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Commentaires écrits par
Jeffrey Swystun (Toronto & Mont Tremblant)
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Manhattan Noir (Akashic Noir)
Manhattan Noir (Akashic Noir)
Prix : CDN$ 9.99

4.0 étoiles sur 5 Grime and Crime, May 19 2015
This is a fantastic series that I recently discovered. Akashic has covered many grand cities and the crime they contain. My father was fond of saying that every city has its vices. Manhattan is certainly loaded with them in reality and in fiction. The majority of these stories will entertain.

It kicked off well with The Good Samaritan. The tale is both familiar and unique but the atmosphere vivid. The Last Supper is a "nutty" crime. Lawrence Block's, If You Can't Stand the Heat, was a standout. The main character deserves a full length novel. Take the Man's Pay is clever and shows that police work is often theatre. These are great for a plane ride, beach, or fireside respite from the real world of grime and crime.

Roadside Picnic
Roadside Picnic
by Arkady Strugatsky
Edition: Paperback
Prix : CDN$ 12.96
29 used & new from CDN$ 9.54

4.0 étoiles sur 5 Scary Treasure, May 18 2015
This review is from: Roadside Picnic (Paperback)
I enjoy the backstory of this book as much as the novel itself. Written behind the Iron Curtain in the 70's, I was amazed by the tone and atmosphere created ((read the afterword by Boris Strugatsky explaining the strange history of the novel’s publication in Russia). The book feels incredibly contemporary as if it could have been written this year. I understand it has been adapted into a video game but It reminded me of two fairly recent movies. These are Monsters from 2010 that is terribly underrated and must be seen and District 9 from 2009. Both deal with the aftermath of alien visits.

Roadside Picnic is dystopian but carries a hope that intrigues throughout. As I read it I could not help but imagine creeping into a forbidden zone like Chernobyl. That is, if Chernobyl had been visited by aliens who left valuable artifacts in their wake. Any more detail will result in spoilers. Suffice it to say, it is cleverly written and imagined. I am so happy to have come across it and can only hope it will receive its own movie treatment.

Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania
Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania
by Erik Larson
Edition: Hardcover
Prix : CDN$ 20.00
36 used & new from CDN$ 14.64

4.0 étoiles sur 5 A Return to Form, May 7 2015
Ever since The Devil in the White City I have been a Larson fan though he lost me a bit with In the Garden of Beasts that was worthy of an essay-length treatment, not a book. Here he returns to form by providing rich background and suspense even though every reader knows the broad outline of what happened to this passenger ship. The culture, politics, war, seafaring, historic figures and bit players he rolls out add richness, depth and atmosphere.

Comparisons to The Titanic are difficult to escape, however, circumstances and outcomes make them very different indeed. There is none of the same desperate, misplaced romanticism applied to the big boat that hit an iceberg. The Lusitania was a casualty of war and three sides gambling with diplomacy and public opinion. German leaders sent their subs out to wreake havoc and leave heavy decision-making to officers in the fight. The British were playing intelligence games with themselves and allies while the Americans feigned geo-political ignorance and papered-over isolationism.

As he always does well, Larson makes the big story come alive by telling little ones that are woven together. Here is a little taste of how the content intrigues and amazes:

"One woman, Margaret Gwyer, a young newlywed from Saskatoon, Canada, was sucked into one of the ship’s 24-foot-wide funnels. Moments later an eruption of steam from below shot her back out, alive but covered in black soot.”

"Later, a passenger reported seeing a woman giving birth in the water. The idea that this might have been his mother would haunt the boy for the rest of his life.”

“She froze. She had no idea where to go first—up one deck to retrieve her baby girl, or down a deck to get her napping son? All lamps went out. The sudden list of the ship threw her from one side of the stairwell to the other. She ran for the baby.”

There are also bon mots that will bedevil you long after reading, such as, the Cunard line offering survivors lifelong discounts on future travel. Ultimately, this is a story of loss. Loss of life, loss of innocence and loss of hope. There is some redemption, but the horror that was World War One cannot be romanticized, and we have proven from waging many wars since that we learned little from its impact.

Los Angeles Noir (Akashic Noir)
Los Angeles Noir (Akashic Noir)
Prix : CDN$ 9.99

2.0 étoiles sur 5 The Home of Noir?, May 6 2015
This was my second Akashic Noir after the Toronto entry. Los Angeles is synonymous with noir or is the home of noir or birthed noir according to many. So with great expectations I hit the various neighbourhoods of LA with a fine line up of authors. Unfortunately, very few of the stories hit me in the gloomy, suspenseful and gritty way I expected. In fact, only one truly entertained. Janet Finch's The Method felt "LA" and the plot kept me guessing. It could have been stretched to a novel. The others passed the time but were unremarkable. I intend to keep with the series and visit a few other cities in hopes of dark, cool tales.

This Beautiful Life: A Novel
This Beautiful Life: A Novel
Offered by HarperCollins Publishers CA
Prix : CDN$ 11.99

2.0 étoiles sur 5 Style Over Substance, May 5 2015
The dramatic "slap" that changes so many lives in this story is a parent's worst nightmare. When you think about it, there are far too many "parent's worst nightmares". I was aware of the premise before reading the first word and wondered how the author would approach it. Unfortunately, she chose to do it in a relatively easy way. The family at the centre of the storm is a composite of too many Manhattan soap operas (we actually care not to root for them). The prose was too slick, almost hipster. It was too clever, desperate to impress. I wanted to quit a third of the way in but stuck around and was rewarded for a time before being ultimately disappointed.

Fellow reviewers both Amazon and professional have pointed out that Schulman injects a female sensibility into each character regardless of gender. That seems valid after reading but I did not spot it initially, what I did identity was there was no way a teen boy would articulate or think as the character does in this book. In fact, all characters are poorly developed.

More importantly, it only glances off the real issues. Namely, did technology corrupt us or was that corruption already in large supply? Or have kids always been kids but because of the devices they walk around with now they must be mature before their time? Are parents less capable of parenting because of the speed of change in our lives? Instead we get 250 pages that could have been a short story. Granted it is a tough topic but that is what should make it a compelling and haunting read. Instead it is a page 6 story that the reader soon forgets.

Toronto Noir (Akashic Noir)
Toronto Noir (Akashic Noir)
Prix : CDN$ 9.99

4.0 étoiles sur 5 A Big Smokey Noir, May 3 2015
Toronto hides. It conceals the dark vices found in any city of size. From time to time, these vices bubble to the surface creating headlines in the Sun and Star that shock the populace and Canada. More often, much more often, these stories are buried. In this collection, some of those stories are told and told eloquently. I lived in Toronto from 2001 to 2007 and have visited extensively before and after. It has never felt big. It never felt overtly scary. Trouble can find you anywhere. What pulsed through Toronto for me was possibility but possibility can be good or bad.

I loved the depictions of the Big Smoke's various neighbourhoods. They were all artful and accurate even if a few of the stories fell short. You can pick the location by some fine descriptions, such as, "Lingering Ukrainian bakeries and speciality shops" and "It was the only place in the city where you could get rolled by crackheads, but six whit miniature eggplants for $1.99, and see female U of T students rushing from their psychology classes to get hammered on vodka ice coolers at O'Grady's Irish Pub, all within a six block radius."

Not all deliver as is the case with any anthology. The notables for me included 'The King of Charles Street' that showcases revenge of a familial nature. 'Walking the Dead' explored deception but with a few, new cool layers. 'Numbskulls' was a distasteful but oddly intriguing yarn. 'A Bout of Regret' was a favourite and began powerfully with this line, "It's bad news whenever a policeman walks into your bar, but it's worse when you've been having an affair with his wife." Andrew Pyper's 'Tom' best summed Toronto for me as it explored the amazing differences that the city presents. The main character has waitressed only in strip bars and why so is laid out with masterful psychology (I admit to visiting For Your Eyes Only on one or two occasions). I look forward to exploring other cities in this noir series.

The Kid Stays In The Picture
The Kid Stays In The Picture
by Robert Evans
Edition: Paperback
Prix : CDN$ 15.87
36 used & new from CDN$ 10.79

4.0 étoiles sur 5 "Rejection breeds obsession.", May 2 2015
There is something smarmy and discomforting about Evans' remembrances. It is not the cocaine conviction or the 'Cotton Club Murder'. Nor the many marriages and dalliances. To say he had a wild, eventful life is an understatement. The discomfort comes from a dark sadness that hangs over this cautionary tale.

Evans seems drawn to the dark even though he has been bronzed by the sun his whole life. As Head of Production at Paramount he oversaw Barefoot in the Park, The Odd Couple, Rosemary's Baby, True Grit, Love Story, Harold and Maude, The Godfather, and Serpico. As producer he put out Chinatown, Marathon Man, Black Sunday, Urban Cowboy, Popeye, The Cotton Club, The Two Jakes, Sliver, and Jade. So many of these movies are dark and the lighter ones became dark in production.

Still there is a rough honesty threaded throughout even though some of his recollections may be suspect. As he says, "There are three sides to every story: yours ... mine ... and the truth." As stated in the Foreward he was "Robust, audacious original" and had vision and drive but was felled by believing his own hype and very normal limitations. Yet, he is to be applauded for very tangible results. The man symbolized mid century Hollywood ... it's many warts and all.

I loved his conversational style of writing. It like you are sitting next to him on a plane and he regaling you with these takes over endless scotches. The book can be taken seriously or just enjoyed for the cavalcade of stars who appear. Evans' life is two degrees of separation and these supporting stories truly entertain. I was intrigued by the conflict with Coppola who Evans goes after repeatedly. In the end you begrudgingly admire the man and his tenacious spirit. He says, "Rejection breeds obsession." The man is definitely obsessed.

Cell: A Novel
Cell: A Novel
Offered by Simon & Schuster Canada, Inc.
Prix : CDN$ 9.99

2.0 étoiles sur 5 Blocked Call, May 1 2015
This review is from: Cell: A Novel (Kindle Edition)
This was my second time through Cell. I first read it when published in 2006. There was a great deal of hype at the time. People expected a cross between The Stand and a Romero movie. The start of the book starts in this vein as we witness the rapid disintegration of Boston. A terrorist attack has leveraged society's love of cellphones and turned cell users against non-cell users. There is supposed to be a deep message here about being connected, yet disconnected but it is not adequately explored.

The book seems rather dated now and not just because of flip phone references and discussions of cellphone market penetration. You have to read it like it is still 2006 when the numbers were more balanced. As of 2014, 90% of American adults have a cellphone so if the book took place today, we would be wiped out).

I recently read Pressed for Time: The Acceleration of Life in Digital Capitalism by Judy Wajcman. She writes of the now "iconic image that abounds is that of the frenetic, technologically tethered, iPhone- or iPad- addicted citizen." King has his main character observe, "he was watching an act which would once have been considered almost insufferably rude." That rudeness is being on a cellphone while interacting with others. Unfortunately, we have come to accept this as normal.

All this technology has created anxiety (due to vacuous hyper connectivity), anti-social tendencies (due to heads down staring at devices), faux prestige (pretending to be busy and important), sound byte learning (no one really reads anything of depth anymore), group think (everyone regurgitates the same crap instantaneously in social media via their devices), and the loss of critical thinking. We would be over crediting King if we suggested these theories are behind the premise of Cell or explored in the story. Technology is simply a vehicle for the apocalypse rather than the reason (like the environment in M. Night Shyamalan"s The Happening).

As the world in Cell is wrenched apart, King draws more on Darwin than Gates and Jobs. The inflicted cellphone users regress to base instinct and act like flocks of birds in an attempt to kill still functioning humans. If there is a message here it may be that we are so far along the path of rudeness through constant connectivity that there is no turning back. One intriguing line hints at this, "This is how a man looks when he's deciding that the risk of death is better than the risk of change.' I would actually give the book a pass unless you an ardent King or post-apocalyptic fan. The characters never engage so it is hard to invest in the book emotionally and the ultimate resolution may disappoint. At best, it is quirky look back at 2000's.

Pressed for Time: The Acceleration of Life in Digital Capitalism
Pressed for Time: The Acceleration of Life in Digital Capitalism
by Judy Wajcman
Edition: Hardcover
Prix : CDN$ 29.18
25 used & new from CDN$ 18.14

1 internautes sur 1 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
4.0 étoiles sur 5 More Technology, Less Productivity and Value, April 30 2015
Fundamentally I believe that any new technology has historical precedents and antecedents. As well, age-old human behaviour remains the same in interacting with all things new (read Marcel Proust's In Search of Lost Time that backs me up). Wajcman's primary contention is all of the technology we currently enjoy has sped up our world and increased connectivity but not bought us any appreciable leisure time nor truly brought us together. On this I wholeheartedly agree. As she says, "Speed is sexy, and digital devices are constantly sold to us as efficient, time-saving tools that promote an exciting, action-packed lifestyle." This has created the now "iconic image that abounds is that of the frenetic, technologically tethered, iPhone- or iPad- addicted citizen."

All this has created is anxiety (due to vacuous hyper connectivity), anti-social tendencies (due to heads down staring at devices), faux prestige (pretending to be busy and important), sound byte learning (no one really reads anything of depth anymore), group think (everyone regurgitates the same crap instantaneously in social media via their devices), and the loss of critical thinking. On this last point, I keynoted the 2014 Canada Marketing Association's National Conference and bemoaned the lack of critical thinking in business due to our sped up world. Activity is rewarded regardless of its value. It is incredible to me that people can now read their phones and iPads in business meetings. This is not only rude it is horrendously unproductive.

Wajcman's book addresses our accelerated pace, pressures on our time, constant connectivity, and lack of intimacy in the age of social media. It is well written and argued. While solutions are proposed it seems impossible to reverse the tide. We all must learn that it is not about speed, it is about being better and using the tools to this end rather than being used by the tools. I am for this because I do not want to be one of the mindless drones staring at screen but absorbing nothing while the real world moves around them.

Who Can Save Us Now?: Brand-New Superheroes and Their Amazing (Short) Stories
Who Can Save Us Now?: Brand-New Superheroes and Their Amazing (Short) Stories
Offered by Simon & Schuster Canada, Inc.
Prix : CDN$ 16.99

2.0 étoiles sur 5 Not So Super, April 30 2015
Alternative superhero stories are fun stuff. They hit at the motivations and angst of these tortured do-gooders while freshly imagining super powers and backstories. In this collection twenty-two tales explore all of this and more. Unfortunately, only a handful are of value. Girl Reporter by Stephanie Harrel is a clever Lois Lane and Superman homage with a touch of the movie Hancock. Graham Joyce's The Oversoul proves that anyone can be a hero. The Quick Stop 5 is a quirky Fantastic Four with a bash against commercialism that prompts a few chuckles. In this genre I would suggest readers look to the Ex-Heroes series by Peter Clines, Masked by Lou Anders, and V is for Villain by Peter Moore.

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