Tuesday, January 5, 2010

First book finished in 2010

The Devil's Alphabet by Darryl Gregory.

This is only going to count as .5 for the 2010 total, because I started it before New Year's Eve and finished it January 2.

I had actually read his first novel Pandemonium last year and really enjoyed it. My library classifies his books as horror, probably more because the first one technically contains demons and the title of the second one. Pandemonioum won a few fantasy awards and The Devil's Alphabet read more as SF than horror to me.

The gist of the plot is that 15 years ago a tiny town becomes infected out of nowhere with a mysterious disease that comes in three waves that kills off about a third of the population and completely transforms others into one of three types depending on if they contracted the A, B or C strain. The disease completely alters DNA to the point that those who survive strain A become giants called Argos. Betas have dusky skin, no hair are mostly female and can reproduce by parthenogenesis. Charlies become super obese. The entire town is not affected and those passed over are called skips. Our main character, Pax, is a skip that was sent away to Chicago after the initial quarantine ends and only returns for a funeral and stays because he is suspicious of the secrets the town may hold, including if his friend was murdered or committed suicide. The ensuing caper is part classic science fiction, part small town murder mystery and still manages to be a bit of a coming of age story.

There are parallels between the first book and the second book that I just can't ignore. Both main characters are young men that can't seem to get their lives together until they address things that have happened in their childhood. In both, the fear of contagion plays a significant role (in the first novel, demon possession is fairly common and recognized as a sort of contagious mental illness) in shaping the way that the main characters have isolated themselves from having meaningful relationships. Even with the parallels, the two novels are vastly different and the second one maintains a fresh, almost hip style that you don't get with many SF authors. Or maybe I don't get because I was born in the eighties, so I've had to play catch up with most of the greats and some of the not so greats, but favorites in the genre.

With the sophomore effort, Gregory may be becoming a new favorite author. And 2010 is soundly rung in with a great read.

Next, I will be showing some love to an Oklahoman author, PC Cast. My library finally obtained her YA vampire series, but there's a waiting list. Trying to keep an open mind, I checked out the only book of hers I could find on the shelf at my last library trip Goddess of the Sea. And I mean, keeping a really open mind, it's tagged as Romance. I'm hoping it's Romance in the way that Darryl Gregory is Horror.

On Deck:

Perdido Street Station by China Mieville

The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher: A Shocking Murder and the Undoing of a Great Victorian Detective by Kate Summerscale (recommended by Spencer)

Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson

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