Category Archives: Books – 4 stars

Eric Garcia – Hot And Sweaty Rex

Probably the best of the Rex series so far. Anonymous Rex introduced the shadowy world in which dinosaurs secretly live side-by-side with humans, cleverly disguised by prosthetic human suits, and Casual Rex dealt with a lot of back story that had been left blank by the first book. Now that all this has been established, Garcia seems to feel a lot more free and open in his storytelling. Hot And Sweaty Rex sees Vincent Rubio hired by one dino mafia family to spy on another. And as if that wasn’t challenging enough, it turns out that one of the families is run by his closest childhood friend, to whose sister he was once engaged. And she still hasn’t forgiven him.

You never forget that you’re reading about a bunch of dinosaurs dressed up in rubber suits, but the story is strong enough that it would have worked even without the element of fantasy. Given that this is the case, you might wonder why Garcia chose to do it as a dino story at all, rather than as a stand-alone contemporary thriller, and the answer is: Vincent Rubio, raptor detective. The plot may revolve around a vicious turf war, but It’s Rubio whose heart is mangled by the process. Garcia didn’t want to tell just another crime story–he wanted to write about Vincent.

Elizabeth Bear – Scardown

This is the second book in the trilogy that started with Hammered. Again, the cover is misleading: the book is not about women with guns running around in skin-tight military uniforms. It’s a grim vision of the future, where Canada and China are the two superpowers, racing to be the first to exploit alien technology to power them to the stars. Jenny Casey is forced to make difficult decisions about who trust, and who to care for–decisions that will affect not just her, but the whole world. Scardown is better than Hammered, but you really need to read them in order.

Christopher Brookmyre – The Sacred Art Of Stealing

This is the follow-up to Brookmyre’s earlier book, A Big Boy Did It And Ran Away. Angelique de Xavia finds herself dealing with a group of bank robbers who dress up as clowns, and falls under the charms of the group’s leader. The crimes are beautifully executed, and the cop/robber love dynamic is played out with gusto. The book starts off a bit slow, as Brookmyre spends a lot of time digging around in the characters’ minds, but once things get moving, it’s as fast and funny as anything he’s done.

David Sklansky – The Theory Of Poker

Not a quick read, and not an easy read, at least for a beginning poker player. There’s a lot of (admittedly fairly simple) mathematics here, and a lot of statistics. Not a lot of anecdotes. If you play poker for the fun of it, or for its social aspects, this is not going to inspire you to go out and lay your money down at the card table. What it does do is explain how to win at poker, and it explains very clearly that the only way to do that consistently is to calculate odds. That’s what the book focuses on, and it does it well.

John Sandford – Broken Prey

Another excellent slice of Lucas Davenport thriller action. For a change, the identity of the killer isn’t revealed until late in the book (although Sandford still writes sections from the killer’s perspective throughout). This lends more of a sense of mystery to the plot, but I’m not sure if it actually adds anything to the tension levels, which are generally set to “high” anyway. The climax is one of the most energetic Sandford has staged recently. Very worthwhile.