Book Review: 'Skinner'

Critic Alan Cheuse has a review of Charlie Huston's new book, Skinner.

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Charlie Huston is a Los Angeles-based writer known for his superhero comic books and crime novels. Alan Cheuse couldn't wait to get his hands on Huston's latest thriller called "Skinner." Here's his review.

ALAN CHEUSE, BYLINE: Charlie Huston's 2010 novel "Sleepless" bowled me over. What a powerful combination of combustible plot and fiery language. So here's his new novel in my hands. It's called "Skinner," and it's a huge letdown. Skinner, of the title, is a high-level international bodyguard. He's made a career in what his customers call asset protection. Skinner is his nickname because his parents raised him as a grand experiment in one of those experimental environments made famous by the behavioral psychologist B.F. Skinner.

Reward desired or good behavior, punish undesirable or bad behavior and you'll make a great rat or child. That's the theory anyway. Unfortunately for Skinner, his early life has turned him into a great killer as an adult. When there's a rumored threat coming out of India about a plot to destroy a large part of America's infrastructure, the secret powers that be hire a roboticist named Jae to find out the threat. They hire Skinner to protect Jae and protect her he does.

Guns go off. Bodies fall. And happy for him, this lonely boy from the box falls in love with the roboticist even as Western civil life seems to be coming down around their ears. All this comes to us tricked out in a blinding avalanche of 21st century event-pack rhetoric that sounds like a blend of William Gibsonish future patter and Thomas Pynchonese conspiracy mash. Huston writes: What has happened before are any number of things that feel similar - 9/11, the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan, London subway bombings, Bombay attack, Madrid bombings, Asian tsunami, European heat wave, Darfur, Somali pirates and so on and so on - into a novel I couldn't wait to read and found terribly disappointing.

CORNISH: Charlie Huston's latest book "Skinner." It was reviewed for us by Alan Cheuse who teaches writing at George Mason University.

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