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Sirk TV Book Review: MACHINE CITY [Thomas & Mercer]

The idea of memory and its feeling versus its recollection has been examined in many movies and books. The ideal of addiction versus euphoria can be a powerful drug. In Machine City [Scott J. Holliday/Thomas & Mercer/300pgs], the aspect of a serial killer manipulates its way into the fold. The interesting about the book is what it doesn’t tell you simply from the point of view of the novel’s storyteller. Like “Hardcore Henry”, if this was ever made into a film, it would be very effective as long as that texture was built into it. The Machine is a neural interface using serums that are injected in order to relive memories either uploaded to peer to peer site or recorded by others for profit. Of course there is a black market as well. The time period of the novel is not decidedly set but the outlawing of such addictive technology in a non-apocalyptic suburban setting speaks to a great socio-structural thought. There are underpinings of “IT” with the Eddie Able character being a weird mix of Howdy Doody and the character in the recent satire “Frank” as well as some texture of “Se7en”. The balance of darkness and psychological mischief has the underpinings of David Fincher. Detective Barnes is written within the standard of “do-it-right” cop but the path he takes and the eventual reveal per se really keeps you in the mind of the man, whatever personality he may be. There are drips of gallows humor which permeate the proceedings. The underlining details like Barnes’ slain brother from his childhood integrate with an interesting almost “Stand By Me” nostalgia which gives the novel an old school feeling while being a slight neo-noir where you are what you want to be even if you don’t know it. “Machine City” is an interesting journey through the mind of a detective who may or may not be on the correct path or perception of that which he is pursuing.


By Tim Wassberg

Sirk TV Book Review: ALL IN [Thomas & Mercer]


The aspect of a forbidden love can be fun especially when you throw some money in the mix. Well not so much forbidden as not inherently smart. “All In” [Joel Goldman & Lisa Klink/Thomas & Mercer/308pgs] starts out almost as a cat and mouse game with two honest would-be thieves. Our lead is not a thief but everyone thinks he is a cheat. His adversary-nay-love interest is just a thief but one for hire with a purpose. The inherent structure of the piece starts off well where the focus of time is within the aspect of one building with a whale in terms of money on the roof. This man has cheated many people including our lead character with a Madoff scheme to the tune of 15 million dollars. Our lady thief coming at it from a similar path in that she needs to recover a sex tape and jewels that same said whale had taken and stolen from her client. Both are residents in transit in the same building. Like “Entrapment”, the book is initially good at building the separate stories of these two until they intersect. We see more of our lady theif functioning to turn the wife of the whale while we see our debonair con man escape at one point to make some money in a high stakes card game in Argentina. The set up, especially his access to money (when he seems more like a Schulz), strains credibility but tends to move in pace because he is charming, laid back, has a sense of a self preservation and is not without intelligence. What works better is her. As the story progresses he becomes her mark and that is why it works. This story hinges on the push/pull scenario they have despite any kind of danger they are in. The second half of the book tends to go a little nuts on the locales including a yacht and helicopter interlude which, while fun and provides a necessary plot point, isn’t as necessary to the story. The back and forth on the boat where the latter part of the book is staged has a romanticism and the multi levels allows for different story elements to exist much like “Casino Royale” did. Whether it a Greek rich kid goon and his thugs on the hunt or a pissed off whale with a brother/sister hit team, the boat is where the action is. While it does gets a little convoluted towards the end, the use of small but effective characters like the head of security, our gambler’s private butler and the flamboyant but slightly slimy organizer of the event, the quips never stats coming. “All In” is not a farce but it is very aware of itself which in the end is what makes it fun.

By Tim Wassberg
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