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Archive for May, 2014

Blog Book Review: “Veronica Mars: An Original Mystery: The Thousand Dollar Tan Line”

 

I try to keep my book reviews spoiler free, but when you’re discussing a book that takes place after the events of a feature film that can be tough. So let’s get that out of the way right now. If you haven’t seen the “Veronica Mars” feature film stop reading this review right now and rectify that mistake. It’s really good and it’ s now available on both DVD and on demand services like Amazon Instant Watch. So go on! Shoo! Come back when you’re done.  You’ll be glad you did.

Okay, so everybody else left reading this has seen the movie and if you haven’t you’ve been warned. I loved the television show “Veronica Mars.” I loved it so much that I contributed $10 to the Kickstarter for the feature film (I would have contributed more but I didn’t have much to spare at the time). It was $10 well spent. I loved it. It was a love letter to the fans of the show and left the title character and her fictional hometown of Neptune, California in an interesting place. Veronica’s father had been almost killed investigating the rampant corruption in Neptune’s Sheriff Department. After being shot by Celeste Kane and framed for pulling a gun on her Eli “Weevil” Navarro seemingly returned to motorcycle gang leading ways. And Veronica had stopped fighting her destiny and decided  to take over the family business.

So that set up made me very excited to read the “Thousand Dollar Tan Line” even though it’s titleRob-Thomas-Veronica-Mars-Image-3 was a little underwhelming and suggested something more light hearted. I was also a little sad that the book wasn’t going to be told in classic first person style P.I. manner. I would have certainly bought the Kristen Bell read audio book if that was the case.  Those two things turned out to be minor drawbacks though because Veronica Mars first novel turned out to be just as fun and exciting as an episode of the show or another movie.

In “The Thousand Dollar Tan Line” spring break has come to Neptune. College co-eds and tourists are flocking to the Northern California town for wild, hedonistic bacchanalia and the Sheriff’s department is content to make the Chamber of Commerce happy and turn a blind eye to the wild displays of excess. When a pretty college co-ed disappears and a cable news pundit begins crucifying the town’s inept sheriff the Chamber of Commerce is forced to act. So they hire Veronica.

Veronica’s initial investigation leads her to a shady, mysterious party and then when things escalate and another girl disappears a shocking figure from her past walks back into her life. Veronica’s investigation puts her up against a number of interesting and formidable adversaries including two wealthy business men with connections to Mexican drug cartel and a person who just might be her opposite number.

jennifer-grahamDealing with these characters and the investigation of course means Veronica will interact with the members of her great supporting cast. Mac and Wallace remain her faithful confidants, and her dad Keith Mars tries to come to terms with what it means to have Veronica officially join him in the family business. Those were some of my favorite scenes Keith Mars is right up there with “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine’s” Ben Sisko as one of the greatest fictional single dads.

Logan plays a small role in the book because as the film established, he’s now in the Navy and he and Veronica are in a long distance relationship. As someone who is currently in a long distance relationship I especially appreciated those scenes. Authors  Rob Thomas and Jennifer Graham really captured the excitement and anxiety of those moments where you’re waiting for your significant other to come online and brighten your day.

“The Thousand Dollar Tan Line” also involves a number of other returning characters, some that appeared in the movie and some that didn’t, and watching Veronica interact with them and the book’s new cast is a lot of fun. The novel is expertly paced, full of one great dialogue, and is a genuinely great and legitimate P.I./crime novel. I’m not surprised either while I’ve not read any of their previous work both Thomas (who created “Veronica Mars”) and Graham have published other books.

So if you’re a “Veronica Mars” fan do yourself a favor and pick up “The Thousand Dollar Tan Line.” It doesn’t really touch on some of the ongoing plot lines left over from the movie, but it’s a great return to Neptune and it’s fascinating cast of characters. Plus I have hope that those elements will come more into focus in a possible sequel to the film or the next “Veronica Mars” novel “Mr. Kiss and Tell” which is set to be released in October.

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Categories: Book Review

Book Review- “Code Zero”

May 16, 2014 1 comment

Code Zero coverJonathan Maberry’s Joe Ledger series of novels are primarily high-stakes action thrillers that are spiced up by elements of science fiction and horror.  Those elements are always handled real well, but they’re not always the primary ingredient in the genre cocktail that the writer is blending. So I sometimes how forget how chilling and effective Maberry is when his primary genre is horror. The latest Joe Ledger novel “Code Zero” reminded me of how great a horror writer Maberry is, but still features all the kick-ass action and fascinating and identifiable characters that fans of the series have come to expect.

Part of the reason I consider “Code Zero” more of a horror novel than an action thriller is because of the nemesis opposing Joe Ledger and the men and women of the Department of Military Scientists in this book, a genius high tech terrorist named Mother Night who has a connection to the DMS and whose motivation was best described by Michael Caine in “The Dark Knight” when he said, “Some men just want to watch the world burn.” So essentially Joe and the DMS are up against their version of the Joker and the gleeful carnage and mayhem she causes is pretty chilling.

Another reason “Code Zero” is pretty horrific is because Mother Night is not alone. She’s in command of an army of followers most of them mentally ill and societal outcasts and early on she dispatches them to commit terrorist attacks.  We get several chapters of these attacks and they’re highly effective and quite frightening. You feel the violence and terror Mother Night’s followers are causing. Surprisingly I also felt a little bit of sympathy for some of Mother Night’s followers as well because many of them were alone and struggling with the difficulties of life when they were found by Mother Night. It felt like Maberry was effectively and rightfully pointing out that when we reject and ostracize people instead of trying to help them there’s a real danger that they could be exploited by someone with sinister motives.

Then the final reason “Code Zero” feels like a horror novel to me is the tools Mother Night and her followers use to spread terror; the bio-weapons250px-JonathanMaberry that Ledger and the DMS confiscated in the previous installments of the series, which means the zombie virus, the genetically engineered Berserker super soldiers, and the weaponized plagues of the Ten Kings are all back. Under Mother Night’s command these weapons are used to create some chilling, gruesome and yes twistedly fun scenarios. The mayhem of the book’s final battle felt on par with the chaos and carnage caused in some of the final chapters of “Bad Moon Rising,” the concluding volume in Maberry’s epic horror trilogy about the town of Pine Deep.

So Mother Night is probably the toughest foe the DMS has faced yet, which means we get some great character moments in “Code Zero.” Joe Ledger remains as fascinating and fun as ever but here we get to see him struggling with the carnage caused by Mother Night, what fighting back against her is doing to his already scarred psyche, and trying to hold on to the one bright spot of happiness in his personal life.

We also get great moments with the members of Echo Team, which gets three intriguing new team members, and Mister Church. Plus the DMS support staff get some time to shine in “Code Zero” as well. Bug, their lead computer expert, in particular is given some fun and cool moments.

The moments where Echo Team are in action crackle as usual, but as I mentioned there’s a lot of horrific action in “Code Zero” as well especially in the scenes where Echo Team have to deal with outbreaks of the Seif Al Din virus that transforms innocent people into flesh hungry zombies.

So for me “Code Zero” was a different, but still incredibly fun Joe Ledger novel. It was a tale of psychological and techno horror, but it was also a high stakes tale of desperate heroes. Imagine the conflict, stakes, and tone of the film “The Dark Knight” played out on a national level and featuring valiant and identifiable Spec Op Warfare heroes that are battling to stop a zombie Armageddon from happening. Yes “Code Zero” is as fun as it sounds.

 

Categories: Book Review