Bookreview: No Country for Old Men

No Country for Old MenNo Country for Old Men by Cormac McCarthy
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

It is a twist of fate.
The public library in my home town, with only three bookcases of English books, harbors a few books that have been turned into movies at one time or another.
Perhaps not too surprising considering that the preponderance of crime novels and crime novels seem to be a favorite genre of books to turn into a movie.
And one of them is ‘No Country for Old Men’.
It’s a depressing title for sure. It invokes the image of cranky oldsters reminiscing how everything used to be better: the milk, the butter, the cheese, the people and the crime.
And it is that kind of book.
It would have been boring, if the writer hadn’t employed a few things to keep your attention.
First is the MacGuffin of the story. A man, called Moss, runs into a crime scene and finds a suitcase with a few million dollars. Everyone is dead, nobody knows he is there. What would you do?
Moss takes the money and runs.
But running isn’t as easy as he might think. For one, there is family to contend with, and for another, a lot of a other people want that money as well.
One of those is the coldhearted psychopath Anton Chigurh. The man carves a path of dead bodies through humanity. The dead pile up wherever he goes.
Next to him are a lot of shady, often unnamed, types that take potshots at Moss. Most of them are more meat for the meat grinder that Chigurh is. More dead bodies.
Next to those are the authorities, represented by Sheriff Bell, the old man in the title.
The whole story then proceeds along these three lines: Moss, Chigurh and Bell and ends in a tone true to the title: sad. I leave it open how sad exactly.
There is however something problematic with this book. The whole psychopath-goes-wild-theme is somewhat too fabricated. For some reason Chigurh gets away with murdering scores of people without the FBI getting involved. McCarthy paints us a picture of a wacko massacring a lot of people, often in the open, and he doesn’t get caught or even suspected and so Bell can exclaim ‘this is no country for old men’ and ponder quitting his job. I found that a weak element in the book. It is simply unbelievable that anyone can get away with what Chigurh did without the federals getting on his case and someone gunning him down.

Now this all makes for a book that would not have gotten more than three stars from me, if it wasn’t for the writing style. McCarthy uses various styles to tell the story. There is the internal monologue of Bell. There is the third person view of Moss and Chigurh and there is the for me interesting style of dialog.
I am used to write dialog like this:
“Where are you driving to?,” Merit says.
But McCarthy writes it down like this:
Where you going?
No “”, and usually no indicating of who says what. This could become confusing if not handled properly, but McCarthy does as he pulls it off if you pay attention. Sometimes I had to read back a little, but he usually keeps it clean enough so you are sure who is saying what.

For that I am giving McCarthy some extra credits. That is why I give the book 4 stars.

www.meritcoba.com

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Bookreview: Magic Bites

Magic Bites (Kate Daniels, #1)Magic Bites by Ilona Andrews

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Who the heck is Kate Daniels?

She is an edgy sarcastic kick-ass babe with a sharp sword named Slayer. A magic sword of course, for a real kick ass girl in a world turned to urban fantasy can’t be without one. Just like she has to be tattooed on a place you can only fantasize about and wear a leather jacket two sizes too large. It would be unseemly otherwise.

Kate is that typical loner that everybody wants, either in bed or as a hired henchman or for lunch or because she is powerful. And thus she can give them the middle-finger and scoff at the powers-that-be without incurring the penalties for doing so. Like being torn apart by the Beast Lord for gross insolence, just to name an example. Not that he isn’t an insolent asshole himself. I fear a love interest. This testosterone filled uber macho just has to play top dog, but you know, deep down inside, he is just a pussy. We are promised a lot but nothing gets delivered.

Kate is not to be had. She is too busy or too independent. Oh, and she doesn’t fit into any of the organisations that beg her services: they all suck one way or another.Loyalty goes to persons.

Get the picture yet?

Now Kate is also twenty five with -say- about a decade of experience in her particular line of work. And an accomplished magic user to. And a experienced sword wielder. And well educated -she speaks her languages-. And has knowledge of a very obscure nature. But there is an explanation for the latter two: it is her father who taught her everything. Her human father that is.

Score one for home education.

You might think that would be enough but Kate is also provided with a mysterious background. Just to entice you to cling to the series.. Who is her real father? No doubt it gets revealed at some point, say in book five of the series. And boy, you will you be dissatisfied.

Granted the book is a nice read. I like the slang Andrews uses or the learn words I never heard about such as expletive. I learned a few new things and hopefully I can use them to my advantage. But the story is in a shambles. At various points it looks like Andrews changed her mind or got stuck and then she pulls a rabbit out of the hat.

When the investigation is dead in the water Andrews lets a vampire attack Kate so she can extract information from it. There.. issue solved. And when it’s going nowhere fast again, lets have the villain turn up so the story can move on. Don’t like the romance? (there is a more virile guy entering the stage) . Right.. lets change the guy’s personality so he loses any wit he has and doesn’t match with Kate at all.

It not just these changes of heart, but it’s the inconsistencies in the story. For instance: Kate is good at her job, but has no money to spend. A feat that goes unexplained.

There is a so called crusader of the order that hunts the villain for four years who is apparently crazy, a loner, and armed to the teeth, but operates secretly, with all that weaponry? . And what is more: somehow this crusader manages to turn up at the right place at the right time two thirds into the story. Almost as an afterthought, for most of the book he never puts in an appearance. A most secretive guy indeed. There is no good explanation for it other then that Andrews wanted him to be there.

And the list goes on and on. Take the wards for instance that the villain uses to break Kate’s ward and then conveniently abandons so she can use it against him later on. Or the fact that the villain apparently lets the crusader live. Or take the scene where Kate sits sipping wine on her porch, while the evil guy and his minions approach. She waits him out and then , when he is about to attack, she jumps inside her house where she is safe from harm, due to aforementioned wards.

Ilona Andrews likes to write scenes, but loses sight on what should connect them: a good story line. This is a cool scene and that is a cool scene. Storyline? Uhm, think of that later.

I can’t resist to compare Kate Daniels to Sonja Blue. Somehow the latter seems more human than the first, even though she is a crazy vampire. Kate is just a bit too good to be believed or connect with.

Does this make it a bad book? Not at all. It is certainly entertaining. Especially when I compare it to a Sci-FI book named Time Travellers never die, which I was reading at the same time.

Magic Bites is certainly not as good as Sunglasses after dark. I would like to give a second book a try, just to see if Andrews does a better job. Unfortunately it might never happen, as my local library doesn’t have it and I rather buy books I really like.

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