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Book Review: THE LOST MAN

DETAILS

Title: THE LOST MAN
Author: Jane Harper
Publisher: Flatiron Books
ISBN: 9781250229106
Genre: Mystery | Suspense

BACK COVER BLURB

Two brothers meet at the remote border of their vast cattle properties under the unrelenting sun of the outback. In an isolated part of Australia, they are each other’s nearest neighbour, their homes hours apart.

They are at the stockman’s grave, a landmark so old that no one can remember who is buried there. But today, the scant shadow it casts was the last hope for their middle brother, Cameron. The Bright family’s quiet existence is thrown into grief and anguish.

Something had been troubling Cameron. Did he choose to walk to his death? Because if he didn’t, the isolation of the outback leaves few suspects…

WHAT I THOUGHT

Jane Harper has done it again. Written another compelling, thought-provoking, absorbing slice of life in the Aussie outback beneath a blistering sun. THE LOST MAN is as complex and twisted as they come and taking the same formula that worked for THE DRY, puts the reader deep in the heart of Queensland, riding roughshod over a family that like THE DRY, has one too many secrets buried deep in the scorched red earth.

Everyone, including the Pommy backpackers, has a story to tell. And every character, including the children, have secrets they’re not supposed to share. And as the story and the details surround the grisly death of middle son, Cameron, unfolds, layer after layer, is peeled away revealing forgotten and hidden truths left to long festering in the dark. Family secrets that begin to bleed through as Nathan, the eldest son of Liz and Carl Bright, narrates the story.

Oh, what a wonderfully twisted mind Harper must have, because she skillfully weaves a thoroughly absorbing multi-layered story about people struggling on every front: with loneliness, the weather—brutal and unforgiving—to familiar family dynamics. Each character is a richly detailed person with their own set of problems, but the heart of the story is centred around Nathan, as he starts to piece together what happened both present, and past.

These fascinating characters are at the heart of this family drama, but the countryside, and the brutal unforgiving world these people live in, is also a big part of Harper’s storytelling; bringing the landscape to life as a breathing, living thing. Her detailed descriptions have you sweating in the heat, they’re so visceral. I felt like I could see the shimmer of the heat across the dry, baked ground, hear that hum of wind and sand, and feel my skin blistering beneath the noon-day sun.

“At night, when the sky felt even bigger, he could almost imagine it was a million years ago and he was walking on the bottom of the sea. A million years ago when a million natural events still needed to occur, one after the other, to form this land as it lay in front of him now. A place where rivers flooded without rain and seashells fossilised a thousand miles from water and men who left their cars found themselves walking to their deaths.”

The one thing you can be certain of, Jane Harper really knows how to tell a great story, giving ample room for each character to draw you in, delving into everyone’s worst fears and dark secrets. And using Nathan, as an amateur detective, slowly and deceptively, unravels and reveals the truth behind Cameron’s death in an utterly believable way. There are a number of themes, including abuse and rape, that are explored with a deft, careful hand. But it’s the family dynamics that Harper excels at, that keep you page turning right through to an end I didn’t see coming till the last minute, when I was as thoroughly surprised as Nathan!

Harper has the ability to captivate the reader and transport them into a wholly believable world, where everyone, including the land, is in a struggle for survival.

If you enjoy emotionally charged, character driven, layered stories, then Jane Harper’s THE LOST MAN is a must.

Rating: 10 / 10

First Impressions Friday

First Impressions Friday: The Bear & The Nightingale

For those of you who don’t know, First Impressions Friday is exactly that, based on your first impressions of your current read, do you think you will love or hate it by the end? Don’t forget to link back to Joe at Storeys of Stories.

Funnily enough, it looks like both Joe and I started reading THE BEAR AND THE NIGHTINGALE by Katherine Arden. But I’m thinking we both might have differing opinions on this one, by the end of our reads. This is another of those books well reviewed by a lot of people who loved it. And it was based on a couple of recommendations that I decided to add it to my TBR for my Fantasy February reads.

“At the edge of the Russian wilderness, winter lasts most of the year and the snowdrifts grow taller than houses. But Vasilisa doesn’t mind—she spends the winter nights huddled around the embers of a fire with her beloved siblings, listening to her nurse’s fairy tales. Above all, she loves the chilling story of Frost, the blue-eyed winter demon, who appears in the frigid night to claim unwary souls. Wise Russians fear him, her nurse says, and honor the spirits of house and yard and forest that protect their homes from evil.”

I started reading this one yesterday evening and, after a bit of a struggle, maybe because I was tired, or just not into putting so much effort in with all the names. I gave up and went to bed. I can’t say I’m thrilled with what I’ve read so far, or if I’ll continue with it. I think I might have to leave this one till later in the month.

My prediction: 6 / 10

Book Review: SCYTHE

DETAILS

Title: SCYTHE
Author: Neal Shusterman
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
ISBN: 9781442472433
Genre: SF | YA

BACK COVER BLURB

Thou shalt kill.

A world with no hunger, no disease, no war, no misery. Humanity has conquered all those things, and has even conquered death. Now scythes are the only ones who can end life—and they are commanded to do so, in order to keep the size of the population under control.

Citra and Rowan are chosen to apprentice to a scythe—a role that neither wants. These teens must master the “art” of taking life, knowing that the consequence of failure could mean losing their own. They learn living in a perfect world comes only with a heavy price.

WHAT I THOUGHT

The premise for SCYTHE is a really good one. It comes across as being unusual—here we have people who train to deal death as a means of culling the growing population in a world were everyone is, technically, immortal. This is a story that should have everything going for it as an idea. Sadly, however, the author fails to deliver on a rich promise in a satisfying or fulfilling way and the awful black and white view on morality is absurd for a so-called utopia.

Which brings me to the utter lack of world building. There is none!

The author has decided his audience is savvy enough to know when he says death has been conquered through technology, he doesn’t then have to explain how, he just mentions everyone has ‘Nanites’ in their system that takes care of everything including death. But there is no science to back this up, nor how the ‘Cloud’ now called the Thunderhead, became self-aware after amassing the sum of all human knowledge.

Why, for example, are the Scythes allowed to ‘glean’ at random, with any weapon they choose? And by what mechanism did the Scythes come into being to begin with?

Let’s take about the main characters of Citra and Rowan. Here we have two stand-ins that could have been lifted from the pages of either DIVERGENT or THE HUNGER GAMES. Neither of whom stand out in any way. Lacklustre at best, paper-thin at worst, they are a vapid means to an end when it comes to storytelling.

Oh, and don’t get me started on one of my pet-peeves: insta-love. The pair are devoid of any chemistry, but that’s okay, they still ‘fall’ in love anyway. This is just sloppy, lazy writing.

Then there are the secondary characters, who come across as animated caricatures. Take the buffoon High Scythe who, despite programable nanites to take care of his health, decides he wants to be middle aged and overweight. Then there is the psychopathic serial killer bad guy, Scythe Goddard, whose Harry Potter blue robe glittering with diamonds, goes around murdering gleaning at will—en-masse—with impunity. Because these people have no depth of character, no background, or emotive context, their actions come across as simply crude and shocking.

Like the teens who think it’s funny to leap out of tall buildings to ‘splatt‘ on the pavement below, because they’ll get great ice cream at the revival centre. And besides, they’re not really dead, just almost dead. You know, because of the nanites.

Who in their right mind thinks this okay? What’s sad is that this kind of senseless writing is gifted praise and garners prizes.

In the end this came across as a pointless, overly long story, full of plot holes, aided and abetted by a lack of characterization, with dull plodding prose, and utterly no world building whatsoever. While the best parts of Scythe—the journal entries and the two scythes, Faraday and Curie—were never fully-realised, which is a shame.

A utopia that went ‘splatt‘ on the pavement from boredom!

Rating: 5 / 10

Books, Books, Books

There’s always more room for books!

I am extremely late posting anything today, but then I do have a good excuse. I was out earlier this morning, at the mall, at the only English bookshop in Québec City [La Maison Anglaise] buying … yes, you guessed it: books!

Two books that I had on order.

  • THE LOST MAN by Jane Harper
  • TEXAS SICARIO by Harry Hunsicker

Now I’m worried I just might throw my Fantasy February list out the window and start THE LOST MAN next. Arrggh, I so want to read it next.