Best Reads of the Quarter
"Rain Reign" by Ann M. Martin is the obvious choice for best read of the quarter. This little novel is one of the best reading experiences I’ve had in a long time.
The narrative voice of Rose Howard is direct, compelling and sometimes heart-breaking.
Rose is a high-functioning autistic, so she sees the world differently from most people.
She sets out to tell her story with structured, straight-forward honesty, setting out the events and providing the background we need to understand them. She even gives us permission to skip the chapters that, experience has taught her. we might find boring, like when she explains her rules for listing homonyms (which are really homophones but she knows that homonym is an accepted colloquialism) and which are even more fascinating than prime numbers.
She tells us about her life , her father’s life, why she isn’t allowed to ride the school bus any more, her teacher, her classmates, her uncle, the damage that Super Storm Hurricane Susan did and her dog, Rain (whose name is a homonym: R A I N and R E I G N), whom she loves even more than homonyms and who loves her back.
“Rain Reign” grabbed me from the first page and didn’t let go because it is a book in which a little girl tells her story with complete honesty. The fact that she is a high functioning autistic is no more or less important that that she’s a girl, or an American, or that she lives alone with her father.
I hesitated to add Ben Elton's "Time and Time Again" to my Best Reads list, not because it isn't well written but because it turned out to be such an uncomfortable read.
I've put it here because I can't get it out of my head. I thought I was getting an amusing time travel book with tantalizing views of alternative futures but what I actually got was much less romantic, a sometime brutal challenge to the whole idea of history as a narrative and a reminder that history isn't about big themes but about how we choose to treat one another.
Best New Find of the Quarter
"The Dead I Know" was my first Scot Gardner novel but it won't be my last.
He has a talent for direct, sparse but vivid storytelling that I found compelling.
The book is a first person account of the life of Aaron Rowe, an isolated, broken teen, plagued by a recurring nightmare and prone to walking in his sleep, who may find salvation through his job as a funeral director in training.
Very little that is truly dramatic happens in this book and that is part of its power. It is a totally believable tale about how the bravey and persistence needed to get through days of desperate gloom and the difference a small amount of kindness can make.
Best New Series of the Quarter
"The Outriders" is the first book of new military SF series by Jay Posey. The Outriders of the title are a “death proof”, very low profile, very hi-tech, special forces group on a future earth. They are sent to investigate events that may be co-incidence or may be covert attacks that could lead to the first war between Earth and Mars.
“Outriders” has the twisty plot of a good spy novel, lots of shiny futuristic military toys for search and destroy games, a team of cool soldiers who are both likeable and lethal and a story-telling pace that grabs hold of you from page one (where the main character, Lincoln Suh, dies) and doesn’t let up until the end.
But there's more to "The Outriders" than that. The characters are well developed. The group dynamics are realistic and the similarities between the good guys and the bad guys makes all of the action less morally self-righteous.
Biggest Disappointment of the Quarter
This was a pretty good quarter. I didn't have a single book that I set aside without finishing, so I can't say any of them were truly disappointing. I've selected "Good Omens" by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman because it wasn't as good a I remembered it being the first time.
I was disappointed because:Pratchett writing with Gaiman is not a good as Pratchett writing alone; here was a lack of the kindness and empathy that I find in Discworld; the humour sometimes verged on sneering and the joke about rape felt out of place; Adam, the Anti-Christ, had too much of the smug and annoying Just William about him
But the the most annoying thing was that it was one of those books that seemed to end multiple times until I WANTED it to stop.
“Good Omens” is entertaining and a good example of the thinking of the times but the main impression I was left with was how much better Terry Pratchett’s writing became after this.