Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Plum Lovin'

By Janet Evanovich

Another aside in the Stephanie Plum series, this novel takes up where the previous aside, Visions of Sugar Plums, left off. In addition, this story adds an important family event to the Stephanie Plum saga, in that Stephanie's sister Valerie finally marries Albert Kloughn, thanks to Stephanie's maneuverings. In fact, that is what Plum does through out the story, helps people find love. The semi-divine Diesel pops back into Stephanie's life and pretty much dragoons her into playing Cupid while he tracks down the woman who normally fulfills that role because she has gone missing.
What can I say about these, as the author calls them, "Stephanie Plum Between-the-Numbers Novels"? They just don't measure up to the regular Stephanie Plum novels and I find the supernatural stuff disconcerting in this detective novel series. Unless you are desperate for a story about Stephanie Plum, you probably aren't missing much if you give these a skip.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

The Reluctant Fundamentalist

By Mohsin Hamid

I guess it is just too much to hope for, a balanced approach to 911 by a Muslim. Mohsin Hamid's approach is certainly not balanced. He suffers from the same tunnel vision that seems to afflict most Muslims. In this story, the main character actually smiles when he hears about the destruction of the twin towers. Which is OK, in a work of fiction. But reading that part of the story, I got the strong feeling that the character wasn't the only one smiling at this terrible tragedy: it felt like the author was also grinning at America's comeuppance. The author thoughtfully goes on to explain why the USA deserves this fate: it's because we don't mind our own business! We actually have the nerve to demand accountability in those governments and countries to whom we provide aid! The Gall! To quote: "I reflected that I had always resented the manner in which America conducted itself in the world; your country's constant interference in the affairs of others was insufferable. Moreover I knew from my experience as a Pakistani -- of alternating periods of American aid and sanctions -- that finance was a primary means by which the American empire exercised its power. It was right for me to refuse to participate any longer in facilitating this project of domination..." He goes on to say, "Such an America had to be stopped in the interests not only of the rest of humanity, but also in your own." At this point in the story narrator has become a terrorist, although this is never explicitly stated, but it is hinted at, "What exactly did I do to stop America, you ask? Have you really no idea, sir?" He doesn't admit doing anything and we don't see him doing anything, as the story ends abruptly, but that question is the question of a guilty conscience.
However, as much as I dislike the author and his narrow viewpoint, I did enjoy the story. I found it instantly engaging and it kept me interested for most of it. It follows a young Pakistani man, Changez, as he graduates from college and gets a prestigious job with a New York financial concern. In the course of the story, he becomes enamored with an American woman, Erica. Erica, who is a metaphor for America, fails to return his affection because she is still attached to her long dead lover. All this was very captivating. But it became rather tedious at the point where the character decides that everything that is wrong in the world is America's fault. Also the abrupt ending was very dissatisfying. Overall, I can't recommend it.