Exploring Frederik Pohl’s Heechee Saga Part 3 – Heechee Rendezvous

The third novel in the Heechee Saga, Heechee Rendezvous, is the perfect place to end the series. Never mind that there are three other books; only one of them, Annals of the Heechee, continues the main plot.

Heechee Rendezvous neatly wraps up everything that began in Gateway. The reader is introduced to an aging, ailing Robinette Broadhead, his Artificial Intelligence companion, Albert (a facsimile of Albert Einstein) and a few of Broadheads “friends” and acquaintances.

As the story unfolds, the reader also meets a Heechee officer named Captain, emerging from the black hole in the center of the universe to confront the space-faring humans and warn them of an unknown danger of the universe, setting up the grand finale of the main series.

The tone here is consistent: it’s all told from the perspective of Robinette Broadhead, who at this point has barely evolved his personality at all and is, in fact, regressing to the same type of person he was in Gateway. Why? Because he is feeling his mortality.

The novel eventually becomes a race against time in several ways: Broadhead against his own health, Broadhead’s scientific research against constant terrorism and Wan’s frantic search through several black holes using Heechee technology.

In this novel, the reader will finally meet the Heechee, be introduced to old characters and find out how Broadhead deals with his mortality problem. I don’t want to spoil the story, so I’ll leave it at that.

Something I quite enjoyed about this story is we see the character of Wan, from the previous novel, become somewhat of a villainous presence, though this is greatly overshadowed by Pohl’s introduction of the titular aliens early on in the story. I also, despite his unlikable nature, quite like Robinette Broadhead and can relate to him in some ways.

Pohl’s prose is consistent and well done, engaging the reader and making them care about what happens to these characters. I am interested to see how book four handles the new relationships man has forged with the Heechee and the unknown, mysterious threat that scared the Heechee into a black hole in the first place.

We’ll continue the journey through the Gateway as soon as I finish reading the fourth installment (and conclusion of the main series). Books five and six are anthology collections set in the Heechee universe.

Stay tuned and thanks for reading/sharing/etc…

(###)

 

End of Watch by Stephen King (Review)

Note: Contains Mild Spoilers. This post is also available on my Good Reads page.

I find iEnd of Watch by Stephen Kingt increasingly difficult to put a Stephen King novel down. Despite its over 400 pages, its shifting perspectives, and its relentless thrills throughout, 2016’s “End of Watch” the third book in the Hodges/Mr. Mercedes trilogy is a solid and satisfactory conclusion to the series.

The novel opens with a vignette style flashback to the night of the Mercedes Massacre, where the now catatonic Brady Hartsfield drove a Mercedes into a crowded job fair line, killing several people and injuring countless others.

Following this, the story flashes forward to 2015, where our hero, Bill Hodges, awaits the results of a medical test, a terrible, biting pain gnawing away at his side. As he sits in the waiting room, Hodges receives a phone call from his old police partner Pete about a murder/suicide. The reason for the call: one of the injured victims of the City Center Massacre.

Thus, begins the final chapter of the Hodges storyline. A theme of perseverance and healing permeates the story. The reader can see it in the way Hodges acts, in Brady’s evil schemes, and in Holly Gibney’s actions and evolution as a character.

As the story unfolds, the suspense growing with each mini chapter, we see a gradual shift of character attitudes. The bonds of the protagonists strengthen significantly over the previous book. King always writes good characters. These are people you probably know from your own life: your shy cousin, your intellectual friend, your older, nice neighbor, or your slightly snotty doctor. The portraits of modern life painted by King can certainly draw you into the story.

King’s villains are also great. The villain experiences growth and learns from his mistakes, albeit in a supernatural capacity. He does not simply stagnate and become the ‘big, bad, evil guy’ that only exists to further the plot. Brady is a creature of habit, with strong personality traits and a goal. We have a run-in with several characters from previous books and King expertly ties all the threads together by the end of the story.

The themes of depression, loss, and suicide all appear throughout the book as well, with the goal to prevent them. Some interesting technology (the Zappit Commander sounds familiar) and a bit of a critique on the smart phone junkies of the world round out the story.

The prose is conversational and cohesive, but a bit long for what it is. The language also follows modern culture, which lends a certain human quality to the story. There are a few parts that are a bit on the grisly side, though, but if you’re reading a Stephen King book, then you are probably already expecting such things.

Reading this novel is like having an old friend tell you a compelling story on a cold, rainy night, when the power is out. There are certainly some terrifying moments, but at the end of it all, you can merely close the book, satisfied with the experience. “End of Watch” is a fitting conclusion to the trilogy and I would highly recommend it for this year’s reading list.

That’s it for today.  Until next time, don’t forget to pour another cup of coffee and play yourself some music! Follow me on Twitter, if you’re into that sort of thing.

Finders Keepers by Stephen King – Book Review #1

23492589

The below review has been written to keep things relatively spoiler-free. However, there may be a few items which spoil the first book, “Mr. Mercedes.” You have been warned.

“Finders Keepers,” the second book in Stephen King’s “Mr. Mercedes” trilogy seems like an altogether different novel than its predecessor, 2012’s “Mr. Mercedes.” At first, it seems disjointed, bouncing back-and-forth through different time periods and focusing on a character unrelated to the previous adventure: novelist wannabe, faux intellectual, angry, and irrational Morris Bellamy.

The story begins in 1978, when Bellamy, with two of his cohorts in tow, stage a home invasion of renowned author, John Rothstein. In the context of this story, Rothstein is the author of the “Jimmy Gold Trilogy,” a story chronicling the life of the titular character. The first two books show Jimmy making his way in the world; the third shows him settling down and selling out.

The cohorts are after his money, but Bellamy has other things in mind: disappointed with the way Rothstein ended the Jimmy Gold novels, Bellamy wants to confront the author and find out why. In doing so, he kills John Rothstein and thus begins a chain events that takes the reader through Bellamy’s life from being jailed in 1978 up to his parole in 2014.

At least one-third of the novel sets up the background of Rothstein, Bellamy, the manuscripts, the money and how the Mercedes Killer is involved. In the second part of the story, we meet our original characters: Retired detective Kermit “Bill” Hodges and the obsessive, socially awkward Holly, who now run their own business called, “Finders Keepers.”

Following the events of the “Mr. Mercedes,” Hodges has settled into a life of low profile cases of theft, bail jumping and private matters. Hodges also tends visit the near-comatose Brady Hartsfield often. Having been paralyzed by a smack to the head at the end of the pervious book, Hartsfield says and does nothing. However, eerie things seem to be happening around the hospital and it may just be Hodges’ imagination, but that picture does seem to be falling all by itself. But, that is a story for another day, which King expertly weaves into the narrative.

Between vignettes of the exploits of Hodges, Pete Saubers, Bellamy and other characters, King draws the reader into the story. Eventually, the threads of the story begin tying together, primarily through the characters.

Character development is strong, as is typical of King’s other works. Through the course of the story, we learn all about the history, motivations, lives and personalities of these characters. There is Morris Bellamy, the criminal, who buries the money and Rothstein’s notebooks. Then comes along Pete Saubers, the young boy who stumbles upon Bellamy’s hidden treasure and is faced with some interesting decisions.

The connection to the previous book is a bit tenuous here: it is revealed that Pete’s father, Tom was a victim of the Mercedes Killer and became injured as a result of the massacre. This eventually leads to severe marital tension between Tom and his wife, and significant financial troubles for the family. It’s a forgone conclusion for Pete to anonymously give the found money to his parents. Pete then begins to read the manuscripts contained in the notebook and falls in love with English Lit.

Of course, things have a funny way of working out, when Pete’s sister wants to attend a fancy school and Pete tries to find a way to raise money. Pete ends up falling in with the wrong person at the wrong time, which ultimately leads to a rather satisfying climax to the story.

In true King fashion, the prose delivers an understandable, relatable, interesting narrative. King begins in with a third person view, telling the story as it happened. Later, during the parts of the narrative featuring Hodges, Holly and Jerome, he switches to second person, similar to the style of the first book.

Though King is typically pigeon-holed into the horror genre, this book shows off his talents at writing a suspense/thriller. There are humorous elements sprinkled throughout, which match the tone of the previous book and stays consistent with what I’ve come to expect from this series.

This book is just as good as its predecessor, and in some places, much better. I found it compelling, unique, interesting and I simply could not put it down. Unlike some of King’s other stories, this one is brief and has a satisfying conclusion that makes you want to pick up the next one, “End of Watch.”