Monday, March 17, 2008

Book Review: Take No Prisoners by John Grant

Every Monday, I'll be doing spoiler-free book reviews.

Being a relatively "new" (I started reading fantasy in 1995--that still makes me young, right?) reader to the SF&F genre, I must admit that I have never heard of John Grant before and my only experience with him was through a recent story (which I quite enjoyed) in Datlow's latest horror anthology, Inferno. Take No Prisoners was more or less blind reading on my part and if I have any regrets with regards to the book, it's that I didn't discover it sooner. Grant is an excellent writer and it is evident in this collection that his greatest talent is his ability to inject character and humanity into his stories whether it's fantasy, science fiction, mystery, or anything in between. My only complaint with his writing is that at times, the ending is bombarded with information, sort of the reverse exposition. Nonetheless, they are perhaps necessary elements in conveying Grant's ideas, especially when it comes to explaining the science fiction stories. Here's my top three: "Wooden Horse" is the first story and it simply blew me away (and is a great choice when it comes to picking the first story in a collection). It starts out mundanely enough but even then, Grant already ensnares the reader with his well-crafted prose and characterization. However, as it slowly unfolds, this is undeniably a speculative fiction story and while it suffers from the previously-mentioned post-story exposition, this is nonetheless a great read. "A Lean and Hungry Look", on the other hand, showcases Grant's versatility and one gets to enjoy an unconventional murder mystery. The tone at least is very different from his other stories and shows Grant's versatility. My last choice is "Imogen", a compelling story about memory and tragedy. If you want to read well-written stories, you can't go wrong with Take No Prisoners as it tackles a wide array of subject matter and genres. And as I said before, Grant focuses on the humanity of his subjects giving each story a strong emotional resonance.

Rating: 4/5.

Rating System:

1 - There are better ways to spend your time.
2 - Ho hum books, usually typical of its genre. Probably only recommendable to die-hard fans.
3 - A cut above the rest, usually with one or more elements that sets it apart from the norm.
4 - Highly recommended and is easily a pioneer of the genre.
5 - A classic or it will be.

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