Quick Review: THE NIX by Nathan Hill (Vintage)

HillN-NixUSA compelling, engrossing story of a son’s quest to learn the truth about his mother

It’s 2011, and Samuel Andresen-Anderson hasn’t seen his mother, Faye, in decades — not since she abandoned the family when he was a boy. Now she’s reappeared, having committed an absurd crime that electrifies the nightly news and inflames a politically divided country. The media paints Faye as a radical hippie with a sordid past, but as far as Samuel knows, his mother was an ordinary girl who married her high-school sweetheart. Which version of his mother is true? Two facts are certain: she’s facing some serious charges, and she needs Samuel’s help.

To save her, Samuel will have to embark on his own journey, uncovering long-buried secrets about the woman he thought he knew, secrets that stretch across generations and have their origin all the way back in Norway, home of the mysterious Nix. As he does so, Samuel will confront not only Faye’s losses but also his own lost love, and will relearn everything he thought he knew about his mother, and himself.

It took me a long time to read this, but I’m very glad I finally did: Hill is definitely a new author to watch, and I can’t wait to read his next book. The Nix is the story of Samuel’s quest to learn the truth about his mother, who abandoned him when he was still a child. The novel has so much going on, it’s difficult to encapsulate it in just a few sentences. It’s not perfect, but it is excellent. Continue reading

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Last Week’s Late DAILY SHOW Reunion…

Last week on the Late Show, Stephen Colbert hosted a reunion of The Daily Show correspondents and Jon Stewart. Here are some clips:

A great segment. If you like them, then I’d highly recommend The Daily Show: The Book, a fantastic oral history of the show (and one of my favourite books of last year).

Here’s the book’s synopsis:

The complete, uncensored history of the award-winning The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, as told by its correspondents, writers, and host.

For almost seventeen years, The Daily Show with Jon Stewart brilliantly redefined the borders between television comedy, political satire, and opinionated news coverage. It launched the careers of some of today’s most significant comedians, highlighted the hypocrisies of the powerful, and garnered 23 Emmys. Now the show’s behind-the-scenes gags, controversies, and camaraderie will be chronicled by the players themselves, from legendary host Jon Stewart to the star cast members and writers-including Samantha Bee, Stephen Colbert, John Oliver, Steve Carell, Lewis Black, Jessica Williams, John Hodgman, and Larry Wilmore-plus some of The Daily Show’s most prominent guests and adversaries: John and Cindy McCain, Glenn Beck, Tucker Carlson, and many more.

This oral history takes the reader behind the curtain for all the show’s highlights, from its origins as Comedy Central’s underdog late-night program hosted by Craig Kilborn to Jon Stewart’s long reign to Trevor Noah’s succession, rising from a scrappy jester in the 24-hour political news cycle to become part of the beating heart of politics-a trusted source for not only comedy but also commentary, with a reputation for calling bullshit and an ability to effect real change in the world.

Through years of incisive election coverage, Jon Stewart’s emotional monologue in the wake of 9/11, his infamous confrontation on Crossfire, passionate debates with President Obama and Hillary Clinton, feuds with Bill O’Reilly and Fox, the Indecisions, Mess O’Potamia, and provocative takes on Wall Street and racism, The Daily Show has been a cultural touchstone. Now, for the first time, the people behind the show’s seminal moments come together to share their memories of the last-minute rewrites, improvisations, pranks, romances, blow-ups, and moments of Zen both on and off the set of one of America’s most groundbreaking shows.

There are more clips up on the Late Show’s YouTube page.

Review: THE SECOND GIRL by David Swinson (Mulholland)

SwinsonD-SecondGirlUSOne of the strongest crime series beginnings in many years

He’s a good detective… with a bad habit.

Frank Marr knows crime in Washington, DC. A decorated former police detective, he retired early and now ekes out a living as a private eye for a defense attorney. Frank Marr may be the best investigator the city has ever known, but the city doesn’t know his dirty secret.

A longtime drug addict, Frank has lent his considerable skills to hiding his habit from others. But after he accidentally discovers a kidnapped teenage girl in the home of a local drug gang, Frank becomes a hero and is thrust into the spotlight. He reluctantly agrees to investigate the disappearance of another girl — possibly connected to the first — and the heightened scrutiny may bring his own habits to light, too.

Frank is as slippery and charming an antihero as you’ve ever met, but he’s also achingly vulnerable. The result is a mystery of startling intensity, a tightly coiled thriller where every scene may turn disastrous. The Second Girl is the crime novel of the season and the start of a thunderous new series from an author who knows the criminal underworld inside and out.

I was rather slow getting around to reading this novel, and damn was that a stupid idea. The Second Girl is easily one of the strongest starts to a crime series that I’ve read in years. The characters, story, pacing… all of it worked perfectly. I was hooked from the opening scene, and all I wanted to do was keep reading. Continue reading

Review: FABIUS BILE — PRIMOGENITOR by Josh Reynolds (Black Library)

reynoldsj-fabiusbile1-primogenitorThe Clone Lord steps into the spotlight…

He is known by many names — Clonelord, Manflayer, Primogenitor. He is the epitome of deceit and perversion, and feared by man and monster alike. Once the Chief Apothecary of the Emperor’s Children, the madman known as Fabius Bile possesses a knowledge of genetic manipulation second to none. Now a renegade among renegades, he is loathed by those he once called brother, and even the most degraded of Chaos Space Marines fear his name. Exiled for his dark experiments, Bile has retreated deep into the Eye of Terror, leaving a trail of twisted abominations in his wake. But when a former student brings word of the ultimate prize for the taking, Bile is unable to resist being drawn once more into the cauldron of war. For in seizing this prize, Fabius Bile might yet discover the one secret his has been unable to unlock… the secret which will prevent his inevitable doom.

I wasn’t sure what to expect from this novel. I’ve been a fan of Reynolds’s for quite some time, but have predominantly read his shorter fiction. In this, the third series from Black Library to tackle a renegade marine hero, Reynolds turns his attention to the Fabius Bile, former lieutenant commander and chief apothecary of the Emperor’s Children. As it turned out, Primogenitor is an excellent science fiction novel. Continue reading

Quick Review: THRILL ME by Benjamin Percy (Graywolf Press)

percyb-thrillmeAn excellent writing memoir and book of advice

Anyone familiar with the meteoric rise of Benjamin Percy’s career will surely have noticed a certain shift: After writing two short-story collections and a literary novel, he delivered the werewolf thriller Red Moon and the postapocalyptic epic The Dead Lands. Now, in his first book of nonfiction, Benjamin Percy challenges the notion that literary and genre fiction are somehow mutually exclusive. The title essay is an ode to the kinds of books that make many first love fiction: science fiction, fantasy, mysteries, horror, from J. R. R. Tolkien to Anne Rice, Ursula K. Le Guin to Stephen King. Percy’s own academic experience banished many of these writers in the name of what is “literary” and what is “genre.” Then he discovered Michael Chabon, Aimee Bender, Cormac McCarthy, Margaret Atwood, and others who employ techniques of genre fiction while remaining literary writers. In fifteen essays on the craft of fiction, Percy looks to disparate sources such as Jaws, Blood Meridian, and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo to discover how contemporary writers engage issues of plot, suspense, momentum, and the speculative, as well as character, setting, and dialogue. An urgent and entertaining missive on craft, Thrill Me brims with Percy’s distinctive blend of anecdotes, advice, and close reading, all in the service of one dictum: Thrill the reader.

Benjamin Percy is one of my favourite “new” authors. I only discovered his work upon the publication of Red Moon, which gripped me from very early on. Since reading that novel, I’ve read everything of his that I could get my hands on — The Dead Lands, his two-part story for Detective Comics, his ongoing run on Green Arrow, and now Thrill Me. I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect from this book, but I came away entertained and inspired. Continue reading

Interview with JASON ARNOPP

arnoppj-authorpicLet’s start with an introduction: Who is Jason Arnopp?

He’s an author and scriptwriter, with a background in journalism. I started out as a rock journalist and spent over a decade in that field, which set me in good stead for presenting a music journalist as my titular character in The Last Days Of Jack Sparks. I mainly write supernatural fiction, hopefully with an edge and also the odd laugh. On a more personal level, I love horror movies, thrash metal, collecting old VHS videos and other fun stuff like gaming and conjuring.

Your excellent debut novel, The Last Days of Jack Sparks, was recently published by Orbit. I thoroughly enjoyed it, but how would you introduce it to a potential reader?

Thanks – I’m really glad you liked! I’d tell a potential reader that the book’s about an arrogant celebrity journalist who sets out to debunk the supernatural with his latest non-fiction book, only to end up dead. And on a more pretentious, thematic level, it’s about ego, certainty and belief, and how those three things intersect in the social media age. Oh, and death. Continue reading

Review: DR. KNOX by Peter Spiegelman (Knopf/Quercus)

spiegelmanp-drknoxusAn excellent LA-based thriller

Adam Knox comes from a long line of patrician Connecticut doctors — a line he broke to serve with an NGO in the war-torn Central African Republic. His attempt to protect his patients there from a brutal militia ended in disaster and disgrace, and now he runs a clinic near Los Angeles’s Skid Row, making ends meet by making house calls — cash only, no questions asked—on those too famous or too criminal to seek other medical care.

When a young boy is abandoned at his clinic, Knox is determined to find the boy’s family and save him from the not-so-tender mercies of the child welfare bureaucracy. But Knox’s search for the volatile woman who may or may not be the boy’s mother leads him and his friend, a former Special Forces operator, into a labyrinth of human traffickers, Russian mobsters, and corporate security thugs; and squarely into the sights of a powerful, secretive, and utterly ruthless family that threatens to destroy Dr. Knox and everything — and everyone — he holds dear.

I actually read this quite a while ago, but I kept forgetting to write the review. Dr. Knox is the first novel I read by Spiegelman, but it certainly won’t be the last. An idealistic protagonist, single-minded antagonists, organized crime and vulture business collide in this novel. Easily one of my favourite novels of the year. Continue reading