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Original Essays | July 22, 2014

Nick Harkaway: IMG The Florist-Assassins



The three men lit up in my mind's eye, with footnotes. They were converging on me — and on the object I was carrying — in a way that had... Continue »
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    Tigerman

    Nick Harkaway 9780385352413

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Customer Comments

Alfred Ritter has commented on (10) products.

Expanse #1: Leviathan Wakes by James S A Corey
Expanse #1: Leviathan Wakes

Alfred Ritter, August 4, 2012

Very enjoyable action scifi read. When the pace is moving, it is great and it hides the book's problems. The characters are thin and idealized and the book has the typical fate of the universe hinging on the actions of a tiny few. Still, the book is a lot of fun and had me reading despite my qualms.
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(0 of 1 readers found this comment helpful)



Next by James Hynes
Next

Alfred Ritter, January 1, 2012

Although it pains the genre defender in me, I think this is the best Hynes novel for people to try. Unlike his prior books, this one is straight litfic. It tells the story of a day in the life of a dissatisfied American man. Unhappy with his lack of career and his love life, he flees Ann Arbor to take a job interview in Austin. He arrives early so he gets lost in town. The story concludes in less than a day, but as the main character reviews his life, it becomes a much broader story. It ends in dramatic fashion with many of his questions resolved, but many will find that resolution unsettling. Its an amazing piece of writing though
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Sister by Rosamund Lupton
Sister

Alfred Ritter, September 12, 2011

This is one of the most appealing crime novels I have read in quite some time. Amazingly for a debut novel, the whodunnit plot is well constructed with great framing, a tense climax and a plethora of unpleasant suspects. If that is all Lupton achieved, it would be a laudable, if eventually forgettable read.

What elevates the book is the strong emotional payoff. Her main character, who has neglected her relationships with her mother and sister, while becoming engaged with the wrong person undergoes a remarkable, real transformation as she tries to uncover what happened to her missing sister. As things become more clear, the story she tells becomes increasingly tragic and resonant.
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Soon I Will Be Invincible by Austin Grossman
Soon I Will Be Invincible

Alfred Ritter, September 8, 2011

This is great book, but be warned. It is written by a comic book nerd for other comic book nerds. If you are one, say Huzzah! and proceed. If not, look elsewhere. The book tells the story of a group of heroes not unlike the Avengers or the JLA as they face off against a recently escaped supervillain.

If it was just that it could be little different from a comic book. Thankfully it is much more. For one, it is a fun send-up of the genre. There are references, jokes and allusions aplenty. Grossman also does a nice job poking fun at comic book standards, like the ritualized banter between hero and villain.

There is also a real exploration of the emotional character of the main villain and a new cyborg member of the hero team. We see the villain as the revenge seeking outcast nerd he is and the vulnerabilities of a 400 pound part human machine that can't really find a place in normal society.

It's worth noting that Austin Grossman's twin brother is Lev Grossman author of the similarly genre tweaking The Magicians. Lev's book is more provocative, meaning it might hit you harder than this book, or it could drive you crazy. Soon I Will Be Invincible is closer to its source material, escapist pleasure, but of a high order.
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The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi
The Windup Girl

Alfred Ritter, September 8, 2011

This scifi novel scratches so many of my itches. First there is the world building, set some centuries hence where oil has run out, the seas have risen, many states have collapsed and the most powerful and wicked forces are the calorie companies. These controllers of food and flavor break governments, use diseases as a tool or corporate power and act like general bastards. The book is set in Thailand, one of the worlds few independent states, but one where the Ministry of Trade, disposed to working with outsiders, and the Ministry of the Environment, given to doing ANYTHING to protect the country, are constantly at odds, even killing one another in order to meet their mission.

I also like that Bacigalupi is sparing in his detail. We know that terrible things have befallen much of the world, but we get only slight details. Backstories pertinent to the plot, like the Malayan massacre of the ethnic Chinese are slowly revealed by characters. The slow telling makes the story in many ways sadder as you digest it over time. I appreciate that Bacigalupi forces us to imagine so much of the detail. I hope he never tells us. It will end up as lame as the Clone Wars or the Butlerian Jihad most likely.

These skills would be great, but unimportant if it wasn't a good story. This one is quite the story. The many main characters experience frequent ups and downs and it is never clear who, if any of them, are going to prevail, or at the very least get what they seek. There is one Macguffiny character that feels underutilized or perhaps is there to tee off a possible sequel. I didn't love that element, but it was a minor complaint.

This is my favorite scifi novel in quite some time.
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