Google Search

Thursday, June 24, 2010

"The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner," "Fire in the East," more

ArcaMax Publishing, Inc.
Today's Super Saver Shopping Video
How To Save Big On Meat
Play Now!
Video: How to Save 86% Going Natural | News | Books | Comics | Games | Subscribe | My Account
Alert. Email is incomplete due to blocked images. Add to safe sender list now.
Washington Post Book Reviews
For You
Friday June 25, 2010
Justin Cronin
ISBN 978 0 345 50496 8
766 pages

Reviewed by Ron Charles, The Washington Post's fiction editor. You can follow him on Twitter at
Sorry, Bella. No sparkly underwear models flex their way through Justin Cronin's massive new vampire thriller. But just about everything else has been sucked into the great maw of "The Passage," this summer's most wildly hyped novel.
Cronin is the latest indication that no one, not even an English professor at Rice University who's written a couple of small literary novels, is safe from the count's bloody fangs. You'd think Cronin's degree from the Iowa Writers' Workshop would repel vampires like a garlic necklace, but who can resist Dracula's mesmeric gaze, not to mention that $3.75 million advance? (Rumors of Marilynne Robinson's upcoming werewolf novel could not be confirmed at press time.)
Of course, you're skeptical. So was I. But by the third chapter, trash was piling up in our house because I was too scared to take out the garbage at night. It's a macabre pleasure to see what a really talented novelist can do with these old Transylvanian tropes. In the same way that "Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell" gave us a mature alternative to "Harry Potter," "The Passage" is for adults who've been bitten but can't swallow the teenybopper misogyny of Stephenie Meyer's "Twilight" series.
As a writer, though, Cronin is more Dr. Frankenstein than Dr. Van Helsing. "The Passage," the first volume of a planned trilogy, doesn't have any interest in pursuing ol' Count Dracula; it's all about stitching together the still-beating scraps of classic horror and science fiction, techno thrillers and apocalyptic terror. Although a clairvoyant nun plays a crucial role, Cronin has stripped away the lurid religious trappings of the vampire myth and gone with a contemporary biomedical framework. Imagine Michael Crichton crossbreeding Stephen King's "The Stand" and "Salem's Lot" in that lab on Jurassic Park, with rich infusions of Robert McCammon's "Swan Song," "Battlestar Galactica" and even Cormac McCarthy's "The Road."
A pastiche? Please -- Cronin is trading derivatives so fast and furious he should be regulated by the SEC. But who cares? It's alive!
The story opens a few years in the future when the war on terror has come home with frequent attacks in American shopping malls and subway stations. A secret government project wants to create a new breed of soldiers by re-engineering a virus found in some nasty Bolivian bats. The last 12 test subjects are death-row inmates -- murderers and rapists -- just the kind of people you'd want to endow with lightning speed, impenetrable exoskeletons and a rapacious thirst for human blood.
But relax, what could possibly go wrong? These are government experts. They've got, like, double locks on the cages and everything. (I walk home a little faster now past the NIH biohazard lab in Bethesda.) As you might expect, "mistakes were made." Soon the entire country is overrun by indestructible, blood-sucking fiends -- like a presidential campaign that never ends.
The second part picks up about 90 years later with an equally abrupt jump in locale and tone. From here on out, we follow the fate of a small community of descendants hanging on in a walled compound powered by antique technology. It's an engrossing if vampiric version of Alan Weisman's "The World Without Us": Nuclear plants melt down and explode, vegetation retakes the cities, and the Gulf of Mexico fills with oil from untended wells (like that could ever happen).
Cronin proves himself just as skillful with the dystopic future as he is with the techno-thriller that opens "The Passage." This second section sinks deep into the exotic customs of these beleaguered survivors. We meet a vibrant cast of citizen warriors, who have to ask themselves each day if it's worth fighting against the dying of the light. (If those wind-powered bulbs go out, the "virals" will swoop in.)
Their best fighter is a stoic bombshell named Alicia, who was raised by an old soldier to kill -- and could teach Lara Croft a few things about being hot and deadly. I was initially less impressed with Peter, the earnest young man who gradually becomes the center of this epic. He's about as sexy as a Sears shirt model, but there's something endearing about his modesty and determination, and eventually I saw the wisdom of placing this good-hearted everyman at the center of all these bizarre crises.
Fortunately, Cronin has a wry sense of humor that runs from macabre to silly. A passing reference to Jenna Bush as governor of Texas may be the scariest thing in these pages. Soldiers watching an old reel of Bela Lugosi's "Dracula" in a post-apocalyptic vampire wasteland is a particularly nice touch. And in the final pages of the novel, one of my favorite characters "lapsed into a kind of twilight," but not Stephenie Meyer's kind.
Yes, once in a while, Cronin can't resist sucking on a few supple cliches. A traumatized survivor obviously heading toward something terrible says, "I wonder if we are heading toward something terrible." There's a prostitute with a heart of gold, a little child holds the key to humanity's salvation, and some exhilarating chapters have needless cliffhangers grafted on to the last line, e.g., "Something was about to happen." Duh ...
But once vampires start leaping from the treetops, you're not going to notice those little flaws. You'll be running too fast. Part of what makes these light-sensitive monsters so terrifying is that Cronin never lets us see them much or for long. For hundreds of pages, we remain like the harried survivors of this ravaged nation, peering into the darkness for those telltale orange eyes, the last thing we'll see before we experience the new sensation of being ripped from crotch to neck. It'll be interesting to see if Ridley Scott, having reportedly paid $1.75 million for the movie rights, can exercise such restraint. But even if he can't, late in the novel there's a climactic gladiator scene with "Wild Wild West" overtones that will blow the top of your head off.
About halfway through the chewy center of "The Passage," I was whining that Cronin should have cut out a few hundred pages, but by the end, the only thing I wanted was to get my sweaty hands on the next two volumes. Till then, I'll be keeping the lights on.
Ron Charles can be reached at charlesr(at symbol)

Copyright 2010 Washington Post Writers Group

Comment on this Story | Printer Friendly | Send Story to a Friend | Top
Stephenie Meyer
Little, Brown
ISBN 978 0 316 12558 1
178 pages

Reviewed by Monica Hesse, a staff writer for The Washington Post
It has arrived: the benevolent gift to fans, the surprise french fry discovered in the bottom of Stephenie Meyer's vampiric junk-food bag. "The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner" hit stores Saturday, two years after readers thought they'd seen the last of Bella and the Cullen clan. This novella is a companion to "Eclipse," the third volume in Meyer's teen human-vampire love saga, which comes out in movie form later this month.
First, let us answer some burning questions:
How much Edward is there?
Pages 158-178.
Are lots of things "dazzling" or "sparkling"?
Yes. Also, "disco ball" is introduced as a frequent description of the way vampire skin glows in the sun.
Is it good?
Oh, come now. The satisfaction of "Twilight" novels cannot be measured by such terms as "good" and "bad." This goes double for "Bree," which was not originally intended as a stand-alone novel and which all fans will read and all haters will skip regardless of the reviews.
"Bree" takes place during the "Eclipse" time frame, and knowledge of that novel is useful in understanding the plot.
In "Eclipse," Bella applies for colleges, weighs a marriage proposal and worries about a rash of Seattle murders. She balances her star-crossed love for Edward against her moonstruck love for Jacob; she negotiates peace between the warring werewolves and vampires; and she witnesses a standoff between the ruling-class Volturi and an army of newly transformed vampires who have been violating vampire law.
Bree Tanner is one of these newborns.
Her role in "Eclipse" is limited to five pages: She becomes the Volturi's prisoner, she begs for mercy, she is denied it in a very permanent manner. Crunch, rip, tear, alas.
But Meyer took a shine to the 15-year-old runaway-turned-vampire and began exploring her brief life as an independent writing exercise. That experiment eventually grew to book length, and Meyer decided to publish it -- donating one dollar from every book's sale to the American Red Cross and also giving fans free access to the text online from Monday to July 5.
"Bree" begins three months after the title character's vampire transformation. She is living with other newborns in a Seattle flophouse, quenching her thirst for human blood while trying to figure out just what the enigmatic Riley -- a sort of vampire RA -- isn't telling the rest of them. Hint: He's working for Victoria, the evil "Twilight" vampire who wants to kill Bella and destroy Edward Cullen and family.
She remembers little of her human life, other than that it wasn't great, and her vampire life isn't shaping up to be much better. Newborn vampires are a nasty bunch and regularly resort to tearing one another up as entertainment. Her only ally is the humane Diego, who also is conveniently handsome.
The plot yields a few tasty morsels. Fans will discover a new reason to detest Jane, the Volturi's china-doll torturer, and Fred, a vampire whose superpower is to make people vomit, a nice addition to the world of bleak freaks Meyer has created over the course of four novels.
Actually, as far as character development goes, "Bree" bests the rest of "Twilight." Bree and love interest Diego talk and act like real (undead) teens exploring a crush, as opposed to Edward and Bella's pathological obsessi-love that defines the other novels. Meyer's dialogue is more believable here than almost anywhere else in Twi-world.
This, it turns out, is the problem. Fans do not come to Stephenie Meyer for reality. We come to her for passion, for yearning, for adoration mixed with anguish and then shaken to a tizzy. We want her characters to vow, "I would rather die than be separated from you," the way Edward and Bella do every time they meet, rather than, "He's kind of my friend. I mean, not like you're my friend," as Diego tells Bree.
Er, thanks.
It's disappointing -- but perhaps expected -- that "Bree" feels its fullest and most compelling in the last 30 pages, when the Cullens finally show up as Bree's would-be saviors. Bree fails to notice, even once, how chiseled and godlike Edward is, which feels truly bizarre to fans who have known only Bella's point of view.
We are left staring longingly after our familiar friends, wishing we could go home with them instead. You seem like a lovely girl, Bree, but you're blocking our view of the action we care about. If you could just move to the -- thanks.
Edward, Bella, wait for us.
Monica Hesse can be reached at hessem(at symbol)

Copyright 2010 Washington Post Writers Group

Comment on this Story | Printer Friendly | Send Story to a Friend | Top
OPERATION MINCEMEAT: How a Dead Man and a Bizarre Plan Fooled the Nazis and Assured an Allied Victory.
Ben Macintyre
Random House Audio
Unabridged, 11 1/2hours pages
$9 CDs, $35, download, $28

Reviewed by Katherine A. Powers
John Lee's cultivated, Celtic-tinged voice, in turns quizzical, wry and matter-of-fact, is well-matched with this mordantly funny account of an extraordinary episode in World War II: the launching of a corpse kitted out as an officer carrying fake top-secret papers to mislead the Nazis about Allied war plans. Made famous by the movie (and book) "The Man Who Never Was," the scheme was likely put forward by Ian Fleming and involved plotting, character and setting that might have been elements in a novel. Lee's past performances reading Patrick O'Brian, Alexandre Dumas and Macintyre's own brilliant "Agent Zigzag" extend this gifted reader's tradition of exhilarating derring-do.
Katherine A. Powers, who regularly reviews audio books for The Washington Book World, writes a literary column for the Boston Globe.

Copyright 2010 Washington Post Writers Group

Comment on this Story | Printer Friendly | Send Story to a Friend | Top
FIRE IN THE EAST: Warrior of Rome
Harry Sidebottom
Blackstone Audio
Unabridged, 14 1/2 hours pages
$12 CDs $5, 1 Mp3 CD $29.95. download, $25.17

Reviewed by Katherine A. Powers
It's 255 A.D., and the Roman Empire is stretched beyond its ability to maintain authority. Riddled with corruption, treachery and eschatological religion, this empire was made for summer reading. Here the pleasure is amplified by the imperial baritone of narrator Stefan Rudnicki. At the center of things is a Roman officer sent to Persia to defend an isolated Roman citadel against the Sassanid army. The story abounds with treachery, action and details of material life and ancient military technology, while Rudnicki's doomy voice seems to come out of that distant, ill-fated past.
Katherine A. Powers, who regularly reviews audio books for The Washington Book World, writes a literary column for the Boston Globe.

Copyright 2010 Washington Post Writers Group

Comment on this Story | Printer Friendly | Send Story to a Friend | Top

Coupon Mom shows us how to have a great cookout even during tough economic times. Coupon Mom has been featured on Oprah and Good Morning America, and CNN. Watch this video now. Sincerely,
The ArcaMax Editors

Comment on this Story | Printer Friendly | Send Story to a Friend | Top
... an ASTONISHING 'machine' that's guaranteed to generate
FAST cash for anyone who uses it. This is based on a brand
NEW technology which leverages "free traffic" on the internet
with billions of hits.
The CRAZY part that's shocking...
You don't really need to do anything - after setting it up
and just pressing a few "submit" buttons! There's no hard
learning or trial-and-error or complex guide to follow. Yes,
it's that ERROR-PROOF and there's virtually ZERO chance for
you to lose money. This will be worth every moment to see...
From the ArcaMax Book Club

ArcaMax offers you a collection of more than 600 free classic books online -- available by e-mail one chapter per day. The complete versions are available online so you can read at your pace and update your e-mail subscription -- an "online bookmark" for the next time you sit down to read.

Recent Stories
Small Arrow   ELSIE & MAIRI GO TO WAR: Two Extraordinary Women on the Western Front
Small Arrow   MEDIUM RAW: A Bloody Valentine to the World of Food and the People Who Cook
Small Arrow   NOBODY'S ANGEL
Small Arrow   THE WAGON And Other Stories from the City
More From ArcaMax Publishing
Newsletters: Comics - Knowledge - Lifestyles - News - More
Classic Books: Fiction - Non Fiction - Short Stories - Sci Fi - More

 Introducing FREE Tote bags from VistaPrint.  An eco-friendly carry-all for wherever you go.  Click here...
Quick Clicks
Full Court Records Available: Find Out Anything About Anyone! Click now...
Sample Of Clorox Greenworks Cleaners
Finally! Health Coverage That Fits Your Budget! Major carriers have lowered their rates due to Bills passing in Congress!

ArcaMax Publishing, Inc., 729 Thimble Shoals Blvd., Suite 1-B, Newport News, VA 23606 | FAX (757) 596-9731
Copyright © 2009 ArcaMax Publishing, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

ArcaMax Publishing is the Leader in News and Entertainment by Email

ArcaMax Publishing websites: (Family-Friendly News & Fun) (Book Samples for Book Lovers)