Micro-reviews (May 2018)

Posted by Paul Samael on Monday, May 14, 2018 Under: Book reviews
Theory of Bastards, Munich and The People's House

I've tended to write longish reviews on this blog and I'll probably carry on with that for some books - especially self-published ones.  But I thought I'd have a go at doing some shorter reviews alongside these.  Let's see if I manage to keep it up.  At any rate, it's got to be better than just feeding star ratings into the hungry maw of Big Data (aka Goodreads/Amazon in this case).  Here goes:

Theory of Bastards by Audrey Schulman

Set a few years in the future, this novel is about a scientist, Francine Burk, who embarks on a study into adultery - in particular, what are its evolutionary advantages and what are the biological drivers behind it?  The first half of the narrative weaves back and forth between the present, where she is studying promiscuity amongst bonobo apes, and Frankie's long struggle with the debilitating condition endometriosis (which I'm ashamed to say I knew next to nothing about - but I'm happy to say that is now rectified).  I won't tell you what happens in the second half - let's just say that things move out of the research environment and into the real world.  

The author manages to combine a page-turning plot with thought-provoking ideas about evolution and excellent characterisation (particularly the relationship between Frankie and her assistant, Stotts).  It may not be everyone's cup of tea, but as it says on Audrey Schulman's website, "her books aren't boring."

Munich by Robert Harris

Hmm, this was OK, but not a patch on "Fatherland" or the excellent "An Officer and a Spy" (a really compelling novelisation of the Dreyfus affair).  There - I did say I would try to be brief.

The People's House by David Pepper

Want to know how to rig an election?  Read this.  Stylistically, it's standard thriller fare, but what I found fascinating was the novel's depiction of the vulnerabilities of the US system - notably gerrymandered districts, voting machines and the general ease with which money buys you influence.  Who's doing the rigging?  Yes, you guessed it - it's those pesky Russians again, but this was published in August 2016 and was clearly written well before the issue really came to the fore in the Trump-Clinton presidential race.  Also, in this case it is not some Putin-esque figure doing the influencing but a Russian oligarch who's taken a cold, hard look at the US and asked himself "How can I play the system to get what I want for my commercial interests?".  

Whilst the media has tended to focus on Russian influence-peddling in social media and alleged offers of "dirt" on candidate Clinton, this novel suggests that there are other (potentially more effective) ways of swinging an election - but a media that's increasingly obsessed with what's being reported in the media is not necessarily going to do a good job of bringing them to light.  I doubt that a mainstream publisher would've picked this up - the focus on the nitty gritty of elections would not be seen as sensational enough for the thriller market.  But thanks to self-publishing, it has not only seen the light of day but looks to be doing pretty well on Amazon (and deservedly so).

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In : Book reviews 

Tags: "theory of bastards" "audrey schulman" munich "robert harris" "the people's house" "david pepper" 
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About Me

Paul Samael Welcome to my blog, "Publishing Waste" which will either (a) chronicle my heroic efforts to self-publish my own fiction; or (b) demonstrate beyond a scintilla of doubt the utter futility of (a). And along the way, I will also be doing some reviews of other people's books and occasionally blogging about other stuff.
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