Silence Fallen by Patricia Briggs

Silence FallenSilence Fallen

by Patricia Briggs
Series: Mercy Thompson, #10

Hardcover, 364 pg.
Ace Books, 2017

Read: March 10 – 13, 2017


It was pretty clear from the pages of Fire Touched that Mercy’s little The Doctor to the Sycorax speech was a big deal. But I don’t think any of us really had a clue just how far-reaching the potential ramifications were until it’s spelled out for us by a few different characters here. Well, okay, that’s probably not true — a lot of people who read these books probably thought about it, but I didn’t — and I think that Mercy and her acquaintances do a better job of spelling things out than I could, so I’ll let them. But many in the supernatural communities aren’t happy that she did it and are looking for ways to insulate themselves from it, as well has looking for ways to take advantage of it for their benefit.

One such person is Bonarata — one of the oldest, and most feared vampires in the world — he has ties to the Tri-Cities vampires, as well. He’s the one who’s responsible for Marisila, Stefan and Wulfe leaving Europe and ending up in the Tri-Cities. He’s also a legend in Werewolf circles — many years ago, he killed an Alpha and turned his mate into a blood-slave. After the death of Chastel, Bonarata is the closest thing the non-Fae have to a Super-Villain (pretty sure any of the Grey Lords that wanted to could wipe the floor with him).

So shortly after Fire Touched, Bonarata arranges for Mercy to be kidnapped. Now, while Briggs’ vampires aren’t the political wheels-within-wheels schemers that Faith Hunter’s are, they’re still crafty and wily — so all his reasons for doing so aren’t immediately discernible (and probably not totally discernible by the end of the book — but we get closer).

Mercy is Mercy, however, and it doesn’t take too long before she escapes from Bonarata and finds herself running throughout Europe to escape from his henchmen. She finds herself in Prague (this detail feels like a spoiler, but it’s on the dust jacket, so . . . ) where her best bet for an ally is one of the few Alphas in the wold with a grudge against Bran Cornick. In addition to this she finds herself in the middle of a couple of vampire nests competing for control of Prague, and there’s a whole bunch of ghosts (and other things that go bump in the night) that are taking advantage of the presence of someone who can see them.

Meanwhile, Adam, Marisila, Stefan, Honey and a couple of others are on the way to Bonarata’s home to negotiate for Mercy’s release. Whoops. These chapters are told in Mercy’s voice from Adam’s point-of-view, as if she’s relating what he told her happened, which is a nice touch. It also suggests that she survives this mess — not-at-all-a-spoiler: the first person narrator lives. It’s here that we learn a lot more about Honey, Marisila and Stefan — we also learn about Adam’s Doctor Who fandom. It’s nice seeing things from Adam’s POV for a change.

Mostly the book consists of Adam and Mercy doing all they can to survive long enough to see each other again — which is sweet. We’ve seen them work together plenty of times in this series — we’ve also seen them apart for brief periods — this is the longest (that I can recall) that they’ve been separated, and the furthest apart they’ve been. They’re both independent by nature (however that nature is shaped into something else for the needs of the Pack), so they can adapt to this, but their primary goal is to get back together. Which I’m sure made many, many fans cheer and melt.

Will someone drawn in by the cover art, or wanting to see what the fuss over this Briggs-person enjoy the book? Yeah, I think so — but not as much as the established fan. This book works as well as it does because of the world, not just the story. We’ve been in Mercy’s world for 10 books now — for most of us you can add the short stories and Charles & Anna novels, too. We know it what it means for Honey to make that trip. We know what it means for people to exploit Mercy (or try to) to get to Bran or Adam. We know the pain that the loss of pack-link or mate-bond creates. This would be a lousy book 4, but with the cumulative weight of this series, Silence Fallen us a strong book 10.

It was a fun book — exciting, amusing, and fascinating to see how packs and nests work outside of the US. Most of all it was a good story, taking several competent and powerful characters out of their usual setting and circumstances, and throwing them into a milieu they’re not familiar with to watch them sink or swim. Excellent read for fans of the series — which isn’t a surprise to any, but just something I think I have to say.

Now begins the wait for #11.

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4 Stars

The Book of Three (Audiobook) by Lloyd Alexander, James Langton

The Book of ThreeThe Book of Three

by Lloyd Alexander, James Langton (Narrator)
Series: Chronicles of Prydain, #1
Unabridged Audiobook, 4 hrs, 56 min.
Listening Library, 2004
Read: March 6 – 9, 2017


I’m pretty sure that I’ve mentioned once or twice before here that The Chronicles of Prydain were the books that got me into fantasy. The Chronicles of Narnia made me a fan of Narnia, but really didn’t carry over to anything outside of Narnia (at least until I got older and tried Mere Christianity). But Prydain got me appreciating the tropes, conventions and characters that’d get me into Brooks, Weis & Hickman, Eddings, etc., etc. Listening to the audiobooks seemed like a nice way to revisit the series.

Taran, the Assistant Pig Keeper to Hen Wen (an oracular pig), dreams of glory to be found with a sword on the battlefield. His charge is frightened by something and escapes from her pen — Taran chases after her, leaving the only part of Prydain he’s ever known behind in the process. This hunt for the pig takes him to the far reaches of Prydain, where he encounters the son of the High King, Gwydion; Princess Eilonwy — about his age, and a fantastic foil and friend for Taran; Fflewddurr Fflam, an unofficial bard; Gurgi — some sort of simple-minded Sasquatch-like being; and others. Taran also encounters the forces of evil — the Horned King; Archen the enchantress; and other minions of the Dark Lord Arawn.

The themes of true nobility, heroism and what it means to be a man are prevalent (and Alexander maybe gets a little didactic here) — nothing I object to, just it seems a little thick by contemporary standards. Taran learns (for the first time) that there’s as much honor to be found in doing your everyday work well as there is on the battlefield. It probably feels a little old-fashioned to many, but there’s value here. Taran begins to mature here, but it takes (as I recall) all but the last 30 pages of the fifth book for it all to come together for him.

There’s a little audio recording of Alexander before the book kicks off as an introduction — that was pretty cool. Langton’s narration was okay — the narration was okay, maybe a little slow. His interpretation of Taran and Gwydion didn’t do much for me (and actually made me realize how clunkily Alexander wrote their dialogue), but they slowly grew on me. I really couldn’t find anything to like about Gurgi (one of my favorite characters ever). But I really liked everything else — his Eilonwy and Fflewddurr were perfect and a lot of fun. He deserves kudos for his Hen Wen alone, really.

This isn’t the greatest writing you’ll encounter — for the age group or genre. But it’s effective, there’s so much to appreciate here (and not just for nostalgia’s sake). I remain a big fan of the series, and do appreciate the audiobook.

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4 Stars

Pipeliner by Shawn Hartje

PipelinerPipeliner

by Shawn Hartje

Kindle Edition, 248 pg.
Helen Springs Press, 2016

Read: March 14 – 15, 2016

I just don’t know what to say about this one. It’s a coming-of-age story about a young man in the 1990’s growing up in (what I believe is) a fictionalized Idaho Falls, Idaho. It’s arguable how much Jason Krabb actually comes of age here — you could make a pretty decent case that he regresses throughout the book.

Jason’s main goal in life is to become a rock star in Portland, OR or Seattle, WA — along the way, he’d like to have a girlfriend and party a lot. He spends a lot of time and energy becoming pretty mediocre at guitar, and hangs out with a poser who’s new to town and a couple of older friends who are more interested in scholastic success and their futures (a concept Jason can’t really wrap his brain around). He’s got an older brother studying at Princeton and dating a nursing student, a very successful mother and a less-successful father who’s browbeat by the other constantly.

The writing is uninspired and dull, there’s no life to it at all — just a dry recitation of what’s going on. To be fair, there’s a bit of flair displayed when he writes little Lake Wobegone-inspired descriptions of things from Jason’s mother’s perspective, but I never saw the point of those, they didn’t seem to add anything. The sex scenes are perfunctory and clumsy (fitting for a seventeen year-old’s initial fumblings, I guess), at least those involving Jason. The one with Jason’s parents was just . . . odd and unnecessary. There were a couple of anachronisms that bugged me, but by and large, his history is good — he captures the feeling of the time, while maybe overplaying the pre-dawn of the Internet as we know it a little bit.

Were I an LDS youth of that era, I might be offended at the depiction of both the straight-laced LDS and the backsliders. If I were someone who spent time with a lot of LDS at the time depicted in the book, I might say it was pretty accurate. Either way, it’s going to be divisive.

There’s nothing new here — stylistically, narratively, or in terms of character. It’s all cliché, it’s not original, there’s nothing here you haven’t seen before — and likely better. It’s not bad, but it’s not worth your time and effort. While reading it, I spent a lot of time annoyed by the book — but there’s nothing to rant about here. At Hartje tried to do something, but like Jason, did the bare minimum and it shows (not unlike what I did here).

Disclaimer: I received this book from the author in exchange for this post — sorry Mr. Hartje.

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2 1/2 Stars

Defying the Prophet by Gibson Michaels

Defying the ProphetDefying the Prophet

by Gibson Michaels
Series: The Sentience Trilogy, #2

Kindle Edition, 370 pg.
Arc Flash Publishing, 2014

Read: February 23 – 27, 2017


The second installment of a trilogy has the hardest role — the first introduces us to the world, the characters, the conflict — basically sets the stage for everything in the series. The third has to tie up everything and give a satisfying conclusion. The second has to build on the first and make the audience want to read the end. There needs to be a clear arc to the book (or what’s the point), yet the conclusion has to make us thirst for more. It’s also bound to be the most overlooked entry in the trilogy (The Empire Strikes Back being one of the exceptions that proves the rule). As such, Defying the Prophet fulfilled most of the duties of the second installment, and was entertaining enough — but man, I just wanted more from it.

I also usually find it difficult to talk about the second installments more than the other two, so here are some general observations as I put off any real analysis off until I finish the series.

I was surprised — and pleased — at how quickly Michaels wrapped up the Civil War story in this book — I really expected it to go on much longer. I’m not entirely certain I liked the mechanism by which he did it — but I can’t say I disliked it, but it almost seemed a bit too easy. Oh well, he uses the state of military readiness of the various human governments to be able to respond to the looming alien invasion in an effective manner.

The battles between the human factions were good. The battles between Raknii and humans was great. Seriously great — particularly the first one. I’m not sure Michaels could’ve sustained things there longer without sacrificing quality, but I wish he did. Thankfully, there’s more to come on this front, and I can’t wait to see how things go there.

I didn’t find the plots involving the internal developments and movements with Raknii as compelling this time around — and they were my favorite parts of the first book. We also didn’t get as much of them this time. Still, I appreciate what he’s doing with the Raknii overall and would willingly read more about them beyond this series.

Meanwhile, at least a few people in the USA have started to figure out just how the AI that runs things for them undermined them in the lead-up to the Civil War — and during it. They still don’t seem to have a great idea what they’re going to do with that knowledge however . . .

My biggest problem with this book is that at a certain point it was like Michaels realized — “you know what I haven’t included in this series? Romance. I’d better fix that.” — and then, bang-zoom, we’ve got two love stories going. One page it’s all political/economic/military intrigue and action and the next it’s political/economic/military intrigue and action plus hearts, flowers, and anatomy. Which was awkward enough, but then those love stories just weren’t that well-executed. He reminded me of Aaron Sorkin’s attempts at romantic comedy in Sports Night, The West Wing, and The Newsroom — I loved almost every other thing Sorkin did in those shows, but man . . . romance just isn’t his thing (I’m not even going to mention Studio 60, because that was just bad all around) . Michaels tried — and I appreciate the effort, and could enjoy what he was going for, they were sweet, but I just don’t think he nailed the telling (and, yes, Mr. Michaels, if you read this, feel free to summarize this as “He favorably compared me to an Oscar Winning writer”).

So we’ve got an interstellar conflict to wrap-up; at least one species’ culture is going to be changed by this conflict; some internal shake-ups to go along with that among the Raknii; at least one human government responding to the sentient AI; the sentient AI up to something new; and a couple of other dangling plotlines — and 340 pages to do it all in. Wrath of an Angry God is going to be a busy, busy conclusion — should be a fun ride. This? This was good, but it’s clearly the middle volume and really the poof’s going to be in whether Michaels can stick the landing. My guess is that he can, but we’ll have to see.

Disclaimer: I received this novel from the author in exchange for this post — thanks Mr. Michaels.

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3 Stars

Saturday Miscellany – 3/18/17

Odds ‘n ends over the week about books and reading that caught my eye. You’ve probably seen some/most/all of them, but just in case:

    This Week’s New Releases I’m Excited About and/or You’ll Probably See Here Soon:

  • Hack by Duncan MacMaster — very excited about this Mystery novel about a Ghost Writer who watched as his client was murdered and found himself a target as well. I blogged about this yesterday, and the author was nice enough to A a few of my Qs.
  • The Astonishing Mistakes of Dahlia Moss by Max Wirestone — I was excited when I saw this on the release list this week — the first book in this series was so fun, I hope this is almost as good.
  • Dragonwatch by Brandon Mull — Really, the last thing the world needed was a sequel to the Fablehaven series. But something tells me that if Mull’s returned to the series after this long, it’s going to be worth it. My kids who read Fablehaven are too old for this, I’m going to have a hard time justifying this, but curiosity is a strong thing . . .
  • Got Hope by Michael Darling — Goethe “Got” Luck is back for Round 2 in the Urban Fantasy series. The debut rocked, I have high hopes for this.

Lastly, I’d like to say hi and welcome to Genre Book Reviews and gencyazarlarklubu for following the blog this week.

A Few Quick Questions With…Duncan MacMaster

Not only did the good people at Fahrenheit Press provide me with Duncan MacMaster’s Hack (which I just posted about), I got an interview with Mr. MacMaster as well! As usual, this is short and sweet, he’s got better things to do than come up with clever answers for me, y’know? Seriously, loved his answers. Give this a read and then scurry out to buy his book.

Would you like to give the elevator pitch for Hack? (for that matter, if you want to throw one in for A Mint Condition Corpse, that’d be fine, too)
The elevator pitch for Hack would be: A desperate man is hired to ghostwrite the autobiography of a washed up TV star with scandal in his past and murder in his future.

The pitch for A Mint Condition Corpse would be: A semi-retired artist’s trip to his favourite comic book convention is spoiled by murder, and only he can solve it.

Do you have experience as a Ghost Writer? Is Hack your way working out some demons? Or does it have a much more benign genesis?
I never specifically worked as a ghostwriter. I did do things like selling jokes to comedians (no one you ever heard of) so I know a bit about doing something that someone else gets credit for.

There is a certain amount of exorcism in the genesis of Hack. By the time I got to writing it I had spent a very long time getting metaphorically kicked in the head by the writing business. The joke market had dried up, and I spent years enduring rejections that ranged from the incoherent to the callous, and some career setbacks that were downright ridiculous.

As you could guess, those experiences left some demons that needed to be exorcised, and Jake Mooney, the hack writer of the title, did it for me. Jake’s had a life defined by setbacks and it’s made him bitter, cynical, and lonely. He sees being a credited author as a step towards some redemption as a writer, and solving the crimes as an attempt at redeeming himself as a human being.

Of course none of this was conscious while I was writing it. While putting down that first draft all I could think about was the plot, the characters and making sure everything made sense. I didn’t discover what I had done with Jake’s and my own hunger for redemption and validation until working on later drafts.

It was different with my first crime novel A Mint Condition Corpse. That started with a conscious decision to make Kirby Baxter, card-carrying comics geek, the Sherlockian hero instead of the comedy relief sidekick, and to use him as a vehicle to combine mystery with a satire of pop culture and the people who run it. Hack, has a lot more of my id running amok in it.

You’ve done a little in other genres, but your publications seem to be predominately in the Crime/Mystery genre. What is it about the genre that brings you back? Is there a genre you particularly enjoy, but don’t think you could write?
I’ve dabbled in science fiction, fantasy, and even horror, and I do plan to do more in those genres in the future, but mystery/crime does seem to have a grip on me. Probably because it deals with people who are at the extremes of their emotions, and also because it’s a genre that’s is still a wide open field when it comes to narrative possibilities.

I always credit my narrative style to SCTV. It was a sketch comedy show I watched as a child that parodied television and movies, and it taught me that popular culture is loaded with tropes and cliches that create expectations in the audience. If you know them and understand them, then you can use them to manipulate expectations to misdirect, surprise, amuse, and hopefully amaze the audience.

When I started reading crime fiction in my teens I began to see the patterns inherent in the genre, and started seeing how they could be manipulated to create something new and entertaining.

As for a genre I enjoy, but don’t think I could write….well, I’m not sure. I’m sure readers would tell me if I really screwed up. My bet would be on straight up horror without any sort of mystery to solve inside it.

What’s the one (or two) book/movie/show in the last 5 years that made you say, “I wish I’d written that.”?
Don Winslow’s The Power of the Dog, a relatively slim volume that contains an epic inside. It sets a high standard that I hope to come close to some day. For the most part I tend to avoid reading fiction while I’m writing. I have a bad habit of inadvertently imitating whoever I’m reading. I wrote some truly dreadful pastiches while I was on a Lovecraft reading binge in my early twenties. All sorts of gooey overwrought eldritch nonsense.
This one’s not about you directly, but what is it about Fahrenheit Press that seems to generate the devotion and team spirit that it does (or at least appears to)? I don’t know that I’ve seen as many authors from the same publisher talk about/read each other’s books — or talk about the publisher — as much as you guys seem to. Is it simply contractual obligation, or is there more?
There’s no contractual obligation for camaraderie at Fahrenheit Press, or the House of Love, as our fearless leader likes to call it.

I can sum it up this way: Joining Fahrenheit is like joining a punk band in the mid-70s.

We don’t know what the future holds, or what we will achieve in the end. All we do know is that we are a band of misfits who are all doing what we love, we’re breaking rules and conventions that some thought were inviolate, and that we are all in this wild ride together.

Fahrenheit has been the best experience I’ve ever had in publishing, and I’m sure my fellow authors will agree with me on that.

What’s next for Duncan MacMaster?
I just finished the first draft of a sequel to A Mint Condition Corpse, called Video Killed The Radio Star, and the brutal editing/rewrite process awaits me. I’m also developing a more experimental project examining male archetypes in crime fiction and the concept of the unreliable narrator. I am even outlining a potential sequel to Hack called Hacked, where Jake goes Hollywood. I’m hoping to complete all these projects and make them worthy of publication as soon as possible.

What happens after that, is anyone’s guess.

Thank you for having me on your blog.

Thanks for your time — I really appreciate it, and hope that the Hack‘s release is successful (as it deserves).

Hack by Duncan MacMaster

This feels a bit rushed to me — and more than a little vague. I guess it should, it was a little rushed, I liked this book enough that I pounded it out a couple of hours after finishing it, I didn’t want to sit on it for a while. And if the post is vague, it’s because this is the kind of mystery difficult to talk about without cracking open all the secrets, and because a lot of what I really liked about this is in the little details MacMaster gave. You need to experience it yourself to get what I’m saying.

HackHack

by Duncan MacMaster

Uncorrected Proof
Fahrenheit Press, 2017

Read: February 28 – March 1, 2016

Little victories, since they’re all I can hope for, they’re what I live for.

Jake Mooney used to be a pretty good reporter — good reputation, good results — but he got out of that game and got into a more lucrative field, even if it was more distasteful. Events transpired,  and that goes away — I’ll let you read it for yourself, but it involves lawyers and an ex-wife. Nowadays, he gets by being a ghost-writer for established authors who don’t have the time or ability to write their own material. Out of the blue, he gets an offer to help a former TV star, Rick Rendell, write his autobiography. He’ll even get credited for it. Credit — and a nice cash bonus. How can he say no?

Before you can say “Jessica Fletcher,” someone tries to kill Jake and then Rick is shot in front of a handful of witnesses, including Jake. Between his affection for (some of) the people in Rick’s life, worry over his own safety, curiosity, and his own sense of justice, Jake dives in and investigates the murder himself.

Jake finds himself knee-deep in a morass involving unscrupulous agents (I’m not sure there’s another kind in fiction), wives (current and ex-), Hollywood politics, an IRS investigation, a Drug Cartel, former co-stars, hedge fund managers, hit men, and a decades-old mysterious death. And a few more fresh deaths. . The notes he’s already taken for the book gives Jake fodder for his investigation — but the combination of notes and his continuing work provides the killer a constant target (and threat). As long as Jake’s working on the mystery/mysteries — and doing better than the police at uncovering crimes and suspects — the killer can’t just escape, Jake has to be stopped.

The voice was great, the mystery had plenty of twists and turns, Jake’s ineptitude with firearms was a great touch and served to keep him from being a super-hero. I really can’t think of anything that didn’t work. There’s not a character in the book that you don’t enjoy reading about. I had three strong theories about what led to Rick’s death and who was responsible — the one I feared the most wasn’t it (thankfully — it was a little too trite). My favorite theory was ultimately right about the who, but was absolutely wrong about everything else. I take that as a win — I felt good about my guess and better about the very clever plotting and writing that outsmarted me.

That’s more about me than I intended it to be, so let me try this again — MacMaster has set up a great classic mystery — a la Rex Stout or Agatha Christie. A dogged investigator with a personal stake in the case, supporting characters that you can’t help but like (or dislike, as appropriate), a number of suspects with reasons to kill the victim (with a decent amount of overlap between those two groups), and a satisfying conclusion that few readers will see coming. Hack is funny, but not in a overly-comedic way, it’s just because Jake and some of the others he’s with have good senses of humor. I chuckled a few times, grinned a few more.

I bought MacMaster’s previous book, A Mint Condition Corpse, when it came out last year — sadly, it’s languishing in a dark corner of my Kindle with a handful of other books from Fahrenheit Press (I’m a great customer, lousy reader, of that Press).  Hack wasn’t just an entertaining read, it was a great motivator to move his other book higher on my TBR list. Get your hands on this one folks, you’ll have a great time.

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this from the publisher, nevertheless, the opinions expressed are my own.

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4 Stars