Running from the Law: 3 Follow-up Novels and a Book About an Asshat

Friday, October 2, 2009

3 Follow-up Novels and a Book About an Asshat

I have four books on my shelf right now that are seriously calling my name. I’ve asked them repeated to “please shut the hell up and wait your turn,” but they don’t listen…you know how books are. Three of these particular books are speaking to me mainly because they are follow-up novels by authors that I really enjoyed the first go-round, Audrey Niffennegger, Jonathan Safran Foer and Dan Brown. When I bought them, I didn’t even know what they were about (I didn’t read the back covers), but I knew I must read them immediately. I need to know if they’re just as good (or possibly, even better!) than the previous novels. Could that even be possible? Only time will least the reviews below don't sound too bad.
And just for good measure, I wanted to throw in one more book that I’m dying to read. Something horrible and scandalous and dirty. The fourth novel is a book that's been getting a lot of press lately (particularly in the legal community) and has recently been made into a movie.
At least one of these babies is going on the camping trip with me this weekend. Anyone have a recommendation?

1. Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger

Amazon: Following her breakout bestseller, The Time Traveler's Wife, Audrey Niffenegger returns with Her Fearful Symmetry, a haunting tale about the complications of love, identity, and sibling rivalry. The novel opens with the death of Elspeth Noblin, who bequeaths her London flat and its contents to the twin daughters of her estranged twin sister back in Chicago. These 20-year-old dilettantes, Julie and Valentina, move to London, eager to try on a new experience like one of their obsessively matched outfits. Historic Highgate Cemetery, which borders Elspeth's home, serves as an inspired setting as the twins become entwined in the lives of their neighbors: Elspeth's former lover, Robert; Martin, an agoraphobic crossword-puzzle creator; and the ethereal Elspeth herself, struggling to adjust to the afterlife.

2. The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown

Amazon: Let's start with the question every Dan Brown fan wants answered: Is The Lost Symbol as good as The Da Vinci Code? Simply put, yes. Brown has mastered the art of blending nail-biting suspense with random arcana (from pop science to religion), and The Lost Symbol is an enthralling mix. The Lost Symbol begins with an ancient ritual, a shadowy enclave, and of course, a secret. Readers know they are in Dan Brown territory when, by the end of the first chapter, a secret within a secret is revealed. To tell too much would ruin the fun of reading this delicious thriller, so you will find no spoilers here. Suffice it to say that as with many series featuring a recurring character, there is a bit of a formula at work (one that fans will love). Again, brilliant Harvard professor Robert Langdon finds himself in a predicament that requires his vast knowledge of symbology and superior problem-solving skills to save the day. The setting, unlike other Robert Langdon novels, is stateside, and in Brown's hands Washington D.C. is as fascinating as Paris or Vatican City. And, as with other Dan Brown books, the pace is relentless, the revelations many, and there is an endless parade of intriguing factoids that will make you feel like you are spending the afternoon with Robert Langdon and the guys from Mythbusters.

3. Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer

Amazon: Oskar Schell, hero of this brilliant follow-up to Foer's bestselling Everything Is Illuminated, is a nine-year-old amateur inventor, jewelry designer, astrophysicist, tambourine player and pacifist. Like the second-language narrator of Illuminated, Oskar turns his naïvely precocious vocabulary to the understanding of historical tragedy, as he searches New York for the lock that matches a mysterious key left by his father when he was killed in the September 11 attacks, a quest that intertwines with the story of his grandparents, whose lives were blighted by the firebombing of Dresden. Foer embellishes the narrative with evocative graphics, including photographs, colored highlights and passages of illegibly overwritten text, and takes his unique flair for the poetry of miscommunication to occasionally gimmicky lengths, like a two-page soliloquy written entirely in numerical code. Although not quite the comic tour de force that Illuminated was, the novel is replete with hilarious and appalling passages, as when, during show-and-tell, Oskar plays a harrowing recording by a Hiroshima survivor and then launches into a Poindexterish disquisition on the bomb's "charring effect." It's more of a challenge to play in the same way with the very recent collapse of the towers, but Foer gambles on the power of his protagonist's voice to transform the cataclysm from raw current event to a tragedy at once visceral and mythical. Unafraid to show his traumatized characters' constant groping for emotional catharsis, Foer demonstrates once again that he is one of the few contemporary writers willing to risk sentimentalism in order to address great questions of truth, love and beauty.

4. I Hope They Serve Beer In Hell by Tucker Max

Premise: I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell published by Kensington Press, is 277 pages of non-stop drinking, debauchery and fornication. It's a collection of stories that track a man from law school to a life of complete indulgence. With blunt honesty the author recounts the true exploits that garnered him women, cult infamy and a six-figure income. This anthology captivates the reader with its humor and complete absurdity.

From the Intro: “My name is Tucker Max, and I am an asshole. I get excessively drunk at inappropriate times, disregard social norms, indulge every whim, ignore the consequences of my actions, mock idiots and posers, sleep with more women than is safe or reasonable, and just generally act like a raging dickhead. But, I do contribute to humanity in one very important way: I share my adventures with the world.”

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