Wednesday, 19 October 2016

Run - Mandasue Heller

Well, I won’t lie. I read Mandasue Heller’s first book years ago and I was underwhelmed. Unkindly I thought she should just stick to singing. However in that fourteen odd years she has developed and grown as a writer which brings us to her latest work, Run.

In common with many crime and thriller novels the book begins with a tantalising prologue suggestive of a dark, sinister ride ahead. Then the main body of the novel begins. It seems to be no more than a fairly average chick lit tale. The dialogue and events are relatively prosaic - ordinary people doing and saying ordinary things, with some exceptions. So much so that I wondered if I had dreamed the prologue, a mis print from another book maybe? 

But gradually an undercurrent that all is not quite as it seems begins to slither insidiously into the narrative creating the unease that some of the characters themselves must have been feeling. Then it is as if the floodgates of thrillerdom are unleashed! The pace picks up and the story unravels as anything but prosaic. Hints and dangling carrot suggestions that had been carefully thrust at the reader appear to be unfounded until the crescendo reaches its peak. Then when you think you can exhale with relief that an equilibrium has been achieved for the time being the epilogue grabs you roughly by the collar and demands you think again. I did not see the final denouement coming. And I love it when that happens!!

The characters are a mixed bunch, functional for the purpose of the fiction in many cases. But perhaps some stereotypes we can identify from the real world and feel some sorrow for their unhappy, damaged lives. Others we can loathe for their devious, self aggrandising, thug behaviour. Through them all there’s a vague suggestion of social comment maybe, it’s there for the reader to digest if they want to. 

At the risk of sounding like Miranda’s Mum (from the TV show) this is what I like to call ‘genre fusion’ .
On the one hand you have a credible thriller and on the other you have a chick lit tale. Personally I am not a great fan of chick lit but I do love the crime/thriller genre so I’m pretty happy. And I imagine that a chick lit lover who isn’t that keen on crime/thrillers might also be happy.

And so I can safely say I’m glad Mandasue Heller didn’t just stick to singing!

Thanks, Nudge, for a copy of this.


Tuesday, 4 October 2016

Invasion - Luke Rhinehart

I read Dice Man years ago, way back in the 70’s or 80s, I can’t remember exactly. But I do remember enjoying it immensely and being fascinated by its premise. But I can’t honestly say I’ve ever given Luke Rhinehart a further thought since then and it isn’t that he’s been inactive, with nine novels to his name, but none of them passed within my radar ……. until now.

I was fascinated when I received a copy of Invasion from Nudge Books. It was with real enthusiasm and anticipation that I began to read it. And for the most part I wasn’t disappointed. For in the passage of time between Dice Man and Invasion Mr. Rhinehart has lost none of his punch.

This is E.T. for the digital age, Gremlins in reverse. An invasion of aliens, cute little balls of fur who can morph into a variety of shapes and are extremely intelligent, invade the lives of Billy Morton and his family. What follows is an often hilarious account of the ‘mischief’ these little fur balls get up to if, indeed, hacking into government and corporate computer systems can be seen as ‘mischief’! And that’s just for starters.

You can enjoy this book on just that level; an imaginative science fiction tale of an alien invasion that is lots of fun. Fluffy little aliens who just want to have a good time and play. However you are missing a lot if you leave it there.

For this is a biting satire on the world we live in, with particular reference to American life, politics and military policies. Rhinehart shows no mercy in an almost savage indictment of how badly wrong humans have got  it. And it almost becomes Rhinehart soapbox under the guise of a sci fi novel.

The structure is not a straightforward chapter divide. Each chapter comprises either extracts from Billy Morton’s book My Friend Louie, The Official History of the Alien Invasion, A Report of the Invasion, News Items and on the whole it works. I sometimes found though that I just wanted to ‘get on with the story’ which I found was the chapters of Billy Morton’s book. 

The main characters are all accessible, likeable and believable, which is maybe something of a contradictor given the sci fi premise of the book. Sometimes I found it hard to distinguish between some of the aliens, I had to refer back to names and roles.

I  found the political allusions elusive as they were about American politics of which I know little. But my biggest problem with the book was that I found it over long. I struggled with the last hundred pages because it seemed for me, what needed to be said had been said, the point had been made and made well. The conclusion was suitably open ended leaving room for a sequel. I’m not sure that’s a good idea and I’m not sure yet if I will hunger to read it. Maybe I’ll just throw a dice to decide?!