The Queen of Bedlam by Robert McCammon

The Queen of Bedlam by Robert McCammon

I was glad to see Robert McCammon return to Matthew Corbett and his circa 17th-century novels.  I’m both a fan of historical fiction and McCammon, who is one of my all-time favorite writers, making his mark in the horror genre.  Making it even better, I had a chance to meet McCammon, and he signed a copy of this book for me.

Anyway, I really enjoyed the other two Corbett books prior to this one, and The Queen of Bedlam did not disappoint.  The prose is rich in this novel.  The pacing worked out great.  The character development and the array of characters were really strong.  There were some very memorable characters, including the villains, which mostly consisted of some strange individuals.  The backstory behind this when it got revealed was compelling.  The elements of mystery were well done.  There really wasn’t much that I can complain about, except that I thought there some parts that were perhaps a bit too long-winded, and some of those sections could have been trimmed to make the novel better.

The novel concluded nicely.  The final action sequence was strong, and it left itself open for additional novels in the future, as Corbett now has a job as a private detective and has made some really serious enemies.  I look forward to reading more in the series.

The Passage by Justin Cronin

The Passage by Justin Cronin

Although there were some elements that I liked about The Passage, this novel was flawed in so many ways.  For starters, this novel is way overwritten.  It’s 766 pages that could be cut in half.  There are entire pages that could be chopped, and it would make this a better read.  The editor should have taken a hatchet to this novel.  The novel lacks in believability, and that has nothing to do with the sci-fi/supernatural elements of it.  It’s the parts that are grounded in the real world that lack believability.  And then there are the characters.  Oh, there are a great many of them, but only maybe two or three are remotely memorable.  The rest are drab and lifeless and don’t come off the page.

I got through the first part of this novel, and it wasn’t terrible, but it wasn’t particularly good either.  When I realized that the novel had fast-forwarded into the future, and I had over 400 pages of reading all-new characters, I just couldn’t get myself to read the rest of it.  I gave it a shot, but it felt more like a chore than entertaining.  After about fifty to a hundred pages of the second part, I raised the white flag and surrendered.  This was just not compelling enough to keep going forward.

Living Dead in Dallas by Charlaine Harris

Living Dead in Dallas by Charlaine Harris

The second installment in the Sookie Stackhouse series was an improvement over the first novel. I’m not entirely sure where this novel fits in with the television show, but my remembrance is that the two primary plot lines encompassed more than one season on the show. The two main storylines are the one involving Sookie going to Dallas to help find a vampire that has gone missing, and Lafayette (who was a much bigger character on the television show) showing up dead in the sheriff’s car.

This novel was an easy read. Charlaine Harris writes in a pleasing style. The plot is not terribly complicated, although there was still room for a plot twist or two. Eric starts to become more of a major character in this novel, which is a good thing since he was my favorite character on the show. He has a certain confidence and swagger about him. Harris did a fine job breathing life into the character. Although not overly complex, the plot had enough meat on it to make it compelling. In a day and age where novels seemed to be growing in word count, this novel was short, sweet, and to the point. This was a fun novel that I would recommend.

The Wall of Storms by Ken Liu

The Wall of Storms by Ken Liu

The Wall of Storms is the follow up to The Grace of Kings.  I started reading this immediately after I finished reading the last novel.  I absolutely loved the first book in the series, so the bar was high for this novel.  Perhaps, the bar was set to high, because I was a little disappointed in this novel.  It’s not that it was bad, but it clearly does not measure up to the first novel in the series.

The novel takes place about ten years after The Grace of Kings.  Kuni Garu is now the emperor trying to keep his kingdom together with duct tape and cult of personality.  He faces treachery from within his own house, disgruntled nobles in the various kingdoms, and followers of the deceased hegemon.  This is all the prelude to an upcoming invasion by a group of people who seem kind of like Vikings, but instead of longships, they have flying beasts that breathe fire and are capable of all sorts of destruction.

There is a lot of intrigue in this novel.  There are also all sorts of technological innovations, which set this series apart from any epic fantasy series I have ever read, where magic is replaced by primitive (by our standards) technological innovation.  There are, however, two big problems in this novel.  One is that it is overwritten.  It doesn’t have to be nearly as long as it is.  I think if about 200 pages or so were chopped off, it would have been a better read.  There are entire passages and flashbacks that contribute little to the story.  The second point is that the characters in the first novel were terrific.  They were phased out or killed off in this novel, for the most part, and the next generation of characters replacing them, which were more in focus here, were not nearly as compelling.  In any story, but especially a series, the characters are the lifeblood of the story.

The ending of the novel sets up for a third in the series, and I will be interested in reading it, but my enthusiasm for it has waned a bit.

The Fifth Profession by David Morrell

The Fifth Profession by David Morrell

The Fifth Profession is an interesting novel.  It’s part espionage thriller and part sci-fi.  The crux of the story is that Savage, a former Navy SEAL and executive protector on an assignment to rescue the wife of a wealthy businessman, encounters his Japanese counterpart, Akira, who he saw die when they were serving on an assignment together.  Akira has the same memories, except he saw Savage die.  They get together and piece together their jumbled memories and find out that many of the things they remembered didn’t actually happen.  This leads them back to Akira’s homeland of Japan, where the mystery ensues.

I found this novel to be intriguing.  The mystery component was captivating, and I wanted to see how it unfolded.  There was action galore with plenty of fight scenes and some chases.  It works at that level even without the added element of the jumbled memories.  That part of the novel was problematic however, since the false memories storyline really strained believability.  To further exacerbate the issue, the author never really explains in any detailed or believable way how the two main characters got their false memories.  It was all kind of wave your hand behind the curtains hocus pocus type stuff.  Although there was lots of good action, I thought the fight scenes could have been executed a little better.  Getting past that, I thought the novel delivered.  I was entertained from beginning to end.

Balak by Stephen Mark Rainey

Balak by Stephen Mark Rainey

Balak is a Cthulhian mythos style novel set in modern-day Chicago.  The novel starts off with the disappearance of a little boy, in part witnessed by Claire Challis, whose own child disappeared not long before that.  This leads Claire and her boyfriend, Mike, into a dark church, whose members worship Balak, an ancient figure who serves an even more ancient god, who was around when the world was new in a typically HP Lovecraft motif.  The Chicago police become involved.  All of this leads to an end of the world scenario, where Balak is trying to use Claire to allow this ancient god to enter our world.

I’ve read a number of Lovecraftian type stories, and this kind of falls in the middle of the pack.  There was nothing particularly bad about, but it also doesn’t rise above some of the others I’ve read.  For me, the bar is set with Brett J. Talley’s work, whose take on Lovecraft is top-notch.  The situation is fairly ordinary. The characters are solid, but none of them fell into the category of someone I was rooting for to succeed.  I just couldn’t latch on to them.  The novel is very competently written and was a decent read.  You could do a lot worse than this novel, but it’s not one that I feel as if I’ll remember a year later.