Oath of Office

Bibliographic Information

Audiobook $25.70
Paperback $7.96
Hardback $8.74
Kindle $7.99
Associated ISBNs 9780312587536
9780312587543 — Paperback
9781429950435
9781410447470 — Hardcover

Readers Annotation

There’s something making people kill and Dr. Lou Welcome is on the case.

Rating (VOYA)

3P, 3Q

Its not super well written (there are character flaws and plot flaws).

Its not everyone’s cup of tea (medical thriller?).

Summary

Ok here we go…

Dr John Meacham has just seen a patient. He knows that everyone in his office heard and saw what happened. He needs to take care of it. There needs to be NO WITNESSES. So he loads his gun and kills everyone in his office before turning the gun on himself.

Dr Lou Welcome works for an office that evaluates Dr.s down on their luck, or who have had their licenses temporarily revoked. Lou had evaluated Dr Meacham and found him fit to practice. So when Lou finds out about Meacham’s shooting spree, he’s shocked, and knows that this will get his own license put on pause and his job suspended (since they’re going to blame him since he was the one who said Meacham could go back to work).

Lou finds Meacham’s behavior strange and out of character. He goes to the hospital where they took Meacham (who was not killed when he shot himself). He watches as the doctors in the hospital act weird and do things he wouldn’t do and which ultimately leads to Meacham’s death. Lou finds Meacham’s distraught wife and offers to take her home. She insists on driving. She’s acting strange, super focused and crazy, saying she needs to catch up to a cat in front of them because his taillight is out. She’s driving erratically and dangerously, and Lou keeps trying to talk her down and get her to pull over. They get pulled over by the police, the chief of police of Kings Ridge. He’s heard about Meacham, and knows Meacham’s wife, and doesn’t give them a ticket.

Meanwhile, Darlene is the first lady. Her husband is in a spot of trouble because the Secretary of Agriculture had to resign because of a scandal with an underage prostitute. Darlene and her PA are at a bar when the former Secretary (whom Darlene has known most of her life) approaches. He says that he was framed, but he isn’t asking her to get his job back. He’s asking her to see if her husband can move some of the legislation that he was working on through because it is important to the country. Darlene says she will.

Darlene’s husband completely blows up at her for even talking to the former Secretary, and makes her swear to never bring up the subject again.

Lou starts talking to the police chief and talks about his theory: that something is making people in Kings Ridge act nuts. The chief says he’ll help Lou however he can. They go to the home of the woman Meacham had examined before his breakdown and talk to her. She tells them that Meacham just got upset about her eating habits again. Lou asked if she saw him anywhere outside of the office and she said: Millie’s diner.

Lou meets up with his father for dinner at Millie’s diner. They order and chat about Lou’s case and his father’s latest scheme. And then the kid behind the counter tries to cut off his hand. They rush him to the hospital (not the one in Kings Ridge at Lou’s insistence) and the doctor’s there are able to save the kid’s hand. Millie is super grateful to Lou and the two talk about the diner and the people in the town.

Meanwhile, Darlene is approached by someone she starts calling “double M,” he plays the tape of the girl getting contracted to set up the Secretary and tells her to meet him. Darlene and the PA set up a clever scheme for Darlene to sneak away from her guards. Double M tells her to find the girl. Darlene’s personal guard guy knows that she snuck off, and tells her he doesn’t care what she’s doing, but to make sure he’s there. So, he uses some connections to find some girls the girl used to work with. Darlene learns about the girl, and then does some research. She finds that the girl is dead in Florida.

Lou boxes. Lou finds that he’s being tailed. With some advice from his boxing coach, he slips out of his apartment. Coach, George, Lou and the dumb guy, trail the tail. They end up in a corn field. They notice the corn is weird. Then get attacked. The dumb guy gets killed, George and Lou get chased by a killer combine. They escape.

The next day, Lou, Coach and George bring the police out to the field. They meet the guy who runs the place (who’s super suspicious) and the guy’s son. They get the brush off.

Lou talks to the kid who tried to cut his hand off, and finds that the kid has giant man-eating termites as pets. He finds this disturbing and suspicious. Lou gets contacted by Darlene. Lou and Darlene go to talk to an entomologist. He says “yeah those aren’t natural.” He dissects the queen Lou brought. Lou gets some equipment from the entomologist to help him search for the hive.

Darlene talks to her husband about the mutant corn and the termites. He gets pissed and says he’s not going to do anything about it. And that he’s made a deal with the Chinese in exchange for that corn. Darlene wonders who this man is and where her husband has gone.

Lou tracks the termites back to an old looking shack in the woods, near the farm with the mutant corn. He surmises that this is the place where they’ve been experimenting on the corn/termites. He calls the police chief. The chief is ranting to Lou as he opens the cabin with a key and continues ranting as he leads Lou down into the lab. Lou finally grasps that the chief was in on it the whole time (too late). The chief attacks. Lou escapes. The farmer’s son ends up being “double M.” Double M and the chief end up going over the platform above a pit of termites and getting eaten alive. Lou manages to escape.

Lou tells his ex-wife, her new husband and daughter to go hide for a little bit since powerful people are trying to kill him and may try to hurt him by hurting them. He then gets a call from the farmer saying he has Lou’s friends (Coach and George). Lou must go meet with him.

Lou jumps on a moving train thinking he can get to Coach and George before they’re to be killed. He gets Coach and George free, but then all three get captured. They’re put in a silo and the farmer starts interrogating them and pouring corn on them. They’re about to suffocate when they’re rescued by the army. Darlene had convinced her husband to do something. He now needs to resign.

Lou and Darlene agree that though they have feelings for each other, Darlene is staying with her husband.

Evaluation

Now that I’ve thought about it, I am reminded of that time I read Prey by Michael Crichton. Science gone wrong! But medical science this time. I hadn’t even made the connection before… I blame Goodreads and putting a Robin Cook book in the Readalikes (note to self: finally read a Robin Cook book).

Anyway….

This was a good way to spend 10.5 hours. It wasn’t revolutionary, it wasn’t super awesome, but it was a pretty good book that I liked listening to.

Look, there’s a pretty forced love story (because what book doesn’t have a love story, and all female characters need to be involved in one you know…), the plot has some issues, and it wasn’t super thrilling. But, despite that overwhelming praise, it was a nice book.

I like Lou Welcome. He’s a doctor bouncing back from some tough times. He’s got strained family relationships, and he’s got good family relationships. Its nice to see two divorced characters getting along. His relationship with his daughter is great. And other than the forced love interest, he’s a really well formed character.

Darlene (the first lady) isn’t a very compelling character. She is a flawed character for sure (super trusting, faithful to her dumbass husband), but her flaws don’t make her interesting. She’s flat and one dimensional, as are her friends and even her husband.

Lou’s boxing buddies were pretty well thought out. They, while not completely 3 dimensional, were at least fun characters with personality.

D.C. is a big part of the book, and has some good description. Kings Ridge, however, is much more fleshed out than the nation’s capitol. Its got that small town vibe, and it really shows how small town people interact.

Its not the best mystery, for sure. Its not super thrilling. But it was a good way to spend some time (though I may have had a moment when I said aloud “you dumbass,” and I haven’t done that since the Dan Brown incident).

Genre

Medical Thriller

Suspense

Readalikes

Every Fifteen Minutes by Lisa Scottoline

Cell by Robin Cook

Significance

Modern science gone wrong book with a mystery.

Book Discussion Questions and Ideas

How believable is evil super corn?

Is what Millie did so wrong? What would you have done if you were in her shoes?

Discuss President and his decisions.

Author’s website

Michael Palmer

Awards

none

Reviews

Kirkus

PW

Why I Chose It

I kept seeing the third book in the series (Resistant) and wanted to read that one, so I thought I’d start with the first.

Other Information

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Bird Box

Bibliographic Information 

Audiobook $28.88
Paperback $10.83
Hardback $25.99
Kindle $7.99
Associated ISBNs 9780062259653
9780062259660
9780062259677
9780062326928 — Paperback

 

Readers Annotation

Don’t open your eyes.

Rating (VOYA)

5Q, 4P

This book is superbly written. Its detailed in the right places and vague in the right places. It really makes you feel the situation.

I want so bad to give this book all the high marks, but its a 4P because not everyone enjoys a horror novel (even one as great as this one).

Summary

All of the Spoilers ahead (in chronological order)!

In the beginning, it started with one incident in Russia. Malorie is living with her sister Shannon. Malorie finds out that she’s pregnant. There are more incidents, and they’re spreading. Shannon gets more paranoid as they cross the ocean and occur in Alaska. People start blocking their eyes and covering their windows. Malorie doesn’t believe yet. 

An incident occurs in Michigan by Malorie and Shannon’s parents home. The sisters call their parents. Soon the incidents are widespread. Malorie and Shannon have holed up in their apartment and covered all the windows. They don’t hear from their parents anymore. Malorie hears something upstairs one day and goes up to check on Shannon. Part of a window has been uncovered. Malorie finds Shannon dead in the bathroom.

Malorie remembers seeing an ad in the newspaper that said there was a house offering shelter. No longer able to stay where her sister has died, she somehow drives to the town and home. At the home they let her in and pat her down. 

The roommates tell Malorie about the creatures and of their situation. The cellar is packed with canned food. There’s a well in the backyard. Everyone takes turns doing chores (like emptying the wastebuckets). Tom is the outgoing guy. Don is the paranoid guy. Jules has the dog (Victor). There’s Cheryl and the other guy. Tom has ideas. He wants to explore other houses for stuff, he wants to do things. The group calls random numbers hoping to contact anyone.

There’s another knock on the door and Olympia joins the group. She too is pregnant. She had been living next door. She heard them one night and made her way over to them blind.

Tom wants to find dogs (and use them as seeing eye dogs). He and Jules explore the block blind. They find a tent in the road and note that that is weird. They come back 2 days later with two huskies.

Then Gary shows up. Gary tells the group about his former group. They were not military but became militant, except for Frank. Frank wrote in journals and thought there was no harm to the creatures. He escaped one day after taking down all of the window coverings. Gary left after that.

Malorie is suspicious of Gary. She nicks his suitcase one night and rifles through it, finding “Franks’s” journal. She wants to tell the group. Don has grown close to Gary and she doesn’t trust him.

When Tom eventually comes back, she blurts out what she’s found out about Gary. The roommates kick Gary out.

Don holes up in the basement. Eventually the roommates get Don out of the basement and both Malorie and Olympia go into labor. There’s a storm raging, and they take the two women to the attic to give birth. There’s a fight on downstairs which sounds like it turns violent. Then Gary appears in the attic. Don has uncovered all the windows, and Gary is crazy. 

Malorie gives birth first as a creature comes up to the attic. Olympia gives birth and sees the creature. Malorie pulls Olympia’s baby towards her and covers both of their eyes. Olympia jumps out the window and hangs herself with her umbilical cord. Gary and the creature leave.

The phone rings. Malorie traverses the house with her eyes closed, stepping unknowingly around the bodies of the roommates as she goes in order to answer the phone. Its a man and he says there’s a safe place down the river and tells her how to get there.

4 YEARS LATER

Malorie has decided that she and the children are leaving. She recalls that they have not had much of a childhood and that she may have been cruel to them.

She has trained them to awaken with their eyes closed. She has trained them to hear everything. 

She knows that it is foggy outside and decides that today they will take the river. She grabs the children and some food and they head to the little rowboat in the river. 

Malorie puts the boy in front and the girl in back and sits in the middle to row, blindfolded down the river.

They get stuck on a bank, run into a crazy man on a boat, and get attacked by some wolves (who injury Malorie). Malorie wishes she had Victor, but he went mad after seeing a creature when she went to get microphones and amplifiers.

A creature stands in front of them and tries to take off Malorie’s blinfold as they approach the split in the river, but she tells it not to take it off her and it listens and walks away. Malorie needs to take the middle right arm of the river, which means she needs to open her eyes. She does and marvels at the brightness of the world before putting on her blindfold again. They take the split and are hauled ashore at the compound and welcomed warmly. They see that some people have been blinded and are afraid, but the man in charge explains that they don’t do that anymore.

Evaluation

Straight up: This was a great book.

Its creepy. There’s a real emphasis on different feelings and senses. It evokes different feelings from other horror novels. Its atmospheric.

This book is not going to jump scare you, this book isn’t a slasher flick. This is a creeping horror that sets right into your bones and seeps. This sits with you. It leaves you feeling creeped out and gross.

Its amazing.

I went in with zero expectations (though high hopes). And it was amazing. At one point I picked it up, knew I couldn’t finish it in one sitting and knew that I had to do it in one go and so put it back down.

The setting is creepy. Its not super described, but you get the feeling of it. And really, that’s what the book is all about.

Our characters are well thought out and shown (and boy did it drive me up a wall not to know why Boy and Girl didn’t have names). Malorie is an interesting character, and the choices she makes are hard. The roommates are different archetypes that work well for the story, without being one dimensional or stereotypical. Gary freaked me right out, and he wasn’t even that big of a role! …..Gary…..

I loved that we got NOTHING about the creatures (and really that’s the crux of the story: to know is to go mad), except that there are creatures and you will go crazy if you see them.

The plot unfolded beautifully. Jumping between two periods of time really kept the reader in the dark about certain parts of the book and led to a dramatic climax.

This isn’t my new obsession, but it is a stupendous book.

A great creepy read.

Genre

Apocalyptic

Horror

Readalikes

The Silence by Tim Lebbon

World of Trouble by Ben H. Winters

Significance

Creepy and sensory, with minimal other-worldly aspects

Book Discussion Questions and Ideas

Why do you suppose Malorie didn’t name the children?

Would you have trained the children like Malorie did?

How would you have reacted to the news in the beginning of the story?

Author’s website

Josh Malerman

Awards

LibraryReads Favorites: 2014

YALSA Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults: Horror: Better Dead than Unread (2017)

Reviews

Kirkus

PW

Why I Chose It

I heard about Malerman’s newest book on a podcast and they also talked about how great this one was, so I decided to try this one first.

Other Information

I’m very excited to say that this is my first book that I’ll actually be leading a discussion on! Can’t wait!

I Am Not A Serial Killer

Bibliographic Information 

Audiobook $22.00
Paperback $12
Hardback $19.61
Kindle $8.51
Associated ISBNs 9780765322470
9780755348817
9780765327826 — Paperback
9780765362360 — Paperback
9781429934848

Rating (VOYA)

3Q, 3P

While I love this book, its a 3Q because its not the most well written book, and it may have some plotting issues.

3P because I may love it, but surprise Paranormal may throw people off and not everyone is all about the murder/sociopaths.

Readers Annotation

John’s not a serial killer, but someone in his town is.

Summary

John Wayne Cleaver lives in a small town with his mother. His father left some years ago and they rarely talk. His mother and aunt work in the mortuary below the house. His estranged sister is their secretary. John occasionally gets to help embalm the corpses.

SPOILERS BELOW! HIGHLIGHT TO READ!!

We start with a murder. Someone in the town has been slashed apart and its making headlines. It’s also gained John’s attention. John is obsessed with serial killers. He’s also a sociopath, but is quick to point out he’s not a serial killer. He writes his school papers on serial killers. He only has one friend, but John doesn’t really have friends (because he’s a sociopath) but there is one kid he hangs out with so it seems like he’s more normal. His “friend” is kind of a douchebag.

The murder gets John thinking. He goes to the place where the man was killed. He notices a pile of black goo. He heads home. He anxiously awaits the body’s inevitable arrival downstairs. His mother is unhappy that he wrote another paper on a serial killer.

John sees a therapist once a week. His therapist Dr Nesbit is the only person who can somewhat understand John and who he is.

A second murder occurs, much like the first one. John starts to think that there’s a serial killer. He starts putting the pieces together. He talks to his friend about the “whys” of the case until his friend gets weirded out. 

He and his mother have a big falling out, and John is banned from helping with the embalming. 

John goes to a dance at school with his friend. At the dance, he meets a girl and talks with her (and later realizes he likes he… sort of). They are interrupted by a bully. John calmly threatens to murder him, which scares him and the girl off.

John’s mother hears about the incident and John has to talk to Dr Nesbit about it. He reveals that he has a set of simple rules so that he can prevent himself from becoming a serial killer: not watching people, not talking to one person for long, and so forth. He developed these rules from studying serial killers, because while he really doesn’t understand people, he really doesn’t want to be a serial killer.

Near Christmas, John notices his neighbor (Mr. Crowley) picking up a suspicious drifter to go ice fishing. John trails them on his bike, thinking the old man is stupid for picking up a drifter who obviously is going to try to kill him. He watches from the trees, secretly berreating himself for only watching and not stopping what’s about to happen. However, it turns out the drifter is the victim. Mr. Crowley is a demon. His fingers turn to claws and he rips the drifter apart. He takes an organ from the drifter, pulls out the same organ from his own body and switches them. His former organ turns to black goo. Then he drags the body away to dispose of it.

John is beside himself. He knows no one will believe him, and he knows he’ll have to do something. He starts to monitor Crowley’s behavior and movements. He starts breaking his own rules, knowing he’ll need to in order to keep an eye on Crowley and eventually kill him.

One night Crowley goes out to “watch the game” but John knows there is no game on that night, which means that Crowley is going out hunting. He follows on his bike and Crowley seems to get more frantic trying to find a victim. He finds one in an alley. John calls the police and waits. Crowley kills the man and takes part of him. The police arrive and there is a showdown. The police are slaughtered. Crowley takes another piece to replace his own failing pieces from one of the policemen. 

John realizes that breaking his rules is helping him start to spiral out of control. He realizes he’s stalking the girl from the dance, and threatens his mother. Even Dr. Nesbit seems concerned with John’s behavior. John needs to come up with a plan.

John comes to the realization that Crowley is trying to wait as long as possible to replace his organs. So John devises a plan. He starts leaving Crowley notes that say something like “I know what you are/did.” Crowley starts to freak out. Crowley waits so long in fact, that the next time that he needs to replace something he can’t go to his normal hunting grounds and kills one of the people from the town, who happens to be John’s friend’s dad.

The town host a memorial. John doesn’t entirely understand the point and wants to go home. He also doesn’t understand why the people are only morning for two of the townspeople and not the rest of the people that the killer has killed. John realizes he doesn’t understand why Crowley is doing this.

He talks with Dr. Nesbit, and brings up a “hypothetical” situation to get his opinion. “Why would a demon stay if he had to kill to and clearly didn’t like killing?” Dr. Nesbit helps John realize that he doesn’t understand because the demon clearly loves his wife. 

When Crowley can no longer keep from feeding, John puts his plan into motion. He sneaks into Crowley’s house and sneaks up to his wife’s room. He grabs her camera and starts taking pictures, getting gradually closer to her. He then bashes her over the head. He can’t stop himself and keeps hitting her. He barely pulls himself away and calls Dr Nesbit. He tells Dr. Nesbit that he can’t stop. Dr. Nesbit talks John down and says he’s coming over to see him. John hangs up. He ties up Mrs. Crowley and keeps taking pictures. Then he starts sending them to Mr. Crowley. 

Crowley speeds home and John barely has time to escape out the back door. He needs to sneak around Crowley’s care to get safely home. He looks through the passenger side door and there is Dr Nesbit. The man had come out to go help John and had gotten killed for it. John drags the body out of the car after realizing Crowley hadn’t stolen any organs from it. He hides the body behind the garage. Crowley comes out of the house furious and starts hunting for John and Dr Nesbit’s body.

At this point in time, John’s mother wakes up and finds him gone. She starts freaking out. John sees that his mother is coming out of the house and so does Crowley. John makes a mad dash to get to her and the two of them race through the house towards the embalming room with Crowley hot on their tales.

They reach the embalming room and defeat Crowley.

Evaluation

I did not expect where this book was going. I honestly thought it was just about a sociopath trying not to kill people (sort of ala Dexter). There was more to it this book than that.

I loved John Wayne Cleaver. This little sociopath is amazing. Not only is he aware of his own tendencies, he is trying desperately to not become what he could be. He is such an aware teenager (which, now that I think about it is a bit of an oddity). The great thing about John is that he just doesn’t understand people’s emotional motivations (and duh, he’s a sociopath). Nearing the climax he wonders why the demon is staying in town, and it just never crosses his mind that its staying because it loves its wife. Oh John… he just needs someone to understand him.

Point being, the characters are great. Learning about the characters from John’s perspective really gives you a different sort of insight into them. John doesn’t necessarily understand people or their motivations, but we can see them through him. John’s mom is an interesting character who is trying so hard but just doesn’t get it. His “best friend” is kind of a douche. His aunt is almost sympathetic. Dr. Nesbit is the only one who really understands John, and it comes through in his point of view.

Clayton is a small town, and you can tell. Its not the most graphically depicted, but you can feel how small it is through the way John talks about it.

Plot-wise, this one took a turn on me (as previously stated). I can see where people looking for a Dexter sort of deal may not like the turn to the paranormal, but since I love paranormal I didn’t have a problem with the twist. However, despite the paranormal turn of events, I thought this was a great introspection on a sociopath’s life experience. Have I mentioned how much I like John?

Genre

Horror

Mystery

Paranormal

Readalikes

Bones & All by Camille DeAngelis

Killer Instinct by S.E. Green

Significance

Book Discussion Questions and Ideas

What did you think about the paranormal twist?

What did you think about the Wells’ portrayal of a sociopath?

What would you do if you knew you could potentially be a serial killer (psychopath)?

Author’s website

Dan Wells

Awards

Reviews

Kirkus

Publishers Weekly

Why I Chose It

This book sounded like an interesting introspection into the mind of a sociopath.

Other Information

The Running Man

Bibliographic Information 

Audiobook $60.99
Paperback $12
Hardback $18.40
Kindle $8.99
Associated ISBNs 9780451115089
9780451197962 — Paperback
9780451230621 — Paperback
9781101212141
9780340952283 — Paperback

Rating (VOYA)

4Q, 4P

This Bachman book is pretty great (especially in audio where the countdown becomes just that more visceral) but its not perfect.

This should be bouncing back in popularity due to the popularity of dystopias in general and the political climate.

Readers Annotation

He’s on the run for money… he’s on the run for his life.

Summary

SPOILERS BELOW! HIGHLIGHT TO READ!!

Welcome to the Dystopian future USA. This particular future has television ruling the world (practically). Ben Richards has no job, his wife is hooking to make money, and his daughter is sick with pneumonia. They cannot afford to get her medicine. Richards decides to try to get on a game show to get money. He’s hoping to get something like the show where people with heart conditions run and get asked questions until they have a heart attack, or the one where you swim with alligators.

Richards heads to the studio and stands in line to be interviewed. He takes an aptitude test, gets psych evaluated, and examined. All the while he is thinking unkind thoughts about the whole process, the interviewers, and the system at large. In the end, he and two other men are selected for a show that no one will tell them. They go up an elevator and one of them says that he thinks they’ve been selected for THE RUNNING MAN. When they reach the top, they’re called one by one into the executive Killian’s office. When Richards comes in Killian (a big black man) tells Richards he’s been selected for THE RUNNING MAN. Richards signs the contract, tells Killian he doesn’t want the hookers, and Killian gives him an advance on his winnings (with strings that if he doesn’t earn enough the studio will got after his wife and daughter). He is given a day before he will be set loose. Killian gives him one piece of advice: stay with his people.

Richards spends his day reading books, and sending his advance to his wife. He is told that his wife and daughter are being guarded so that no one will come after them.

The next day, Richards is taken to the studio. He’s given the rundown: twice a day he must video tape himself for 10 minutes and send the tapes to the studio. If he fails to send in the tapes, they will kill his wife and child. He is given some money. They do his intro: Ben Richards: non-conformist, jobless, and societal fighter. His wife: whore. They doctor his wife’s photo and Richards gets pissed. Security guards Killian as he laughs at Richards impotent rage. And then he’s set loose.

— important note on the game: in THE RUNNING MAN, the runner is set loose in the general population. His job is to survive as long as he can. He earns money for getting away and for every “hunter” and person he kills. Regular people can phone in tips for cash rewards. “Hunters” are basically law enforcement, though the studio has its own special “hunter” who coordinates the law enforcement. —

Richards takes a taxi, and the driver says he’s going to send in a tip to get the $100 reward. Richards doesn’t care. He sneaks to a shop where a “friend” can doctor up some fake ID. Then he travels to New York.

In New York he rents a hotel room. He tapes himself with a pillowcase over his head and any identifying marks covered. Every day he wanders out in his disguise. He starts to feel antsy and thinks that someone has figured out where he is. He pays for a few extra nights, leaves as usual and travels to a different part of the city.

He rents a room in the Y(MCA). He’s only there for a few hours when he realizes they know where he is. He flees to the basement, and ends up setting the place on fire as he leaves through the tunnel. He comes up in a different part of town and runs into a black kid.

The kid brings his brother to Richards. They go back to the kid’s home. There Richards learns about the air and how polluted it is as he listens to the kid’s sister dying from lung cancer in another room. They brother knows how to send the tapes without them being traceable. The brother takes Richards to a different part of the state. He tells him of a contact that can help him.

When Richards finds the contact’s home, he discovers he’s not home. So Richards waits with the kid’s mother. She slowly realizes who he is and threatens to call the police. The kid comes home and tries to reassure his mother that Richards is ok and that she shouldn’t call the police. The kid goes to hide Richard’s car.

When the kid comes back he discovers his mother has called the police. Richards and the kids flee. The get to the car and then are chased by the police. They get shot to hell, but temporarily lose the police when the kid takes Richards to an abandoned mall. The kid (mortally wounded) goes off to lead the police on a chase and his inevitable death.

Richards stays the night in the abandoned mall. In the morning he treks through the overgrowth and finds a gas station. He needs to mail his tapes. But he knows if he goes to the gas station he’ll be spotted and then caught. Luckily, a kid and his dog come by. Richards convinces the kid to mail his tapes.

Richards hijacks a car on the road that a woman is driving. He forces her to drive him to the nearest airfield. 

The “hunters” beat them there. Richards threatens the woman’s life and bluffs his way to obtaining a plane and crew. He takes along the big bad “hunter” (whose name I forgot). On the plane Killian contacts them. He tells Richards his wife is dead and that the studio wants to hire him as lead “hunter.” Richards kills the “hunter,” the pilots, and shoves the woman in a parachute out the door. He drives the plane into the studio’s building.

Evaluation

I’ll be honest. I read this because I love the movie. I know what you’re thinking: “What a horrible movie that movie was!” Yes. Yes it was pretty bad, even for an ’80s movie, but it was pretty epic. I love the camp of it all. And while its not great, it did have a message that I appreciated.

Anyway. On to the book.

Let’s start with the obvious: the book is better, and the book is different.

Of course it is! No book is exactly like it’s movie (unless its a book based on a movie… maybe). I remember watching Interview With the Vampire after I had read the books… and even though Anne Rice had helped with the screenplay, it was still different. Point being: DIFFERENT!

The obvious difference is the setting. Book!Ben Richards has full run of the world (though he really probably won’t be taking a plane ride). Movie!Ben Richards has the game arena. Book!Ben’s world is much more scary than Movie!Ben’s. Book!Ben has to be wary of every person he meets. Anyone could turn in information about him for cold, hard cash. Book!Ben hangs out in New York, goes to the sticks and then hops a plane. Movie!Ben hangs on in the arena, which has several themed areas.

The circumstances are different: Book!Ben is trying to get money for medicine for his sick kid and the only way left for him is to be part of the games. Movie!Ben said “no” to a direct order and was captured and forcibly put into the game. These circumstances have huge impacts on the characters and their actions and motivations. Book!Ben volunteered. He needs to stay alive as long as he can to help his wife and baby. He hates the system (and because he does he ends up on The Running Man) and along the way he learns that the air is poisoning the people. Book!Ben has a set of complicated morals and circumstances. Movie!Ben is aggressive and while he’s “fighting the man” it doesn’t really seem like a cause he believes in.

Movie has crazy costumed hunters. Book has regular people and law enforcement hunting the runners.

Movie has constant surveillance. Book has mailed in tapes and news coverage.

Movie has cheesy good guys win ending. Book has much more complicated ending with no clear winner.

I love this book.

This book is a believable dystopia (given antiquated technology), with a set of compelling characters and a disturbing setting.

Ben Richards is a layered character. He’s not necessarily good, he’s not bad. He’s a man put in a difficult situation trying to fight an oppressive system which put him in the situation he finds himself in. He feels bad killing people. He cares about other people even when he shouldn’t. He’s not entirely smart. He’s thrown in a situation that he doesn’t know what to do in.

Yes, Killian is evil, but he’s not a cartoon-y bad guy. He knows what will get ratings, he knows what buttons to press, and he knows how to manipulate a situation.

Every place Ben Richards goes to is detailed. We know the situation, we know where we are, and we know what to expect.

The chapters get shorter and more intense as the clock counts down (which is pretty darn brilliant).

Look, I could break it down for you, but I won’t.

This book is a must read for me. Its a great piece (sure its not perfect) that makes you think. Its a heart-pounding thrill ride. It’s…

THE RUNNING MAN

Genre

Science Fiction

Dystopia

Readalikes

The Parable of the Sower by Octavia E. Butler

Distraction by Bruce Sterling

Significance

A dystopia where the government is your enemy, the media is your enemy, and your neighbors are your enemy.

Book Discussion Questions and Ideas

Do you think this is a possible Dystopian future?

Talk about the prevalence of media in life.

What would you have done?

Author’s website

Richard Bachman (Stephen King)

Awards

none

Reviews

Amazon

The Guardian

Why I Chose It

I wanted to read this because I love the awesomely cheesy (and incredibly bad) 1980’s movie starring Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Other Information

Falling Angel

Bibliographic Information 

Audiobook
Paperback $13
Hardback $19.57
Kindle $6.15
Associated ISBNs 9780312957957
9781933618081 — Paperback
9781453271131 — Paperback
9781933618098 — Hardcover
9781842431542 — Paperback
9781453246702 — Paperback
9780446314329 — Paperback
9781453246580
9781453281703
9781480480742 — Hardcover

Rating (VOYA)

3Q, 3P

This book is pretty well written given the subject and era it was written in but its not perfect.

This won’t be jumping off the shelves. Its an older book, with a plot that won’t appeal to everyone and a subject that could hold it back.

Readers Annotation

Harry Angel is hired to find a man gone missing from a medical ward… 15 years ago.

Summary

Harry Angel is a P.I. in New York City. He has just been hired to find Johnny Favourite, a former big band singer and current coma patient, by Louis Cypher. Harry goes upstate to see if he can visit Johnny, but when he gets to the hospital they tell him that Johnny was transferred to a military hospital 15 years ago. Harry calls the VA hospital and they tell him that Johnny was never there.

(SPOILERS AHEAD, HIGHTLIGHT TEXT FOR FULL SUMMARY)

Harry breaks into Johnny’s doctor’s house and snoops around looking for clues. When the doctor gets home, Harry blackmails him with his morphine habit but the doctor won’t talk. Harry ties the doctor up to his bed and goes for a walk to give the doctor time to think about his information request. When he comes back he finds that the doctor has apparently committed suicide.

Harry returns to New York and gives an update to his client. He gets information from the newspaper about Johnny’s life before he disappeared. He finds out about Johnny’s ex-fiance and bandmates. He puts in calls to the bandmates and tracks one “Toots” Sweet to a club in Harlem and an M. Krusemark. He finds that M. Krusemark is the fiance’s (Margaret) sister and a fortune teller.

“Toots” Sweet and Harry talk about what Johnny was like back in the day (no friends, hanging out with mystical people, perhaps not a liker of black people). “Toots” tells Harry that Johnny had a black mamba (voodoo priestess) on the side and Harry ducks out to check out her place of business. Johnny’s woman is dead, but her daughter Epiphany now runs the store. She denies being involved in voodoo. Harry returns to the club and talks again with “Toots” until Harry touches on some things that “Toots” doesn’t want to talk about. “Toots” clams up and Harry decides to follow him home.

“Toots” doesn’t go straight home though, he stops in Central Park to participate in a voodoo ritual, led by Epiphany. After the ritual is completed “Toots” heads home. Harry follows him in and threatens him to get information and then heads home.

Harry returns to check in with “Toots” the next day, only to find him slaughtered on his bed with voodoo symbols written in his blood on the wall. Harry is harassed by the police, who think he’s murdered “Toots.” Harry tries to talk to Epiphany, but she isn’t in her store. He goes up to check out her apartment above the store. He hears her leaving and follows her straight to Margaret Krusemark. The women discuss Harry trying to find out about Johnny. They leave and head in separate directions. Harry follows Margaret.

Margaret goes to her father, the shipping tycoon. Harry poses as a window washer to and eavesdrops on their conversation. Margaret and her father talk about Harry and Johnny. After Margaret and her father leave, Harry comes in to the building, he finds an invitation for Mr Krusmark to attend a Black Mass (satanic mass) and leaves in a hurry. He has lunch and then decides to check in on Margaret.

Margaret has been murdered, her heart pulled from her chest and put on display. Harry tears a page from her calendar (which had his name on it), the astrology map she had made for him, and anything else he thinks will incriminate him and goes home.

Later Epiphany finds him. She’s afraid for her life. She tells him that Johnny Favourite was her father. Harry invites her to stay with him. They have a lot of (not explicit) sex. The next day the police come calling again. After they leave Harry and Epiphany go to a church where El Cifer (Louis Cypher in black face) is performing. When they return after a creepy fire-and-brimstone performance, they hole up in bed. The next day Harry tells Epiphany to stay home while he goes to see the Black Mass.

Harry takes cameras and his gun with him to the Mass, being held in the subway tunnels. The Mass includes creepy masks and cloaks, baby sacrifice, virgin defiling and an orgy. Harry takes pictures of it all, paying special attention to the tycoon Krusemark. After the ceremony, Harry confronts Krusemark for answers. Krusemark and his daughter had sprung Johnny and paid off the doctor at the clinic. Johnny had performed a ritual to fool the devil, with whom he had brokered a deal, into not collecting his due. He sacrificed a soldier and taken over his life. Krusemark and Harry get into a fight, and Krusemark gets electrocuted on the third rail.

Rattled by these relevations, Harry rushes back to Margaret’s apartment to find a vase that Krusemark had detailed in his story. He breaks open the vase to find Harry Angel’s dog tags. He knows who he is.

Louis Cypher aka Lucifer, talks to Johnny, telling him he can never escape and then leave. Harry/Johnny immediately thinks of Epiphany and runs home. The police are already there, Epiphany has been murdered and Johnny realizes he’ll never escape and will burn in hell.

Evaluation

I’m not sure I really enjoyed this book, which is sad to me. I literally may have fallen asleep at times, but I trucked through (b/c I was already halfway done and damnit I could finish this book, it wasn’t that long). I found it hard to avoid the spoilers (but did discover that it was turned into an awful looking ’80s movie) since this is an older book.

I really wanted to like this book. I just didn’t. I’m not sure if it was the pacing (slow), the characters (kind of boring), the plot (actually pretty inventive) or the fact that it was a Noir (never read one of those before).

Look… its got a really interesting plot with some really interesting ideas… but I just found it so boring (though those last 40 or so pages were pretty exciting). I don’t know.

New York was pretty vivid. Hjortsberg spent a lot of time laying out the details of New York (Ts, cabs, neighborhood, and so much more). New York was well drawn out, and so was the social climate of the book. Talk about dated language! But it was so fitting. It set the mood. It helped form the world. The world the book was set in was detailed.

However, the characters weren’t super compelling. I wasn’t particularly moved by Harry Angel, or his quest. Cipher became intriguing as the book went on (and as his identity was being revealed). Epiphany might have been the only compelling character, and even then she was thin but interesting. This book wasn’t big on character.

I don’t know, I was so disconnected and bored by a book that should have been exciting.

Genre

Mystery

Horror

Readalikes

Mr. Clarinet by Nick Stone

The Long Fall by Walter Mosley

Significance

A Noir style mystery with Voodoo elements and a horror twist.

Book Discussion Questions and Ideas

Did you figure out who Louis Cypher really was?

What did you think about the ending?

Let’s talk about identity and how it ties in with the book.

Author’s website

William Hjortsberg

Awards

None

Reviews

Kirkus

Amazon

Why I Chose It

This book sounded like a great mix of Noir and Horror with some identity crisis thrown in.

Other Information