March 19th, 2013

kitty, reading

Books #7 & #8

I'm still behind the pace for 50 books this year. I should have finished off at least 10-11 by now. But I guess we'll see!

Book #7 was "The Moon in Our Hands" by Thomas Dyja. It's a novel that's based on the true story of Walter White's early work investigating race riots and lynchings for the NAACP. White is a light-skinned black man who can "pass" and is sent to use that ability to investigate a lynching in Tennessee -- one in about 200 that happened each year in this part of American History.

I'd run across White's story while reading some history of the NAACP in the past and knew I really wanted to read this book when I read a description of it.

Dyja does a magnificent job of ratcheting up the tension as you follow White's investigation, trying to walk the line between "passing" as white with the white folks in town and signalling to local blacks that he was a person of color. He also does a good job of making White a flawed hero. You're always pulling for him, but you can overhear his thoughts and know that he's not a saint - he's proud, even a bit of a megalomaniac at age 24, and not above a little class prejudice himself. The edition I read had a couple typos/editing errors, but I was able to overlook them based on the book's general excellence.

Book #8 was "The Algebraist" by Iain M. Banks. This is my first exposure to Banks, but I am intrigued enough to want to read more of his stuff, both "mainstream" and sci-fi. This story is a galaxy-spanning adventure/mystery. Researcher "Delver" Fassin Tak is assigned to a mission to find a secret message that will allow his government to find a network of hidden wormholes. His government hopes to use that secret network to defeat a murderous army headed toward them, bent on destroying and subjugating their whole culture. Fassin must try to tease information out of the ancient "Dwellers" who live in the galaxy's gas giant planets, hoping to find the secret network and give his government's allies the edge over their enemy. Things don't quite go as planned, and Fassin's whole worldview is turned upside down on his journey.

I had some nitpicks with the book. In particular, I found Banks' dialogue and even the internal dialogue of his characters to be a little wrong somehow - too many of them talked suspiciously like middle aged sci-fi nerds, in my opinion. But I loved the ideas and the world-building. Sometimes this is done at the expense of character development, and I won't say there's a LOT in the book, but there is some. Overall, a rollicking, fun read.

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Book 52: The Killing II by David Hewson

Book 52: The Killing II.
Author: David Hewson, 2013.
Genre: Nordic Noir. Police Procedural. Political Thriller. War. TV Tie-in.
Other Details: Hardback. 540 pages.

It is two years since the notorious Nanna Birk Larsen case. Two years since Detective Sarah Lund left Copenhagen in disgrace for a remote outpost in northern Denmark. When the body of a female lawyer is found in macabre circumstances in a military graveyard, there are elements of the crime scene that take Head of Homicide, Lennart Brix, back to an occupied wartime Denmark – a time its countrymen would wish to forget. Brix knows that Lund is the one person he can rely on to discover the truth. Reluctantly she returns to Copenhagen and becomes intrigued with the facts surrounding the case. As more bodies are found, Lund comes to see a pattern and she realises that the identity of the killer will be known once the truth behind a more recent wartime mission is finally revealed - synopsis from UK Publisher's website.

I am a big fan of David Hewson's novels as well as of the Danish TV crime drama, Forbrydelsen (The Killing), which recently aired its third and final series here in the UK. Again, as with The Killing (2012), I felt that Hewson did a great job in taking the story and characters and adapting them for a novel format.

Unlike The Killing, which I have watched at least four times, I have only viewed the second series once and so on starting this novel I didn't recall very much of the plot in advance. However, once the story got under way my memory started to return. Hewson again did make a change in the final chapter, which this time struck a discordant note with me. I do appreciate Hewson's desire to make the story 'his own' but this felt like change for change's sake and in my opinion diluted the powerful ending of the TV series. I did still enjoy the novel yet think I would have appreciated it more without this tampering.

The Killing II - turning a TV classic into a book - article in which Hewson talks about the process of adapting a hit TV show into a novel.