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The Week’s Best Book Reviews 6/20/11

[In this feature, we highlight a handful of the best book reviews appearing over the weekend in major newspapers. Follow it here.]

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Tono-Bungay, by H.G. Wells. Reviewed by Michael Dirda (Barnes and Noble Review).

Dirda is a master book reviewer. He has an excellent sense for their balance, how to convey the plot and promise of a book, while also informing on the context of the ideas at hand. Look no further than this review he’s written on a dug-up H.G Wells book I’d never heard of before, for a great example of how to review a book properly (even one more than a century old). Definitely worth a read, and it seems Wells’s novel is too.

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Y refundaron la patria…: De cómo mafiosos y políticos reconfiguraron el Estado colombiano [And They Refounded the Nation…: How Mafiosi and Politicians Reconfigured the Colombian State], by Claudia López Hernández (ed.). Reviewed by Daniel Wilkenson (New York Review of Books).

This is as much a full-on essay as it is a book review, and it works well as both. Colombia is high on the list of places I’d like to visit if I weren’t too chickenshit to go, and this piece certainly validates some of my fears (the picture that leads the essay is an apt accompaniment). Even the good guys in this story (according to U.S. presidents, among others) are scary murderers. When politicians are literally killing each other, one can only imagine the difficulty the people must having teasing fact from fiction and propaganda. This books fixes to do just that, and if Wilkenson’s review is any indication of the level of suspense the book offers, it could be worth the read–assuming you can read Spanish.

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Demon Fish, by Juliet Eiperin. Reviewed by Callum Roberts (Washington Post).

Great white sharks are awesome. I will fight anyone who says otherwise. Despite so many people considering them to be the world’s most fearsome predator, it seems they are actually facing vulnerability as prey. To us. Apparently humans like shark fin soup so much we hunt great whites sharks to the tune of 18 million  per year. If you’re into books with a biological or ecological focus, this definitely seems worth a peek.

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Blood Red Road, by Moira Young. Reviewed by Susan Carpenter (Los Angeles Times).

This looks to be a pretty subtle YA post-apocalyptic tale. I don’t really like the trend of books written as the beginning of a series (if a book is good, then expand it into a series, but don’t start selling me the next two books before I’ve even read the first), but the premise here seems worth interest. This is done in a way that very much makes me want to read this book: “The details are woven in casually, almost as an afterthought, as Saba makes her way across the hardscrabble landscape, happening upon ‘flying machines’ buried in the shifting sands of an abandoned town and the rusting remains of skyscrapers obscured by plants.” As Carpenter points out, it sounds a lot like the kind of thing you’d see in a movie–and Ridley Scott has already optioned it, so it will probably be out around the release of the second book. I’ll start with this one and go from there.

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Bonus Book Trailer: Points for production value.

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