Five years ago Barbara Holloway gave up practicing law, disillusioned with a profession that put politics before justice. Then she receives a phone call, with a simple message: "I need you."
Readers should understand going in that this is a science-fiction (not fantasy) mystery. Wilhelm's awards are for science fiction. This book posits that certain pathways in the minds of the very young are closed as children gain understanding of reality and as they gain social skills; and that a scientist wrote software that would re-open these pathways in adults. Completing this process would lead one to new forms of perception and awareness and to special abilities such as self-teleportation.
I found that combination of genres to be intriguing and was disappointed by the writer's work on the mystery side of the novel, which I found to be poorly written. This is because the courtroom work done by the heroine seemed quite mediocre to me. There were obvious lines of questioning for the police investigators about whether they had ever investigated other suspects, about paths by which a different suspect could have gained possession of the gun in question, about evidence of motive, and other assumptions of the prosecution case. The defense raised a lot of interesting material that might have been relevant in court but never managed to present an alternate theory of the crime with any coherence at all.
It should have been an easy defense win, but that wouldn't make much of a story.
The weak lawyering might have been designed to set the character up for professional growth in subsequent novels. But she is presented here as being skilled and successful. So I see no justification for it, except that it allows development of the victim's back-story and the SF angles.
On the other hand there is certainly more introspection and personal struggle in this book than in five or ten average mysteries. So that's a plus, and one hopes that the series continues in this vein.
There is also one achingly obvious point of investigation which the defense team should have undertaken at some point but never had the idea. It allows a minor twist at the end which seemed much too little and too late for me.
The ending was also disappointing in it's abruptness. Several key issues are left unresolved, although I can't be specific here without creating spoilers. I won't listen any further, though I might look around for a description of where the next story picks up, or flip through the book to skim the first couple of chapters.
Sixty years ago, the space yacht Polaris was found deserted, the fate of its pilot and passengers a mystery. Now, to mark the anniversary of the disappearance, there is to be an auction of what was left behind on the ship. Using his insider knowledge, Alex Benedict, one of the preeminent antiquities dealers in the galaxy, secures some of the artifacts.
Is there anything you would change about this book?
There are multiple problems here. For openers, there are few if any appreciable differences between American society of the date written and human society ten thousand years hence. No imagination used there at all There is also a problem with Alex's sexism which again gives it a 1980s feel. Worst, perhaps, the author requires his supposedly-very-smart lead characters to do VERY stoopid things ... over, and over, and over again ... just to generate excitement and plot twists. It's as bad as a teen horror flick without the goalie mask.
This is basically unforgivable. Most of what happens between the setup and the conclusion should be rewritten from scratch. But the brief twist at the end is decent.
Could you see Polaris being made into a movie or a TV series? Who should the stars be?
Oh Dear Gawd, I most certainly hope not. It would be straight to cable, and I mean the SyFy channel at best.
Any additional comments?
Great concept for a harmless little space mystery, and mildly entertaining on that basis. But this is just the Mary Celeste done with a high-tech motivation and on multiple worlds. It could as easily have been two hundred years ago on multiple continents. You wouldn't be able to tell the difference.
In The 13th Juror, Dismas Hardy, lawyer/investigator, undertakes the defense of Jennifer Witt, accused of murdering her husband and their eight-year-old son as well as her first husband, who had died nine years earlier from an apparent drug overdose. While preparing his case, Hardy learns that both of Jennifer's husbands had physically abused her. But Jennifer refuses to allow a defense that presumes her guilt. She is not guilty, she claims. Hardy is now driven to seek an alternative truth a jury can believe.
What disappointed you about The 13th Juror?
The series is enjoyable, and I'm about to read the next one. But this book is without doubt the worst trial novel I've ever read. The two attorneys (Hardy and Freeman) do a terrible job with the trial - if this was a movie nobody would believe it. By the time the guilt phase of the trial is done it seemed likely that this incompetence was designed to set up a Big Reveal at the very end, and that's exactly what we got. Really!? Perry Mason moments are absurdly unrealistic, but it's the best that Lescroart could think up.
Based on this book, Hardy is better off as a private investigator than an attorney. If the next book is as bad as this, I'm asking for a refund on both.
What could John Lescroart have done to make this a more enjoyable book for you?
Find a way to let Hardy to a credible job. Not necessarily an excellent one, but not one so stunningly terrible.
Any additional comments?
The whole series is enjoyable at the beach-reading level. But at least they're solvable by the reader. Too easily solvable.
This stunning follow-up to Ellen Kushner's cult-classic novel Swordspoint is set in the same world of labyrinthine intrigue, where sharp swords and even sharper wits rule. Against a rich tapestry of artists and aristocrats, students, strumpets, and spies, a gentleman and a scholar will find themselves playing out an ancient drama destined to explode their society's smug view of itself - and reveal that sometimes the best price of uncovering history is being forced to repeat it....
Would you try another book from Ellen Kushner and Delia Sherman and/or the narrators?
I'd be happy to read a proper sequel to the first two books. This one, unfortunately, changes the rules of the game rather drastically. What goes on here seems completely out of place. This book should in fact be the first of a set of two or three, because the ending accomplishes absolutely nothing. Without another book or two, this one is pointless.
What did you like about the performance? What did you dislike?
Performances are the only really good thing about this book, but the second book - with two primary readers - was a much better production. Still, it is quite amazing that the primary author can perform as well as she does.
You didn’t love this book... but did it have any redeeming qualities?
It's well enough written for what it is, but it has nothing to recommend itself. It sets up a lot of interesting possibilities within the world of the first two books but ultimately fails to capitalize on any of them. It also offers virtually (but not quite) nothing to someone who wants to follow up on the characters of either of the first two books.
Any additional comments?
It didn't suck totally, so it got two stars.
4 of 4 people found this review helpful
"If Robert Littell didn't invent the American spy novel," says Tom Clancy, "he should have." In this spectacular Cold-War-as-Alice-in-Wonderland epic, Littell, "the American le Carre," takes us down the rabbit hole and into the labyrinthine world of espionage that has been the CIA for the last half-century. "Ostensibly a single novel, The Company can also be listened to as an anthology of cracking good spy stories," says ( Publishers Weekly).
Any additional comments?
This is a well-written book, captivating and entertaining, but it is not a novel. Instead it's a novelization of various well-known historical events. The author creates believable characters and weaves them into the sequence of history, much like Forrest Gump was woven into history. Overall a tolerably good look at the intelligence game, and the method makes important historical events approachable and human. But you know how things are going to turn out before the book starts.
0 of 1 people found this review helpful
For a thousand years the ash fell and no flowers bloomed. For a thousand years the Skaa slaved in misery and lived in fear. For a thousand years the Lord Ruler, the "Sliver of Infinity," reigned with absolute power and ultimate terror, divinely invincible. Then, when hope was so long lost that not even its memory remained, a terribly scarred, heart-broken half-Skaa rediscovered it in the depths of the Lord Ruler's most hellish prison.
What disappointed you about The Final Empire?
Generally a very enjoyable fantasy, but at times the characters exhibit a stunning lack of insight and the ability to learn from their situation. Cringe-worthy moments and unnecessary repetition are not frequent but they do occur. On the other hand the basic hook to the series, the idea of "burning" ingested metals, is refreshingly different from the typical fantasy. The book isn't rich with variety and detail, but this does have the advantage of keeping it moving along fairly well.
How could the performance have been better?
Perhaps my reaction to the reading is due to the fact that I've just finished Davina Porter's superb performance of the Outlander series. Michael Kramer's flat, affectless reading features a weak differentiation of voices and characters with quite a limited range of accents. Not having read the text, I don't know what the writer's descriptions of different voices might be, but my reaction is "Is that the best that he can do?" His articulation is fine, I had no problem discerning words. But overall the reading doesn't rise to the level of a performance.
Any additional comments?
Not the greatest work of fantasy, but sure to be enjoyed by most fans of the genre, and by other readers if they don't buy into the hype and set unrealistic expectations.
13 of 19 people found this review helpful