Finally, Barry Eisler's new book is here! After finding the John Rain series three years ago, catching up and getting a new novel once a year, almost like clockwork, I'd been waiting patiently almost two years for Fault Line.
I get my fix by hanging out on Barry's Discussion Boards with all his friends and hardcore fans, and I read his blog, but there's nothing like a whole novel. Speaking of hardcore fans, I am a big fan, but I can't hold a candle to Rayna or Jewel:
I'll gladly stay in my place as Barry's No. 47 fan or so. But enough about Barry, and back to Fault Line ... well, actually, I do have to tell about the signing. I went to Barry's book signing at the Four Seasons Hotel in East Palo Alto. They were hosting the signing because they feature in the book: someone gets killed in the hotel parking garage. No, I'm not telling who, you just have to read it for yourself.
There was a large contingent of local Rainiacs (that's what we John Rain fans started calling each other on the Discussion Boards), and several out-of-towners who had come in from elsewhere: Pam from Idaho, Cheryl from New York State, and Rayna all the way from New Zealand! Barry read the hotel garage scene, answered lots of questions, and signed books. I had him sign my copy, and then I went around and asked Barry's wife and all my Rainiac friends to sign it too. I bet I have the wordiest copy of Fault Line anywhere. :-)
Started reading it that night, and liked it a lot. A couple of bonuses for me: part of it is set in the Silicon Valley high-tech world. It's the story of Alex Treven, a patent lawyer, whose client is developing a network encryption software. Right before the big meeting with the venture capitalists, someone kills him. Then the patent examiner dies. And then someone breaks into Alex's house and tries to kill him too. He contacts his estranged brother Ben, who does secret nasty things for the military, figuring that Ben is the only one who can help him in get out of this mess. Ben shows up, but he's pissed that his little brother expects yet another bailout. Not such a happy family.
Oh, and then there's a beautiful woman. And several factions of ruthless assassins. Martial arts. Cover-ups. Local scenery. Spycraft.
Jared Diamond's Guns, Germs and Steel was fascinating. I wish everybody had read it, so I could discuss it with all my friends.
The book is subtitled "The Fates of Human Societies", and examines how some cultures came to dominate others - for example, why the Spanish defeated the locals in their exploration of the Americas. Why didn't this happen the other way around? asks Diamond. I sort of did a double-take at the question, inwardly going, "Duh - because the Spanish were more advanced in their technology", but he must have heard me, because he acknowledges my answer and asks how that fact came about - why wasn't American technology as advanced as European technology?
Turns out it all comes down to settling down, growing plants and raising animals.
Wait, what? No, really. But I can't explain it nearly as well as Diamond does. Go ahead, just read it already, so we can talk about it.
I really wasn't going to buy anything that time. Then why did I walk into the bookstore? If I recall correctly, I had time to kill before the movie started. Or some other equally lame excuse. Anyway, Stephen King's Duma Key was grinning evilly at me. How was I to resist?
I liked the story well enough (I wasn't all that scared, actually), but I loved the language and the characterizations. In my humble opinion, King is one of the finest American writers. Too bad he keeps getting short shrift, just because he writes genre.
I tried out the Meyer Lemon Shaker Pie recipe after my friend Mahesh was kind enough to bring me Meyer lemons. Yes, I have a lemon tree, but Meyers are so very different from the "regular" varieties. I like how this came out - sweet and sour and bitter all at once.
Bitter from the lemon rind and pith (you use the whole lemon, sliced as thin as you can get it), sour from the lemon, and sweet from the sugar and eggs you add to make a kind of custard.
if you like puckery flavors like sour candies and candied ginger, you'll like this. If you like your sweets just sweet, without a bite, this is not for you. But not to worry, the next lemon pound cake is coming up soon. ;-)
Ow, that smarts! That was the unhappiest happy ending I've seen in a long time. I can understand that Joaquin Phoenix doesn't want to keep acting - being such a depressed character for all the months of filming would get anyone depressed. Hell, it got me all down, just watching for two hours.
No, I'm not dissing Two Lovers; I thought it was really really good. Great performances by Joaquin Phoenix, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Vinessa Shaw, the backstory coming through in off-hand remarks, and those somber colors ... it was just right.
I hope Phoenix recovers and comes back to acting after some time out on a sunny beach somewhere.
I didn't really buy it that a corporation would have so much power, be so well-organized, and so quick to react, but what the heck - The International was a good action flick, and I had no beef with suspending my disbelief for a couple of hours. Clive Owen as a good guy willing to do what it takes to get the bad guys is always a joy to behold. And Armin Müller-Stahl and Ulrich Thomsen made fine bad guys. And the locations were great.
And the shoot-out in the Guggenheim was mad fun. Good times. Good times.
I usually only list the films here that I've seen in the movie theatre, omitting any DVDs and whatever I catch on the telly, but I'll count this one for several reasons: because I won't be able to see it in a theatre until it has found a distributor, because it's marvelous, and because I received a DVD from the filmmaker herself.
Her site for the film, http://www.sitasingstheblues.com/, recounted her trouble getting a distributor due to the copyright issues surrounding the music she used, and said she accepted donations to help her get the film to people. I watched a clip from the film, liked it very much, and thought, alright, sure I'll help! I donated via PayPal and hoped I would get to see "Sita" some time at some film festival - and imagine my surprise when Nina Paley herself sent me an email just a few hours later, thanking me for my donation and asking if I would like a DVD. Hells yeah I did!
I've watched it twice now, with different sets of friends, and I just marvel ... yes I know I already said marvelous above, but it just fits ... I marvel at the animation, at the song selection, and how the different segments (Sita's story, Nina's story, the voice-over discussion of the Ramayana) work together.