Thursday, January 11, 2007

The Years Best Fiction: 2006

State of Fear [2004] Michael Crichton delivers once again in a surprisingly politically incorrect story about eco-terrorism (though, perhaps not surprising, when one considers his penchant for detailing bad science/scientists). The current eco-freak bugaboo - global warming gets a proper dressing down. I can hardly wait (Yes, I can!) for Next [2006], a twist on his Jurassic Park [1980] gengineering concept: cross-species breeding!! (Note: Crichton is supposed to be releasing the non-fiction States of Fear: Science or Politics? [2007], which hopefully will deal forthrightly with not only the myths of environmentalists but also the deceitful politics behind them.)

Medusa [1988] Medusa was a welcome return to Hammond Innes [1913-98]. A, sometimes idyllic, adventure which probably had more urgency during the final stages of the Cold War, but was still both entertaining and informative regarding international affairs riding on seemingly provincial politics. I had read Innes' The Trojan Horse[1940] several years ago and was impressed with the taut underground chase of the novel. My appetite for Innes whetted, I then tried Golden Soak [1973], and could barely get through the first chapters of the boring and to that point plotless novel set in the the northwestern Australian desert. I suppose I was anticipating something more like Quigley Down Under ;-)

Vixen 03 [1978] I returned to Clive Cussler this year accidentally skipping Raise the Titanic! [1976] enjoying a tale of a long-sunken plane with biological weapons as cargo. I will probably get to a few more this year. I hear his first with son Dirk, Black Wind [2004] is supposed to be quite good.

Fatal Voyage [2001] Kathy Reichs, a forensic anthropologist, has embarked on a sideline career writing mystery novels about one Dr. Temperance Brennan (a character based largely on herself), who solves forensic mysteries in the environs of Montreal, Quebec and Charlotte, North Carolina. She also, coincidentally, has inspired and contributed to the TV drama Bones which, despite using the same character, is remarkably different from her books. Despite the appeal of the ensemble cast of the television series - albeit, the title character is drawn amusingly Vulcan-like - and the belief factor is limited, the novels prove (in spite of gratuitous sex and language) to be much more informative and, overall, better written. I have, as usual, begun her opus in chronological order, and thus have read the first four Deja Dead [1997], Deadly Decisions [1999], and Death du Jour [2000] this past year. The last, Fatal Voyage, about a plane crash, a biker, and a remarkable secret society, has proven to be the best so far.

The Romanov Prophecy [2004] Steve Berry is making a name for himself in the growing field of histrico-religious fiction. Regrettably, his books appear to be devolving (stylistically and idealogically). Having read all but his debut, The Amber Room [2003], as I have a silly idea that I should read the non-fiction The Amber Room [2005] by Catherine Scott-Clark & Adrian Levy, first. But, based on the qualitative trajectory of his novels after Romanov, there is The Third Secret [2005], a story which tries to sell the idea that the 3rd secret of Fatima would lead to the ordination of women in the Roman Catholic Church; and The Templar Treasure [2006] which tried to sell the idea that the treasure was the remains of Jesus Christ I would be inclined to presume that The Amber Room, his first, was probably his best!!

The Da Vinci Code [2003] Well, due to my apologetical research on Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code (DVC) - see some of its fruit here, I thought it might be advisable to have read the novel. Before the brouhaha, I had read 90% of Angels and Demons [2001] because of its Illuminati subject matter, but found it kept on going after it should have ended. DVC, likewise has a weak ending but, nevertheless, reads like the modern movie-script novel. Entertaining, fast-paced, and very, very bad history. Brown has spawned a plethora of imitators (see Steve Berry and Kathleen McGowan for example); but, allegedly, got his own inspiration from Lewis Perdue's The Da Vinci Legacy [1983], besides the admitted and obvious Holy Blood, Holy Grail [1982] by Baigent, Leigh, & Lincoln. (Funny, I read Perdue's, and cant recall a thing about it. Perhaps DVC overswept it as literature? Nah!)

My first Charles Dickens, David Copperfield [1850], may have made the list...but I havent quite slogged through it yet. Also, in a category of wasted reads, Philip Kerr's A Five Year Plan [1997]. I dont know what I expected I think I read all of his A Philosophical Investigation [1992] but I was disappointed with the unbelievable plot and gratuitous sex and language.

Note: the lack of a Top 10 is an indication of both the small amount of fiction read and the general quality of that which was read.

So, not that much as far as so-called good literature is concerned in 2006.

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