I've read a few books this summer, and I felt like talking about them. You with me so far?
Gorky Park (1981) by Michael Cruz Smith - This is one of my favorite books. The lead character, Arkady Renko, is a chief investigator for the Moscow police, and he is assigned to uncover the brutal murder of three mutilated bodies in Gorky Park. The book offers a very clever, very engaging mystery with enough action, romance and detective skills to lend itself into a good movie (which came out two years later and had a wonderful cast featuring such men as Lee Marvin, William Hurt and Brian Dennehy). Smith paints a portrait of Soviet society that is neither scathing nor apologetic. It simply presents the world as it was, objective and vivid. Gorky Park is a very enjoyable read and I recommend it to everyone.
Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (1968) by Philip K. Dick - This is the book that inspired the fantastic cyber noir Blade Runner. Unlike the novel discussed above, the novel and film are very different, outside of a few basic ideas and themes. Surprisingly, though, they both hold up on their own. Truth be told, I'm not a terribly big Dick fan (gay pun lol). His books are alright, but they don't take hold of me like they obviously have for other people. However, DADES is definitely the best of his works I've read. It still has the usual Phil K. Dick problems and nonsense, but not as much as usual and the story is really great. There are little visions of the future that seem absolutely ridiculous now, and the whole Mercerism storyline is absolutely stupid. However, the book has probably the single best portrayal of how androids would probably act if they ever come to exist. I would probably rate the film higher, but the book is certainly worth reading.
Santa Steps Out (2000) by Robert Devereaux - The tagline of this novel proclaims itself as "A Fairty Tale for Grown-ups," and reading the first pages makes it seem like something really out of this world. Essentially, Santa is seduced by the Tooth Fairy, who brings out his hidden sexual lust. Santa's ejaculate turning into candycanes and the Tooth Fairy eating teeth and shitting out coins is a hoot, and the backstory of what the fantasty creatures of Santa, the Tooth Fairy, the Easter Bunny, etc., used to be offers great potential for story. However, the possibilities are never capitalized on. Instead, the book devolves into pornography. I have never read a romance novel, but even those can't be as brimming with descriptions of sexual interaction as this is. Every chapter is saturated with sex. While I certainly have no problems with sex in reality or sex described in books, after a while of reading Santa banging someone, it gets incredibly tedious and repetitive, no matter how many new angles Devereaux throws in (on a side note, looking at Devereaux's picture and reading his mini-biography in the back of the book, he reminds me of Will Ferrell's Professor Roger Klarvin character from SNL). It's a shame that the sex wasn't cut down and the mythological back story was never fully fleshed out beyond brief respites from cunnilingus.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (2007) by J.K. Rowling - I can't imagine anyone reading this book if they haven't already read the rest, so I guess this review is in conjunction, or at least consideration of, the other six books. This was ultimately a good read, but it took a while for it to gain any traction, and was honestly a bit of a chore for at least the first 1/3 of the book. Anytime Rowling writes romance into her book, it is really horrible and funny at the same time, but towards the end (minus the epilogue), I thought she handled it really well. I didn't even mind the epilogue so much; it was just stupid. Some of the deaths were handled really well, others not so much. I think I enjoyed all of the resolutions of plotlines, and Snape's story went about as well as I could have expected. Overall, if you liked the other six books, this one shouldn't be a disappointment. That said, what I appreciated about the early books mostly had to do with the school and little kids learning about themselves, and this obviously didn't have any of that. On the other hand, I suppose Harry became more of a three dimensional person and slightly less of a crybaby. He went a little less emo and a little more dark, but he found the light he needed to, and at the end of the day, there are few complaints to be had about the way the series wrapped up.