Thursday, July 8, 2010

Thursday update: Post-vacation edition

Polished off a couple of paperbacks in my last few days of vacation. I'll talk about them here.

Book 38 (of 80)
by Douglas C Preston

I'm learning that "New York Times Bestseller" does not necessarily equal "Good Book." This wasn't a horrible book, but there were points, especially in the early going, that felt really cliched and predictable. Now sometimes, cliche is cliche for a reason, because it works. In most of these instances, however, it felt more like you were traveling a well-worn formula toward a generic blockbuster in terms of characters, relationships, and mysterious suicide/homicides. Sorta been-there, done-that kinda stuff.

This book comes out making evangelicals look pretty bad. The author points out in his note at the end of the book that the novel is not anti-Christian, as the book's hero is a Catholic (the author called him a devout Catholic, but other than saying 'I grew up Catholic and used to be a monk, but I left that because I didn't find God there,' not much in the book seemed to devout about his faith to me), but only anti-bigot. His definition of a bigot, however, appears to be anybody who believes in one religious truth above all others. He takes this premise to what he believes is its only ultimate conclusion: that all who believe in such a premise as "No man comes unto the Father except by Me" will, with a little manipulation and absolutely no free thought, take up arms and kill on sight anyone who will not immediately accept their views.

Obviously, Preston and I will probably never come to agreement on this premise.

A sort of cynical naivety pervaded throughout the book. It was a very quick read, even at 536 pages, and at times managed to build some strong momentum and intrigue. About halfway through, however, the book started to telegraph its ending, and after figuring out the big twist at the end, the final hundred and fifty pages were sort of a jumbled mess, jumping back and forth from philosophical babble to an angry mob of Christians mercilessly executing those who didn't confess Jesus Christ as Lord. Troubling scenes, as they were intended to be, but almost comic in the melodramatic representation of the religiously convicted.

Book 39
The Cherokee Trail
by Louis L'Amour

Okay, look. It's summer vacation. Nothing wrong with a steady diet of hot dogs and cotton candy (or, in this case, fantasy, suspense, and westerns) ;-)

I'd never read a Western before, save for Stephen King's The Gunslinger. My grandfather-in-law practically lives on them, so I asked him for a recommendation. (This because I have a character/story idea I'd like to do someday, but I know practically nothing about the genre) He naturally led me to L'Amour and handed me The Cherokee Trail and another book.

The Cherokee Trail is really not about the Cherokee Trail, though it does take place at a stagecoach stop along that trail. I guess after writing over a hundred and twenty Westerns, titles get harder to come by. The story is about a woman who comes west to manage the station in place of her husband, who was killed by a bunch of guerilla fighters. At first, everyone reacts with the typical "But you're a WOMAN!" mindset, but she's a good cook and a hard worker, and she soon wins everybody over. Constantly proving her worth, Mary Dreyden has to deal with horse thieves, Indians, common jerks, and--dun dun dun!--the man who killed her husband, who is running for governor of Colorado. There's gunfighting, whipfighting, mysteriously dangerous but good heroes, tough orphans, and pretty much everything else you think ought to be in a Western.

So there's that.

Pages: Blasphemy (536) The Cherokee Trail (222) = 758
Total pages: 12,268
Avg pages/book: 315.56 (+3.48)

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