Archive for the ‘Fiction’ Category

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is, in my opinion, a good but not exceptional crime thriller novel.  Set in Sweden, the main characters, a journalist and a hacker, work to uncover a twisted family history and a corrupt financial empire.  The novel  is an international best seller and is part of the Millennium Trilogy.

Originally published in Swedish, in 2005, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo won the 2006 Glass Key award for best crime novel of the year and the 2008 Boeke Prize.  The Millennium Trilogy has also been adapted into a trilogy of films.


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In his 1950 Nobel Prize Acceptance Speech, William Faulkner described the difficulties of writing in a age when there is a constant threat of nuclear annihilation.  Cormac McCarthy’s Pulitzer Prize winning novel, The Road, is set during a nuclear winter, a few years after a nuclear war.  Survivors subsist by eating remaining cans of food or by resorting to cannibalism.  The book is centered on an unnamed father and son’s journey along a road towards the coast.  They travel through a destroyed landscape of dead forests.   Within this desolation, the father and son occasionally share moments joy, like when they find an unopened can of soda and the boy drinks the magical, frothing liquid.  Although everyone in the book is starving, sometimes the father and son share food with strangers.  These moments of joy and sharing, as well as the superb writing, are what makes this book remarkable.  Amid the bleakness, the McCarthy leaves the reader with a glimmer of hope.

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Elmore Leonards When the women cover

The settings for this collection of nine short stories varies widely spanning from the late 1800’s to the 1990’s, from     the desert to cityscapes.  The majority of the stories are crime fiction but there is one piece of historical fiction and another Western, The Tonto Woman, which was adapted into a fine short film.  The writing is consistently good, especially the dialogs and the characters generally have complex motivations for their actions.  This is highly entertaining fiction.

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Cory Doctorow’s cover-smalldystopian, YA novel is set in the Bay Area, in the near future.  America has become more of a police state.  The protagonist, Marcus, and his friends see evading security systems as a fun game.  Losing the game involves few serious consequences.  When an unspecified terrorist group blows up the Bay Bridge, Marcus and his friends are picked up as suspects and interrogated.

Upon release, Marcus uses his technical prowess to first create an encrypted communication network and then to organize a movement against the Department of Homeland Security.  As more rights are stripped from citizens and more surveillance equipment is set-up, we see people beginning to live in fear of any debate or even questioning authority.

Hanging over this story is the fact that one of Marcus’ friends was not released from prison.  We do not know his fate.  His friends assume he is dead…  This adds gravity to the entire story.

Overall, this story shows what could have happened if America had remained on the same trajectory it was on for a while after 9/11.  Alternatively, it shows what could happen if there is another big terrorist attack.  This is an excellent book for teens and teen book groups.

This book is available for a free (legal) download here:


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Town Beyond

Elie Wiesel’s novel, The Town Beyond the Wall takes place in a prison.  The narrator, Michael, a survivor of the Concentration Camps, returns to the Hungarian town of his origin, from which he was deported to a death camp.   At the point of his return, the city is on the other side of the Iron Curtain and he has compartmentalized his past to a point where it is beyond a mental wall.  He illegally enters the city with a smuggler and before the start of the story he is arrested.  Mentally he recreates the city through stories and memories.  In this way he is able to reclaim his past or make a sort of door in the wall so that his past can be integrated into his present life.  Towards the end of the book, the narrator sees four options: 1) Become very religious and just see the Holocaust as part of God’s will.  2)  Allow himself to go insane and rage at everyone.  3)  Remain mute and deaf about his past.  4)  Teach the mute self to speak.  Michael chooses the final option.  Wiesel chose this option too and became the best-known spokesperson about the horrors of the Shoa.

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