BOOKS | Charles Baxter’s “The Soul Thief”: A numbing experience

As I began this review, I knew that I was going to write about the failings of the novel and how I disliked it and found it a chore to read. As I wrote, though, I realized that as much as I disliked The Soul Thief, I’d come to appreciate Minneapolis author Charles Baxter’s ability to pull me into a world of pessimism and despair. It is not a place I choose to reside permanently or usually even visit willingly, but I appreciate Baxter’s power as a writer to slowly steal my own optimism as I drudged through his novel. Nathaniel Mason, a graduate student with a sad life, slowly loses his history, his identity, and perhaps his soul to Jerome Coolberg, a Faust-like character who takes a shining to him. The novel navigates through Nathaniel’s life and thoughts as he struggles to understand the relationships he has constructed with Theresa, his cute fellow coed; Jamie, the (less attractive but more intriguing) taxi-driving artist; his own family, including his sister who calls him but does not speak; Coolberg, who knows private, personal details that Nathaniel has not shared with anyone; and ultimately, himself. Continue Reading

BOOKS | John Sandford’s “Wicked Prey” opens a Pandora’s Box of moral uncertainty

In John Sandford’s Prey novels, which paint the Twin Cities as dark as Gotham City, the noble but fault-ridden hero Lucas Davenport leads his own justice league of crackpot superheroes to rescue the victims of outrageous crimes. Far less moral than Superman, Lucas and his team of Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) agents are equally diligent yet far funnier and more human than those characters. While their humanity makes them entertaining and at times unlikable, they solve crimes and implement a form of justice that feels more satisfying (albeit disturbing) than traditional American heroes. Lucas Davenport is dirty. He is a hunter. Continue Reading