Review: Rant by Chuck Palahnuik (Jonathan Cape)

Rant

Rant by Chuck Palahnuik
Jonathan Cape Published 2007

Palahnuik takes us to the world of Daytimers and Nighttimers, where the Nightimers spend their evenings engaged in Party Crashing and where Porting has replaced other forms of media.

But the world isn’t important, Buster Casey is, and to quote one of the characters – he’s, ‘… the worst Patient Zero in the history of disease’.

Rant Casey carries rabies, but not only carries it, but infects himself and others around him with it again and again. And in doing so becomes a legend, a fable, that spreads much like the rabies he carries from person to person and Rant’s oral history is retold through a series of interviews all used to help to explain the bigger picture.

The interview technique is a bit complicated as hearing different points of view and perspectives from several people takes some concentration. Luckily all of the interviewees are named and on their first appearance in each chapter we are told (or retold) a bit more about them like if they are a Party Crasher, Historian, or Mother. You get to know more about some those that were close to Rant and as well as his story as the book progresses. And the in some ways the other people are more interesting than Rant himself.

Palahnuik is an excellent storyteller as he uses this book to explore the spiderwebs of connections that each person has around them. There are no minor characters here. Each has an important role in moving the story forward and in revealing the connections that aren’t so obvious as they first appear.

This book is also a tale about the lies we tell ourselves like the tooth fairy who, as you grow up, replaces your useless tooth with money and to Buster Casey teeth are very valuable indeed. Or that if you’re wearing a wedding dressed driving a car covered in decorations that you must have just got married.

Rant is not the book I expected it to be. I thought that this would be a simple retelling of the life of Buster Casey from those who knew him. Instead it’s an exploration of life and how Buster Casey is the secret to a world that you wouldn’t think existed.

It does have its flaws, mostly due to the style of the short sections, meaning it doesn’t flow easily on occasion. As you either find yourself hearing from a person you’re not particularly interested in (even if what they say is meaningful to the plot) or you loose who is talking and what connection they are to everything.

By the time I got to the end I wanted to start all over again in order to see how what’s revealed in the end is already told to you from the beginning. I probably will re-read it was the end is a little more complicated than I expected. This might make it a little disappointing to some readers who want everything a bit more cut and dry or who enjoyed the Party Crashing for just causing chaos.

This was my first Chuck Palahnuik novel and it won’t be my last.

Review: Dark Hollow by John Connolly (Hodder)

DarkHollow

Dark Hollow by John Connolly
Hodder Published 2000

Charlie Parker isn’t a lucky man. A simple job of getting child maintenance for a client turns into a hunt for a killer that’s linked to an old lady’s fear of a man called Caleb Kyle and  pile of money that a lot of people are eager to get there hands on. It’s a mess that Charlie can’t avoid stepping in.

Connolly puts you in the action from the very first page as he sets up the events that snowball throughout Dark Hollow. The plotting is tighter than a washing line on a windy day. Just when you think you know what is going on the action snaps in another direction.

Added to that, Connolly is a well read and intelligent writer who doesn’t shy away from the details and doesn’t dumb down for the reader. This can make for a challenging read, not because it’s complicated in anyway, it’s more the depths of darkness he descends as he explores the more disturbing parts of human nature.

Parker’s world isn’t one you’d see on your average cop show on TV. It’s one where you kill or be killed and that’s another thing that is different about Connolly’s detective. He isn’t pure and greater than the criminals. He’s only just about on the right moral side.

This first person-tale is well worth reading. I’d suggest reading Every Dead Thing first as it explains why Parker is so haunted by the dead and what fuels his actions.

Mini-Review: The Queen of Sinister by Mark Chadbourn (Gollancz)

thequeenofsinister

The Queen of Sinister by Mark Chadbourn
Published by Gollancz

I’ve just finished The Queen of Sinister and I can’t wait until I start The Hounds of Avalon.

Mark Chadbourn‘s writing is compulsive and his plotting tight and complex. He is also thoughtful and the world he has created is both fantastical and grounded in the human spirit; as the novel explores what it is to be human and what we can achieve is we think beyond what we are.

There are lots of twists and turns along the way. Even though you can consider this a stand alone novel. It follows on from the Age of Misrule
trilogy as well as the first in the The Dark Age Trilogy. I would wholeheartedly reading them from the beginning especially for the scene in the Royal Mile.

This is one of the best fantasy series ever written.

Review: Vicious Circle by Mike Carey (Orbit)

viciouscircle

Title: Vicious Circle by Mike Carey
Publisher: Orbit
Price: £7.99
Published: Oct 2006

Mike Carey is more widely known as a comic book writer – and for exploring the area of the occult in the comics Lucifer and Hellblazer (both available from DC Comics) He also writes about superheroes. He’s somehow found time to write a series of novels starting with The Devil You Know. Vicious Circle is the follow-up to that and takes us through another case of the exorcist Felix Castor.

Mike takes us to a London where the dead are no longer staying in the shadows. They are rising in great numbers and there is even an Act going through Parliament aimed at giving the dead legal status.

With this backdrop Castor takes on a request from the parents of a kidnapped girl. There is only one problem – she’s dead and ghosts can’t just be picked up and pocketed. Not that stops Castor taking on the case – the mystery and the grief of the parents persuades him – though the money may help too.

Mike does plot very well. The story is focused and well planned. The other thing he’s good at is hiding the twists and turns until the several ‘d’oh’ moments that occur. Everything moves along at a page-turning pace.

What is frustrating is the need to supply plot seems to leave Felix and the other characters getting less development time than they deserve, because Carey paints them so well you do want to spend more time with them. But as this is a first person tale there are perfectly good reasons why our focus can’t shift to the secondary characters too much. The only way would be to have Felix in their presence but being with them too long might give stuff away before everything is fully set-up.

Instead, you get to see him out and about, ducking and diving, exploring the seedy world that attracts his services. So you don’t notice this lack of progress until the conclusion, which itself makes you wish you knew Castor a little more.

Throughout the book Felix remains a bit of a mystery – but that’s how it should be. As is the way with all detectives – you see enough of their home life to make them human but not enough to shift the focus away from whatever they happen to be investigating.

Even though it’s not mentioned in the cover VC has all the markings of the second book of a trilogy. Character and storylines started in the first book play an important part here and the anticipation is that they will feature in the next one as well.

Whole heartedly recommended but read The Devl You Know first.

Debut Review #0

everydeadthing_.jpgEvery Dead Thing
John Connolly
Coronet Books
£6.99
Published 2000

John Connolly has created a dark and flawed detective with Charlie ‘Bird’ Parker. After the murder of his wife and daughter at the hands of the Travelling Man, seemingly Parker  will stop at nothing to find him.

In Every Dead Thing we follow Parker from the streets of New York to swamps of New Orleans and the bodies pile up. He’s looking for a missing girl but instead finds more than he probably wanted to know.

Charlie Parker is not your classic detective. He is violent and dangerous. He moves easily with the criminals that as a police man he would have been duty bound to arrest and convict.

The power of this first-of-a-series novel is the pace. Nothing lingers too long but no details are skipped either. The descriptions of bone and rotting flesh are pungent and stomach churning but like any good horror you’re unable to look away. John Connolly shows you the reality behind murder and those who find pleasure and business in committing it.

This review was originally published on NextRead in Oct 2006

Review: Anonymous Lawyer by Jeremy Blachman

anonymouslawyer.jpgAnonymous Lawyer
Jeremy Blachman
Vintage Books Original Fiction
£7.99
Published 1 Feb

Review Copy

The cover gives you some idea about the character of the Anonymous Lawyer He has horns, a devil tail and what could be a good suit. Though to be fair lawyers aren’t known for buying halo polish. AL is a hiring partner at one of the world’s largest law firms and he starts a blog. Everyone has a blog: I’m expecting The Queen to start one, anonymously of course. Well she couldn’t be that anonymous; there aren’t that many people who do her job.

We’re presented with a series of blog posts and email exchanges as AL butts horns with ‘The Jerk’. And they do feel like blog posts. Everyone has a nickname matching their character. My favourite being ‘The Woman That Hugs Everybody’. He changes the places, dates, and outcomes of events to remain anonymous. But he worries for how long it will be before he found out.

If it was an actual blog printed out I could see this being less exciting. But it’s not just a blog. It is a novel with a plotline and character development. And that’s what makes it very readable.

Each of the posts give you a glimpse of behind the scenes of a law firm, at least it sounds convincing like a real law firm from the descriptions of the counting of Post-Its to the billing clients for researching in the bathroom.

But most convincing is the character of AL. He does start off as a bit of Devil, but through the posts and more usually the e-mails he seems to be as human as the rest of us, if a little cynical, and a bit too rich.

It’s not all successful. Making it blog-like with a compelling character and a plot that doesn’t seem too extreme for the world it inhabits doesn’t need to be promoted for having “up-to-the-minute references”, which are going to date it more than it needs to. It gets a little too soft in the middle when AL seems to run out of nasty things to torment the ‘summers’.

Anonymous Lawyer is also a live a blog (anonymouslawyer.blogspot.com). I’ve not read it yet as not to effect my impression of this debut. I’m hoping there’ll be a sequel. For writers of anonymous blogs there could even be few writing tips to be had.

Overall, an enjoyable and non-taxing read that had me laughing out loud more than once. Highly recommended.