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C1138

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Unrealized Potential

Overall
4 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
3 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 07-28-19

Pirate Latitudes was, I believe, the first completed Crichton novel released posthumously after his passing. Coming from a true master of the techno-thriller genre, my expectations were indeed high. His uncanny ability to weave action / adventure with his extraordinary knowledge of science and mathematics was often something to behold. I expected Pirate Latitudes to be a meticulously researched and exciting homage to the swashbuckling genre. What I ended up with was a curiously detached novel that feels very rough around the edges. The characters are set up as very interesting and unique individuals, yet they are never fully realized and my interest in them was minimal. The premise of the action scenes and subplots are often inspired. Yet in execution they either don’t quite deliver or sometimes even fall flat. This is not a bad novel by any means, I had fun listening to it. The raw material is there but Crichton is never able to elevate it to a level in which I know he was more than capable. Pirate Latitudes feels almost like a rough draft of a much better novel. It is like buying a piece of unfinished furniture. The skill of the craftsman can be appreciated but that doesn’t mean it’s ready to go directly into a living room. I strongly suspect this novel was a late stage draft that Crichton was unable to properly finish. Pirate Latitudes was something he had been working on for a long time. Maybe if Crichton had the opportunity to fine tune it and work the kinks out, it might have been a real grand slam like Jurassic Park. But I still encourage a listen. Check your expectations at the door and go for it. This rough cut Crichton novel is still a nice bit of escapism and perfect for a summer beach read.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

Hell of a Ride

Overall
5 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 01-09-19

A Star Wars horror novel? I was skeptical too. But this is a breathless and suspenseful story that hits the ground running. Death Troopers pretty boldly stands out from the SW expanded universe with its graphic depiction of violence and truly shocking imagery. This could have been easily mishandled but the author does an admirable job of weaving the genres of science fiction with horror / thriller. I found myself often at the edge of my seat with suspense and legitimately creeped out. I enjoy an atmosphere where no character is guaranteed their safety; anything is possible. Mr. Kenin knows what he’s doing and it shows. If Dawn of the Dead and Star Wars had a baby it just might look like a Death Troopers. Not to say I didn’t have some minor problems with the novel. I was at times confused by portions of the story that involve an Imperial Star Destroyer. The character’s movements and purpose for being in certain places was a little muddled. But hey, it’s a horror story and those usually rely on our protagonists being separated from one another. I’m also not too sure about the ending. Far from being unsatisfying I still feel like there might have been a better way to go. But you may love it so take that opinion with a grain of salt. I also cannot confirm or deny if a familiar face or two shows up along the way. You will either roll your eyes and think “shoehorn,” or you’ll have a big old smile on your face like I did. Don’t expect something of the highest Star Wars caliber like the Thrawn Trilogy. But for me it still gets top marks by being extremely unique, well executed, and for taking me on one hell of a ride.

King At His Darkest; Great Narrator

Overall
3 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
3 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 11-12-18

I wouldn’t say I’m a diehard Stephen King fan, but all the same he holds a very special place in my literary heart. I’ve read maybe a dozen of his works over the years and they have provided me with moments of truly visceral fear, dread, and emotional disquiet. All with a potency and style that, to me, remains unrivaled by other authors. King is one of a kind and I really like the way he talks to me.
Pet Semetary has all the trappings of his best novels. A plot, which is both old as time yet blazing with originality. Characters so well conceived that a fierce and protective love for them develops. I often have an unusually potent emotional stake in what happens to the people in his novels. Therein lies the true power of Stephen King. The honest to God terror he can conjure, but also an extraordinary warmth and (heaven forbid) sentimentality that elevates his novels into the realm of something special.
Pet Semetary is something of an anomaly to me. It has most of his special ingredients, but I slowly found myself not wanting to go where it was taking me. Not for lack of quality, at the end of the day this is a well written and often terrifying novel from a master author. There are moments I cursed myself for listening in bed while my wife was working a graveyard shift at the hospital.
I’m not the type to shy away from a literary work that is oppressively bleak and offers no solace to the reader. Those can be very fine reads. But from Stephen King, who can so perfectly blend love and warmth with unmitigated terror and suspense, Pet Semetary threw me for a loop. Once the story’s decent into darkness begins, buckle up.
I acknowledge my criticism isn’t fair, I can’t judge a literary work on what I wanted it to be instead of what is there on the pages. But this is an author who, despite so consistently scaring to hell out of me, has moved me to tears in moments that have so much heart they sometimes become life affirming.
Pet Semetary is a hell of a trip, but I didn’t like the ride.


Well Worth the Trip

Overall
4 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 08-25-18

From Harold Coyle, a former US Army tank officer and author of Team Yankee, comes this highly ambitious novel of The French and Indian War. Predating the American Revolution by almost two decades, it was considered by some to be a relatively small theater of the Seven Years War. Often recognized as the first true World War as France and England fought across the globe on land and sea to assert dominance over fiercely contested colonial possessions. The North American theater was the crucible that decided for good and all who was master of the new world.
The story follows three very different and unique players in this desperate endeavor: a Scottish expatriate banished to the colonies following his clan’s massacre in the Jacobite Rebellion, a cunningly ambitious British officer who feels war and ambition are not mutually exclusive , and a soft spoken French artillery officer who rises to the bloody occasion because the nature of war dictates nothing less.
There is a lot to like and admire about this novel. Well executed historical fiction can bring the subject alive with an immediacy and humanity that can sometimes be lacking in non fiction. Coyle succeeds magnificently not only through his command of prose, but his expert attention to historical detail. The battles are fierce, uncompromising, and at times truly terrifying. This is a novel that understands war on the frontier and the loose alliances that made this war so unique.
The problem I ran into with this novel is that it’s ambition often seemed beyond its own ability to grasp. There’s simply too much going on with too many main characters. Neither of the three characters, who are fascinating and unique, seem to have enough time in this novel to properly flesh out their stories. We jump back and forth, in location, time, and characters. By trying to take on three, Coyle doesn’t quite pull off any of them. Their paths occasionally mingle and cross but parts of Savage Wilderness seem to exist almost in a different story. I liked these characters, but I didn’t love them. The potential to develop a deeper bond is there, but were frustratingly just out of reach for me. There is also a side story about a particularly brutal Indian in a tribe allied to France that offers very little precious insight into his character. This side story ends in a very abrupt and slightly bizarre dead end. He just disappears never to return, begging the question, why was this included in the novel if it was destined for nowhere?!
I really liked this one, but I didn’t love it. I very much admire the attempt to create a sprawling epic about a time and events so pivotal to the creation of America. It doesn’t succeed in this respect, but major points for such an exciting and interesting attempt. The characters deserved a much more robust story arch. There is more than enough raw material here to have made this into a trilogy. Cramming so much and so many characters in one book left me a little disappointed and not quite satisfied. I highly recommend Savage Wilderness regardless, it’s truly well worth your time and effort.

Meh

Overall
2 out of 5 stars
Performance
4 out of 5 stars
Story
2 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 04-09-17

Very curious to check this one out being a huge fan of the original. Hell House '73 is very a disturbing and frightening horror classic, albeit a minor one. Return isn't bad but it isn't really good either. There are a handful of scenes in this strangely short prequel that do invoke some of the power of the original as far as its depiction of the house's repellent debauchery and inexplicable evil. It doesn't really add up to much though. The last half an hour is really a rush job, like the author (who seems capable enough I think) was running out of paper to type on. The source material demands something much better, a well thought out novel, not an occasionally creepy novella. There is definitely a story here, but this just doesn't cut it.

You will either love this or despise it..like Norm

Overall
5 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 11-28-16

If you love Norm Macdonald then you can place this next to your bible or holy book of choice. Based on a True Story is truly baffling, it elevates utterly ridiculous nonsense onto a Shakespearean level. The stories are mind boggling in their idiocy but Norm somehow makes it brilliant...truly surreal.