Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Broken Chain by Lisa von Biela

Broken ChainBroken Chain by Lisa von Biela
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Broken Chain by Lisa Von Biela is a worrying look at genetically modified food introduced into the food chain in the shape of soya products for animal feed and human consumption.

Something is wrong, outbreaks of violence are becoming commonplace, livestock are dying prematurely, food is rotting before its sell-by date, send in the CDC to investigate. Kyle Sommers is a CDC doctor working flat out to solve the crisis, he travels to Minnesota with his wife and young daughter.

The truth is devastating for the USA, a ticking time bomb that doesn't simply end with the first explosion. The story touches on various people as the major food sources are affected, the Homeland security services and the farmers. The GMO Company responsible who see this as an ideal opportunity to make more money and Daphne, who opens a vegetarian cafe amidst the steak loving people hot in the Minnesota summer Sun.

Broken Chain is a well written medical thriller bordering on post-apocalyptic horror and will appeal too many but I wasn't dragged into the premise wholeheartedly. I felt there was some liberties taken with the whole food and violence link, not difficult to understand but it's easy to overload on medical terminology. The characters didn't really grab me, so I wasn’t really invested in the story and to be honest Broken Chain wasn't my usual kind of read. The lettuce munchers don't fare to well, which is not such a bad thing (joking) and on the other side of the fence, the meat eaters don’t come out much better. The race is on for fruit, veg and fish, grab your depth charges we’re going on a raid, yeehaw!

So Broken Chain is a stark look at a future where man's infatuation, even need for easily and cheaply produced genetically modified food products takes a devastating toll on life.

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Night Music: Nocturnes Volume 2 by John Connolly

Night Music: Nocturnes Volume 2Night Music: Nocturnes Volume 2 by John Connolly
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Night Music is the second in John Connolly’s Nocturnes series of dark and chilling short fiction. Contained within are 12 stories, two multiple award winning novellas and a final section, I Live Here where the author talks of his fictional and supernatural influences.

My favourite story, the one that nudged past the others, as Mr Connolly does set the bar pretty high, had to be The Fractured Atlas - Five Fragments. Which is a novella comprising of 5 loosely linked stories concerning a book of power. Of the five the one I enjoyed most was The Wanderer in Unknown Realms where Mr Sorter is hired by a lawyer to investigate the disappearance of his client Lionel Spalding. Spalding had been buying books of the occult, spending large sums of money and the book he sought was The Atlas of Unknown Realms a book of maps, alleged realms beyond our own. The dark atmosphere and slow building tension are perfect, deep and edgy it felt like a much longer piece, which for me is the sign of an excellent short story.

The Caxton Private Lending Library & Book Depository is an award winning story where famous characters of fiction come to live when their authors die, discreetly hidden in a small town in the countryside. So when newly arrived Mr Berger sees a woman throw herself into the path of a train, the resulting lack of body and the fact that she mimicked and even looked as Anna Karenina would have looked has him thinking. This sees Mr Berger embark on an obsession with the incident which brings him to our Private Lending Library. A second story Holmes on the Range is also based around the lending library and unexpected events when Arthur Conan Doyle decides to kill off Sherlock and Dr Watson. The idea and premise of the library is liberating and kind of like a heaven for your favourite characters, wonderfully imaginative.

Other stories worth a mention are Razorshins where a creature of nightmare haunts Maine in the prohibition era and sad little tale A Haunting about love and heart breaking loss.

Night Music is an absolutely top notch collection of dark supernatural tales guaranteed to scupper your feelings of calm, from an author right at the top of my list of favourites. I enjoyed reading John Connolly’s thoughts and reminisces as much as the stories themselves and Nocturnes volume 2 comes highly recommended.

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The Grifters

The GriftersThe Grifters by Jim Thompson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Salesman Roy Dillon has a secret life as a top shelf grifter. When he has the opportunity to go legit, how will the women in his life take it? Will his downfall be at the hands of his girlfriend Moira Langtry, or his mother, Lilly?

Here we are, another noir tale of self-destruction by Mr. Happy, Jim Thompson.

"Don't trust anyone ever" seems to be the moral of The Grifters. Not surprising since most of the main characters are shady croooks and grifters to some degree. Roy runs short cons. Moira Langtry pays her way through life with her body. Lilly Dillon is mixed up with some shady gamblers. Not one of them should be left unsupervised.

Roy's a little more sympathetic than most Jim Thompson leads. He's conflicted about his grifting lifestyle and just seems tired. Not only that, he's got serious mommy issues, nicely illustrated by the resemblance between his girlfriend and his mother.

The Grifters is a slow burn and the ending is pretty spectacular, cold, violent, and more than a little creepy. I've seen similar endings written since but I don't think any of them were as effective.

This is a top shelf Jim Thompson book, belonging on the same tier as The Killer Inside Me and Pop. 1280. Four out of five stars.

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