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Sirk TV Book Review: RIVER OF SALT [Freemantle]

The aspect of noir is making it feel connective. Usually the progression involves an anti-hero depending on the trajectory of his redemption. Trying to make this meld as an after thought; of a person searching for some sort of epilogue is usually where the story ends. That is why Blake Saunders in “River Of Salt” [David Warner/Freemantle/256pgs] is refreshing in a way. In escaping the wise guy elements of Philly and basically betraying his brother enough to get him killed, Saunders ends up on the coast of Australia running a bar and playing surf music. While this doesn’t sound like the best of set ups, there is always darkness in small communities and the true nature of human behavior reflects there as well. Between shakedowns on a regional level, hookers ending up dead in hotels, marital trysts that go wrong, young love that goes off the rails and other shenanigans, the situations in this novel come off more than a little bit in the vein of a soap opera but maybe one closer to “Riverdale” with its sparks. Doreen, as the foil to Blake, is both strong and vulnerable with a second life permeating that gives her even more texture than Blake. Even Nalder, the cop, always looking out for himself, is well built in terms of dimensions. Everyone has flaws. In this story everybody makes wrong decisions at a certain point but that makes the texture richer, even if it seems to connect and clean up a little too nicely. That said, both the internal and external struggles that permeate “River Of Salt” have their own strengths.

B

By Tim Wassberg

Sirk TV Book Review: A MEMORY CALLED EMPIRE (Preview Excerpt) [Tor]

In an unusual progression, teasing this kind of book is interesting possibility. Like perhaps “The Martian” as a way to refine the story, this is not a bad perception though the aspect of formatting in the manuscript is definitely off. That said, “A Memory Called Empire” [Arkady Martine/Tor] has the beginnings of an interesting story that brings to mind both the political elements of the “Star Wars” prequels and some of the inner working technology of “Minority Report”. The narrative follows a new ambassador coming down to the city center of the universe which is ruled by a specific kind of society where rules and speech are dictated with certain word use and prose, perhaps as a push to a higher form of consciousness. The lead character Mahit recently has been placed as ambassador for her government after the loss of the one before her. What makes this interesting is that a back up of his consciousness is implanted in her brain through a brain stem “imago” which blends their knowledge. A scandal in terms of what happened before he is found dead builds both inside and outside her head. When she and her local liaison begin to investigate, connections start to unravel. Despite a shaky first few chapters, the story engages she cause of the relationship between the liaison and the new ambassador. However, the essence of world beyond a texture of colors and structures hasn’t quite been fully formed yet but an interesting start.

B

By Tim Wassberg

Sirk TV Book Review: A LOT OF NERVE [Thistle Publishing]

The essence of a grifter, even a well meaning one, is wrapped in the essence of risk and danger vs. reward. In “A Lot Of Nerve” [Ian McCulloch/Thistle/280pgs], it is about the lead character of Jones knowing where to see his limits versus the capital to be gained. Like most criminal protagonists, he always seems to be one step ahead of his competition until he gets in over his head. The play at hand involves a set of papers which involve a formula that Jones seems to know nothing about. The time frame in terms of year is vague but sticks firmly in the modern with a slight ode to a bit of film noir without losing the plot devices of burner phones and GPS. The aspect that fuels the book has to do with the essence of identity but also the chess game that goes on behind the scenes to make everything look normal. Jones is under the thumb of a local gangster named Finch who unfairly gouges him because of his own shortcomings. Jones supposedly gets on the radar of a government branch who may or may not be who they say they are. The true structure though comes in the form of Tomasetti which is where the true meat of the story lies. There is an undeniably Godfather structure to the old man’s progression especially in the extremes of violence and calm without moving a finger. The aspect of Horlicks (a kind of hot chocolate with alliteration) instills both contentment, fear and a sense of understanding between Jones and his very superior teacher. The aspect of tactile approach is what differentiates Jones as he looks to punish only those who require a bit of schooling. Hernandez, a police inspector who happens upon part of his little scheme, plays both confidant, semi romantic interest and plot device despite her very real essence of making sure Jones knows his place. “A Lot Of Nerve” nicely intersects the reasoning of the lead character pushing the boundaries of story texture while still allowing for a dexterous yarn.

B

By Tim Wassberg


			
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