Roy Edroso is a freelance writer in New York, and enjoys a modest amount of fame writing a left-leaning blog. Back in 2008, he got a deal to publish his first novel, the modern hardboiled Morgue for Whores. Alas, the publishing house he signed with went bankrupt, so he eventually decided to e-publish the book. Since I read his blog, I decided to buy the book.
The book is the story of Jim Berends, a Brooklyn-ite with a dead-end IT job, no serious relationships and a bit of a drinking problem. Well, Jim didn’t think he had a drinking problem – he got drunk, passed out and woke up the next day. Then Jim wakes up from a drunk with a pair of dead and naked bodies in his apartment. Jim decides to ditch the bodies instead of calling the police. This proves especially problematic when an additional body shows up.
The rest of the plot of Morgue for Whores is Jim’s quest to figure out where the bodies are coming from. This being a modern hardboiled novel, a fair amount of sex and violence are involved in the process. The book is by no means torture porn, but neither is it for younger or sensitive readers.
For the suitable audience, Morgue is an entertaining read. Edroso wrote the book in first person, which is deceptively difficult, but in this case works well. The narrator is a witty sort, while being an appropriate mixture of self-doubt and competence. The investigation of “who dumped the bodies,” which drives the book, proceeds at an appropriate pace – not to briskly (Berends, the investigator, is an amateur with a day job) but not too slowly. Several characters, including Berends’ apparently hyper-normal neighbors, were well-concealed surprises, which Edroso pulled off without making his narrator look stupid.
Apparently Edroso sprang for a good editor, as I found the technical aspects of the book solid. About the only thing I thought was a bit off was the actual explanation of why the bodies were showing up. That’s a quibble in an otherwise highly enjoyable book. I can wholeheartedly recommend Morgue for Whores as a book well worth reading
In 2009, Army Major Glenn Dean deployed to Afghanistan. His job was to represent an alphabet-soup of Army commands charged with developing and fielding weapons for soldiers. Dean would spend six months in Afghanistan, traveling to various remote bases and seeing how well (or how poorly) our equipment was working, and what other equipment was needed. While he was deployed, he kept a journal.
Soldier / Geek is Dean’s journal, with some editorial effort made to translate Army-speak into standard English, as well as some editorial comments about problems he identified at the time. I found it a very interesting read, and I highly recommend it to anybody interested in current affairs. Dean tells his story simply, in chronological order, outlining what happened where. He did not see combat during his tour, despite a number of trips “outside the wire” to where the fighting was occurring. Despite that, I found Soldier / Geek a very interesting book.
Steph Bennion, the author of Hollow Moon, knows how to write an interesting blurb. Her book is a tale of “A kidnapping, a school band competition and an electric cat that eats everything in sight!” Targeted at the YA market, the story is of Ravana O’Brien, resident of the asteroid / spaceship Dandridge Cole, which is in orbit around Barnard’s Star. The inhabitants live inside the hollowed-up asteroid, which is spun to produce artificial gravity. Chapter 1 starts with Ravana trying to retrieve her electronic cat, and in the process witnessing a kidnapping.
Chapter 2 takes place on the planet Ascension, also orbiting Barnard’s Star, and highlights the exploits of the local high school band (all three of them) while on a field trip. There they discover the spaceship used in the kidnapping in Chapter 1, and eventually they meet up with Ravana. Hijinks ensue, taking place on several planets in two star system.
Hollow Moon is a fast-paced book, full of action. Characters don’t seem to spend much time catching their breath between adventures, of which there are a number. The tone of the novel is “Boys and Girls Own Adventure,” with more than a touch of British understatement, fitting for a British author. Despite the death-defying nature of some of these adventures, the book as a whole works due to the speed of events. I will also say that Ms. Bennion’s teenagers are very believable, and generally engaging.
The book is not without its flaws, however. First, I found the omniscient point of view a bit jarring. There’s nothing wrong with omniscient per se, but if you’re going to use it, it needs to be established firmly at the start of the book. Second, and more of a personal pet peeve, are the subject of aliens in science fiction. Basically, if you have aliens in your story, you should either establish fairly early on that aliens exist and are known or the story needs to be about the discovery of the aliens. Hollow Moon doesn’t follow either of those conventions, rather it tosses the aliens into the mix somewhat in the middle.
The last flaw is somewhat more serious. Without giving too much away, you can’t hide forever in a space ship. Sooner or later, every part of the ship will be visited by the crew. Critical areas, and power supply is always critical, will be visited more often and more carefully monitored.
Having said all of that, I found Hollow Moon a very enjoyable read. Ms. Bennion spent a good deal of time thinking about how her future world came to be, which is reflected in the names of planets and the cultures on them. Her characters are believable and interesting, and I look forward to more from her.