Saturday, September 19, 2009

Of Darker Persuasions

Darker Persuasions: Of Dystopia, Vampires, Circus Freaks and Vigilantism

For someone who isn't a frantic reader of fiction, my current recommendations are not only all fiction, but fairly dark. Of course, I generally don't read much happy-go-lucky, feel-good fiction anyway so this is par for the course, but it struck me as I looked at my shelf that the current array is very dark and rather interesting. Let's have a look, shall we?

Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood (paperback, $14.95)

In the build-up to Atwood's next book, The Year of the Flood (9/22), I'm encouraging people to either read for the first time or re-read Oryx and Crake. It's a dystopian look at the future that eerily mirrors our present: Genetic splicing and god-like creature creation is used for everything from food to pets to organ donation for humans; where any awful tragedy can quickly be viewed on a computer via video-sharing sites; child pornography is rampant; and something apocalyptic has wiped out most of humanity. Told from the perspective of a survivor who may or may not have had a part of it all, bouncing back from post-disaster to pre-disaster, Atwood uses her trademark imagination of the worst society can do balanced alongside great humanity, compassion and even spirituality.

The Resurrectionist by Jack O'Connell
(paperback, $13.95)

A more than strange, bizarre story of a father's deep, abiding love for his son who has been in a coma for most of his life. Throw in a strange neurosurgeon with almost other-worldly experimental procedures, a comic book full of circus freaks that may be a reality in and of itself, a motorcycle gang, hallucinogens and very little daylight - and you have the perfect recipe for a novel that you can't put down, without necessarily realizing why! The dark imaginings of O'Connell's Limbo linger long after the story has come to it's riveting, perplexing conclusion.

Let The Right One In by John Ajvide Lindqvist (paperback, $15.95)

I don't care for vampires. I don't read about them. I don't watch movies about them. I don't 'do' horror. However, the "book club" I sporadically take part in chose this Swedish vampire novel as it's selection for June with the intention of watching the film version for "discussion." Something about the writing and the premise perked my interest and I thought I would give it a chance. So glad I did as it was, using the new, obnoxious non-word of choice for blurbs these days - "unputdownable". Our 12 yr old protagonist is more than a little preoccupied with a grisly murder that occurred in the forested park nearby as well as the appearance of a strange young girl who moved in next door - a new friend he only sees, seemingly, at night. A non-stop thrill ride that you do NOT want to read before bedtime!

Outer Dark by Cormac McCarthy
(paperback, $14.00)

I love Cormac McCarthy. I love his nihilism and violence, his plain prose stories of humanity falling apart at it's gritty western seams. This, his second novel, is as brief and whirlwind a read as The Road. A woman gives birth to her brother's child and he takes to the woods to leave it for dead. Upon hearing that the child was alive, she flees in search of the babe. Her brother follows. Meanwhile there is a minsterial like figure with two partners traveling the countryside, also in search of something, or someone, exacting their quick and bloody revenge under cover of darkness wherever they go. An excerpt, if you will:

Pale lamplight falling down the door, the smiling face, black beard, the tautly drawn and dusty suit of black. Light went in a long bright wink upon the knifeblade as it sank with a faint breath of gas into his belly. He felt suddenly very cold. The dogs had gone and there was no sound in the night anywhere. Minister? he said. Minister? His assassin smiled upon him with bright teeth, the faces of the other two peering from either shoulder in consubstantial monstrosity, a grim triune that watched wordless, affable. He looked down at the man's fist cupped against his stomach. The fist rose in an eruption of severed viscera until the blade seized in the junction of his breastbone and he stood disemboweled. He reached to put one hand on the doorjamb. He took a step backwards as if to let them pass.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Holy New Releases Batman!

We Boswellians have been rather busy as of late, although it may not appear so if you stop by the store. There's a lot of crazy stuff going on behind the scenes. Namely, our beloved receiver Carl has been frantically unpacking boxes of big new releases. The new book on Ted Kennedy, True Compass, is a hefty one. We are concerned about Carl throwing out his back. (Just kidding. Mostly.)

What else is new? Lorrie Moore's not exactly new, but her latest book is. We have a small stack of signed A Gate At The Stairs remaining, but don't fret if you don't make it in to get one. She'll be visiting the Boswell Book Company on November 12th.

New stuff that I've read personally? Suzanne Collins's follow-up to The Hunger Games, Catching Fire. Christopher Ransom's The Birthing House. Catching Fire was more of the same, but fortunately, that's not necessarily a bad thing. The Birthing House was dark and creepy, and takes place in Wisconsin. Plenty of recognizable locations! While I liked both a fair amount, neither one will receive a prestigious spot on my much-coveted Staff Recommendations shelf. But I still recommend them, unofficially.

And then, of course, there's the new Dan Brown book. The Lost Symbol. It's selling quite well, and is 30% off for a week. And we have tons of them, come on in and pick one up. Tell me how it is, while you're at it, since I won't have time to read it for quite awhile. I'm pretty tied up in reading this.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Never before has child thievery been so enjoyable!

When I first signed on to Boswell Book Company, Jason handed me a sizable stack of advanced reader copy books and told me to tell him what I thought. The pile has grown larger and larger as the days have passed, to the point where a few have been dismissed before their stories actually got rolling. Don't get me wrong, I try not to judge too hastily! But if a book can't hook me in the first few pages, I am not inclined to continue reading it.

I had a feeling that The Child Thief by Brom was going to be one of those swiftly-dismissed titles. Everything about it screamed mediocre fantasy/sci-fi mass market. Nevertheless, I put aside my reservations and picked it up. I skeptically flipped through the first few illustrated pages, noting that while they would look great in a graphic novel (Brom was an illustrator, after all), they seemed out of place in a novel.

Fast forward a couple hours. I'm hooked. Brom enticed me with the first page, and I never looked back. Except a couple times, at the artwork. Normally I wouldn't suggest you judge a book by the cover, but the cover of The Child Thief is fairly fantastic. The entire thing reads like some sort of twisted concoction of Peter Pan spliced with Lord of the Flies, with a hint of some darker horror film content.

One of our new bookseller additions, Jocelyn (or as I like to call her, J-Dog), also enjoyed the book...

"I've always been a sucker for fairy tales, both the classics (like Grimm's) and the retellings like those in the "White as Snow, Red as Blood" series edited by Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling. So when I saw The Child Thief, an adaptation of Peter Pan, I was interested. Brom,* in his debut adult novel, exploits some of the darkness in J. M. Barrie's original classic to create a wholly new world. Familiar characters -- such as Captain Hook and Princess Tiger Lily -- appear in different, more nuanced guises. Peter himself is portrayed as a much more ambiguous figure than the cheerful boy-hero of the original. Forget everything you saw in the Disney movie; The Child Thief has torture, murder, betrayal, and psychological torment. And that's just the good guys!

Brom uses elements of urban fantasy, blended with British myth to create a gritty fairy tale for grown-ups. I finished my copy about two days after I started it -- call in sick and you may finish yours even faster.

*(Yes, he only has one name. I was suspicious too. But he's primarily an artist, so we'll let it go this time.)"

And yes, she did add the footnote.

If this wasn't enough to convince you, there's always the fact that it's on the Boswell's Best list for September, and is thus 20% off.