August-September (2022) reads

This is a bit of a late post. My last reads compilation was two months ago. Since then, I’ve managed to finish four books. As usual, I’ll only review three of them, with one nonfiction text. Golden Days by Jack McCallum was first. The book juxtaposes the 72 Lakers squad with the current Warriors dynasty. Basketball legend, Jerry West, acts as the bridge between these two eras. Next up is The 15th Affair by James Patterson. As per the title, this marks the fifteenth entry in his Women’s Murder Club series. The book provided a good change of pace and Patterson’s literary universe was a welcome respite. Finally, it took me a while and I had to stop and start but I finally managed to get through Upgrade, Blake Crouch’s latest. The work reminded me of this indie film with the same title.

1. Golden Days (McCallum). I try to read basketball books when I can, being a hoops fan growing up in a b-ball crazed country. You wouldn’t find them in the library; hence, I get the ebooks. As mentioned, Golden Days chronicles two great dynasties. It gave a blow by blow analysis of the Lakers’s 33 game win streak. This still stands as the longest run in American pro sports. Aside from West, we get acquainted with the other Laker greats, including Elgin Baylor, the late Wilt Chamberlain, and Gail Goodrich. The fact that they played three nights in a row only mystifies this achievement.

The book though isn’t just about victories and jump shots. McCallum foregrounds the racial tensions in 70s America. He illustrates how the status quo still maintains remnants of racial discrimination. He asserts that the game has changed. He also looks at Coach Bill Sharman, the former Celtic great who fused all the Laker talent and turned them into a world beater. He also instituted the shoot around, which has become a staple in the association. Apart from the Lakers, he sets aside time for Oscar Robertson, the triple double machine. He pits the latter against West, a very apt comparison considering their shared timeline. He likewise dissects Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, who would win five championships with the Lakers in the 80s.

By canvassing the Warriors, he unpacks the current crop of super teams. He talks about Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. West became a team consultant to the Warriors, creating a winning culture. Together with owner Joe Lacob, the Dubs have become the premier team in basketball. McCallum also synthesises the tech mogul invasion, where Silicon Valley billionaires buy into the league. Throughout the book, the author uses clear and riveting language. I got hooked from the start. The profiles of gamers, owners, and big names only spices up a loaded read. This was a lovely treat for basket watchers.

Rating: 4.7/5

2. The 15th Affair (Patterson). This marks my first foray into this series. This instalment sees Detective Lindsay Boxer as she attempts to solve a triple murder in a San Fran hotel. While seemingly a routine elimination at first, Boxer and her adept team soon realise that this may not be a random slaying. She utilises the help of her other friends including Claire, the chief medical officer and Yuki, a District Attorney. As she tends to her toddler, her seemingly perfect life is unravelled. Her husband is hiding things from her and the conundrum has hit close to home.

I loved the twists and subplots. The author knows the tricks of the trade and utilises them well. The work is full of vanishing mirrors and stuff and action pervades every chapter. The author knows how to demarcate his storylines, with short but bitey chapters. He even manages to put an Oriental spin in the plot. Patterson managed to implicate seemingly all the important security agencies in the country and he does so admirably. He seldom strays from the correct working procedure. He even has a blonde bombshell doing the dirty work. I finished this 400 page book in six days. Once you pop some Patterson, the pages turn quickly. If I had a regret, it’s that I should’ve perused this series sooner.

Rating: 4.6/5

3. Upgrade (Crouch). I’ll be honest about this one: it was one of the more challenging books I’ve tackled this year. Other readers have felt the same way, as their reviews and ratings suggest. The main hindrance is that Upgrade deals with gene modifications. People could read more, remember more, and react quicker. Logan Ramsay has been chosen for an upgrade. Now, he can beat his daughter every time in chess. He can recall sensations and every word from ten years past. He can read dense books in hours. However, his increased intelligence makes him a target. Soon, he yearns to find out how this happened. He ends up being a prisoner and a Guinea pig for greedy scientists and government agents.

Soon, he learns that he’s not the only one upgraded. An evil genius from his distant past persevered to release the upgrade. She thinks that this was the only way to save humanity. However, her calculations weren’t entirely precise. The upgrade isn’t only a levelling up but it also brings some hideous side effects. Logan races against time to stop this, but the odds are stacked against him. The so called ends of humanity is at the core of this narrative. Would you be prepared to sacrifice so much to save your race? Would you be prepared to kill your loved ones, seeing them as collateral damage in your quest?

This is my second Crouch book, after Recursion. No doubt, I much prefer the latter. Upgrade was like Big Bang Theory on steroids. It was not a very pleasant experience. It took about a month to crest this and even then I had to digest it bit by bit. I thought a few times about quitting due to the dense language but I rarely read sci fi books. Once I’ve invested a hundred pages, it seemed unreasonable to just move on. Before I forget: the book had a surfeit of lists. Any avid reader of my site will know that I dislike them. Upgrade had too many ‘dandelions’ and some had like twenty items. As with other book genres: choose carefully and choose wisely.

Rating: 3.65/5

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