Bosch Season 7 [9/10]

Bosch Season 7 review

Season 7 of “Bosch” shall be the last, we’re told. I have never followed a season for this many seasons and I remain amazed at how much I’ve enjoyed every season and indeed every episode. Perhaps there is an element of familiarity, for part of my pleasure derives from captivating by a large ensemble cast of sparky characters. Perhaps lockdown seeks comfort viewing. But no, Bosch remains ascendant for two reasons. Michael Connelly is a master of gripping plots and each season brilliantly unwinds the solution (to the extent there is one) of a crime or crimes; this is modern crime fiction at its best. And even more important is the character of Harry Bosch, the driven, explosive, professional murder detective, so wonderfully realized on the page and now improved (yes, I’ll assert that) by his portrayal by Titus Welliver. In Season 7, an apartment block fire kills four innocents, sending Bosch off on one of his most frustrating missions, while his daughter’s experience during a financial criminal’s trial provides a second terrifying adventure. If you’re a newcomer to Bosch, start at Season 1. If you’re a fan like me, savor this and join me in mourning the passing of a show that never dropped a beat.

Second Nature by Nathaniel Rich [6/10]

Nathaniel Rich Second Nature review

Nathaniel Rich’s Losing Earth, a history of climate change inaction, captivated me two years ago, so I came to “Second Nature: Scenes from a World Remade” ready to be enthralled again. And there is much to love in this set of essays, a number of which have already appeared. As the author puts it in a preface, the essays fall into three categories. The first three essays are exposes of corporate malfeasance; I especially enjoyed “Here Come the Warm Jets,” covering a massive ongoing methane leak. Then there are some fascinating essays about places and milieus already changing in a warmer world; “Aspen Saves the World” is brilliant, tackling a rich person’s skiing play town when the the snow is disappearing, while the town itself reimagines itself as a climate activist forerunner. And the final section concerns hubristic tales of attempts to fix old wrongs, often resulting in further debacles. Second Nature is an intriguing, educational, stylish romp through parts of our new climate emergency world.

The Hood by Lavie Tidhar [6/10]

Lavie Tidhar The Hood review

Bewitched by the writing and imaginativeness of Lavie Tidhar’s The Escapement (check out my rave review), I readily turned to “The Hood,” the second instalment of his Anti-Matter of Britain Quartet, being English mythology reimagined through a modern, bruising lens. This time, as the title implies, Tidhar refashions the tales of Robin Hood and his band of merry men, although “refashions” understates his reworkings, This is a profane, hip, super-cool, jazzed-up retelling that does not hesitate to turn everything on its head. Fast, funny, foul, and furious, The Hood will either captivate and amaze you, or it will turn you off before the midway point. Stylistically remarkable though it was, my own read had me gasping with admiration but a tad nonplussed, but hey, I read it in one setting and will remember it until the day I die.

The Way It Is Now by Garry Disher [9/10]

Garry Disher The Way It Is Now review

Fresh from the triumph of his Hirsch trilogy set in the remote South Australian countryside, Garry Disher returns to his beloved Mornington Peninsula, a tongue of land between bay and ocean near Melbourne, in ”The Way It Is Now.” Policeman Charlie Deravin, newly parted from his wife and on enforced disciplinary leave from the sex-crimes unit, returns home to a beach shack. Like many crime fiction heroes, he is a mess, with one burden being the overhang from the never-solved disappearance of his mother two decades earlier. Surfing, just existing, this loose spirit idly digs into the past, until the day bodies turn up and the past catches up. Stylistically, The Way It Is Now feels nothing like the low-key lyricism of the South Australian series, it is much more muscular and adventurous, but a commonality is a wonderful immersion in the mystery’s locale, this time a mix of real Mornington Peninsula towns and suburbs, and some fictional ones. You can feel the sand, smell the salt. As ever, Disher’s control of the highly intriguing plot is masterful, never revealing too much, always keeping the reader on her toes. As ever, once begun, the book demands to be completed. One of the best global crime fiction novels of 2021, The Way It Is Now cements Disher’s crown as the best Australian mystery writer, bar none.

Noor by Nnedi Okorafor [6/10]

Nnedi Okorafor Noor review

A rocket-paced tech sci-fi novel set in a near-enough-future world that could almost be familiar, “Noor” takes place in Nigeria and stars Anwuli Okwutility, a feisty woman who has augmented her body wth so much advanced technology that she relabels her initials AO as “artificial organism.” When an ordinary day spins out of control, she finds herself on the run in the deserts with another cutely named fugitive, a herdsman called DNA. AO and DNA careen through their weird world of ubiquitous surveillance and social media, huge wind turbines, a controlling mega corporation, and blazing technology. The author is richly inventive, the plot sucks the reader in, and the unusual (for sci-fi) setting is superbly drawn. Whilst this reader found the storyline baroque to the extent of reducing character immersion, another reader might sink right in. Noor is an enjoyable rollercoaster worth checking out.

Dreamers Are Waiting by Crowded House [5/10]

Crowded House Dreamers Are Waiting review

Rock music made by older people can be wise and moving, but mostly it is a few levels below peak. This is not a lament. I mean, what can we possibly expect of our earlier musical heroes when we ourselves are decrepit? I was never a Crowded House fanatic but Neil Finn’s songwriting genius could never be denied, so “Dreamers Are Waiting” seemed a welcome possibility. For the band’s first release in over a decade, the band composed Finn (teaming up sometimes with brother Tim for songwriting), founding bassist Nick Seymour, Finn’s sons Liam and Ellroy, and, remarkably, producer/arranger extraordinaire Mitchell Froom on keys. My expectations were high and it is fair to say they were mostly dashed. The album of a dozen songs is by no means crappy, and the songwriting is intelligent, but musically, this version of Crowded House plods. The three tracks that shine out are “The Island,” with its joyous chorus; the swaying, dreamy “Too Good For This World”; and “Bad Times Good,” with Finn in great, smooth voice over a building accompaniment. Dreamers Are Waiting will please old fans but welcome few new ones.

Double Blind by Edward St Aubyn [6/10]

Edward St Aubyn Double Blind review

Double Blind” is my first Edward St Aubyn and I admit to intense anticipation. I quickly latched onto the author’s consummate lyrical skill, both descriptively rich and wondrously constructed. And the novel’s storyline holds great promise, bringing together an ecologist, psychologists, a rewilding environmentalist, a project planner, a maniacal venture capitalist, and a schizophrenic. Like, say, Richard Powers, St Aubyn revels in informing and exploring deep subject, and here he fossicks around in epigenetics, psychoanalysis, neurology, ecology, and oncology. The plot tumbles hither and thither, delightfully at first, and the characters are explored succinctly. If Double Blind refuses to follow traditional plot closure rules as the reader ends the end of her journey, this too seems wisely intelligent. A beguiling, off-kilter read.

The Empathy Diaries by Sherry Turkle [7/10]

Sherry Turkle The Empathy Diaries review

Sherry Turkle has revolutionised our understanding of the role of the new IT and online communities, and, especially lately, the dangers of online interaction for psychological health. In “The Empathy Diaries: A Memoir,” she offers a beautifully, though simply, described memoir of the first phase of her life, narratively constructed as the interweaving of her intellectual journey with her childhood challenges and opportunities. What attracted me to read this was the promise of “the finding of meaning through a life’s work,” the telling of an existential trajectory carved out through Paris in 1968 and the IT revolution kicked off in the 70s and 80s. And the first two thirds of this heartfelt story was spellbinding, exploring her mother’s love and secretiveness, the quest to find (and then reject) her real father, all the while navigating the shoals of coming of age in one of the most tumultuous periods of human progress. In my reading, the final third sagged a little, mainly because the actual intellectual discourse under examination meant little to me, but at the end, I felt vindicated in reading The Empathy Diaries. If you are a nerd, not a jock (both appellations semi-jokingly offered), Sherry Turkle’s fulsome and yearning memoir may well speak volumes to you.

A Perfect Planet [8/10]

A Perfect Planet review

Yet another David Attenborough naturefest, I hear you say. And yes, “A Perfect Planet” is a sumptuous visual treat, highlighting manifestations of nature so wondrous and unbelievable that they seem surreal. But this six-episode series revolves around the storyline of humans on their planet. The first four sessions cover aspects of Earth vital to all species, such as volcanoes, the sun, the incredibly complex weather, and the oceans. In each of them, towards the end Attenborough warns all of Earth’s are being disrupted by climate change. Episode Five, called Humans, is Attenborough’s plea for sanity, for action, for concern for the fate of the planet and our species upon it. Wonderfully powerful, moving statements are provided by four eminent scientists. Finally, Episode Six, titled Making a Perfect Planet, takes a look at the four-year filming experience, and somehow this provides the perfect coda. A must-watch for every one of us.

American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins [9/10]

Jeanine Cummins American Dirt review

I missed the boat with “American Dirt,” possibly for the narrow-minded reason that I thought I knew all I need to know about the plight of Mexican refugees striving to pierce the U.S. border. I’m glad I finally succumbed to passionate word of mouth, for from the opening sentence, I was held captivated by Jeanine Cummins‘s uncanny brilliance and propulsive storytelling. The plot is both simple and endlessly complex: when an Acapulco bookshop owner is forever to flee, taking with her an eight-year-old son, she ends up joining the thousands and thousands of Mexicans and other South Americans wending their ways toward the border and then placing their lives in peril to attempt a border crossing. The author creates magic with an earnest but true-hearted style that never falters. Both the mother and the son are memorable characters, but there are many other splendid characterisations. The sense of place is exquisite. An ode to the capacity of human beings to hope and strive, as well as a searing indictment of this unfeeling world of ours, American Dirt is a readymade classic.