What a book!

July 26, 2010

Review: Blood Oath

Blood Oath (The President's Vampire, #1)Blood Oath by Christopher Farnsworth
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I know there’s a lot of vampire fiction out there, so despite not wanting to take one of those books on, I read this one anyway. Boy, am I glad I did.

I liked the idea of President Andrew Johnson actually having done something other than come up for impeachment, and enlisting a vampire in the service of the United States sounded like fun. And it was. Farnsworth starts the book off with the old set piece that reveals our hero/anti-hero without being connected to the story, a la James Bond, in Kosovo with the U.S. military, and then takes the story from there, incorporating terrorism, the war in the Middle East and plenty of trotting around the U.S.

Also refreshing, not too many gouts of blood and gore, but nary a pale face or loads of hair product in sight for this vampire. Nathaniel Cade is badass, a little funny and has his own flaws and quirks (like despising blasphemy for some reason, which I have never seen in a vampire). Yes, there’s angst, but not the annoying kind.

I should also mention that by Page 19, you’ve not only had as much action as a Bond film, but you’ve also had references to such diverse fantasy literature as H.P. Lovecraft, Edward S. Ellis, Frank Aubrey, Edgar Allan Poe and W.W. Jacobs. If that’s not enough, a page later you get a Batman reference.

The villain is a bit disturbing, but he is a villain after all. The characters that get introduced weren’t quite as fully developed as I’d like, but it’s clearly the first book in a series, so there’ll be time for that.

If you like: Secret agent thrillers, spy thrillers and books about Washington intrigue, particularly ones by Brad Meltzer with weenie little 20-something protagonists who do a lot of growing up fast, you might like this. Also, vampire books about real vampires.

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February 26, 2010

Blasphemy, The Codex by Douglas Preston

I remember reading on a music blog somewhere once last year (if you know it, please share a link, I can’t find it) that rock music is at its best when it’s a bit silly and the bands don’t take themselves too seriously. I think the same applies to thrillers.

And while I am sure Douglas Preston certainly is serious about writing, I do love how his novels (which some are now saying will make him the heir to Michael Crichton in the genre) can get so preposterous that you can’t help but have a good time reading them.

He might be known to you for his novels with co-author Lincoln Child (Relic, The Ice Limit, etc.) but his solo efforts are great reads as well.

I simultaneously read and listened to two of his books. I read The Codex and listened to Blasphemy.

The Codex is a few years old and has Mayans, jungle adventure, a book of ancient codexwisdom, all that fun stuff. A wealthy art and antiquities collector and all around grumpy old bastard of a dad dies and has himself buried in a tomb somewhere. He leaves a videotape for his sons, entreating them to work together to find him. If they can do it, his fortune, worth half a billion dollars, is theirs.

Of course, they don’t work together at the start, and that’s where all the skeezy villains start working their way in to the brothers’ lives. This book is written in a classic page-turner fashion and while it drags briefly in spots, it mostly moves quickly and has plenty of crazy-silly action bits (not as silly as watching The Transporter, but just as much fun).

Blasphemy is Preston’s second novel to feature ex-CblasphemyIA operative-turned-monk-turned-private investigator Wyman Ford (the first being Tyrannosaur Canyon). A team of scientists are stationed at the largest particle accelerator ever built, located on the Navajo reservation in Arizona. They discover … something (is it a software glitch, is it God, is it something else?) but keep silent. The government sends Ford out to find out why the suddenly can’t get the accelerator online.

Not too many thrillers get too much into the discussion of science and religion and whether the two can coexist or not. But this one tries, with all kinds of fun science thrown in.

Some Christian folks might be offended by parts of the book, but the “villains” who happen to be Christians in this book are done as such over-the-top caricatures that any reasonable person, Christian or not, shouldn’t be all that upset (and the folks who are really like the characters in this book aren’t going to be reading this book at all anyway). But if it makes you feel any better, the non-Christians have plenty of wackiness written into them, too.

If you like techno-thrillers with plenty of action but without the pages-long diversions for the exact step by step process by which every model of nuclear reactor or computer has worked, then Preston is for you. If you liked Michael Crichton before he got so way serious (so like Eaters of the Dead but not State of Fear) or have read any books by Matt Reilly, you’ll like Preston.

Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child’s website.

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