Monday, April 05, 2010

The Drowning Pool

By Ross Macdonald

Back in the world of noir fiction, where private cop Lew Archer is solving yet another murder mystery by getting punched about and knocked out cold by various villains whilst beautiful women compete for attention before dying by overt sexual metaphor.

Macdonald isn't bad, but he's not brilliant either. He's good in the standard fashion for this genre, but kind of like a watered down version of Chandler spiced up with an extra twist of violence. All very good and fine for passing the time. I only have one more Archer novel left on my shelf to read, and then I think I'll put Macdonald aside and head for the darker waters of Ellroy.

This story is pretty much standard fare for noir fiction. A beautiful woman is in trouble and brings in the hard boiled detective. Various goons and sexual motivations come to light during the story, the usual stuff, a few people die, the detective gets pushed around by every one, but by the end of the story, things have almost sorted themselves out, and only the detective knows that the official story is the wrong story. Naturally there is a twist, unfortunately it was so thin as to be invisible until trodden upon.

The Atrocity Archive
By Charles Stross

Where to begin? This is two stories in one cover and I quite liked them even though I more or less knew what to expect due to various spoilers. What I liked was the way the charaters were described, the first person narrative and the way the author pulls his punches. What I didn't like was the over use of techno-babble, the reliance on office politics to create a mood and the 'Nazi angle'.

The techno-babble was often just meaningless to me, since I am not a computer nerd and although I sometimes perceived the humour which was lurking beneath, as often as not I wasn't particularly amused. I was reminded of Patrick O'Brian's irritating habit (one he shared with a great many authors) of suddenly interjecting French or Spanish passages without translation. Certainly O'Brian just told a funny, but as with these books, since I don't speak Spanish, and I don't happen to have a English to Spanish dictionary by my side as I sit on the toilet reading my book, I miss the punch line and the story suffers as a consequence. Stross might be a clever chap, but he needs to curb the showng off if he wants to reach the wider audience.

The office drudge/political infighting angle was slightly overdone but in the second story it turned out to be necessary, if not a little predictable. I didn't care for the anticlimax which ended the second story as it seemed like a plot cop out.

Lastly there was the Nazi angle, and this is my biggest beef. I am really getting tired of story's like this which rely so heavily on the Nazi's, and in this case, the Holocaust. I personally have little tolerance for stories which attempt to use the Holocaust, because in doing so they belittle what must be one of the greatest crimes of all human history. The idea that there was a practical, non political reason for the mass murder of millions of innocent people turns me right off and the caveat that the reason is evil x 10 doesn't alter my mind on that. Its for the same reason I don't have any Nazi's in Rocketman. Its just to big a cop out. Its been done to death and the truth was far, far worse than the fiction could ever hope to describe.

White Butterfly
By Walter Mosley

A few years later and 'Easy' Rawlins is married and has a daughter (as well as his adopted son). Easy has also become something of an alcoholic and things aren't going too well.

Some one has been murdering young women, but since this is Mosley, no one cares until the next victim turns out to be white, and then suddenly Easy Rawlins is (once again) put to work by 'the man'.

As usual, the racial aspect dominates Mosley's story but as usual its so central to the characters lives that it is impossible to reasonably complain... but I just did anyway.


Palle "Nybyggeren" said...

So, you did do something useful in your Easter holiday ;-)

moif said...

Yes, in between child minding, I also read a book.

Oleg said...

About Atrocity Archives:

One of the things that I liked about the second and shorter story in the volume, Concrete Jungle (and, also Colder War), is that the 'nasty effect' was something that the Nazis didn't use, and (in CJ) after WW2 the British developed it.

I'm not annoyed by the geeky expressions, some of which are quite funny.