Sunday, June 26, 2016

Summer Reads…Make Me Feel Fine

Ah yes…summer has officially hit the calendar and the summer reading season is in full swing.

Pressure – Brian Keene – (Thomas Dunne Books)

Author Brian Keene has penned a shelf full of books along with scripts, graphic novels and a whole pile of other media vehicles including some zombie classics. He is a guy that came to this project with a built in fan base of folks who dig scary stuff; so naturally those folks were waiting for this book to drop so they could gobble it up.

Keene, being open and honest readily admitted that he was approached by the publisher who offered up not only the title and the plot line, but a big fat check. Knowing a couple of things; one- that if he didn’t take the check, somebody else would and two- he needed the money, Keene accepted. And then proceeded to knock out the book in the brief span of one month! While as a writer who’s never at a loss for words, I have always chuckled at those writers who talk about writing as if it were giving birth and the pain they endure to create; it still makes me wonder how Keene could crank out this book in four short weeks.
The results, Pressure, end up being a bit of a muddled outcome. For a  supposedly scary read set in the sea, there is an awful lot of action that takes place on land. And for a character described in the hype leading up the book as a mix between Jaws and Alien, the creature in this feature ends up more of a mystery.

Don’t get me wrong, while I find book’s plot to bit a bit like Swiss cheese, full of holes, but also a bit tasty. Isn’t that what a summer read is supposed to be? This one is just a slice of fun and there are times when Keene seems to be in on the gag offering up the occasional chuckle on the way to the bank.

Hell’s Gate: A Thriller – Bill Schutt and J R Finch (William Morrow)

It seems to be a summer of comparisons when it comes to summer reads. Bill Schutt and J R Finch’s lead character in Hell’s Gate, Captain R J MacCready is drawing comparisons to fabled film character Indiana Jones, for this World War II era thriller.

To be fair, I guess I can see bits of Dr. Jones in MacCready’s blustery zoologist who likes to crack wise. It likely stems as much from the character as it does from the design of this thriller wrapped in a mystery. With the improbable discovery of a marooned Japanese submarine in the unlikely locale of the Brazilian jungle setting off a very real fish out of water story combined with always pulse revving game of beat the clock.

Schutt and Finch deliver not only a winning character I could see hanging around for future adventures, but a deft swipe at historical adventure the likes of which we haven’t seen in a while.

Robert Ludlum’s Bourne Enigma – Eric Van Lustbader (Grand Central Publishing)

Unenviable. That is the only word that I can use to describe the folks who have been given the task of carrying on not only the legacy but the characters of some of fiction writings most skilled practitioners. We have seen the likes of Robert B. Parker, Mickey Spillane and Vince Flynn’s epic characters continue to live on after the author’s passing. While Flynn and Parker are among my personal favorites, I would have to rank the task that falls to Eric Van Lustbader, a bestselling author in his own right, to continue Robert Ludlum’s Jason Bourne character to be likely the most difficult.

Ludlum’s Bourne was among the most unique characters in thriller fiction and has taken on a life of his own with the Matt Damon movie series. Van Lustbader’s continuation of the Bourne series has been met with mixed reviews; hardcore fans are hard to win over and critics are equally difficult. So in approaching this review of Robert Ludlum’s Bourne Enigma, I attempted to objectively removed the history and the original author from my perspective and take Van Lustbader’s book as a one off, stand alone book.

Because you have to account Bourne’s previous interactions with some characters into account, this proved to be a greater challenge than I would have thought. There is an element of ripped from today’s headlines in the interactions of the characters in play and the locations that Bourne finds himself chasing down leads and the storyline which gives it an up to date feel. I found that to be a positive, because I didn’t feel like I was fighting old battles all over again.

Bourne’s seemingly innate ability to decipher the mystery and chase down the next lead is one of the things Van Lustbader has been able to continue to infuse in the character. He also skillfully ratchets’ up the racing clock as Bourne careens between locales in an effort to stave off what could be a cataclysmic war.

Is it Ludlum? No. Is it perfect? No. Is it Bourne? Yes. Is it entertaining? Absolutely!

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