So the last several weeks have been dominated by general election campaigning and that’s meant no blogging – though I’ve still managed to read plenty. Here’s a quick run down just for the record:
WOOL TRILOGY by Hugh Howey. By far and away the best of its kind I’ve read in a while. A dangerous visionary triggers Armageddon and a mass experiment that sees the creation of several communities living in underground silos, with only a very few individuals entrusted with the knowledge that they are not the only survivors. Regular “cleanings” are used to eradicate anyone who comes too close to discovering the truth or asking awkward questions. But one day someone survives a cleaning – a tough mechanic made sheriff called Jules – setting in motion a chain of events that forces her and others to question everything they think they know. Howey has created a dystopian future that is credible, detailed and deeply disturbing. He’s ruthless in his disposal of key characters and brutally honest in his assessment of both the best and worst of human nature. Jules is easily the main attraction though. No selfless hero, she nevertheless possesses something most of her peers have abandoned – hope. It drives her to take huge personal risks, endure extreme physical hardship and inspire others. It also made this the perfect book for the desolate political climate in which I was reading it.
THREE by Sarah Lotz – four planes crash simultaneously, killing all but 3 children who survive against seemingly impossible odds and one woman, Pamela May Todd, who clings onto life just long enough to record a message on her mobile phone. Told by way of interviews, transcripts of voice recordings by their family members, newspaper articles and webchats, this is the story of how the world races to explain what’s happened. Religious fanatics, conspiracy theorists, paranormal specialists and alien take over experts abound. Gripping and attention grabbing, this was the perfect read at a time when not much succeeded in distracting me.
THE ONE THAT GOT AWAY by Simon Wood. Zoe Sutton and her friend are abducted by a psychopath who hangs his victims from a hook, brands and whips them for perceived misdemeanours. Zoe manages to escape but cannot remember what happened, just that she abandoned her friend. Now working as a security guard in a shopping mall, she’s rebuilt a life of sorts, although it’s marked by guilt, erratic bouts of aggression and a determination to push friends and families away. When her abductor strikes again, Zoe is determined to track him down and find out the truth about the night which haunts her. This book seriously got under my skin with tension that builds from page one towards a brutal finale.
THE HOURGLASS FACTOR by Lucy Ribchester. The Suffragettes provide the backdrop for this unusual crime novel that involves an underground plot to blow up Parliament, corset fetishists, a trapeze artist, snake charmer and an ambitious young woman journalist called Frankie. Ribchester perfectly combines sinister and strange to great effect and I really enjoyed her clever plot, some laugh out loud moments and a good dose of feminist politics thrown in to boot.
BLOOD ON SNOW by Joe Nesbo. This is not a patch on Nesbo’s other books. Centre stage is a contract killer who, though fascinating, falls far short of the glorious Harry Hole. He’s been ordered to take out his boss’s wife but ends up falling for her instead. There’s drug gangs, the stench of fish and hiding out in coffins. But despite a double bluff I didn’t see coming, there’s a real absence of the wonderful twists, turns and blind alleys Nesbo usually does so well. It helped pass the time but only just…
THE ANGEL’S GAME by Carlos Ruiz Zafon. This Faustian novel is epic fable full of gothic horror. Zafon populates his twisted and surreal Barcelona landscape with menacing characters that are warped by their dark secrets. At its heart is frustrated novelist David Martin, whose craving for recognition sees him abandon any sense of morality and of reality. He weaves a tale worthy of Keyser Soze in The Usual Suspects, yet, unlike that narrator, Martin himself seems unsure what’s truth and what’s fiction. Clever, atmospheric and self aware, THE ANGEL’S GAME is a book of two halves – the latter being where the plot really gets going but also, sadly, where some of what makes the first half so special gets lost. A tribute to the power of storytelling, with Dickens’ Great Expectations as a key reference point, it gets a little lost in all those winding dark Spanish streets and, for me at least, failed to completely live up to its promise.