Book review: The Seventh Plague by James Rollins

The Seventh Plague (Sigma Force, #12)The Seventh Plague by James Rollins

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

After the first nine plagues, is the tenth plague free?

A missing archeologist reappears out of the desert in a semi-mummified state. With him he brings a biblical disease that threatens to yadda yadda the world. A brilliant businessman has designs on using the disease for his own ends. Only Sigma can uncover the ancient McGuffin to you get the idea before ticking clock.

I’m going to preface this review by saying that I’m a long time fan of James Rollins’ blend of pseudo-science, mythicism, and tehcno-thriller. His Artefact McGuffin Adventures are usually very entertaining reads.

Here’s the but. I don’t know if I just had a lower tolerance for the narrative this time, or if Rollins has introduced a bash the reader over the head style to his writing now. Regardless, it is annoying and hackneyed, and something I’d expect from Dan Brown, not James Rollins. It makes you notice the other problems, like the factual errors in the story. The suspension of disbelief is always high with these sorts of novels, so to have Dan Brown-ified the writing lowers my enjoyment and rating.

An example of what I’m talking about was an exchange early on between the Sigma members about disease categories. We’ve just been told that this is a super deadly disease with X% death rate, and we’re then told the disease death categories, which again states this is super deadly. Okay, so us dumb readers need to be informed that this disease is really bad. But to imply that the Sigma team of science experts who deal with this sort of problem semi-regularly would have to be bashed over the head with the explanation the way they were is silly. I immediately had in mind four or five ways to write that section that weren’t out of character, repetitive, and mind-numbing to the reader.

That all said, this was still a reasonably well paced thriller, with decent tension, especially into the final act. If you like Artefact McGuffin Adventures, then this is an okay instalment.

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Can you recommend more authors like Dan Brown?

money-and-hand-of-god

I adore reading. I read very often, my bare minimum being 4 books a week. But ever since I read ‘The Da Vinci Code’ by Dan Brown, I do not feel satisfied with any book I read. I am hungry for more yet no book seems to satisfy me. What books could satisfy me?

Can I recommend more authors like Dan Brown? Hopefully not. In the Pantheon of thrillers authors, Dan Brown sits proudly atop a pile of money that is only rivalled by James Paterson. They are both great at getting people to read their books, for a reason that is unclear to me.

I have a love hate relationship with Dan Brown. Dan writes very entertaining novels that are well paced with interesting plots. But he also manages to bash readers over the head with plot points and squeeze in a lot of useless exposition. At times you honestly think he is just bashing at the keyboard like a drunk monkey taking dictation. Personally I think that Steve Berry and James Rollins, who write a similar genre of thriller, are far better authors. If you haven’t read them already, I’d recommend anything they have written to sate your Brown problem.

There are other authors who dabble in that same genre of thriller who are worth mentioning. I’m a huge fan of Matthew Reilly, who writes insanely fast paced novels that are great fun. His Jack West Jr series have similar “find the artefact to save the world” McGuffin adventures and has a new instalment in the series coming out in September (2016). Andy McDermott also writes fast paced Artefact McGuffin Adventures* which are also humorous in parts.

A tool that might help is the Literature Map. While it doesn’t have every author, it does link them together and give you some good ideas. Or they might lead you astray.

This post originally appeared on Quora.

*I think that should be the official classification for this sub-genre of thriller.

See also:
http://bookwag.com/2013/05/like-dan-brown-then-you-will-love-these-seven-authors/

Book Review: Inferno by Dan Brown

Inferno (Robert Langdon, #4)Inferno by Dan Brown
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

There’s nothing quite like an author desperately trying to establish their literary cred by referencing classic works of fiction. Guess what is mentioned in Inferno.

Professor Robert Langdon is back for another inexplicable adventure to save the world. This time a madman with a love for Dante’s Divine Comedy and the Black Death is threatening to release a new disease that could wipe out humanity. Only Langdon and his latest arm candy can save the day.

If it isn’t obvious, I have a like-hate relationship with Dan Brown novels. Dan writes very entertaining novels that are well paced with interesting plots. But he also manages to bash readers over the head with plot points – or character traits, or other random things he deems important – and squeeze in a lot of useless exposition. The useless exposition often feels like an attempt to impress readers with the amount of research that has gone into the novel. But when he starts mentioning things like Dim Mak – the mythical pressure point and no touch martial arts technique – with credulity, I cringe.

There are other points I find amusing about Inferno in particular. The continuous referral to six-foot tall Langdon as “tall” says a lot about the author (or editor’s) height. The desperate need to reference great literary works in a mass-market thriller novel. The idolatry of Langdon by various characters – “she was admiring him more and more”, “his deep voice” – is heavy handed at best. But for these points I wonder if this is a result of Dan’s success and wide appeal. Could it be that because Dan sells billions of copies of his books that he and his editors have to make sure the book has wider appeal and comprehension? Or is it the reverse; is his appeal that every plot point is hammered home, and that the reader is repeatedly bludgeoned with how awesome the protagonist is?

For all the book’s faults, Inferno was an entertaining read. Upon picking this novel up I was refreshingly entertained. Worth a read for fans of Brown, Steve Berry, James Rollins, etc.

[Spoiler]

I wanted to rip the final scene out and rewrite it. Langdon is returning the stolen Dante death mask to the museum but the curator can’t meet him. So Langdon sneaks in and replaces it, reopening the exhibit himself.

Boring!

How about Langdon being caught in the act of replacing the death mask. Security recognise him as the guy who stole the mask a few days earlier but haven’t gotten the memo about Langdon being off the hook. So they are arresting him at gunpoint, to wit Langdon responds, “Please, I can explain.” The handcuffs go on and the book finishes there.

[/Spoiler]

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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: Secondworld by Jeremy Robinson

SecondWorldSecondWorld by Jeremy Robinson
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

There’s nothing quite like a fast paced thriller to keep the blood pumping. Well, except perhaps a double shot of espresso washing down a hit of speed after an eightball. I think reading might be easier on the heart, though.

Jeremy Robinson’s SecondWorld has probably one of the more suspenseful openings I’ve read in a while. His hero, Lincoln Miller, is stuck underwater with no air left, only to surface and find no air to breath thanks to some mysterious red flakes soaking up the oxygen. If the lack of air wasn’t bad enough, he’s being hunted by a shark. Like I said, suspenseful.

Of course, no air, poisonous red flakes falling from the sky, sharks, that’s just the beginning of a thriller that sees skin-heads and a Nazi plot started back at the end of the Second World War, trying to purify the world. Welcome to SecondWorld.

Jeremy handles the plotting and pacing well, reminding me a lot of James Rollins. This book is a lot of fun and is very entertaining. My problem with the novel comes from some of the details that jarred me straight out of the story. To most readers this wouldn’t be a problem, but for me it was. An example was a .38 Super revolver being referred to as a hand-cannon, something that is a stretch for a yoga master. These errors and the inclusion of an overly obvious ending – not to spoil it, but add cryogenics and Nazis together and what cliche do you get? – and I had to downgrade my score on what was an otherwise entertaining read.

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Tyson Adams’ 2013 Book Awards: The Awesomes

This is the third year of The Awesomes™, the award I give to books that had me staying up late to finish them, the books that had me rapt until the end, and sometimes past the end. I’ve read a few books this year (+70) so here are my favourites of 2013 and this year’s Awesome™.

As you will have noticed, my reviews of books are more about my impressions of the book and talking about how much I liked the book, rather than a recap of the plot, etc. My reasoning behind this is simple, I want to say “read this book” to people rather than fall into my bad habit of spoiling the ending, or being a bitch about books I didn’t enjoy. My list is based upon what I have read this year, so obviously some great books have missed out due to lack of reading hours in the year (blame the rugrat). Also my read list does include some books that were published prior to 2013. There were also some categories that were sadly under-represented, whilst others had some very intense competition. Also, the fact that I finished a book shows that it was worth reading. I have my reading rules that stop me wasting valuable reading time on books I’m not enjoying. This means that any books on my read list are entertaining (well, unless I was particularly disgusted with the crappiness of the book in question).

Awesome™ of 2013
Luther: The Calling – Neil Cross
Killer Instinct – Zoe Sharp
Gone Girl – Gillian Flynn
Never Go Back – Lee Child
Without Fail – Lee Child
Altar of Eden – James Rollins
The Secret of Excalibur – Andy McDermott

Zero at the Bone – David Whish-Wilson

Awesome Literary Fiction
There were no nominees in this category this year. Better luck next year.

Awesome Mystery & Thriller
Killer Instinct – Zoe Sharp
Without Fail – Lee Child
Altar of Eden – James Rollins
The Secret of Excalibur – Andy McDermott

Never Go Back – Lee Child

Awesome Crime
Luther: The Calling – Neil Cross
Gone Girl – Gillian Flynn

Zero at the Bone – David Whish-Wilson

Awesome Fantasy
There were no nominees in this category this year. Better luck next year.

Awesome Paranormal Fantasy
There were no nominees in this category this year. Better luck next year.

Awesome Science Fiction
There were no nominees in this category this year. Better luck next year.

Awesome Horror

The Strain trilogy – Guillmero Del Toro and Chuck Hogan

NB: cheating here as it was only 4 stars, but deserves the nod as the TV series is now in development and looks like they might have a winner.

Awesome Romance
There were no nominees in this category this year. Better luck next year.

Awesome Humor
There were no nominees in this category this year. Better luck next year.

Awesome Nonfiction

Bad Science – Ben Goldacre

Awesome Graphic Novels & Comics
Midnighter – Garth Ennis
Batman: The Black Mirror – Scott Snyder

Luthur Strode – Justin Jordan

Awesome Indie
No 5 star indies this year, although several 4 star and a few non-mentionables.

Awesome Poetry
There were no nominees in this category this year. Better luck next year.

Awesome Shorts/E-zines
I’m putting this category in just so that I can pimp:

Thrills, Kills and Chaos

Still Awesomes
I re-read – well in some cases I listened to the audiobook – several books this year. They deserve a mention for still being awesome. Sometimes books are better on their second outing, sometimes they are worse, sometimes you wonder why you didn’t throw the book out the first time (I’m looking at you Holden Caulfield).

Dirk Gentley’s Holistic Detective Agency – Douglas Adams (better than I remember)
Long Dark Tea-time of the Soul – Douglas Adams (similar to how I remember)
Life, the Universe, and Everything – Douglas Adams (similar)
Fight Club – Chuck Palahniuk (slightly better)
Game Keeper – Guy Ritchie and Andy Diggle (better)

Congratulations to all the nominees and winners. I hope that I have a chance to read more fantastic books from these authors again in 2014 and that everyone else does too.

Book Review: Arctic Floor by Mark Aitken

Arctic FloorArctic Floor by Mark Aitken
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

There is nothing quite like a marketing executive, especially when they work in publishing. These are the people who come up with the fantastic ideas like: dog on the cover because dogs sell books, no dogs in the book; bright and cheery cover art, book about a serial killer; quotes recommending the book by famous authors, authors that have the same publisher. In this case the marketing department came up with a brilliant idea: Matthew Reilly is an Australian author who sells a lot of books, let’s mention him on the cover, despite the fact that the two authors write in a completely different style.

I grabbed Mark’s book from my local library because I saw he had a new book out, the third in a series, and I hadn’t heard of him previously. A fellow Aussie author, with a comparison to Matthew Reilly on the cover: this should be gold. Needless to say, the marketing people drew me in with false advertising. Mark’s book is a thriller and was a decent read, but he was more Cussler or Archer than Reilly. In fact, I was more reminded of Sahara (swap baking temperatures for freezing cold) than I was of Ice Station.

False advertising aside, this is quite a decent thriller. Worth a read, if you are after a James Rollins or Clive Cussler style novel. I’d expect later books in this series will probably “grab” the reader more, so maybe check out Mark’s new one.

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