the Little Red Reviewer

Posts Tagged ‘thriller

superpositionSuperposition, by David Walton

published April 2015

Where I got it: received review copy from the publisher (Thanks Pyr!)

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Imagine a fast paced thriller mashed up with a quantum physics book for a layperson. Now throw in family dynamics, a suspensful murder mystery/police procedural, and an unexplainable monster.  That’s Superposition. Ignore the terrible cover art, this is a pretty good book.

 

For such a short and ultra fast book, I liked how Walton developed the characters, especially Jacob and his family. Through conversations with Jacob’s wife Elena, and their kids, we immediately know a lot about the particulars of their family situation (one of these details becomes incredibly important later). As he spends more time with his daughter Alessandra, it was fascinating to watch him realize he might not be the amazingly perfect father he always thought he was. I won’t go as far to call the book heavy on “feels”, but Walton crams a ton character development into very little space. Other characters too, are quickly given depth – his friend Jean’s marital issues, his brother in-law Marek’s deep seated morals and loyalty. This is a science driven thriller, yet it read like a character driven novel. that’s a good thing.

 

To get the story off and running, Jacob’s old co-worker Brian randomly shows up at his house one night, terrified. Trying to prove a point, Brian shoots Elena, who suffers no ill effects.  The next thing Jacob knows, he’s on trial for Brian’s murder. Brian had been alive the evening he shot Elena, found dead the next morning in his lab, was seen alive that afternoon, and then was never seen again.  Jacob’s family has also disappeared, will he soon find himself on trial for their murders too?

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infinty box wilhelmThe Infinity Box, by Kate Wilhelm

originally published in Orbit Vol 9, 1971

where I got it: purchased used as a Tor Double

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Can you believe I’ve never read a Kate Wilhelm? Famous for The Hugo award winning and Nebula nominated Where Late The Sweet Birds Sang, she’s been awarded multiple Hugo and Nebula awards, and was inducted into the Science Fiction Hall of Fame in 2003. Along with her husband Damon Knight, Wilhelm was instrumental in the creation and running of the Milford Writers Workship, which would grow into the Clarion workshop.

 

Nominated for a Nebula award in 1972, The Infinity Box  first appeared Orbit 9 and then again in 1975 as the titular story in a collection of Wilhelm stories. I came across the novella in a Tor Double alongside Zelazny’s He Who Shapes.  I’d like to track down the Infinity Box collection, or at least issues of Orbit that contain her work while I continue to hunt for a copy of Where Late The Sweet Birds Sang.

 

The story is told from the point of view of Eddie Laslow, happily married, father of two, owner of an electronics lab and a few patents.  When the shy and petite Christine moves in across the street, Eddie immediately feels like they’ve met before, even though she doesn’t look familiar.  He’s a little creeped out by her, but can’t avoid her company when Christine and Eddie’s wife Janet become fast friends.

 

After an evening of drinks, Christine begins to talk about her childhood and failed marriage. In and out of institutions as a child, she was diagnosed with schizophrenia, among other things. Falling in with a psychology professor, he discovered she was able to see objects and scenes in every moment, not just this moment. Almost like a long term time lapse photograph, when she looks at a tree, she sees it as it is right now, and as it was every moment since it sprouted from a seed. They end up getting married, but he died of a heart attack after abandoning his researches.  She is going through his papers, hoping to find his final documentations that involve her condition(s).

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let the right one inLet The Right One In by John Ajvide Lindqvist

published  in 2004

where I got it: borrowed

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I read this book because I really enjoyed the movie versions.  This novel took Sweden by storm when it first came out in 2004, quickly becoming a best seller with critics lauding Lindqvist as the country’s Stephen King.  It wasn’t long before a movie was made in 2008.    As has become a pattern with best selling Swedish thrillers, Hollywood wanted to do their version, and so an American version of the film, titled Let Me In, was released in 2010 starring Grace Moretz and Kodi Smit-McPhee.  I’d seen both movies, enjoyed them both, and so was very excited to come across a copy of the book. The films are rather loyal to the premise and the first third or so of the novel, and the final few pages. Everything else is, let us say, glossed over.

 

This is mostly spoiler free review. I will not surprise anything that isn’t already revealed on the cover copy of the novel.   the “spoiler” that I do reveal? Not the biggie, not by a long shot.

 

It’s 1981, and twelve year old Oskar is a loser. He gets beat up at school, and has a bed wetting issue and a shoplifting habit. The boys who bully him might be impressed by the shoplifting, but they still torture him mercilessly, and Oskar fantasizes about getting back at them. And he’s not the kind of boy to ask for help.  One day, he meets a girl in the courtyard of his apartment complex. Eli is confident and smart, and since she’s new to the neighborhood, she has no idea Oskar is the local loser.  She doesn’t go to his school,  but they try to see each other every day.  He confides in her, and she contemplates how much of her life she can share with him and Oskar knows better than to risk a new friendship by prying.  He doesn’t mind that she’s weird, doesn’t mind that she doesn’t wear a coat when it’s snowing, or that she only comes out at night and has thick blankets covering the windows of her apartment. All that matters is that she’s not mean to him.
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hurrican feverHurricane Fever by Tobias S. Buckell

published July 2014

where I got it: purchased new

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Imagine the action, intrigue and espionage of your favorite James Bond thriller, now throw in fatal hurricanes and a lot of emotional investment. If that sounds good (of course it does!), you’ll get a kick out of Tobias Buckell’s newest near future eco-thriller, Hurricane Fever. This is a sequel to Buckell’s Arctic Rising, but it can easily be read as a stand alone. In the near future, much of the Arctic ice has melted, the seas have risen, low islands have been completely submerged taking people’s homes with them, and hurricane season means a deadly storm every week. Oh, and did I mention Hurricane Fever takes place entirely in the Carribean, where these deadly hurricanes tend to land?

Roo Jones is retired from the Caribbean Intelligence Agency, or at least, he’s convinced himself he’s retired.  He’s living the easy life in the Virgin Islands, raising his nephew Delroy, working on his boat, trying to forget everything he’s been through.  When an acquaintance mails Roo a USB drive filled with what looks like useless statistics, Roo knows two things: he never really retired from the CIA, and his old friend Zee is dead.

Once the action starts in Hurricane Fever, it never lets up. Roo barely has time to access the data on the drive before a mysterious woman claiming to be Zee’s sister shows up, and Delroy is killed. And that scene with Delroy? When the “simplicity” of his death is “explained”? It’s amazing how a short paragraph, how a few words made of letters and ink on paper can shatter a reader like that. This was one of those paragraphs, and at that moment, I gave myself to Buckell for the long haul. Roo was angry enough, and I’d just joined up to help him exact revenge. Zee knew his life was in danger, Zee was an adult, he knew what he was getting into. But to kill a teenager, because you couldn’t be bothered to check if it was the right person? Oh yes, I was as angry as Roo, and ready to cheer him on every step of the way towards revenge.

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girl with all the giftsThe Girl With All The Gifts, by M.R. Carey

published June 2014

Where I got it: rec’d ARC from the publisher (Thanks Orbit!)

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There once was a little girl named Melanie. As far as she knew, she was a happy, healthy little girl. And why shouldn’t she be? She gets to see her friends at school, she adores her favorite teacher Miss Justineau, and she always tries her best to be polite to the grown ups who help her. Even when they are holding a gun to her head.

 

Author M.R. Carey builds the tension up slowly but very steadily, at first giving us a fish eye lens view into an underground bunker where under the sharp eyes of Dr. Caroline Caldwell and Sergeant Parks, a very select group of children are fed, sheltered, education, observed, and then vivisected. Caldwell’s mission is of the utmost importance. She’s looking for a cure. And besides, if Melanie and the other “children” were still human, they’d cry out in pain when the good doctor sliced their skulls open with her scalpel, right?

 

Ever heard of Cordyceps?  How about Ophiocordyceps?  It’s a fungus that really likes ants and sometimes spiders, and it especially enjoys threading it’s mycelial hairs into the nervous system of the critter.  What happens next is pretty disgusting.  As an aside, M.R. Carey wrote a great guest post over at SFSignal, about the science behind The Girl With All the Gifts, and about Cordyceps. He even links to a video about it. I got about halfway through the video before I screamed “eye bleach!”.  Even after five minutes of thinking about baby My Little Pony unicorns snuggling with fluffy kittens, I still want to bathe my eyes in Clorox and throw up a little. So, there’s that.

 

The gist of The Girl With All the Gifts is that Ophiocordyceps has evolved, it has mutated to infect people, and it has terrorized humanity.  Terrorize probably isn’t the right word here. Because Ophiocordyceps is nothing more than the little fungus that could. And what it can do will horrify you.

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defendersDefenders by Will McIntosh

published May 13 2014

where I got it: received review copy from the publisher (Thanks Orbit!)

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Can my entire review just consist of “holy fuck this book completely shattered me”?  Because really, that’s all you need to know.  But a seven word review? boring!

 

It’s 2029 and our first contact with an alien species is an invasion. The Luyten look like giant six or seven legged starfish, and they fell from the sky.  We attacked them, they fought back. They seemed to always know where our troops were, what our plan was. The Luyten could read our minds. They knew every thought going through every human’s mind, our dreams, our fears, everything.

 

And they were winning.

 

Homeless, hungry, and freezing to death, Kai helps a Luyten who claims to be an unarmed and wounded scout. A tenuous trust grows, and the Luyten begs Kai to keep silent about it’s hiding spot. How is a starving teen supposed to say no to a human soldier who promises food and a warm bed?  The Luyten is captured and tortured.

 

But still, the Luyten were winning. There was nowhere we could hide, nothing we could hide from them. If a Luyten were within eight miles of a human, the entire Luyten population knew what that human was planning. We needed to come up with something, and fast.

 

Are you scared yet? You should be. And this is only the beginning.

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Three Days to Never, by Tim Powers

published in 2007

where I got it: gift from a friend (and she got it autographed! I have the best blogger buddies ever!)

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Tim Powers is usually described as a writer of literary thrillers, but I prefer to call what he writes gateways to speculative fiction. He starts with what really happened, and fills in the blanks, takes you a wild ride, and still manages to prove that truth is stranger than fiction.  Far more fascinating than alternate history, this is secret history.

Three Days to Never was written in 2006, but it takes place in 1987, and it was refreshing to experience a thriller set in a time where cellphones and the internet weren’t ubiquitous.   The story starts innocently enough when  Frank Marrity gets a weird phone call from his grandmother Lisa, she says she’s going to burn her backyard shed down. By the time he gets to her house, he learns that she passed away at a national park located hours away. Frank’s daughter Daphne makes jokes about there being gold buried under Grammar’s shed. More unexpected than finding gold buried under the shed, they find a bundle of letters between Lisa and her father, and a VHS tape of PeeWee’s Big Adventure. First things first, Frank needs to meet with his sister Moira and arrange their grandmother’s funeral.

Frank and his sister were raised by their grandmother Lisa, who everyone calls Grammar, after their father left the family and their mother died in a car crash. Frank has always hated his absent father and blamed him for causing his mother’s possible suicide.  He’s always wondered how Grammar could be so cavalier about her own son abandoning his family.

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some of the books reviewed here were free ARCs supplied by publishers/authors/other groups. Some of the books here I got from the library. the rest I *gasp!* actually paid for. I'll do my best to let you know what's what.