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#CBR6 Review #8 – Day Watch

Day WatchTarget: Sergei Lukyanenko’s Day Watch.  Translated by Andrew Bromfield (The Watches pentalogy #2)

Profile: Modern Fantasy, Suspense, Horror

After Action Report:

Day Watch is a strong successor to the gritty, twilight world that Sergei Lukyanenko introduced us to in Night Watch.  After exploring the moral dilemmas facing a ‘good’ person trying to maintain a status quo that is anything but good, Lukyanenko shifts his focus to take a look at the bad guys.  That being said, Day Watch isn’t as strong overall as its prequel, partly because the Dark Others aren’t faced with the same quandaries as the Light.  Lukyanenko’s strengths lie in those internal debates and without them the stories have less weight.

Like Night Watch, Day Watch is composed of three separate but interconnected stories.  The first deals with a recurring character from the first book, Alisa Donnikova, a mid-level witch with the Day Watch.  Alisa is sent to a summer camp to recover her powers after a strenuous conflict with the Night Watch.  There, without her powers, she starts to fall in love with a human, putting strain on her identity as a callous Dark Other.  The second story shifts to an unknown Dark Magician named Vitaly Rogoza.  He has no memory of his past, but is rapidly awakening to tremendous dark power and a purpose he doesn’t understand.  The final story takes us back to Anton, the Night Watchman from the first book, and his counterpart in the Day Watch, a wizard named Edgar, as they travel to Prague to face a tribunal of the Inquisition.

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#CBR6 Review #7 – EX-Heroes

Ex-HeroesTarget: Peter Clines’ EX-Heroes (EX-Heroes #1)

Profile: Superhero Fiction, Speculative Fiction, Zombie Apocalypse

After Action Report:

EX-Heroes falls very clearly in my reading category of ‘book candy.’  It’s light, entertaining, but lacking many qualities of actual literary goodness.  Well, actually the concept is executed rather well and Clines manages to tell a pretty compelling story within his somewhat limited framework, so maybe the novel isn’t all that lacking.  But at the end of the day, there’s very little here that hasn’t been explored before.  Points for novelty notwithstanding.

The book bills itself as “The Avengers meets The Walking Dead,” and that’s pretty much the premise.  A sequence of international events prompt the rise of a small number of ‘superheroes,’ who only have a few years to establish themselves before the zombie apocalypse kicks off.  The book is told in two parallel arcs, one following a conclave of heroes who have carved out a sanctuary in the ruins of Paramount Studios in the post-zombie world.  The other arc jumps between perspectives of various heroes as they tell portions of their origin stories or their first contact with the book’s zombies, called ‘Exes.’

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#CBR6 Review #3 – The Dalai Lama’s Cat

The Dalai Lama's CatTarget: David Michie’s The Dalai Lama’s Cat

Profile: Religion, Self-help, Cats

After Action Report:

I don’t really like self-help books.  I find the concept to be disingenuous at best.  Something about ‘self-help’ originating from someone else’s mind is counterintuitive to me.  Still, The Dalai Lama’s Cat has an adorable kitty on the cover and it while it definitely feels like a self-help book, it’s really closer to being Vajrayana Buddhism for Dummies.

On the surface, The Dalai Lama’s Cat is the story of an abandoned kitten who is plucked from the streets by the Dalai Lama.  The cat, called a variety of names including His Holiness’s Cat and Mousie-Tung, grows up at the feet of one of the most renowned spiritual leaders of our time and decides to tell her story so that some of the wisdom she has gained will not be kept all to herself.  The book adopts a rambling narrative, relating little vignettes from HHC’s life that inevitably end in a lesson from the Dalai Lama or one of his close associates.

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#CBR6 Review #2 – The Golem and the Jinni

The Golem and the JinniTarget: Helene Wecker’s The Golem and the Jinni

Profile: Fantasy, Historical Fiction

After Action Report:

There’s something timelessly optimistic about ‘coming to america’ stories.  Even if we intellectually know that immigrants faced abject poverty, incredible discrimination and the lingering shadows of racial tensions held over from wherever they immigrated from, that sense of hope and of starting a new, better life pervades even the most depressing immigration story.  Helene Wecker captures this sense and deftly weaves it into a story of magic and creatures not quite human.

The Golem and the Jinni is really a story about culture shock, told from the perspective of two supernatural creatures who couldn’t possibly be any further from the concept of human culture.  Chava, a new golem without a master, has no experiences to draw on other than her instinct to help people and her tireless strength.  Ahmad, an enslaved Jinni, was sealed in a bottle for hundreds of years, trapped in human form and brought to New York without his knowledge.  For him, America is more a prison than a second chance and he must learn to work for a living and be a part of his community.

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