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The Sixth Man – Book Comment

by David Baldacci

Published by: Vision, Hackette Book Group, 237 Park Avenue, NY, NY

Copyright: 2011

Type: Paperback

reviewed by: Lynard Barnes, 05/21/2012

 

A fast paced, plausible story about corruption in the high places of American intelligence gathering. Plausible however does not mean in the least bit factual. In THE SIXTH MAN, one of those fabulously free enterprise Washington D. C. corporations has figured out a way to utilize one intelligence analyst to digest all data related to terrorist threats. Of course, there is competition. This leads to problems. One of those problems results in the private investigator-team of Sean King and Michelle Maxwell, both ex-federal law enforcement agents, being hired by a lawyer whose client is accused of being a mass murderer. Yeah, there are twists and turns. The professional-personal relationship between King and Michelle adds entertaining and comedic spice to the story, not that it needs it. Deftly entwined in the story of THE SIXTH MAN is a critique of the military-industrial complex. In the event you have not encountered the critique before, you will miss it here. THE SIXTH MAN is just a great read.

 

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Scorpion Betrayal – Book Comment

by Andrew Kaplan

Published by: Harper, HarperCollinsPublishers, 10 East 53rd St, NY, NY

Copyright: 2012

Type: Paperback

reviewed by: Lynard Barnes, 05/18/2012

This would be just another one of those “flawed spy hero” stories if it were not for the really good writing. While there are plenty of fictionalizations of 9-11 copy-cat events, SCORPION BETRAYAL manages to make the bad guys human with all the traits of human vulnerability. Even so, the story does not get stymied in the lesser forces of human motivation. It’s all about the money, greed and revenge. The author, Andrew Kaplan, unfolds the story with the same fierce pace and clarity of a David Baldacci story with a bit more scenic descriptions. A necessary diversion since events whips us from Cairo, Egypt to Karachi, Pakistan, to Saint Petersburg, Russia and other places. A very entertaining and informative book.

 

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The Jefferson Key – Book Comment

The Jefferson Key Book Coverby Steve Berry

Published by: Ballantine Books

Copyright: 2011

Cover: Marc J. Cohen/Scott Biel

Type: Paperback

reviewed by: Lynard Barnes, 05/19/2012

This 576 page book is probably 300 pages too long. You would think any story involving Thomas Jefferson’s dabbling in cryptology would be at least interesting. THE JEFFERSON KEY does not hit this mark. Like Brad Meltzer’s BOOK OF FATE (reviewed here in March), THE JEFFERSON KEY is too contrived to be a good story. The problem with both books is that they are prodigious, convoluted explorations into history that is forcefully twisted and mangled into fiction. In the case of THE JEFFERSON KEY, the entire plot evolves around a fictionalized group of modern day pirates or privateers (there is a difference). The particular group in THE JEFFERSON KEY, called the Commonwealth, is attempting to resurrect a congressional mandate it was granted at the founding of the republic. As author Steve Berry points out, this concept of letters of marque are found in Article I, Section 8 of the U. S. Constitution and do allow privateers to patrol the high seas. But the story goes beyond this morsel of history and look at the seven attempted and actual assassination of U. S. Presidents, starting with Andrew Jackson. In this story, these assassination plots are linked to and attributed to the machinations of the Commonwealth group. I find this mixture of fact and fiction offensive, probably because it assumes a level of ignorance of the reading public that is embarrassing for our educational system. More to the point however, THE JEFFERSON KEY is simply a torturous read.

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Hybrids – Book Comment

by Whitley Strieber

Published by: Tom Doherty Associates, LLC, New York

Copyright: 2011 by Walker & Collier, Inc.

Type: Paperback

reviewed by: Lynard Barnes, 05/06/2012

The last time we reviewed a Whitley Strieber novel, BEYOND 2012 we had high praise for the author’s note at the end of the book. As for the story of BEYOND 2012, we said it was more or less a cut-and-paste job. The tag on HYBRIDS is a step above cut-and-paste. It is more like a rehash of an old idea that has gotten a lot older. HYBRIDS reads an awful lot like Dean Koontz’s FRANKENSTEIN: LOST SOULS (Book 4 of the five part series). Whereas FRANKENSTEIN had a mad, mad monster scientist, HYBRIDS has only a mad scientist who is not a monster but has raised a hybrid son. Dr. Thomas Turner is ordered to destroy his stable of genetically modified humans ordered up by the military. He complies with the order except the first two hybrids he developed are allowed to survive. The hybrids he thought he destroyed have shown up again over a decade later to threaten the survival of the human race. Interesting. Prosaic, but interesting. This not a bad story but is not as interesting as Dean Koontz’s more focused FRANKENSTEIN series. (NOTE: None of the FRANKENSTEIN series books by Koontz have been reviewed in the TG Journal because we try to avoid series. There has been only one exception to this avoidance of series to date and that is because the stories are original and good.)

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The Cabin in the Woods – Book Comment

by Tim Lebbon, Joss Whedon & Drew Goddard

Published by: Titan Books

Copyright: 2011 by Lions Gate Films Inc.

Type: Paperback

reviewed by: Lynard Barnes, 05/07/2012

 

THE CABIN IN THE WOODS makes a fairly good book for what is essentially a juvenile sex, gore and death story. The movie was released on 13 April 2012. Unlike formula horror stories aimed at teens, THE CABIN adds a bit of depth. Depth in both the sense of meaning and technique. The obligatory “five friends” who go off to a cabin by the lake for a weekend of beer and sex are stereotypes. Even the unfolding “horror” story is a cliché storyline. Appalachian zombies acting out some weird religious-magic hocus-pocus in place of the banjo strumming “cousins” right out of the 1972 movie Deliverance. The Deliverance movie is mentioned by one of the characters in THE CABIN to cement the connection. The depth in technique of THE CABIN is that there is a horror movie within a horror movie. This, in fact, is the only feature of the book that makes it worth reading. There is then this intriguing, though not original, concept of one reality unfolding to substantiate another. The genre includes such works as Neil Gaiman’s AMERICAN GODS (reviewed here in September 2011). Since it is so rarely executed effectively in literature, when you run across it, it stands out. THE CABIN stands out fior this reason. Unfortunately, it is the only reason.

 

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Beat – Book Comment

by Stephen Jay Schwartz

Published by: Tom Doherty Associates, LLC, New York

Copyright: 2010

Type: Paperback

reviewed by: Lynard Barnes, 05/06/2012

No way around this. BEAT is pornographic literature. It is also a story about redemption or, at the least, a story about a crack in the chain of mindless servitude to greed and self-centeredness. Los Angles Police detective Hayden Glass, an admitted sex addict, is off in San Francisco pursuing a real-time relationship with a prostitute, Cora, who he met over the internet. He has also convinced himself that he is in love with her. Having arrived to rescue Cora from the slavery of the sex trade, Hayden gets tugged into the middle of an FBI investigation which is trying to sav a city from itself. Amazingly, both the city and Hayden are able to save themselves despite the FBI. There’s a story there in itself. (The FBI is progressively getting bad publicity). If you are not offended by explicit sex scenes, BEAT is worth the read.

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