“The Descent” by Jeff Long

This is a book I am going to remember for a very very long time.  Jeff Long is suprisingly literary, a real treat.  Lovecraft. Journey to the Center of the Earth. Subterannean lost human(oid) races… Sprinkle bits of Hellraiser, and round it off with some anthropology, mysticism and a teeny Tao. 

Btw, this book is in no way related to the film of the same name..  this book is far more epic and thought provoking and relies less on the terrifying and shocking elements in the movie, though there are plenty of scenes of gore and sadism.  I felt at times that the first 300 pages of this 700+ page journey could have been fleshed out (no pun intended) to be a book unto itself.  Nevertheless, despite this shortcoming I am as affected by the Descent as I was the first time I read my first Lovecraft book.

 

Blasphemy, by Douglas Preston

Just some ‘fun’ reading, nothing literary about it. That said, much better than Brimstone (I’m still in shock wondering if I want to continue the Pendergrast tales after that one).. I’d give it a 3.85 out of 5 stars. Quick points;

  • Library book.  shows I wasnt willing to part with $ going into the read
  • 400 pages long.  300 pages in I predicted MOST of the ending.  THis always pisses me off.
  • last 15 pages redeemed themselves with a few thougthful twists.
  • Wyman Ford is back (from Tyrannosaur Canyon), this guys easier to relate to.
  • Preston revisits themes of mob hysteria (Reliquary, Brimstone), religious zealots (Brimstone), and subterannean (Almost every one of their books)

Not bad.  Was worth the 20-odd subway rides I spent riding.

“Eh…” aka Brimstone by Preston and Child

So you may have noticed that I’m on a Preston & Child kick. 

Despite Brimstone , I think I’m still on that kick.  All in all it’s not a bad book, but it’s not even close to any of their previous Pendergast tales.  This one, weighed in at some 750 pages so I was quite curious to dig into it.   But man, it rambles and at times outright bored me.  About 500 pages in I actually went into the library looking for a break – a new read, but decided to hold out and finish this one. 

So.. Interesting crime – decent backdrops – Agathie Christie style supporting characters – Pendergast is a little too perfect in this one (boring) – maybe about 50 pages worth of supporting info which I presume is important for the next in the series .  I have to believe if this book was edited to 400 pages (I’m serious, cut out 40% of it), it could have been as strong as the Cabinet of Curiosities or Reliquary.

Not so..  and it leaves me slightly disenchanted.

 

Still Life With Crows. 5 stars! (by Preston & Child)

Wow

That’s pretty much all I have to say. 

Naaa really, this was a great book – and man what an ending.  Seriously, the ending just left me thinking some pretty deep things about humanity… how just maybe a twist and a turn somewhere in our all of past could have sent us all down a much much much  “different” path.  I never expect any deep thoughts when reading adventure, suspense etc fiction, so finding it within these pages was an added bonus.

So again, we have the same subterannean theme that I’ve found in Reliquary, Cabinet of Curiosities… but it’s not really presented to the reader until maybe 80% of the way through the book.  And when it does, it comes hard and fast and you feel like you are in the claustrophic and terrifying darkness.  Most of the book is spent in the endless seas of corn and ultra small-town-go-nowhere middle America (complete with a turkey packing plant).  Preston & Child do a knockup job of transporting you there and it’s not as dull a setting as you would think – I personally had very low expectations as I grabbed it from the store shelf, and found myself proved wrong.

Agent Pendergast is back and shows some more human aspects than in the other books, which for me was welcome.  I’ve got nothing against the Pendergast character, he just seems a little too distant and aristocratic at times for me to fully embrace and relate to him.   He’s paired with a new sidekick – a goth teenager that compliments nicely, I found her a great way to put myself in the scene. Again, reading the jacket cover I didn’t know how they could pull off mixing those two character types together, but they did.

By far, my favorite of the Preston and Child novels.  Interestingly, this wasn’t carried at my local library and (reader be warned) it very well may because of some intensely gruesome and spooky passages.

 

Still Life with Crows, by Preston and Child

The Ice Limit

The Ice Limit was a decent read.  It was written in 2000 by the Preston and Child team that is more well know for the Pendergast novels.  I’ve reviewed an excellent one here, and a very good one here.  The Ice Limit came after the 2nd Pendergast book, Reliquary, and before the 3rd, The Cabinet of Curiosities.  It’s really a departure from the morbid and dark subterannean themes of those books, and we spend most of our time on the treacherous rolling oceans near the Straits of Magellan, and on the bleak Isla Desolacion.  To the authors credit I at many times felt the whip of ocean wind and squinted at the blinding white ice pack while I sped through this 450+ page read. 

The subject matter was actually a welcome break from gore, as I had just read Reliquary and then the Cabinet in succession.  There’s murder, and mystery but it’s complimented by a whole lot of physics and logistics as the cast of characters struggle with moving the heaviest meteorite ever found from the ends of the earth.  While similar to Lincoln Child’s (Chriton-esque) Deep Storm, I would say it’s a better read, and in hindsight the most enjoyable aspect of the book is the successful transport of the reader to the barren settings within it’s pages.

 

Reliquary. 4.5 stars (by Preston & Child)

I stumbled upon this book completely by accident one day, and though I wouldn’t go so far as to say it changed my life, it did wake me up from a 5+ year drought of not reading fiction.  The circumstances of the purchase were nice and happenstance (just the way I like it).  I took my oldest son to the bookstore to make good on a promise and get him a Star Wars clone war chapter book of his choice.  In a hurry and a rush I asked him to follow me into the ‘daddy’ books so I can pick something up to read on the subway.  I thumbed through some Dan Simmons spines, looked at a couple covers…  even handled a few nearby paperbacks – quickly scanning the back cover synopsis.  When I pulled Reliquary from the shelf, flipped it over -the deal was cinched in know time flat, with it’s promise of subterannean NYC adventures, and dark subhuman creatures.

A fast and fun read, with some fun characters – I had no idea this was the sequel to Relic.. but I’m almost glad I haven’t read Relic, as this is such a strong and fun read.  Reliquary gives you enough hints to the relevant parts of Relic, but I personally think this is a perfect entry point into the Preston & Childnovels, specifically those of Agent Pendergast.  It’s some 460 pages, and I finished it in about 2 weeks.  Aside from the normal hour of reading time on the train monday – friday, it was compelling enough to keep me up past midnight a couple nights, and actually pass on some (non-Patriots) football games on a Sunday.  Now, that’s a pretty good book in my opinion.

I’ve always been fascinated with the worlds humanity has built underneath our cities – from catacombs, caves (The DESCENT!!!) to cultures building on the ruins of those past… and this book totally indulges the mind with a perfect mix of historical fact, artistic license and boyish adventure fantasy.  Some of the recurring characters aren’t quite as polished as they wind up being in their later novels, but the imagery and scenery of digging into the deepest depths of man-mad subterranean manhattan (the Astor’s tunnels) is worth the price of admission alone.

Reliquary, by Preston and Child