Saturday, August 28, 2010

nine dragons

What is the missing puzzle piece that links together Harry Bosch's latest murder case of an older Chinese store owner, the Chinese Triads, the abduction of Bosch's daughter in Hong Kong, vague telephone threats, a scared partner, gangland style executions, and, of all people, Bosch's ex-wife's new boyfriend? This is the mystery Harry Bosch must unravel in Michael Connelly's Nine Dragons.

So what DOES tie all of these elements together? Nothing. Sorry to break it to you, but don't bother. Nothing ties this lukewarm detective story together.

This 2009 adventure takes Bosch to Hong Kong to save his daughter and figure out how her abduction relates to all the other sub-plots and mysteries in this story. But it seems like Connelly just gave up. Oops, Bosch seems to say, I guess this whole thing was just weird series of coincidences and misunderstandings that were completely unrelated. What he doesn't seem to say, or even worry about, is why all those people had to die, as he shot his way through Hong Kong, other than a pat on his daughter's head and something like: well honey, don't worry, those were bad people, and they got what they deserved.

I've read a few Harry Bosch novels, and I've even recommended the series to fans of detective novels, but not this one boy. This one goes on the 'stinks' list in the right hand column. Yeah, check it out, its on there alright.

Oh, and Mike, you got a laurel stuck to your ass. Yeah, there it is, you got it.

Friday, August 27, 2010

the three musketeers

The Three Musketeers was a blast.--That's not a crummy joke. There was very little musket fire, as I'm sure most folks will know, even without reading this book.--The Count of Monte Cristo is one of my all time favorites, so it may seem a little odd that I haven't read this next-most-popular Alexandre Dumas novel (the third being The Man in the Iron Mask) but I've always felt that the characters were just too over exposed. I mean, a candy bar? Come on. But I got over it. And seeing a one dollar copy in good shape recently, sealed the deal. What really put me over the top tho was that I brought it along as a back-up on a recent trip to Italy. So when I finished my first book (Hyperion) I jumped right into the Musketeers. What a ball. I couldn't put it down. I read at breakfast. I read in bed. I read while my family took a siesta at midday when it was 100 outside.

Dumas wrote for serial publication, as many of his contemporaries did, each chapter moves the story forward and leaves the reader hungering for the next installment. Dumas really had that down and he knew he did. Dumas also speaks directly to his readers, not just in the authors note, where he describes how his fiction is based on the true memoirs of a real musketeer named d'Artagnan, but along the way as well. One can almost imagine him telling the story to us after dinner, perhaps around a fire, with a cigar or a small glass of muscatel. Don't worry, he tells us, I haven't forgotten so-and-so, we'll get back to them soon enough.

Dumas seems fascinated by heroes who make their own way in world, and create their own fortunes. He also has no trouble showing the darker side of men, even his heroes, and the lengths they will go to to insure that justice is done and righteousness is upheld. This may be because of his own upbringing, and his father's struggles to make his fortune, and even his own money problems, which seem to plague his career.

Whatever the impetus, Dumas breathes real life and a love of living into his heroes that makes him a joy to read. The Three Musketeers was no exception.

Read this book... in Italy. [France is probably fine too, I guess.]


Hyperion was recommended to me by an Italian friend just recently, and before he and his fiance went back to Italy, they were kind enough to give me a copy. The story seems to jump right in, setting the tone of a mystery the reader has to untangle. The story is told through the eyes of series of pilgrims who start out on the last pilgrimage to a very strange part of Hyperion; a planet on the very edges of human expansion in the galaxy. Hyperion's past is sketchy and only partly understood by the pilgrims; who have spent most of their lives closer to the central, more inhabited parts of the galaxy. Moreover, none of the pilgrims is quite sure why they were chosen to participate in this last pilgrimage, and they know even less about their fellow travelers.

The larger story unfolds during the pilgrimage, when the travelers decide to tell their personal stories, and how Hyperion came into their lives. The tales help to pass the time on the road, and help them get to know one another. Echos of The Canterbury Tales came to mind almost immediately, but the author also had The Wonderful Wizard of Oz in mind.

Hyperion is tight, and carefully written. The whole story doesn't manifest itself in any one of the seven tales the pilgrims tell, or even in all the stories combined. Rather, its in what isn't said, and when I think about it, it also comes from our own stories as readers. What we bring to the story helps to fill in the blanks, making us, as readers, the eight pilgrim. I guess that means the story is a little different for everyone.

There are other volumes about Hyperion and I'll pick them up to see whether the story continues from here, or if the enigma of Hyperion is just fertile ground for stories.

Hyperion, by Dan Simmons, (c) 1989. I read a 1995 Bantam reissue paperback.

I read three books on my trip to Italy, so I've got two more coming up soon. Yeah, vacation!