THE Lion (Grand Central, 562 pages, $11), by acclaimed American novelist Nelson DeMille, is a sequel to 2000's The Lion's Game, in which NYPD detective John Corey teamed up with FBI agent Kate Mayfield to apprehend the terrorist Asad Khalil. He got away, though, and in this followup, set a few years after the events of 9/11, Khalil resurfaces, continuing his vendetta against a lengthy list of enemies -- and now Corey's name has been added to the list.
As a companion to the earlier book, The Lion works very well. They might have been published a decade apart, but they fit together pretty much seamlessly, a one-two punch that delivers action, drama, and some highly memorable visual imagery.
DeMille is an excellent storyteller. His characters feel like real people, not cardboard cut-outs, and the action feels as though it springs from the story, and isn't just thrown in to keep the reader interested.
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Florida's Steve Berry is a bit clunkier, but he gets the job done. His popular thrillers featuring former intelligence operative Cotton Malone are heavy on action and historical intrigue but rather lighter on character development.
Even so, The Jefferson Key (Ballantine, 577 pages, $12), the latest Malone novel, is awfully hard to dislike.
Malone, who used to be a sort of super-secret spy, is now a civilian, but that doesn't stop him from getting mixed up in one elaborate conspiracy after another. This time out he saves the life of the American president and winds up going toe-to-toe with the Commonwealth, an ancient society of pirates (no kidding) that has apparently been murdering presidents on a regular basis since the mid-1800s.
The sheer audacity of the story, combined with the author's wide-eyed enthusiasm, makes the book a light but very entertaining read.
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You've probably heard that Steven Spielberg is making a movie out of Robopocalypse (Vintage, 396 pages, $19), Daniel H. Wilson's near-future novel about a robot uprising. If that hasn't already made you read the book, then try this: the novel is imaginative and eerily plausible, not to mention extremely well written.
Like Max Brooks's World War Z (about a zombie war), the novel is a fake oral history. It's a frightening scenario: an artificial intelligence, created in a lab, quickly seizes control of the world's intelligent machines -- servile robots, automobiles, and so on -- and instructs them to wipe out humanity.
Wilson, who lives in Portland, Ore., takes the premise about as far as he can without making it ridiculous, and the structure of the book (the tale is told through a series of survivor stories) makes it feel like an historical document and not the product of a writer's imagination.
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Autumn: Aftermath (Thomas Dunne, 388 pages, $17) is the concluding volume of David Moody's five-volume post-zombie-apocalypse saga that focuses on small groups of men and women trying to survive in an increasingly barren Britain.
Characters from the earlier books come together here, in an ancient castle on the English coast, making their last stand against the living undead.
Moody, who hails from Birmingham in England, is one of the better zombie novelists working today (and, in case you haven't noticed, there are a lot of people writing about zombies lately).
The Autumn novels aren't your typical run-away-before-they-eat-you stories. In tone they're much more like the TV series The Walking Dead: carefully drawn characters, dramatic images of a society in rapid decay, with an ever-present danger lurking just outside the safety of a survivors' stronghold. A splendid series of creepily realistic books.
Halifax freelancer writer David Pitt's column runs on the first
weekend of the month.