“The Darkness of Evil” by Alan Jacobson (Open Road Media, 2017)


Alan Jacobson has delighted us readers for a number of years now with his gripping Karen Vail books, and in the latest installment, the sinisterly titled Darkness of Evil, Vail comes up against what could be her greatest foe yet: a convicted serial killer.

Senior profiler at the Behavioral Analysis Unit, Karen Vail, is juggling lots of projects and problems at once; but that’s just her modus operandi, in addition to dealing with a new boss who she doesn’t really get along with. She’s also keeping her eye on Jasmine Marcks, who has just published a book about her life as the daughter of a serial killer, which she had no idea about until she was a teenager and was crucial in having Roscoe Lee Marcks brought to justice and put away for a very long time. Roscoe killed fourteen people and Vail took over the case in the early days of her career, helping the guy get put away.

Jasmine receives a note from her father. He knows about the book. He knows what she said about him in the book. He wants revenge. Vail lets Jasmine know the man is locked behind bars and everything will be okay. She is finally granted access to begin interviewing Roscoe to find out what he is up to, and then before she knows it, the serial killer escapes with help from a number of people on the inside.

The rules have changed; the stakes are through the roof. It’s a whole new ball game.

Bodies begin turning up, including a cop who was protecting Jasmine. The daughter decides to go it alone, keeping hidden and quiet, only getting in contact with Vail occasionally. Meanwhile, the ace profiler joins a crack team of US Marshals and other experts to chase down Roscoe and put him back in prison where he belongs.

The Darkness of Evil kicks it into high gear right from the start, as the reader immediately gets drawn into the book. Jacobson continues to make Vail a complex and complete character, as she juggles personal life problems, other cases, and the nail-biting terror of a serial killer on the loose who seems to have no limits to whose life he may take. He could be coming around the next corner with his sights on her. But Vail is a professional. She is experienced; a veteran. She knows what has to be done, and the reader is thrilled to be along for the ride.

Originally written on March 15, 2017 ©Alex C. Telander.

To purchase a copy of The Darkness of Evil from Amazon, and help support BookBanter, click HERE.

“James Herriot’s Animal Stories” by James Herriot (St. Martin’s Press, 2015)


If you’ve never read any James Herriot (as I hadn’t until I read this delightful book), James Herriot’s Animal Stories is a perfect little volume to begin with, as it’s not too long but offers a very entertaining selection of Herriot’s best and most popular stories.

From the very beginning, the reader is entranced and wrapped up in Herriot’s easy conversational tone about the beautiful Yorkshire dales. He describes the scenery with such life that the reader is automatically transported to northern England in their imagination. While the first few stories involve Herriot sticking his hand up a cow, pig and sheep, he imbues the stories with such enjoyment in what he does, as well as appreciating the reward in helping a suffering animal.

The stories cover the whole farm with pigs, lambs, horses, cows, and even features a moving story about an old dog with eye problems who Herriot performs a simple operation on and the animal is able to spend the rest of his days seeing clearly. The stories are moving and heartfelt, making it easier to understand why Herriot’s writing and stories continue to be so popular.

Originally written on July 29, 2015 ©Alex C. Telander.

To purchase a copy of James Herriot’s Animal Stories from Amazon, and help support BookBanter, click HERE.

Seveneves by Neal Stephenson (William Morrow, 2015)

Seveneves
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Good books are the ones that start out with a captivating premise that sucks you in and then the characters have to accept said premise and deal with its ramifications. The bad ones are the those that feel forced, where the characters are artificial, and each scene feels forced and unnatural. Seveneves by Neal Stephenson kicks off with one of the best opening lines to be written in some time: “The moon blew up without warning and for no apparent reason.”

The book actually focuses very little on why or how the moon is obliterated, other than the people of Earth calling it the work of “The Agent,” about which little is known and it’s not really important, because there are more important and terrifying things to consider. A fictional equivalent of Neil deGrasse Tyson, Rufus MacQuarie has made his name as a public figure who helps explain science at its most basic levels to the masses. When a billionaire wanted to take a trip into space, MacQuarie was chosen as the backup should the billionaire fall ill or be unable to be ready on the day. Rufus documented the rigorous training he and the billionaire went through and it made him renowned.

Now he’s about to become even more renowned. All that remains of the moon are seven large pieces hanging up there spinning around. MacQuarie makes some mental calculations and then watches his predictions come true as some of the pieces collide and become smaller pieces. Then he makes some bigger calculations and eventually meets with the President of the United States to reveal his dooming prediction. Over the next two years those pieces of the former moon are going to keep colliding and breaking into smaller pieces in the millions and then billions causing what he calls the “White Sky” when all those small pieces fall out of orbit and make their way towards Earth in what he calls “Hard Rain.”

In a little over two years, the planet will be destroyed, every living thing on it killed in the fires of these lunar meteorites. No one will survive. And the planet has two years to decide how to keep the human race alive in some form.

Hope lies in the International Space Station. Those who are already up there automatically get a “get off the Earth and survive” card free. Over the next two years they will create the Cloud Ark, manufacturing many smaller “arklets” that will be habitats for people. Everything needs to planned and thought out. What supplies will be needed, what fuel, what items they will take with them to remember the history of humanity. Over the two years there will also be a drawing of two people from every country on the planet, the ideal pair representing their nation and culture. Of course, things do no always go to plan.

Neal Stephenson has created a story here that is enthralling in every sense of the word. The research at times is mind boggling as he goes from complex aerospace technology to well calculated genetics to thought out sociology. He literally brings the human race to the brink of extinction. The Hard Rain destroys the planet just as MacQuarie predicted and there are about 1500 people in Earth orbit tasked with the job of keeping humanity alive for the next 5000 years when the rain will finally end and they can possibly return to Earth and begin terraforming.

The first third of the book is about the lead up to the Hard Rain. The second third is about how the survivors survive and deal with the everyday problems of living in a small ship in space and where they’re going to get all their resources from. The final third of the book is what humanity looks like 5000 years in the future.

The book is full of female characters, because women have less of a drain on resources as compared to men, but also because Stephenson is creating a realistic world here and not one where men do everything. Diversity is omnipresent and just part of the rich fabric of this world, as it is in ours. Sadly this is something that has to be pointed out in books that do this well, because there are still far too many that feature nothing but white dudes doing everything.

The cast is interesting and entertaining. The science is fascinating and forces you to turn the page and keep reading. And the story is just a wonderful ride you won’t soon forget. It is the epitome of the ideal work of science fiction and even though its 880 pages, readers will never want it to end.

Originally written on July 31, 2015 ©Alex C. Telander.

To purchase a copy of Seveneves from Amazon, and help support BookBanter, click HERE.

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“Saga Vol. 1” by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples (Image Comics, 2012)

Saga Volume 1
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Brian K. Vaughan impressed the world with his fun and bestselling comic book series, Y the Last Man. Now he returns with a new series, partnering up with a female artist once again, this time with Fiona Staples, in Saga. A space opera science fiction original that at heart is a simple story, but is surrounded by a complex world with fascinating characters and a mythology that immediately sucks in the reader and always leaves them wanting more.

Marko is a ram-horned alien while Alana is a moth-winged alien. Their people have been fighting each other for a long time, to the point where their own worlds now choose to fight each other on other planets in distant galaxies. But Marko and Alana are unusual in that they are madly in love with each other. The first volume of Saga opens with the birth of their child and begins to be told from her viewpoint at an older age as she looks back on this tumultuous time.

It is soon discovered that these two opposite aliens not only love each other but have created a supposed abomination and they must be stopped at all costs. And so bounty hunters are employed to end them and cover up this horrific union that should never have happened.

Vaughan and Staples have clearly had a lot of fun creating a unique world with some very strange alien characters that are both interesting and enjoyable, such as a giant cat named Liar Cat, because it always knows when you are lying and will be sure to tell you. After reading this first volume, you won’t be surprised to discover it was one of the biggest selling graphic novels in 2012 and 2013, as well as winner of a number of awards. And thankfully, volume 2 is already out for you to get your hands on.

Originally written on April 19, 2014 ©Alex C. Telander.

To purchase a copy of Saga Volume 1 from Amazon, and help support BookBanter, click HERE.