Tag Archives: detective

Tarkin – James Luceno

His strategy of flying boldly into the face of adversity was studied and taught, and during the Clone Wars would come to be known as “the Tarkin Rush”.

The book, happening in the Star Wars universe, presents an important episode in the life of Wilhuff Tarkin, the Imperial general. His unique and advanced stealth ship is stolen and used against the Empire by a cunning crew. He is tasked, together with Darth Vader, to catch the thieves by the Emperor himself. The entire story is told by using flashbacks and memories, neatly arranged.

James Lucerno is a veteran of Star Wars novels, specializing in stories of the antagonists. In this book, the reader can gave a glimpse in the life and of personality of the famous Imperial Moff, later Grand Moff, Wilhuff Tarkin.

Tarkin is meant to represent the military power: ruthless, efficient, domineering. But his personal background is rather surprising, and seems unfit with the personage.

The plot is compelling and the characters are well developed, but I would not go so far to say they were memorable. The Star Wars universe is beautifully constructed, giving depth and engaging the reader.

However, I have found the vocabulary used rather poor, despite some good tries of the author. The background of the protagonist does not seem fit with his career and personality. It often feels that his inner motivations are not explored in depth. The plot is engaging, well-thought and unpredictable, but more could be drawn from it.

Overall, a solid piece of work from Lucerno, an enjoying book for the fans of the genre.

 

The Three-Body Problem – Cixin Liu, (Translator Ken Liu)

No. Many of the best scientists can be fooled by pseudoscience and sometimes devote their lives to it. But pseudoscience is afraid of one particular type of people who are very hard to fool: stage magicians. In fact, many pseudoscience hoaxes were exposed by stage magicians.

This is an amazing hard scifi book by the Chinese author Cixin Liu, masterly translated by Ken Liu, discussing human nature and communications beyond the solar system.

An engaging and creative plot, accurate use of mathematics and astrophysics, great character development makes this volume one of the best scifi books in the last years. The book won the prestigious Hugo and Nebula scifi book awards.

The book is the first part of the the Remembrance of Earth’s Past trilogy, which expands the theme of human resilience and entrepreneurship.

The plot is skillfully developed as a detective story around the experiences of Wang Miao, a nanotechnologist in current day China,  involving a computer game and an old research station. The book starts with the Chinese Cultural Revolution and the development of a secret research stations and we are gradually brought to present life and introduced to the scientist Mr Miao. Shi Qiang, the cunning detective who guides the protagonist, is a superbly created character, down to earth and creative.

Overall, an exceptional hard scifi book, with a well-built, engaging plot and memorable characters, deserving all the praise it got in the last years.

Most Secret War – R.V. Jones

The arguments in Whitehall concerning the weight of the rocket lasted throughout July and well into August. Herbert Morrison was near panic: on 27th July he was wanting the War Cabinet to plan immediately for the evacuation of a million people from London…

The book is a World World II memoir of Reginald V. Jones, responsible to anticipate and counter the German science applications in warfare, mainly air, and create new technical aids. Those weapons included radio navigation, radar, navigation for the Allied Bomber Offensive, and the V-1 and V-2 rockets.

R.V. Jones’ position in the British war effort, both in the Intelligence Section of Britain’s Air Ministry and in the MI-6, allowed him to be at the forefront of the technical war between NAZI Germany and the United Kingdom. He is now considered the father of technical and science intelligence and CIA has an award with his name.

The author’s account reveals much of the battles’ details fought with the technical minds in Germany, but also the experience of the war, the bureaucratic fights inside the various British ministries and his interactions with the British Prime Minister, of whom he was a great admirer.

British Scientific Intelligence 1939-1945

The memoir is read as a wartime scientific detective story, with a strong espionage background. For example, he reveals how the V-1 (flying bomb) and V-2 rockets were assessed in terms of warhead capability and production. He fought with his own expert councils and with some ministers panicked of a possible mass attack over London. By looking at aerial photographs, the messages from the ultra secret decipher service at Bletchley Park; the spy reports; prisoners’ interrogations and others, he was able to correctly put together the puzzle of the V-1 and V-2 rockets and find counter-measures for them.

His battle was different than the ones with tanks and land offensives, but not less important. Without him and his counter-measures, the bombing of Britain in 1940 would have been a lot more accurate and the German air force would not have sustain the crippling losses.

This book is widely acclaimed as one of the best memoirs of the World World II, from one of the highest ranked positions in the British intelligence. I sincerely recommend it to all readers interested in history and science.

Blacksad – Juan Diaz Canales, Juanjo Guarnido

Une étoile s’était éclipsée, abandonnant mon passé dans le noir, égaré quelque part entre les ombres. Et personne ne peut vivre sans son passé.

Là dehors se cachait le coupable de deux meurtres, au moins: celui d’une personne et celui de mes souvenirs.

Et ce salaud allait le payer.

Blacksad est une exceptionnelle série de bande dessinée, anthropomorphiste, en cinq volumes (2016) de Juan Díaz Canales (écrivant) et Juanjo Guarnido (dessinateur).

Blacksad, l’héro.

Le héro est John Blacksad, un chat noir, détective privé aux États-Unis dans les années 1950. L’atmosphère a l’empreinte d’un film noir et est parfaitement exprimé par les dessines. Le graphisme de Guarnido est monumental: les personnages animalières sont superbe choisis, la coloration à l’aquarelle donne un timbre spécial, précis et vivant au action.

Le dialogue est fluide, les mots sont bien choisi. La narration est souple, avec aucune bagage de mots inutile, une qualité rare dans la littérature. C’est un plaisir de lire les histoires de Blacksad, regarder les dessines et être part de cette atmosphère noir crée par Canales et Guarnido.

Les cinq volumes sont : Quelque part entre les ombres (2000); Arctic-Nation (2003); Âme rouge (2005); L’Enfer, le silence (2010) et Amarillo (2013).

John Blacksad n’a pas des qualités incroyable, exceptionnelles, mais il est honnête, courageux et obstiné. Blacksad est sombre et solitaire, mais il reste sociable. Le lecteur se peut identifié facilement avec le héro. Son ami est Weekly, une fouine, journaliste, très bien informé, qui partage les même valeurs, mais pas la même personnalité réservé que Blacksad. John travaille souvent avec  Smirnov, un berger allemand, commissaire de police, aussi honnête et incorruptible.

La intrigue est toujours fraiche, plaine des surprises, mais réaliste. Les options disponible pour le héro ne sont pas simple. Les volumes sont avec mafia, assassinats, racisme, femmes fatales, fume de cigares, anticommunisme. Chacun a une couleur dominante propre:  noir, blanc, rouge, bleu et jaune.

La série de bande dessinée Blacksad reste une ouvre d’art, qui je recommande de voir et lire.

[Feature photo: Photographies prises lors du Festival International de la BD de Sollies Ville by Esby from Wikimedia]

[Article photo by Galvi, flickr]

Blowing my cover – Lindsay Moran

Our next instruction was to traverse by night over many more miles of hostile territory, to find a shelter serving as base for a suspected terrorist cell. Once there, we were to infiltrate the premises and collect as much detailed information, “intelligence”, as we could.

We were exhausted, but we knew there was no choice but to press on. That day we managed, somewhat miraculously, to make the entire leg of the trip undetected by the bad guys, although we could hear them patrolling the roads with their noisy Mack trucks, engaging the other groups in firefights.

Blowing my cover – My life as a CIA spy is a memoir of a former CIA operative, who ended up resigning the Agency after 5 years. Moran carefully describes her training and her motives to join (and to resign) from CIA. The style of writing is rather cynical, but entertaining in the same time.

I was interested in the book because she operated in the Balkans, but the former spy doesn’t dwell on her missions.

blowing-my-cover
Memoirs of a 5-years spy

The book presents in great detail how the CIA training for operatives takes place, such as escaping tails, noticing details, gathering intelligence, making contacts. This part was practical and quick-paced.

The other part, intertwining with her training and missions, was a psychological analysis of her reasons to work for the Agency. She considered her job a lonely, difficult, rather boring job, with little solace. However, the analysis does not go very deep. To provide a context, Moran worked in the Balkans around 2000-2003 and the 9/11 attacks were in 2001. In comparison with the CIA agents in Afghanistan, the Balkans must have been very boring.

The writing could have used more polishing, but it was an interesting reading.

The adventures of Sherlock Holmes – Arthur Conan Doyle

I didn’t read the book in my childhood, so I read it recently. Interesting, but I read better ones, such as Monsieur Lecoq by Emile Gaboriau. Gaboriau had more depth.

The short stories didn’t allow characters to develop, although Holmes and Watson are in each of them. Also, the stories are more about mystery rather than dangerous crime.

Still, very fluid stories, smart plots, good dialogue. An interesting book.