other. As a man local man is buried and the funeral is in process, a giant crash is seen in the distance along with a pillar of smoke: a plane somehow went down. As the sheriff tries to get to the scene of the accident, he comes across a pale man running down the road, with no memory of who he is, how he got there, or even any shoes. All he has is a handmade suit jacked and an inscribed book, both pointing to his name being Solomon Creed. Relatively soon, Solomon comes to his senses and starts to believe he ended up in Redemption for a very specific reason... to save the man that was being buried earlier today.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

“Cross Justice” by James Patterson - Family Shackles

Cross Justice by James Patterson - book cover
Once a hero becomes established in literature there often comes to question as to who he was before we were introduced to him. What life events could mold remarkable people, making them into the protagonists we yearn to follow and always learn more about. Most of the time we have to be content using our imaginations to fill in all the blanks, but there are times when we do get to ride the time machine and peer into the past we could only make up, as is the case with Cross Justice by James Patterson.

In this addition to the series, Alex Cross finds himself returning to his hometown that he had forsaken many years ago, all but left behind in his dreamy pages of his past. With his cousin accused of a brutal murder and none but the Cross family certain of his innocence, Alex feels he has no choice but to finally face the darkness that has been chasing him. Upon returning, he finds that the town itself has taken a stark nosedive, becoming a hotbed of drug trafficking and violent crimes. In a plot twist that seems to have become more the rule than an exception in Alex Cross' life, the investigation eventually leads him to some bigger, badder fish with darker, deadlier plans than just framing his cousin.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

“The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August” by Claire North – Immortal Quandaries

The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August by Claire North
Hindsight may very well be one of the cruelest concepts of our world; how many times have you said to yourself “if only I had known”? Who  hasn't dreamt of being able to travel far back in time and retain the accumulated knowledge gained through life? Bill Murray gave us a small glimpse of the possibilities in “Groundhog Day”, and now Claire North (a pen name used by Catherine Webb) takes it to the next level in The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August, spreading the power over a lifetime.

The premise in this story is quite an unusual one: Harry August is a man either blessed or cursed, but either way always forced to reincarnate as himself and begin the same life all over again... but still being able to retain the knowledge from previous lives which comes back to him by the age of seven. Though at first the news drove him to madness and suicide, life after life he starts to get the hang of it, and discovers he is one of a few “Ourobouros” in the world, people with his specific condition. What's more, many of them are part of the Cronos Club dedicated to helping their young members who are freshly reborn to gain their memories back as soon as possible. On his deathbed once again, Harry receives a surprising visit: a little girl warns him about the fast-approaching end of the world.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

“The Promise” by Robert Crais – Mr. Rollins' Rule

The Promise by Robert Crais book cover
The life of a fictional private detective is perhaps one of the most demanding ones out there. One can nary have a dame come into their office without being thrown into a five-layer conspiracy that leads to countless tragedies; the easier and more innocent-looking the case, the more it's certain to blow up into a terrifying nightmare. That's precisely what Elvis Cole finds himself dealing with in The Promise by Robert Crais.

The detective Cole is hired by a grieving mother and eventually is led to a house that looks way too normal... a house where a brutal murderer and fugitive are hiding. As Cole approaches, Scott James of the LAPD K-9 unit, along with his faithful German shepherd Maggie, track the fugitive to the house, but are confronted with something as terrible as evil itself: Mr. Rollins. A sadistic murderer with a penchant for high-powered explosives, he always follows a single rule: never leave a witness that could potentially remotely identify him... and Scott is the only such person left. As the deranged Mr. Rollins follows his one rule like one of Asimov's robots, Cole and his partner Joe Pike find themselves targeted by the police. The unlikely quatrain soon decide to pool their forces together, and follow the bloody trail of clues until the very bitter end.

Wednesday, December 09, 2015

“Once Upon a Time in Russia” by Ben Mezrich – Riding the Perestroika Waves

When the era of communism dawned to a close in the Soviet Union, with the country becoming Russia in 1991, a very turbulent and violent period began during which the country faced a “Wild West”-type scenario, or at least as much as modern civilization permits such a thing to happen. The perestroika led to countless revolts and a change of regime, but most importantly, it left a huge chunk of power hanging in the air for anyone to claim as their own. Stability was lost, and with it was born the opportunity to get to the top of the world. Berezovsky and Abramovich were two of the most notable and dangerous individuals to have surfed the waves of the perestroika to personal success, leaving behind a trail of bodies and corruption.

In his book Once Upon a Time in Russia, Ben Mezrich takes it upon himself to give Western audiences insight into the lives of those two men, and consequently, how Russia functioned in the early 1990s. Though the book is unquestionably based on facts and research, it is written in the form of a novel, complete with an intriguing narration that almost makes you forget the reality of it all.

Sunday, December 06, 2015

“Pirate Hunters” by Robert Kurson – Sunken Legends

Pirate stories have fascinated mankind, especially children, probably ever since all their murderous antics and unhygienic lifestyles were forgotten. Though there may have certainly been much less glory and cleanliness to the stories of famous pirates than we were led to believe, it doesn't change a fact that some of them have managed to achieve downright legendary things, at least from a criminal's perspective. Arguably the best-known sea tyrant during the golden age of piracy, the seventeenth century, was Blackbeard, but there was another whose even greater notoriety was washed away under the seas of time: Joseph Bannister.

His exploits were nothing short of spectacular and apparently even more tale-inspiring than those of all his counterparts. As is the case with most pirates though, there came a point when his ship was sunk in one way or another, and needless to say not many have tried to retrieve it... at least not with the tenacity and determination of John Chatterton and John Mattera, world-famous shipwreck divers.

Wednesday, December 02, 2015

“The Fold” by Peter Clines – Teleportation: Safest Form of Transit

The concept of teleportation is something that is still very much in the realm of science-fiction books and movies, but nevertheless it seems we cannot and never will stop yearning for it. After all, who out there hasn't wished (perhaps during a bout of laziness) for the ability to instantly cross over great distances and be wherever they wanted? Of course, there are plenty of theories out there as to why teleportation is possible/impossible and what it could and could not do us. In his book The Fold, Peter Clines essentially wonders what a space warp-type teleportation device would do not only to us, but the entire world.

The Fold begins by presenting the hero, Mike Erikson, a generally-unremarkable man with an average life in a small town in New England. As Mike soon discovers, enjoying an average life is something protagonists simply aren't allowed to do, and news from an old friend send him tumbling on a grandiose adventure. Allegedly, DARPA scientists have managed to open a “fold”, a phenomenon which capable of shrinking space allowing a person to cross great distances with only a simple step. As the scientists out there are affirming it, teleportation technology is finally at hand and the fold is the safest method of transportation you'll find out there, as well as the most accommodating for lazy people.