Saturday, October 25, 2008

"Octavian Nothing -- The Kingdom on the Waves"

M.T. Anderson has published the concluding volume of "The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation." I review it this weekend in the San Francisco Chronicle's kids' books pages. Highly recommended.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Nelson DeMille: When Will I Learn?

I don't really know why I thought it was a good idea to read Nelson DeMille's new novel, "The Gate House." It's a sequel to "The Gold Coast," the very funny and well-observed Gatsby-Meets-The Godfather thriller from 20 years ago. I had managed to resist picking up his previous best-seller, still bearing a grudge from "Night Fall," which used 9/11 as a shoddy deus ex machina.

Maybe I was looking for a palate cleanser after "Anathem."

Anyway, I picked up "The Gate House" and was suckered in by DeMille's smart-ass dialogue and the return of some well-liked characters. Then it all started to fall apart. The characters began acting like idiots, the chief antagonist disappeared for half the book and nothing much happened. Perversely, I continued reading.

Finally, after more than 600 pages, everything was resolved by a stupid shootout and the arrival of a letter that could have been read at nearly any point in the narrative and thereby stopped everything in its tracks.

So, if you ever see me reading another new Nelson DeMille "thriller," please slap it out of my hands.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

New Review: Walton, Gaiman and Carroll

This week's Sunday Chronicle features my science fiction/fantasy column. Books covered include "Half a Crown" by Jo Walton, "The Graveyard Book" by Neil Gaiman and "The Ghost in Love" by Jonathan Carroll.

Although all are good and well worth your time and attention, I think my favorite of the three is "Half a Crown." Walton brings her alternate history trilogy to a rousing conclusion. It's a genuinely impressive feat, one that should be acknowledged by a wider, more mainstream audience.