Sound the Alarm
Booker T. Jones
Sound the Alarm marks the return of Booker T. Jones to the recently revived Stax Records, where in the ’60s he got his start with his band Booker T. and the MGs and where he played his Hammond B3 organ with soul greats too numerous to list.
But compared with his last two albums, 2009’s excellent Potato Hole (with the Drive-By Truckers) and 2011’s even better The Road from Memphis (with The Roots), this one is less Stax-like and, sadly, less satisfying.
Sound the Alarm focuses on contemporary urban soul, and although he had a hand in writing all the songs, Jones often takes a backseat to young singers such as Mayer Hawthorne, Jay James, Anthony Hamilton, Kori Withers (Bill’s daughter) and Estelle. They acquit themselves nicely, though one can’t help but want Jones to play a more prominent role: the five instrumentals are the standouts, especially Father Son Blues (with his son Ted Jones on guitar) and Austin Blues Idea (with guitarist Gary Clark Jr. mining Steve Cropper licks).
— Steve Klinge
A DELICATE TRUTH
John le Carre
John le Carre is back with his 23rd novel, A Delicate Truth. And if fans have been disappointed with some of the author’s more recent efforts, which at times flirted with becoming didactic screeds, A Delicate Truth is an uneven but still satisfying return to stylish, taut storytelling.
Christopher “Kit” Probyn is nearing the end of a loyal, though not entirely satisfying, diplomatic career when he is summoned by the overbearing Minister Fergus Quinn to be his eyes and ears on a sensitive mission on the British colony of Gibraltar: the snatch of a jihadist arms dealer.
British Special Operations forces are working with a team of American mercenaries from a company called Ethical Outcomes and its sleazy head, Jay Crispin. In the chaos of the mission, Kit is led to believe all went well.
Years pass, and a now comfortably retired Kit is confronted by Jeb, the leader of the British team that fateful night, who informs him the rendition was an abject failure, leading only to the collateral-damage killings of an innocent Arab woman and her child.
At the same time a savvy foreign service officer, Toby Bell, has gone to work for Quinn and becomes consumed with uncovering what really happened on Gibraltar. Kit and Toby forge a tense alliance, and since this is a le Carre novel, unpleasantries will ensue.
Le Carre’s storylines often shift quickly back and forth in time, demanding the reader keep up with the pace. But it’s a worthwhile ride to tag along with a writer who, even at 81, can still spin a crackling yarn with a strong narrative and richly textured, nuanced characters.
— Daniel Ruth
Tampa Bay Times
INJUSTICE: GODS AMONG US
Superman installs himself as king of the world in Injustice: Gods Among Us, the new game from the people behind Mortal Kombat. This is the Superman of an alternate Earth, and “our” Justice League has to go in there and fix it. With lots of punching.
Injustice is a one-on-one fighting game where tricky button combos and smart use of special abilities will win the day. The roster includes two dozen of DC Comics’ bravest and boldest: Batman. Wonder Woman. The Flash. Bane. The Joker. The lineup includes a few deep cuts that will surprise DC fans, and even deeper cuts can be found hidden in the game’s various backgrounds and locales.
Injustice aims to be more accessible than the finger-twisting button-mashers of old, with less reliance on arcane input combos. With the rewarding fun of literally tossing enemies through walls, you have an extremely visual, hilariously exciting fight.
And it is funny. The violence is all outrageous, not gory. Superman power-punches characters into the stratosphere. Batman tags in the Batmobile for a hit-and-run. The Flash runs around the world to deliver a knockout blow. Despite these catastrophic attacks, at the end of each fight, the losing character merely crouches in exhaustion.
The storyline is mostly awful. The key thing is that the fights are fun, and that enough incredible action happens that new players will feel like they’ve orchestrated a colossal superhero throwdown. Experienced gamers will find plenty to master, like the game’s difficult extra modes and STAR Labs challenges.
— Joe Fourhman