Bridgey's 2016 Reading
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Another year and my 6th on Librarything. :)
As before I will keep a running book total at the top and add review posts as and when I find the time.
This year I hope to try and keep more in touch with other people's reading threads, so please feel free to leave a message or post links to your own threads.
All the best
1 - The Better World of Reginald Perrin - David Nobbs ****
2 - The Nazi Hunters - Damien Lewis ****
3 - And Then There Were None - Agatha Christie ****
4 - Raise the Titanic - Clive Cussler ****
5 - Night of the Crabs - Guy N Smith **
6 - The Revenant: A Novel of Revenge - Michael Punke *****
7 - The Shrinking Man - Richard Matheson **
8 - Green River High - Duncan Kyle ****
9 - Trustee from the Tool Room - Nevil Shute *****
10 - The Forgotten Highlander - Alistair Urquhart *****
11 - The Legacy of Reginald Perrin - David Nobbs **
12 - The Thicket - Joe R Lansdale *****
13 - Pied Piper - Nevil Shute *****
14 - Look Who's Back - Timur Vermes **
15 - Whiteout - Duncan Kyle ****
16 - You'll Die in Singapore - Charles McCormack ****
17 - Finders Keepers - Stephen King ***
18 - If I Die in a Combat Zone - Tim O'Brian ***
19 - Cold Harbour - Jack Higgins ****
20 - Marathon Man William Goldman *****
21 - Vixen 03 - Clive Cussler *****
22 - The Life and Times of Reinhard Heydrich - G S Graber ****
23 - The Warriors - Sol Yurick *****
24 - Green River Rising - Tim Willocks *****
25 - Autumn - David Moody *****
26 - The Enemy - Desmond Bagley ****
27 - Waters of Death - Irving A Greenfield **
28 - Maximilian Kolbe Saint of Auschwitz - Elaine Murray Stone ****
29 - I Am Legend - Richard Matheson *****
30 - Murder on the Orient Express - Agatha Christie *****
31 - Heights of Zervos - Colin Forbes *****
32 - Autumn: The City - David Moody ****
33 - The Far Country - Nevil Shute ****
The Better World of Reginald Perrin - David Nobbs ****
This is the third book in the brilliant David Nobb’s trilogy featuring the man on the verge of a complete nervous breakdown, the one and only Reginald Perrin. Many people will be familiar with the brilliant tv series starring Leonard Rossitor, and thankfully the scriptwriters stayed very close to the novels.
What is it about?
Reggie Perrin is a man that is never satisfied in life, just when he feels he has achieved contentment his feet start to itch and new plans develop in his head. Undoubtedly this is a man on the edge, where you feel that just one more push could send him toppling over into the abyss. In the previous two novels we have seen him fake his own death, remarry his wife under his new assumed identity, work at a pig farm and set up a business selling useless goods. Having made his fortune Reggie once again becomes tired with the monotony of sitting back and relaxing and decides to open a commune for the middle aged & middle class. The idea is that he will help the customers find a more loving way of life. However, will his ‘Stay as long as you like, pay as much as you like’ motto be his downfall? Once again we are in the company of Reggie’s former workmates and family members that we have grown to love.
What did I like?
It is brilliant the way that Nobb’s has created such individual characters, each have their own unique mannerisms and catchphrases and at times you can almost second guess what they are going to say. The writing is warm and the comedy at times laugh out loud funny, with more than a hint of intelligence beneath (especially the psychology interviews). We can all recognise portions of ourselves in many of the character’s traits and that is what makes it so readable, Nobb’s gives us opportunity to laugh at our own misgivings.
What didn’t I like?
Although I still thought this book was brilliant, it was hard to give it maximum stars in comparison with its predecessors. At times I felt as if the storyline was a little bit rehashed from previous ideas and it could have been made 50 pages shorter. I wouldn’t say that Nobbs was running out of new themes but I do think he ended the Perrin books at the right time (although there is another called ‘The Legacy of Reginald Perrin, written after Reggie dies).
Would I recommend?
Definitely. Although only as a completion of the Perrin books, because it refers often to past events and I think that if you had not read the trilogy in order you would miss out on a few of the storylines. I loved these books so much it almost feels as if I have lost a friend in the closing of the last chapter. Not very often I reread books, but I will with these in the future.
The books are just as good as the tv series, and I found myself hearing the actors voices in my head. It could have been written with Leonard Rossitor in mind. :)
>5 Bridgey: If I remember right, I think the second and third books actually were written after the first TV series, so actually did have him in mind. I really need to go ahead and buy this trilogy on the Kindle. I didn't get where I am today without going ahead and buying this trilogy on the Kindle.
>6 valkyrdeath: I think your right.
If you are going to buy them, they were also released as an omnibus edition so should be able to get the 3 of them fairly cheaply.
The Nazi Hunters - Damien Lewis ****
I have read a number of true Word War 2 stories, from accounts of escapes to secret missions and eyewitness accounts of the atrocities. Although I am primarily a fiction reader, as long as the author manages to convince me of the exploits and also maintain my interest then I am willing to sit down and give their books a go. I had never heard of Damien Lewis before I picked this book up, but it seems that he has a few books out and most have received good reviews.
What is about?
In a nutshell it covers the adventures of a number of SAS that were parachuted into the Vosges mountain. Their mission was to disrupt the enemy as much as possible so that vital resources of Hitler’s armies could be wasted, allowing the advance of the allied troops. They encounter a number of unexpected complications and setbacks. However, despite the Nazi’s best efforts and the capture of nearly half of their colleagues they manage to pull off a number of ingenious assaults and ambushes. The book is very well researched and doesn’t just deal with the events of the day but show’s how the men in charge of the operation then went on to hunt down and bring the justice those responsible for war crimes.
What did I like?
The book is written is such a way that the reader feels they are actually reading a novel, the author doesn’t drag you down with umpteen facts and figures and goes into more than enough detail to keep you interested without losing your attention.
What didn’t I like?
At times there was just a bit too much repetition at times, but I suppose that goes with the territory of telling a factual tale from a number of viewpoints and timelines.
Would I recommend?
Yes, there is more than enough variety for most readers here, whether you tend to just normally read fact or fiction. As I said, the author knows how to spin a tale well enough to keep you rolling along, without losing you in a myriad of figures and dates.
And Then There Were None - Agatha Christie ****
Originally published as 'Ten Little Niggers' & then 'Ten Little Indians', it was then released under it's more pc name for the more modern audience. This novel alone has sold over 100 million copies.
Typical murder mystery, a group of strangers are all invited to a house on an island. One by one they get killed off by an unknown assailant. The deaths appear to follow the pattern that is set out in a nursery rhyme that is found throughout the house. As the remaining members try to figure out who is the killer it becomes apparent that they all have some sort of murky secret hidden in their past.
I have read quite a few Christie books and she is one of the few female authors I tend to pick up. This novel has often been cited as her masterpiece, although for me, it wasn't as brilliant or readable as some of her other books (My own favourite being 'The Murder of Roger Akroyd'). Although worthy of 4 stars I found certain parts of it a little too clichéd and some of the character's actions a bit on the unbelievable side. Having said that, the ending was fairly unexpected (and a little unbelievable) and I enjoyed the way in which the characters previous lives unfolded. I have to say that at certain times I think I suspected the majority of the people and that just goes to show how masterfully Christies crafted the novel.
Easily recommendable to anyone that is a fan of the genre or as an introduction to the author.
Raise the Titanic - Clive Cussler ****
This is a typical Cussler offering featuring his hero, the hard drinking, womanising tough guy, Dirk Pitt. When the Titanic sank it dragged with it to the murky depths an extra secret in the form of a mineral mined in the depths of Russia. Fast forward several decades and the USA government find that they now need this material to ensure their safety and dominance in the cold war with Russia. A plan is hatched to 'Raise the Titanic' but with international politics rearing its head and saboteurs lurking in every shadow will the mission be a success?
What follows is an adventure story set over a number of continents and time periods. As usual the plot is extremely far fetched (at times unbelievable) but as long you can accept this then the pages disappear at a rate of knots. This is one of those novels where as long as you don't get too bogged down in the detail you will find yourself lost in the plot and enjoy the journey.
Some people may be put off by the obvious sexism and macho attitudes, but for me, a Cussler book just wouldn't be the same without them. This is Pitt's fourth outing and is probably the first novel to really hold together a fairly intricate plot. I like reading series in order, but it isn't really that necessary with the Pitt books, so this could well be the ideal place to get an introduction to the author.
Night of the Crabs - Guy N Smith **
I can't really say that I am a huge fan of the 'creature gone wild' horror type of novel, but over the years I have enjoyed several in this genre such as 'Slugs', 'Rats' and of course the multiple Peter Benchley books. So I guess I kind of knew what to expect and to not take anything too seriously (I mean how seriously can you take giant killer crabs?).
The plot centres around a small coastal village in South Wales, as usual for these books with a sea setting the attacks first happen to bathers on a swim, they are just presumed drowned and escape any real media attention. However when an uncle of the missing turns up to try and help with the search he notices some odd markings on the beach and decides there is more to this than meets the eye. Despite being a botanist he somehow makes the link between the deaths and oversized crabs, but can he convince anyone else that his theory is fact before anyone else dies. Soon it appears there is an all out war between the creepy crustaceans and the coastal populations of the UK.
As I said, I know what to expect from these books, and once you accept the implausibility of the storyline then they can often be an enjoyable read. My main issue with Night of the Crabs was just the total lack of anything else. The characters were awful and there was no real explanations given to anything whether events or actions. The main character spots some markings in the sand and almost immediately concludes there must be giants crabs responsible. Really?
I understand the fascination many have with the 'B' movie style novel, but Smith just seemed to be following some sort of checklist:
Worried professor who is also a relative - Tick.
Sex scene for no reason - Tick
Monster creature bigger than the already over sized creatures - Tick
Government connections that take convincing - Tick
An unaccounted desire for human flesh - Tick
I suppose that when I look back on the list of books I have read this will always stick out, but not for any of the right reasons. The only saving grace it had was that when the actions scenes did come along (there aren't as many as you would expect) the gory parts were described in quite a details. Strangely enough there were a further 6 sequels written to this book, I am not sure how the demand became so high or of their quality, but I won't be buying them to find out.
The Revenant: A Novel of Revenge - Michael Punke *****
I love books of adventure, in particular those that are set in the wilderness where man has to pit hits wits against nature. An added bonus is if it is a true story or has at least a ring of truth about it. The Revenant has all of this and much of it is based on actual events, with enough fiction to bridge the gaps in the parts we never really knew about to make the story flow.
We follow Hugh Glass, a trapper employed by the Rocky Mountain Fur Company to both supply food and assist them across the treacherous terrain. Unfortunately he encounters a grizzly bear which savagely mauls him. Glass manages to kill the bear but is practically dead when found by members of his party. With very little hope of survival and deep in Indian territory the captain of the group makes the decision to leave Glass. He asks for, and receives two volunteers (Fitzgerald and Bridger) to remain behind for a reward. The only stipulation being that they must give him decent burial when he eventually dies. After only staying a few days the decision is made to leave Glass to die alone and they will make their way back to the main party. Little did they know that Glass not only survives but decides to track those down that wronged him.
This has to be one of the greatest books I have read. It gets the reader fully immersed in the world of the frontiersmen, the harshness of nature and how death is always only just around the corner. It is difficult to imagine these days just how far away these men were from civilisation, where even something as simple as a broken bone could spell disaster. Punke has a very easy writing style that allows the story to flow uninterrupted and the pages melt away. The action scenes burst from the page and are nicely interspersed with stunning descriptions of the environment.
The revenant is a typical novel in what would once have been described as a ‘Boys own adventure’ genre, and yet to describe it as this would be doing it a major discredit. My only gripe (and it’s a small one) would be that the ending was strangely unsatisfying and felt a bit of a damp squib, but that is just down to personal taste. I guess we will never know how much of the book was true and what has been embellished, but if even a fraction of it really happened then Hugh Glass was a hell of a man. The notes at the end of the book give the history of the major characters and what became of them in the following years.
The novel has been made into a multi award winning film, but as usual the book has so much more offer and in my opinion far too ‘Hollywoodified’. If you have yet to see the movie, take my advice and pick this up first. You won’t be disappointed.
The Shrinking Man - Richard Matheson **
I am partial to the odd bit of sci-fi, especially from the golden era of the 50’s to 70’s. So when I came across this book I thought I would give it try. The storyline is simple; a man (Scott Carey) gets sprayed with some sort of radioactive material and slowly but surely begins to shrink. The book explores his changing relationship with his friends and family, and also the difficulties he encounters being a tiny man in a very grown up world.
Written in mostly alternate chapters that change from his modern day struggle with a spider that wants to turn him into lunch, and a timeline to the present day from when he first makes the shocking discovery. Shrinking Man is as much a novel of how a man copes when his masculinity becomes threatened as it is sci-fi. We see how his perception of other people’s actions cause him to second guess every little detail of his life, what could be the simplest gesture of goodwill from his wife becomes misconstrued by his tortured mind into something sinister or an action of pity. Couple this with the continual life or death hunt with the spider and you have the premise of what could be a really gripping novel.
I don’t know why, but for me it just fell kind of flat. There are many reviews that cannot wait to tell you how brilliant this book was, yet I found myself bored at regular intervals. The main character is very hard to empathise with, and more than once I just wished the spider would gobble him up and end both his torment and my own. The action scenes were tepid and after reading through a few dozen pages of Scott Carey’s philosophising the book would really have benefitted from some sort of jump start to provide a contrast. I suppose that at 60 years old it is some testament that it is still being read and reviewed on a regular basis and it is worth a try, I just didn’t enjoy it.
Green River High - Duncan Kyle ****
Having been a fan of Alistair Maclean for many years it is a natural progression to try other authors in a similar field. Duncan Kyle appears to have been almost forgotten in recent years and that is a real shame as many of his books are as good today as when they were first written. Green River High isn’t one of his best stories, but it is still worth discovering.
An ex soldier, now bank clerk (George Tunnicliffe) foils a robbery where he works. His name becomes plastered across the press and as a result he receives communication from two individuals who knew his father a number of years previous. It seems that his now deceased father had rather a colourful life and was involved in the disappearance of thousands of rubies during World War 2. The only problem now is that there is only person alive who knows the area well enough to try and locate the crash site, and she is an aging ex mercenary who strikes a hard bargain for the sake of the church.
Anyone who likes a book to have a fair piece of action, double crossing and adventure in faraway lands then give this a try. Many of these novels have dated over the years, but Kyle still seems relatively fresh. I particularly like the way in which he describes his characters, and the trek across the English countryside could well have been taken from a Buchan novel.
Not quite a 5* read, but a very decent 4*
Trustee from the Tool Room - Nevil Shute *****
This is Nevil Shute’s final novel first published in 1960 it details the adventures of Keith Stewart, a brilliant but unassuming engineer. Keith is someone that is more than content with his life, despite never really having risen to his full potential. He is a writer for a magazine called ‘The Miniature Mechanic’ a job to which he devotes his entire life despite the less than glamorous wages. His sister is married to a naval officer who has recently retired, and decided to emigrate for a different way of life in British Columbia, but decide to travel there alone on their small yacht. Before setting off they ask Keith to do two things, firstly help them hide their diamonds in the ships ballast (all of their wealth was converted to diamonds for the trip) and to mind their ten year old daughter whilst they make the journey. Things however do not go to plan and Keith soon finds himself as the girl’s trustee and legal guardian. The family solicitor informs him that there are no funds left in the bank and therefore the child’s inheritance has been lost. The usually unadventurous Keith must decide on what course of action to undertake, and we soon see him travelling across the world on a limited budget, relying on the kindness of strangers and goodwill of the readers of his magazine. As much a book of morality, honesty and strength as it is of adventure.
What did I like?
What isn’t there to like? Shute is an author that I have discovered only relatively recently yet I feel as if I have known all my life. Yes, at times the books seem dated, but that is part of their beauty. He transports the reader to a time that probably never really existed, and yet we all wish we lived in. He doesn’t need to rely on violence or sex to sell you a story and ‘Trustee’ is no exception to this rule. The characters are warm, everyday people that find themselves thrown into extraordinary circumstances, although not so extraordinary that we couldn’t imagine them happening to ourselves. I don’t know what it is that draws me back to a Shute book, but he has the ability to drag me into the storyline and get lost there.
What didn’t I like?
Nevil Shute was an engineer by trade, and at times I sometimes felt a little bogged down by some of the technical descriptions, but to be honest they rarely detracted away from the main body of the story, and I probably picked up some free knowledge without even realising it.
Would I recommend?
If I had to recommend a Shute novel as in introduction to the author it would either be this or ‘On the Beach’. Whatever you normally enjoy reading I am sure you will find something here that will get you hooked. It is a real shame that his books aren’t seen more often.
The Forgotten Highlander - Alistair Urquhart *****
I love true stories from the war and have read dozens over the years. Somehow The Forgotten Highlander must have escaped me, but better late than never.
We follow Alistair Urquhart and how after becoming enlisted in the Gordon Highlanders and travelling to Singapore he became captured by the Japanese. Beaten, starved and half dead he was then sent to work on the infamous Burma railways. Being one of the ‘lucky ones’ he managed to survive the work gang, only to be taken aboard one of the Deathships and Torpedoed.
Such a well written book (in what I believe was the authors 90th year) that manages to really transport the reader back to those dark days. He describes the situations perfectly without bogging the reader down in too much detail or allowing his own personal feelings to cloud over his recollections. I enjoyed the way that he described his life before and after the war so that the reader can make up their own minds as to how life changing an experience like this really was, affecting him decades after the event.
If this story should stand for anything then it should be a loud cry out for how poorly our soldiers were treated by the very country they fought for.
A must read for anyone with an interest in the horrors of war or human endurance.
The Legacy of Reginald Perrin - David Nobbs **
I am a massive fan of the Reggie Perrin books having been first introduced to them through the TV series. Originally written as a trio of books between 1975 & 1978, it seems that the Author decided to bring back some of his most famous creations nearly 20 years later. Anyone looking forward to once again reading Reggie’s brilliant and witty conversations will be disappointed as he does not feature directly in the book at all. In fact the exact opposite as Reginald Iolanthe Perrin has been killed, slain by a falling advertisement board during a storm. As his friends and family gather to once again say their final goodbyes it is announced that true to character he has left a little surprise in store for them. A large sum of money has been bequeathed to his nearest and dearest, but in order to claim their stakes they must prove that they have do something totally absurd, and the act(s) must be approved by Reggie’s solicitor. Soon a plan is hatched that involves all the beneficiaries working together, but can the motley bunch pull it off?
What did I like?
A difficult one. I suppose there was a sense of familiarity with a number of the characters, almost a sense of relief that there was life for them after the novels, and also a sense of completion knowing how Reggie lived out his final days.
What didn’t I like?
It’s strange that after loving the other Reggie books that I really struggled to enjoy this one. The plot and dialogue was very repetitive, with characters reiterating what was said them in the sentence before and the different characters following the same storylines. Now and again this may be humorous, but after the first few dozen times it really wore thin. The worst part for me though was the characterisation, compared to the other novels they all just seemed a shadow of themselves, their actions all formulaic and forced. It was almost as if they have had their personalities sucked from them, where once they were bright and bubbly, now they seem borderline suicidal. The storyline itself was fairly weak with a lot of the subplots just rehashed versions of the other books. I really don’t know what possessed Nobbs to add this book to the Perrin cannon and although I am sure than some people may enjoy it, it just wasn’t for me.
Would I recommend?
I can’t bring myself to say yes. It wouldn’t be a fair introduction to the author as much of the plot hinges on the previous novels and it would take away a lot of their brilliance if this was read first. I suppose if you are a bit of a completist and want to read all the authors works then you could seek it out. Personally I wish I had left it alone and remembered all the characters as they were at the end of ‘The Better World of Reginald Perrin’.
>15 Bridgey: I remember the film version of that entirely because of the spider fight, but remember basically nothing else about it. Sounds like the book isn't really worth going for.
>19 Bridgey: That sounds about what I thought of the TV version. It just feels like trying to push it a step too far. The other characters didn't really work on their own without Reggie in the middle of them all.
The Thicket - Joe R Lansdale *****
I had never heard of the author before picking up ‘The Thicket’, but he is a writer that I am sure I will keep a look out for. This was such a strange mix up of a book (western/thriller/mystery/horror) that you would never think it would all come together and work, but it really does. From the synopsis I at first thought it would be a bit silly, how can an adult book involving a dwarf and a hog tracking down a murderer make much sense?
There was very little to dislike with this novel, it was almost like reading Lonesome Dove crossed with a bit of Stephen King. The gruesome bits are well written, the action is just enough to make you want to turn the page and the storyline isn’t too predictable either. Every character is worth its place and there is no filler between the pages whatsoever. If ever there was a novel that needed to be made into a film, this is it.
Pied Piper - Nevil Shute *****
There are many authors that at one time were very popular, and yet these days seem to have been almost forgotten in the mists of time. Unfortunately Nevil Shute appears to be one of these, and I really can’t understand why. True his books are ‘of a time’ but the stories are just as relevant today and so stunningly told that I just can’t wait to turn the page.
Pied Piper is no exception and stands as one the strongest works in the Shute catalogue. As usual with his novels there is no gratuitous violence, no dramatic sex scenes and no bad language, just pages and pages of well written prose with a gentle storyline that persuades the reader to join him over the duration.
We follow an elderly gentleman who becomes trapped in France just after the outbreak of the Second World War. He decides he needs to return home and somewhat reluctantly he agrees to take a friend’s children with him, as the parents fear for their safety with the approaching Nazi war machine. Desperately trying to make his way back home to England he picks up an ever growing number of children that have fallen on hard times (hence the title), and despite his advanced age shows us what the ‘Keep calm and carry one’ message really meant. With constant setbacks and obstacles in his path he must draw upon his ingenuity and limited resources. The journey however isn’t just a physical one and acts as a metaphor for the healing process he must undertake following the death of his son.
The plot has a number of twists and turns, and the ending when it comes is most unexpected. Although Shute is a subtle writer, when he needs to sock it the reader he is unafraid to add the specific details required and the reader is left under no illusion as to the horrors of war.
Shute should have a legacy as being the master of writing about ordinary people thrust into situations where they become extraordinary. Maybe this isn’t his greatest novel (my own favourite is ‘On the Beach’) but it as good a place to start as any.
Look Who's Back - Timur Vermes **
I am partial to the odd satire novel, and mostly love anything that is linked to the Second World War, so when I read the description I really thought this would be a novel I would enjoy. Obviously I was aware that the plot was going to be a little on the nuts side but the reviews were all positive so I decided to give it a try.
Ok, so the storyline has Adolf Hitler waking up some 50+ years after he committed suicide at the end of the war (he just appears, no explanation is given). People who meet him assume he is an actor who continually stays in character and his reputation slowly builds. The country warms to this crazy old guy and soon his influence starts to build as more and more people are captivated by his ‘act’, whilst he is sincere his words are perceived as being full of irony and the audience love it.
One of the reviews on the cover states ‘This uproariously funny satire will have you in stitches’, what greater accolade could it be given? Unfortunately it was the exact opposite for me. I can’t remember even having a slight smirk let alone a laugh out loud moment. Maybe the humour was lost in translation? I certainly felt as if I was on the outside of a number of the ‘jokes’ as the book was originally released in Germany and as such had more than a few references to the modern German media.
I suppose the author really did take a risk in writing ‘Look Who’s Back’, emotions still run high when the Third Reich is mentioned and I bet he faced a lot of criticism. Certainly he has lost some stars on Amazon by reviewers because of this, but I feel that readers should know exactly what to expect when you pick the book up. For me it has received a poor review simply because it wasn’t funny, in fact I would even go so far as to say it bored me.
Not something I can recommend, there are much better books out there to be wasting your time with this. A 5 star idea written as a 1 star novel, so 2 stars overall.
I'm stuck halfway through Look Who's Back. I was reading the German edition (a huge bestseller in Germany) when my husband stole it off of my bedside table and then took a long time to read it. I wonder how the translation differs from the original, which is very funny, but not in a laugh-out-loud kind of way. And I have to read the portions spoken by his Berlin assistant out loud in order to understand what she's saying. Thanks for reminding me to hunt around for my copy and get back to it.
Whiteout - Duncan Kyle **** (Also released under the heading In Deep)
One day (if not already) there will be a list drawn of all the world’s greatest action/adventure authors. There will be the likely candidates of MacLean/Fleming/Higgins etc, and I just hope that the compiler remembers to add Duncan Kyle into that list, and hopefully he will be somewhere near the top.
Whiteout follows the adventures of Harry Bowes, a salesman from a company that makes all terrain snow vehicles, a sort of hovercraft. In order to try and secure a deal with the army he is offered a chance to demonstrate the machines capabilities at Camp 100, cut off and situated high above the Arctic Circle. However things don’t go entirely to plan and bodies start appearing all around him, being a naturally inquisitive man he decides to do a little investigating and ultimately endangers his own life in the process.
I loved the way Kyle describes the barren environment and the harshness of the men’s situation that you get the feeling he must have experienced these conditions himself. He manages to pack so much into the books 224 pages that any fan of the genre will find something to satisfy them. In some ways I felt the book deserved 5 stars but on occasion I found the way in which Harry was received by the military was a little unrealistic. Here is a man with no major connection to the station, which at times is allowed to wander around unguarded or unseen, even though there is obviously a murderer/sabotager at work. It needed a bit more substance in the plot to really allow the reader to believe this could happen. Having said that, I really enjoyed the book and finished it with a sense of satisfaction that very few authors provide.
>26 RidgewayGirl: I really struggled with it, and had a bit of speed read on the last 3rd. :) A lot of people seem to love it, so I suppose it was more me than the book
You'll Die in Singapore - Charles McCormack ****
My favourite types of book to read are the true escape stories during various conflicts, but in particular the Second World War. With the advancing age of the people involved these tales are nearly becoming extinct, especially when told from a firsthand perspective. However this book was originally published in 1954 so I am unsure how I missed coming across it before.
Charles McCormack was captured in the Japanese invasion of Singapore the author becomes imprisoned in one if the infamous POW camps. Knowing that to stay will only result in barbaric treatment accompanied with malnourishment and eventually death, a plot is hatched for a number of the prisoners to escape. In total seventeen manage to make it out, but things are not as simple as they would have hoped. Out of the original seventeen only two would reach safety alive, bullets & disease would claim the rest. The distances traversed are nothing short of amazing, the whole journey covered over 2,000 miles with help only being received through wary villagers who they could never really knew could be trusted or not.
If you are a fan of this type of book then you can’t really go far wrong and it adds an extra perspective on the war in the Pacific. At times elating, at others extremely sad, you really begin to understand the difficulties faced and just how superhuman these people were. In these modern times of counselling for just about everything from a broken fingernail to failing an exam, a lot can be learnt from the past.
Finders Keepers - Stephen King ***
The second book in the Mr Mercedes trilogy sees King continue to step away from his more usual genre of the supernatural, although he still keeps enough gore to keep his ‘constant readers’ happy. Detective Bill Hodges is the common denominator that keeps this novel linked to the first but isn’t as prevalent as you may think.
The book starts as two separate stories in different timelines. The first follows an obsessive fan (Morris Bellamy) who kills a reclusive author and steals his unseen works. These are then stashed away, unfortunately for Morris he is incarcerated for a totally different crime, and all through the following decades he dreams of his release and finally getting to read those manuscripts.... Fast forward 31 years and we are introduced to Pete Saubers (his father was injured by the Mercedes murderer in the first book); he finds a hidden chest with a number of notebooks and enough money to help his family overcome their financial difficulties for a number of years. Can he keep things secret or will Morris realise that the objects of his longing are no longer available to him?
I was never really that enamoured by Mr Mercedes but I have always been fan of Stephen King so decided to plough on and see what he had in store for his latest creations. In a way I wish I hadn’t. It all fell a bit flat. I found myself not really caring what happened to characters and that is unusual for me in a King novel. The story wasn’t really all that great, there were few surprises and most of the twists can be second guessed long before they are made apparent. It all just seemed a bit of a chore which was quite disappointing.
It hasn’t stopped me buying the third book in the series, but I am really hoping for something a little better.
If I Die in a Combat Zone - Tim O'Brien ***
Somehow this book has become known as one of the most important personal accounts to have been written about the war in Vietnam. It is a firsthand experience of Tim O’Brien, a person that although he never really wanted to, found himself signing up the military to fight overseas. I have read a number of novels from this genre (the one that most sticks in my mind is ‘Once a Warrior King’) but had never come across this book before.
There are plenty of favourable reviews and they are probably right, but when I pick up these types of books I read them to find out about the events, the action, the hardships & although this may not be very pc, I want all the gory details so I can become immersed in the time and place. This book offered very little in this way of content. I suppose I can’t really blame the author for that, the blame should fall with the publisher and almost a sense of false advertising, it should have really been described as ‘One man’s thoughts and philosophies on the Vietnam war’. I had a feeling that O’Brien started off wanting to tell the reader how pointless war really is and then got carried away with his own self importance, of which I really could care less about. To be honest it got a bit on the boring side and many a time I felt like shouting ‘get to the facts’.... Pages are donated to Socrates and poetry, and I always got the feeling that the Author felt himself superior to the other soldiers fighting alongside him.
There are other books by the author out there but I doubt very much if I will pick them up, maybe I will be missing out some great literature, but I am more than willing to take that chance.
Wow. Well, I guess...that's one way to look at it. >.>
BTW, his name is O'Brien.
Cold Harbour - Jack Higgins ****
Jack Higgins is easily my most read Author, with a career spanning six decades he really has stood the test of time. He writes mostly about hard men that are placed in life or death situations either situated during a conflict or with IRA connections. Cold Harbour is no exception and is set during the Second World War and showcases a number of strong male characters who would put a bullet between your eyes first and ask questions later.
Cold Harbour was written in 1990 and for me this really marked a turning point in his career. After this date we were introduced to the Sean Dillon books and his writing tended to become a lot more formulaic, where ideas from previous novels started to become recycled and a number of the books blended into each other. The novels were still good, just seemed to have lost that spark that early Higgins managed to inject. But fortunately this novel is vintage Higgins.
The plot has a number of twists and it isn’t simple to second guess where Higgins is taking you. It is difficult to describe the storyline of Cold Harbour without giving away a few of its secrets but I can safely say this has to be in the top 25% of Higgin’s works. If you had to create a checklist of what you would expect between the covers of his best works then this would leave very few blanks. Subterfuge, double agents, death, honour and getting the job done at any cost are just a few of the themes as we see the British military at their most deviant and the German army at their most cruel. As usual the novel seems to be flawlessly set against real historical events which give the characters an even grittier realism.
Not his best but also not a bad place to start.
Marathon Man William Goldman *****
I must have lived under a rock for the last 35 years because I had never even heard of the title, let alone seen the film or read the book. I found a copy of this while browsing in a second hand book shop, read the blurb and thought it sounded my type of book.
The plot is fairly simple, we follow ‘Babe’ a graduate student at a top university who also has dreams of becoming a world beating marathon runner, whilst living under the shadow of his deceased but famous historian father. Babe also has an older brother known as Doc who is a successful businessman. Just when babe feels like his life it starting to take a turn for the better a nasty event catapults him into a world filled with espionage. Throw in Nazi diamonds, torture and multiple hidden identities and you are left with a page turning thriller.
This has to be one of the best thriller books I have ever read, interestingly the author released a sequel called ‘Brothers’ some twelve years after Marathon Man. I will be sure to check it out.
Just read through a number of your reviews. Enjoyed your commentary. Too bad the O'Brien didn't work out for you. But lots of others seem to have made up for that.
>36 dchaikin: Yeh, not having a bad year. Just wish I could have more time to read. Do you have a link to yours?
Vixen 03 - Clive Cussler *****
The fifth book in the Dirk Pitt series (as usual ever macho, womanising, hard drinking and seemingly indestructible) has Cussler’s hero investigating an aircraft high in the Colorado mountains around three decades and many hundreds of miles from its last known location. Pitt seems to have a sixth sense for mystery and after probing where he shouldn’t , uncovers a mystery that would have better off forgotten but now it has resurfaced could end up wiping out millions of lives.
This book is really two tales combined, where alternating chapters flick back and forth from the situation that Pitt finds himself embroiled in and a civil war in Africa. At first I couldn’t see how they would possibly become linked but Cussler does a really nice job of tying up all the loose strands over the final few chapters.
The book is very typical of its time – written in 1978, and very typical of the genre. Probably not one for those readers that get bogged down in scientific or historical accuracies (or easily offended), but for people like myself that love a big of escapism accompanied by fights, blood and guts, then you can’t go wrong. As I have said, this is the 5th book in the Pitt series but you don’t really need to have started at the beginning and this would be an ideal place to begin. I found it much more advanced than the previous novels and assume this is where Cussler really started making a name for himself as an author.
The Life and Times of Reinhard Heydrich - G S Graber ****
Most people are aware of the role Hitler and Himmler played in the Second World, but other top Nazi leaders seem to get a little glossed over. I have always wondered what kind of life Heydrich led before becoming known as ‘The Butcher of Prague’.
Graber follows Heydrich from his birth in the city of Halle-Whittingberg to his death by assassination in Prague and the reprisals ordered by Hitler. We are told of his parent’s background and how a number of career setbacks and seemingly blatant luck allowed circumstances to fuel a meteoric rise to power.
Written in 1980 the book has probably aged over the last few decades and at times it felt a little too much like a school textbook and although obviously very well researched it tended to be a little dry. I suppose the main disappointing aspect was that after finishing the book I never really felt that Heydrich was all that of a menacing a figure, and maybe History judged him a little harshly. Although this definitely isn’t the case, the book does tend to focus on his career progression rather than the actual atrocities committed. There are certainly other books out there than go into a far greater depth, but at just under 250 pages this is an ideal starter point for the reader who wants to know a little about a lot.
The Warriors - Sol Yurick *****
Like many people I saw the film about a New York street gang making their way back home across enemy territory while causing havoc. If you liked the film then there is a fair chance that you will love the book. Although a large number of the details were changed for the film (such as the ages, names, brutality) the plot is basically the same. The problem with the film that becomes apparent is that a lot of the intensity becomes lost in translation. Don’t get me wrong, the film is brilliant, but the book is something else.
Very often books like this include violence only for the shock factor or to have a talking point. The Warriors is very different and although graphic at times, it really adds to the storyline, hammering to the reader the type of world these people inhabit. Sol Yurick isn’t afraid to really show the dark underbelly of society, and what makes it even more frightening is that you tend to forget that these aren’t adults that are running amok, but teenagers. These are the same people that will settle down to read a comic, or complain about being frightened of the dark only moments after viciously raping or murdering a stranger.
The storyline is simple; a meeting of all the gangs in New York is called. An incident occurs which sees all hell break lose, with each gang trying to avoid both the law and enemies. Obviously they have to cross through hostile areas, but do they try and sneak across quietly, or should they make a statement and some additional points for their own reputation? It is hard to believe that life was/is like this for some people, that a civilised society could have such an existence and yet you find that you even begin to sympathise with the characters, rooting for them to succeed, recognising that they aren’t just villains, but victims as well.
A relatively short book (just over 200 pages) but so much is crammed into each page that it feels like an epic long after the last page is finished. Give it a try and see for yourself.
Green River Rising - Tim Willocks *****
What is it about?
Fairly straight forward plot. We meet Ray Klein a renowned medical professional, now disgraced and imprisoned who is hopeful of receiving parole after spending the last 3 years in the Green River penitentiary, after a meeting with the warden (a borderline psychopath) he is pleased to be told that it has been awarded and he will be a free man within a few days. While trying to stay out of trouble for his final hours a full scale riot breaks out with different races siding with each other. Throw into the mix his potential love interest, Juliette Devlin a psychologist who visits the prison as the riot escalates and he soon becomes torn between staying out of trouble and risking his freedom to save others.
What did I like?
Firstly Willocks isn’t an author that is willing to pussyfoot around, if a prisoner is getting raped or a man killed then you can expect to be told every grisly detail. There is little left to the imagination. There are very few books that are both well written and have ability to shock, but this is one of them. Although I have never been inside a prison (yet anyway) there is plenty of brilliant descriptions that really allow the reader to feel what it must be like.
What didn’t I like?
There was just a part in the story that failed to make any sense, it involved Devlin and one of the infirmary inmates. I can’t see that it added anything at all to the book and really spoilt the flow. It was so unrealistic that it took away my attention from the otherwise tight storyline. It will become apparent to people who read the book the chapters I mean.
Would I recommend?
There haven’t been any other reviews that seem to have picked up on this, but the story more than a few times reminded me of Stephen Kings the Stand. Two opposing forces battling it out for Good or Evil, a sort of evil genius in the back ground instigating events and the slightly slow and yet very perceptive gentle giant with almost paranormal insight. Anyhow, yes I would recommend. This has to be one of most hard hitting books I have ever read, however, if you are easily offended then it may be worth you picking up something a little less violent.
I thought that Walter Hill's film of the Warriors was one of the great action/thriller films of the late 1970's. it had a certain style and panache all of its own.
I remember watching it as a kid (bet my parents never knew) and the 'Warriors come out to play' line has stuck in my head ever since :)
Autumn - David Moody *****
Although I have never really been a huge fan of the zombie/b movie type of book, I do like to dip into one now and again. The last I read was ‘Night of the Living Dead’ and thought it a really awful read. But when looking through a second hand book store I came across ‘Autumn’ and thought I would give it a try. Looking at the other reviews this seems to be very much a love it or hate it book with many ratings from the extremes of both sides. I suppose that it will depend what you are expecting to get from the read. If you approach it wanting some gritty drama or in depth plot then you will probably be disappointed, but if you are looking for some escapism into a cataclysmic world full of death and gore you will love it.
So what’s it about?
A deadly virus has struck the USA (maybe the world) that causes death within a few minutes. The unlucky individual has a very gory end that involves plenty of blood and pain. All across the country there are homes, work places and public areas where people are dropping like flies. Strangely though, there does seem to be the odd few that are immune to the disease. These survivors are spread far and wide and as they wander through the decimated landscape, start to gel together in groups. Whilst trying to decide what their next step should be an odd thing happens, some of the corpses begin to move; at first wandering aimlessly but with each passing day they seem to be getting more self aware and through the sheer numbers pose a threat. A decision needs to be made, do they stay holed up in a potential ‘safe’ house or should they make a break for open country where hopefully the undead will be less in number. But more importantly, what would you do?
Although described as a Zombie novel, this really does the book an injustice; it is as much about survival and the different ways in which people cope with a changing world (and undead walking around every corner). I can’t remember even seeing the word zombie except on the cover, so if you are fed up with the seemingly daft theme of ‘dead people trying to eat the living’ storyline, then Autumn offers something different.
I absolutely loved this book, the speech at times was a little wooden, but the writing was short, sharp and to the point. The atmosphere really does build and actually gets quite creepy at times. I cared what happened to the characters and found myself rooting for them, more than I usually do when reading a book, so much so that I went straight out and ordered the next books in the series.
>41 Bridgey: I haven't seen or, previously, heard if the movie Warriors. Terrific review. You have me interested - mainly in the book.
The Enemy - Desmond Bagley ****
Desmond Bagley seems to have been a writer that I have overlooked which seems strange as I am a huge fan of Innes, Maclean & Duncan Kyle. The Enemy is the first book that I have read by him and certainly won’t be the last.
Malcom Jaggard is supposedly a financial consultant, but this is a just a front for a man that works undercover as a sort of secret service agent. He gets involved with a Dr Penny Ashton and is soon invited back to meet her father, a business magnate called George Ashton. Things begin to flourish between the two until an acid attack on Penny’s sister causes Ashton to flee the country. Trying to find out a little more about his prospective father in law, Jaggard uses his contacts and is surprised to find that all is not as it seems, the further he digs the more he embroils himself deep into a tangled web of double identities, death and ultimately a decision that will determine his loyalties. I love books like this, and it was really hard to try and second guess where Bagley was going with the plot, and the ending was just something that I never would have thought could possibly have happened. It seems the author likes to follow the traditional spy/action adventure, but isn’t afraid to put his own mark on it either.
I will definitely be reading a few more of his books in the near future and he is deserving of having his name placed alongside the greats of the Action book.
Waters of Death - Irving A Greenfield **
I quite like the SF story that is set in the future and there are a number of SF writers that I actively seek out. I came across Waters of Death and was a little sceptical but thought it was worth a try as it seemed fairly short, also there was only one other review on Amazon that gave the book a maximum rating.
The year is 2160 and the human race is facing a crisis, there is a major shortage of food and soon people will begin to starve. Society appears to be almost split into two factions, there are the people who live and work on dry land and the sea farmers. The farmer’s main job is to manage the oceans and grow food for the ever increasing population but lately the harvest has been a lot lower than expected and a scientist (Dr Robert Wilde) is sent to try and determine whether this is an ecological problem or sabotage. In general the sea farmers are looked down upon but everyone else, their wages are the lowest and are being reduced in line with production, amongst them there are rumblings of discontent but any criticism of the Government is frowned upon and they can find their minds being ‘altered’ as punishment/correction. The whole plot revolves around a corrupt government, downtrodden farmers and a sympathetic scientist... you can probably guess the rest.
I have read some crappy books over the years, but this has to be one of the worst. The only reason I upped the stars to 2 is that the basic idea must have been fairly original at the time of publication. There are no themes in any book that offend me, sexism, racism & extreme violence can all become part of a plot as long as they are justified. In this book though it seems that the author takes stereotyping to the next level, all women are just some kind of sex object, whether being ordered to sleep with men or working as prostitutes (they actually get rewarded for entering into the sex industry). As I said, this doesn’t really bother me, and I see the potential benefits... but it just made the book boring and wooden. The ‘twists’ in the narrative were more like a slight bend and could be seen coming a mile off. I haven’t read any of this authors works before and don’t think I will be reading any of his again.
Maximilian Kolbe Saint of Auschwitz - Elaine Murray Stone ****
I have always enjoyed true stories about the second world war and in particular the atrocities that were encountered in the death camps. Obviously the most infamous of these was Auschwitz, but I never realised that there was a man who was later proclaimed a Saint that perished at the camp.
Maximilian Kolbe was born in late 19th Century Poland and started off life a fairly unruly child who would often need ‘correcting’ by his parents. However, one day he has a vision of the Virgin Mary:
“That night I asked the Mother of God what was to become of me. Then she came to me holding two crowns, one white, the other red. She asked me if I was willing to accept either of these crowns. The white one meant that I should persevere in purity, and the red that I should become a martyr. I said that I would accept them both.”
This totally changes his life and the young Kolbe settles into his studies and eventually enters into the Franciscan friar hood, here he really begins to excel and decided to help spread his word of God via the media of newspaper and radio. Unsatisfied with just working in his local area he even started a Franciscan Order in Japan, but with the inevitable outbreak of the Second World War, and many bouts of ill health he is forced back to Poland. During those dangerous times it was only a matter of time before he was noticed by the Nazi’s and eventually became imprisoned in Auschwitz. Here he finally fulfilled his calling as a martyr and chose to replace a prisoner condemned to death by starving in a locked basement. I am a far from religious person, but when you read of people like Kolbe who made the ultimate sacrifice it has to make you stop and think twice.
Remove the overly religious connotations and you are left with a book that is a well written, if somewhat brief overview of a man who lived and died in a remarkable way. As with most of these books, they are handy for someone like me, who wants to learn a little about a lot.
My only negative is that no matter what Kolbe may have failed at (and he did fail at a few things) these are very much glossed over. I know the book was written as part of a religious series but the author gave a very one sided approach to his deeds, I would have liked a far more rounded approach to the man and his life.
I'm constantly surprised (over and over) at how those visionary authors of classic SF were never able to imagine women as actual people somehow.
This was one of the worst I have ever read. His wife leaves him, and the only way she can do it and remain in the law is to become.... a sex worker. lol. You couldn't make it up... although obviously the author did.
I Am Legend - Richard Matheson *****
I have only read one book by this author ‘The Shrinking Man’ and really disliked it, but I knew a little of ‘I am Legend’ from snapshots of the film so I thought I would give it a try. Have to say I am really glad that I did, and it goes to prove that you can’t judge an author by just one experience.
I Am Legend has to be one of the best books in the genre. We follow Robert Neville, supposedly the last man left alive on the planet, every other person has been turned into a type of ‘undead’ vampire. Neville has barricaded himself into his home where he is safe during the night, but whilst in daylight he turns into a ‘killer’, stalking the dead where they sleep and slaughtering them. These are very much like the typical vampires we have heard tales about over the centuries, unable to stand daylight, scared of garlic and a stake through the heart will finish them off (although these things are explained scientifically, rather than just accepted). However, when he sees a woman stumbling through a field during the daytime he begins to hope that there is a chance for humanity and invites her to his home. What follows is classic example of that when the majority suddenly becomes the minority, you find that you no longer are the hunter but become the hunted.
I loved this book, and although some people may decide to write it off as a vampire novel, it really has so much more to it. The whole book revolves around Neville and we get to experience his own thoughts and feeling to the changing world around him, his loneliness, his exasperations and his fears are all laid bare for the reader to pick over. There is also the question of ethics, just because others are different to you, does that mean murder is ever justified?
I can see why so many other authors such as Stephen King cite this book as an influence. Give it a try.
>55 Bridgey: I loved I Am Legend. It's far better than I was expecting it to be when I started reading it. I also thought the ending was amazng, so watching the Will Smith film was one of the few occasions where I couldn't take the film on its own merits. I was just so angry that they'd changed the ending to a generic "hero saves the world" story, surely defeating the meaning of the title and the point of the book.
Yeh it was a daft thing to do. Bu there are very few films that do the books justice. Offhand I can only think of a few, Deliverance and Big Fish I think were improved by the screen.
Murder on the Orient Express - Agatha Christie *****
I’m not really sure how, but after watching Poirot for a number of years on the TV I managed to never see Murder on the Orient Express, this at least meant that the plot was fresh to me and no surprises ruined. I have only read a few Agatha Christie and she is still an author I am beginning to discover.
Most of the action takes place in the same place, aboard the Orient Express with a Poirot being asked to look into the murder of an American Tycoon. One by one he interrogates each passenger on the train and in true Christie style he discovers that the majority have a motive and a hidden past. We see the little grey cells at work and soon he begins to see through the acts and subterfuges, eventually cumulating in one of his famous suspect get together, where the truth is ousted.
This was a strange book, because two thirds of the way through I thought I had it all sewn up and really thought that the plot was a bit ridiculous and Christie had used the ‘coincidence’ card a little too much, but when the ending came I realised just how brilliant the plot actually was. Definitely worth a look whether you are a fan of Christie or not and what better place to start than probably her most famous novel.
I find that is often the case with Christie - halfway through a book you think you know who the murderer is and why and you are ready to dismiss the book as mediocre (and wonder why that is not the end of the book) and then at the end of the book you look at your half-book self with a smirk - right, you guessed it... in another universe.
I've heard people saying that Christie's novels are easy and figuring them out is way too easy - sometimes I do wonder if some of those people actually pass that halfway-2/3rds point at all...
>59 AnnieMod: And at that point where you think you've worked things out, you feel like you've spotted all the clues that she hasn't drawn attention to, only to find she's purposefully set it up to lead you to think that way and send you down the wrong track. I'm never very good at working out mysteries in general, but I don't think I'm ever as skillfully misdirected as in a Christie book.
I agree. The Murder of Roger Ackroyd was a really brilliant ending that you could have realised long before it was announced, but she diverted your attention from it so brilliantly that you kick yourself. :)
Heights of Zervos - Colin Forbes *****
Colin Forbes has always been an author that I meant to pick up and never got around to it. There have been two of his books sat on my shelves for the best part of ten years (this and The Janus Man) and for some reason I just never read them. These days I have read nearly all that Jack Higgins has to offer, I have sampled quite a few Innes, Maclean and Kyle so thought it was about time I gave Forbes a go. This book was the thinner of the two so I decided to chance it.
The book starts of as it means to go on, full of action and adventure. We find a Scottish secret agent (Ian Macomber) undergoing a sabotage operation against the Germans, things don’t go quite as expected and he is lucky to escape with his life. As he tries to leave his double life behind and evade capture he becomes caught up in a covert mission by Nazi Abwher agents to take the monastery on top of Zervos. Should they be successful it could change the entire war in Europe, with help many miles away can Macomber and his new found collaborators first avoid detection, and secondly make it to the monastery before the Germans?
The thing I love most about books like this is that they do exactly as they were intended, transporting the reader into a situation they will never find themselves in real life. Forbes is a much better writer than I had anticipated and this is really one of those ‘boys own’ type adventures where you want to keep reading to find out what will happen next. A major plus point for me was the total lack of any love story, nothing ruins an action book that some soppy chapters just thrown in because the author wants to follow a formula.
I will be reading a few more by Colin Forbes, really wish I had tried him years ago.
If any of you have links for 2017, put them here so I can follow you :)
>61 Bridgey: The Murder of Roger Ackroyd certainly did have a good and unexpected ending. It must be hard for later mystery writers to come up with twists that she hadn't already used before them.
>62 Bridgey: I've never read anything by Colin Forbes. I like to read the odd book of that type though so maybe I should try him at some point. I've actually started an Alistair MacLean today for the first time in a few years.
My 2017 thread is over at https://www.librarything.com/topic/245058 :)
Hi Annie, Just catching up on the reviews for last years books. The year seems to have flown by :) I have a new thread.
I have bookmarked yours and Valkyrdeath
Autumn: The City - David Moody ****
The second book in the Autumn series follows on from where the first left off, however we are now introduced to a lot more of the survivors. In the first Autumn book the world has ground to a standstill following a disease that has killed 99.9% of the population, only for their decaying corpses to rise a few days later. Attracted by sound the cadavers group together in an attempt to reach survivors, however these aren’t the typical flesh craving Zombies, but are just as lethal due to their combined mass of numbers.
Once again, survivors have been finding each other and holing themselves up in apparently ‘safe’ buildings, we meet a number of varied new characters and learn of how they came to be where they are. A brilliant mismatch of all walks of life has been spared and obviously under the circumstances a lot of arguments and conflict arise. Deep underground there is a bunker where the army have been waiting since the first inception of the disease, unaware of what has happened above ground they venture out for a first look at the new world. The other survivors must choose between staying put in relative safety or seeking outside help, but will that help be forthcoming?
I suppose this could be read as a standalone novel, but I would recommend reading the first in the series for a lot more background information. Once again, if you are looking for a really well written and meaningful book, then this probably isn’t for you. At times the speech is a little wooden and repetitive and sometimes the characters actions are a little unbelievable (the Motorhome scene with Michael & Emma anyone?)But... if you want some fairly mindless zombie fun with a decent amount of tension, then give the series a try. I have just ordered the next book and already looking forward to it.
The Far Country - Nevil Shute ****
Nevil Shute has won a place as one of my favourite authors since I picked up On the Beach a few years ago. His books don’t seem to be much publicised these days which is a shame, especially when you consider the success he had during the 60’s and 50’s. I know that they can appear a little dated but that just adds to the beauty of his world. Here you won’t find and sort of sex or gratuitous violence, even though he is unafraid to confront serious issues that were relevant at that period. It is almost like stepping back in time to world that probably never existed, but we all think did.
The Far Country was written way back in 1952 and set in 1950, we follow a young girl called Jennifer Morton who lives in a very harsh London, a city still reeling from the aftermath of a very hard war. At the beginning she is summoned to her grandmother’s home and is shocked to see the poverty she has been allowed to live in. With a pension that has dried up and seemingly lost in the system, she has been allowed to practically starve to death. Just before her inevitable demise the grandmother receives some money from relatives in Australia, and it is her dying wish that Jennifer should visit the ‘Far Country’ before she settles down in Britain. After discussions with her parents Jennifer decides to visit Australia and stay with her extended family whilst experiencing their way of life, and sets off for the outback. Whilst there she meets a foreign doctor and falls in love, but will she be able to adapt to this new life or will she return home to her place of birth?
From the description this novel sounds like something out of a Mills and Boon paperback, but it really is so much more than that. Shute himself immigrated to Australia and left behind a fledgling NHS & a socialist government, he really doesn’t hold anything back and the contempt he feels for his old country drips from every page. The food rationing/shortages and weather paint a very bleak picture of what life was like for the ordinary man and he contrasts this with Australia being the land of plenty, a new life and a new beginning. Several smaller themes are entangled throughout such as belonging, class & loyalty.
Some people may view The Far Country as a fairly vicious attack on everything Shute turned his back on in post war Britain, others may see it as a fairly simple love story. Personally I see it as an adventure in a new land where normal people are forced into less ordinary circumstances (a theme very evident in most of his books) and have to deal with not just their emotions but the environment around them.
Although not my favourite Shute book it is still recommendable, although I think ‘On the Beach’ & ‘Trustee from the Toolroom’ are a better place to discover the author.
This topic is not marked as primarily about any work, author or other topic.