Fox 8, by George Saunders
Book Review / September 25, 2020

Fox 8 by George Saunders My rating: 2 of 5 stars For Fox’ Sake – what a disaster! What an unholy mess of a novella! Our protagonist, Fox 8, who is, you guessed it, a fox, gets a quick glance of what humanity is capable of.This is a promising premise and, if excitedly well, could lead to an interesting story. Unfortunately, it turns out foxes don’t “speak” English very well and I don’t have much patience for sentences like this: “But I was fast and nated by those music werds, and desired to understand them total lee.” The entire booklet is written like that and the story is just as “meh”. In Fox 8’s own words: “Reeding my Story bak just now, I woslike: O no, my Story is a bumer. There is the deth of a gud pal, and no plase of up lift, or lerning a leson. The nise Fox’s first Groop stays lost, his frend stays ded. Bla.” Yes, bla. Read something else. This is bollocks. View all my reviews

Die Bagage, von Monika Helfer
Book Review / September 24, 2020

Die Bagage by Monika Helfer My rating: 3 of 5 stars Der Literaturkritiker Denis Scheck hat dieses Buch empfohlen (“Auf nur 160 Seiten entfaltet die Autorin Monika Helfer eine beeindruckende und gehaltvolle Geschichte über Familienstrukturen und Beziehungen.”) und sein Wort hat für mich Gewicht. Wie so oft, wenn’s dem Esel zu wohl wird, naja, Ihr wißt schon… Das Problem dieses kurzen Büchleins ist, daß es die einerseits sehr persönlich erzählte Familiengeschichte der Autorin ist. Helfer beantwortet darin sich und uns die Frage “Woher komme ich?”. Das deutet aber auch bereits mein erstes Problem an: Diese Frage habe ich mir in bezug auf die Autorin nie gestellt. Ihre persönliche Antwort läßt mich daher weitgehend kalt. Parallel kommt hinzu, daß es – zumindest meinen Lese-Erfahrungen zufolge – kein seltenes Schicksal ist: Familie auf dem Dorf am Ende der Welt vor gut 100 Jahren – zur Zeit des Ersten Weltkrieges. Die Frau, Helfers Großmutter Maria, ist nicht landläufig (sic) “normal” und wird daher samt ihrer Familie der ganzen denkbaren Boshaftigkeit einer dörflichen “Gemeinschaft” ausgesetzt – widerlich, aber hinlänglich bekannt. Noch schwieriger wird es, wenn eine ohnehin schon nicht besonders spannende Geschichte mühselig zu lesen. Ein Beispiel; das folgende ist nämlich ein einziger Satz:…

Cibola Burn (The Expanse #4), by James S.A. Corey
Book Review / September 21, 2020

Cibola Burn by James S.A. Corey My rating: 3 of 5 stars Oh, well, this will be a difficult review to write, I guess. I really like this series and its ideas, its wonderful characters, the brilliant writing, etc. etc. Along came “Cibola Burn”: We find ourselves accompanying Holden and his crew through one of the rings into the great unknown – into which a band of settlers from Ganymede made it before him and pretty much started colonising the planet, Ilus, there. Unfortunately for those pioneers, the UN has awarded the “Royal Charter Energy” (RCE), a big Earth corporation, the rights to the afore-mentioned planet – which they refer to as “New Terra”. When RCE tries to get a shuttle down to the planet, it gets blown up by the settlers. Holden is sent to Ilus/New Terra to mediate between the settlers and the RCE guys, only to get caught between both of them. This leads us into a long story about the conflict between the settlers and the RCE people, the “awakening” of the stuff the protomolecule’s creators left on the planet, a catastrophic disaster, Miller investigating and, again, leading Holden around. There’s sabotage in space and on…

Hamster im hinteren Stromgebiet (Alle Toten fliegen hoch #5), von Joachim Meyerhoff
Advance Review Copy (ARC) , Book Review / September 10, 2020

Hamster im hinteren Stromgebiet by Joachim Meyerhoff My rating: 4 of 5 stars Einer meiner Lieblingsschriftsteller ist von Beruf Schauspieler. Nach vier großartigen, teils autobiographischen, Romanen bedarf Joachim Meyerhoff keiner großen Vorstellung mehr. Wenn also Meyerhoff ein neues Buch geschrieben hat, dann muß bei mir literarisch alles andere hintanstehen. Das ist nichts Neues. Neu für mich persönlich ist allerdings, daß ich dieses Buch als Rezensionsexemplar über vom Verlag, Kiepenheuer & Witsch, erhielt. Dafür meinen ganz herzlichen Dank an Kiepenheuer & Witsch und NetGalley. Wie schon in den vier vorherigen Bänden von “Alle Toten fliegen hoch” erzählt Meyerhoff auch hier intelligent und mit viel Humor aus seinem Leben – obschon der Auslöser diesmal ein durchlittener Schlaganfall kurz nach dem 51. Geburtstag war. Aber nicht nur der Schlaganfall und der daraus resultierende Krankenhausaufenthalt wird thematisiert, sondern – und das sind meines Erachtens auch die erzählerischen Höhepunkte – auch (in der Erinnerung verschüttete) Erlebnisse aus Meyerhoffs Leben, an die er sich (meist) gern erinnert und uns, seinen Lesern, davon erzählt. “War die Katastrophe im Gehirn vielleicht mit einem »Best of Verschüttet« zu beheben?” Auch sprachlich ist der “Hamster” wiederum ein Genuß – wenige deutschsprachige Autoren unserer Zeit verstehen es so wie Meyerhoff,…

Abaddon’s Gate (The Expanse #3), by James S.A. Corey
Book Review / August 26, 2020

Abaddon’s Gate by James S.A. Corey My rating: 5 of 5 stars Wow, what a ride! After the excellent “Leviathan Wakes” and the almost equally great “Caliban’s War” here I’m sitting and wondering what to write about this more than worthy successor… When I first encountered the “The Expanse” series, I was sceptical: – I do not like science fiction literature.– I do not like soap operas (so why would I like a “Space Opera”?)– I do not like author’s killing off their heroes (GRRM, I’m looking at you!) What I came to realise, though, is that James S.A. Corey has extremely interesting stories to tell and the means to seemingly effortlessly tell them in a way that keeps me coming back for more. As in its predecessors, in “Abaddon’s Gate” the alien protomolecule plays a major role and, of course, Holden, Naomi, Alex and Amos are with us again, too.In addition, we get to meet new people like Bull, an OPA operative, Anna, a preacher, and yet another member of the Mao clan. As has been Corey’s forte before, every single character feels believable; like a living, breathing person. All of them change and develop which is something I…

Leviathan Wakes (The Expanse #1), by James S.A. Corey
Book Review / July 31, 2020

Leviathan Wakes by James S.A. Corey My rating: 5 of 5 stars This was a tricky one for me… I have tried reading science fiction before and (usually) didn’t like it. It was all too often dark, gritty and bleak, set in a dystopian universe in which pretty much everyone acts completely self-absorbed. Thus, I disavowed science fiction in books because I’m a closet optimist: I’ve subscribed early on to the philosophy, the idealism and optimistic view of the future as imagined in “Star Trek: The Next Generation”. (And, in fact, while we’re far from it yet I do believe we will get there one day. We’re going to overcome today’s egotism, the Pathological Orange Trickster of the United States (POTUS), we will find lasting and sustainable solutions for global warming, water scarcity, hunger and all the challenges humanity is and will be facing. Even if it’s only for the simple reason that it’s that or extinction – and I refuse to accept the latter.) “Leviathan Wakes” is (mostly) the former kind of sci-fi: We witness a beginning war between several factions (Earth, Mars, the Belt), we see “vomit zombies” and, in general, some parts of this book were so…

Black Bear Alibi (A Rockfish Island Mystery, #1), by J.C. Fuller
Book Review / July 26, 2020

Black Bear Alibi by J.C. Fuller My rating: 4 of 5 stars I have no idea how this book actually made it onto my to-read list. Anyway, it was a quick and sufficiently satisfying read. It’s a rather simple mystery with an interesting premise: A ranger, our local hero Philip, finds the mangled corpse of a young local woman. Together with the new sheriff, Lane, he tries to find out what happened. This is a topic we’ve often read about before but this time, it happens on “Rockfish Island”, a backwater island. We get to know quite a few of the locals – many of them Philip’s friends – and try to sleuth our way to the culprit. “Black Bear Alibi” features some humour, interesting, relatable characters and a decent albeit unspectacular story. The twist at the end was as foreseeable as forgivable. Annoying were the numerous grammatical and orthographic mistakes that adorned this book and made me think it might have been self-published without the help of editors and proof-readers. Even more gratingly, Fuller doesn’t always get there’s a difference between online messaging and books and, consequently, she tries to convey meaning by misspelling words, e. g. “obbbbjjjjectivvvve” or…

Lock Every Door, by Riley Sager
Book Review / July 25, 2020

Lock Every Door by Riley Sager My rating: 3 of 5 stars I came to this book immediately after having read Sager’s “Home Before Dark” which I devoured breathlessly. Sadly, “Lock Every Door” didn’t live up to my expectations. It starts out interesting enough: Jules, 25, has lost her parents some years ago, now she has just lost her job and left her boyfriend because he cheated. While she tries to put her life back together, she sleeps on a friend’s couch.This is when she gets a job as an apartment sitter in the “Bartholomew”, a posh apartment building in New York City. Apart from a few weird rules (“no visitors at all”, “every night must be spent at the apartment”) everything seems fine until Jules meets another, rather peculiar, apartment sitter who then proceeds to disappear… The setting is perfect, the ideas are good but this is a book of missed opportunities because the characters and the building itself are fairly interesting but Sager doesn’t really use that: The apartment sitter who vanishes, Ingrid? Jules just met her three times and immediately believes pretty much everything Ingrid tells her.Nick, the nice and hot surgeon next door? He’s potentially an…

Home Before Dark, by Riley Sager
Book Review / July 23, 2020

Home Before Dark by Riley Sager My rating: 4 of 5 stars “I freeze, my sense of relief gone in an instant. Because although their words differ, my parents’ message is the same. Never go back there. It’s not safe there. Not for you.” Damn, this was good! I knew Riley Sager from his second book, “The Last Time I Lied”, which I really liked. This one is even better! “Home Before Dark” tells the story of the Holt family who moved into a house that “remembers” – and it hasn’t seen much love… In fact, it came cheap because Baneberry Hall is a veritable haunted house. Or is it not?Our hero is Maggie Holt, the daughter, who doesn’t remember much (almost nothing, actually) about the house and their short time in it. After her father Ewan’s death, Maggie inherits the huge house and decides to renovate and sell it; after all, she’s an interior designer and has her own company. There’s more to it, though… ““I have a confession to make,” I eventually say. “Let me guess,” Dane says, deadpan. “Your real name is Windy.” “Close. I didn’t come back just to renovate Baneberry Hall. My real reason for…

Peace Talks (The Dresden Files #16), by Jim Butcher
Book Review / July 21, 2020

Peace Talks by Jim Butcher My rating: 4 of 5 stars Here we go again… Yet another Harry Dresden and yet it’s both more of the same as well as different. The first nine books were all mediocre to me – three stars because I felt generous – and ridiculously stupid for reading nine ok’ish books in a row till the Stockholm Syndrome set fully in with book 10. So, we’re at number 16 (!) now and most series have become bland, boring and/or been warped beyond recognition (cf. George’s Lynley!). In fact, it’s somewhat similar with respect to the “beyond recognition” part: Harry Dresden, who used to be a “a male chauvinist pig; […] a misogynist arse” by my own words, has turned into a mostly-decent human being. A very long-lived human being (think centuries!) and a wizard to boot. “It’s not about who they are,” I said quietly. “It’s about who I am. And the example I’m setting.” Maybe it’s all me who enjoys a Dresden who – in the midst of a pitched battle – thinks that “Sometimes the best defense is a T. rex”. Comic relief, hilarity ensuing while the forces of the unlikely good and…