Saturday, January 11, 2014

Book Review: The Cormorant (Miriam Black #3)

The CormorantThe Cormorant by Chuck Wendig
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Miriam is on the road again, having transitioned from "thief" to "killer".

Hired by a wealthy businessman, she heads down to Florida to practice the one thing she's good at, but in her vision she sees him die by another's hand and on the wall written in blood is a message just for Miriam. She's expected...

This might be slightly spoilery. I'm not sure. Proceed with caution.

What can I tell you about a book that I waited with bated breath for? A book that I stared longingly at the Amazon page over, dreaming that I could reach through and pluck it our of the sea of ones and zeroes. What can I tell you about the third book of a series that I have come to love so much they sit snuggled up against all my other favorite writers.

I can tell you that this book was the best so far.

It is a year after Mockingbird, and Miriam is crashing with some losers she saved. She has taken it upon herself to save people by taking the life of those who will kill them. After something goes wrong, she decides to leave, but not before getting a lucrative offer to read some rich man's death down at the tippy-tip of Florida. It's there that she learns and old foe is gunning for her, and everyone she's made a connection to on her journey is fair game.

Miriam is still on the surface the Miriam we know; rude and crude with her perpetual cigarette and bottle of booze. But here is why this book is better than the last. We learn more about her. This time the trip is less about trying to just stop Fate. It's more about trying to stop Fate from happening to her. Miriam has always thought she was bad for people, but this book really takes that belief of her's through the wringer. This belief is really challenged when she finally goes to see her mom.

Yes, Miriam and her mom. A moment I was desperately waiting for. It's one of the reasons why I wanted to read this book, and damn. It's hard to read, but satisfying. I knew it wasn't going to be sunshine and rainbows. It isn't. Instead you see the character grow. Miriam has always been a character that we knew was as vulnerable on the inside as she was hard on the outside. All of that starts to shift. Miriam is starting to feel, dare I say it, a bit more complete.

While yes, there is all this fun character growth, it doesn't stop the rocket fast pace, or stop Wendig from giving the reader the thrill ride we expect. I'll just say that we see an old face, and we're treated too one of the most spectacularly disturbing and gory bad guy deaths I've ever read. It's really amazing.

Wendig's writing skills have improved a bit as well (as if that was ever a consideration) proved by his seamless weaving of the timeline. Most of the book is Miriam telling two Feds what went down before they caught up to her. Wendig's always played a little with time in these books, but it is at its most flawless here.

In case you haven't picked up on it by now, I wasn't disappointed.

And in case you haven't gotten the idea about how much I love these books, my reviews of Blackbirds and Mockingbird. So I suggest checking out this horror/thriller/urban fantasy mish-mash of great writing. If anything, do it for Miriam Black.

Book Review: Parasite

Parasite (Parasitology, #1)Parasite by Mira Grant
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A decade in the future, humanity thrives in the absence of sickness and disease.

We owe our good health to a humble parasite - a genetically engineered tapeworm developed by the pioneering SymboGen Corporation. When implanted, the tapeworm protects us from illness, boosts our immune system - even secretes designer drugs. It's been successful beyond the scientists' wildest dreams. Now, years on, almost every human being has a SymboGen tapeworm living within them.

But these parasites are getting restless. They want their own lives...and will do anything to get them.

I'm going to first say that this is not my first time reading the words of Mira Grant. I know her by her real name, Seanan McGuire. I'm quite in love with her fun little InCryptid series. I had been thinking about reading her Mira Grant works for a while, and when I was at the library I saw this book. Before I picked it up, I started looking for her Feed books, but didn't find them. So I said, "Why not?" and picked this up.

In Parasite, people have bio-engineered intestinal tapeworms to help them regulate their medications, allergies, and to keep them from getting sick. Six years ago, Sally Mitchel - she now goes by Sal - was in a car accident and declared brain dead, until she woke up the day they were going to pull the plug. She has no memory, and no tapeworm. Now people are starting to cut out and "sleepwalk." Sal is caught in the middle, and she's looking for answers.

My initial reaction was that I thought it was a bit predictable. I totally figured out the end. And then I thought about it some more and realized that I think it was supposed to be that way on purpose. The "big reveal" was really more for the character than the reader, putting this work squarely in the "character focused" category. When I thought about it that way, I was less disappointed. But only just slightly.

You see, I like character studies. I like them a lot, but I didn't find Sal all that compelling. She was pretty boring and average feeling. She was just kind of, meh. I liked the parts where she talked about her love of carnivorous plants and wish there was more of those little quirks to her.

I suggest checking out The Rook for a slightly better done version of a woman waking up with a completely new personality.

Overall, while the science felt a tad iffy, I liked the world building. It was a traditional zombie story meets Invasion of the Body Snatchers, so it feels much different than a group of intrepid survivors band together to... survive. Thank the holy high heavens. I was getting tired of that particular plot.

What I really liked was the theme of science as a double edged blade. It's one of my favorite themes because ethical quandaries can make for great character moments.

I'll probably read the next one when it comes out because I'm the type of person who wants to know what happens. I give it three stars for a bland protagonist, but the writing is good and the premise is interesting. I suggest checking it out if you're looking for "zombie" stories outside the mold.

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