Book Reviews: Heinlein comic, Serial Killers, and Capri

She sighed. “I will never understand the male obsession with sports.”
“And I’ll never understand nails and hair and makeup and clothes and accessories and especially high heels. You really want to get into this?”
“So, how’d your Bruins do today?”

Citizen of the Galaxy
This is a graphic novel of the Heinlein classic, which I haven’t read in decades, but the story was told so well here that my memory was quickly jogged. To make this simple, this is how adaptations should be done, though it’s interesting to note just how much could be left out of the original while still telling the complete story. The artwork is superior to most of the graphic novels I’ve reviewed—admittedly few—and I was amused to note how much better the female characters were rendered (she’s not bad, she’s just drawn that way). If you liked the original you’ll love this, and if you never read it you won’t feel like you’re missing anything with this version.

First in a new series by Chuck Barrett, this involves a covert intelligence agent/government assassin in the wrong place at the right time, saving a man from a hit squad in a restaurant and making a promise to his Marshals’ bodyguard to deliver him to safety. From there everyone—good, bad, and indifferent—is after him and his charge, who isn’t as meek as he comes across. So at its simplest it’s a chase story, though as it goes on there are other elements added to the plot.
I can’t stand watching most fight sequences in movies because they’re so unrealistic, so it’s refreshing to see them here over so quickly, as would happen in real life, especially when one of those involved is a trained assassin. The description of the dam near the beginning is also well done, as well as the various safe houses and the Italian restaurant. However, there were other settings I had problems picturing, especially the big fights in the warehouse/shipping yard, the private island, and the terrorist’s villa; this is what most likely kept me from giving the book a 5.
The characters, on the other hand, are well drawn, the secondaries as well as the mains. The author has a relatively fluid writing style that makes the reading easy, though I could have done with less reminders of how he’d sworn to the dying deputy marshal that he’d get his charge to safety. When we are first introduced to the killer-for-hire, the writer goes out of his way to be gender-neutral, enough so that I guessed it was a woman; think he could have been more subtle there. And the storming of the warehouse annoyed me, as both men should have known better than to attack a much bigger force alone, only saved by a ridiculous deux ex machina that was never hinted at; not fair.
But despite all that, there’s still much to enjoy. There’s also plenty of backstory for future novels, including threads about a woman from his past that he was on his way to hunt down when he was rudely interrupted, and a female Mossad agent he had a fling with. At first I didn’t remember the prologue, which involved a covert mission in Lebanon, but it comes full circle in the end.

A Fortress Defiled
Lately there’s been an upsurge in serial killer novels and the psychology of such, but that’s okay because for the most part they’re well-written. That’s the case here as well, in a story told in mostly first person by the cop chasing the killer, though there are occasional forays into her dreams, as well as the killer’s first person and the occasional third person omni, all in present tense.
The serial killer is relatively simplistic; though he drinks blood—more like sips it—he’s not exactly Dracula. His father taught him to hate the government, which is an important part of his psychology. More importantly, he hears the voices of the dead, probably due to his fucked up childhood. He kills animals too, just to up his serial killer cred. {What, no arson?}
Though well written with a lot of intriguing secondary characters—love the daughter—all the dream and reincarnation babble could have easily been left out to make a tighter story.
3.5 pushed to 4/5

Summer of Fire
It’s always a bit annoying for me to jump into a series somewhere other than the beginning; it turns out this is the third in a series. In this case it took a few chapters to realize there really wasn’t one main character, some of them so obviously well-established that I figured they were in the previous books, others not so much, like the Norwegian princess—not a cruise ship—that had me thinking this might be a take on Roman Holiday.
Said Norwegian princess is in love with a man quite older than her, who is one of the previously characters. The others are an archaeologist and an oceanographer, though the main scientific thrust of the story is volcanoes. The settings are well-written, and I heartily endorse the belief that Herculaneum beats Pompeii. Also loved the mention of the Royal Geographical Society, since I spent a week there a few years ago and met a lot of interesting and semi-crazy—in a good way—people. Paris, London, Iceland, and Sicily are also featured.
But the most important locale in this book is the fabled island of Capri, basically Naples’ version of Catalina Island, except for having a far longer history. It helps me tremendously to enjoy a book when it’s set in a place I’ve been to; having visited armed with books on Tiberius and The Story of San Michele—even my writing idol Harry Harrison lived there—I can say this novel will be with me on my next visit. . . though I tend to spend more time in inexpensive hotels than the fancy villas described here.
At first I was afraid there would be too many characters to keep track, but despite all the names the personalities are diverse enough that I had no problem telling them apart. I especially love how the volcanos, both in Iceland and Sicily, are just as much characters as the humans. . . and how the ditzy-seeming princess turned out to be anything but.
4.5 pushed to 5/5


One thought on “Book Reviews: Heinlein comic, Serial Killers, and Capri

  1. Pingback: 15 Fave Books of 2015 | LoganBruin–An Unauthorized Autobiography

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