Redshirts – John Scalzi
Redshirts won the 2013 Hugo and some other awards. I don’t read many new sci fi novels so maybe it was a bad year because Redshirts was a pretty flaccid farce. It’s a self-deprecating spoof of Star Trek that comes off as self-satisfied and even mean spirited at times. As comedy it’s a limp. As a work of sci fi it’s derivative and poking fun at itself does little to stiffen this wilted story. The characters although they are meant to be archetypes, come off as carbon copies of one another. Even the writing itself was a bit clunky. I listened to the audio book and found it tough to get into, more interesting toward the middle but ultimately regrettable at the conclusion.
A Kiss Before Dying – Ira Levin
Regarded as a modern crime classic, A Kiss Before Dying is deserving of every morsel of that accolade. This thing is stuffed with suspense and surprises. Every character is so well shaped. It’s especially interesting getting into the scrambled mind of the killer. Ira Levin’s writing is balanced and smooth, and even though it’s his first novel it reads like an aged fine wine. Read A Kiss Before Dying!
Night of the Cooters – Howard Waldrop
I am a fan of Mr. Waldrop, so I had some high expectations for this story collection. I was disappointed. It starts off with the brilliantly titled “Night of the Cooters”. The story, which is a parallel telling of H.G. Wells’ War of the Worlds set in Texas, is just as high flying as its title suggests. Unfortunately however the rest of the tales are a mixed bag with several of them missing the mark. The 1940s pulp styled “Thirty Minutes Over Broadway” was a worthwhile adventure and “The Adventure of the Grinder’s Whistle” is a fun little Jack the Ripper mystery. However, some of the tales I couldn’t even finish or just went nowhere. Rather than this book, I’d recommend reading Night of the Cooters here or as part of another anthology.
The Maltese Falcon – Dashiell Hammett
It’s hard to believe slick private eye Sam Spade only appearance in a novel was this one classic Dashiell Hammett masterpiece. Sam Spade is the coolest, most bad ass PI around. San Francisco is his town, don’t fuck with him. I love this character. What colorful dialog. This book is a classic to the core. This is the blueprint for noir novels and film. Bogart’s portrayal in the 1941 film is fantastic, but read the book to get the full picture of Sam Spade and all the convincing characters in this clever and exciting seminal novel. A must read.