Thursday, January 26, 2012

Hell & Gone

Duane Swierczynski
Hell & Gone

Mulholland Books UK, 2011

Write about the second part of the Charlie Hardie trilogy about «Hell & Gone» is pretty hard. Those who have read the first part, «Fun & Games» (and are there those who have not read it? Then you should be ashamed of: it is one of the best novels published last year. Mistakes should be corrected: buy this book immediately!), had lots of fun and they do not need any advice, they will buy «Hell & Gone» for sure. Because after reading the first book, one can’t not read the second one.

If you still assume that those who have not read the first part do exist in nature, they would hardly need to read a review of the second part: the fear of spoilers does not allow them to read even a review of the first part. Respectively, those remain who have read this book already. For them, perhaps, all of the following is written.

Charlie Hardie, the protagonist of the trilogy, «had been nearly drowned, shot in his left arm, shot in the side of his head, and almost shot in the face at point-blank range», but is still alive. Now he falls into the hands of Accident People - those scoundrels, who unsuccessfully tried to kill him in the previous book. Accident People, a secret organization with immense possibilities, decide to keep Charlie's life. Modern medicine is capable of anything (especially in the hands of scum), and now Charlie darned, sewed and brought into consciousness. Our hero has been waiting for a brutal massacre on him, but Accident People surprise him. Charlie is left alive and placed in a secret underground prison. Moreover - Charlie is in charge of the prison, where in addition several dangerous criminals serve time. Getting out of prison is not possible: if someone tries to escape, everybody will die. Meanwhile, Deke Clark, an FBI agent and the only person whom Hardie trusts, at the end of the first book has got a message for help from Charle, and now tries to figure out where his friend is gone and who is behind his abduction.

With sadness we have to admit, but this book is not as good as the first part. After the first book, which was one continuous action, you do not expect that the action will stop, and vice versa - will turn into an anti-action, because what the prison is if not restriction of movement? I would be glad, if «Hell & Gone» would appear a prison novel. But «Hell & Gone» combines with prison novels only that there is also a prison in it. Why dangerous criminals of the world (actually comical characters) were not immediately killed, but placed in the prison from which there is no escape anyway? Motivations, given by the author, I find not convincing. If Accident People wanted to use these prisoners, they would have used them and not held for several years in prison. In addition, the characters gathered in a secret prison are all dumb. There would be no use of them.

Swierczynski has gone too far in this book with coincidences and melodramatism. The first book was strong because the plot was such that a coincidence had no place in it, but you couldn’t find melodramatism there even if you tried hard.

The book is written in the same style as «Fun & Games». In the first book the style combined with the plot successfully: chopped phrases and non-stop action, - but in the second book prison isolation and darkness require long sentences, slowing down the language, but Swierczynski left the patter of the first book, breaking the line between style and plot.

Despite its flaws, the book definitely has something to enjoy. The novel has a great beginning and an unexpected ending. We learn more about Charlie's past life. Fragments of a book on the relationship between Hardie and his late partner are the most stunning here. And the plotline with Deke Clark delivers.

«Hell & Gone», if considered as a bridge to the third part, is a not bad book, but if we consider the novel as a standalone product - it is close to failure.

Whatever it was, I’m looking forward to the third part.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

A Young Man’s Guide to Late Capitalism

Peter Mountford
A Young Man’s Guide to Late Capitalism

Mariner Books, 2011

November 2005. Gabriel de Boya, half-Russian, half-Chilean, but educated as American, arrived in La Paz, Bolivia's de facto capital, as freelancer journalist. In fact, Gabriel is working on unscrupulous hedge fund Calloway. Trip to Bolivia is the first task for Gabriel. Stimulated by the $20,000 monthly salary, Gabriel, without giving himself away, must ferret out insider information for Calloway, thanks to which fund will be able to make the necessary transactions, leading to the enrichment of the company. Calloway actively expands in Latin America, looking for any loopholes. Bolivia, with its rich oil and gas reserves, is in the presidential election. The future of the country's industry will depend on the personality of the president.

In the first days in Bolivia Gabriel meets with the 40-year old journalist Fiona, covering the political life of South America for the Wall Street Journal. Acquaintance quickly turns into a sex relationship. However, neither Gabriel nor Fiona do not bind themselves to any promises or declarations.
Gabriel has accidentally got this job. After graduation he worked as a journalist in business magazines, had the experience. He sent resume - and got a positive response. Gabriel realizes that if he does not pass the first test, he will be fired immediately after his return to New York. Not having some sort of attraction to money, but having lived in poverty, our hero wants to work for Calloway for a few years, accumulating millions of dollars, then to once and for ever forget about financial unrest.

This is a strong debut novel with seemingly not too fresh topic, "What has more power, the money or feeling?", but topic really is fresh. Money there has scale, they’re not domestic. There are millions at stake there, plus the stability of the state's economy.

Mountford makes a call to the reader with his main character. Gabriel is a young man, not too experienced; not a predator, greedy for millions; not a villain, ready for any wickedness; nor schemer. He is a home boy, beloved by his mother and raised in kindness and love. Gabriel is just a little man. Fragile cog of the capitalist system. He wants to get rich, but not in order to become rich and enjoy the incredible luxury. He had suffered in his time. He feels the Chilean blood in his veins, blood mixed with the poor. And this feeling of inferiority does not leave him. Getting involved in big financial game, he still does not realize what transformation can happen to him. Maybe he is aware of it - but he did not stop. And his manipulation by rumors leads to quite unexpected results.

The author pumpes the suspence, and we expect that Gabriel is about to make a mistake. He will be disclosed, he will fail, and he’s waited for the shame and oblivion.

And he makes mistakes, but only in the other way: the way of the senses. He, long before fraud, crossed the line that can not be crossed, and did what you must not do. He knew where it all might lead. And now Gabriel is doomed to loneliness.

Mountford makes an experiment on the reader: can a reader feel for Gabriel, sympathize with him? Who is the hero, the lost souls or dark genius, amoral and descended? The reader, of course, will decide himself.

Author of the book does not provide answers to complex questions posed in the book. Does a lot of money exclude love? How far is a man willing to go to become a millionaire? What causes a person to money, genetic predisposition or education? Human being is an intricate structure. And the economy is arranged no less difficult.

Mountford not only got under the skin of capitalism, but also managed to build a tight plot that spans only a few weeks. Transformation of Gabriel performs in a short time. All the characters are in place, every detail helps to reveal a character. Stylistically, the book reminded me of «Snowdrops» by A.D. Miller (there are similarities in composition as well).

It’s a great book about economy and human feelings.