Themes: / Horror / Paranormal / Thriller / Ghosts / Alcoholism /
On highways across America, a tribe of people called The True Knot travel in search of sustenance. They look harmless—mostly old, lots of polyester, and married to their RVs. But as Dan Torrance knows, and spunky twelve-year-old Abra Stone learns, The True Knot are quasi-immortal, living off the “steam” that children with the “shining” produce when they are slowly tortured to death.
Haunted by the inhabitants of the Overlook Hotel where he spent one horrific childhood year, Dan has been drifting for decades, desperate to shed his father’s legacy of despair, alcoholism, and violence. Finally, he settles in a New Hampshire town, an AA community that sustains him, and a job at a nursing home where his remnant “shining” power provides the crucial final comfort to the dying. Aided by a prescient cat, he becomes “Doctor Sleep.”
Then Dan meets the evanescent Abra Stone, and it is her spectacular gift, the brightest shining ever seen, that reignites Dan’s own demons and summons him to a battle for Abra’s soul and survival. This is an epic war between good and evil, a gory, glorious story that will thrill the millions of hyper-devoted fans of The Shining and wildly satisfy anyone new to the territory of this icon in the King canon.
I’m not a fan of sequels. I’m not really sure The Shining needed a sequel. Sure there were lingering questions about Danny and Wendy at the end, but they weren’t critical in my mind. That said, Mr. King’s novels tend to interconnect on several levels, so I was curious to see what he would do in a sequel to one of his most popular books.
Doctor Sleep is a very different book from its predecessor. The shining plays a key role of course, but I would categorize this book more as Paranormal Thriller rather than Horror. I would however recommend you read/reread The Shining before this though.
The first part of the book catches you up with Danny, his mother and Dick Halloran, and then proceeds to catch us up to Danny in the present day.
Unfortunately for Danny, Mr. King is a big believer in like father like son. Danny has become an alcoholic and has the same anger issues Jack struggled with in the first story. It hard to blame him given his traumatic childhood coupled with the horrors being so strong in the shinning has exposed to him.
A good part of this story felt like an advertisement for the Alcoholics Anonymous. I’m not sure if that’s how Mr. King got himself sober, but it certainly seems like it, as he talks about it to excess. It does make for an interesting idea of “what might have happened if Jack Torrence sought help?”, but I could have done with less time being spent on that aspect of the story.
Keeping with his themes of the cyclical nature of life, the other main protagonist is a young girl who is even stronger in the shinning than Danny was in his youth.
We are also introduced to the True Knot, a pack of “physic vampires” that are near immortal by traveling the country and feeding on the shinning for their longevity. Can you guess where this is going? I could.
So it wasn’t the most unpredictable of stories, but in many ways I enjoyed it more then The Shining. I’m not a big horror fan. This book explores the shining in much greater detail than its namesake novel. Mr. King introduces some well developed new characters, and doesn’t just retell the same story again with minor changes like many sequels tend to.
Mr. Patton does an excellent job reading this book. He has many distinct voices and accents that adds a little something to the story. I was surprised they used a different reader than the The Shining, but as it turned out to be a fairly different book, I think it was a good decision.
So will you like it? If you’re a big horror fan hoping that Mr. King can scare the hell out of you again, probably not. If you’re like me and enjoy the fantastical nature of Mr. King’s novels then you just might.
Review by Rob Zak.
By Jason Matthews; Narrated by Jeremy Bobb
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio
Publication Date: June 2013[UNABRIDGED] – 18 hours
Themes: / thriller / spies / secret agents / Russia / sexpionage /
In present-day Russia, ruled by blue-eyed, unblinking President Vladimir Putin, Russian intelligence officer Dominika Egorova struggles to survive in the post-Soviet intelligence jungle. Ordered against her will to become a “Sparrow,” a trained seductress, Dominika is assigned to operate against Nathaniel Nash, a young CIA officer who handles the Agency’s most important Russian mole.
Spies have long relied on the “honey trap,” whereby vulnerable men and women are intimately compromised. Dominika learns these techniques of “sexpionage” in Russia’s secret “Sparrow School,” hidden outside of Moscow. As the action careens between Russia, Finland, Greece, Italy, and the United States, Dominika and Nate soon collide in a duel of wills, tradecraft, and—inevitably—forbidden passion that threatens not just their lives but those of others as well. As secret allegiances are made and broken, Dominika and Nate’s game reaches a deadly crossroads. Soon one of them begins a dangerous double existence in a life-and-death operation that consumes intelligence agencies from Moscow to Washington, DC.
Page by page, veteran CIA officer Jason Matthews’s Red Sparrow delights and terrifies and fascinates, all while delivering an unforgettable cast, from a sadistic Spetsnaz “mechanic” who carries out Putin’s murderous schemes to the weary CIA Station Chief who resists Washington “cake-eaters” to MARBLE, the priceless Russian mole. Packed with insider detail and written with brio, this tour-de-force novel brims with Matthews’s life experience, including his knowledge of espionage, counterintelligence, surveillance tradecraft, spy recruitment, cyber-warfare, the Russian use of “spy dust,” and covert communications. Brilliantly composed and elegantly constructed, Red Sparrow is a masterful spy tale lifted from the dossiers of intelligence agencies on both sides of the Atlantic. Authentic, tense, and entertaining, this novel introduces Jason Matthews as a major new American talent.
When Jason Matthews retired from the CIA, he was able to provide the spy-thriller genre with a book that probably rings truer than most for how things actually work. I have to think that the main character, Nate Nash, is based either on Matthews himself or on someone he was close to.
Red Sparrow is a fairly typical spy-thriller. It opens with the main character, Nate, meeting one of his agents inside Russia, Marble. Nate is a CIA operative, a handler, of foreign spies. Marble is a high-ranking member of the Russian equivalent who is now playing for the Americans. As with most novels in this genre, the book starts with some excitement, as Nate is almost caught in his meeting with Marble.
From there, the story takes on the familiar aspects of showing both sides of the world, spy vs. spy. The Russians embody “Soviet Russia.” I’m not sure how much of that is real today, if many high-ranking officials (especially in their equivalent of the CIA/spy services) still think like “Soviets,” that there is a cold war ongoing…regardless, that’s the way they’re painted in this modern-day book. The Russians have realized that there is a mole within their organization and so develop the talented ballerina-turned-spy Dominika into a the one who will infiltrate the American intelligence community and unmask the mole. Her mission is to seduce Nate, to basically turn him into a mole for the Russians.
The entire book is fairly predictable. Right at the start of the book, once Dominika was introduced, it became obvious what would happen between her and Nate. From there, as the story evolved, even if it wasn’t obvious how they would get to the ending, it was pretty easy to tell what would happen next. But that’s not really a bad thing; that happens in almost every spy novel. Heck, if they told us how they really do things, they’d probably have to kill us….or develop some Men In Black-type flash-thing to wipe our memories of it all. Even though the story is predictable, the reader is drawn in through the characters, who are all believable. Most readers can probably empathize with Nate’s and Dominika’s feelings, can see how they feel loyalty to their countries and where that loyalty can be misused. As Marble’s story unfolds, one can see why he turned into a mole for the American spy service–and how he was able to carry out that role for such a long time. Even the Russian spy service members’ motivations can be seen and understood, even if the ideals seem somewhat outdated. Who’s to say Putin isn’t really trying to re-wage the cold war?
I enjoyed this book for what it was, a spy-thriller book that made me want to know what was going to happen to the characters. I found myself making excuses to listen so that I could see just how the next scenes would unfold, how the characters got from point A to B to C. Matthews also puts in something unique at the end of each chapter, a rough recipe for a food item that was mentioned in the chapter. I almost want to get the book in print so that I can try to make some of the dishes. I suspect that in his duties as a member of the CIA, Matthews may have been able to travel a bit and wanted to share some of his food experiences in an unconventional way. All in all, while not deep, the book was enjoyable to read, to experience along with the characters.
I liked listening to this book, though I admit I had one small problem, and that problem may be just showing my ignorance. Jeremy Bobb’s narration is fine–if a little flat. He reads the book, he doesn’t try to add too much emotion to any character. But many of the characters are Russian…and have Russian names. It took me about half the book to figure out the difference between Dominika’s uncle and the Russian spy who seems to order most of the wetwork. The names, to my ear that’s used to listening for names like Smith and Jones, were too similar-sounding for me to keep straight. First names were much easier.
All in all, if you like spy novels, you’ll probably like this book. You’ll probably like it even more if you also like descriptions of food. I wonder if spies commonly meet in restaurants!
Posted by terpkristin.
The Other Typist
By Suzanne Rindell; Performed by Gretchen Mol
Publisher: Penguin Audio
Publication Date: 7 May 2013
[UNABRIDGED] – 10 hours; 8 discs
Themes: / 1920s / thriller / crime / speakeasies / stenographers / obsession /
It is 1923. Rose Baker is a typist in the New York City Police Department on the lower east side. Confessions are her job. The criminals admit to their crimes, and like a high priestess, Rose records their every word. Often she is the only woman present. And while she may hear about shootings, knifings, and crimes of passion, as soon as she leaves that room she is once again the weaker sex, best suited for making coffee.It is a new era for women, and New York City is a confusing time for Rose. Gone are the Victorian standards of what is acceptable. Now women bob their hair short like men, they smoke, they go to speakeasies. But prudish Rose is stuck in the fading light of yesteryear, searching for the nurturing companionship that eluded her childhood and clinging to the Victorian ideal of sisterhood.But when glamorous Odalie, a new girl, joins the typing pool, despite her best intentions Rose falls under Odalie’s spell. As the two women navigate between the sparkling underworld of speakeasies by night, and their work at the station by day, Rose is drawn fully into Odalie’s high stakes world and her fascination with Odalie turns into an obsession from which she may never recover.
I can see why this book is on the “must-read” list for book clubs, because there would be a lot to discuss. Who is the “other typist” and what exactly happened in the end?
Posted by Jenny Colvin
Technomancer (Unspeakable Things, Book One)
By B.V. Larson; Read by Christopher Lane
Publisher: Brilliance Audio
[UNABRIDGED] – 9 discs – 11 hours
Themes: / mystery / thriller / magic /
When Quentin Draith wakes up in a private sanatorium, he has no memory of who he is or how he received the injuries riddling his body. All he knows is that he has to get out, away from the drugs being pumped into him and back to the real world to search for answers. His first question: How did his friend Tony’s internal organs fill with sand, killing him in a Las Vegas car crash? After a narrow escape, he tracks down the basic facts: he is an investigator and blogger specializing in the supernatural — which is a good thing, because Quentin’s life is getting stranger by the minute. It seems he is one of a special breed, a person with unusual powers. He’s also the prime suspect in a string of murders linked by a series of seemingly mundane objects. The deeper he digs and the harder he works to clear his name, the more Quentin realizes that some truths are better off staying buried….
This one had a lot of potential, but in the end didn’t live up to it. Technomancer starts off strong with the main character, Quentin Draith, waking up in a hospital, not remembering any details about his life…not even his name. From there, the reader (listener, in my case) is taken on a bit of a “mystery-thriller” type book with science fiction/supernatural elements thrown in. The reader learns about Quentin as he learns about himself. That part of the story is actually kind of fun, the act of discovery. Unfortunately, the book breaks one of my cardinal rules for books in a series: it doesn’t stand very well on its own and didn’t wrap up the story line in any satisfying way. At the end of the book, I was left bored and annoyed that I’d read the entire thing, let down by what it was compared with what it could have been.
Quentin discovers that there have been a variety of bizarre deaths in Las Vegas, odd happenings. Through one of the people he meets, he finds that he’s a blogger who writes about these strange things. As the story goes on, he meets a somewhat shady police officer who is the lead investigator for these events and comes to piece more of the story together. There are some people in the community who have special objects. These objects give them powers, or can be used against others. For example, one of the objects Quentin learns about early-on is a ring that makes the person wearing it lucky in games of chance (such as blackjack). Another power is used for a sort of mind control. Some of these powers have a limited range over which they can work; others can work anywhere. Some objects even allow the owner to create “rips” to other worlds or other places in this world, portals that can be used to travel around the Vegas area. These “rips” can lead to worlds, though, where other beings live, beings who can come through similar rips to our world. Quentin suspects that these beings (called “grey men”) are responsible for all the odd events in Vegas. Through his travels, he also learns that there are two groups of users of these special objects: the “community,” and the “rogues” or the “cultists.” The “community” are people who, to some extent, have banded together to collect objects. The “cultists” have objects of their own, but seem generally more interested in using them for new study. They compare the objects to witchcraft in the 1600′s: if you don’t understand the science behind something, then it is seen as magical, no? Eventually, Quentin forms a plan to destroy the grey men, and the story ends more or less after his attempt to do so…
All of that sounds like it has the potential to be an interesting story. Sadly, the book, taken on its own, didn’t form much of a complete story. Over 9 CD’s (10.5 hours), the book spent the first 8 with Quentin wandering around, finding objects and meeting people. Only three of the people he met (out of many) ended up being truly relevant by the end of the book. The final “battle” as it were didn’t start until the end of the 8th CD and was wrapped up 2/3 through the final CD; that is, the climax was only about 30 minutes long in total, and came right at the end. Instead of describing more of the how’s and why’s, Larson spent most of this book world- and character-building. Even the “battle” was rushed. It wasn’t clear, at the end of the story, if the battle made any difference. Or why Quentin survived. Or what happened to the others who went to battle with him. Or why some of them mattered. A quick look on Amazon indicates that this is the first in the “Unspeakable Things” series. This book was unsatisfying enough to me that I won’t go on to read the others. I kept holding out hope that the climax would come and the story would be resolved, but in the end, it wasn’t. It just felt like a very long introduction to a short book.
As this was an audiobook, I should probably mention something about the narration. In short, it was a pretty average narration, nothing to write home about, but nothing particularly bad or unpleasant, either. Lane did a fine job with the voices; there was never a question of which character was speaking, and his female voices weren’t as over-the-top as some male narrators do. In the end, when a narrator doesn’t distract from the book, they’re doing an alright job in my book, and that was the case here. I think it was probably better to listen to this book instead of reading the print version, so that I could do other things while reading.
Review by terpkristin.
Themes: / thriller / marriage / diary / writers /
Marriage can be a real killer. On a warm summer morning in North Carthage, Missouri, it is Nick and Amy Dunne’s fifth wedding anniversary. Presents are being wrapped and reservations are being made when Nick’s clever and beautiful wife disappears from their rented McMansion on the Mississippi River. Husband-of-the-Year Nick isn’t doing himself any favors with cringe-worthy daydreams about the slope and shape of his wife’s head, but passages from Amy’s diary reveal the alpha-girl perfectionist could have put anyone dangerously on edge. Under mounting pressure from the police and the media—as well as Amy’s fiercely doting parents—the town golden boy parades an endless series of lies, deceits, and inappropriate behavior. Nick is oddly evasive, and he’s definitely bitter—but is he really a killer? As the cops close in, every couple in town is soon wondering how well they know the one that they love. With his twin sister, Margo, at his side, Nick stands by his innocence. Trouble is, if Nick didn’t do it, where is that beautiful wife? And what was in that silvery gift box hidden in the back of her bedroom closet?
This audiobook was 19 hours and I finished listening to it in three days. That’s on my 3 mile commute. I just couldn’t stop. I’d make up reasons to listen. This is a very well-written thriller that I can hardly discuss without giving things away. I almost hate myself for liking it because of all the hype, but it really pulls you in and makes you want to know where it is going. I don’t read many thrillers, but this was a good one!
The audiobook is a great way to “read” this, because the chapters are divided between Amy, who has gone missing, through her diary, and Nick, her husband who is a key suspect. The two readers, male and female, really bring the story to life. I’m used to Kirby Heyborne reading zombie novels, so it was hard to ever think of Nick as good, but the author does that anyway.
Posted by Jenny Colvin
By Edward M. Lerner; Read by Grover Gardner
Length: 10.5 hours [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Blackstone Audio, Inc.
Themes: / Science! / satellites / engineers / NASA / terrorists / oil / energy / space / thriller /
The SFFaudio crew pegged me to read this book because the description says that one of the main characters is a NASA engineer. I always think it’s funny when people specify “NASA” engineer. It’s like on TV shows when you see people working near the space shuttle, they’re all wearing NASA hats. Nobody does that. The description could just as easily said “aerospace engineer” and the meaning would be the same…but less sexy, somehow. I admit, I was weary of reading this one at first. My experience with people who write about “NASA engineers” is that they have no idea what they’re talking about excepting cursory research. I’m happy to report that Edward M. Lerner does know what he’s talking about with regards to the space and satellite stuff (looking at his bio, it’s no surprise). That said, I went into this thinking it was going to be a science fiction book. It’s much more a mystery/thriller with science fiction elements. It’s as much “science fiction” as Daemon is (which is to say, not much).
In the interest of full disclosure, it’s probably worth mentioning that I am currently employed by a company that (among other things) designs and builds satellites, both for the government and the commercial sector. I currently work on the commercial side of things and have never worked on a NASA contract. There are definite holes and inaccuracies with the science and engineering in this book. But most people won’t recognize them, and they don’t impact the overall enjoyment of the story.
That disclaimer done with, Energized was pretty entertaining. Set in the near-future United States, the world has gone through a “crude-tastrophe” and the price of oil has skyrocketed to the tune of $20+/gallon to fill up a car. There is a fixed market, controlled mostly by Russian interests, for oil, so naturally the US explores alternate energy sources. Unfortunately, Rome wasn’t built in a day and it’s virtually impossible to produce enough energy via alternate sources overnight. NASA has been working on a large-scale satellite that can beam solar energy to earth from space.
The first third of the book (maybe closer to the first half) deals with the public (and private sector) reactions to this kind of a satellite and introduces the reader (listener?) to the concept and its risks. Admittedly, this section could have been shorter without sacrificing much of the story; it did seem to drag on a bit.
The second section of the book introduces the “thriller” aspect. As anybody in the aerospace industry is aware, the stuff built “for the powers of good” in/for space can usually be used to do evil. Sure enough, terrorists find a way to take over the satellite and use its harnessed energy to destroy ground-based and air-based targets. As is typical for thrillers, there are some good guys in the area, capable of stopping the terrorists. In this case it’s Marcus Judson, NASA engineer, one of the lead consultants for the power satellite project, along with some of his colleagues. Yet again, this section seemed overly long and drawn out.
However, the length of the first two sections may only seem long in relation to the final section–the part where the final “battle” occurs and either good or evil triumphs. This part felt a bit rushed, comparatively. In retrospect, I think it was probably the right length and that the other two parts were just a bit too long. I won’t spoil it for you, but the final “battle” involves maneuvering (literally and metaphorically) on the ground and on the 2 mile-on-a-side power satellite. It stretches the belief but still left me interested and wanting to listen to see what happened next.
As I stated previously, the book was enjoyable. It was a bit far-fetched but not so far-fetched as to be completely unbelievable. The science fiction elements are there and create an atypical setting for most mystery/thriller type books, and I’d recommend this to anybody that enjoys the mystery/thriller genre.
Grover Gardner is one of my favorite narrators and he shines in this type of book. He also narrates the Andy Carpenter books, another mystery/thriller series, so it feels natural for him to read Energized. The only “weirdness” I had is that the Andy Carpenter books have a character named Marcus as well, so hearing of two very different “Marcus” characters read by the same narrator was a bit jarring at times.
All in all, this is a popcorn-type book, easily consumed and digested. It does have its flaws (with the technical side of things as well as story length), but they’re not so big as to ruin the fun. If you’re in the market for a hard science fiction book with far-reaching themes, this isn’t the book for you. But if you’re in the mood for a thriller with science fiction elements, you’ll probably enjoy Energized well enough.
Review by terpkristin.