Monday, September 29, 2014

He Wants

Alison Moore
He Wants

Salt Publishing, 2014

There are novels about the mid-life crisis, and there are ones about crisis of retirement days. The protagonist of the novel, Lewis Sullivan, just like his father Lawrence, worked all his life as a R.E. teacher before retirement. With his father, a teacher of the same subject, they worked in the same school, always causing confusion in the paperwork.

Lewis became a E.E. teacher not because he wanted to, but it turned out so, his father set the example, when, in fact, Lewis wanted to teach chemistry, but after a failed experiment he gave it up.
Lewis did have a lot of what he wanted (and wants still), but all his wants remain just that, wants, no more. He always wanted to live near the sea, and lived all his life in the central part of Britain. He wanted to discuss classic literature with his wife, a librarian, but his wife said that the classics were not her thing. He always wanted to read all the books from his library, and when he started to read them, he found that he had already read them, and now what remains is to re-read them.

Now when Lewis’ wife died, his daughter Ruth comes to visit him every day and brings the soup that Lewis does not want to, but eats anyway not to displease the daughter, and it seems there is no point to looking into the future, as the future doesn’t promise that any longstanding desires will come true.

He Wants, nominally, is a novel, but in fact it is a novel in stories. The structure of the novel is whole – it’s not stories united by common characters, or stories strung on a skewer of the main theme. At the same time, each chapter of the book seems to be a separate story, and each links with the next one so that there is a number of well-proportioned stories, with a logical narrative and a natural finale.

In these chapters/stories, Moore, slowly, introduces us to the main characters. In the center of the book is Lewis, and the rest of the characters get a chapter or two, no more. Each chapter is quite self-sufficient to get the pleasure of reading it as a finished product. And almost every chapter of the novel is a Lewis’ want, his unfulfilled desire, his missed opportunity. Lewis’ dominance is broken with the stories about other characters. Thus, Lawrence Sullivan, the father of the hero, is the source of violent laughter, though suddenly you catch yourself that it is not good to laugh at the old and the sick. Chapters about Sydney, Lewis’ school fiend, is most filled with action, once Sydney appears into Lewis’ life, it becomes clear that it will be he who will shake Lewis’s peaceful life.

He Wants is a novel of small actions, almost idle. The plot is minimal, almost nothing happens. Actually, Moore basically describes what doesn’t happen, or rather, what did not happen. Moore tests her reader: will we be able to sympathize (and empathize with) a person who is an absolute conformist? Life is in our hands, as we hear every day from our elders. But does this passivity, inactivity, stiffness a man flawed, defective, bad, in the end? Lewis was adrift all his life, and didn’t find harmony. Yet he was looking for it and still is looking for it, as the harmony itself seems to avoid him. And how this is his fault?

Lewis, like other characters in the book, is a loner. Moore shares this loneliness with her characters: she writes in the third person, with the explicit presence of the narrator in the text. Her narration is sort of mythic, which is the boo’s chapters look like completed stories.

The end probably will excite and surprise. This possible surprise is one weakness of the novel. In the novel, there are just no clues that would indicate such a finale. Hence, you feel somewhat cheated, the ending something appears like from nowhere, without preconditions leading to it.

In any case, it must be admitted that He Wants as a novel definitely is a success. We want more.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

The Golem of Hollywood

Jesse Kellerman, Jonathan Kellerman
The Golem of Hollywood

Putnam, 2014

LAPD Detective Jacob Lev wakes up after a rough night in his apartment with a woman he sees for the first time. She calls herself Mai, goes to take a shower, and then mysteriously disappears. The same day, on Jacob’s doorstep appear two men in suits, Paul and Mel, from the Special Projects department and tell Jacob that he is temporarily transferred to their department, to help with the investigation of a murder. For some time before these events, Jacob, after seven years in homicide, asks his boss to transfer him to a desk job due to depression, and the boss moves Lev to Traffic to work with statistics.

«For most of his adult life, he’d been a high-functioning alcoholic, although sometimes functioning was the operative word, and sometimes it was high. Since his transfer to Traffic, he hadn’t been drinking as much—he hadn’t needed to—and it bothered him that he’d blacked out last night.
Now that he was back in Homicide, he supposed he was entitled.»

Paul and Mel bring Lev to a house in one of the remote areas of Los Angeles. There have been found severed head of a man, a package with vomit and a few words in Hebrew carved in the table’s wood. Woman detective of Indian origin Divya Das at the crime scene explains to Jacob the situation. The body has not been found at the site, there are no signs of a struggle, too, and no other clues. Head of Special Projects (which Jacob has never heard of) Mallick says that Jacob is in charge of the the murder investigation because of his Jewish origin.

After an unsuccessful previous novel Jesse Kellerman, this time in tandem with his more famous father, shoots the bull's eye. The Golem of Hollywood’s genre can be defined as a Jewish novel about a serial killer, but it is better not to define it in any way. It does not fit in any genre framework, although composed of the elements of police procedural, serial killer novel and Biblical apocrypha. A good novel about a serial killer is very hard to write, it is very few people who can do it. The very definition of a serial killer novel has become clichéd. Kellerman Jr. until this book avoided genre conventions, while Kellerman Sr. did quite the opposite – he wrote quite a lot of genre books, unashamedly put them in series, where the number of volumes surpasses two dozens, perhaps. And reading this novel, you guess all the time what parts elements of the book the son wrote, and what the father. I have read, only one Jonathan’s book, but all but one of Jesse’s, so I will not be a good judge, though to me this novel’s style was very Kellerman Jr.-ish. Here we have Jesse’s witty dialogues and his nimble prose. The protagonist Lev here is also the heir to protagonists of Jesse’s previous books, he’s again a strange loner, confused and sometimes funny. Jesse’s father apparently came up with a serial killer plot, police procedural parts and Jewish topic, and theme of fathers and sons was close to both Kellermans.

Main plotline, the police investigation itself, is very intense and very reliable as far as possible considering the supernatural elements. The novel is written in the tradition of Michael Connelly, who also wrote (and writes) deep police procedurals set in Los Angeles. Detective Jacob Lev can be a geek or a daddy's boy, a man with complexes or an alcoholic, but he knows his business. All answers here are not taken from the air, only hard work brings results. Leo uses his head and his legs.

The plot is complicated to the extent. It is not simple, but the simplicity only harms books as this one. And if the novel didn’t have the Jewish line, the novel would already be outstanding. Jewish storyline, apocryphal, is mystical and pretty confusing, not everyone will understand it fully. It helps to understand the events taking place in the present, helping to find answers, but does not give clear answers. As a non-religious person, I was lost in the twists and turns of the Jewish line, and not only lost, but did not understand it.

And this lack of understanding is the understanding itself - understanding of the novel as a whole. «The Golem of Hollywood» deserves comparison with the two other novels, written by Russian writers. These novels are Master and Margarita by Bulgakov and Faculty of unnecessary things by Yuri Dombrowski. In both of these books the main plot line takes place in the present, but there is also a secondary line - the Biblical one. In these books, I did not fully understand the biblical line, but that did not stop to highly praise the contemporary line. The same situation is also with this book: the main line is so good that you can judge the novel considering only this modern part. (However, it is worth noting that the endings in both Master and Faculty are more powerful than "Golem"’s, although I do not think that stylistically Kellerman is weaker than Bulgakov and Dombrowski.) Biblical line gives the depth to the main line, and the entire book makes it something than was never written before.

In this novel, Jesse Kellerman first stepped on the genre territory, but all signs of the genre have been turned on its head. Superb.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

What If?

Randall Munroe
What If?

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2014

Randall Munroe is the creator of the popular web comic xkcd, and a physicist with a degree, who once worked in NASA. I've never read his comics, and in general would never have guessed that Munroe the comics writer and Munroe the author of this book is the same person, if not the press release from the publisher.

Munroe writes quite unpretentious comics, we can say even amateur, and this simplicity is in many ways very suitable format for this book. Munroe the artist helps Munroe the physicist to illustrate the text blocks. Moreover, some fragments are generally similar to the graphic novel.

Munroe not out of the blue has written this non-fiction. He has for more than a year on his website received weird questions from readers and wrote detailed, reasoned answers to them. Weirdest and even worrying questions (like "How many nuclear missiles would have to be launched at the United States to turn it into a complete wasteland?") have gone unanswered, whether because to the fact that they are weird, or because Munroe could not answer to them, but they are included in the book in separate units, often with a humorous response in the comic form.

The questions that deserve an answer got the most detailed answers with calculations, proofs, experiments and sometimes help from scientists from the respective areas. At first glance, the questions themselves seem silly and unworthy of response. I’ll list some questions:

- What would happen if you tried to hit a baseball pitched at 90 percent the speed of light?
- If every person on Earth aimed a laser pointer at the Moon at the same time, would it change color?
- What would happen if everyone on Earth stood as close to each other as they could and jumped, everyone landing on the ground at the same instant?
- In the movie 300 they shoot arrows up into the sky and they seemingly blot out the sun. Is this possible, and how many arrows would it take?

Perhaps, any physicist with proper training can answer these questions,. The problem is that you will not find a solution in a textbook, and you will need to apply your erudition and imagination, to advance even a little closer to the answer.

Since the questions are usually from people who are far from physics, Munroe first sets out the conditions of the problem, and only then begins to consistently solve it. In some questions, you just need to strictly follow the logic, and the answer will come by itself, and in some cases you need to apply some erudition, as there isn’t the only correct answer. The questions themselves are asked by curious people and even geeks, and the book seems to be written just for geeks from science. This does not negate the fact that approximately 90 percent of questions and answers are written in a completely accessible way and will be understood by everyone, from children to senior people. Even if some formulas cause confusion, they can be compensated by pictures.

Not all questions are from the physics. There is a question on mathematics, logic, there are questions from mixed areas. It is important that any of them Munroe treats seriously. That means that the answer to the question will rely on scientific calculations, research, logical assumptions. At the same time, the author is not afraid to joke and even, where possible, jokes heavily, don’t forget that What If? is written for geeks, without humor any geek quickly will be tired.

Well, the most interesting questions are those where Munro in his answers dives into improvisation. The author deliberately think up additional conditions to the problem, expanding his answer, offers the alternative solutions. For example, the question about Lego "How many Lego bricks would it take to build a bridge capable of carrying traffic from London to New York? Have that many Lego bricks been manufactured?". The author obviously enjoys the answer. Initially, he comes up with a floating version of the bridge, then, as a protection against storms, makes the bridge more durable and stable, and then offers a bridge, resting on the sea ground, and finally calculates the cost of the bridge.

In conclusion, Munroe gives an unexpected alternative: why build a bridge when it is possible even for part of the cost to buy the entire real estate in London and ships it to New York?

It is difficult to say whether it is possible to grow wiser after reading this book. It is sure that strange questions start to appear in you head and you want to ask Munroe to answer them.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Violins of Hope

James Grymes
Violins of Hope

Harper Perennial, 2014

The history of the Holocaust in violins - you can describe the contents of this book with this sentence. In six chapters (with a prologue and epilogue) Grymes tells the stories of six violins, and, most importantly, their owners in the days when the Nazis came to power, and during the Second World War. Link between these stories is a violin collector, Amnon Weinstein, who originally made violins and became engaged in their repair, and then went over to collecting them. He created a program in the memory of the victims of the Holocaust called Violins of Hope.

All violins, which will be in the center of the book stories, were in his collection, he also later began collecting stories about these violins. Amnon’s parents in time fled Nazi Germany and escaped to Palestine. Amnon’s father Moshe was a violinist, repair master and music teacher. In Palestine, it was difficult to make a living playing music and giving musical lessons, and Moshe went into commerce, thinking that that thousands of Jews would flock to Palestine with their instruments, and it would be a profitable business, to repair violins.

He gave gis craft to his son, who carefully preserved hundreds of violins that waited for their owners, or at least relatives of the deceased owners.

Grymes starts the history of violins in Nazi Germany from the beginning of the thirties.

Violins of Hope is one of those non-fiction books about people that does not pretend to be fiction. Stories told here speak for themselves, in any language and need no preening. Author Grymes is concise and academically calm. All that happened happened, history has shown what’s what, all sides are known, and there is no need to put pressure on the reader with pity or preaching.

This book is especially good in that: you soak in the will to live, and the author does not even cries till the sore throat to achieve that the whole story come down to us. Grymes has a clean style, and the book even has footnotes.

Musical instruments from the book’s title are only mediums, not violins for the sake of violins. This book is about people, not about violins or music, unless it’s the music of pain and suffering. Violins saved lives and helped to survive and overcome the difficulties almost non-human. At the same time the violin is an an occasion to tell the stories of people, almost all of whom were not even professionals. The whole project "Violins of Hope" allows you to look at the Holocaust at unexpected angles.

The choice of characters in the book, probably, was not accidental. The author would like to give the widest range of victims of the Holocaust, and it worked. Grymes, of course, could not ignore the largest concentration camps with their orcestras, which are known to the public now, and at the same time, Auschwitz and Birkenau are given only one chapter. This is surprising, of course.
Grymes made a large geographic sample, this is another advantage of the book. Here are an almost unknown refugee camp in Mauritius, and the atrocities of the Romanians, and Ukrainian partisans, and Nazism in Norway. As they say, all the facets of fascism.

Grymes easily controls the general historical information. The book is rich in a variety of facts. In Germany during the war there were chemical plants, which produced condoms for the army, and they were called "Sanitary Articles." In Palestine, the Arab uprisings put pressure on the British government as to limit visas for Jews. Those Arabs even blew a ship with refugees, fortunately, the number of deaths was minimal. By the end of the war the heads of the concentration camps almost lost their minds and asked to play the "Internationale."

In addition to these small facts, Grymes is generous with the historical background. Each story is accompanied by a briskly written historical information about the country, a concentration camp atrocities of the Nazis and their allies - so the book becomes a treasure trove of information. In a concise and accessible way, we obtain all the necessary information, which helps to better understand the history of a hero.

The book became a pleasant surprise. Subtle, clear, on the point - and touching, of course.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Sibilant Fricative

Adam Roberts
Sibilant Fricative

NewCon Books, 2014

[The first draft if this review was titled Adam Roberts, Yellow Blue Tibia]

Not only books should entertain, but also book reviews. If the criticism is boring and dull, there is not much sense in reading it, even if it reveals any hidden meanings of reviewed work or points to the book’s strengths. Boring criticism can always be replaced with not so boring prose.

Brit Adam Roberts at first glance (in the literal sense - look at the cover) is far from what might be called an entertainer. Roberts has an academic background, he teaches at the university, and also writes science fiction. Overall, not a clown or a stand-up comedian. But Roberts-critic and Roberts-reviewer (perhaps it is this side of Roberts is responsible for this book) both entertain the reader with reviews populating this collection.

The collection could well use the title Punkadiddle, so was called now closed blog, where the reviewer over four years posted his reviews on books and movies. Best from this blog, as well as reviews from online venues, and became part of Sibilant Fricative, a collection which has taken the title of another, new, Roberts’ blog.

For me, who has been following Roberts’s publications on the Internet, Sibilant Fricative became an occasion to re-read and recall the most memorable reviews (it’s a pity that the book, as opposed to the internet, is limited in size, and the collection did not include much of the rest). Since the book was published by a genre publisher collected, reviews on books and movies have also been limited to one genre (in fact, the book is divided into two parts, «Science Fiction» and «Fantasy»). Limited print run (while the digital version is available) is unlikely to help the promotion of book and, most importantly, the author's name to the masses.

And that’ll be loss for the readers. Roberts is definitely among the top five British reviewers, stuck somewhere between the genres. He can read the dullest fantasy, and can casually review Booker short list in its entirety. He is always looking for something new in the literature, but not disgusted by musty space opera. Roberts is a heir to John Clute and a colleague of Paul Kincaid, but will compete with Adam Mars-Jones, with whom they shared Guardian pages, Roberts has not yet made it to London Books Review.

Speaking of newspapers. Roberts almost has not been published in the newspapers, only in his blog (blogs) and SF online venues. Was he rejected or just doesn’t want it himself? Rather, the latter. Newspaper frankly will be too tight for Roberts. It's not just the space. The book contains either very tiny reviews and detailed reviews in several parts. The critic will be constrained by the form but not the space. What other reviewer in his sane mind will review all parts of Robert Jordan's "Wheel of Time" series, or will write a twitter review, or even choose to review not in the prosaic form, but poetic? Such liberties Guardian, or Locus (for example) would not stand.

Sometimes experiments with form have negative consequences. For example, from a review of The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi written in the mocking form of a poem by Robert Browning you hardly will have an impression of the novel, just will applaud to Roberts’ creative abilities. And sometimes these experiments seem pampering and splurge: I can do this and that. And I can write a review with a glossary. Which, of course, does not negate the author’s talent.

If Roberts wrote only entertaining, he would have remained at the same level with a million Amazon reviewers. Roberts is well-read and educated. He can place any book in literary context, not just say is it good or bad, Roberts-academic gets in his reviews in the form of an abundance of quotations and references. Roberts is capable of almost chapter-by-chapter analysis of an unpublished Tolkien, with his heavy vocabulary, as well as lightweight or moronic thriller\space opera. Roberts can pick in a book, can dissect a book - and this is a quality that I value very high in the criticism.

Having written all this, I must now answer two questions. First, and whether you want to buy this book, given that the paper edition is not cheap (but digital one is)? My answer is positive. On paper these reviews are read more carefully than on the net, and has another advantage: while reading the rest of the Internet is not distracting you. In addition, the blog where reviews were posted from the collection, is now closed (and not everyone, as I have, at one time has saved the posts from the blog to his HDD).

The second question is what statement actually gives this book? Those who wanted, has long ago discovered, read and appreciated Roberts’ writing. And now still can read him on the Internet.

Sibilant Fricative release secured Adam Roberts’ status of an important British critic (ie, just critic, not just the genre critic) - that is the importance of this book. Prior to the release of the collection Roberts was one of, but not much more. Now, with the book of reviews under his belt, the world officially has to acknowledge Roberts-reviewer, as previously acknowledged Roberts-writer and Roberts-academic. Not every reviewer has published the collection of reviews. Even Adam Mars-Jones has not.

Given all this, you do have just not one reason to avoid reading this important and necessary book.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot

David Shafer
Whiskey Tango Foxtrot

Mulholland Books, 2014

Three main characters of this novel have different ways of life and live at different places on the planet. With the development of the plot their destinies intertwine in unexpected ways, and it is worth noting that two of the three heroes already know each other.

Of these three characters is only one woman, young, exotic Asian working in a non-profit organization based in the United States Leila Majnoun. Leila arrives with humanitarian aid to Myanmar. Her mission is to scout out the situation, find out what help the state needs to provide the best. Regardless of gender, Leila is a brave, courageus woman, with the ability to overcome difficulties. And difficulties Leila has plenty. Her cargo was taken to the military customs. A local general who handles things avoids her. She has almost no allies in the country. In case of emergency no one will come to rescue her. The only help she has is a local taxi driver, but he is powerless against the army. In an attempt to find this general Leila and the taxi driver pulls into a kind of base near the jungle where Leila accidentally sees two mercenaries who speak English guarding something important and secret, otherwise no one would hire the elite troops for protection.

Two other characters of the novel, Mark Deveraux and Leo Crane, once were friends in college, but they parted ways after graduation. Mark settled in Brooklyn, thanks to the success of his debut book in the self help genre, which has sold a huge number of copies. Now Mark is writing his second book, and becomes something of a personal guru/mentor for the boss of a large corporation SineCo James Straw. The big boss was impressed with Mark’s book and as Mark has signed a contract with a subsidiary company of SineCo, that in fact Mark is already working on Straw.

Lifepath of Leo Crain is significantly different from Mark’s. Leo is a failure, with the possible psychological and mental health problems. The son of wealthy parents, he and his several sisters received an inheritance in the form of a company for the production of games and now live on that. Leo abundantly uses drugs, drinks in the morning, is not stable, does not stay long on one job.
David Shafer is a talented writer. He's a great stylist, he has the experience, the characters in his book are full-blooded people. And this talented writer has written not entirely successful novel. «Whiskey Tango Foxtrot» as a thriller is mediocre enough to forget its plot in a few weeks, as a drama, or High Literature, the novel is too uneven and subordinated to a thriller story, as near future SF , it is not cooked enough and with a bend in the theory.

The first half of Whiskey Tango Foxtrot is wonderful. I especially liked how Shafer lets us wonder in the mist and is not in a hurry to open the cards. Under the cards I have in mind the theory of a larger conspiracy: the three central characters as if just live their lives, overcome their difficulties, each struggling with his or her loneliness. In the first third of the book there is no hint to science fiction at all, it's good-quality prose about young professionals. It would be better novel if it remained in this vein - a bitter statement on the harsh reality.

And the characters in fact are all close to the heart, the new American generation, no longer kidults, not yet formed adults, spitting on ideals. The most prominent is Leila, fragile Asian-American, rotating in the men's militarized society, but not even thinking that at any time she can be raped (such an idea only once visited the heroine). Mark of the trio of characters is least sympathetic to us, because of this he’ll get the main mission - to rehabilitate himself in front of friends, himself and humanity in general.

Once Shafer introduces his theory of digital conspiracy plot as the slender design of the novel begins to sag. The idea of a storage server for all the information about the people living on the planet is not new. Only in the last year I have read a few works with a similar idea. And every time the world conspiracy theory with an emphasis on the accumulation of digital information has no valid arguments. This idea usually is built on the arguments usually vague. How really ownership of all the digital information about people can lead to total control over the people? Shafer builds some shaky structure of the future, with no real backups. And since evil can not impress and scare enough, then the threat to peace seems phantom. All the arguments in this case are reduced to the commonplace "to spy on people is bad." This we already know.

Unable to build a potent image of the enemy, Shafer throws his heroes to fight against windmills. Both secret community are so smooth, they do not have any form at all. The mission of the trinity against mythical evil is also doubtful. As in the worst examples of literature of adventure, the world from destruction is necessarily saved by the amateurs. Secret organization entirely relies on the wild girl, alcoholic and plagiarist - apparently the situation inside the organization was quite bad, if it would need to use help of unbalanced people.

The second half of the novel is quite a burden to read. The first one slowly build a story, and that was a plus to the novel. We did in fact read a mainstream novel. The second part is already full thriller, shamelessly overlong, sweetened with melodrama between Leo and Leila, predictable and linear. Shafer writes in the second half still brilliantly, but the story buries stylistic clarity under itself.

Talented author Shafer stumbled with this debut. He writes charmingly, but the plot of this book is very much shaky like tango after whiskey. Or foxtrot after whiskey. There is probably no difference.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Saving Houdini

Michael Redhill
Saving Houdini

Harper Collins Canada, 2014

12-year-old Canadian Dashiel (Dash) Woolf with his parents goes to a special magical performance by Bloom the Beguiler, a special show to mark the 85th anniversary of the death of Harry Houdini. Terrified Dash is suddenly chosen by the magician to take part in the trick with the disappearance, and the boy can not refuse.

Dash gets into a special steel circle around him, the trick begins - and Dash is suddenly transported through time. The boy finds himself in the same circus hall, only with empty tribunes and the owner of the club which does not understand where the damn boy appeared from.

Dash examines the streets of Toronto, everything to him seems wonderful, yet he does not recognize his own city. In turn, Dash’s clothing and hairstyle seem strange to others. The saleswoman feeds him for free (nobody accept Dash’s new coins), barber offers him a free cut. Dash agrees to get rid of the eye-catching hairdo. There, in the barber shop, Dash accidentally meets with a boy of his age, Walter Gibson. Walter first bullies Dash, then tries to get rid of him. Dash comes to Walter’s house, pretending to be a friend of Walt and does not refuse to have breakfast with the family. Dash tells Walter that he has come from the future to 1926, and although Walter does not believe him at first, the seed of doubt settles somewhere in his head.

YA novels and SF about time travel is not something that mutually exclusive, more like the secret enemies. This subgenre of science fiction is pretty battered so that it is hard to come up with something original. YA books often require clarity and simplicity, and mix it with the time travel SF, and we will get only completely banality - simplicity, multiplied by the obviousness.
Author of historical novels Redhill is not trying to reinvent the wheel, or rather a time machine, just follow the rules and formulas. Result is if not spectacular, but well above the average. Saving Houdini uses SF as a genre as a plot device. Redhill needs to place his teenage hero to the past, familiar to Redhill surroundings, and at the same time to create a conflict. Thus with the the disappearance trick Redhill kills two birds with one stone. Canada of the Twenties gives the author a chance to write what he knows, and moving into the past becomes an occasion for protagonist to travel around.

Redhill does not abuse his knowledge of history. In the novel, the amount of so-called infodumping is kept to a minimum. The author focuses on the mission of the protagonist, not on the small historical references. There are enough of light touches, so Toronto appeares before our eyes as real.

At the beginning of the novel, when Dash only surfaces in the past, Redhill plays on the dichotomy of past and present. Clothing, hair, money, speech of Dash differ from these same things in the past. Redhill is seeking, for example, the comic element, when Dash uses youth or internet slang to talk with Walter, who, not understanding simple things, asks explanation. Or in the second half of the book Dash gives advise to Walter to collect comic books or cards with baseball players, then to make a fortune on them.

This method has a limited effect, and Redhill, knowing that you should not rely solely on verbal humor, almost gives it up in the second half of the novel. But even without slang you can find lots of interesting things there. Wild trip by train, the pursuit from police and social services, assistance in setting tricks, rich dialogues with Houdini - with all the ease of writing and predictable plot the book will top dozens of thrillers for adults.

Houdini's image in the novel deserves a separate discussion. The famous magician in the book is a good man, trusting, thoughtful, brave, easy with children. This is a bit naive portrait, of course, but Houdini seems sympathetic to the reader. He is such a superhero of an old era, when there was no Superman or Captain America.

The novel is highly recommended not only for children but also for adults.