Take Ten - Bill's Picks
Bill Keene is our February Take Ten staff member. Bill is only visiting our planet because his has no books. How sad is that? His favorites are Science Fiction (which he calls "historic documentation") and Mystery (which he calls "mystery"). He reads about 40 books a year, and likes working at Quail Ridge so much that he would almost do it for free, but his pet Zarnac must be fed, so he takes a little money. One day Bill will return to his home and bring books to everyone on Planet Bob. Until then, he will continue his adventures here in the Space-Crime Continuum.
Wade Watts is a teenager living in the ugly world of 2044. His escape from reality is the worldwide video game The Oasis. If Wade can solve the puzzles its creator has included in The Oasis, vast riches will be his. When Wade discovers the first clue, he also discovers that there are other players willing to kill to win. Now that he's involved, the only way to survive is to win. The pop-culture references from the 70's and 80's make this an entertaining read for those of a certain age, but the adventure make it enjoyable for all.
Charlie Asher has a normal life, a normal job, a normal wife, and a normal baby on the way. Until people start dropping dead around him, and he hears voices telling him that he has a new job, as Death. As grisly as that sounds, this book is laugh out loud funny. Christopher Moore's sense of humor has been described as "sideways", but I just think that the boy ain't right. If you haven't read Moore before, this is the one to start with.
There is a reason that this series is a classic of fantasy. Mystery, intrigue, romance, and adventure fill the pages of this and every volume of the story. The world building alone is worth the time it takes to read.
In the future, the good news is that we have conquered interstellar space travel. The bad news is that Earth is a backwater and we must find new planets capable of sustaining our lives. And we are not the only spacefarers doing so. Thus, we must fight. John Perry joins the Colonial Defense Force on his 75th birthday. The Force is fine with this; they don't want young people, they want those with the experience of decades of living to draw from. Besides, they're going to give John a new, stronger, better body to work with.
John Scalzi returns March 22 with The Collapsing Empire. You don't want to miss him.
Lee Child's debut thriller introduces us to Jack Reacher, a tough guy's Sherlock Holmes; a modern nomad who seems to have trouble find him wherever he roams. I like all of Child's books because of his 'deceptive' style--throughout the story the reader can't help but think that Reacher knows things the reader doesn't. Then, when the story gets tied up in a nice bow at the end, you realize "If I had just connected the darned dots, I'd have seen that coming!"
Joe Pickett is the new game warden in town. In Wyoming, everybody hunts and they don't always follow the rules, which makes Joe far from popular. When several local outfitters are murdered, and the local police investigation offers an explanation that seems a little too pat, Joe investigates for himself. This is Box's first in a series of Joe Pickett novels, and one of the best.
This is the basis for the Longmire TV series. Walt Longmire is the wizened Sheriff of Absaroka County, Wyoming (Wyoming seems to have a lot of crime). After 25 years he's hoping to finish out his career in peace. His hopes are dashed when Cody Pritchard is found dead on the Cheyenne Reservation. Two years earlier, Cody was one of four high school boys given suspended sentences for assaulting a Cheyenne girl. It seems that someone is seeking revenge. Johnson's, and therefore Longmire's, grasp of Native-American spirituality made this an interesting read for me, and the mystery of the story turned me into a long-time Johnson fan.
I'm a thriller/action/science fiction kind of guy, and this book has not a single fist fight, gun fight, or spacecraft chase. But it IS a murder mystery, and a wonderful debut novel in which the development of the characters unfolds as the mystery unfolds. There was a time when people paid a back-handed compliment to some books by saying "it's in the mystery genre but it reads like literature". But darn it, Mr. McPherson's debut novel is in the mystery genre and it DOES read like literature!
Harry Dresden is Chicago's only professional wizard. His world is populated by vampires, werewolves, the fae, gangsters, police, and everyday people. His adventures are both perilous and at times hilarious. I'm pretty sure the books are classified as "urban fantasy", but I like them for the mystery.
Bernie Rhodenbarr is a bookstore owner who does a little burglary on the side. He's a nice guy whose plans don't always go as he wants them to. Like taking a job to retrieve an object from a man's apartment, and finding that man dead. Like still being in the apartment when the cops arrive, with no way to prove he's not the murderer. This is the first of Block's hapless burglar novels, told with a wry wit and excellent plotting.