Category Archives: Thriller

“From the Corner of His Eye” by Dean Koontz

eye

After starting a full-time job, I don’t have as much time for reading.  Thus I sneak in as much as I can through audio books, which allow me to read during my biking commute and on my lunch hour (so I can eat and read at the same time).  The interesting thing about audio books, I’ve found, is that there are some stories that are best heard out loud, and some you’d rather read a print version.  Dean Koontz is one such author that writes stories that are best listened to out loud.  Anyone who knows me well is aware that Dean Koontz is my go-to author when I’m stuck in a book rut, or want to listen to something entertaining that doesn’t require a lot of brain power.  Koontz is often criticized because his characters tend to be almost cartoonish–there is almost always characters that are pure, good, and almost angel-like, and they must battle against an evil man/corporation/mystical force.  For a summer, read I am fine with characters and a plot like that.

A fellow Koontz fan recommended this book to me, claiming it was one of her favorite Koontz novels.  Right away, I realized that the book description on Amazon or Goodreads is misleading.  My short synopsis: What does a little boy named Bartholomew, a young girl who delivered a baby after being raped, and a psychopath all have in common?  In this novel of good versus evil, metaphysics, and science fiction, three stories come together in a climax that makes you question the nature of the world.  If I say any more than this, I’m afraid I might give away some spoilers. Suffice to say, this book was enjoyable in that the characters were well-developed, there were a lot of twists and turns, and I thought the ending was satisfying and tied together everything well.  It is a Koontz book however, meaning that the characters are not complex (either they are good or bad people), there is a dog (Koontz loves dogs), and the romance(s) are all very innocent.

If I had to rate this book in terms of other Koontz novels, this one would be in my top ten.   What Koontz does well is creating villains.  The villain character in this book was creepy and believable.  Also, although his characters aren’t complex, they are well-developed.  Part of the pleasure of reading this book is seeing how the characters all come together and connect at the very end.  Part thriller, part family sagas, part mediation on the nature of life/death and multiple universes, this book is all around an entertaining summer read you can sink your teeth into.

 

Thanks for stopping by my blog!  Be sure to subscribe to get the latest updates on what I’m reading this summer.  As always, I’d love to hear from you in the comments about the books I discuss, and your recommendations.

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Filed under horror, Thriller

“The Circle” By Dave Eggers

circle

“SECRETS ARE LIES

SHARING IS CARING

PRIVACY IS THEFT”-pp. 305

 

Technology can make our lives seemingly more simple while at the same time complicating them in unforeseeable ways.  The Circle by Dave Eggers is best summarized by the age old question popular in science/technology based dystopias: “How far is too far?”  Unlike other dystopian novels however, that question is never answered explicitly, and is ultimately up to the reader to decide.

Let me take a step back:

The Circle chronicles the evolution of Mae Holland, a 20-something post-grad that is stuck in an all-too-familiar-to-millenials rut.  She is working a crappy job, has student loan officers harassing her daily, and is living with her parents.

Her life suddenly changes when her best friend from college, Annie, helps her secure a job at “The Circle,” a fancy new tech company that is eerily reminiscent of Epic Systems (a software company in Madison, WI. The author also happens to be from Chicago, so I’m further convinced this place might have inspired him).  Compared to her previous job, The Circle is a utopia.  She has a living wage and supervisors who support her.  There are fancy themed department buildings, cafeterias where famous chefs offer succulent dishes, parties on campus at night, sports facilities, and even dormitories where you can sleep if you work late.  She can’t believe her fortune to work for a company like this.

While Mae finds herself more drawn in to life in The Circle, she finds life outside to be less exciting and grim.  What starts as a blissful fairy tale of a promising career starts to take a darker turn as The Circle expands its influence and power.  Suddenly people who openly express worry that The Circle is becoming a monopoly start to have their metaphorical dirty laundry once protected online exposed to the media.  Workers at The Circle develop technology that raises questions of what should be considered private versus publicly accessed information.

A lot of reviews of this book equate The Circle to 1984.  While I would agree that both illustrate a dystopia (one in development in The Circle) that rests on the value that personal privacy is a threat to national security, this book is much more complicated than that.  This novel is timely in that a lot of the young characters grew up hearing about terrorist attacks, school shootings, and corrupt politicians.  Not only that, their desire to be connected to others and validated on social media contributes to the paranoia and anxiety that fuels The Circle’s  power.  The Circle’s mantra quoted above expresses the shared values of these young characters who want to hold people accountable for atrocious actions and share their lives and find instant (yet ironically meaningful) connections on social media.

Eggers manages to handle these modern issues, questions, and controversies without lecturing the reader.  Unlike 1984, most characters in The Circle eagerly give up their rights to privacy for the sake of professional transparency and security (all for different reasons that are explored in the book).  What’s chilling is that in this novel, it doesn’t take government force to make people give up their rights; it’s the pressure to follow the example of their peers and “get with the times.” Concerns expressed by people who are wary of The Circle are dismissed by Mae and her colleagues with a pitying and condescending eye-roll.  They are, after all, pioneers of the new wave of technology. Resistance is futile…in fact resistance is blasé and a sign of moral flaws. 

Overall, The Circle isn’t solely a dire warning or a lecture on the potential harms of unchecked technological advancement.  Its power lies in its ability to creep into your subconscious and find yourself pondering “What if..?” when you next find yourself at a social gathering surrounding by peers tapping away at their I-phones.  Without giving away the ending, I’ll just say that the last lines of the book sent a shiver down my spine and have since made me contemplate the roles social media and technology play in our lives, as well as the effects lack of privacy and unrestricted access to information can have on society and the human psyche.  Another question The Circle raises is: Do we really want to know everything about ourselves, our friends, our family, or our history? 

The other big theme in this book was about human connection, which I would struggle to discuss without revealing major spoiler alerts.  In a nutshell, I would agree with the author’s suggestion that technology has, and will continue, to change how humans interact and relate to each other on personal and professional levels. Suffice to say that this book will make you think about a lot of aspects of human society and struggle with questions that don’t have an easy or apparent answer.

As I read over what I’ve typed so far, I realize that this book is very intricate in its layers of meaning.  There are many themes that I could have discussed here, but I chose to focus on the ones that resonated the most with me.

A final note on Eggers as a writer: this is the first book I’ve read by him and I was very impressed.  Part of what makes this novel so effective is his writing style, especially his insertion of metaphorical scenes that give you goosebumps without really knowing why at first.  I still shudder when I think about the symbolic scene with the company shark, who greedily eats every other sea creature in its tank.  Such visceral moments as these add to the foreboding undertone lurking parallel to the dialogue.

Have any of you read The Circle?  Let me know what you thought in the comments!

 

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Filed under Fiction, Sci-fi/Fantasy, Thriller

“The Perfect Girl” by Gilly Macmillan

perfect girl

Summer is perfect to not only catch up on your reading list, but give yourself time to stumble upon something unexpected.  My favorite part about this time of year is going to the down-town Madison Public Library (MPL) and leisurely browsing their “Too Good to Miss” section.  From best-sellers, to adaptations, to obscure picks, the dear MPL librarians never fail to maintain a revolving collection of books that includes something that will appeal to any literary appetite.  The reason why I seem to always leave the library with more books than I came to return is because the “Too Good to Miss” section lives up to its namesake.

It was at this section where I stumbled upon The Perfect Girl.  As someone who likes to brag that I read Gone Girl and Girl on the Train (by the way, what is it with thrillers using the word “girl” in their titles?) before they became super ultra best-sellers, I am always hunting for the newest thriller sensation.  My guilty pleasure are books that include: mystery, unreliable characters, murder, messed up families with secrets, and plot twists.  This title initially caught my eye with it’s dark cover and that at first glance I thought the author was Gillian Flynn (which begs the question: When will she bless us with another book?).  Then I read the back and saw it was about: mystery, unreliable characters, murder, messed up families with secrets, and plot twists.  Say no more.

With the sudden surge of books like Gone Girl, I can imagine that before long this sort of genre will become cliche and tired.  For now though, I am one of many who are hooked on this type of novel.  However, it presents a challenge to authors: it’s hard to take a troupe that sells but avoid your book being lost in the noise.  The Perfect Girl didn’t seem to get great reviews on Goodreads, but I think it is the perfect summer book.

Very short summary: Music prodigy Zoe was involved in an unfortunate accident a year ago that broke her family and sent her to juvenile detention.  Tonight she’s performing a concert with her new brother in law to try to get her life back on track.  Little does she know by the end of the night, her mother will be dead.

Dum dum dum!!

Mystery/thriller lovers will see that this book takes a lot of strategies from Gone Girl.  It is told in multiple perspectives, you aren’t sure who is a reliable character or not, there are a lot of family secrets, and everything is revealed in spurts.  The paperback version is about 430 pages, but it took me only 3 days to read.  It’s fast paced and has decent character development.  My only critiques would be that the ending is somewhat predictable, and the character Sam (a police officer) didn’t really seem necessary to the overall plot.

While we wait for Gillian Flynn (hint hint Gillian!) to crank out her new book (right now would be great!), The Perfect Girl is a satisfactory thriller that will provide you with a few days of literary entertainment.  Take it with you on a trip this summer, or as you sit by the pool.

What books are you reading this summer?  Let me know in the comments!

 

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Filed under Mystery, Thriller