Posted by: Matt | August 4, 2008

Moscow Rules

Moscow Rules
Daniel Silva

Daniel Silva began his career as a journalist, eventually working as a producer for CNN in Washington, D.C. After the success of his first published book, the 1996 novel The Unlikely Spy, he left CNN to become a novelist full-time. Moscow Rules his is eleventh novel, and the eighth in his Gabriel Allon series which began with The Kill Artist in 2000.

Gabriel Allon is a super spy in a similar mold to le Carre’s more realistic George Smiley and Tom Clancy’s spectacularly popular Jack Ryan. However, Allon possesses something neither of those men can lay claim to, a brilliant artistic ability. Recruited from art school by the head of the Israeli Mossad, Ari Shamron, he has gone on to become one of the world’s great art restorers as well as an accomplished artist. His first mission for the Mossad was as an assassin assigned to eliminate members of Black September, the killers of the Israeli team at the 1972 Munich Olympics. Allon has since attempted to distance himself from Mossad, but finds himself continually called upon by Shamron to perform especially sensitive or dangerous jobs.

In Moscow Rules, Gabriel Allon is once again drawn back to office when a Russian journalist claims to have information vital to the security of the West and insists upon speaking with him. Reluctantly pulled away from his Italian honeymoon with Mossad agent and wife Chiara, Allon agrees to the meeting. Of course, things never turn out to be as simple as they appear in the intelligence business. Before the journalist is able to pass on his important information he is murdered by what is obviously a skilled assassin. Allon is forced to journey to Russia where he discovers Ivan Kharkov, a Russian arms dealer, has just completed a lucrative deal with Al-Qaeda. And there the fun begins.

The spy genre almost lamented the fall of the Soviet Union. Gone with the cold war was the source of a vast treasury of plots and storylines. However the rise of terrorism and a rapidly disintegrating relationship between the West and Russia has provided a wealth of new material. Silva has managed to bring the two together in his latest novel to enjoyable effect. Moscow Rules is a fast paced read with the confident spy, black-and-white characters, and East versus West story we’ve come to expect in espionage novels.

Gabriel Allon is certainly a smooth operator. He has seen it all before. He knows how to shoot to kill, has the right connections, the knowledge and is a world class art restorer to boot which adds some fun to the formula. At times he can be a little much; he’s sensitive, emotionally torn, and a little too skilled with the paintbrush. It can all feel a little contrived at times, but one has to believe that Silva has his tongue planted firmly in cheek. Fortunately, just when Allon appears to be infallible he and his team slip up a bit allowing the reader to continue to enjoy the chase.

Moscow Rules is at times predictable because of its adherence to spy novel conventions. It has the intelligence operation that takes the usual jump from perfection to catastrophe while allowing everything to turn out fine in the end due to timely heroics. The conclusion to the novel wraps up just a little too neatly leaving the reader with a nicely wrapped package. But in the spy genre it’s the journey that matters, even if the destination is often easily foreseen. Daniel Silva has produced a character in Gabriel Allon that is likable even if he is a little too good at his job. For fans of espionage thrillers that have grown tired of the rapidly declining quality of authors like Tom Clancy, Daniel Silva has got your back. Moscow Rules is as good a place as any to jump in, you will likely be glad you did. I’m sold, maybe you will be too…

Rating: 4 stars

Originally published on Curled Up With A Good Book at http://www.curledup.com. © Matt Eskesen, 2008

Posted by: Matt | July 1, 2008

June 2008 Breakdown

June was full of good books.  It turned out to have the highest average rating for the year so far.  Hopefully the books will just keep getting better.  Last month I read:

-10 books:

-4702 pgs

-8.2 average rating

-Favorite: The Confusion

-Least Favorite: Invisible Man

Posted by: Matt | June 29, 2008

Entertainment Weekly’s New Classics

I discovered Entertainment Weekly’s New Classics book list a few days ago on a blog.  It’s there list of the 100 best books since 1983.  I’ve seen it pop up a couple more times since, and if it isn’t already it looks like it will soon be a meme.  So here’s my take.  I’ll be bolding the titles I’ve read and underlining those I would like to.  I’ve been looking for a list like this…

1. The Road , Cormac McCarthy (2006)
2. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, J.K. Rowling (2000)
3. Beloved, Toni Morrison (1987)
4. The Liars’ Club, Mary Karr (1995)
5. American Pastoral, Philip Roth (1997)
6. Mystic River, Dennis Lehane (2001)
7. Maus, Art Spiegelman (1986/1991)
8. Selected Stories, Alice Munro (1996)
9. Cold Mountain, Charles Frazier (1997)
10. The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, Haruki Murakami (1997)
11. Into Thin Air, Jon Krakauer (1997)
12. Blindness, José Saramago (1998)
13. Watchmen, Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons (1986-87)
14. Black Water, Joyce Carol Oates (1992)
15. A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, Dave Eggers (2000)
16. The Handmaid’s Tale, Margaret Atwood (1986)
17. Love in the Time of Cholera, Gabriel García Márquez (1988)
18. Rabbit at Rest, John Updike (1990)
19. On Beauty, Zadie Smith (2005)
20. Bridget Jones’s Diary, Helen Fielding (1998)
21. On Writing, Stephen King (2000)
22. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, Junot Díaz (2007)
23. The Ghost Road, Pat Barker (1996)
24. Lonesome Dove, Larry McMurtry (1985)
25. The Joy Luck Club, Amy Tan (1989)
26. Neuromancer, William Gibson (1984)
27. Possession, A.S. Byatt (1990)
28. Naked, David Sedaris (1997)
29. Bel Canto, Anne Patchett (2001)
30. Case Histories, Kate Atkinson (2004)
31. The Things They Carried, Tim O’Brien (1990)
32. Parting the Waters, Taylor Branch (1988)
33. The Year of Magical Thinking, Joan Didion (2005)
34. The Lovely Bones, Alice Sebold (2002)
35. The Line of Beauty, Alan Hollinghurst (2004)
36. Angela’s Ashes, Frank McCourt (1996)
37. Persepolis, Marjane Satrapi (2003)
38. Birds of America, Lorrie Moore (1998)
39. Interpreter of Maladies, Jhumpa Lahiri (2000)
40. His Dark Materials, Philip Pullman (1995-2000)
41. The House on Mango Street, Sandra Cisneros (1984)
42. LaBrava, Elmore Leonard (1983)
43. Borrowed Time, Paul Monette (1988)
44. Praying for Sheetrock, Melissa Fay Greene (1991)
45. Eva Luna, Isabel Allende (1988)
46. Sandman, Neil Gaiman (1988-1996)
47. World’s Fair, E.L. Doctorow (1985)
48. The Poisonwood Bible, Barbara Kingsolver (1998)
49. Clockers, Richard Price (1992)
50. The Corrections, Jonathan Franzen (2001)
51. The Journalist and the Murderer, Janet Malcom (1990)
52. Waiting to Exhale, Terry McMillan (1992)
53. The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, Michael Chabon (2000)
54. Jimmy Corrigan, Chris Ware (2000)
55. The Glass Castle, Jeannette Walls (2006)
56. The Night Manager, John le Carré (1993)
57. The Bonfire of the Vanities, Tom Wolfe (1987)
58. Drop City, TC Boyle (2003)
59. Krik? Krak! Edwidge Danticat (1995)
60. Nickel & Dimed, Barbara Ehrenreich (2001)
61. Money, Martin Amis (1985)
62. Last Train To Memphis, Peter Guralnick (1994)
63. Pastoralia, George Saunders (2000)
64. Underworld, Don DeLillo (1997)
65. The Giver, Lois Lowry (1993)
66. A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again, David Foster Wallace (1997)
67. The Kite Runner, Khaled Hosseini (2003)
68. Fun Home, Alison Bechdel (2006)
69. Secret History, Donna Tartt (1992)
70. Cloud Atlas, David Mitchell (2004)
71. The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down, Ann Fadiman (1997)
72. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, Mark Haddon (2003)
73. A Prayer for Owen Meany, John Irving (1989)
74. Friday Night Lights, H.G. Bissinger (1990)
75. Cathedral, Raymond Carver (1983)
76. A Sight for Sore Eyes, Ruth Rendell (1998)
77. The Remains of the Day, Kazuo Ishiguro (1989)
78. Eat, Pray, Love, Elizabeth Gilbert (2006)
79. The Tipping Point, Malcolm Gladwell (2000)
80. Bright Lights, Big City, Jay McInerney (1984)
81. Backlash, Susan Faludi (1991)
82. Atonement, Ian McEwan (2002)
83. The Stone Diaries, Carol Shields (1994)
84. Holes, Louis Sachar (1998)
85. Gilead, Marilynne Robinson (2004)
86. And the Band Played On, Randy Shilts (1987)
87. The Ruins, Scott Smith (2006)
88. High Fidelity, Nick Hornby (1995)
89. Close Range, Annie Proulx (1999)
90. Comfort Me With Apples, Ruth Reichl (2001)
91. Random Family, Adrian Nicole LeBlanc (2003)
92. Presumed Innocent, Scott Turow (1987)
93. A Thousand Acres, Jane Smiley (1991)
94. Fast Food Nation, Eric Schlosser (2001)
95. Kaaterskill Falls, Allegra Goodman (1998)
96. The Da Vinci Code, Dan Brown (2003)
97. Jesus’ Son, Denis Johnson (1992)
98. The Predators’ Ball, Connie Bruck (1988)
99. Practical Magic, Alice Hoffman (1995)
100. America (the Book), Jon Stewart/Daily Show (2004)

Wow, I’ve only read thirteen of these books!  I’ve underlined more than that, but even adding the two doesn’t equal a very high number.  Guess my reading interests don’t line up well with EW, not all that surprising really.

Posted by: Matt | June 28, 2008

Books in Post

I received a box of books from Pyr a few days ago.  They publish fantasy and sci-fi books.  I’m grateful to them for the books they sent along.  Here is the list of books with descriptions from the Pyr catalog.

Joe Abercrombie |Before They Are Hanged
In this highly anticipated second book in Joe Abercrombie’s bestselling series, the most hated woman in the South, the most feared man in the North, and the most selfish boy in the Union make a strange alliance, but a deadly one. They might even stand a chance of saving mankind from the Eaters—if they didn’t hate each other quite so much. Ancient secrets will be uncovered. Bloody battles will be won and lost. Bitter enemies will be forgiven—but not before they are hanged.

I’m currently reading the first book in this series, The Blade Itself.

David Louis Edelman | Infoquake
This debut novel takes speculative fiction into alien territory: the corporate boardroom of the far future. It’s a stunning trip through the trenches of a technological war fought with product demos, press releases, and sales pitches. As imaginative as Dune yet as real as The Wall Street Journal.

David Louis Edelman | MultiReal
The story begun in David Louis Edelman’s acclaimed Infoquake continues with MultiReal, the stunning second book in the Jump 225 trilogy. Natch’s struggles take him from the halls of power in Melbourne to the ruined cities of the diss. Hanging in the balance is the fate of MultiReal, a technology that could end the tyranny of the Council forever—or give the Council the ultimate weapon of oppression.

Kay Kenyon | A World Too Near
Traversing the galactic distances of The Entire, former star pilot Titus Quinn discovers the secrets of its geography, its fragile storm walls, its eons-long history, and the factions that contend for dominance. One of these factions is led by his daughter, who though young and a slave, has at her command a transforming and revolutionary power. As Quinn wrestles with looming disaster, he learns that in the Entire, nothing is what it appears. Its denizens are all harboring secrets, and the greatest of these is the nature of the Entire itself.

I finished reading the first in this quartet in May.

Posted by: Matt | June 26, 2008

Set This House in Order

Set This House in Order
Matt Ruff
479 pgs

I mentioned Set This House in Order in a previous post about the author Matt Ruff.  It’s a story about a couple of people, Andy and Penny, with Multiple Personality Disorder (or DID) who try to come to terms with their past while also attempting to put things in order in the present.  It started off incredibly promising.  The dynamic introduced by MPD created a unique and fascinating story.  Unfortunately the book didn’t completely carry its promise to the end.

Andy has managed to get his personalities in order with the help of his psychiatrist Dr. Grey.  He can control which personality manages the body, or even leave the body unattended while all of the personalities meet inside his mind.  Andy makes for an extraordinary character when the reader first meets him.  I’ve not read a book before with this kind of narrative device.  However, midway through the book it becomes a tad stale, particularly after Penny is introduced.  Penny is a woman who cannot control which personality has dominance.  During times of high stress she loses control to other personalities and then “wakes up” minutes, hours or days later.  It might be this second character with MPD that caused me to feel like it became a little too much.  In addition, one of Penny’s personalities enjoys using using the F-bomb a little too much for my taste, nearly every other word.

Although I have some complaints about Set This House in Order, it was still an enjoyable read.  I recommend you at least give it a try.  It was good enough that I look forward to picking up another book by Matt Ruff.

Rating: 7.75

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