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Monday, September 10, 2012

August Reading – Part 4

 

Continued from previous post …

 

24. Novel: The Death Relic by Chris Kuzneski

After reading a Chris Kuzneski novel in January, I had thought of reading more of his works but somehow others novels kept coming up. Finally, I picked up the Death Relic. The story begins with an element of suspense with some interesting events. 2 parallel stories begin with events that don't seem to be remotely connected and continue parallel for almost two-thirds of the novel.

Payne and Jones get involved because of Maria (from an earlier novel – The Sign of Cross). She gets a job offer from an archeologist who gets kidnapped within minutes of her meeting him. While the other story is around a master criminal who heads a Kidnapping and Ransom gang in Mexico. His two children are 'kidnapped' from his ultra high security home and he finds himself at the receiving end of a kidnapping with the demand for a large amount of cash and a historical/archeological artifact.

The two stories converge and characters from both stories are wondering what they all are doing together (or more precisely WHY have they been brought together. The master-mind behind all this arrives on the scene to set the record straight. The climax does disappoint a little. It almost seemed to me that P&J were not really needed in the end and the whole story falls flat in light of that feeling.

The Payne-Jones-Maria trio offers a nice reading with emotions flowing between them and several instances of awkward situations from which they have to wriggle out. They also fight and argue in a friendly manner often emotions over powering their better sense. Another interesting aspect was that the story involved Chichen Itza; the second novel in this month to have that location as a setting for the story.

A very interesting thing is that on Chris Kuzneski's website; he has posted a series of pictures of places that are in the background of the story. I went through the page for Death Relic and also the page for Sign of Cross. It is good. It helps imagine the story better when you know what is in the background. I often feel novels should have some good illustrations. Recently, I liked the illustrations in Matthew Reilly's novels.  

 

25. PKD Shorts: The Turning Wheel by Philip K Dick

26. PKD Shorts: The Last of the Masters by Philip K Dick

 

I will write about both of these 2 PKD short stories together since they have a strong common thread going through them. Both stories are set in the future. A future which is not the usual Sci-fi future we usually read about. The future that is described in the two stories has degenerated from where we stand today. Technology and Administration (Governments) had gone too far and people felt suffocated. Revolutions turned the circle of time and people went back a few cycles down the technological progression and began living like the 19th century human. Of course, some sects and portions of population hold on to different beliefs and a new order of society is formed.

In one story, there is a select group which has preserved the technology and is in an ever ready state of preparedness to defend their closed city from the attack of the so-called liberators. This city is ruled and run by a strange leader.

In the other story, a new order of caste system has emerged where people are differentiated by their professions and so-called mental orientation … surprisingly the techno's are at the bottom of the ladder. The higher castes who have denounced technology (mechanical as well as medical) face a problem of low births and dwindling numbers while the lower castes are growing by numbers and face fewer deaths.

Both stories are built around a character that discovers and begins to understand and accept the other side … 

 

27. Sherlock Misadventures: 'His Last Scrape: Or, Holmes, Sweet Holmes!' by Rachel Ferguson

A case of quick deductions which borrows heavily from an original Sherlock Holmes story or stories where there are elements of an invalid, a hidden room, dust on the floor, estate inheritance etc. It was a parody of the originals by Ferguson drawing several elements from the original stories and titles. In spite of being a parody, this short one has all the elements of surprise and suspense along with expert deductions. 

 

28. ACD Shorts: The Horror of the Heights by Arthur Conan Doyle

 

The adventurous tale of a pilot who is fascinated by flying high up in the atmosphere (as much height his plane would allow) to explore the far depths (or more appropriately heights) of the atmosphere; which have not been explored by any other man.

He is also intrigued by the existence of creatures and a sky jungle that he intends to explore (and also feels that it is dangerous; hence carries a gun with him in the plane). The story is a reproduction from his diary with a few pages missing (leaving a few mysteries unanswered)

 

29. PKD Short Novel: A Scanner Darkly by Philip K Dick (unfinished, abandoned)

 

A Scanner Darkly is a BSFA Award winning 1977 science fiction novel by American writer Philip K. Dick. The semi-autobiographical story is set in a dystopian Orange County, California, in the then future of June 1994, and includes an extensive portrayal of drug culture and drug use (both recreational and abusive). The novel represents one of Dick's best-known works, and served as the basis for a 2006 film of the same name. (Source: Wikipedia)

In spite of the above … something strange happened. Reading so many short stories by PKD in the past few months, I knew that PKD has weird storylines and plots; weird but definitely enjoyable. BUT this one, a scanner darkly, blew me away. Not because it was fantastic and mind boggling, but because I was able to get no head or tail of the story. The story and the writing was so twisted that it neither held my interest nor made sense. So much so, that I did what I usually don't do … abandoned the novel halfway and left it unfinished. I hope, someday, I will watch the movie and not leave it mid-way.

 

Series Completion Score: (as of 31st Aug 2012)

The Three Investigators          40 out of 43    

Sherlock: Exploits                    08 out of 12    

Sherlock: Misadventures        27 out of 33    

Total                                       75 out of 88

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