dsbs42’s #CBR5 Review #4: The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler

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Unfortunately, while the main mystery was somewhat intriguing, there wasn’t really much else for me to enjoy. I found it boring, and most of the similes laughable (the bad kind). The prose wasn’t good or original or magical enough to make the lack of any enjoyable or interesting characters worth suffering through.

But most of all, I didn’t like, nor was I interested in, any of the characters – Philip Marlowe was a dick (the bad kind), his client was a crank, his colleagues were personality-free, and the women. Oh, the women. There were three somewhat major female characters in The Big Sleep  and not one of them was portrayed in an even slightly favourable light. I know a lot of classics from, well, any era prior to this one are written by and for the good old Boy’s Club, but there’s a difference between not having any interest in, or understanding of, women, and outright hate of them. Good grief, I’ve never read so much disdain in the description of a woman’s tiny, glistening, shark-like teeth before.

Read the whole review here!

Awake and Awkward’s #CBR5 Review #4: Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

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“Da fuq did I just read?”

You too can have this reaction when you enjoy Gillian Flynn’s amazing noir novel Gone Girl for yourself! Not particularly a fan of Noir, a friend pointed out Gone Girl to me as a quick read when I found myself in a literary rut.  Quite the page turner and outcome guesser, this book never failed to disappoint, and while I found myself overly done with both sides of the story by end, I was totally and completely satisfied.

Gone Girl is a classic style murder mystery done in the style of Noir meets CSI meets Reality Show.  The story begins told from two different perspectives.  The first, that of Nick: The husband, and the accused. After recent double layoffs for him and his gorgeous wife Amy, Nick is informed of by his twin sister of his mother’s rapidly declining health issues back in his home town in Missouri.  He uproots both him and his wife, indicating that she was not the most willing of parties to this change from their Manhattan lifestyle, and that’s when things start to get weird.  After investing all that is left in his wife’s trust fund into opening a bar with his sister, the story begins to jump years and omit details as Nick deems important.  Constantly the pleaser, you can get the feeling that Nick is trying his hardest to make sure the reader likes him as well.

Then we have Amy: The wife, and the victim.  The pampered daughter of rich parents who made it big off of a series of books called “Amazing Amy” about a picture perfect little girl, where the moral of the story always ends up do as Amy does because Amy is perfect.  The real Amy is full of flaws and self-doubt, as any woman would be, despite being raised in the shadow of Amazing Amy.  Her narrative starts several years before the setting of Nick’s narrative, in diary format. It weaves the tale of falling in love with a man who starts out as one thing, and as relationships tend to do, it becomes something quite another.  Her narrative skips large amounts of time, and eventually catches up with Nick’s: The day of her fifth wedding anniversary, and the day of her bloody kidnap (or is it murder?).

The narratives are both refreshing breaks from the norm, the plot keeps twisting and turning to the point you may have literal motion sickness, and I loved it.  I diligently ignored both motherly and wifely duties for an entire day because it was physically impossible to put this book down.  And the ending! Do yourself a favor: Read this book with a group of friends, because you are going to want to talk about it, dissect it, and quite possibly read it again to find all the little things you missed the first time.

5 out of 5 stars, a knock out!  Highly recommended!

Shucks Mahoney’s #CBRV Review #9: Double Indemnity by James M. Cain

“That’s all it takes, one drop of fear, to curdle love into hate.”

So hardboiled you could chip a tooth on it, this is a nasty tale written with real elegance about a man succumbing to weakness. Weakness shows up for insurance man Walter Neff in the form of Phyllis Nirdlinger, on a routine call of his to renew her husband’s policy. Neff goes lousy for Phyllis quickly, and she’s the catalyst for his descent into murder, corruption, deceit, and a dozen other tasty menu items.

Like the flawless film by Wilder, there’s just nothing wrong with Cain’s work. He’s sharp, spare, carefully leading the reader through his intricate plots. If all he’d produced was this great twisty knot of a story, it’d be enough, but Cain delves into the dark psychology of his lead character – the weakness that rises to the surface of an ordinary-seeming man’s life.

Shucks Mahoney’s CBR5 #5: The Postman Always Rings Twice by James M. Cain

imagesMy mini-noir season continues, unexpectedly, after I left my current book at home. Picking up James M.Cain’s hardboiled masterpiece was a stroke of luck. I’d never read Cain before, and like James Lee Burke says in his in introduction to the Orion edition, I was stunned at how bloody good he was. Cain denied that he was influenced by Hemingway, though his lean, muscular prose shares all that’s great about Papa at his best. But there’s something else – maybe all the sex, maybe the tragic-comic touches, maybe the sunbeaten atmosphere of a lost Californian truckstop – that made it such an indelible read.

It’s a simple story, often told. The drifter, the wife, and the cheerfully ignorant husband. They don’t wait around to get to the cuckolding, going at it hammer and tongs by page 9. What follows reminded me of the genius z-list classic Detour, another existentialist horror about a battle of wills and desire.

Apparently it inspired Camus, as well as two scorching film adaptations. Don’t mistake it for pulp. For a slim book, it’s as powerful and dazzling as Lana Turner in short shorts.

Shucks Mahoney’s #CBR5 Review #3: The Thin Man by Dashiell Hammett

 I was leaning against the bar in a speakeasy on Fifty-second Street, waiting for Nora to finish her Christmas shopping, when a girl got up from the table where she had been sitting with three other people and came over to see me. She was small and blonde, and whether you looked at her face or at her body in powder-blue sports clothes, the result was satisfactory. “Aren’t you Nick Charles?” she asked.

I’ve seen The Thin Man movie from 1934 starring my imaginary husband William Powell and possessor of cinema’s greatest hair, Myrna Loy, and remembered next to nothing of the plot. You don’t come to Hammett for delicately crafted twists and turns, you come for speakeasies called The Pigiron Club, characters who are ‘mean medicine’, and lines like those opening ones above. The lingo hasn’t even dated very much, and the combination of New York City, the golden couple of Nick and Nora, bushels of money, and a supporting cast of grade-A noir scuzz, screwballs, and shysters, is still irresistible.

Just don’t try to drink along. The Thin Man contains so much hooch the reader is in danger of second-hand hangovers (or that could just be my reaction to Nick’s preferred breakfast of chicken livers and gin).

alwaysanswerb’s #CBR5 Review 02: Leviathan Wakes by James S.A. Corey

Goodreads summary: “Humanity has colonized the solar system – Mars, the Moon, the Asteroid Belt and beyond – but the stars are still out of our reach. 

Jim Holden is XO of an ice miner making runs from the rings of Saturn to the mining stations in the Belt. When he and his crew stumble upon a derelict ship, The Scopuli, they find themselves in possession of a secret they never wanted. A secret that someone is willing to kill for – and kill on a scale unfathomable to Jim and his crew. War is brewing in the system unless he can find out who left the ship and why. 

Detective Miller is looking for a girl. One girl in a system of billions, but her parents have money and money talks. When the trail leads him to The Scopuli and rebel sympathizer Holden, he realizes that the girl might be the key to everything. 

Holden and Miller must thread the needle between the Earth government, the Outer Planet revolutionaries, and secretive corporations – and the odds are against them. But out in the Belt, the rules are different, and one small ship can change the fate of the universe.

Read a review for this on CBR4, and thought “Aha! A space opera! I MUST read this!” I was not disappointed. Main complaints first: it was a bit unnecessarily long. There were a few chapters that, in my eyes, advanced neither the character development nor the plot. Also, and this may have been just my personal preference, but I was a lot more interested in the Holden chapters than in the Miller chapters. I’ve heard the “former superstar detective fallen from grace” narrative enough times at this point that Miller is essentially a stock character, so while I appreciate the effort to give him dimension, those parts of the story dragged in the first half. Finally, I felt that the dialogue was a bit rote and sometimes lacked finesse. To be fair, though, that’s kind of a snooty criticism, because my impression is that our main characters are mostly working-class, and more to the point, they are “Belters.” Whether raised in the Belt or relocated there, the people are depicted as being generally rough around the edges and not overly concerned with Earth and Mars standards of decorum.

All that said, I still raced through this. The book had a lot to balance: politics between interplanetary governments, sociological considerations among humans who’ve adapted to different planets, interpersonal relationships, and the central mystery that drove the plot forward. For a “space opera,” the scope here is still relatively small; everything takes place within our solar system. I found this intriguing, as it suggested at a plausible less-distant future. Idiomatic and physical differences between planetary “races” are given consideration as to how the characters interact and perceive each other, and there are realistic (and relevant) discussions of the effects of different levels of gravity on the human body. Though sci-fi is often allegorical, with its more imaginative events and concepts paralleling our real-world issues, this book felt even more immediately relevant.

Leviathan Wakes is equal parts noir, horror, science fiction, and classic drama. It doesn’t shy away from gruesome description in some parts, and it depicts a range of realistic human responses to the atrocities portrayed. I also, personally, enjoyed the gender politics. A lot of the “classic” sci-fi falls really short in this aspect (see: my upcoming review for Foundation) and is, unfortunately, a massive obstacle in my overall enjoyment. I mean, you create this whole universe and can’t imagine equality in it? But I digress; Leviathan Wakes avoids similar pitfalls. Overall, I’d recommend this. I think it’s great modern sci-fi, and I understand that (like everything else) it’s part of a series, so I’ll probably be picking up the next installment.