Monday, November 17, 2014

Fantastic Fantasy

Heraclix & PompHeraclix & Pomp by Forrest Aguirre
Reviewed by Jason Koivu
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Heraclix is a golem...golem...


No, not Gollum. A golem is more like one of these...


Pomp is a fairy...




Yes, that's what I meant.

Together Heraclix and Pomp make quite the couple, an odd couple to be sure, but definitely a dynamic duo that brings the heart and soul to this fantastical novel!

Heraclix & Pomp is the sort of fantasy I've always expected, but never received from the likes of Neil Gaiman. If Gaiman had written this, our main character would've had a modern, slacker's sensibility. Instead, Forrest Aguirre has molded a hero out of the finest clay.

Heraclix the golem is created by a particularly nasty sorcerer to be used for his most heinous desires. Heraclix soon discovers what he is and then spends the rest of the book trying to find out who he is. In the process he shows his true, heroic colors.

Pomp comes from the Northern European fanciful notion of the pixie, the sprite, the forest nymph. But Aguirre doesn't just use this trope, he damn near reinvents it! He breathes new life into the fairy by inhabiting its skin. Want to know what it might be like to smurf about in a fairy's mind? Aguirre bestows that gift upon his readers. Once established he forces the outside world on Pomp and she responds like a champ.

Now and again I was surprised by the places Aguirre was taking me. In his capable hands the reader is transported to lands both corporeal and ethereal. Scene descriptions absolutely sparkle. Fantasy fans will drool over the lavish descriptions of demons and magic. This is not to say H&P is cover-to-cover perfection. There is the occasional stiff phrasing or overly chatty character acting like an exposition machine, but those instances hardly tarnish the overall affect.

And, yes, this book is affecting! I seldom become attached to characters within a single book. It usually takes a series. However, there were times towards the end that I was seriously pulling for these guys.

Sure, this is a fairytale, but it's not for kids. This is for kids-at-heart, full grown-ass adults that long for a real world filled with magic and all the horrors and happiness it can bring.

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Another Great Read from Sam Reaves

Reviewed by James L. Thane
Four out of five stars

This is my favorite of Same Reaves' excellent series featuring the cab driving philosopher, Cooper MacLeish. In the first three books, driving a hack has found MacLeish getting into an awful lot of dangerous trouble and so he's now left the cab behind and taken what would appear to be a fairly safe and sensible job as the driver for a major Chicago real estate developer named Regis Swanson. This is a huge relief to Cooper's long-time girlfriend, Diana, who has suffered through his earlier troubles and stood by him when many other women might have bailed on the relationship.

Cooper and Diana are now newly married, but trouble seems to have a knack for finding MacLeish, no matter where he might be. A low-life scumbag sees a chance to rip off a group of drug dealers for a million dollars in cash. Naturally, the scumbag would prefer that the drug dealers not be hot on his trail, and so to throw them off the track, he frames Nate Swanson, the son of Regis, who owns a music club. The bad guys take the bait, track down Nate and kill him when he doesn't produce the money that he never had in the first place.

Regis Swanson is naturally devastated by the death of his son, and the bad guys now assume that Regis has their million dollars. This means that Regis and everyone around him, including Cooper MacLeish, are now in the line of fire. Much to Diana's consternation, her new husband refuses to just quit and walk away from the situation. He's determined to sort things out and provide some sort of justice, now matter how rough it might be. Naturally a lot of violence will ensue, and MacLeish may wind up risking everything, including his marriage and his life, before he can get things sorted out.

Again, Sam Reaves has created here a unique and very compelling protagonist, and he's built around him a very interesting and gripping story with lots of unexpected twists and turns. As always in these books, the city of Chicago plays a major role in the story and Reaves clearly loves the city and knows it very well. Crime fiction fans who have somehow failed to discover Sam Reaves should do themselves a great favor and hunt down all four of the books in this series. It's a winner from start to finish.

Cussler Throws In The Kitchen Sink And Still Bores The Pants Off This Reviewer

The Chase (Isaac Bell, #1)The Chase by Clive Cussler
Reviewed by Jason Koivu
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

At times I wondered if The Chase were written for a child. Info dumps trash up dialogue so stilted it often felt like I was reading narrative. And oh my head, the unnecessary repetition..."I don't believe it," Bronson blurted in utter disbelief....Good lord almighty!

The real crime, however, is that it wasn't as exciting as I expected for all the praise Cussler has received. It's part mystery, suspense, thriller, action, romance, historical fiction and detective story - an overflowing melting pot of genres - and none of them struck much of a chord in me. I'm not saying I was bored out of my mind, I did manage to finish the book after all, but by the end I must say I felt let down.

Cussler does have his fans though, and if you like technology, you'll find he adds in plenty of unnecessary, early 20th century details about the very specific cars, trains, motorcycles, guns that he drops into his novel. Maybe it works better in some of the other series he's done. Here he also wedges in as much west coast, period-appropriate history as he can, some of which works and some of which does not:

- The San Francisco earthquake and resulting fire of 1906 = Sure.

- Actor John Barrymore pops up as a young thespian = Ok, but a bit forced.

- Jack London reports on the scene = Out of left field on the necessity scale.

- An explanation of the Donner Party = Inserted as smoothly as a rectal exam.

Cussler's characters are somewhat wooden, though not terrible. However, in his world, stalwart women do not cry, while stalwart men do not show their anger. There is no cross-breeding of emotion. His main character, a detective working for a Pinkerton-esque company, is a cocky rich guy. I don't mind cockiness, at least not as much as the rich part. I mean, the man can buy whatever he wants or needs, and that makes things pretty darn easy for him. And that just might be the main issue I had with The Chase...The thrill is gone.

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