Broken Monsters by Lauren Beukes

Broken Monsters by Lauren Beukes | Mulholland, 2014

Lauren Beukes follows her excellent The Shining Girls with another cross-genre blend of the real and the other-worldly in Broken Monsters. When boiled down to its most basic elements Broken Monsters lays somewhere near the intersection of mystery and thriller with the majority of the focus on the murder investigation involving a young boy whose remains were sowed to those of a fawn. It’s a horrific premise but one that despite forming the bedrock of the narrative isn’t really what the novel is about. The novel features a variety of perspectives including that of the divorced Detective Gabriella Versado and her daughter Layla, the journalist Jonno, Thomas Keen (TK) a homeless Detroit native, and Clayton who the less I say about the better. Each different perspective offers a different thematic thread that weaves into a novel of surprising breadth that still offers a taught, cohesive story.

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Review: Blue Remembered Earth by Alistair Reynolds

Blue Remembered Earth by Alistair Reynolds
Blue Remembered Earth by Alistair Reynolds

Blue Remembered Earth
Alistair Reynolds
Ace, 2012

Alistair Reynolds, known for his massive doorstopping space operas full of characters and packed to physics-defying density with ridiculously cool ideas, makes a jump to something a little more grounded in his most recent novel Blue Remembered Earth. While it too is packed full of ideas it offers them up on a narrower scope instead focusing on the legacy of a single family rather than the galaxy spanning multi-generational interwoven epic of his Revelation Space books. That narrowing of context and the grounding of the plot along a single family line make Blue Remembered Earth, all 512 pages of it, a positively breezy read.

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Review: Strange Flesh by Michael Olson

Strange Flesh by Michael Olson
Strange Flesh by Michael Olson

Strange Flesh
Michael Olson
Simon and Schuster, 2012

I remember joking once with a friend that the next logical step in the world of motion controls and haptic feedback was porn. In a world of Real Dolls and Japanese robots it becomes increasingly obvious, and likely disturbing to many people, the direction in which the sex toy industry will go. Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One, along with films like Tron or The Matrix, touch upon the nature of artificial reality and its impact in society in a very straightforward manner. Rare is the mainstream novel that examines the more primal corners of these emergent technologies. Enter Michael Olsen’s debut novel Strange Flesh.

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Review: My Soul to Take by Yrsa Sigurdsdottir

My Soul to Take by Yrsa Sigurdardottir
My Soul to Take by Yrsa Sigurdardottir

My Soul to Take
Yrsa Sigurdardottir
Harper, 2010

Scandinavian mysteries seem to be popping up quite frequently these days. Arnaldur Indridason, Asa Larsson, Helen Tursten, and Yrsa Sigurdardottir represent the vanguard of this Scandinavian invasion. Coming across Sigurdardottir’s My Soul to Take here at the library I decided that I brief respite from my typical genre reading was in order. Subtitled as “a novel of Iceland” My Soul to Take is an engaging mystery with numerous twists and turns that constantly keep readers guessing.

My Soul to Take is the second novel to feature attorney Thora Gudmundsdottir (after Last Rituals). The novel opens with Thora’s client Jonas, a superstitious New Age type, calling her to ask for assistance in determining if he has any legal grounds to contest the purchase of a farm on the grounds that it is haunted. Thora, who reluctantly agrees, arrives at the farm turned hotel just in time for the murder of Jonas’ architect Birna. Birna’s death sends Thora on a whirlwind investigation to discover the killer.

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Review: Ashes of the Earth by Eliot Pattison

Ashes of the Earth by Eliot Pattison
Ashes of the Earth by Eliot Pattison

Ashes of the Earth
Eliot Pattison
Counterpoint, 2011

This review kicks of a trio of post-apocalyptic reviews.  Sometimes I just get a craving for post-apocalyptic fiction.  Unfortunately, and this no slight to two excellent novels, two of said post-apocalyptic novels are zombie novels.  In truth I prefer my apocalypses zombie free but when beggers can’t always be choosers.  Anyway the novel I’m about review isn’t at all zombie related.  Ashes of the Earth by Eliot Pattison is subtitled a Post-Apocalyptic Mystery and it falls squarely into the mystery genre.  Pattison previous authored two historical mysteries set in colonial America, Eye of the Raven and Bone Rattler, and I get the distinct impression that those to earlier novels certainly help inform Ashes of the Earth.

Ashes of the Earth takes place after war has left America (and presumable the rest of the planet) a husk of its former self and focuses on a struggling community called Carthage.  The story follows the embittered and dissident founding father of Carthage, Hadrian Boone, as he attempts to solve the murder of his mentor.  Nuclear and biological weapons employed in the past have left even later generations suffering and Carthage long ago exiled these unwanted to shantytown long ago and is amongst these exiles, and even further, that Hadrian’s journey takes him.

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Review: The Spirit Lens by Carol Berg

The Spirit Lens by Carol Berg
The Spirit Lens by Carol Berg

The Spirit Lens
Carol Berg
Roc, 2010

First Line: Philosophers claimed the Blood Wars had irredeemable corrupted magic.

In the Renaissance like kingdom of Sabria failed magician turned librarian and cousin to King Phillipe, Portier de Savin-Duplais is tasked by his royal brethren to root out the traitors who have attempted to take his life.  What follows is a solid mystery tale within a beautifully realized world fraught with tension between science and magic.  With The Spirit Lens Berg has created a fantastic new setting and kicked off what looks to be an entertaining and original series.

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