Category Archives: Fantasy

A Vision of Fire by Gillian Anderson and Jeff Rovin

Jacket

When a coworker discovered this book he put it on hold for me without even being asked (I love having friends in high places who know what I like). A book written in the style of the X-Files by Gillian Anderson herself? Yes, please! And even though I had serious doubts it would be any good (lots of famous people try to write – most of the time, it doesn’t mean they’re any good at it), I tore into it the minute it arrived.

Turns out, it really isn’t bad. It’s the first of a proposed series called “The Earthend Saga” and while I am not quite sure where it’s going, it might be a fun ride. We open with a prologue featuring a geologist on a ship near the Falkland Islands who has discovered a bizarre artifact that may be extraterrestrial in origin. It is stolen from him by a mysterious figure, and then Part One begins. In it we meet Caitlin O’Hara, a psychiatrist who lives in New York City. She’s a single mother of a 10-year old boy, who works a a little too much but is otherwise content and successful. She gets an emergency call from her good friend Ben, a UN translator, asking her to come and treat the teenaged daughter of the UN’s Indian ambassador. The girl is having visions and trying to harm herself, and her timing is poor – the ambassador is in the middle of negotiations with Pakistan that have the whole region hovering on the brink of nuclear war. He wants someone to help his daughter before anyone finds out that she is ill, because he fears the stigma attached to mental illness may undermine his credibility as a negotiator.

Caitlin discovers that the girl is not alone in her bizarre symptoms. A young woman in Haiti almost drowned while standing on dry land. A college student in Iran lit himself on fire. The circumstances of all three young people share a few common elements, and Caitlin becomes convinced that there is a connection, and that she must find it. She races from location to location, gathering clues a la Robert Langdon in The DaVinci Code (don’t these characters ever suffer jet lag or fly commercial??) and using every trick in her psychiatric bag to string them together into a coherent explanation for her client’s symptoms.

In subsequent Parts we revisit the mysterious figure from the prologue, and learn of “The Group”, the secret organization he works for. What exactly do they do? Why are they searching for the artifacts that they are, and what connection do these artifacts have to the bizarre behavior of animals and young people worldwide? Was there really a lost civilization in Antarctica? If so, what happened to it?

We find out the answers to some of these questions, but not all of them. I’m assuming we’ll have to read more of the series to make all of the connections. The book was engaging – more for the characters and the settings than the actual plot, but who cares – and I think the series will be worth reading to satisfy my need for a little X-Filesian weirdness in a post-X-Files world. As for read-alikes, if you liked Dan Brown’s The DaVinci Code and its sequels, or Jennifer Lee Carrell’s Interred With Their Bones, this is the same sort of race-around-the-world-putting-pieces-together-before -something-bad-happens sort of romp. Also, the co-author Jeff Rovin writes titles in the Op-Center series started by Tom Clancy, so while I’ve never read any Clancy, this might be similar enough to please a Clancy fan.

 

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The Dresden Files (series) by Jim Butcher

So the reason I haven’t posted in forever is that I’ve been spending all of my free reading time reading children’s books and…confession time…I’ve been binging on the Dresden Files. For years I have looked up these books for patrons and silently judged these books by their covers – complete with pictures on the back of the author with Very Big Bad Hair. (He looks like the kind of guy who lives in his parent’s basement and plays too much D&D.) But then I heard that the audiobooks were read by actor James Marsters, who I have been mildly in love with since he appeared on Smallville and madly in love with since I binge-watched Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Since the first book (Storm Front) I’ve been hooked. I get the ebooks along with the audio in case I stop driving at a cliffhanger moment or the CD skips and I miss something. It’s a sickness. I’m ashamed, but I still perennially have the next 2 on hold.

The premise of the series is that magic and the supernatural are real, but most people don’t believe. Harry Dresden is a wizard – the only practicing wizard in Chicago, with an ad in the phone book and everything. Of course, none but the most desperate or nutty clients would seek out his services, so he is constantly hungry for cash and takes on the most ridiculous cases to pay the bills. He serves as a consultant to the Special Investigations unit (Chicago’s vague equivalent to the X-Files team) and is called in on cases where the supernatural seems likely. His “straight man” on the force is Karrin Murphy, a 5-foot cop with overcompensation issues (she may be short, but she knows several martial arts and is an expert in all types of firearms). She kicks the mortal asses while Harry kicks the supernatural ones. It’s fun to watch (listen).

It sounds cheesy, I know. The covers look cheesy. The constant glowing descriptions of every female character (there are no ugly females as far as lonely Harry is concerned, and he lovingly details their every feature for you) are cheesy. The fight scenes are overly dramatic and the sex scenes are downright hilarious in their soap-opera-y way. But for some reason I am as powerless to stop reading these books as I am to stop eating potato chips once I start. They seem to be getting better and better as more characters are introduced and we find out more and more about Harry’s world. Or maybe I’m just a sucker for Spike reading to me while I drive. It’s hard to say. Read one yourself (or better yet let Spike read it to you) and see. But beware – maybe the author really IS a wizard, and he’s put an addictive spell on them? Who can say?