Posts Tagged ‘mystery’

Lex Talionis

Posted: May 25, 2014 in Reading
Tags: , , ,

lextalionisLex Talionis a.k.a. my twitter pal wrote a kick ass book.

I haven’t been doing much in the way of book reviews in the last few months due to the limited free time, but I need to take some time to pontificate about this awesome book.

Like most books I read now, I found Lex Talionis by RSA Garcia via a recommendation from another person I know. I’ve been twitter pal’s with the author’s sister for a while and she was all like “Hey, my sister has a book coming out. You should check it out.” Whaddya know, it’s right up my alley.

On one of Earth’s planetary outposts, a young woman dies–and is brought back to life by a mysterious alien.

Inside a military starship, a wounded soldier is stalked by an unseen enemy.

When Lex reawakens in a clinic, she doesn’t remember who she is, or who killed her. All she remembers is a phrase she does not understand. Lex Talionis. The law of revenge. Stripped of her past, Lex focuses on the only thing she can. Retribution. She will find the people who murdered her and she will make them pay.

What Lex doesn’t know is that she’s being hunted. The alien who saved her and the soldier fighting for survival are the keys to her past…and her future. She must discover what they know before the hunter finds her. Every clue brings her closer to powerful enemies. Everything she learns draws her nearer to the person who almost destroyed her.

The only man she has ever loved.

Lex takes one of my favorite sci-fi tropes and runs with it blending the whole thing with mystery-thriller aspects. Protags with amnesia that are trying to learn who they are right along with the reader are an underutilized trope in the genre. Other than this book, I can think of four in all of my bookshelves that deal with it. One of them happens to be my all time favorite book, Nine Princes in Amber. I guess that meant I started reading Lex with the bar set pretty high. That was alright, ’cause Garcia nailed it.

I mentioned above how Garcia blended some mystery-thriller tropes into her book. I felt that a lot of them were in the storytelling itself. There are two very distinct parts of the story corresponding with how much memory Lex has. Because of this, the timeline and the POVs bounce around a lot. It’s not sometime I often see done to the extent Garcia does it. I found it different, but never distracting or confusing. The book also starts with a slow burn rather than huge bang. Garcia takes the time to set things up in the first quarterish of the book. She’s setting us up for a marathon, not a sprint. I only dabble in mystery books, but I got a sense that the pacing came from the influence of that genre.

Holy shit, the payoff is worth it.

When Lex hit its climax, I was seriously impressed as a reader and a writer. There is one passage is probably the most cinematic passage I’ve ever read in a book. For lack of an adequate literary term, Garcia crosscuts between two parallel scenes and creates this mosaic that floored me. The two different scenes become more powerful together and flow together as one scene. In years of film school, I saw very few filmmakers do this well. I have never seen a writer do it well. That’s the kind of craft that turns a good chapter into a friggin’ amazing chapter.

Lex’s character arc is satisfying as is the resolution of her immediate problems. There are a lot of doors left open for the sequel, but I wasn’t left bothered by any dangling plot threads. If anything, the set up for the sequel is exciting. I am interested in seeing the direction Garcia is taking Lex on her overarching quest. By playing around with the timeline again towards the end, Garcia gives us a glimpse of the sequel and there are a lot more I want to see.

So it was a little difficult to dance around spoilers, (Lex is partially a mystery after all) but I cannot recommend this book enough. I love blending genres together. It helps keep the whole scene fresh by pushing SF in new directions. There is also something really awesome about discovering a new author’s first novel. I’ve done it a few times now, (Wendig, Cole, Chu, Manieri, Ahmed) and it gets me excited as a reader to see the promise laid out in front of them. I am grateful that the random connections of the internet led me to this book and I hope you give it a shot. The genre needs books like this in a dozen different ways. And Garcia is rad. So’s her book. Go read it.

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This is outside my normal reading habits. Contrary to what a lot of people think of the genre reader, I do try to venture outside my normal section of the bookstore now and again. It’s very needle-in-a-haystacky for me though. I read the first Stieg Larsson book way back. Normally, when things get all big and full of hype, the hype itself turns me off them, kind of a “so big, it’s just annoying” deal. But I read it anyways, had a tough time getting through the first hundred pages, then devoured the rest of it and the second one. But I put off the third one. I have that thing I’ve mentioned before about mass market sized books. The third book was only in hardcover at the time so I dragged my feet for a real long time. Eventually I said “close enough” and got the taller-than-mass-market size.

And now I’ve finished The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets Nest.

Back of the Book time!

In the conclusion of Stieg Larsson’s Millennium trilogy, Lisbeth Salander lies in critical condition in a Swedish hospital, a bullet in her head.

But she’s fighting for her life in more ways than one: if and when she recovers, she’ll stand trial for three murders. With the help of Mikael Blomkvist, she’ll need to identify those in authority who have allowed the vulnerable, like herself, to suffer abuse and violence. And, on her own, she’ll seek revenge – agaisnt the man who tried to kill her and the corrupt government institution that nearly destroyed her life.

First off, remember how I said I haven’t read the other two in a long time? Like, a year and a halfish? Yeah, totally forgot that book two ended on a cliffhanger. I didn’t actually read the Back of the Book before cracking it open. I was all like “Oh! Book three, I’m all up in that.” SoHornet jumps right into things head first. I’m all for that. I like openings that start with movement and happenings.

But then bam! It gets bogged down real bad. I’m not sure if it’s a Swedish thing or a style specific to the author. I don’t come across too much non-English things translated, the Russian Night Watch books and the Japanese Battle Royale the only ones I can think of. Regardless, it slows down and gets very distracted from itself. The nature of the story requires a large supporting cast what with its conspiracies and murders and investigations, but the whole trilogy is undoubtedly at its best when it’s focused on Salander or Blomkvist. Salander, in particular, is one of the more fascinating characters I’ve read in years. The book focuses mostly on the supporting cast in the first half of the book. Ok, I can accept that. It’s still well written and a good mystery and such.

Too bad that the author clearly has an agenda. Now, a writer’s views on life and whatever seep into text whether consciously or not. And there are high profile authors I love like Orson Scott Card and China Mieville that have controvercial beliefs which turn off chunks of the audience. I like to let text stand for itself so can enjoy a book anyways as long as it doesn’t distract for the story.

As long as it doesn’t distract from the story.

I said it twice, it must be true. Larsson is all over women’s rights and such. Do not misconstrue my words, equality is a damn fine agenda to have, as long as it’s actually equality and not “let’s give someone else preferential treatment to someone else” crap. But that’s a different rant and not applicable to this because Larsson’s agenda really does seem to be about equality. The problem here is that it majorly distracts from the story. There’s the parallel plot, I can’t say subplot because it doesn’t really involve itself with the rest of the novel except in the most minimal way, involves Erika Berger, one of the other Millennium editors with Blomkvist, as she gets a new job and a stalker. It’s wickedly distracting from the story to the point where I was not only groaning aloud at a Berger chapter, but I was seriously thinking of abandoning the book if it didn’t pick up again fast. Again, don’t start thinking that I’m pro-stalker or some other nutty stuff like that.

The story is god. The story trumps all other aspects of the book and the soapboxing here just pulls me right out of the whole thing.

Fortunately, Hornet refocuses on Salander and Blomkvist when I was about ten pages from ditching the whole thing. From that midpoint, Hornet picks up a lot and becomes the fast investigative piece like the first two with minimal Berger-stalker diversions. Around the three-quarters point that bit wraps itself up completely and there’s two hundred pages of focused awesome. All the lose ends get wrapped up just the way that you want them to. Certain people make their mark, the right people get trounced and said trouncing is thoroughly satisfying.

I thought the character growth in Hornet was better than I remember from the other two, espicially for Salander. It gave a very impressive character arc through the whole trilogy and was one of the most satisfying aspects of the whole thing. Unfortunately, as a whole, I think this was the weakest of the trilogy, partly because the bar is set pretty high. It was a worthwhile read, despite the soapboxing, and I’m glad I got a proper ending to the trilogy.

Next up, The Accidental Time Machine by Joe Haldeman.