In the ‘bad old days’ when there were a dozen publishing power houses in New York that controlled the industry, everyone knew what a genre books was. If it was a mystery, it started with a murder. If it was romance, it was boy-meets-girl-loses-girl-gets-girl-back. It was all very simple and quite generic, the root of the term genre. But all of that has changed. The industry has outsized and now books that would not have gotten so much as a nod a decade ago are in print. Continue reading
Bernard Hawkes is a cynical, disillusioned journalist who finds himself in a spot of trouble when someone starts enacting the theoretical terrorist plots described in his satirical newspaper column. So begins this sardonic tale of conspiracies within conspiracies set in modern-day London.
With the sinister Tranquility Foundation (a New Age conglomerate promising “serenity with security”) on one side and the Primitive Front (a group bent on shaking people out of such complacency) on the other, Bernard’s previously humdrum existence suddenly becomes quite interesting as he is drawn ever deeper into the intrigue behind the bombings. Adding to his problems are Inspector Pitmarsh, the paradoxically chummy yet menacing police detective, a vivacious young revolutionary calling herself Animal, and Dillwyn, his alternatively rational and paranoid neighbor. Continue reading
Randolph’s One Bedroom (CreateSpace, 156 pages), for me, wasn’t so much about Randolph as it was his state of mind, specifically how he dealt with the everyday oddities of his world. The truth is stranger than fiction, and where Randolph lives, pretty much everything is strange. What I think I loved most about this story collection was that none of the characters were all that out of the ordinary. We are surrounded by the bizarre every single day, and we, like Randolph, have become unaffected by the goings on around us. If we didn’t insulate ourselves in this way, we would all be mental by now. When I see some of the things my own neighbours do, I swear my husband and I are the only normal people on the block. That’s a stretch, all things considered, but then we think, hey, they probably think we are weird, and they wouldn’t be that far off base. That’s really the whole point of the book I think: it’s an abstract look at society’s various psychological tics. Randolph’s cursing pet parrot is really the only thing predictable in his entire world, well, that and he never gets any mail. Continue reading
“Male violence did it.” Martin Amis has a bit of a reputation for making sweeping, declarative statements like this one that ends the first paragraph of Yellow Dog (Mirimax, 339 pages). I’ve read all of Amis’ books except Pregnant Window and Koba the Dread (on my list, next) and I’m very familiar with the Amis conception of gender. I can make sweeping generalizations about his Men and his Women. Continue reading
In The Mysterious Secret of the Valuable Treasure (MacAdam/Cage Publishing, 183 pages), Jack Pendarvis has the kind of wit that ambushes you – and then bludgeons you until you can no longer suppress the laughter. This collection of nine stories and a novella mocks bad writing and moronic thought through a complete submersion in each, with protagonists believing in absurd premises (like the dead-beat husband who imagines himself as a famous historian and the unemployed drinking buddies who want to be writers without doing the work.) The subtitle – “Curious stories” – Continue reading