August 2009 in books
Some of these reviews can also be found on Amazon.
In August 2009 I read the following books:
- 1. People of the Wolf, by Michael and Kathleen Gear
This book could have been so much better. It is apparently the beginning of a series of fictionalised accounts of the peopling of the Americas, this first volume covering the arrival of the first humans. There's even a kernel of a good story in here. Unfortunately, it's just hopelessly incompetently written. Let's start with the handy map right at the beginning. It bears so little resemblance to what actually happens in the story that it's just confusing. Then there's a brief modern-day chapter about some archaeologists finding an appropriately ancient burial - which bears no resemblance to anything that happens in the story. More confusion and wasted pages. But even ignoring those flaws, the main bulk of the story is let down by the characters having really fucking stupid names which make it hard to keep track of who's who. Opening it at a random page and picking the first name on it, you can't even tell whether "Moss Stalker" is a man or a woman, or which of the opposing tribes he (or she) is from! For fuck's sake, even that old hack Jean Auel does better than this! And worst of all, the whole damned book is full of pseudo-religious mystical crap. I paid a penny plus postage to get this book second-hand. Never mind the postage, even the penny alone would have been too much.
- 2. Cachalot, by Alan Dean Foster
On a well-fleshed-out world, we have reasonably strong characters - including most of the non-human ones - and an imaginative plot that gallops along at a nice pace. It's only really let down by two things, one at the very beginning and one right at the end. At the beginning the book is dedicated to, amongst others, "the men and women of Greenpeace". And the end wraps the story up rather too quickly and in an utterly ridiculous and implausible manner. "It's all down to alien mind control" just doesn't work, and gives the impression that the author didn't actually know how the story was going to finish when he started writing it. Normally that would put me off recommending it, but the rest is so good that I'm going to command you to read it anyway.