As part of a decades-long tradition, resident NHCC Librarian Craig Larson has provided these reviews to the greater North Hennepin community. This is your Summer "It List" for 2020!
Survivor Song, by Paul Tremblay (published 2020):
A very prescient horror novel about a young female doctor who must help her pregnant best friend navigate a quickly-crumbling Boston in the midst of a super-rabies epidemic. It doesn’t help that the pregnant woman has also been bitten and time is of the essence. In some ways, Tremblay’s novel isn’t too different from most zombie novels that have been proliferating in the wake of the popularity of The Walking Dead television show. Society is breaking down, people are looting, and hordes of infected are wandering the streets, looking to spread the infection. But his focus on these two women and their real-time ordeal makes this book something different. The story is also deeply situated in the “real” world, with a focus on PPE, over-worked health professionals, and a national government that is out of its depth in responding to the crisis. In fact, it may be almost “too real” for some as we continue to navigate our own ongoing pandemic.
The Forbidden Door, by Dean Koontz (published 2018):
The fourth of a five-book series focusing on Jane Hawk, a disgraced FBI agent, who is fighting back against an insidious conspiracy, led by the wealthy and some in high positions of government, which involves the implementation of nano-implants to control people and create a utopian society. One of the side effects of these implants is that the controlled people form a kind of “hive mind” and can be controlled en masse. This is also one of the technology’s major weaknesses, as a glitch causes a large group in southern Arizona to essentially go berserk. And all of this is happening while the authorities are finally closing in on Jane and her small band of helpers. This was a pretty exciting book, with a lot of twists and turns and uncertainty. I also read the fifth and final book (The Night Window) shortly afterward.
The Book of Koli, by M. R. Carey (published 2020):
I’ve always been a big fan of post-apocalyptic science fiction and fantasy, and this book was right up my alley. Koli is a young man living in a small village in a far future England, where plants and animals have evolved to be absolutely lethal to human beings. The seed from a choker tree, if it should land on your skin, can kill you within seconds. Birds, insects, small animals are all deadly. People mainly live in small communities, trading with each other, and people have largely learned to live in this new world, though it appears that humanity is slowly dying off. Koli wants nothing more than to be a “Rampart,” one of a small group of people entrusted with the remnants of functional technology, who act as the guardians of the village. But when things go wrong, he finds himself banished and must make his way in the larger world. Koli’s narration is written in a kind of broken, grammatically-incorrect English that some readers may struggle with or find irritating, but I absolutely loved this. And, better yet, it’s only the first book in a projected trilogy. Definitely recommended.
Crooked River, by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child (published 2020):
The latest book in an ongoing series about FBI Special Agent Pendergast, a sort of updated Sherlock Holmes for the modern day. Pendergast comes from a wealthy old New Orleans family and is able to afford all of the finest things in life, and his cases generally deal with all sorts of weird and difficult challenges. In this one, a quiet beach off the coast of Florida is suddenly inundated with scores of shoes which wash up one day, each of them containing a severed foot. This touches off a massive investigation, with all sorts of jurisdictional wrangling, etc. Pendergast does his own thing, as usual, and
with the help of his new partner, Agent Coldmoon, a Lakota Indian from South Dakota, manages to track down the source of the floating shoes, uncovering one of the stranger mysteries in this series to-date.
Cold Storage, by David Koepp (published 2019):
The latest book I read was this fun thriller by author Koepp, a screenwriter known for Jurassic Park and Mission Impossible. Imagine Michael Crichton with a sense of humor, and you have some idea of what to expect. The story follows a couple of workers at a giant storage facility in the Kansas foothills who discover a strange beeping coming from inside one of the walls one night. When they decide to break through the wall to see what is going on, a much larger problem suddenly exerts itself. Apparently, this storage facility was built on top of an old military compound and one of the forgotten, more deadly items has begun to thaw out. Koepp draws his characters in great detail, down to their innermost thoughts and secrets. At first, I thought I was going to be more annoyed by this than anything, but gradually, I came to realize that these are some of the more three-dimensional characters I’ve encountered in any fiction recently and I really came to care about them and hope they’d survive their ordeal. The mutant fungus that is threatening to escape the facility is a truly scary thing and it isn’t always a sure thing that these people we care about will escape with their lives. Really good book and I’m hoping we’ll see another by this author soon.