I read a lot of books, and most don’t get reviewed here on the blog. The ones I spend the time to review are ones I find significant (or wacky) in some way. I don’t need to say Linda Nagata’s The Red: First Light is an excellent Sci-Fi novel, as it’s been reviewed many times and nearly captured a brace of prestigious awards. It’s cracking good adventure, has excellent character depth, a delightfully high stakes Alistair MacLean plot and even a believable and heartbreaking love story woven in–the latter not something usually found done well in a Sci-Fi book. I’m not the first to say it’s a worthy carrier of Haldeman’s The Forever War torch in theme, character and tone (yes, many f-bombs).
Even though I found Blood Meridian tedious, I had already reserved All the Pretty Horses from the library plus, my wife had read it, so I figured I’d give it a go. It is better than Meridian. McCarthy lays off the heavy use of run-ons, got rid of his thesaurus (see my review of Blood Meridian for his obnoxious thesaurus-itis in that book) and the plot has enough elements to it (most of the time) that it kept my interest. There are several extended scenes that kept me reading later than I would have, wherein the fate of the protagonist is in doubt. Again, the descriptions are the forte, and in this case, the focus is not all on horror, but the beauty of a Southwest and Mexico which no longer exist.
McCarthy is duly famous and you hear his work bandied around by serious readers which I suppose I was once, though I don’t have the patience to plough through heavy philosophy any more. That’s where McCarthy is going, but philosophy steeped in Western ethos and smells – and especially horse-thought. Yes, I said horse-thought. He gets really into horses. I’ve read two of his works in quick succession.
I need to preface this review with a level set on the target demographic, which in this case, is the female reader who is comfortable with her feminine character being a hard-charging hero who still capable of nurturing and love. Because that’s Lexi.
This is definitely a genre-crosser: dominantly thriller (cloak and dagger escapade and tension) with a strong female lead, with a generous dollop of paranormal and a healthy thread of romance. I was getting the latter part as soon as the romantic entanglement was introduced and the MC (first-person) started describing that guy. Definitely ‘female gaze’ oriented. Which is fine — I have read a few full-strength romance novels to get an idea what the Romance genre is about (those sell, so are worth studying!) and in this case, the romantic angle is worked in very delicately. But not my first pick in a theme for my books.
This first-of-three novella dives straight into the deep end, immersing the reader in a different time for Earth (pre-WWII Spain) and a different (paranormal) social structure, with politics, power grabs, and factions which use heavy-handed, even brutal tactics against even their own allies. Frohock gets the majority of this scene-setting done in the first two chapters, which is remarkable, as by this time the plot is in full swing, the MC is under pressure to rescue his lover and at the same time, frustrated by his own history tripping him up both directly (in the form of a secret which now must be revealed) and and indirectly (via another person who will be dear to him and presumably traded off the other).