“Barsoom” Covers by d’Achille


Barsoom!

I have finally gotten around to reading the “Barsoom Series” by Edgar Rice Burroughs, and just like watching the “Star Wars” films or reading Tolkien I have been transported into another realm…and have become mildly obsessed.  Thus far, I’ve finished the first novel, “Princess of Mars,” and I have just cracked into its sequel, “Gods of Mars.”  I will mostly likely have a review up in a short while, but until then check out these original covers for Burroughs highly regarded series by d’Achille–they’re absolutely spectacular:

Barsoom

Review: Carte Blanche by Jeffrey Deaver


Carte Blanche (James Bond)Carte Blanche by Jeffery Deaver

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Since Ian Fleming’s death in 1964 numerous writers have taken up the task of penning James Bond novels in an effort to keep the Fleming and Bond legacy alive and well. Some of these authors have had lengthy runs that have allowed them to frame out their version of the titular character with years of careful growth, however, others have had only a mere moment to make their mark on the famous character. Suffice it to say, some of these authors have been more successful than others, because of their respective opportunities.

In particular, I enjoyed John Gardner’s James Bond series, which primarily spanned the 1980’s, as well as Raymond Benson’s more-American take on the most-British of spies.
Recently, the popular fiction author, Jeffrey Deaver, was plucked from the ranks to write the latest 007 novel and on the whole I think he does the series justice. He does not take any chances, but he does hold true to the character and the universe which I think will appease fans but in the end deny them poignancy and relevance.

Deaver begins by taking Bond and bumping him into the twenty-first Century. By doing this, Deaver effectively alters the rules and the environment to create a new stomping ground for Bond to partake in, and because of this drastic change small facets of Bond’s backstory were changed but nothing that compromises the character. Besides these few details Deaver doesn’t really change anything else about the James Bond universe. He stays fairly grounded in the lore, and merely uses the revised setting to make a contemporary tale. As far as research is concerned it probably relieved some potential stress for Deaver as well. All things considering, it is an intelligent decision.

Interestingly enough the plot takes places over the course of a single week. It is quick and seamless. Each scene transitions smoothly to the next and it rarely has slow points because of its rapidity. Also, like most (if not all) James Bond plots, it trots the globe. The introduction takes place in Serbia and finally ends in Sudan with stops in Dubai and of course the United Kingdom.

The first several chapters follow James Bond as he thwarts an Irish hit man from derailing a train and polluting the Danube. This seemingly secluded incident then traces back to the villainous Severan Hydt and a much deeper plot that Bond must unravel before the death toll mounts. Hydt has an affinity for death. He enjoys it so much that he photographs it in order to get off on it privately. Severan is truly a villainous character that fits in to Bond’s wheelhouse of world dominators to a ‘T.’

The plot takes countless twists and turns and introduces various faces; some are familiar, while others are fresh takes on espionage archetypes. In the end and in traditional Jeffrey Deaver fashion, the conclusion is not so neatly sewn up as it may seem. There are numerous twists in the last fifty pages or so, but all-in-all, the good guys win the day and Bond has something left to ponder.

Carte Blanche” is not the best James Bond book ever written, nor is it the worst. It fires on all necessary cylinders to function accordingly, but it does not go above and beyond. It doesn’t push the boundaries, and unfortunately I think it will be easily forgettable a couple years down the line. With this in mind “Carte Blanche” receives three-and-a-half stars out of five.

“Carte Blanche” is not as in depth as a John le Carré or Joseph Kanon’s novels, but it gets the job done. It is a quick read, and the characters (whether new or not) seem familiar to the reader. Deaver pays homage to Fleming, while simultaneously holding true to his own form.

(SOURCE: Review: Carte Blanche by Jeffrey Deaver)

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“The Wizard and the Glass” by Stephen King


Wizard and Glass (The Dark Tower, #4)Wizard and Glass by Stephen King

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Last month, Stephen King released an eighth Dark Tower novel by the name of “The Wind Through the Keyhole.” I took this as a personal challenge, and began fervently trying to finish King’s “Wizard and the Glass,” because “The Wind Through the Keyhole” nestles firmly between the fourth and fifth Dark Tower novels.

For the past eight years I have attempted to read “The Wizard and the Glass” to little to no avail. I love Stephen King and I love his work. I remember reading the “Gunslinger” for the first time and being riveted and quickly marked as a bibliophile. I knew after reading it cover-to-cover (in the span of a couple hours) that I would forever read, and that literature would always be a close friend. However, even though the “Gunslinger” is rightfully King’s magnum opus, “The Wizard and the Glass” (which resides in the same series) woefully deviates from Roland’s tale to tell even older tale.

It starts slow and for me “The Wizard and the Glass” was hard to concentrate on because I was being constantly reminded of the much more interesting story that lay in the immediate background. However, I finally finished it and the tale was masterful as always. About halfway through the novel the sidetracked story begins to get interesting in its own right, but like all great King story it ends in sadness and to quote my own thoughts on “11/22/63”:

“Damn it Stephen King! You’re so brilliant, but I hate you!”

The novel wraps up by diving into Roland’s psyche, syncing a great Wizard of Oz reference to Stephen King’s famous novel “The Stand,” and shoring up some loose plot points divulged in the prior three novels.

“The Wizard and the Glass” is a good novel in its own right, but definitely not my favorite of King’s work or the best of the Dark Tower saga. Ironically enough, I am desperately looking forward to cracking into his newest foray into the land Oz though, so stayed tuned for my review on King’s “A Wind Through the Keyhole.”

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“The Race” by Clive Cussler


The RaceThe Race by Clive Cussler

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Clive Cussler is most known for his action-adventure novels, especially those starring his reoccurring character, Dirk Pitt. However, several years back Cussler released his first Isaac Bell novel titled, “The Chase.” Isaac Bell is the lead private detective in the fictional Van Dorn Detective Agency. He is quick-witted, brave, intuitive, tall, blonde-hair, a crack shot, and everything else Ian Fleming would of thought while constructing James Bond.

The Isaac Bell novels take place in the late 19th/early 20th centuries and are always centered on a particularly cunning villain that Isaac Bell has to tangle with throughout the tale. The narrative usually flips back and forth between the two leads, and even though the antagonist essentially embodies evil Cussler manages to round them out making them quite interesting to read about. And, truth be told, Isaac does not always get the better of the villains, which in the end makes for a great read.

In “The Race” Cussler focus on the birth of the airplane. In a story that pans the continent during the height of a newspaper endorsed monoplane/biplane race Isaac Bell must protect the race’s underdog from her murderous brute of a husband, Harry Frost, while simultaneously trying to figure out who is behind the sabotage of the other participants planes.

The book is a fun romp through early 20th century America, while focusing on the classic ‘whodunit’ recipe. The atmosphere can be described as whimsical and thus creates a quick, enjoyable read. I don’t know of too many fictional pre-WWI novels and because this era interests me so greatly I am pleased that Cussler has filled in the void, some what, and produced a fun novel that will interest just about anyone who likes solid action-adventure novels.

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