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Friday, December 23, 2005
Beyond the 50 Book Challenge
The 2005 50 Book Challenge is coming to an end and I'm gearing up for the 2006 50 Book Challenge (woo-hoo, new Stephen King and a new Peter David New Frontier novel in the first quarter of the year!). Here are the books I've read since the last update--some with comments, some without.

114. Blue Like Jazz by Donald Miller

Boy meets God, boy loses God, boy finds God again is the basic overview of this book. But it's so much more than that. The raw, real and compulsively readable story of Miller's journey in the faith is one of the best books I've read this year, if not ever. I cannot recommend it enough to you. Miller gets beyond making Christianity just a "follow these rules and have a better life" mentality and gets into the heart and soul of what it means to be a Christian. He addresses all aspects of life in this book and does so with wit, charm and intelligence. This is one of those books that I have a feeling I will re-read (along with its companion book Searching for God Knows What) many times in the years to come.

115. Dies the Fire by S.M. Stirling

Advertised as an alternative history but more of a "what if" novel. What if somehow the ability to generate any kind of artificial power suddenly went away? This includes the ability of things such as the internal combustion engine to run. What would happen to the world? Intriguing premise that is brought down by a group of rather stock characters who all labor toward a predictable end-point. If you've read any other sci-fi disaster type book, you know where it's all headed in the first third of the book. Not that it makes it a bad book mind you, but I wish Stirling had done something less conventional with it.

116. Accelerando by Charles Stross

In just three books, Charles Stross has jumped onto my short list of must read authors for any book that comes out. His science-fiction gets nominated for high awards--I expect this one will do the same.

117. The Lighthouse by P.D. James

James' latest Dagliesh novel is a homage to the Agatha Christie isolated location scenario. Person gets murdered and everyone in a remote location with little access to the outside world has a motive and possible opportunity to commit the crime. It works fairly well, though James' story is infused with a bit more pyschological drama than most of Christie's works.

118. The Lincoln Lawyer by Michael Connelly

After the dissappointing The Narrows, Connelly roars back with a book that is compelling, readable and one of the more entertaining popular fiction books I've read this year. It's not part of an on-going series like the Bosch novels and it's a perfect starting point if you keep seeing Conelly's name in the bookstore and wonder what all the fuss is about. It's the story of a laywer, brought in to defend a rich client who is accused of beating up a woman he met in a bar and took home. But as the layers are peeled back, we discover that there is more to this than meets the eye and it could be connected to another case our hero defended. It's one of those connections that could be eye-rollingly bad if not handled well and Connelly handles it extremely well. If you're looking for a good off from work holidays read, this is a good choice.

119. Fool Moon by Jim Butcher
120. Star Wars: Dark Lord - The Rise of Darth Vader by James Luceno

I wanted to like this Star Wars novel--I really, really did. Taking place between episodes III and IV, it promised to tell us the story of how Anakin went from sulky guy in a suit to the baddest villain in all the galaxy. Instead what we get is a book that introduces us to a bunch of nameless Jedi who we could care less about since they're all gonna be red-shirted by books end and a lot of throwing in names of passing characters from episode three in an attempt to say--wow, aren't we cool fanboys?!? There were parts of this novel I did like--such as Anakin's reactions to being Vader and becoming comfortable in the suit as it were. And the Emperor's pulling of strings not only politically but emotionally for Vader are nicely done. But these are scattered through pages of tedious character development and backstory for Jedis we've never seen before and most of whom are toast by book's end. A major disappointment.

121. Mindscan by Robert Sawyer

Sawyer asks--what is identity in this novel set in the near future. The premise is that scientists have found a way to map the human brain and create a copy of the mind. So, if you've got a health risk or are getting older, you can have a copy made and downloaded into a new synthetic body while the original you goes to the moon to live out your remaining days. Our hero is a younger man who suffers a condition that could cause him to have a stroke at any time, so he elects for this procedure. Sawyer juxtaposes first-person narration from the organic narrator to the cloned narrator seamlessly. He brings up the idea of what is a soul and when does life begin and end. But it's not a preachy book, though at times Sawyers politics are fairly transparent. Like a good episode of Picket Fences, the story presents many sides to an arguement and then has Sawyer express what he thinks is the best argument without demeaning or belitting the other side. It's an interesting book and far more enjoyable that some of Sawyer's other work I've read--for which he's won awards. This could be one that will garner award buzz next year.

122. S is for Silence by Sue Grafton

After 19 books in the Kinsey Milhone alphabet series, Grafton shakes up the formula a bit. Kinsey is asked by Daisy to look into the disappearance of her mother on July 4, 1953. Seems that Violet (Daisy's mom) left town in her new Chevy Bel-Air with her new puppy and has never been heard from again. Violet had a temptous relationship with Daisy's father and the father was the prime suspect that Violet met with foul play, but nothing could ever be proven. Daisy wants closure now and hires Kinsey to find out what happened. Grafton peppers the Kinsey timeline with flashbacks to the time with Violet dissappeared so we, the reader, get a full picture of what happened and how just about everyone in town had motive to off Violet. Seems that Violet burned a few bridges and used her sexuality to get whatever she wanted, whenever she wanted it. The book clips along at a good pace, though in looking back, I think Kinsey becomes aware of details that are presented only in the flashbacks but she never directly finds out in the course of her investigation. The mystery is interesting enough, until Grafton suddenly decides to wrap things up in 20 pages and ties it all up--a bit too neatly and not at all convincingly. Part of what makes an on-going mystery series like this fun is that every year or so, we get to check in our detective heroes and find out what's going on in their lives. And that happened in the other books in this series. Not so much here. Very little is made of Kinsey's non-detective life and we get no time with the supporting cast we've come to know and love.

posted by Michael Hickerson at 12/23/2005 07:23:00 AM | |
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