Micro – Michael Crichton and Richard Preston

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Remember, Honey I shrunk the kids? Great movie that made you really feel bad for ants. When I would watch that as a kid I would often think how cool it would be to explore my backyard and only be an inch tall. After reading, Micro, I have decided I would like remain above 12 inches tall, thank you.

The late Michael Crichton had left a few unfinished gems when he died. They have since been found by his wife and, with the help of other talented authors, like Richard Preston (whom you may know from The Hot Zone), they are being finished and published so that fans can continue to enjoy his work. I have always loved his books, even if I had to read them at a snails pace. The reason I have to read them so carefully is the same reason I love them. He goes into immense detail and does mountains of research for each book, so when you are reading it, it feels like it has or could possibly be happening. Evident in, Micro, there is a bibliography that spans five pages. All data and research for this book. Everything from the habitat of spiders to journals by Nicola Tesla. What you get from all this hard work is a wonderful, rich, suspenseful, and beautifully detailed story.

Micro is a story about a group of grad students in varying fields of science, who get an opportunity to work at a cutting edge facility that says they are creating groundbreaking medicine and medical research. Once the students get to Hawaii, where the facility is located, they quickly come to realize that all is not what it seems. Once they get shrunk down to micro sized humans and thrust into the Hawaiian forest, they quickly find themselves in a whole new world, as alien to them as a different planet would be. They find new species  of insects and bacteria never before seen with the human eye, fight off dangerous monsters, like centipedes, and learn to trust each other and each others individual knowledge about the world around them. Each student is a specialist in something, beetles, spiders, poisons etc, and that all becomes life or death information as they travel to find help.

One great example of how richly detailed this books is, is when they are so hungry that they hunt a katydid and butcher it for a meal. insect_musicians_ptero-camel_LEa_WHITE

The description of them craving this thing up almost made me a vegan. No joke. I am not sure I could ever be that hungry. But in all lost survivor novels or movies, you often find the main character doing things you couldn’t see yourself doing. Killing, eating weird food, finding strength, endurance, and the primal will to survive. That is what makes these stories so good, because you sit and squeam about eating a bug while you snack on your crackers, saying you would never do it, but deep down…what would do if you were tiny?

This book was absolute joy to read. It was exactly what you would expect from a two very seasoned authors and it felt like Michael Crichton the whole way through. I think this would appeal to anyone who loves his work, or enjoys science fiction, biology, suspense or just loves a good book. You will have a book hangover after this one.

Seriously though – I don’t want to see one of these at 5’6 – can you imagine seeing it if it was bigger than you?

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Moment of Truth – Lisa Scottoline

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I suck at Clue, or any of those murder mystery movies, novels, plays…I am always shocked at the end when it was really the butler with rope in the conservatory. So, it was with some disappointment that I was right the whole time while I was reading this book. It definitely wasn’t Ms. Scottoline’s best. I loved some of her other books, Look Again, Keep Quiet, Accused  – to name a few…this one just fell off its mark somehow.

The main character, Mary Di Nunzio, is a rookie lawyer who gets thrown her first murder case where the alleged murderer has already confessed to the police. Jack Newlin, another attorney, confesses to killing his wife, but Mary and one of the detectives on the case don’t buy his story.

The whole book revolves around Mary uncovering layer after layer of lies only to finally uncover the truth that the reader knew  from the beginning of the book. Which in a way, I guess is kind of nice. As I said, I usually have a hard time guessing who done it so the whole time I am thinking it was the person who did, but convincing myself that it couldn’t be them. So I maintained a little mystery after all.

This is a good book for anyone who wants a quick mystery or court room drama read. A good rebound book after a series one. It requires no thought and it won’t keep you up at night.

The Gunslinger -The Dark Tower Series – Stephen King

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So first I must tell you, in case you didn’t know, Stephen King is one of my favorite authors. I have a few whose books I will devour whenever new ones come out, and I am always searching for older ones I may have missed. My first journey with Stephen King was Pet Sematary – to this day I look under my bed before sleeping. Kidding, but you get the idea. I have read everything I can by Mr. King, and have thoroughly enjoyed most of work. My favorite will always be The Stand; however, each book is like finding a long-lost friend.

It is because of my love for him and his works that I write this with unwilling fingers. The Dark Tower series, for me, just isn’t interesting. I tried and failed to read this book many times over the years, and just couldn’t get into it. I finally finished it, and to be honest, don’t think I missed much. However, I am told it all makes sense and it all comes together when you read the rest of the series. Since I know Mr. King, and have had a hard time with some of his earlier work (Salem’s Lot comes to mind), I will continue to try this series out.

To the review though:

It starts with Roland chasing the Man in Black. Anyone who has read any novels by King will instantly recognize the Man in Black as Randell Flagg or the Dark Man. Roland is the last of his kind, a Gunslinger and from what I gather, his home has been destroyed. The world they live in is like our world, but it is either a parallel world, or many years in our future. They know things like Bible and the Beatles, but don’t have any knowledge of skyscrapers for example. King never comes out and says parallel or future, but I am sure the next books divulge deeper into that.

Along the journey to meet the Man in Black and in his search for the Dark Tower, he meets some colorful characters that sometimes confuse more than help the plot line. It spans a massive dessert and goes into pitch black caves. The descriptions were great, as was the character development. I personally just didn’t care if Roland ever met the Man in Black. HOWEVER, I feel this is all me and not Mr. King’s writing or the story itself. I must emphasize that because as I said, I love his writing and most of his stories, so when I come across one I don’t like I know it must be me.

Anyway – this got off tangent – I would recommend this book (and series) to anyone who likes adventure, science fiction, alternate universes, maybe even westerns. I think it could be a very enjoyable book to anyone familiar with his work.

 

Station Eleven – Emily St. John Mandel

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It is no surprise that I enjoy reading dystopian fiction. I like it for many reasons, but mostly I enjoy reading what other people think of humanity. You can tell how positive or negative they feel by the world they create when the world as we know it ends.

This novel reminds me a lot of The Stand by Stephen King. The Georgia Flu has taken out 99% of the population. (Capt. Tripps or Project Blue – a man-made super flu – killed off 99% of the population) Society must put itself back together. Instead of having a good/evil that puts the society that is left in two camps. It follows the more likely Glenn Bateman theory of a bunch of little societies popping up and being led by different forms of government. From Socialism to Dictators and everything in between. The way we can experience this, is by following the Traveling Symphony. The members of the group preform Shakespeare plays and play music while traveling around the mostly deserted landscape that used to be America. For 20 years they have done this, but of course, the good people aren’t the only ones that survived and as such, they run into problems trying to find some friends of theirs.

The whole novel sweeps back and forth through landscapes and over time, from before the flu to the present, going from one character to another and bringing the reader into a world where everything is gone. The internet, modern medicine, TV, cold food from the fridge, cooking on a stove, going to drive through for food, flying across great distances, getting in your car and traveling hundreds of miles in only few hours. Families, friends, jobs, useless degrees all gone in the blink of an eye and what remains is only what we are. Musicians, doctors, mothers, fathers, electricians, trying to find ways to find meaning in the new normal.

I think what I enjoyed most about this book was the other reason I like dystopian novels. I feel like most of humanity (not all) is stuck in rut. We live each day going about our business with very little thought to our futures, or even our present. We work, we sleep, we eat, we repeat and for what? Is that living? Or just existing. Two parts of the book stick out for me that make me feel like the author feels the same way. There was a monolog in the middle where a woman is describing her boss and she describes him as: “High-Functioning Sleepwalker” Deep. Because I look around and see a whole lot of “high-functioning sleepwalkers” every day. The second reason is a recurring phrase: “Because survival is insufficient” which is apparently originally from Star Trek. Again – isn’t it true? Just because you are alive doesn’t mean you are living.

Another thing that stuck with me is the way she would make you think about morality – one minute here, the next gone. There was one reflection where one of the characters was remembering making snow ice cream with his mother and brother. “Frank standing on a stool on his wondrously functional pre-Libya legs, the bullet that would sever his spinal cord still twenty-five years away but already approaching” again – deep. Thinking about it makes you think about your life, what events have shaped where you are and what events are still to come.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book, even if it took me a long time to read it. I would highly recommend this to anyway one wants to read as good dystopian novel.

 

NK3 – Michael Tolkin

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Every now and then you read a book that reminds you that why you will never become an author. This is one of them. It isn’t so much that the book was amazing or beyond compare, it is simply because the writing was so clever. The character development was non-existent, but the language, the scenery and the overall tone of the book sucked you in. I read the book in two days. After reading it,  couldn’t begin to describe why people should read it, or what I just read even. I just knew that it was a good book and scary in the way that it almost seems plausible.

Not too long from now North Korea develops a virus that wipes out human memory. Everything. Complete blank state. Everything you were, everyone you knew, every memory you cherished gone. Not only that but it did something to our inhibitions and emotions. For example, sex and being naked is completely normal. People have orgy’s in the streets. In some ways, I found this liberating. Imagine if we cast aside our societies view of normal or polite and were more free. People wore what they wanted without regard to “girl clothes” or “boy clothes” , a biker in his former life wore a sexy nurse custom for example. It was that part of the book that I was most drawn to. There was a certain peacefulness to the ignorant bliss they all shared.

The way people spoke to each other was really why the book was so good. He created a way of speaking that never faltered through the entire book. It was almost like a bunch of four year old children babbling and making decisions, so if you can imagine four year old running the world…that would give you and accurate description of the language. There were levels of people, those who, in the early stages of the virus, were rehabilitated, those who sort of got rehabilitated, and those who never did, then there were those who were beyond any sort of help. The first wave of people were people who had some usefulness about them. Electricians, doctors, mechanics, pilots, farmers, etc. They created a place and put a wall up that kept out the people who weren’t verified. (in other words people who had no useful skills in the new world.) No matter what level of rehabilitation people received, no one could remember anything since the virus.

Because none of them have any memory of the way things were, they run the world much like a four year old with all the candy they can eat would. Wine, drugs, and food run freely with no regard as to how more will be made. This spells disaster when, four years after the virus they realize that at some point, the party has to end.

I feel like I am doing a poor job of explaining this novel – but I will say, anyone who loves dystopian novels, interesting writing, or new concepts will probably enjoy this book.

 

The Midnight Star – Marie Lu

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“None of us are saints. We can all do better”

The final installment in Marie Lu’s Young Elites novels. This one I liked better than the second. It was full of action, drama, and it was beautifully written.

I am again assuming that if you are reading this, you have read the first two. While I will try not to give anything away, there is always that a chance.

In this conclusion we find the Elites struggling with their powers. Some have become ill, some have gone mad, while others seem to be fairing okay. One of the Elites, Raffaele is aligned with the other elites powers and senses a deterioration. He concludes that they must give their powers back to the gods or have their powers kill  not only them, but their entire planet. In order to do this, they must make alliances with their enemies. A hard thing to ask to give up your powers, but harder still to travel with people you don’t think you can trust.

This book was a gripping, non stop conclusion to a great series. I can’t wait to see what else Marie comes up with next.

The Rose Society -A Young Elites Novel – Marie Lu

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I am going to base this review on the assumption that anyone reading it has read the first novel. It is hard to do review for a series of books if you can’t actually say anything for fear of giving too much away.

In the second installment of the Young Elites novels, we meet up with some familiar characters and meet some new ones. Adelina’s power grows stronger and her quest for revenge fuels her through out the entire book. She often loses herself and goes to a much darker side. I believe we see her more a villain than a hero in this book. The book jacket even mentions that briefly so I don’t feel I am giving too much away. She starts her own group, the Rose Society in an effort to overthrow the Queen and become ruler of the land.

The other group of Elites – the Daggers are here as well, all trying to stop the current Queen and her lead inquisitor from enslaving malfettos. (The queen is not loved at all)

The story has many twists and turns, it has some interesting dialog and gets into the power that lives in the elites minds. It moves the story line along and the introduction of new characters is great. However, I had a hard time with this one. I didn’t devour it as I did the first. I am not sure if it was a state of mind or just the book. I hope the third one is better and isn’t as slow going as I thought this one was.

So far, the first book is my favorite. I am looking forward to seeing what the author plans on doing with the characters and how she plans on ending the story.