Tyson Adams

Putting the 'ill' back in thriller

Archive for the tag “Steve Berry”

Book Review: Sign of the Cross by Chris Kuzneski

Sign Of The Cross (Jonathon Payne & David Jones, #2)Sign Of The Cross by Chris Kuzneski

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Sometimes when I’m reading a book I’m not sure if I’m meant to be excited, enrapt, or cringing. It’s taken me a few days to arrive at a decision and I’ve decided to cringe.

Sign of the Cross is a fast paced action adventure novel in the vein of Steve Berry, James Rollins, or that guy who wrote the book that annoyed the Pope; what was his name? In the second instalment of Payne and Jones’ adventures, the mercenaries are hired to hunt down two archaeologists who have uncovered a secret that could bring down the Catholic Church. Meanwhile a team of killers are reenacting the crucifixion, because, you know, that’s what Jesus would have wanted. With everyone hunting for Payne, Jones and their pet archaeologists, and a few murderers running around, who at the Vatican knows and who wants the secret, and do they want it for power or payback?

This is the first Chris Kuzneski book I’ve read, and it will be my last. Now that I’ve had time to reflect upon the story and writing, I’m actually surprised I finished the novel. Kuzneski came up in my recommendations because he writes fast paced adventure novels like two of my favourite authors, the previously mentioned Berry and Rollins. Unlike those two, however, Kuzneski takes all of the same ingredients for a novel, mixes them in an overly large bowl (the book is over 400 pages), and manages to make gruel.

The novel started well, but I noticed myself cringing at the end of the chapters with the ham-fisted foreshadowing. This continued until I would start preemptively cringing as I reached the end of each chapter. Seriously, it felt like the end of every scene or chapter Kuzneski would have a line like “Little did they know that only two of them would return.” But wait, there is more. There is an underlying casual sexism and racism to the novel that is unintentional, but jarring. An early scene has one of the characters, Nick Dial, surprised to see a woman Interpol agent. Not that Nick was sexist, women could be just as good as men……. No, Nick explained that he wasn’t sexist, but some of his bosses weren’t as open minded. Yeah. I’m not sexist, but….

These two points are just the major problems I had with the writing of this novel. And it is mainly the writing that lets this book down. In the example I just mentioned, there are many ways authors could discuss Nick’s surprise at seeing a woman on the job. But the way the scene was written it sounded like the author was desperately trying to sound progressive and PC. This poor writing happened throughout the book, which actually has a reasonable plot, a bit of humour, and great pacing. Some readers may not notice these issues, although I note many reviews complain about the foreshadowing, and it was entertaining enough for me to finish reading, so others may find this enjoyable. But I would recommend reading anything by Steve Berry or James Rollins instead.

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Book Review: Map of Bones by James Rollins

Map Of BonesMap Of Bones by James Rollins

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Picking up a James Rollins thriller is a guaranteed good read. He has the knack of providing a solid thriller that moves along at a fast pace.

Now, we aren’t talking Matthew Reilly pace, and not Andy McDermott either. Rollins is in that pacey category with (his good friend) Steve Berry and Clive Cussler. So this is “does my side have air-bags” as opposed to “my parachute isn’t opening”.

Map of Bones is part of Rollins’ Sigma Force series. I like that the heroes are highly intelligent military operatives; it is a nerd’s wet dream. This is the second book in the series and the first to feature Seichan, the nemesis of protagonist Gray Pierce. You know you have a good series when the bad guy is this interesting.

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Steve Berry on writing

It’s my birthday today – no “you’re old” jokes, unless you want to be bombarded with “yo momma” jokes. I’ve had a great start to the day, having received a box of chocolates and a bottle of Johnnie Walker Blue label Scotch from my wife. I even managed to get a little writing done over breakfast.

A few weeks ago I posted a video from James Rollins on writing. This follows on from a post many months back that featured a video by James with Steve Berry talking about writing. So it only feels fair to present a video by Steve Berry talking about writing. Enjoy! 

Rollins and Berry talking books and writing

I love my James Rollins and Steve Berry books. They also do a great tag team at book shows. This video is more insightful for authors than some of the others I’ve seen from them.

http://www.seattlechannel.org/videos/video.asp?file=1&ID=3371110
If you aren’t a James Rollins or Steve Berry fan, or you were wanting something other than a talk about writing, then I have this news article about the decline in print journalism.
http://media.theonion.com/flash/video/embedded_player.swf
How Will The End Of Print Journalism Affect Old Loons Who Hoard Newspapers?

Book Review: Holiday reading

I’m back from my holiday, refreshed, revived and vertical. To kick off my post-holiday blogging I thought I’d review the books that entertained me over the break.

On Writing – Steven King
I finished this book off on a rainy afternoon. I immediately sat down and wrote a lovely little short story that will tie in with my first novel – Overturned Stones. I can’t recommend this memoir highly enough to writers. Although I must warn everyone that you may incur a sore neck from nodding in agreement.

The Emperor’s Tomb – Steve Berry
I bought this book the week it came out in Australia in paperback, only now have I managed to read it. This is another solid thriller from Berry, with Cassiopeia and Cotton trying to stop a power brawl in China. He also touches on the much debunked abiotic oil theory (1, 2).

When the Women Come Out to Dance – Elmore Leonard
This is a collection of Leonard’s short stories; including Fire in the Hole, upon which the TV show Justified is based. There is the characteristic Leonard dialogue and characterisation present in some great little stories. Aside from the last story in the collection, I quite enjoyed this book.

The Dead Man: Blood Mesa – James Reasoner, Lee Goldberg, William Rabkin
In fairness, I actually read this before I went on holiday, but didn’t get around to posting my review. My review: bloody good. Matt and his axe are back and a bunch of archaeologists get the sharp end after the touch of Mr Dark. James has done a great job, as Lee and Will continue to find very talented writers to help with this series.

Implant – Jeffrey Anderson, Michael Wallace
I’ve been plugging away at this book for a while now. I’ve finally given up on it as it hasn’t grabbed me. Nothing wrong with the book – it is well written, the concept is solid, the characters interact well – it just doesn’t appear to be to my taste. I’ll probably come back to this one at a latter date.

E-books: Return of the Reader

Just like the previous two installments of this e-book saga there will be allusions to some non-existent struggle, my thoughts on the changing publishing industry, no Leia in a bikini, and definitely no Wookie. When we left our hero writers, they were diligently trying to decide whether they wanted to sign with a traditional publisher or self-publish like an indie rebel. Publishers had the track record, the self-publishing indies had the jump on the fastest growing segment in the industry: e-books.

Now hold on just a second. Traditional publishing is behind? As has already been stated in this blog, his mouth to my post, Michael Connelly is selling 45% e-books. His publishers are clearly on board of this new market place. James Rollins and Steve Berry have both released exclusive e-book short stories on Amazon and B&N as lead-ins to their next books (pity non-US people can’t buy them, not being close enough to the centre of the universe and all). I even noticed that Aussie authors like Tara Moss and Matthew Reilly are available on Kindle for under $10. Behind isn’t quite right.

On the other side of the great divide, all the cool kids authors are self-publishing. People like Konrath, Eisler, Mayer, some guy named John Locke, are doing well out of self-publishing and doing all the work themselves (or hire for service). Clearly all authors should be grabbing their manuscripts and uploading them now.

I’ll pause so you can upload your book now. Don’t forget to spell check first!

Well it seems that 10’s of thousands are doing just that. Given that 90% of everything published is probably crud, you have to question how wise it is to rush to publish. We also have to remember that e-books are still a minority share of the market place (this will change of course). Shouldn’t quality come first? Spend the time on crafting a fine book, see what industry professionals have to say about it, then publish? Preferably not the professionals that published Snooki. Basically writers will have to find the best publishing deal for them, even if it is swapping their novel for a packet of magic beans.

And here is a startling fact: readers don’t care if writers are traditionally published, indie published, self published, or published by a small Scottish Terrier named Rolf. Readers want to read something entertaining and well written. So writers shouldn’t care how they are published. To quote Nick Spalding:

“Writers on the traditional publishing side of this particular conflict want to be successful and earn a decent living as a writer, appealing to an audience with their work. On the other hand, writers on the self publishing side of this particular conflict want to be successful and earn a decent living as a writer, appealing to an audience with their work.”

What I love about e-books is that they are made for readers. Well Duh! Stick with me on this one. Lets say that it is August 2010 and I’ve just finished 61 Hours by Lee Child. Now Lee may or may not have finished with a cliffhanger in that particular book. Despite the fact that the next Reacher novel is finished and ready in boxes to go on shelves, I have to wait until the end of September to read Worth Dying For. With e-books there is no need to delay because of printing, shipping, and shop displays still being filled with James Paterson’s books. In fact, with e-books I can have the entire Reacher series downloaded the minute after I’ve finished 61 Hours to keep my spirits up while I wait.

Essentially the gap between writer and reader has been shortened. The reader is King.

So what about publishers? Well they sell books. Authors write those books for them. I don’t think that in the long run they will particularly care whether they are selling an e-book or a DTB. In fact e-books could really cut out a lot of their middle men costs.

A lot has changed in the past year or two, some of the big companies are behind to some extent, but are more likely to catchup. I still can’t believe that e-readers weren’t dreamt up by publishers and bookstores. But then again I can’t believe that Australia – lots of sun – has sent solar technology to Germany – no sun – and politicians are wanting to move from coal to gas.

As long as publishers are paying advances, advertising/promoting authors and fronting costs they will be who most authors will turn to in order to publish. And when the publisher rejects it, and the crying has finished, the author will release it, plot holes and all, on their own.

Bookshops look like the real loser here, despite their claims to the contrary. Apparently people love the smell of books. Solved. Apparently people like to browse in bookstores. Yes, nothing like spending hours in a store with your head at a funny angle to find the store doesn’t stock what you are looking for. Apparently people love the feel of books. Admittedly books are much better to throw at an intruder, although War & Peace is regarded as a lethal weapon.

Can I just point out that an e-book is a book. That you can read. Thanks for letting me clear that up.

Tenuous reasons for bookshops continued existence aside, I don’t see why there won’t be purveyors of fine literature, and the stuff I like reading, into the future. Online stores are often seen as more reputable when they have a physical storefront. Even if that storefront is never visited by anyone because it is located down a side street, off a back alley, near a crack den. Plus POD could make book buying like a trip to the deli counter for lunch.

“I’ll have the new best-seller and a long white to go thanks.”
“Did you want that signed or unsigned?”
“Hold the signing, but I will take the first chapter of the sequel at the back.”

As a reader and as a some-day published author, I think that the future is so much brighter for readers and writers. Readers will have access to more good books than ever. Writers will have greater access to an audience than ever. The future of books is very bright and may even step out of the shadow of DVD’s, when DVD’s become obsolete.

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