The challenge: Review a book in thirty words.
The fun part: Do it thirty times. (Well, 28, but I'm counting a trilogy as three.)
The caveat: I have no idea how articles, hyphenations or contractions count, but according to Word, each of these reviews is exactly 30 words. That'll have to do.
Sam Durrell out-Bonds Bond (Moore-era). He battles laser terrorists, shags blondes (x2) and has a magical gadget shoes. Key lesson: Swedish women are sexier than their German counterparts.
Assignment: Golden Girl by Edward Aarons (1971)
Sam Durrell in bizarre Blaxploitation adventure – leading a beautiful princess and her thuggish brother out of a war-torn African country. By way of vintage locomotive. Slightly fun, very racist.
Assignment: Helene by Edward Aarons (1959)
Durrell by numbers. Sam’s in a Vietnam analogue solving murder and quashing revolution. Spotted: an Asian character that actually gets respect, authority. Sam only has sex once, lowering his average.
“The Green” by Lauren Beukes from Armored (2012)
Disgruntled corporate wage-slaves with sinister masters. In power armor. In an alien jungle with 10,000 ways to die (disgustingly). Plus: zombies, religion, bonus grossness. I’m now scared of trees.
Credit for a Murder by Spencer Dean (1963)
A mall cop for a fancy department store foils schemes. Great in the detail, less so with plot. The abrupt ending - complete with suicidal villains - is simply ridiculous.
The sordid tale of a sleazy opportunist, from an underrated crime author. Traditional noir plot, following a morally ambiguous character’s inescapable spiral towards destruction. (And the destruction? Really gooey.)
Choke Hold by Christa Faust (2011)
Visceral sequel to Money Shot is even better than the first book. The noir revolves around MMA, continuing the discussion of exploitation and physicality in a new setting. Hard-hitting (sorry!).
The Owl Service by Alan Garner (1967)
Three teens find themselves re-enacting a traumatic story from Welsh mythology. Heresy, but I really didn’t like it. Welsh folklore leaves me cold, as did the main characters.
Deadlands by Lily Herne (2011)
The YA zombie dystopia apocalypse novel that makes the whole sub-genre worthwhile. Truly scary government, repulsive zombies and actual teenaged teenagers. Simple formula... so why aren’t they all this good?
On to Santa Fe by William Heuman (1953)
Rough Tennessee man heads out to find fortune. Joins up with idealist revolutionaries, sociopathic rich kid and two beautiful women. Hijinks ensue, but not enough of them. Fisticuffs resolve everything.
A family strikes a Faustian bargain. Each generation tries to wriggle free, but the Devil is always too clever... until now. Excellent concluding story to a collection of demonic terror.
Exhibit A by Sarah Lotz (2009)
An introspective contemporary lawyer/paladin and his hyper-intelligent goofy sidekick tilt at windmills in a corrupt small town in South Africa. Travis McGee’s emo sensitivity crossed with Kinky Friedman’s surrealism.
Pompidou Posse by Sarah Lotz (2008)
Two teens leave school (and burn some of it down) and escape to the streets of Paris. Orwell’s Down and Out with coming of age. Brutal and unique; a must-read.
Under My Roof by Nick Mamatas (2009)
A gifted teenager helps his father build a bomb - and secede from the USA. Great, funny satire, but also a sweet story about loneliness and wanting to fit in.
Second Wife by Louis Meyer (1963)
The titular young woman becomes a successful author, unbalancing her relationship with her publisher husband. A dull industry expose, punctuated by periods of the narrator’s crippling insecurity. Ponderous and overwrought.
High fantasy with a strong female protagonist - one that’s capable, confident, likeable, smart and in control of her own destiny. It’ll never catch on. (Plus, really, really big dragon.)
The Crash of Hennington by Patrick Ness (2003)
Dark and smutty political conniving in a fictional seaside town (with rhinos). Less sex farce than satire, although there’s plenty of both. About hope, longing, love, compatibility, weakness... and rhinos.
Beowulf by Robert Nye (1968)
Nye’s contemporary retelling makes the tale exciting for children while still keeping the mature theme: no one is perfect(ly good or evil). Grendel and Beowulf are both surprisingly empathetic.
Blue and Gold by KJ Parker (2011)
The alchemist Salonius: easily the cleverest man who ever lived. Dashing, Sherlockian adventure with layers and layers of distrust and revelation. A predictable denouement, but everything else is pleasantly unreliable.
Purple and Black by KJ Parker (2010)
The correspondence between an Emperor and his general. Friendship versus politics; honour versus idealism. Like all the really clever bits of Game of Thrones, squashed into a novella (and finished).
Tradition vs change, heroism vs survival, fate vs freedom, brother vs brother. A simpler structure than author’s later series, but metaphors abound. Truly macabre, but a great modern fantasy epic.
A Firing Offence by George Pelecanos (1992)
Deadbeat sales guy picks up a side job as a PI - drinks heavily, is bitter, solves crime. DC’s The Wire. Especially unsettling now that I’m older than main character.
Nick’s Trip by George Pelecanos (1993)
Second Stefanos story, better mystery but less poignant than the first. Nick approaches maturity, prompted by job and family - but then gets a blast from his wild teenage past.
“A Colder War” by Charles Stross (2000)
The Cold War goes Lovecraftian, and someone pushes the button. My favourite Stross: exactly the right balance of hard science trivia and shameless fanboy nerdery. Plus, just the right length.
Small Town D.A. by Robert Traver (1958)
Autobiographical collection of legal stories - a combination of folksy wisdom, outlandish anecdotes and back-patting. Cute, but mostly if you imagine it as read by your own grandfather.
Undeniably brilliant story of a post-somethingpocalypse travelling circus: complete with Mephistophelian ringmaster and clockwork augmentations. Deceptively simple and easy to read, but thoughtfully written with countless interpretations.
The Innocent Schoolteacher by Rod Waleman (aka Dan Marlowe) (1951)
...less innocent after her road trip with a strapping Marine and her two horny friends. Advice: When one of your favorite authors writes porn under a pseudonym? Don’t read it.
A Night in the Lonesome October by Roger Zelazny (1993)
Author’s last book is a madcap pastiche: literary archetypes competing in a gigantic Lovecraftian scavenger hunt. Immensely fun and packed with details both grisly and goofy. Quick and worthwhile read.