8.14.2010

The Terminal State by Jeff Somers - a Review full of bullet holes

What can I say about The Terminal State, the fourth installment of Jeff Somers' Avery Cates series? Let's see. The plot moves along at a brisk pace, once again putting Avery in a god-awful situation to start. And with, shall we say, a little augmentation, Avery shakes some dust off those old bones and gets into action.

Manipulation I think is the best word to describe the overall vibe of this book. Around every corner, down every dark tunnel, are forces manipulating each other, and especially poor Avery. But when you're the best gunner around, it comes with the territory.

When the Army snatches up Cates for a hand in the newest war against all-out annihilation, he unwillingly drags his feet, and is quickly resold to the highest bidder. Sent off to work a special mission with two odd accomplices, one a tattooed freak calling himself The Poet, and the other a mysterious female that feels oddly familiar, Avery is forced to start off on a job lacking the one thing he knows he needs most...a gun.

Filled with all the run-and-shoot action fans of the series have come to expect, this ride is non-stop, until the very end. At times I actually felt like I was playing a video game, with warnings, ammo count, and my heath meter dwindling away.  

One is left wondering just how much of this world is left to explore, it remains quite bleak by the end. And I know Somers is planning to "end a major arc" in the overall story in the next book. I'm already pining for next year's release.

I'd also like to send a shout out to cover designer, Lauren Panepinto, for an excellent job with the newly designed paperback (and for the new look of the mass market paperbacks of the previous books in the series as well). I loved the Jae Lee artwork on the previous trades, but this new treatment pretty much rocks.



8.02.2010

Little Brother by Cory Doctorow - a late review

In 2008 I went to see Cory Doctorow  talk about books, Big Brother, and rights-free content. That night I bought a book, which I intended to read soon after and just got to this month, a few years late. Such is life sometimes for the Bookrastinator.

As I finished reading Little Brother on the express bus heading home to my home in Queens, I felt a sense of relief. I was free.
I looked down a street which was closed off for a block party and realized that even in today's restrictive world, we still live in a place where we can close off the street to throw a party. This is not the case in many parts of the world.

I really enjoyed Little Brother, even if half of it was a whirlwind of hacking terminology and lengthy explanations, with me being one of the least techy people I know, I sometimes felt out of my league. I kept thinking, man, I have friends who need to read this. They’d love it.

I did totally dug the main character, tech-obsessed high school senior, Marcus, known online as “w1n5t0n” and quite often in the principal’s office for hacking his way through school-mandated devices. 

When a terrorist attack disrupts an unsuspecting Bay area around San Francisco, a bunch of friends are caught right in the middle of it. And suddenly it's not so great to be the techy kid with all the gizmos in his backpack. Curious teen becomes a suspect. Suspect gets taken in for some unfriendly questioning. Things get serious.

Author Cory Doctorow mentions in the afterword that reading George Orwell's 1984 when he was twelve years old changed his life. I remember reading it in high school and it also affected me in a profound way.

Will Little Brother have this type of effect on the next generation? I'd like to think so. Government control, and surveillance is a big issue and will only continue to be so in the world we live in today. Will the torture scene scare kids? Sure. Did 1984's torture scenes scare me, absolutely. If it stirs up conversation, debate, shouting matches even, then it did it's job.

I feel like this is the type of book I need continually loan out, force people to read, because it's profoundly important in some way that is not completely clear to me yet. All I do know, as a father, is that this is a book I want my son to read when he's a teenager, so that we can have a debate about it like Marcus and his father in the book. 


And yes, I am dating myself saying that the title reminds me of the rap song from the 80s. I sang it in my head each time I opened the book. I'm not sure if Doctorow was going for that as well as evoking the spirit of Orwell. But either way, it worked for me.