Sunday, January 23, 2011

The Passage by Justin Cronin

Book: The Passage by Justin Cronin
Rating: A
Genre: SF/Fiction
Age Appropriate: Adult

The Passage by Justin Cronin is a character driven book that moonlights as a SF/fantasy novel. All hell breaks loose after a military-industrial experiment to create super-soldiers spills into the suburbs, killing 90%, infecting about 10%, and leaving only a few hardy survivors unharmed. The book patiently describes the sudden apocolypitic collapse of american civilization before settling down on a band of protagonists around the year 2100. The heroes struggle against all odds in an attempt to cure, or at least understand, the vampiric plague devastating their world.

Yes, this is a vampire novel. They're so hot right now. But I would characterize the antagonists more as zombies than vampires, though with somewhat higher mental capacity.

The book is mammoth, a grand epic spanning some 800 pages, with two concurrent sequels (and movies!) on the way. The author skillfully brings together a large cast of complex, three dimensional characters to build a surprising and complex plot. I really hope the sequels are not mere re-anglings of the same idea.

I enjoyed this book immensely. However, there were a few annoying problems. First, I'm not sure that much from our disposable culture can survive 100 years of neglect wind and rain. Canned goods lose palatability after that many decades. Windmill turbines rust out in under 50 years. Though I suppose I shouldn't gripe about realism in a novel about vampires, should I? Also, most of the relationships and subplots develop really well, but some kind of fall apart or vanish mysteriously. Again, hard to complain when the author does such a great job at making the reader emotionally invest in the characters.

I would recommend this book to pretty much anyone who likes to read. If you're not a reader, than better stick to TV.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen

Book:  Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen
Rating:  A-
Genre:  Fiction
Age Appropriate:  Adult

Jacob Jankowski's world turned upside down just before his final exams in Veterinary school.  After untimely deaths leave him with virtually with nothing, he finds himself on a train that is home to the Benzini Brothers Most Spectacular Show on Earth.  As a 90-something year old man, he retells the sensational and unique encounters and experiences that were part of circus life. 

From what I hear, Robert Patterson will be starring in the movie version of this book, which will come out in April.  Before a book-based movie comes out, I always try to make a point to read the book first and was pleasantly surprised by this one.  After finding a $5.00 download at B&, I finished the very well-written book in only a few days.  Sometimes I get bogged down reading the same types of books, such as mysteries, science fiction, etc.  This was a nice break.  It gave me a glimpse into a world that I have never experienced with tastes of action, compassion, humor, and love.   In short, I've never read a book quite like it before, and I definitely recommend it!