Mini-Reviews: Libyrinth, Conan Doyle Detective, Chinatown Death Cloud Peril

I have to catch up on my reviews SOMEHOW, so I’ll be doing more mini-reviews this month. Although these ones didn’t turn out as “mini” as I set out to make them. Er.

224. Libyrinth by Pearl North
Publication: Tor Teen (July 7, 2009), Hardcover, 336pp / ISBN 0765320967
Genre: YA Fantasy/Sci-fi
Rating: Buy it
Read: November 25, 2010
Source: Bought
Summary from Amazon:

In her debut novel, Pearl North takes readers centuries into the future, to a forgotten colony of Earth where technology masquerades as magic and wars are fought over books.

Haly is a Libyrarian, one of a group of people dedicated to preserving and protecting the knowledge passed down from the Ancients and stored in the endless maze of books known as the Libyrinth. But Haly has a secret: The books speak to her.

When the threat of the rival Eradicants drives her from her home, Haly learns that things are not all she thinks they are. Taken prisoner by the Eradicants, who believe the written word to be evil, she sees the world through their eyes and comes to understand that they are not the book-burning monsters that she has known her entire life.

Review

I really liked Libyrinth! Well, how could I not? It’s a futuristic, post-apocalyptic, sci-fi/fantasy world with a massive library as a major location, strong female characters and lots of action and adventure. I really enjoyed the writing, too! It was just perfect for the sort of topics Libyrinth covered– love, hate, religion, history, friendship, family!

Favorite thing: how there weren’t any truly evil villains, but just people fighting for their beliefs and their way of life. (Also, all the references to other books!) Admittedly, I couldn’t entirely like any of the Eradicant characters. They burnt books! I couldn’t get over the horror of that, not entirely. Especially since the books were actually given voices, and when you burn them they die. So scary.

227. The Chinatown Death Cloud Peril by Paul Malmont
Publication: Simon & Schuster (May 23, 2006), Hardcover, 371pp / ISBN 0743287851
Genre: Speculative Fiction, Action
Rating: Buy it
Read: November 27-28, 2010
Source: Bought
Summary from Amazon:

Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men? Take a journey back to the desperate days of America post the Great Depression, when the country turned to the pulp novels for relief, for hope and for heroes. Meet Walter Gibson, the mind behind “The Shadow”, and Lester Dent, creator of “Doc Savage”, as they challenge one another to discover what is real and what is pulp. The two writers are rivals, locked in a feud so bitter that not even the untimely death of fellow writer H.P. Lovecraft looks likely to bring about a reconciliation. But when Lovecraft’s aunt reveals the existence of a secret that may have led to her nephew’s death Gibson is caught up in an encounter with a very sinister nightwatchmen, whilst Dent and his wife soon discover that a mysterious golden statue may be about to bring them some very bad luck. And over from China there is a former warrior whose determination to vanquish his old enemy may be about to bring death to them all…

Review

I bought this one during a Book Depository sale last year, and I don’t regret it. I really enjoyed the melding of literature and the real world. Several times in the book characters ask each other what’s pulp and what’s real– and the lines between fiction and reality aren’t as cut-and-dry as you might think. I also liked how authors (and their wives) were the stars of the show, and that their characters bled out from their books and into their psyches. Or maybe their psyches bled into the characters– I don’t know.

The only thing I didn’t like was that it was a slow build up to the actual meat of the story, which seems backwards since it’s about the pulp genre, and the pulp genre ain’t slow-building. I also didn’t like how there was really only one decent female character (Lester Dent’s wife), and she didn’t talk to ANY other woman ANYWHERE. I know pulp fiction is like this giant male clubhouse and women have to (supposedly) keep out, but seriously? Only one good female character with a speaking role in the entire book? Eh.

If you like pulp fiction or you want something a bit different from the norm in your speculative fiction, you might like this book. But if you’re the sort of person who gets annoyed when there’s a definite lack of female characters, you MIGHT want to give it a miss. I suppose it depends on what you feel like reading!

229. Conan Doyle, Detective by Peter Costello
Publication: Robinson Publishing (October 12, 2006), Paperback, 320pp / ISBN 1845294122
Genre: Non-Fiction, Biography, True Crime
Rating: Borrow it
Read: November 29-December 3, 2010
Source: Bought
Summary from Amazon:

This fascinating book is based on a remarkable discovery: Sherlock Holmes’ methods of deduction were actually those of his creator and used in order to solve real crimes; for Scotland Yard Holmes really did exist in the form of Conan Doyle. Author Peter Costello draws on new research to follow the tracks Conan Doyle left as he entered the real word of Sherlock Holmes; his fictional outpourings were the direct result of their author’s hidden career as an amateur detective and criminologist.

Review

I’m not a super fan of true crime, but I thought this book was interesting because it was so unexpected. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, creator of Sherlock Holmes and the lost world and other stuff, solving crimes? And doing it pretty well? Balderdash!

But it’s actually true– Conan Doyle got involved with dozens of mysteries throughout his lifetime, and he even helped solve some of them! I really admired the world that Peter Costello put into writing this book, because just tracking down the papers related to the case Conan Doyle was involved with must have been exhausting. Filing systems were apparently not one of the things Conan Doyle (or his family) liked.

However, the reason I rated this “borrow” was because sometimes Costello falls into the trap of over-soliloquizing on some of the cases and/or the people involved with them. He also tends to pay too much attention to quack theories on some of the more famous cases, such as the Jack the Ripper case that Conan Doyle was briefly involved with. Those two things combined made me doubt, slightly, the validity of the book, and that’s not good.

I think maybe the best thing about the book, though, was learning how seriously Conan Doyle treated the cause of justice, and how he didn’t easily give up trying to fix things when he thought someone had been convicted unfairly. Oh, and that Dr Bell– Conan Doyle’s mentor– wasn’t the only person Conan Doyle based Sherlock Holmes on. Just like Conan Doyle’s personality shows up in Dr Watson, so too is Conan Doyle’s personality in Sherlock Holmes! Maybe other people have already known that, but it was a new revelation for me, and it made me like Conan Doyle a lot more than I did previously.

1 thought on “Mini-Reviews: Libyrinth, Conan Doyle Detective, Chinatown Death Cloud Peril”

  1. All three books sound really interesting. I’ve seen the Linyrinth book around but it sounded so confusing that I didn’t pick it up. I’ll see if my library has it. Great review!

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