Bad Blood

Above a densely forested hillside black bird-shapes wheel and turn over a weed-clogged tarn.

Horror voor tieners, maar sneaky genoeg om degene die de tienertijd heeft verlaten ook een beetje zenuwachtig te maken. Lijk je het in het begin allemaal wel te zien aankomen (“Oh, poe, poppen), Rhiannon Lassiter voegt op een tergende manier steeds een meer bangmakende details toe.

Een samengestelde familie gaat op vakantie in een oud familiehuis dat al heel lang niet meer in gebruik is. Iedereen is boos op elkaar en op de ouders die zo graag doen alsof, maar familierelaties worden op de proef gesteld als iets ouds en gewelddadigs ook een connectie met ze lijkt te hebben.

Lassiter creeërt mooie plaatjes met donkere bossen en krakende deuren om het pijnlijke verhaal van twee geliefden die wel heel graag willen, maar terug gehouden worden door hun kinderen. Een tweezijdige horror van tegen je wil een nieuwe familie hebben en vervolgens het paranormale in je schoot geworpen te krijgen.

Bad Blood, Rhiannon Lassiter, Oxford University Press 2007

Kraken

An everyday doomsayer in sandwich-board abruptly walked away from what over the last several days had been his pitch, by the gates of a museum.

A second chance for this author, by me. I read something by him before, but felt like he was better at creating worlds, than keeping a plot together. But as I am a huge fan of a good case of world-building, I couldn’t resist giving it another try. This author has loads of awards and fans, maybe it was for a reason.

Again, China Miéville creates a flabbergasting, mind-blowing world. He starts off with a speed that you can keep up with, but further into the book there are more and more details stacked on, making you page back to pick up the plot again, instead of enjoying the story. This isn’t necessarily bad, just demands a bit more attention from the reader.

Main character Billy works in a museum. From the museum is a dead giant squid stolen. Besides him being the unlikely hero of different religions living in London, there are also a few apocalypses coming up and some gruesome bad guys that work hard to trigger and/or prevent those from happening.

It’s an epic, and demands time and attention. It’s up to you to chose to give it.

 

Kraken, China Miéville, Pan Books 2010

Days of Little Texas

There is this girl in my dream.

The life of a teenage missionary preacher turns horror in a questioning story about God, family, ghosts, souls and growing up.

Sixteen year old ‘Little Texas’ (real name: Ronald Earl) gives public healings but starts doubting the Holy Trinity and himself when he’s slowly growing up. Visions of a dead girl and stories about a possessed island don’t make the growing up part any easier.

Days of Little Texas gives the critic of religion plenty of excuses to roll their eyes, while at the same time it offers plenty of question pieces about “Is there more between heaven and earth”.

‘Little Texas’  faith and trust in his religion unravels quickly and bumpy and the entire situation (what even happened?) refuses to tie up neatly. It’s a book for both sinner and saint.

Days of Little Texas, R. A. Nelson, Knopf 2009

The Battle of the Labyrinth

The last thing I wanted to do on my summer break was blow up another school.

“The next Harry Potter” a blurb on the back says. Little did I know that I could take that literally. The Battle of the Labyrinth is almost as entertaining as the previous Percy Jackson and the Olympians books but some plot lines and scenes seem to be copied a bit too liberally. Good thing there are smaller plot lines that make sure it doesn’t feel like a complete rip off.

Percy’s growing closer to his feared sixteenth birthday (there is a prophecy about it), but before that plenty of things happen to distract him. Kronos is becoming stronger, traitors and old friends pop up and then there’s Annabeth and the growing discomfort between them. Because heck, what does a fourteen year old half-god does with those weird feelings?

Rick Riordan goes full out on mythology again, mixed up with contemporary USA and teenage issues. It’s fun, fast and easy-to-read. I’m ready to be surprised with the final book of the series.

The Battle of the Labyrinth, Rick Riordan, Hyperion Books 2008

The Titan’s Curse

The Friday before winter break, my mom packed me an overnight bag and a few deadly weapons and took me to a new boarding school.

After watching the two movies based on these series, I’ve decided to try one of the books (“The films were all wrong, the books are so much better!” Is there ever someone that liked the film version over the book version?).

As per the title, there is a prophecy with a Titan’s Curse involved. Friends disappear, threats are made and a quest has to happen. Just like the myths Rick Riordan borrows his gods from. Because – for those not in the know – Percy Jackson and his friends are half-breeds, children of the gods of Olympus and a human parent. This creates a very entertaining mix of teen adventures and mythology (and a successful one, looking at how large the series are).

The Titan’s Curse is packed with action, entertainment and teenage emotions. I don’t know if there will be a third movie, but I’ll definitely continue with these series.

The Titan’s Curse, Rick Riordan, Hyperion Books For Children 2007

Wizard of the Crow

There were many theories about the strange illness of the second Ruler of the Free Republic of Aburiria, but the most frequent on people’s lips were five.

With over 700 pages and a lot of ugly truths about Africa and (Western) society sometimes I lot to work through, but definitely not a book to give up on easily. Because besides the truths and the amount of pages there is humor, a gritty yet warm world-building, satire, lessons about the African continent and some small history lessons.

The Wizard of the Crow has several story lines going on at the same time, but the main ones center on the title character, the woman he meets and the dictator of the country they live in. Turning to magic, having the right and wrong people believe in it, coups, rebels, an insane leader with a God-syndrome and a super religious couple are the cherries on the milkshake.

This book is a – sometimes awkward/uncomfortable – encyclopedia to underline the fact that people outside your culture aren’t less human, weirder or scarier. In the end and beginning of all things, they’re human beings that try to get by in their daily life, in any which way. Even in the fictional country of Aburiria.

The Wizard of the Crow, Ngugi wa Thiong’o, Harvill Secker 2006

Dresden Files

Ik lette nooit zo op de fasen van de maan.

Ik heb niets voor niets een hekel aan hard rijden.

In grote porties lijken de Dresden Files wel heel erg op elkaar. Zoals ik al eerder beschreef, de boeken zijn pulp. Dat valt alleen maar meer op wanneer je ze achter elkaar leest. Natuurlijk, er zijn verschillende monsters. Jim Butcher zorgt voor lekkere dialogen en gruwelijke situaties. Maar hoofdrolspeler Harry Dresden heeft net iets te vaak net iets te laat door wat er aan de hand is. Loopt net iets te vaak in de handen van de vijanden, geeft net iets te vaak een dikke knipoog naar de lezer. Dan wordt het duidelijk dat de auteur erg strak volgens een ABC-tje van schrijven werkt en is de pret er een (klein) beetje vanaf. Vermakelijk blijven ze dus, maar niet in ‘marathon’ vorm.

Wolvenjacht, Jim Butcher, De Vliegende Hollander 2009

Doodsnood, Jim Butcher, De Vliegende Hollander 2010

The Bone Season

I like to imagine there were more of us in the beginning.

Oh, wow. I love to be swept of my feet like this. A compelling story, a less-than-perfect (and genuine unlikely) heroine and thrilling world-building. I know I harp on about that a lot, but a story having a sound foundation can change annoyed disbelief in flabbergasted positive surprise.

The Bone Season doesn’t worry with ‘In a galaxy far, far away’ or lengthy prologues to show the reader what’s going on. It jumps right in, things go wrong quick and the protagonist – already in a tight spot as criminal scum of the earth – ends up as a slave. And all that because she’s clairvoyant and this is a world that sees those kind of people as an epidemic threatening real humans. And because of several other things, including alien god-like creations, but that would be a bit of a spoiler.

Another pluses are the lack of romance pressed upon the characters, nothing that shows that this was written as a first book of a series (meaning: no plot lines being cut up for no other reason than ‘To be continued’) and that the book is just a very enjoyable, quick read.

The Bone Season, Samantha Shannon, Bloomsbury 2013

Stormnacht

Ik hoorde de postbode door de gang naderen.

De Dresden Files, die moet je lezen! Gigantisch leuke fantasy! Nou, vooruit dan maar. Ik sta altijd open voor suggestie. 

Stormnacht, het eerste boek van de Dresden Files, is een pulpromannetje: er gebeurt veel, er zijn wilde, vreemde karakters die makkelijk uit elkaar te houden zijn, er is zoveel plot dat er geen tijd is om adem te halen en er is een bevredigend einde, netjes opgerold in één hoofdstuk. Hap, slik, weg.

Harry Dresden is een magïer, een echte. Hij leeft alleen in een wereld (hedendaags Chicago) die niet in magie, demonen enzovoorts gelooft. Geld verdienen is dus pittig, maar gelukkig is er een politieagente die af en toe zijn hulp nodig heeft.
Natuurlijk verzamelen aan het begin van het boek meerdere zaken, zijn er mafia bedreigingen en loopt alles in de soep.

Stormnacht is een galopperend paard van een verhaal dat op de laatste bladzijdes verrassend kalm tot stilstand komt. Het is compleet, het is vermakelijk. Een prima pulp aanrader.

Stormnacht, Jim Butcher, De Vliegende Hollander 2009

Runelight

Five past midnight in World’s End, three years after the End of the World, and, as usual, there was nothing to be seen or heard in the catacombs of the Universal City – except, of course, for the rats and (if you believed in them) the ghosts of the dead.

The second book (a blurb on the back shares with much delight ‘Several books!’ so I don’t know how many are yet to come) about Norse gods, runes, the end of the world and a young girl wham-bam in the middle of it. Runelight happens a couple of years after the adventures of the previous book, but there’s a helpful summary from Joanne Harris in the start in case you’ve forgotten what happened.

This time main character Maddy discovers that she has a twin. The only problem is that the bad guy has her and is brain-washing her to start the end of the world (again). Maddy was quite successful to prevent the previous one, but what do you do when you have to fight your just discovered sibling?

The twin is the only new element in this story, which pretty much copies the previous book with (unwanted) discoveries, gods down on their luck and one of the main players (presumed) dead. It is for Joanne Harris’ easy, entertaining writing that it doesn’t feel like you’re reading the first book for the second time. Yes, Maddy and her twin Maggie are sometimes annoying teenagers who make dumb mistakes. They are also two seventeen year olds with the weight of the worlds on their back, which might cut them some slack.

And  I like it so much what Harris does with the gods. Running gags, arrogance and self-doubts; they are the cherry on the cake. Don’t expect to be blown away, simply enjoy.

Runelight, Joanne Harris, Doubleday 2011