Book Reviews: Weekend Quad

Dukkha Unloaded
Interspaced with plenty of martial arts, this novel by Loren W. Christensen isn’t as much a mystery as a police procedural, involving a Portland cop who’d recently shot a child and then saved people in Vietnam (stuff that happened in previous novels, which I have not read). Here he’s given a new job, involving bringing down some racist killers.
About halfway through his girlfriend from Vietnam–they’re not really related, we’re told–comes to town; their scenes together are the best in the book, showing off a still budding romance where they illustrate their love for each other while still able to playfully tease. Along with the PTSD, both his and one of his new martial arts students, this makes the book a lot more than just a simple police story. 4/5

Enzan The Far Mountain
A story from John Donohue about a martial artist in Noo Yawk who is hired to “retrieve” a rich Japanese girl from a bad guy who supposedly got her hooked on drugs and sex. But of course it’s never that simple, as North Koreans, a huge snowstorm, his angry brother, a victim who might be suffering from Stockholm Syndrome or might not, and the past of his sensei complicate matters tremendously. As would be expected, there’s plenty of fight scenes; people get beaten up, killed, or almost killed with frequency; I found the descriptions of the various martial arts moves fascinating, but the results of the blows not so much. My only annoyance was the hero not thinking things through when he goes to rescue her and gets bopped on the head; shoulda seen that coming, bro. 3.5/5

The Experiment of Dreams
What starts as seemingly harmless experiments into dreams turns into something much more sinister. Since REM sleep is one of my many interests I found the first parts intriguing, as well as the art he’s paid to look at. But toward the end I was confused as to whether he was dreaming or not–as was the character, and as I was supposed to be, I guess–which made me feel like it didn’t work as well as the rest of the book. The end is revealed to be something a lot more pedestrian, even with some twists; couldn’t help but feeling a little let down after the more interesting first half, but it was still well worth the read. 3.5/5

The Devil Will Come
This is the second book by Glenn Cooper I’ve read, but this bears little similarity to the other. Right away it starts in the Vatican, with an archaeological mystery and a conspiracy that goes back millennia, as I’ve read far too often the last few years. There are frequent detours to Nero’s Rome and Christopher Marlowe’s England; now we know why Rome burned, though I’m sad and disappointed that one of my heroes–Marlowe, not Nero–is cast as a bad guy here. Also involved is the now-famous book by Saint Malachy, Prophesy of the Popes; this has also been overused recently, and I’m not kidding when I say the very next book I picked up–electronically–also features it.
The best part is the characters, particularly the lead and her family; I’m with her father, I can’t really see why she became a nun, but so it goes. But if Mr. Cooper made up this whole story out of the hieroglyphic monad. . . that’s as impressive a jump of imagination as Peter Shaffer coming up with Equus out of a news item of horses getting their eyes stabbed. 4/5



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