Posts Tagged ‘action’


S.J. Day

Review © 2009 G.N. Jacobs

S.J. Day infuses the first book of her Marked series, Eve of Darkness, with all the high-octane sex and action any literary thrill junky would need. Mostly, this is because the heroine, Evangeline Hollis, wipes out a dragon in the ladies room at Qualcomm Stadium during a Chargers-Seahawks football game. She wore flip-flops at the time making it seem all the more impressive.

God, or at least one of his minions, has picked Eve to bear the Mark of Cain and spend however long it takes killing demons until her sins have been worked off. Her sin, you ask? She is that one special girl that tempted the original Mark, Cain, into impossible desires of home and family, when he is so good at splashing demons. So, allowing ten years for divine justice to play out, Cain’s brother, Abel, seduces her and gives her the Mark.

It is actually excellent writing from the James Bond School of screenwriting that Eve took out the dragon in the bathroom. It is such an over the top teaser set six weeks ahead of the rest of the book that it covers up an awful necessity of first books in most Fantasy/Sci-Fi series: Exposition. Explaining how Marked sinners get that way and with what powers they have been blessed to use killing demons can eat up much of the 350 pages or so allotted by editors for a first release in mass-market paperback.

Still, for all of my indulgences concerning exposition, I still felt there was a tad much all at once. Halfway through the book, while I enjoyed Eve Hollis as a spunky, I’m-not-a-victim, reluctant heroine determined to get time off for good behavior, I was complaining that whatever the bad guys were up to wasn’t happening soon enough due to the exposition.

Let’s see, Eve shags Abel and gets the Mark and then we are treated to dueling sex scenes starring Eve and Cain: once in the present where Cain helps her through the change to Marked and one ten years before showing how Cain took Eve’s virginity. If you add in the business of explaining what Marks can do, there went the first half of the book. If it hadn’t been for the interesting twin mother figures of Eve’s Japanese mother, Miyoko Hollis, and her nice neighbor, Mrs. Basso, there would have been very little plot advancement in the first half, the Kiss of Death to a book.

However, the story picks up in the second half so the reader won’t mind the slow start. Cain and Abel both fall for Eve with the attendant Oedipal references that she bears their mother’s name and start competing to get her naked. Demons attack before Eve has gone through training almost as if she were a Bond girl frozen in the headlights. Some attacks are irritating like being peed on by a Tengu, a demon species behind the gargoyle myths, or facing her very own water demon.

Eve also begins to suspect that some of the people on the good guy side are playing their own agendas and using Eve and her exasperating triangle with Cain and Abel as a key pawn in the celestial chess game. S.J. Day leaves it up to the second and third books published almost concurrently with Eve of Darkness for us to learn whether the Archangels and God will resolve their differences.

One thing I’m curious about is to see if we hear more from Cain and Abel about what really happened in the events recorded in the Bible at least in S.J. Day’s universe. Both characters state that the recorded Scripture is some truth, some fictional embellishment and a lot of parable. It would be interesting to hear why Cain killed Abel the first time instead of having Cain clam up like a man still hurting. Or perhaps Ms. Day is sensitive to the Bible thumpers out there that speak loudly about any perceived threat to the Revealed World of God and doesn’t need to kick over that anthill.

The Marked series is loaded with all kinds of archetypal references that make for great literature and valuable psychology sessions. God, Angels, Demons and the Mark of Cain all make for a grand stage on which a female variation of Cincinnatus stands in the breach daring all comers to try their luck. Between these concepts and the flat out unashamed erotic sex and comic book action of course Eve of Darkness will read like the great book it very nearly is. A kick-ass romp of sex and violence will do nicely.



By Max Barry

Review © 2009 G.N. Jacobs

How much is enough? Would you sell cigarettes knowing how many will die? Would you kill 14 of your own customers in a crazy marketing scheme designed to show how valuable your sneakers are? Such questions infuse Max Barry’s satire Jennifer Government with a dread of corporate misdeeds past, present and future.

Picture, if you will, a near future world where family surnames have been replaced by corporate names and there is no government to speak of, except a minimally invasive watchdog force that has to get funding before launching an investigation. Meet Field Agent Jennifer Government, a single mom armed to the teeth in the Melbourne office, out to stop corporate misdeeds wherever she finds them. Things don’t go well for Jennifer at the mall, NRA thugs subcontracted to Nike by way of the Police shoot up to 14 customers to make the latest shoe line no one can afford seem irresistible. Jennifer falls onto the windshield of a Mercedes seriously injured.

Jennifer becomes an anti-corporate avenger searching for proof that Nike hired the killings done. She needs to find Hack Nike, the lowly merchandising officer, duped into patsy status. Just enough hearsay says that John Nike, Vice President of Guerilla Marketing, is the officer responsible. Jennifer has powerful personal motives for bringing John Nike to justice stemming from the time they were John and Jennifer Maher when they worked for Maher Advertising. Perhaps Jennifer will also explain the mysterious barcode tattoo below her left eye?

I found Max Barry’s satire very nearly brilliant when looking at it in broad strokes. If the writer wishes to warn us about corporations in an over the top satire, then sure, a regional Nike executive will order ten killings to boost sales. This is no more ridiculous than filmmakers positing that reality shows and sports will logically expand to include murder as we saw a few years ago in Series 7 or the first and only Rollerball.

Not all satires and other predictions of our social future have to come true for them to hold power. If we let things be we may end up in such dystopian futures where the NRA becomes a paramilitary force that can kill anyone and get away with it unless the victim’s families can pay for prosecution. Or we can choose to continue that blissfully inefficient and entertaining government that stands between our sins and those that would exploit them. Jennifer Government fills this literary niche with great skill and with a lot of firepower.

Max Barry chose in many places to gloss over the small details of the minutia of regular lives set against this wild romp that spans Melbourne, London and Los Angeles. There could have been a slight bit more of interaction between Jennifer Government and her daughter, Kate Mattel (named after the school). I didn’t feel the frustration of a mother who has to keep breaking a promise to get a dog as much as another writer might have created. But still, as I like to say, “if you’re looking at the scenery you’re missing the story.”

If Barry were to do a book without the science fiction overtones I would suggest getting on more planes and visiting places. I didn’t feel like the scenes in Los Angeles or London really reflected the cities I remember and know. But, then the point of this book is that unchecked corporate greed will turn the whole world into carbon copies of some hypothetical bland city that doesn’t exist, yet.

What I really appreciated was the bare bones of the police procedural underlying the warning. Jennifer Government is not some super-cop investigator because, as always, the foot soldiers in the vast corporate war are very nearly morons that escape by sheer luck. Her ability to survive promiscuous gunfire was impressive and equally lucky. I could almost pretend that Jennifer was a real cop doing battle with evil corporate officers bent on nothing less than world domination.

The element that tickled my ribs the most was the reveal of the Big Bad. The case becomes more than a sneaker marketing campaign or a brutal hostile takeover fight between Shell and ExxonMobil. Let’s just say, I will never look at customer loyalty programs like frequent flier miles and discount cards quite the same way again. Actually, I think I was already suspicious of these programs, which is why this element tickled me so much.

Jennifer Government raises the bar for all of us who like to satirize corporate behavior in hopes someone will listen and spend a little more time off the corporate fast track. Neither your time nor your money is wasted.