West of Pearl Harbor, he drove along the Farrington Highway past fields of sugar cane, dark green in the moonlight.

A book written by the guy from Jurassic Park. Richard Preston picked the story up after the passing away of Michael Crichton. I never before read anything by Crichton, so on that account I can’t judge if this story is better or worse than his previous work.

Incredibly dodgy company gathers incredibly smart students to work for them. One of them – with a connection to the company because his brother works there – discovers possibly dodgy things pretty fast.
Things turn into a complete horror after that even faster.

Crichton and Preston go all out on (gross) details. They create an amazing yet terrifying image of nature, but to me the very detailed deaths and murders could have been cut back just a little. Some of them left more of an impression than the story there were part of.

But in the end it’s a successful (sci-fi) thriller in a way that it leaves a bad taste in your mouth. Yes, there are people that will do everything for money. Yes, one day there will be technology that could be used for very bad things. I just hope I won’t be around when it happens.

Micro, Michael Crichton & Richard Preston, HarperCollins 2011

Brave New World

A squat grey building of only thirty-four stories.

One for my Why Are They Called Classics And Are They Worthy Of The Name list. I read 1984 quite a while ago and thought that would do when it came to covering books from the (distant) past about the (distant) future. But as always it was my library that changed things; Brave New World (with the added Brave New World Revisited) was in plain view and here we are. I liked the story telling, the story scared and disgusted me. Which is -I hope- not new to anyone who reads it.

In Brave New World we see life in the 26th century on planet Earth. There is no such thing as love, families or traditional education; it has been replaced by reproductive technology and sleep-learning. Society is divided into different castes: Alphas on top (bred most successfully), Epsilons at the bottom (little more than factory workers with no identity to speak of). This world is introduced to us through the eyes of Bernard Marx, an Alpha but a stunted one. Because of this he feels an outsider, but he realizes what being a real outsider is when he takes home a Savage and his mother.
Because not every place on planet Earth has been civilized like the western world. No, there are small spaces, reserves, where the savages live. Humans who still believe in gods, monogamy and family. Of course the “civilized world” is blown away by this Savage (he quickly loses his name). So is the Savage by “civilization”, but not in the way the people expected it.

The ugly thing about this story is that a lot of it is believable. Ideas that are possible to grow in people’s minds. What if we make humans only loyal to capitalism and consumerism and nothing else? What if we take away all flaws and dump the humans when they’re not “necessary” anymore?  I’m not saying that I expect Brave New World to be reality by the end of this century, but I do believe that there are people out there thinking it. The people that don’t think about it and will fight for the right of being an individual just need to stay the majority.

I think Brave New World is worth of the title Classic.

Brave New World, Aldous Huxley, HarperCollins 1932

The Night Eternal

On the second day of darkness they rounded them up.

The Strain Trilogy of Guillermo del Toro & Chuck Hogan doesn’t give the reader an easy, fluffy experience. The story of a vampiric virus let loose on civilization isn’t a pretty one. The three books go through the stages of denial, fighting back and trying to survive a new world order. The Night Eternal shows that not every human being can or will be a hero.

The vampires and their Master rule the world, and yet, as it goes, there is a small group of rebels. They are looking for ways to end the vampire-reign, although the odds are very much against them.
This is one of my favorite things about this trilogy: Del Toro and Hogan paint an incredibly gritty, desperate and depressing picture. As a reader you’re pretty sure that there will be a happy ending (that’s how fiction works, right?), but both of the authors deliver you plenty of hints and pokes that you might be wrong. There is no One Hero, no MacGuffin that suddenly shows up in the second-to-last chapter. Characters are corrupted and self-centered, badly adjusting to being placed at the bottom of the food chain. It is ugly.

If you love that, want to be scared and get uncomfortable because of what humans turn into when society disappears, go for it. If you want an original version of the creature we can vampire these days, go for it (start with book #1 though) .  And enjoy, with delicious thrills and the feeling of ‘Oh no’, running down your spine.

The Night Eternal, Guillermo del Toro & Chuck Hogan, HarperCollins 2011


The Bad Fire

On a hot Monday night in early Summer Jackie Mallon went on a leisurely pub crawl.

The Bad Fire is een what the hell happened in plaats van een rechtdoorzee whodunnit. Natuurlijk komt aan het einde wel uit wat er waarom is gebeurd en wie er achter zat, maar auteur Campbell Armstrong doet eerst zijn best om een wereld en haar karakters op te zetten.

Het verhaal is simpel: verloren zoon komt terug naar zijn moederland (vanuit Amerika naar Schotland) voor de begrafenis van zijn vader. Die blijkt echter vermoord. Niet lang daarna beginnen andere doden te vallen en is er onwillende politie die weigert connecties te zien. Gelukkig is de zoon een agent en kan hij het hele stinkende zaakje zelf oplossen.

Ik haalde TBF uit de bibliotheek omdat ik dacht dat het van een andere auteur was. En Campbell Armstrong had vrij veel gemeen met Kelly Armstrong (naast de kaften) in schrijfstijl, wereldschepping en oog voor (goor) detail. In gestaag tempo wordt de knoop van de moord ontrafeld, ondertussen heel Glasgow in map brengend (een detective met reisgids-elementen, dat was ik nog niet eerder tegen gekomen).

Het is een verhaal dat je bent vergeten zodra je het boek uit hebt, maar dat is natuurlijk niet erg. Als diepgravende detectives met karakter iets voor jou zijn: rap naar de bibliotheek.

The Bad Fire, Campbell Armstrong, HarperCollins 2001