May 29, 2012

Your micro-review roundup: 29 May 2012

(Because I make my way through so many books and movies for CCLaP, I regularly come across projects that are interesting enough unto themselves but that I simply don't have much to say about, or at least not enough to warrant an entire entry. I thought, then, that on occasional weekends I would gather up such "micro-reviews" and post them all in one large entry; they can also be found on CCLaP's main book and main movie archive pages.)

Affection Aires, by Jeffra Hays

Affection Aires
By Jeffra Hays

This is the newest book by Jeffra Hays, author of last year's Cocoa Almond Darling that I loved so much; and the good news is that this is just as enjoyable, for pretty much the exact same reasons as last time. Taking place in a romantically crumbling Coney Island, like Cocoa it's a multigenerational look at race, class, relationships, family and more, with an expansive list of characters to fill out this 500-plus-page volume; and while its slow pace and meandering tone will definitely not be for everyone, it will be adored by those who enjoy character-based dramas and who feel that the journey is more important than the destination. Tame enough for conservative readers, yet containing a smoldering eroticism at times that will satisfy those looking for something racier (again, just like Cocoa), this is the kind of book that I always assume I will dislike when first picking up but then end up really kind of loving by the end, and it comes recommended in that specific spirit.

Out of 10: 8.7

Exogene, by T.C. McCarthy

By T.C. McCarthy

This is volume two of a new trilogy by T.C. McCarthy, detailing a day-after-tomorrow war in central Asia from the viewpoint of three very different types of combatants; but unfortunately, while the first book Germline made CCLaP's best-of lists last year and in general just really blew me away, I found myself much less captivated by this newest chapter. And that's because, I've come to realize, what I really loved the most about part one was the unique kind of narrative that came with dropping a drug-addicted gonzo journalist into the middle of a Vietnam-like bloody quagmire within the former Soviet states over the world's diminishing supplies of "trace metals" (almost useless except in the manufacture of cellphones and other mobile tech, and thus suddenly one of the most important resources on the planet in a world just around the corner from us); but with part two narrated by one of the genetically engineered teenage-girl super-soldiers bred specifically for wars like these, I found the missing element of flawed, decaying humanity to result in simply a less compelling manuscript, and now no longer offset by McCarthy's pleasingly shocking vision of near-future warfare (including micro-bullets that need no gunpowder, spacesuit armor with its own atmosphere, all troop movement conducted via thousands of miles of underground tunnels, and more), thought-provoking surprises in part one but old-hat by now. Granted, this is perhaps an unfair assessment, because Germline was just so freaking badass that its sequel was maybe fated to be disappointing no matter what -- and I'll absolutely be reading volume three of the trilogy as well when it comes out, Chimera in 2013 -- but unfortunately Exogene is a step down into mere "good" level from a debut that was almost perfect, and so will simply suffer in direct comparison. It should be kept in mind when reading it yourself.

Out of 10: 8.2

The Gods of Gotham, by Lyndsay Faye

The Gods of Gotham
By Lyndsay Faye
Amy Einhorn Books / Penguin

A couple of years ago, Lyndsay Faye's clever Sherlock Holmes/Jack The Ripper thriller Dust and Shadow made CCLaP's best-of-the-year lists, and with me specifically saying at the time that I was looking forward to a wholly original creation from this engaging, smart author; and now that original creation is here, and I have to confess that it's a stunner. Entitled The Gods of Gotham, it's the first in what I assume will eventually be a whole series of adventures about one Timothy Wilde, who in the 1840s becomes one of the first-ever "police officers" of New York City, making this essentially a clever retconned detective story form a time when the very profession was being invented for the first time. And indeed, much like her previous book, Faye has the ability to take the real details of this period and still make it feel like a fantastical steampunk novel; and that's because, much like Martin Scorsese did with Gangs of New York (set in the same area of Manhattan and during the same general period as Faye's own story), The Gods of Gotham wallows in the most otherworldly elements of actual 19th-century New York that even existed, presenting us with a magical world of newsie underground theatre companies, hidden caches of forgotten catacombs, crumbling Gothic jail facilities, wharf-side bordellos, morphine fever dreams and a lot, lot more. A book that's received more mainstream attention than just about any other genre novel I've reviewed in the last few years, it seems almost inevitable that this will eventually be made into a big-budget Hollywood film, and undoubtedly with a whole series of further adventures still to come, so do yourself a favor and get in on the ground floor of this remarkable Victorian universe as soon as possible.

Out of 10: 9.3

Filed by Jason Pettus at 12:44 PM, May 29, 2012. Filed under: Literature | Literature:Fiction | Reviews |