The book stack exceeded my reading ability during Lent and Holy Week, but now that things have slowed down (hah!) the books began calling to me again. Here’s what I’ve tackled lately.
Jeff Vandermeer, Annihilation. Vandermeer’s initial foray in the Southern Reach Trilogy, our story plays out like a “found footage” story that traces the exploration of the team sent to investigate “Area X.” It at first sounds like a joke: a biologist, an anthropologist, a surveyor, and a psychologist enter the forest. But it plays out anything like a joke, in a tale that echoes the works of Michael Crichton or Scott Smith’s The Ruins. We’re not given much in terms of dialogue or personal information: the focus is on the mission, the tension, the building terror. We know that the crew is here to discover truths that others failed to find (or at least report back on) but this is a book that trips back and forth across the line between metaphysical and the real.
Mike Mullin, Sunrise. The third installment of the Ashfall Trilogy finds sixteen-year-old Alex growing into the responsibility for survivors of the Yellowstone volcanic eruption as the responsible adults either die or fail to lead well. Having not read the previous two stories, and unaware at first that this was a sequel to the sequel, I dove in and appreciated the way that the plot moved quickly while not settling for action sequences. Alex is trying to make a way forward in this new world with his girlfriend Darla, protect his friends and family, and progress forward in a world that naturally develops after a natural disaster. Sure, there’s some leaps needed to get to this cataclysmic state but it’s a post-apocalyptic, dystopian world that mirrors the Hunger Games and yet comes across much more realistically. Mullin has delivered a powerful story that makes us care about Alex and his crew, but that also delivers when it comes to action and excitement.
Jimmy Seibert, Passion & Purpose: Believing The Church Can Change The World. The Antioch Community Church sets out to make a difference in Waco, Texas, by taking ‘responsibility’ for the 450 homes in the nine block by nine block neighborhood that they would serve. Fourteen years later, the community is transformed, and the book sets out to give examples and practices that aided in the transition. Not only does Passion & Purpose narrate the story of the church’s origins, but it also dynamically presents the way that this church in Waco became a world changer, around the world.
Robert Costantini, The Deliverance of Evil. Translated from Italian, this book by an Italian businessman and academic narrates a murder investigation over twenty-five years, following the exploits of a detective in his young, frivolous years and his later, regretful ones. Michele Balistreri has his share of the party life in the early 1980s but he fails to solve the murder of the beautiful Elisa Sordi, whose murder seems tied not only to some political elements but also some Vatican ones. In 2006, he’s given another chance to make things right, and redeem his wasted youth, but the violence escalates as someone seems determined to reap the unsolved crime from 1982. A bit slow getting going, the final quarter delivers a complicated, powerful tale of regret, revenge, and the price of sin.