Author: Travis

The Martian

The Martian

This is the obvious analogy, but The Martian by Andy Weir is Robin Caruso in space, on steroids and jacked up on laughing gas.  This book sits in a weird place between straight fiction and science fiction.  Or rather it is science fiction but much closer to the science end then fiction end. This book doesn’t follow the standard narrative structure, and that really works for it.  Three fourths of the story is told through journal entries by the protagonist because, with the exception of a few portions of the book, he has no contacts with anyone else.  Most of the story happens through Watney’s inner monologue which sounds like a bad thing but really works.   When the story does switch to other characters and a more normal story structure all I wanted was for it to get back to Watney and his journal. The character of Mark Watney is… Read more »

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Red Hook

Red Hook

Red Hook takes the police procedural style and switches the genre from focusing on large events and monumental cases to the mystery of one of the little guys so often forgotten.  I commend Cohen for trying to take an area so well-trodden and bring its focus down to a level so often ignored.  This book had the potential of opening up a new front for the detective mystery alongside the chase for serial killers and psychopaths.  Unfortunately it doesn’t live up to that potential. While the crime isn’t something we see in most mystery novels, strangely because it is so mundane as to be ignored, the characters we have seen thousands of times.  A hard bitten detective, disillusioned by the job but drawn to one case everyone else ignores and estranged from his family.  It’s like Lightner and his supporting case were pulled out of some detective fiction mold.  To be… Read more »

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The Janus Legacy

The Janus Legacy

The Janus Legacy explores the ethical landscape between cloning and the push to advance science and medicine.  This book falls in a weird space between medical thriller and science fiction and brings up interesting questions about the future of humanity. I am generally a fan of both science fiction and medical fiction and have spent time reading up on the ethics and science of cloning, so the idea behind this book is something I was into.  While the angle von Biela takes is interesting the execution of this book falls short.  Taking the idea of human cloning, which has been explored by authors before, and giving the main character a motive to push for it yet a personality that fights against it was an interesting angle.  This dichotomy in Jeremy’s motivation allowed for a lot of potential with real possibilities for both external conflicts with the other scientists as well… Read more »

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The Shadow Protocol

The Shadow Protocol

If you were to take any of the “American spy working at the tip of the spear against a major terrorist threat”, and there are a lot of those books in the market, and add some kind of mental transference sci-fi angel, you get The Shadow Protocol.  It does add an interesting twist to the genre but not much additional substance. The book jacket compares this to Robert Ludlum’s Bourne series and there are definite parallels, although the character and the writing are both less interesting then what you find in Ludlum’s original books.   The actual writing of the book, the dialogue, characterizations, etc. are all pretty much on par with the average of this genre so that isn’t a big knock on McDermott’s work.  Ludlum does stand as the gold standard of the spy thriller genre so it isn’t fair to hold McDermott to that level. The added tech/sci-fi… Read more »

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Interview with Erin Lindsay McCabe

Interview with Erin Lindsay McCabe

I took a peek at your bio and noticed this was the first historical fiction novel you have written. What brought you to write this genre? It took me a long time to realize it, but I have always been drawn toward historical fiction. I’ll read almost anything, but even as a kid, the ones I thought of as my favorites—Little House on the Prairie, Anne of Green Gables, Goodnight Mr. Tom—all of them were historical. I’m fascinated by the Victorian and Edwardian periods in particular, I think because it’s right before the huge technological advances of the 20th century and yet it still feels very familiar in a lot of ways. I like that in historical fiction, there’s this distance that allows me to get out of my own experience and create characters who are different from me but who are grappling with issues that feel very contemporary. For… Read more »

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Bad Guys

Bad Guys

Bad Guys is an old-school detective thriller featuring an odd couple like paring of FBI agents out to stop a secret mafia family.  While the book doesn’t give us anything we haven’t seen before at least what it does it does competently. A rouge agent out for justice and his partner trying to bring him back from the brink is about as cookie cutter as you can get.  And while both characters are like a how-to instruction for making cops in a thriller novel they are also both very likeable.  The loyalty Gibbons and Tozzi show each other is endearing and the interplay between them is usually pretty entertaining. The plot itself moves forward at a brisk pace as it checks off the cop vs. mafia checklist.  Plot twists layered on top of each other.  Check.  Tons of New Jersey jokes and references.  Check.  Low-life crooks.  Check.   Once again however,… Read more »

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A Darkling Sea

A Darkling Sea

A Darkling Sea is an interesting sci-fi novel about first contact, misunderstandings and events spiraling out of control.  I read a lot of sci-fi but a novel that is essentially focused on first contact and the repercussions of that contact is a premise I have not seen very many times. This book is really well paced in the front half and kicks into gear early on with the death and dissection of a major character only a handful of pages into the book.  While it isn’t the rip-roaring ride you would get from a thriller this book moves fairly quickly for a thoughtful work of sci-fi.  That pacing does have some issues in the second half however as the story bogs down and the end feels a little rushed as Cambias works to put all the pieces together and wrap everything up. The idea behind the pitfalls that could come… Read more »

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I Shall Be Near To You

I Shall Be Near To You

I Shall Be Near To You brings historical fiction to an interesting yet not often talked about occurrence from the 19th Century, women pretending to be men in order to enlist.  Erin Lindsay McCabe manages to make the subject both historically interesting while presenting a story that was interesting and moving. Something many may not know is that woman masquerading as men to enlist was a real event.  In the Civil War alone there are many recorded cases of it happening, and almost certainly many more that were never recorded.  It is clear that McCabe did solid research not just of Civil War battles but of the home life of the time.  Everything beat felt historically right, which is something I often feel is missing from much of the historical fiction I read.  This book also manages, with one exception, to avoid the trap of having the book involve major… Read more »

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The Wife, The Maid, and the Mistress

The Wife, The Maid, and the Mistress

Books that revolve around fictionalizing a real life mystery have always fascinated me, as do books set in the 20s and 30s with their iconic art styles.  Those two things come together in The Wife, The Maid, and the Mistress in a way that, if not completely amazing, were at least enjoyable. This book manages to take the style that I love of that time period and really bring it out on the page.  Through the dialogue and the attitudes you get a feeling of this world and in Ritzi and Maria Simon you get head strong female characters that embody everything I like about the changes in society at the time.  Lawhord really does an excellent job in pulling the reader into the New York of that Era and gives you both the glitz and grime that really make it so enjoyable to read about. The real historical mystery… Read more »

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The Ghost of the Mary Celeste

The Ghost of the Mary Celeste

A fictional take on a real mystery, The Ghost of the Mary Celeste takes a strange nautical event and turns it into a ghost story.  I was really excited by the premise of this book as I love it when a writer plucks a real history out of history and turns it into an intriguing ghost story.  That unfortunately is not what this book is. One of the biggest problems with this book is the overall structure and how disjointed it feels.  This book is really not a cohesive story but rather tales that are barely related to each other being mashed into a single story.  While the delineation between stories is clear, so at least the reader isn’t confused, it makes it both hard to care about what is happening and keeps the book from feeling like a real take on the mystery.  And if you make it through… Read more »

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