John Scalzi’s Lock In introduces the reader to a world in the near future where millions of people have been affected by a virus that immobilizes the body but leaves the brain fully functional, while others have had their brains altered but still have fully functional bodies. Those who are immobilized are “locked in” and can use “threeps,” or robotic bodies, to interact with others in the physical world; those who have had their brain chemistry changed but have had no other physical effects are called Integrators and can allow those who have been “locked in” to borrow their bodies for a time. Hadens, those who have lost the ability to use their bodies due to this virus, find themselves in a new community that can exist outside of the physical realm, because they are not attached to their bodies. Scalzi does some interesting world-building and purposefully leaves the protagonist, Chris Shane, ambiguous. For example, Chris’s gender and race are hardly mentioned, which leaves the reader to interpret how Chris interacts with the world as an FBI agent looking to solve a murder that may have involved Hadens. I appreciated Scalzi’s subtle inclusion of diversity in the novel, and I look forward to reading more from him.
The Golden Spiders started out with an intriguing hook but it didn’t really follow through. The plot also dragged on and did not feel resolved at the end. Detective Wolfe accepts a case for a cheap price (one of the main factors that actually convinced me to read the book), but really he only does it because he is paid his usual high price by someone else who is also involved in the case. Thus, unlike other popular classic detective stories (e.g. Sherlock Holmes, Hercule Poirot, Miss Marple), the detective is investigating the case largely because of the payment and not because they love the job (which, in my opinion, makes them better detectives). Furthermore, Wolfe’s assistant, Archie Goodwin, often runs errands for Wolfe that are promising in terms of leading up to a plot twist, but when Wolfe finally explains the solution, little of the rest of the book seems to relate to the answer. Anyway, this book seemed promising, but really didn’t live up to expectations set by the summary.- Connie M. ’17
FBI agent-in-training Clarice Starling is just as surprised as anyone else when she is called upon to investigate the serial killer Buffalo Bill, who skins his female victims to create a wearable suit. After Starling finds no leads, FBI Director Jack Crawford directs her to request the incarcerated Dr. Hannibal “Hannibal the Cannibal” Lecter for aid. Dr. Lecter develops a personal bond with Starling, and offers her information in exchange for personal details about her early life. However, when a Senator’s daughter is kidnapped by Buffalo Bill, the stakes are raised, and suddenly Dr. Lecter becomes the single most important person in the case. Building upon its prequel, The Silence of the Lambs is an absolutely beautiful masterpiece that blends a relatable protagonist and a despised yet admired cannibal genius, alongside profound symbolism and a twisting plot. Silence of the Lambs is definitely a must for all mature young adults and older. – Akshay B. ’16
Retired FBI profiler Will Graham is sought out by Agent Jack Crawford after a serial killer referred to as “The Tooth Fairy” murders two families, each at a full moon. Unable to glean any insight from the crime scenes, Graham realizes that he must consult Dr. Hannibal Lecter in the Baltimore State Hospital for Criminally Insane. Three years ago, Graham captured Lecter, who later came to be known as “Hannibal the Cannibal,” but was nearly disemboweled by the killer and thus retired. Graham must now face his past with Dr. Lecter and remain level-headed whilst racing to catch the Tooth Fairy before the next full moon. Harris masterfully creates a sympathetic hero and villain, causing the reader to root for both sides. Full of surprises, exquisite detail, and enough gore for a week, fans of thriller and mystery will find Red Dragon an excellent choice for a pleasure-read. – Akshay B. ’16
In this collection of short stories featuring Parker Pyne, one of Christie’s lesser-known detectives, various customers answer a mysterious ad in the newspaper: “Are you happy? If not, consult Mr. Parker Pyne, 17 Richmond Street.” After solving a number of cases with ease (and suffering one embarrassing defeat), he goes on a long trip around the Mediterranean, encountering a mad noblewoman, an impoverished archaeologist, and—of course—a few murders. Mr. Pyne proves to be a complex character, but his motives remain unclear throughout the collection. Why, exactly, does he consent to help such a wide range of customers? Why does one story portray him as generous and kind, when in the next he shows a total lack of empathy? And how has he come to understand the human mind so fully that he can predict a crime before it even occurs? A full-length novel, perhaps, could answer these questions, but the short story format just left me wanting more details. Nevertheless, any fan of Christie’s novels should read this collection and meet the mysterious, calculating man known as Mr. Parker Pyne. – Andrew R. ‘17
A historical thriller set in 1906, The Chase follows the efforts of master detective Isaac Bell to capture and arrest the Butcher Bandit, a notorious bank robber who cold heartedly murders any witnesses to his crimes. Eventually, as the detective draws closer to his quarry, Bell’s own life is endangered as the outlaw turns his attention to his pursuer. A true page-turner, this novel is difficult to put down; each chapter brings new peril to the protagonist and his assistants. In addition, the author includes extraordinary detail, extensively describing each new character in a way that ultimately enriches the novel. While I normally dislike romantic books, the few love scenes did not bother me or distract from the action, and sometimes even added to the suspense. Fans of detective or suspense stories will enjoy The Chase, whether or not they normally read historical fiction. – Andrew R. ’17