Quick Review: BROKEN by Don Winslow (William Morrow)

WinslowD-BrokenUSHCA must-read collection of interlinked crime novellas

In six intense short novels connected by the themes of crime, corruption, vengeance, justice, loss, betrayal, guilt and redemption, Broken is #1 international bestseller Don Winslow at his nerve-shattering, heart-stopping, heartbreaking best. InBroken, he creates a world of high-level thieves and low-life crooks, obsessed cops struggling with life on and off the job, private detectives, dope dealers, bounty hunters and fugitives, the lost souls driving without headlights through the dark night on the American criminal highway.

With his trademark blend of insight, humanity, humor, action and the highest level of literary craftsmanship, Winslow delivers a collection of tales that will become classics of crime fiction

I’m a relative newcomer to Don Winslow’s novels. Since reading The Force, however, he has become a must-read author for me. Broken is his latest book: a superb, gripping collection of six novellas. Each takes a different look at the crime, mystery and/or thriller genres. One of my most-anticipated books of the year, I’m very happy to report that it absolutely met my very high expectations. I thoroughly enjoyed this. Continue reading

Quick Review: UNCANNY VALLEY by Anna Wiener (MCD, FSG / Fourth Estate)

WienerA-UncannyValleyUSHCA page-turning memoir of contemporary Silicon Valley

In her mid-twenties, at the height of tech industry idealism, Anna Wiener — stuck, broke, and looking for meaning in her work, like any good millennial — left a job in book publishing for the promise of the new digital economy. She moved from New York to San Francisco, where she landed at a big-data startup in the heart of the Silicon Valley bubble: a world of surreal extravagance, dubious success, and fresh-faced entrepreneurs hell-bent on domination, glory, and, of course, progress.

Anna arrived amidst a massive cultural shift, as the tech industry rapidly transformed into a locus of wealth and power rivaling Wall Street. But amid the company ski vacations and in-office speakeasies, boyish camaraderie and ride-or-die corporate fealty, a new Silicon Valley began to emerge: one in far over its head, one that enriched itself at the expense of the idyllic future it claimed to be building.

Part coming-of-age-story, part portrait of an already-bygone era, Anna Wiener’s memoir is a rare first-person glimpse into high-flying, reckless startup culture at a time of unchecked ambition, unregulated surveillance, wild fortune, and accelerating political power. With wit, candor, and heart, Anna deftly charts the tech industry’s shift from self-appointed world savior to democracy-endangering liability, alongside a personal narrative of aspiration, ambivalence, and disillusionment.

Unsparing and incisive, Uncanny Valley is a cautionary tale, and a revelatory interrogation of a world reckoning with consequences its unwitting designers are only beginning to understand.

This memoir received a lot of buzz prior to release. In some ways, this was inevitable — Silicon Valley remains a perennial fascination for so very many people. However, one thing that was coming out of the early buzz was that this is a rather different kind of Silicon Valley memoir/book. I started reading it pretty much as soon as I got a review copy, and I’m happy to report that the hype was justified: this is a superb book. Continue reading

Quick Review: THE OFFICE by Andy Greene (Dutton)

GreeneA-OfficeUSHC“The Untold Story of the Greatest Sitcom of the 2000s”, an Oral History

The untold stories behind The Office, one of the most iconic television shows of the twenty-first century, told by its creators, writers, and actors

When did you last hang out with Jim, Pam, Dwight, Michael, and the rest of Dunder Mifflin? It might have been back in 2013, when the series finale aired… or it might have been last night, when you watched three episodes in a row. But either way, fifteen years after the show first aired, it’s more popular than ever, and fans have only one problem–what to watch, or read, next.

Fortunately, Rolling Stone writer Andy Greene has that answer. In his brand-new oral history, The Office: The Untold Story of the Greatest Sitcom of the 2000s, Greene will take readers behind the scenes of their favorite moments and characters. Greene gives us the true inside story behind the entire show, from its origins on the BBC through its impressive nine-season run in America, with in-depth research and exclusive interviews. Fans will get the inside scoop on key episodes from “The Dundies” to “Threat Level Midnight” and “Goodbye, Michael,” including behind-the-scenes details like the battle to keep it on the air when NBC wanted to pull the plug after just six episodes and the failed attempt to bring in James Gandolfini as the new boss after Steve Carell left, spotlighting the incredible, genre-redefining show created by the family-like team, who together took a quirky British import with dicey prospects and turned it into a primetime giant with true historical and cultural significance.

Hilarious, heartwarming, and revelatory, The Office gives fans and pop culture buffs a front-row seat to the phenomenal sequence of events that launched The Office into wild popularity, changing the face of television and how we all see our office lives for decades to come.

I was a latecomer to The Office. When the original UK version first aired, I wasn’t the biggest fan of Ricky Gervais. This meant I didn’t rush to watch the American version. A few years ago, though, we gave it a try and quickly fell in love with the employees of Dunder Mifflin, Scranton, PA. I’ve now watched the whole series multiple times, and each time it keeps me entertained, laughing out loud. When I learned about this book, I quickly got in touch with the publisher and they were kind enough to send me a DRC. I started reading it almost immediately, and thoroughly enjoyed reading it. Continue reading

Quick Review: BY FORCE ALONE by Lavie Tidhar (Tor Books/Head of Zeus)

TidharL-ByForceAloneUSHCThe Shites of the Round Table…?

A retelling of Arthurian myth for the age of Brexit and Trump…

Everyone thinks they know the story of King Arthur and his knights of the Round Table.

The fact is they don’t know sh*t.

Arthur? An over-promoted gangster.
Merlin? An eldritch parasite.
Excalibur? A shady deal with a watery arms dealer.
Britain? A clogged sewer that Rome abandoned just as soon as it could.

A savage and cutting epic fantasy, equally poetic and profane, By Force Alone is at once a timely political satire, a magical adventure, and a subversive masterwork.

Lavie Tidhar is one of the most interesting storytellers writing today. Never shy of tackling sensitive topics and subjects (Hitler and Osama bin Laden to name but two recent-ish subjects), in By Force Alone he turns his attention to the Arthurian myth — in many ways, the closest the United Kingdom has to a founding mythology. This is not the Arthur, Merlin, Guinevere, and Lancelot you may know from other popular interpretations: This is an entirely new beast. It is a grim, grubby version of Camelot and post-Roman Britain. It is also very funny, engaging, and gritty. I really enjoyed this. Continue reading

Quick Review: THE COMPANIONS by Katie M. Flynn (Gallery/Scout Press)

FlynnKM-CompanionsUSAn unsettling novel about a future in which the dead can be uploaded to machines and kept in service by the living.

In the wake of a highly contagious virus, California is under quarantine. Sequestered in high rise towers, the living can’t go out, but the dead can come in — and they come in all forms, from sad rolling cans to manufactured bodies that can pass for human. Wealthy participants in the “companionship” program choose to upload their consciousness before dying, so they can stay in the custody of their families. The less fortunate are rented out to strangers upon their death, but all companions become the intellectual property of Metis Corporation, creating a new class of people — a command-driven product-class without legal rights or true free will.

Sixteen-year-old Lilac is one of the less fortunate, leased to a family of strangers. But when she realizes she’s able to defy commands, she throws off the shackles of servitude and runs away, searching for the woman who killed her.

Lilac’s act of rebellion sets off a chain of events that sweeps from San Francisco to Siberia to the very tip of South America. While the novel traces Lilac’s journey through an exquisitely imagined Northern California, the story is told from eight different points of view — some human, some companion — that explore the complex shapes love, revenge, and loneliness take when the dead linger on.

I wasn’t sure what to expect from The Companions. The premise was intriguing, and dipping into the first pages suggested it was going to be a very well written, thought-provoking novel. I was not disappointed, and I found this to be an excellent, even moving read about life, how we define it, who has autonomy, and a powerful will to survive. Continue reading

Quick Review: RIOT BABY by Tochi Onyebuchi (Tor.com)

OnyebuchiT-RiotBabyUSHCA powerful dystopian novella

Ella has a Thing. She sees a classmate grow up to become a caring nurse. A neighbor’s son murdered in a drive-by shooting. Things that haven’t happened yet. Kev, born while Los Angeles burned around them, wants to protect his sister from a power that could destroy her. But when Kev is incarcerated, Ella must decide what it means to watch her brother suffer while holding the ability to wreck cities in her hands.

Rooted in the hope that can live in anger, Riot Baby is as much an intimate family story as a global dystopian narrative. It burns fearlessly toward revolution and has quietly devastating things to say about love, fury, and the black American experience.

Ella and Kev are both shockingly human and immeasurably powerful. Their childhoods are defined and destroyed by racism. Their futures might alter the world.

In Tochi Onyebuchi’s first book for Tor.com, we are introduced to Ella and Kev: sister and brother, navigating contemporary and future America. This is an unstinting look at the injustices of modern society, as well as an extrapolation of where the country could be headed if these failings are left unchecked. It’s a powerful story, and I very much enjoyed reading it. Continue reading

Quick Review: PROSPER’S DEMON by K.J. Parker (Tor.com)

ParkerKJ-ProspersDemonAnother magnificent novella from the master of the form

In a botched demonic extraction, they say the demon feels it ten times worse than the man. But they don’t die, and we do. Equilibrium.

The unnamed and morally questionable narrator is an exorcist with great follow-through and few doubts. His methods aren’t delicate but they’re undeniably effective: he’ll get the demon out — he just doesn’t particularly care what happens to the person.

Prosper of Schanz is a man of science, determined to raise the world’s first philosopher-king, reared according to the purest principles. Too bad he’s demonically possessed.

I love K.J. Parker’s short fiction. In addition to his excellent prose, the author is able to pack in so much into his short stories and novellas: they are humorous, subversive, and peppered with historical allusions. Prosper’s Demon is no different. I thoroughly enjoyed this. Continue reading