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Quick Staff Pick: Great North Road by Peter F. Hamilton

8 Jun

Great North Road is a commitment. At 914 pages (paperback) it is
well plotted, has characters that you’ll really care about, a lot of
sci-fi concepts, and an intriguing mystery.

great-north-road

The North family is a dynasty that is coming apart at the seams. The
three sons of Kane North (Augustine, Bartram, and Constantine) have
cloned themselves and are pursuing different interests in different
parts of the galaxy. It is 2143, and interstellar travel is common,
with new outposts of humanity and clones inhabiting strange new
worlds. The cloning thing doesn’t quite have all the bugs worked out
yet, as the clones of clones tend to lose intelligence as the copies
of copies seem to introduce flaws. The clones are conveniently named
with A, B, and C names to help keep them straight and help you
remember who is allied with whom. There is also a lengthy list of
characters at the front of the book to help you keep the other
characters straight. It isn’t quite complete, though, because the book
is a mystery, and to list all the characters and suspects would lead
to spoilers. So you will encounter names that you will have to
remember as the story progresses.

While the narrative progresses in strictly date-defined chronological
order, it also includes uses some present-tense background fill-in
that gradually paints the broader picture of how these characters came
to this point and how they relate to one another.

Sound confusing? It’s really not.

The gist of the plot is this: A North is murdered and despite DNA info
and a lot of futuristic surveillance technology Sid Hurst and his
homicide team have trouble identifying the victim, let alone the
perpetrator. The body, however, has tell-tale forensic details that
tie it to the death of Bartram North. Bartram’s killer, Angela
Tramelo, is imprisoned and could not have committed the second murder.
Angela has always claimed her innocence and says that a
humanoid-looking monster is responsible for the killing.
So the search for the killer proceeds on two fronts: a search for a
monster who arrived via interstellar travel, or someone with an ax to
grind against the North family.

While some of the descriptions of society in the age of advanced
technology are pretty cool, Hamilton can get a little bogged down
describing the technology. And over 900 pages, there were parts of the
novel that dragged a bit. I was glad that I kept slogging through at
points, though, as the book as a whole was worth the time and effort,
and provided a look at what the future may hold. Cloning, omnipresent
surveillance, deporting society’s undesirables…the future may be
nearer than we think.

-Written by Victoria Turk, Reference Librarian

Quick Staff Pick: Stoned by Aja Raden

10 Feb

stoned

The cover caught my eye: a huge green emerald. The title, Stoned, by Aja Raden, also drew me in. So I signed on for a book about whopping fat jewels, and got a history lesson with a dollop of psychology and an interesting exposition on diamonds, pearls, Faberge eggs, emeralds, watches and their context in history.

While I don’t usually read nonfiction, the writing style was irreverent and the historical background was interesting enough to keep me engaged. I enjoyed the almost snarky style. It was unpendantic yet informative.

The color photos were also beguiling, but I found myself wanting more. I was able to google images of several of the pieces that weren’t included in the book’s photographs. I was also inspired to go on a field trip to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York to see the  Crown of the Virgin of the Immaculate Conception. While not mentioned specifically in the book, it features over 400 emeralds that seem to drip off a golden domed crown, and dance hypnotically when nearby footsteps in the gallery subtly jostle the display case that houses it.  You can see the crown in gallery 357. The Metropolitan Museum also has some Faberge eggs in gallery 555.

If you are interested in jewelry I recommend Raden’s Stoned as a fun and informative read.

-Written by Victoria Turk, Reference Librarian

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