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Very big important literary author writes 800 pages about penises.


Gravity's Rainbow

Penguin, 1973, 776 pages



Winner of the 1973 National Book Award, Gravity's Rainbow is a postmodern epic, a work as exhaustively significant to the second half of the 20th century as Joyce's Ulysses was to the first. Its sprawling, encyclopedic narrative and penetrating analysis of the impact of technology on society make it an intellectual tour de force.


So much penis. And excrement. And drugs. And penis. Lots of penis.Collapse )

Also by Thomas Pynchon: My reviews of The Crying of Lot 49 and Inherent Vice.




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A British lady PI in inter-war England.


Maisie Dobbs

Penguin, 2003, 309 pages



The debut of one of literature's favorite sleuths! Maisie Dobbs isn't just any young housemaid. Through her own natural intelligence - and the patronage of her benevolent employers - she works her way into college at Cambridge. After the War I and her service as a nurse, Maisie hangs out her shingle back at home: M. DOBBS, TRADE AND PERSONAL INVESTIGATIONS.

But her very first assignment, seemingly an ordinary infidelity case, soon reveals a much deeper, darker web of secrets, which will force Maisie to revisit the horrors of the Great War and the love she left behind.


A little cozy.Collapse )




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Book Review: Arcadia, by Iain Pears

If one of the Inklings wrote Cloud Atlas


Arcadia

Faber & Faber, 2015, 608 pages



Three interlocking worlds. Four people looking for answers. But who controls the future - or the past?

In 1960s Oxford, Professor Henry Lytten is attempting to write a fantasy novel that forgoes the magic of his predecessors, J. R. R. Tolkien and C. S. Lewis. He finds an unlikely confidante in his quick-witted, inquisitive young neighbor, Rosie. One day, while chasing Lytten's cat, Rosie encounters a doorway in his cellar. She steps through and finds herself in an idyllic, pastoral land where storytellers are revered above all others. There she meets a young man who is about to embark on a quest of his own - and may be the one chance Rosie has of returning home. These breathtaking adventures ultimately intertwine with the story of an eccentric psychomathematician whose breakthrough discovery will affect all of these different lives and worlds.

Dazzlingly inventive and deeply satisfying, Arcadia tests the boundaries of storytelling and asks: If the past can change the future, then might the future also indelibly alter the past?


Rarely has an authorial self-insertion been so literal.Collapse )




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Book Review: White Fang, by Jack London

A savage half-breed conquers his tribe, is enslaved and tamed by the white man, and falls in love with a real bitch.


White Fang

, 1905, 224 pages



In the desolate, frozen northwest of Canada, a lone wolf fights a heroic daily fight for life in the wild. But after he is captured and cruelly abused by men, he becomes a force of pure rage. Only one man sees inside the killer to his intelligence and nobility. But can his kindness touch White Fang?


The Conan of wolf-dogs!Collapse )

Also by Jack London: My reviews of The Call of the Wild and The Scarlet Plague.




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Drug deals gone bad, skipping between various doomed characters.


Every Man a Menace

Atlantic Monthly Press, 2016, 288 pages



San Francisco is about to receive the biggest delivery of MDMA to hit the West Coast in years. Raymond Gaspar, just out of prison, is sent to the city to check in on the increasingly erratic dealer expected to take care of distribution. In Miami, the man responsible for getting the drugs across the Pacific has just met the girl of his dreams - a woman who can't seem to keep her story straight. And thousands of miles away in Bangkok, someone farther up the supply chain is about to make a phone call that will put all their lives at risk. Stretching from the Golden Triangle of Southeast Asia to the Golden Gate of San Francisco, Every Man a Menace offers an unflinching account of the making, moving, and selling of the drug known as Molly - pure happiness sold by the brick, brought to market by bloodshed and betrayal.


Mediocre multiple-POV crime thriller about drug dealing.Collapse )





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In the epic conclusion, people die and gods ex machina.


Tyrant's Throne

Jo Fletcher Books, 2017, 608 pages



How do you kill a Saint?

Falcio, Kest, and Brasti are about to find out, because someone has figured out a way to do it and they've started with a friend.

The Dukes were already looking for ways out of their agreement to put Aline on the throne, but with the Saints turning up dead, rumors are spreading that the Gods themselves oppose her ascension. Now churches are looking to protect themselves by bringing back the military orders of religious soldiers, assassins, and (especially) Inquisitors - a move that could turn the country into a theocracy.

The only way Falcio can put a stop to it is by finding the murderer. He has only one clue: a terrifying iron mask which makes the Saints vulnerable by driving them mad. But even if he can find the killer, he'll still have to face him in battle.

And that may be a duel that no swordsman, no matter how skilled, can hope to win.


In which the author pulls a few more fiats out of his arse.Collapse )

Also by Sebastien de Castell: My reviews of Traitor's Blade, Knight's Shadow, and Saint's Blood.




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A billionaire's plot to destroy a media empire becomes a mirror in the culture wars.


Conspiracy: Peter Thiel, Hulk Hogan, Gawker, and the Anatomy of Intrigue

Portfolio, 2018, 336 pages



In 2007, a short blogpost on Valleywag, the Silicon Valley-vertical of Gawker Media, outed PayPal founder and billionaire investor Peter Thiel as gay. Thiel's sexuality had been known to close friends and family, but he didn't consider himself a public figure, and believed the information was private.

This post would be the casus belli for a meticulously plotted conspiracy that would end nearly a decade later with a $140 million dollar judgment against Gawker, its bankruptcy and with Nick Denton, Gawker's CEO and founder, out of a job. Only later would the world learn that Gawker's demise was not incidental--it had been masterminded by Thiel.

For years, Thiel had searched endlessly for a solution to what he'd come to call the "Gawker Problem." When an unmarked envelope delivered an illegally recorded sex tape of Hogan with his best friend's wife, Gawker had seen the chance for millions of pageviews and to say the things that others were afraid to say. Thiel saw their publication of the tape as the opportunity he was looking for. He would come to pit Hogan against Gawker in a multi-year proxy war through the Florida legal system, while Gawker remained confidently convinced they would prevail as they had over so many other lawsuit--until it was too late.

The verdict would stun the world and so would Peter's ultimate unmasking as the man who had set it all in motion. Why had he done this? How had no one discovered it? What would this mean--for the First Amendment? For privacy? For culture?

In Holiday's masterful telling of this nearly unbelievable conspiracy, informed by interviews with all the key players, this case transcends the narrative of how one billionaire took down a media empire or the current state of the free press. It's a study in power, strategy, and one of the most wildly ambitious--and successful--secret plots in recent memory.

Some will cheer Gawker's destruction and others will lament it, but after reading these pages--and seeing the access the author was given--no one will deny that there is something ruthless and brilliant about Peter Thiel's shocking attempt to shake up the world.


Take a vengeful billionaire, a muck-raking media empire, and a celebrity sex tape, add GamerGate and Trump, and you get an epic story so unlikely it can only be non-fiction.Collapse )




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Gods and Saints are introduced as character classes in volume three of the series.


Saint's Blood

Jo Fletcher Books, 2016, 576 pages



How do you kill a Saint?

Falcio, Kest, and Brasti are about to find out, because someone has figured out a way to do it and they've started with a friend.

The Dukes were already looking for ways out of their agreement to put Aline on the throne, but with the Saints turning up dead, rumors are spreading that the Gods themselves oppose her ascension. Now churches are looking to protect themselves by bringing back the military orders of religious soldiers, assassins, and (especially) Inquisitors - a move that could turn the country into a theocracy.

The only way Falcio can put a stop to it is by finding the murderer. He has only one clue: a terrifying iron mask which makes the Saints vulnerable by driving them mad. But even if he can find the killer, he'll still have to face him in battle.

And that may be a duel that no swordsman, no matter how skilled, can hope to win.


Our heroes continuing bantering in an increasingly contrived fantasy pastiche.Collapse )

Also by Sebastien de Castell: My reviews of Traitor's Blade and Knight's Shadow.




My complete list of book reviews.

Book Review: Kill Creek, by Scott Thomas

A best-of-breed haunted house story.


Kill Creek

Inkshares, 2017, 416 pages



At the end of a dark prairie road, nearly forgotten in the Kansas countryside, is the Finch House. For years it has remained empty, overgrown, abandoned. Soon the door will be opened for the first time in decades. But something is waiting, lurking in the shadows, anxious to meet its new guests....

When best-selling horror author Sam McGarver is invited to spend Halloween night in one of the country's most infamous haunted houses, he reluctantly agrees. At least he won't be alone; joining him are three other masters of the macabre, writers who have helped shape modern horror. But what begins as a simple publicity stunt will become a fight for survival. The entity they have awakened will follow them, torment them, threatening to make them a part of the bloody legacy of Kill Creek.


Authors love killing off other authors.Collapse )





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The swords and sorcery adventure continues in a pre-Enlightenment dystopia.


Knight's Shadow

Jo Fletcher Books, 2014, 606 pages



Following his beloved debut, Traitor's Blade, Sebastien de Castell returns with volume two of his fast-paced fantasy adventure series, inspired by the swashbuckling action and witty banter of The Three Musketeers. Knight's Shadow continues the series with a thrilling and dark tale of heroism and betrayal in a country crushed under the weight of its rulers' corruption.

A few days after the horrifying murder of a duke and his family, Falcio val Mond, swordsman and First Cantor of the Greatcoats, begins a deadly pursuit to capture the killer. But Falcio soon discovers his own life is in mortal danger from a poison administered as a final act of revenge by one of his deadliest enemies. As chaos and civil war begin to overtake the country, Falcio has precious little time left to stop those determined to destroy his homeland.


In book two, the crapsack world gets grimdarker.Collapse )

Also by Sebastien de Castell: My review of Traitor's Blade.




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