In which I review works by Jason Luthor, Andrew Gladman, and Kathy Reichs.
Floor 21 by Jason Luthor
Floor 21 by Jason Luthor is one of the more unique novels I’ve read in some time, owing much of that to the first-person narrative structure that plays out through a series of audio recordings from Jackie, the teenage girl protagonist, and Vick. This structure gives the novel a time-capsule feel to it, as if the readers have stumbled upon these recordings.
This is a fresh twist on the first-person narrative, and I feel like this story couldn’t have been told the traditional way.Floor 21 is equal parts thriller and horror, but the horror isn’t the predictable gorefest one might expect. Jackie is a wonderful character whose voice practically leaps off the page, and the pacing keeps this from being a chore of a read, even when the questions are plentiful and the answers don’t seem to be on the horizon.
Vick’s recordings fill in the gaps in a way I don’t see often in first-person novels — the Hunger Games trilogy, in particular, suffered from being first-person at times — and Vick’s “chapters” gave the novel a surprising amount of backbone. Jackie is the hero of the tale, but Vick is no less important in the overall scope of the story.
Jason Luthor has created a fantastic universe, at once limited and incredibly deep. I hope there is another book on the horizon, because Floor 21 set a fantastic foundation on which Luthor could build. I highly recommend this book.
Superhumanity: Superhero Short Stories by Andrew Gladman
Given the sort of stories I’ve been writing, I’ve wondered what the landscape of superhero stories in prose was. From what I can tell, superhero novels and short stories are hard to come by.
Fortunately, the collection Superhumanity fits the bill, offering several snippets that appear to be loosely connected that build up to a finale in which all of the previously-introduced heroes are fighting a grand battle, and a seemingly ordinary human takes change in his own way. It was a satisfying conclusion to a collection of well-told, if at times all-too-familiar, stories.
Each story is told from a different perspective, through different points of view. Each story acts as its own entity, but everything is still connected. Occasionally clunky prose aside, each tale is adrenaline-packed, intense, and powerful in unique ways. Some stories are violent. Others are emotionally charged. All highlight different aspects of the superhero archetype.
Superheroes will likely always rule the world of comics and graphic novels. And while I love comics and graphic novels (they influence much of my own writing), it’s nice to see this particular genre also represented — and represented well — in prose form. If costumed superheroes are your thing — or even if they’re not and you’re just looking for something different — Superhumanity would make a fine addition to your Kindle library.
Speaking in Bones by Kathy Reichs
It’s not that I didn’t enjoy Speaking in Bones — I did — but it was the most underwhelming of all the Temperance Brennan novels I’ve read. A fair bit of this novel is slow-paced collecting of puzzle pieces. Pieces that don’t begin to fit until roughly halfway through the book. It’s not until the end, where Tempe acts surprisingly reckless not once but twice, that things really pick up.
The saving grace, what keeps this book from plodding along early on to the point of being unreadable, is Reichs’ style of rapid prose and short chapters. Those serve to provide the illusion of a quick-moving narrative, even if chapters pass without anything terribly consequential happening.
There are a few subplots dangled about — some interesting, others not — and even though I’m not necessarily sold on the eventual outcome (at least, not entirely), it is wrapped up in a nice little bow for us.
Overall, though, this is one of the weaker installments in this series.