Clfisha's 12 in 12
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Since I haven't nailed down my categories I wasn't going to post until December but I realised there is much fun in anticipation and gathering potential candidates, so I am pleased to announce my 12 (well 9) categories for 2012 (please start your indoor firework/drum roll now).
-Each category must be one of the most memorable 12 books of 2011 (in no particular order)
-Each book can have up to 5 tags to define category plus of course anything I read by that author.
-The number of books define my random rolling of a 6 sided dice.
-No star ratings just: Bad, Average, Good, Excellent and Amazing.
The Categories looking most likely are:
1 The BldgBlog Book by Geoff Manuagh
2 Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry
3 Elmer by Gerry Alanguilan
4 The Unwritten Volumes 1-3 by Mike Carey (author) and Peter Gross (artist)
5 Embassytown by China Mieville
6 Zoo City By Lauren Beukes
7The Lost Machine by Richard k Kirk
8 The Rider by Tim Krabbe
9 Lord of Emperors by Guy Gavriel Kay
10 The Orphan's Tales: In the Night Garden by Catherynne M. Valente
11 The Troika by Stepan Chapman
12 The Gone Away World by Nick Harkaway
Jerusalem Poker by Edward Whittemore
All Quiet on The Orient Express by Magnus Mills
Rings of Saturn W G Sebald
Yesterday Will Make You Cry by Chester Himes
The Lottery and Other Stories by Shirley Jackson
The Ecstatic by Victor LaValle
Purge by Sofi Oksanen
The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark
Cold Skin by Albert Sanchez Pinol
The session : a novella in dialogue by Aaron Petrovich
A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness
Category 1 The BldgBlog Book by Geoff Manuagh
Non-fiction, architecture, fantasy, science fiction, apocalypse & books by Manuagh
1. Ghost Milk by Iain Sinclair (Excellent 26/1)
2. The Empire of Death: A Cultural History of Ossuaries and Charnel Houses by Paul Koudounaris (Excellent 13/2)
Divided Cities by Lebbeus Wood (Non-fiction, architecture)
Category 2 Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry
Unfamiliar genres, the wild west, camping, books made into films, epics, & books by McMurty
1. Darkmans by Nicola Barker (Amazing June)
2. True Grit by Charles Potis (good 19/6)
Doc by Mary Doria Russell (the wild west)
The Last Picture Show by Larry McMurtry
The brothers K by David James Duncan (Unfamiliar genres)
Category 3 Elmer by Gerry Alanguilan
Comics, human rights, genocide, chickens, anthropomorphism & books by Alanguilan
1. Alan's War by Emmanuel Guibert (Jan Excellent)
2. Blankets by Craig Thompson (Good Feb)
3. Kurt Busiek's Astro City by Kurtz Busiek (Excellent March)
4. Aya by Marguerite Abouet (Good march)
5. The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon (Good April)
6. Choker By Ben McCool (author) & Ben Atemplesmith (artist) (good 5/7)
The Unwritten series by Mike Carey/Peter Gross (comic)
The Walking Dead Series by Robert Kirkman/Charlie Adlard (comic)
Locke and Key by Joe Hill/Gabriel Rodriguezhttp://www.librarything.com/work/5927
Madam Samurai by Gary Young/David Hitchcock
Category 4 The Unwritten Volumes 1-3 by Mike Carey (author) and Peter Gross (artist)
Horror, books about books, fantasy, comics, meta fiction & books by Carey
1. The Unwritten Vol 5: on to Genesis series by Mike Carey/Peter Gross (comic) (Amazing March)
2. The Last Werewolf by Glen Duncan (Good June)
Harbour by John Ajvide Lindqvist (horror)
Encyclopaedia of Hell by Martin Olson (horror/fantasy)
Category 5 Embassytown by China Mieville
Science fiction, semiotics, zombies, colonisation, 1st person & books by Mieville
1. Atlas of Remote Islands by Judith Schalansky (Amazing May)
2. Rogue Male by Geoffrey Household (Good May)
3. Pontypool Changes Everything by Tony Burgess (Excellent June)
4. Metro 2033 by Dmitry Glukhovsky (good 5/7)
Carlucci 3-In1 by Richard Paul Russo (sci-fi)
Category 6 Zoo City by Lauren Beukes
Fantasy, Africa, crime, animal familiars, music & books by Beukes
1. The Price by Joseph Garraty (Jan Excellent)
2. The Iron Will of Shoeshine Cats (Excellent 6/5)
3. Quarry's Ex by Max Allan Collins (Good June)
4. The Last Quarry by Max Allan Collins (Average june)
5. Moxyland by Lauren Beukes (Good 19/6)
Among Others by Jo Walton (Fantasy)
Redemption In Indigo by Karen Lord (Africa)
A Red Death Walter Mosley (Crime)
Category 7 The Lost Machine by Richard k Kirk
Illustrated books, Novellas, AI, crime, new weird, & books by Kirk
1. The G String Murders by Gypsy Rose Lee (March, good)
Weird: A Compendium of Dark and Strange Stories edited by Ann & Jeff Vandermeer (in category 11)
Winter's Bone by Daniel Woodrell (crime)
Category 8 The Rider by Tim Krabbe
Random purchases, sport, journalism, bikes, memoirs & books by Krabbe
1. The Cave by Tim Krabbe (3/2 Excellent)
2. Giant Thief by David Tallerman (Good April)
The Vanishing by Tim Krabbe
Delay by Tim Krabbe
The quality of hurt : the autobiography of Chester Himes by Chester B Himes
My life of absurdity : the autobiography of Chester Himes by Chester B Himes
Autobiography (Chesterton's biographies) by G.K.Chesterton
Category 9 Lord of Emperors by Guy Gavriel Kay
Rereads, Historical fiction, Political intrigue, Byzantuim, fire & books by GGK
1. The Feast of the Goat by Mario Vargas Llosa (Excellent)
My yearly Raymond Chandler read
Spaceman Blues by Brian Francis Slattery (reread)
Professor Moriarty: The Hound of the DUrbervilles by Kim Newman (historical fiction?)
The Sinai Tapestry by Edward Whittemore (reread)
Category 10 The Orphan's Tales: In the Night Garden by Catherynne M. Valente
fairy tales, nested stories, monsters, women authors, books in a series & books by Valente
1. Boneshaker by Cherie Priest (Excellent 26/12) 414 pages
In The Cities of Coin and Spice by Catherine M Valente (fits most of these tags!)
The Vet's Daughter by Barbara Comyns (women authors)
Category 11 The Troika by Stepan Chapman
new weird, threes, afterlife, cyborg, dinosaurs & books by Stepan Chapman
1. Hospital by Toby Litt (Excellent 11/3)
2. Empire State by Adam Christopher (Good April)
3. The Year of Our War by Steph Swainston (Average May)
4. Sum: Forty Tales from the Afterlives by David Eagleman (Amazing June)
The Third Bear by Jeff VanderMeer (new weird, also in category 7)
What a great and inventive way to structure the challenge! I love your "tags" that define each category!
Ooh, very clever! This way you can have a lot of leeway or very little, depending how your mood wants to play it. Me likey. Me might stealy. :)
Very clever set-up for next year's challenge and, as always, I'll be following what you read with interest.
Like you, I wasn't planning on thinking too much about next year as yet but the enthusiasm of the group has got to me so I've been working on my own throughout the day and think I'm almost ready to put it out there.
Chiming into the praise for cleverness here, and happyhappyhappy to know you'll be joing us again next year. Thanks for the reminder of The lost machine too!
What a great set-up! This is an excellent way to pay homage to the best books of 2011, while searching for the best books of 2012. Can't wait to see what you read.
Love the way you are structuring your challenge! Looking forward to following it next year.
>16 AHS-Wolfy: - I wasn't planning on thinking too much about next year as yet but the enthusiasm of the group has got to me
Yes, it is infectious Dave, but in a good way. ;-)
Thank you and Bookoholic13 please feel free :-).
Thinking about categories is far too addictive and this group so eclectic and so much fun it's hard to stay away!
What a fantastic way to set up your challenge! I have you starred.
Unfamiliar genres- Ok, I'll try to talk you into one. Baseball. WTF-Baseball?????? Yep....
A lot of readers kick and scream about reading a western but a lot of them end up liking Lonesome Dove. The Brothers K is a baseball equivalent to Lonesome Dove. The LT ratings of both books are similar, although Lonesome Dove is more popular. Well, that's my unfamiliar genre arm-twist.
Yes, very clever. You've already got Moxyland listed which was my first recommendation. There's a philosophy book on architecture. If I can remember the name, I'll tell you. I've been sort of planning on reading it for years. Life of Pi is sort of a book on books - it's about stories we tell ourselves in order to survive. Beukes also has a list of recommendations at the end of Moxyland. Might be some good ones there. As for animal familiars, The Golden Compass series of course. I enjoyed it, but didn't love it as much as some people did. The end of the first book is quite depressing.
23 ok I am interested.. but I admit I have never even watched a game of baseball.. will that be a problem?
24 Thanks for the recommendations, definitely interested in the philosophy book on architecture. I have read The Golden Compass (and the rest of the series) but like you didn't really love it.
25, I'm gonna say that one can read Brothers K with very little knowledge of baseball and still enjoy the book. It covers several themes besides baseball that seem to resonate with many readers.
Emma Bull has also blended fantasy & western. If I'm remembering right, you've already read some of her fiction.
27, at this exact moment in time, I am not planning to do a 12/12. Heck, my 10/10 and 11/11 sorta fell apart after a few months. I think I'm one of those readers that make adjustments all year long in my reading which renders a yearly plan into a thorough regurgitated, soggy, sodden mess.
30 aw that's a shame, I enjoy reading your reviews of your eclectic selection. Still I understand if if my categories weren't general I don't think I would ever complete!
@28/29 Thanks for recommendations (sorry missed them earlier), I haven't read either of them.
Love the categories and you've listed lots of books that I want to read too.
33 Thanks :) I find a lot of the books on my wishlist are recommendations from LT!
I hope I don't read any more amazing books! :) I have a list of 12 books/categories now and it will be hard to change any of them!
Looking through your list of candidates, and am by no means surprised there's loads I'm interested in here. Will be looking forward to how you like Hospital and Darkmans, two of my stranger reading expereinces in recent years!
good categories (especially interested in #'s 5 & 6)... definitely starred to follow
Right with only two books to go in my 11 in 11 challenge I am going to roll the numbers to see my category minimums..
1 The BldgBlog Book by Geoff Manuagh - 6 books
2 Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry - 3 books
3 Elmer by Gerry Alanguilan - 10 books
4 The Unwritten Volumes 1- 4 by Mike Carey (author) and Peter Gross (artist) - 4 books
5 Embassytown by China Mieville - 5 books
6 Zoo City By Lauren Beukes - 6 books
7 The Lost Machine by Richard k Kirk - 4 books
8 The Rider by Tim Krabbe - 9 books
9 Lord of Emperors by Guy Gavriel Kay - 2 books
10 The Orphan's Tales: In the Night Garden by Catherynne M. Valente - 7 books
11 The Troika by Stepan Chapman - 9 books
12 The Gone Away World by Nick Harkaway - 4 books
10 books in category three! Didn't you talk about a six-sided dice? ;-)
I know madness took me :) No rolled once and got many 1s so I used an online random 12 sided dice generator! Luckily category 3 is graphic novels :)
some recs for your category 2 (camping, adventuring)
The Cactus Eaters by Dan White; first 2/3rds of the book is terrific... sadly it goes downhill after that.
Dances with Marmots by George Spearing (superior to the first in my opinion.. but no female characters to speak of)
A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson; most accomplished writer of the three, but more wisecracking and less adventuring...
I thought you grabbed a trusty old d10. But you perhaps were never a role-player? ;-P
I see you have a category for Mieville. I recently read King Rat which took the story of the Pied Piper of Hamlin and restaged it in London. I, too, want to read more of him. Intriguing!
44 Hi Mamzel, I think Mieville is definitely worth checking out. I think his books a quite different from each other and very different from King Rat (which I liked) but has a such a great imagination and turn of phrase. Since I see you have a YA category has done a YA book Un Lun Dun or you could jump right in with the mammoth, baroque Perdido Street Station. Happy New Year! :)
Right do I start my 1212 challenge now or not? decisions decisions..
Very clever challenge idea....and some intriguing sounded titles. I look forward to following your progress through the year.
I know about Un Lun Dun and have wanted to get it for the library where we already have Perdido Street Station. I might be going shopping this week...
Right I wasn't going to start this thread until tomorrow but I have read a couple of great books.. so here goes...
Category 10 The Orphan's Tales: In the Night Garden by Catherynne M. Valente
Boneshaker by Cherie Priest
You could almost play Steampunk bingo wih this book its got everthing; airships, pirates, zombies, mad scientists and even madder machines, underground warrens, beer of dubious quality and many different types of goggles. An adventure story of city within a city, walled to stop the putrid, zombie creating gas after Leviticus Blues Incredible Bone-Shaking Machine drilled a murderous hole through the city.
It wasn't quite what I expected, a story of family, of seeking lost answers, of a mother tracking a wayward son but to be honest it was still brilliant. A page turner, swapping between the two protagonists, timeline uncertain to keep the tension. I loved Briar (a strong female character woohoo!) but every other character was great too. The world building is perfect, a broken Seattle lost in the midst of the American civil war, a literal criminal overlord and a fantatsic use of Steampunk and Victoriana tropes. The pacing is well done and if I had to be picky its got a slightly clunky exposition start and an obvious ending.. but one is forgivable and the other a perfect fit so who cares right? The actual book too deserves a mention, being in lovely sepia font with cute goggles to start each chapter. It's a nice touch.
It really doesn't get much better than this. Highly recommend.
My next (and final book for 2011) I picked up in the absolutely excellent, but bankrupting Gosh! comic shop in Soho, London. Go find it if you're nearby.
Category 3 Elmer by Gerry Alanguilan (Tag: comic)
Nelson edited by Rob Davis and Woodrow Phoenix No touchstone, book is here:
Innovative, fascinating graphic novel
An enticing premise: for every year, take 1 day in the life of an ordinary person and get a different comic artist and writer to create it. Starting in 1968 until the present day there is a breathtaking amount of work here and I just had to see how they did and I admit I was surprised (and hugely impressed) by how damn good this book actual is.
Davis and Woodrow (adding their own tales) have kept judicious, tight editorial control but still managed to let the story twist and grow in unforseen ways and end up with one of the most natural life stories I have seen. It never turn out likes you expect does it? The eras of the 70s/80s are brilliantly captured, the angst of youth, the fears of middle age are all there and it's fascinating and gripping and still coherant even though each soupcon of a tale only a few pages long. That's even before we get to the amazing showcase of British talent on display, I can only think of 1 dud tale. The artwork is varied, some of it's simply too beautiful, the writing is funny, sad but amazingly none of it out of character. Some artists of course stand out like Kate Brown tragically funny tale of drunken epiphany or Alice Duke's stunning, beuatiful and sharp take of one of lifes hard decisions.
I can't imagine this working well in any other medium yet I can't believe someone managed to pull this off. Highly recommend to everyone, even comic newbies. Already in the running for the top reads of err.. next year!
Happy New Year folks I am off to get exceedingly drunk!
"Steampunk bingo" is such a great description! It's on my wishlist and now I know exactly what it'll be like to read. :) I keep picking this up at the bookstore, but I always put it back for a stupid reason: the font is brown. I don't even know why that would be a problem. I'll try and get over my animosity. :)
Great to see you enjoyed Boneshaker Claire! Well I wasn't blown away by it I will still consider picking up the next in the series some day to see where the story goes.
Glad you've had a good start to your new challenge.
I've looked at Boneshaker a couple of times but there have been a few negative reviews which have put me off in the past but onto the wishlist it now goes. Book bullet #1 for 2012.
You're probably very hung-over today then, Claire? Hope you had a great night!
Boneshaker is a gorgeous book and a very cool piece of world buildning. To me, the ending dragged it down a notch though. I'm eager to read more set in Priest's world though!
Never heard of Nelson edited, but it sounds fascinating!
@49 Sorry missed your post, I am going to make a hot drink and settle down to read that in a bit. Thanks
Hope everyone who picks it Boneshaker up enjoys it. I was a interested to see why it has such mixed reviews and I can see why the book could confound expectations (not in a good way) being more about a mother/son tale than an airship/pirate adventure. I didn't think that characters were that dull but that's a very personal thing.
Spoiler I didn't hate the evil guy trope bit at the end but I don't think it worked as well as it could (and I did want him to be a robot but hey!). In fact my slight irritant is with Zeke's reaction to what happened to his father. Didn't feel very real somehow, got over too quickly
@55 oops touchstone not working confused things Its just called Nelson but it is a very cool experiment. Hound your local comic library to stock it :)
Nelson has gone straight onto my library request list.
I didn't enjoy Boneshaker that much but one of the sequels looked interesting, it's set on a train. I'm willing to give Priest another try.
I was disappointed with Boneshaker as well. I just didn't care enough about the characters to keep reading it. Made it about halfway through. Odd for me, since I love steampunk. Oh well.
57 Hope you enjoy it!
@58 I guess although it has a strong setting it didn't really have an evocative sense of steampunkness (sorry not a word I know!).
Well I have finished 1 book this year so far and it doesn't fit into my 1212. doh! I am still reading and enjoying Ghost Milk but boy is it chewy.
However during the intermission (cue bad organ music) please note that Nick Harkaway has a new short story to buy in e-books form out to whet our appetites for his next book (plus 1st chapter).
oh and the short story book I finished was good and my fav is online here:
Well I have finished 1 book this year so far and it doesn't fit into my 1212.
No amount of planning seems to account for every possible book. I thought my current book was going to have the same problem and then I realized it fits into my geography category as it is set in England and I am considering everywhere outside of North America as fair game for that category!
@61 well I probably could find a space for it but since it's Jan I am being stubborn :)
@62 Thanks it was a ER book I have had since November so doubley cool really! And I am almost frothing with excitement on the new Harkaway book :)
Right a review!
Category 1 The BldgBlog Book by Geoff Manuagh
Ghost Milk by Iain Sinclair
Chewy, choatic, mesmering.
"When did it begin, this intimate liaison between developetrs and government, to reconstruct the body of London, to their mutual advantage? Dr Frankenstein with a Google Earth programme and a laser scapel."
Iain Sinclair is an utterly fascinating man but one that can't stick to the point for long. Compared to W G Sebald, beautifully decsribed by a reviewer as a 'gonzo Samual Pepys' he is an experience in itself. The book will not be to everyones tastes, but it's easy to read if nearly unclassifiable. At once a polemic against the grand project (the soulless, spin of commercial architecture) and in another part memoir, part mediation of relationship of poetry and geography, part eulogy of J G Ballard, part walkers diary. This is a mesmerising, chaotic, unfocused wander through the mind of Iain Sinclair.
"You have a name for your book?" Mimi said.
"What does this mean?
"CGI smears on a blue fence. Real juice from a virtual host. Embalming fluid.
A Soup of photographc negatives. Soul food for the dead. The universal element in which we sink and swim"
"Crazy, Mr Sinclair" Mimi said, "Crazy again"
He is a walker, deeply connected to his surroundings through art and history, walking through a multi-layered landscape and it is a joy to walk with him. He is self-deprecating, amusing, poetic, passionate, sometimes over the top and whether you agree with his politics there is some food for thought here; corruption and waste on a grand scale, erosions of freedom, ecological disaster, a dearth of future and a destruction of history.
"Dominent colours: dirt-rose, morbid soot, pigeon shit. The railway stations have been around so long they have become accepted natural features. Like cliffs or mountains. London grows its fossils by accretions of indifference"
He doesnt just wander Londons and look on horror at the olympic site, he visits other grand projects: millennium museums and coporate works of art, Manchester's old Trafford stadium, travels up the M62 to muse on the idea of Supercity ("Post-industrial muddle extended, in the London architect bloodshot eyes, into a single hallucinatory city"). He interviews artists and their fascinating interview excerpts and diaries dot the text. It's a pure melting pot, a maelstrom of ideas.
"The Trafford Centre has its own microclimate and it smells like dead television. Like the after-sweat of an Oscar ceremony; hope dashed, lust curtailed, fear tasted."
I do recommend it although perhaps start with his more famous works like London Orbital. Still it's an experience like no other.
Not sure it's my type of book (I'll give London Orbital a look), but you're definitely getting a thumb for that brilliant review!
I like pyschogeography. I think it works best for a reader when one is fairly familiar with the territory being written about. Physically familiar with the territory. I've put off reading Sinclair for that reason. I'm sure I would miss a lot. The pyschogeography area I've dabbled in is southern California in which knowledge is not gained by walking but by driving.
For once, a Claire-read that's not for me. Those quotes do nothing for me. Good review though!
@65/67 He is an acquired taste!
@66 It's interesting when he travels abroad and doesn't quite have the rich, familarity and depth of knowledge of a place: his connection to Berlin is through WWII and Berlin Alexanderplatz. Actually he does briefly visit San Francisoco (and Texas) too :) Having said that you might be ok with this one, although am roughly familiar and can therefore visualise the type of areas he goes to I haven't been to all of them, it's pyschogeographic light I guess..
So not only do we get book bullets from this thread we're now getting online links to read too?
Yay! I thought The situationwas a short story collcetion though. Does this cover one story, or the whole thing? I really must get around to reading VanderMeer outside of Ambergris too!
@72 More of a novella really, you can read it online here:
To be honest I didn't love it, I am hoping it works better as a comic.
I had to read this after Pete gushed so much. My 1st e-book too, I feel almost modern.
Category 6 Zoo City by Lauren Beukes. Tag: Crime
The Price by Joseph Garraty
Gripping Urban Horror
Jimmy has a talent, he can make inanimate objects do what he wants, which is useful skill to the mob open some locks, start a fire.. So they make an offer Jimmy can't refuse: safety, money and training in the arcane arts. Trouble is Jimmy doesn't know what he is getting in to, he doesn't know there's a price.
A fantastic, page turner of a novel with one foot squarely set in the mafia crime genre, one in urban fantasy and one in horror. The world of organised crime, of mob war mixed with magic fits brilliantly and ensure a fast paced, gripping plot. The characters are on the whole really good: Garraty not only manages the difficult task of keeping Jimmy sympathetic, there’s a great backup cast in the offing (his mob mentor is great, changing from terrifying to pathetic). However the real thing that shines is idea of The Price, the cost of magic, not a new idea but one brilliantly crafted imbuing the tale with an edge of horror, deepening the tale and characters and ramping up the suspense.
Highly recommend to those fans of urban fantasy, crime or horror. It's only available on e book at the moment which is a crying shame but one worth tracking down, worth every penny.
Yes, great review. Can't remember hearing about a book that blends mafia crime and fantasy before - strange really!
I know Mafia and fantasy seem such a perfect fit, I guess the lone PI is much more romantic :) It is a shame there is no physical book though, I am still not a fan of e-books.
Category 3 Elmer by Gerry Alanguilan, Tag: Comics
Alan's War by Emmanuel Guivert
“When I was eighteen, Uncle Sam told me he’d like me to put on a uniform and go off to fight a guy by the name of Adolf. So I did.”
A chance encounter between comic creator and an elderly American gent not only cemented a lifelong friendship but produces this wonderful memoir of a young American GI who joined up during the last years of WWII. Cope is a wonderfully story teller and Guibert skilfully joins a series of vignettes into a flowing narrative, letting Copes voice shine through.
It’s a very personal account, Cope saw very little action but it’s nevertheless as fascinating as it is moving. A coming of age tale just as much a tale of WWII. We follow his friendships, the banalities of war mixed with its sharp, sudden dangers, his blossoming love of Europe, his struggle to make a place in the world.
The art is deceptively simple and very beautiful; an image hanging in white space, concentrating the mind and allowing the imagination to fill in. I can imagine its very much what someone see as they listen to the story.
Highly recommended to everyone, even non comics fans will find something to like here. You can get a taster over at: http://us.macmillan.com/alanswar/EmmanuelGuibert
I am beginning to be a bit of a fan of Guibert's. I thought The photographer was brilliant.
Category 8 The Rider by Tim Krabbe Tag: books by Krabbe
The Cave by Tim Krabbe
Brilliantly crafted, jigsaw thriller.
It starts off so average too, a guy whose lost everything making a play for small time riches, a geology teacher turned drug mule. We start by following him as he gears up for the drop, his fears of how bad it could get, his amateur plans and then BAM, we switch to another narrator, a different time and the nature of the story starts to become clear. This is not your average thriller, it’s an artfully and carefully constructed musing on fate, of the tragedy of what might have been, of the soul destroying aspect of 'doing your duty'. Gripping and powerful as we start to burrow down in time we see glimpses of story, until near it becomes clear and you read it desperately wishing that it wasn't the truth. Don't get me wrong this is not about 1 mans fall into crime, it's …. well that would be rather too large a spoiler wouldn’t it?
It's a short book, more novella but well worth seeking out. Highly recommended, especially to anyone interested in thrillers or story craft will lap this up.
Category 12 The Gone Away World by Nick Harkaway. Tag: Dystopia
Shades of Grey by Jasper FForde
Dystopian for fans of world building
In a society where the colour you can see denotes your social standing we meet young Eddie Russet, a low-level 'red' who for anything else it's just a shade of grey, but he has strong ambitions (an advantageous marriage, a high colour score on his coming of age day) and if he can pull it off he will be set for life. Trouble is he has to travel to the outskirts for a lesson in humility and that’s going to change his life.
FForde has many many great ideas, a great turn of phrase and a good sense of humour. He knows how to tantalise a reader with just enough information for enjoyment but still have leave questions to ensure you to keep reading. However for all his tricks this book is just about world building, just a set-up the rest of the series and it’s going to depend on what you want for a book and your patience level.
Personally as more of story fan I need much, much more and as I read became increasingly disappointed. There is nothing here apart from strong imagination and good writing: no deep plot or characters, nothing to engage and no pay off. Ok so the plot does kick in towards the end and when it does the book (and the characters) come alive but the ending ends up being a deeply unsatisfying trailer for book 2.
It really doesn’t help the plot is a homage to other dystopian tales (1984) and is pretty dull just by itself i.e. guy falls for a girl and miraculously realises he is living in a dystopian society (well duh). It doesn't naturally lead to the most exciting protagonist and I have say Ffordes naive, young every-man is a perfect example of what can go wrong, bland isn't the word.
So in all honesty I don’t recommended it until book two is out and getting good reviews as otherwise it's practically just a long prologue. Having said that Fforde fanatics and lovers of clever setups will probably lap this one up.
What a shame about Shades of Grey. I do love Fforde's world-building and clever language, but I would like a bit of plot to go with it as well. :)
83 There's a group read at the mo, so I expect a variety of reviews will pop up. I have a feeling it's just who is quite negative.
Category 12 The Gone Away World by Nick Harkaway. Tag: books by Nick Harkaway
AngelMaker by Nick Harkaway
Extreme multi genre fun
“That is indeed wonderful. However it is also somewhat insane and a bit on the weird side” (thanks to pete for letting me use his quote! :) )
This book is pure, joyful fun. A page turning exuberant, gripping story, with absolutely pitch perfect characters (best octogenarian ever!), a cracking plot, a masterful blend of seriousness and light-hearted glee and a much needed, refreshing, modern whirlwind of genres. Let's see; Steampunk gadgets? Tick. Doomsday device? tick. James Bond Spy thrillers Vs 70s cor blimey gangster flicks? Tick. Serious musing on the nature of truth? Of old age? Of following in father’s footsteps? Tick. Cults, serial killers, nuns, robots, elephants and small ugly dogs? Tick. A fantastic, over the top, show down at the end? Tick.
Harkaway knows his tropes and whilst readers will be familiar with much of it the joy comes from how he riffs on them, how they then come together to bring something new, something modern. It is at once funny, exciting, sad, joyful and outrageous all at once. One for story lovers and speculative fiction fans all at once. I think it’s going to take a second read to notice the faults so blinded as I am by the story, in fact my only gripe is sometimes the story didn’t do want I wanted :)
For those wondering how it compares to the brilliant Gone Away World it's a very different book. There’s no awe-inspiring twist here, but it is a much tighter book and though contains no ninjas Hardaway’s trademark eclectic tastes, great characters still stand out. In fact those who didn’t like his 1st book should probably give it a try, it’s extremely well honed and edited.
Recommended to everyone. Oh book trailer here (warning actually tells you what it’s about)
Looking forward to Angelmaker's paperback release. Glad to know the sense of fun is still there amidst a good story.
I cant tell when the paperback release date is, Amazon says its out now but seems to be £2 more expensive than the hardback hmmm.
Hi Claire! Sorry about Shades of grey. I liked it a shade better than you (gave it 3,5 stars), sucker for worls-building that I am, but my beef with the book is very much the same as yours. I've already made note of Harkaway after your last lovebombing, but this adds a couple of exclamation points for me. Thumbed and thumbed!
I felt almost exactly the same way about Shades of Grey. A fun read, but the plot was just spread way too thin.
Category 1 The BldgBlog Book by Geoff Manuagh. Tag: Architecture
The Empire of Death: A Cultural History of Ossuaries and Charnel Houses by Paul Koudounaris
Lush coffee table book
"These sites were intended as statements of hope and beauty, and it was important to me that I find a means through photographs and the writing of history to convey that: these sites represent death only in so far as death itself affirms life.”
An utterly beautiful (if beautiful is the right word) coffee table book, lovingly put together that makes it a strong temptation for anyone interested in the history and varieties of ossuaries and charnel houses. Not only is it packed with full photos and tiny old paintings and postcards but it contains stunning layouts of text. Koudounaris writes a fascinating, well researched history of all the reasons and various reactions to them, the war memorials, the catholic reminders of death (the memento mori), the secular fashions, the slightly distasteful personal monuments.
I guess I don’t need to recommend it, you know if it’s your thing. From my perspective it almost makes me not want to be cremated, making up a gorgeous chandelier or creepy cloaked figure sounds much more fun :)
>89 clfisha: When me and Flea lived in Gothenburg we had the city's most "fancy" graveyard nearby, and we sometimes walked there. Especially on top of a hill were graves and monuments of a magnitude seldom seen in Sweden. Most memorable, in a sad kind of way, was a huge mausoleum with an at least thirty meter curved marble bench in front, flanked by marble sfinxes. Staircases on both sides led up to the top of the tomb, where angels, larger than people, wept on each side of a huge headstone (six, seven meters I guess) where BIG LETTERS stated that this was the family grave of (if my memory serves me right) Pripp, the most famous brewing family in Sweden. But there were only two names on there - a man and his wife. The other 95% of that huge stone was empty.
ETA: Wasn't Pripp, it was Seaton, it turns out.
@89 It does look cool, but doesn't change my mind on cremation. ;) I wouldn't want to stand on my feet for centuries.
@91 Wow, its an odd desire we have to leave a mark on the world and I always feel the mausoleum is the oddest case. Sad that they were alone, sad he had that kind of money to spend but for me secretly impressive too :) Of course now I am intrigued to visit Gothenburg, I have sadly never been Sweden. As with book too many holiday destinations for one life.
@92 well some are stuck on ceilings in scary flying positions :)
Claire - I'm a little late adding this, but I love your categories and rolling for numbers!
You've been reading some great books already. I think the only one I've read (or more honestly, tries to read and walked away from) was Shades of Grey. I admit your review makes me feel better that I didn't get through it.
I'll keep visiting - thanks!
@95 thank you :) I found Shades of Grey hard going, I did keep wondering why I didn't just stop reading it, eternal optimism I guess.
Category 3 Elmer by Gerry Alanguilan, Tag: Comics
Blankets by Craig Thompson
Lovely coming of age graphic novel
Beautifully drawn and extremely well crafted autobiographically coming of age story. A tale of a young teenager struggling to find his path and identity, themes well trodden but in this case deftly and quietly done. The hard topics of fundamentalist religion, of abuse, of social isolation mixes with familiar experiences of first love, of confusion over life’s future possibilities and personal faith and a burgeoning youthful confidence.
It really is a touching and thoughtful graphic novel, that doesn't need to shout to be heard and I recommend it to lovers of coming of age tale, whether you are a fan of graphic novels or not.
Hi Claire, you've managed to describe Blankets without gushing, which I couldn't do. Just discovered graphic novels last year, and so far my favorites have been Jeff Lemire's The Complete Essex County and Craig Thompson's Blankets, both of which convey a sense of coming of age, so obviously I am a fan of that theme.
I guess that's why I wasn't blown away as I am simply not a huge fan of the coming of age story. I can appreciate how well done it was though. Now having said that The Complete Essex County is also on my wishlist :)
Like I noted on Judy's thread about Blankets, some parts were so different from any of my own experiences that it didn't hit me quite in the heart, but I did enjoy the descriptions of that first mad love very much.
My library's librarian (now retired) had ordered Blankets for this library. When it arrived I opened it to a random page and found one boy peeing on another. She sent the book right back.
99 I can see that, extreme ideology is not something that happens very much in the UK either and struggling to see if you stay a Christian in the Church of England is not the same thing :) Still I agree the 1st love bit was very well done.
100 Oh what an unfortunate page to turn too. I admit by the time I reached bit I just found it an amusing incident of what terrible things kids can get up to.
"struggling to see if you stay a Christian in the Church of England is not the same thing"
LOL - so true. You made me think of this: When it doubt, always go for Eddie Izzard! :)
I feel review rusty again. Must read more :)
Category 9 Lord of Emperors by Guy Gavriel Kay. Tag: Historical fiction
Feast of a Goat by Mario Vargas Llosa >
Stunning historical fiction
“The Chief cut the Gordian knot: “Enough!” Great ills demand great remedies! He not only justified the massacre of Haitians in 1937; he considered it a great accomplishment of the regime. Didn’t he save the Republic from being prostituted a second time by that marauding neighbour? What do five, ten, twenty thousand Haitians matter when it’s a question of saving an entire people?”
Beautifully written the story immerses you in the last days of Rafael Leónidas Trujillo Molina, Dictator of the Dominican Republic from 1930 to 1969, when the Catholic Church and USA have turned their back on him and assassination plots grow thick. This is not a story to be read in snatches, take a deep breath and dive in as characters and time lines are expertly, thickly, layered to create one of the best, most exciting historical fictions books I have read in a long while.
The Dominican setting comes fully alive in Llosa's hands as do the multitude of characters. For he loves to get into the characters heads, to show you what they are thinking and where they have come from. This deepness creates a gripping and horrifying tale of the impact of dictatorship, of a endemic misogynistic culture, of the cruelty of international politics, that some things can never be forgiven.
The cast we follow is deftly chosen; Trujillo himself on his last day, the assassins waiting on a lonely road, an odious cabinet minster or two. He balances these characters, adding extra dimension to the tale by also following Urania Cabral who is returning to the Dominican Republic many years after these events, returning after the traumatic events forced her to flee. If it seems overwhelming it isn’t they all flow into just 3 story arch’s of Trujillo, of the murder and of the present. But Llosa doesn't baby the audience, you need to be awake for this, to do it justice. Llosa has this great literary trick used towards the end when a reminisces will segue present into past without breaking sweat, hammering home the impact to sublime effect.
I like it so much it’s hard to see where others may dislike it, the darkness could be a problem, the seeming complexity or the simplification of history (note I don’t know how accurate it is) or maybe they feel some characters to be superfluous. Still it’s worth a go and I highly recommend it, you don’t need to know the history (although nicknames can be confusing), this is a book to experience, to chew on and even to love.
I've been planning to read Feast of the Goat for a while. Llosa is really great when he's writing about corruption.
The Feast of the Goat is on my options list for this year so I'm glad you liked it so much. It fits in two of my categories so it stands a decent chance of being read this year.
Big thumbs up for your excellent review of The Feast of the Goat.
You also got a thumbs up from me -- great review of The Feast of the Goat.
Thank you :) and I hope you both enjoy it! I forgot to thank VisibleGhost for bringing it to my attention.
Joining in the thumbing - great review! I got a few pages into Aunt Julia and enjoyed the writing a lot, but somehow put it away again. It's on Mt. TBR.
Great review of The Feast of the Goat Claire! I haven't ventured into any of Llosa's works and I am intrigued to do so with this one unless there is a better book to start with.
Thanks! It was my first Llosa and I am really not sure what to try next, if anyone has any recommendations let me know :)
I don't think you can go wrong with his books, but I've only read one but mean to read more. Who killed Palomino Molero was great, had some tough to read descriptions in it as expected. A lot of people have criticized it though for being "fluffy" for Vargas Llosa. It isn't really. It's very subtle and very corrupt.
I just read Feast of the Goat last year but I'm pretty sure it's one of those books that will stick. The resigned bitterness of Urania is palpable in such a way that I kept wondering how he was depicting that bitterness with mere words. Another Dominican Republic book that stuck was The Wonderful Life of Oscar Wao. Trujillo left deep scars on that country. It's the only Vargas Llosa that I've read tho' I do have some more on the shelf.
I actually might finish another book in the near future and have something to post on my thread. Finally. This is turning out to be a low-volume year when it comes to reading, for me.
113 I will keep I look out for that one, thanks. I like the fluffy criticism.. I can't imagine Llosa ever being fluffy!
114 I really did like Urania, the messiness and her visceral feeling, wait that's not the right word is it, she very much used her intelligence to react. I cant wait to read Feast of the Goat again, I love to try and work out how he achieved the effects i.e the amount of info without info dumping, the tension of foreknowing. Oh and noting down The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao thanks.
I go in stages with my reading, with brief spurts and then not much, although I think LT encourages me to keep up. This year is definitely a slow year! Anyway hurry up and finish i like reading your reviews :)
Category 11 The Troika by Stepan Chapman. Tag: New Weird
Hospital by Toby Lit
Deliciously bonkers humorous horror
There is no way I can out do the blurb and so:
Hospital is about blue murder and saving lives, having sex and surgery, falling in love and falling from a great height, crazy voodoo and hypnotic surveillance – it’s about the last days and the first days. And the Rubber Nurse knows you’ve been very naughty and is going to teach you a well-deserved lesson. It’s the story of a lost boy wandering the corridors of a strange, antiseptic building, looking and hoping for a chance to get home. And also of a man who won’t wake up despite the best efforts of the hospital staff – and while he sleeps, a threatening darkness settles over everything...
If that sounds like your thing jump right in! Really do you need to know more?
Well if you do be comforted(?) that it’s not a deranged surrealist mess but a brilliant, gripping tale with a fight of good Vs evil, a closed, out of control immortality and set in a "soap opera" hospital. There are some beautiful stereotypes here; the handsome surgeon and love forlorn nurse, the evil and ego driven head Satanist, the naughty and erotic nurse all twisted into the tale. Amusing and horrific in turns it’s a delightfully imaginative and gripping tale not just because you want to see how the idea(s) grow but because it’s very well paced and very carefully plotted (although getting an answer out of the end up is up to you).
Anyone who loves the fantastical and are not overly squeamish (it has been called gorgeously grotesque by one reviewer) you should really check this out. It’s rare a book that leaps to this level of imagination, it’s very rare that book is this amusing too. I highly recommend it and huge kudos go to Anders who put this on my radar.
oh there is an excerpt here
That sounds absolutely brilliant! Whoever wrote that blurb is a genius as well. :)
Well if you do be comforted(?) that it’s not a deranged surrealist mess
.... but I am looking for a deranged surrealist mess right now.... Kidding! Interesting review but I think I will give this one a pass for now, but thinking about slotting it into an 'offbeat, quirky' list for further reference.
Thanks guys, blurb writing is an art isn't it? I think whoever wrote that should get a pay rise.
@119 I am sure LT can come up with a list :)
>116 clfisha: It's such a great feeling when a recommendation you've made hits home :) Go glad you enjoyed it! I'm still impressed with how Litts takes this idea and just runs with it, taking it further and further and further... Very bold and original stuff!
I read the short story collection Exhibitionism last year, and it was a pretty mixed bag of oddities. I ended up giving it 3,5. But there were streaks of brilliance in there too. I think Toby Litt has a bit of a reputation for every book being totally different. Looking forward to your reviews of Astro City :)
Category 3 Elmer by Gerry Alanguilan, Tag: Comics
The Unwritten Vol 5: On to Genesis by Mike Carey (author) and Peter Gross (artist)
Gripping, adventure comic. Brilliant meta-fiction.
Imagine the worlds best selling fantasy series (yes witha boy wizard) was never finished, that the author disappearing into thin air. Now imagine that was your father and that character is based on you and your life is now one monotonous round of signings, interviews and fantasy conventions talks. Bad enough until you realise your childhood was a lie and someone is out to kill you.
One of the best comic series out there. Beautifully drawn, expertly plotted and with an intelligent and gripping tale. The playful merging of reality, or literature and storytelling makes a great base for a plot. There is myriad of styles from nods to classics of Moby Dick and Winnie the Pooh, to Nazi Propaganda and USA pulp fiction. Blend that in with cults, conspiracies, magic and the modern world (blogging, celebrity fandom) you a tale of hug breath and potential and Carey is an author that can pull this off.
For those who are have read up to volume 4
Although we get some gripping action this is a plot driven novel; we are digging in the past now and Carey is building up the story arch to great effect. The different styles and literary nodes are still here, this time we deleve into the era of pulp, there is some gorgeous artwork in the style of old comics to be found. A collection to satisfy and wet the appetite, all in all a subperb continuation of a fabulous series
Ah I love this series, please go and try it. I think you will all love it too
I've bought the first part on your recommendation and will read it this year. Just trying to pace my graphic novel category a little bit!
Category 3 Elmer by Gerry Alanguilan, Tag: Comics
Astro City by Kurt Busiek
Brilliant look at the superhero world.
Busiek himself sums up this book in his brilliant introduction:
.. a wander off the main thoroughfare of a superhero world and see what stories have been waiting in the shadows to be told, what we can discover if we stop heeding the siren song of what happens next and start wondering what else is there..
He fulfils his aims brilliantly in a series of tales set in the same world. Busiek has a great eye to tales hidden between the dramatic fights and dramas of the superhero world and he has the skills to bring a short story to life. And although he protests of too much reality in the superhero genre, making a reader connect with it, making it believable is something that makes this comic shine. The world is deep and rich, with some joyously weird superheroes and it is exciting to think there is a whole series here.
You don't need to be a superhero fan to enjoy this (I'm not) and the standard tropes are all you need to know to enjoy. So we meet a superhero who never has time just to fly for the love it, a petty crook who finds out someone’s secret identity or an amusing look at journalistic ethics.
Highly recommend for comics lovers and those who are want to see past those superhero flicks.
@125 Just trying to pace my graphic novel category a little bit!
I've totally failed on this front splurging on astro city, all 5 Unwritten volumes and buying 3 more graphics at the weekend....
I am enjoying having one category mostly just existing for my graphic novels :) Being a luddite and not really liking the whole ebook thing I admit I don't like reading comics ported onto the Ipad, in this case it's because you cant see the whole 2 page spread at once like it was intended. Having said that I had great fun reading Girl Genius online!
Category 7 The Lost Machine by Richard k Kirk. Tag: Crime
The G String Murders by Gypsy Rose Lee
Fascinating 40s burlesque
Written by "intelligent stripper" Gypsy Rose Lee The G String Murders became a salacious best seller in 1940's. Vividly set in the deliciously seedy world of burlesque this is a crime story to read for its perspective. Don't get me wrong the plots fine and it edges into tense, creepiness towards the end but the star of the show is the time and place.
The characters are fab, a snapshot of the typical types you would find in the theatre and of a course written from a protagonist who I suspect mirrors Miss Lee quite closely. So you get the G string salesman, the ego inflated stage manager, the prima dona all clashing and fighting in between the murders. Then of course you get the titbits, the melting of their make-up to reuse, the soaking of breasts in cold water or petroleum to make them pert or the corruption involved in avoiding obscenity charges. You do also get Lee's wry humour and parting shots of hypocrisy and wealth but oddly you don ‘t get much of a feminist stance. I guess Lee putting her name to a story was enough in itself
It could be accused of being episodic but I didn’t really care less, it’s still good fun. On top of that you get a lot of great extras, background on Lee, amusing letters between her and her publisher. Lee is a fascinating character in her own right and her biography is now on the wish list.
All in all recommended.
After seeing your reviews, I'm thinking that I need a comic-book/graphic-novel category next year. I loved superhero comics as a kid.
With that cast of characters, I'll be adding The G String Murders to the wishlist as well! :)
132 It's really nice to make space for them instead of squeezing them in. Also helps keep up the numbers :)
Oo American Rose: A Nation Laid Bare: The Life and Times of Gypsy Rose Lee looks really good thanks for the recommendation.
I'm curious about The G-String Murders too. Interlibrary loan? Perhaps if we all rush to our libraries to find it, it will be the next reprint best-seller. Looks like you've had a good reading streak!!!
>126 clfisha: I haven' t read the first Astro City book in ages. Hmm, now I'm getting hit by my own book bullets ricochetting...
137 I now envisage many confused librarians wondering why it's the number 1 request :)
@138 we are going to have to start wearing flak jackets with built in blinkers... Anyway thanks for the reccomendations
G-String, ya know, like on a guitar... I actually found it in my local library's catalog. Now I'll just have to find it in someday.
I am supposed to be writing some reviews.. Meanwhile look at these gorgeous bookends
Those are cool! I think I would even get a set to put around my Kindle!
Great bookends. When I'm on my laptop I don't see ads because I run adblockers. I clicked on the link for the bookends from my Kindle. They served me up an ad for a- Oxford Bookcase Library Wall. With free shipping!
It's a snip at 5k to :) Who says targeted advertising is bad.. mind I do like those bookcases..
Loved the bookends! Didn't dare look too closely at the bookcase...
Good gracious me I got round to do some reviews..
Category 3 Elmer by Gerry Alanguilan, Tag: Comics
Aya by Marguerite Abouet
Set in the Ivory Coast in the good times of the 70s this is a tale of teenage years with differing dreams (rich wife or doctor), youthful lust and fears all rubbing against a clash of class of modern culture and traditions all set in the rich, evocative and, to me fascinating unfamiliar place. The art is as delightful as the characters, the historical period interesting (a great intro sets the historic scene if you are not aware) and I really want to see where Aya's life takes her and thank Kerry for the recommendation!
Recommended to comics fans, lovers of coming of age tales and anyone interested in Africa.
and now two books that fit together lovingly
Category 3 Elmer by Gerry Alanguilan, Tags: Comics & Genocide
Kavelier & Clay by Michael Chabon
A odd, endearing book.
With a endearing love of superhero comics Chabon deeply entwines a story of astounding (super)heroes and heartfelt personal dramas, of dramatic escapes and everyday torturous traps. It's part tale of deep friendships, a lecture in US comics history and the tragic tale of WWII. It’s has some big things to say (and explain) but has much fun along the way and lucky it grounds itself with rich and evocative settings and a grand cast of utterly human characters. So one minute we are dazzled by the manic dynamism of New York in the 1940s and next overcome by the cold, dark maddening isolation of the Antarctic. We meet and lose a lifetimes worth of people from the hard, cynical editor George Deasey to the glamorous, lonely radio actor of Tracy Bacon (love that name).
It's ambitious wonderful, clever and heartfelt and if it wasn’t so damn long, with a slow start, an uneven pacing and the odd brazen info dump this would be a truly wonderful book. It’s easy to forgive these faults and let it take your breath away, you don’t need to be a fan or even like comics, superheroes, WWII stories or romance it‘s superbly its own delicious thing and I highly recommend the experience.
Category 11 The Troika by Stepan Chapman. Tag: ***** (minor plot spoiler!)
Empire State by Adam Christopher
Fun Sci-fi noir
I love the new flood of genre mash-ups and this is a gem. It opens with a bang too as a gripping car chase rival gangsters is overtaken by a literally explosive fight between two superheroes. For this is prohibition era New York and things are about to get worse (and weird) for PI Rad Bradley, who is about to make a discovery that’s going to change everybody’s lives forever.
Sublimely meshing noir tropes with superhero conventions and twisting your typical mystery plot into a mind bending tale of parallel universes, odd cults, robots, airships, doomsday devices and really hard alcohol. It's a fun, fast paced, mind bending mystery. It has a fantastic sense of place with its rain slicked streets, eerily empty warships, gargantuan mansions and seedy speakeasies and they are all populated with some great characters, luckily my favourite being PY Bradley who really shines here. It’s real easy to slip into this world and bring it alive, Christopher manages to walk a tightrope of tricky character reasoning and motivation with a such a fluid setting.
I guess being a 1st novel there are some cracks, some of those great characters get lost and some just don't seem to fit. I felt the plot could have done with being a wee tighter or rather pruned/focused as there any dead wood in the thick plot. Personal taste also dictated a desire for a less snake like plot, which gave a me a headache but now I am just nitpicking. I meant it has a robot butler what more do you want?
All in all recommend to lovers of a rollicking story with a mind bending plot, sci-fi fans and lovers of noir. Christopher is an author to watch.
I've seen Empire State a few times and nearly picked it up on each visit to the bookshop. Will have to make sure I do the next time or at least add it to the wishlist for now. Sounds like something I would really enjoy.
Thanks for the bookends link!! I found a birthday present for a friend who can be very difficult to shop for. Zombies!!
Kavelier & Clay is on Mt. TBR and "odd, endearing" sounds perfect - that's what I was hoping for.
They were great to read side by side I admit, hope everyone enjoys them when they get to try them
Category 12The Gone Away World by Nick Harkaway Tag: dystopia
High Rise J G Ballard
The 1st line pretty much sums this up:
"Later, as he sat on his balcony eating the dog, Dr Robert Laing reflected on the unusual events that had taken place within this huge apartment building during the previous three months"
Written in 70s, set in the (then) futuristic vision of huge luxury high rises blocks which contain everything you need (schools, shops, restaurants) which soon breakdown into a hellish dystopia. If you have read Ballard before you can see how this goes: a violent, intense and dramatic breakdown.
It is fascinating as much for this societal breakdown as it is for the latter twist into more offbeat horror story. This twist in facts freshens the plot as much as it serves to jar narrative. In fact some of these later ideas are evocative enough to stay with me and make me wish for a survival horror game based on the book. Apart from the ideas the other highlight in the book is the use of setting; the fact that the building not only creates the initial conflicts but also drives the plot much more than his passive protagonists. The high rise grounds the more over the top happenings in reality, which it has to be said doesn't seem that out of date (people start film everything even if it’s not in digital).
Of course this brings me to the book‘s failures. A dystopia always requires disbelief in its setup and always leans towards exaggeration but you will have to cope with both aspects throughout the book. Although it is a sobering thought that he did witness societal breakdown and incarceration in camps during WWII, so how much of an exaggeration it is who knows. His characters are weirdly passive, misogynistic things who just ramble in and out of a tall tale. Getting 3 protagonists (male) gives a great multi view point of ongoing events and help to keep the pace up but they are all unlikeable, irritating and sexist. Now whilst you are really going to have accept the inherent sexism and move on (or giggle at it or maybe use as a case study in a certain type of male psychology) it’s hard to take the other faults. Well Ok it's a bit easier as we know it’s not going end well...
Oddly while I recognise I dislike some aspects of the book, I couldn’t imagine the book without them and enjoyed it because of them. In fact I will be picking up some more, probably drowned world and do recommend this book to horror and dystopian fans. Ballard is so widely influential it is probably worth trying him at least once, although lovers of The empire of the sun may be a bit shocked.
Read High rise over fifteen years ago (it's one of the first entries in my first reader's diary), and remember the setup well - but nothing about the ending. Reading your review it doesn't seem coincidental.
There are two British authors I lost track of what books I had read by them, J.G. Ballard and Graham Greene, that I've been meaning to start reading/rereading again. It might seen odd putting those two in the same basket, for they are miles apart in style and worldview, but for some reason I find them similar. I wonder if that's just me?
Anders - Yep tails off a bit. Although the death **Spoilers** of the OTT masculine guy (forgot name, book too far) by a group of cannibal harpie mothers on the roofs 'blood garden' was amusing memorable **end spoilers**
Dave - Might check that one out next thanks.
VisibleGhost - ah never read Graham Greene, I keep planning too every single year but I never do. I am intrigued how though.
and now for another long review
Category 11 The Troika by Stepan Chapman Tag: *****
Osama by Lavie Tidhar
Sci fi Noir
The premise is an intriguing one
“In a world without global terrorism Joe, a private detective, is hired by a mysterious woman to find a man: the obscure author of pulp fiction novels featuring one Osama Bin Laden: Vigilante..."
It's an odd book and the blurb tends to mislead; it's all smoke and mirrors not a concrete alternative history book, it draws on the terrorism subtext but mixes the topic with a deft touch, it is sci fi and noir but uses none of those writing styles. It is however a beautifully written tale, which plays with Noir tropes to tell a science fiction story and, yes, holds a mirror up to the effects of terrorism. It muses on trauma and death, the stark harshness of violence and fear, of love and the act of remembering. It is not titillating or harsh it is funny, odd, stark, dreamy and touching and I liked it very much.
The settings of this international thriller are fantastic (especially London which literally seeps off the page( but we also go to Paris, Kabul, Laos and to small extent the US. Tidhar deftly weaves the pressure and fullness of history, the locations are rich and deep and carry weight and secure the worlds dreamy unexplained place in a reality. I loved the small asides of historical facts which some obviously are wrong i.e. De Gaulle did not die in Algiers. I loved the nods to our stories, ones easily spotted and ones I probably missed. It’s not an annoying gimmick it feels right their world should reflect ours, the PI should buy a purple rose in little Cairo to mourn a lost friend.
The pace of story is well done, action in all the right places, short chapters and sections to keep the rhythm. The characters, fit their purpose. Fully realised, glimpsed and memorable, a stereotype subverted and made more real. The styles used are unexpected, the pulp fiction of Osama is written in factual, reportage style and it works much better than a jokey pulp would (I would love to know if the author tried it other way 1st). It also, as many things are, has a reason why which becomes clear much later. Indeed there are many unclear things, this is not a book for those who love explanations. Nor will it satisfy anyone looking for a thorough exploration of terrorism through fiction nor any hard science fiction fans. It is a twisted blend of genres and topics.
Still its hard to fault, it's just whether it fits your taste. All I can say is it’s not about the mystery, it’s about the journey, it’s about the PI doing right thing in harsh world and having to working out what the right thing is: down these mean streets a man must go.. and well there is delicious subversion to the that. A tale a old noir fan will adore. Everyone else will just merely enjoy it.
Recommended. Actually after writing that review highly recommended.
Highly recommended enough to see it gets a place on the wishlist. Not one I'd heard of before but sounds like something I would like.
Excellent review Claire. Not sure if it is something I would gravitate to but sounds like a well crafted novel.
Dave - Hope you enjoy it, I picked it up due to some recommendations and the fact it was nominated in the Kitchies award: http://www.thekitschies.com (A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness won in the end btw). I like the wide ranging scope (below) so have started keeping my eye out.
"The Kitschies reward the year's most progressive, intelligent and entertaining works that contain elements of the speculative or fantastic"
It's also on the British Sci Fi Awards but I never look at those :)
and thanks Lori. Looking at the reviews its not to everyone's taste's, I can see how poeple could get irritated.
Thanks for the link. Looks like it's one of the awards lists to take note of as they've had some very interesting selections over the short time it's been running.
Ah well, there you go. Blam, right in the chest. I'm pretty used to it with this thread by now.
Thanks for the link to the Kitschies, Claire. Some I have read, some are already on my wishlist, but there's a few new-to-me ones that sound very interesting.
I have Tidhar's HebrewPunk on Mt. TBR, but I've yet to read anything by him - sounds like the potential is high, though!!
Yeah the Kitchies do have a nice selection, I also want to try the Kraken rum :)
Anders - ah revenge :)
Eva - I am tempted to track down his other books, I don't think there is anything similar so not sure where to start.
Category 8 The Rider by Tim Krabbe Tag: Random Purchase
Giant Thief by David Tallermen
Lured in by a fun title and silly cover but sold on the humorous excerpt I read. This is your typical fantasy setting, but no detailed world building and in-depth discussion of how the magic system works. Bang we hit the 1st fantasy trope (of hanging thief) before we are off on a wise cracking adventure set amongst potential civil war and the odd giant. If there are no surprises there is much relief that Tallerman delivers, the action is well done, the pace fast and the characters flesh out and (the most difficult) constantly amusing. Easie damasco is great rogue to hang a tale on and it doesn't even stop the humour or drag the story as he slowly matures. If fact it’s a hook to hang the next book on, one that I will be buying.
Recommended to fantasy fans and those looking for a fast paced read.
The Kitschies brought to you by Kraken Rum - there's got to be a drinking game hidden behind all this. ;)
& I've got to be curious about any author who would write a book called HebrewPunk. LOL!
I haven't been by your thread in a while, but you've been doing some great reading!
I liked Aya, too. I've read the second and keep hoping someone in my library system will get the third....
I've been meaning to read Kavelier & Clay and Empire State sounds like fun, too. Have you heard about Larry Correia's Hard Magic? I thought it was a hoot and I can't wait to read more by him.
Thanks for the link to the Kitschies - I can definitely recommend God's War by Kameron Hurley.
You may have gotten me with Giant Thief, too - your thread is dangerous!
@167 I want to read play that game. I can also imagine playing it (a shot for every time the word appears!) whilst reading Kraken by China Mieville andKraken Wakes by John Wyndham ;-)
168 Welcome back! I hadn't heard about Hard Magic looks like a lot of fun so thanks for heads up and thanks for the Gods War rec. Your post is in itself dangerous that's two books! ;)
Category 5 Embassytown by China Mieville. Tag: colonisation
Atlas of Remote Islands by Judith Schalansky
Astounding glimpses into the geographically lost and lonely.
It is a beautiful object in and of itself, a lush coffee table with its own font, littered with enticing maps, a myriad of organic shapes encased in ocean. Whilst that maybe enough for map lovers this book is so much more, for each island has a tale to tell, a sliver of its lonely and isolated life. Whether of its natural wonder or human drama, a myth or historical fact, heaven and hell, discovery and forgetfulness. There are as many different types of tales as there are island shapes.
Each island has its own 2 page spread, the map on one and the tale on another with additional facts: its population, its timeline. A book whose meticulous research is only displayed judiciously and lovingly laid out so to entice and not overwhelm.
This is a book to wallow over, to use as a springboard to many many worlds and for us armchair travellers come highly recommended.
Thank you :) It's delicious isnt it?
Category 5 Embassytown by China Mieville. Tag: 1st Person
Rogue Male by Geoffrey Household
30s class thriller
The hunter becomes the hunted in this psychological, English classic tale of 30s.
A unnamed English gentlemen gets caught 'hunting' a powerful European dictator, his protestations that is was purely a sporting exercise is ignored as he is tortured and then pushed of a cliff. Murder attempt bodged he goes on run, dragging his broken body through Europe and fleeing for rural England where he goes to ground like a wounded animal. Wanted by the sinister foreign forces and UK police (for murder of aforementioned spies) we get not only a detailed look of the how but also the mentality, of the hunted man.
Understated though it may be it’s as fascinating as it is tense, the idealist discussion never overwhelm the drama and the ending is one of the most excruciatingly claustrophobic tales I have ever read. Oddly to its 1930s setting works in its favour as does its deeply, overtly masculine tale (no women allowed here). The characters are a dying breed of English upper class gent, the world is changing and he knows it. Not only does a doomed foreshadowing falls across the plot but it enforces a more believable character.
A well deserved classic, inspiring many tales in genre (oddly including Rambo). I haven’t read anything quite like this before and I recommend it to all fans of thrillers and hidden anglophiles.
Rogue Male sounds like a book that I would really enjoy. I have seen the 1941 movie, Manhunt, which was based on this book so it would be interesting to see how close to the original the movie was.
Your right its interesting how these thing conpare, I am going to have get a copy of that movie. Hope you enjoy it
Category 6 Zoo City by Lauren Beukes. Tag: Crime
The iron will of shoeshine cats by Hesh Kestin
Evocative, hard boiled jewish gangster
"To the members of the Bhotke Young Men’s Society, Shushan Cats was no criminal. The criminal statutes held no validity for those to whom the law meant only authorized starvation, torture, death. Everything done to the Jews of Europe … everything done to these had been absolutely legal, sanctioned by legitimate courts whose judges sat in black robes and vetted each and every decree as binding, fair, in the public interest, legal. Under these circumstances, that Shushan Cats was a Jewish gangster not only could not be held against him, but was a matter for celebration"
Evocative and entertaining, this is an amusing, gripping and unusual tale of the mob in 60s New York. Shoeshine cats, notorious Jewish mobster walks into the Bhotke young men’s society meeting and asks them take care of his mother funeral arrangements, outspoken Russell gets lumbered with the job and quickly gets sucked into the lifestyle as Cats takes him under his wing, grooming him for his own reasons.
Forget Godfather, this is superbly its own thing, with its own view of the world. Brilliantly written, with real but outrageously fun characters and pitch perfect hard boiled flowing dialogue that ensures you keep reading. Our narrator, Russell, is very endearing even whilst being an idiot, an essential fact in a 1st person story. The sense of place is imperative of a novel that is twisting mobster tale to show a different view, its historical and culture richness, the backdrop of huge events give an edge and again a modern sympathy to events. It’s a very well balanced novel, although for someone familiar that richness may irk.
The plot, well hmm for the 1st third its merely enjoyable and darkly amusing, intelligent story but trust me its swerves into a gripping, unputdownable tale and that probably spoils too much as it completely took me by surprise. All this deserves a brilliant rating but I felt a tiny bit unsatisfied by the end. Kestin manages to neatly tie up the wrong plot strands at the end.
Still it doesn’t really impinge on the enjoyment and I recommend this story to history and crime fans, lovers of hard boiled fiction and those wanting a breath of fresh air. Stephen King has been recommending it so it has just been republished in the UK. No excuses now.
Wow. Sounds very interesting! I've been curious about the world of jewish gangsters ever since I first heard about Murder Inc.
I love my local book shop who spotted myself and Pete and thrust a copy in our hands :) As an added incentive, Anders, the blurb states the author grew up opposite Murder Inc! not sure how realistic the story is though.
Anyway hope you both enjoy it.
A bit of lunchtime surfing gave me this... hand carved written correspondences, quite beautiful.
Our narrator, Russell, is very endearing even whilst being an idiot
I have no interest in the Godfather or anything else for that matter of a related genre but I have to say you have caught my interest.... possibly fleeting but interest all the same ...... with that statement! LOL
This is the product description: "We meet Tzaddik as he faces off against a vengeful angel intent on sending the Fallen to hell. The shapeshifting Rat fights lycanthropic Nazis. The Rabbi takes us on a thoughtful and amusing journey into the possibilities of a Jewish state in the heart of Africa."
How could you not be enticed by that?! :)
The Iron Will of Shoeshine Cats sounds like my thing too - on the wishlist it goes!
@180 ha! I thought Russell was a very good portrayal of a uni student :-)
@182 "The shapeshifting Rat fights lycanthropic Nazis" sold!
32. The Year of Our War by Steph Swainston
A world with a Circle of immortals protecting the inhabitants from the Insects until God returns. An immortal messenger who’s drug takes him into another world where the boundaries are thin and where the answer to the Insects may lie..
For some reason I never connected with the author, everything seemed washed out and pale. I couldn’t seem to immerse myself in the world, root for the characters or engage in the plot. I couldn’t visualise or taste it and I didn’t care.
The plot seemed a thin delicate thing and not really the main show (although what the main show was I don’t know) but the pacing was off as insects overwhelm the world and then the circle falls to rather uninteresting infighting. The characters were universally flawed, not very fleshed out and too few. Although I did like the protagonist for being endearingly awful but he was far too reactive to carry what was lacking in the rest of it. As to the world, well the City our addict goes to is tantalisingly interesting but sadly it was also fleeting and I would have thought the setup of immortals could be good (they each have a purpose) but it was barely explored.
I guess the 1st in the trilogy is saddled with setting up plot and characters for the whole book but it has to hold some enticing promise of reward as well as being a great plot within itself and this did neither. I am mildy tempted to try the 2nd book out but really I don’t think I ever will.
Oh, sorry you didn't like it! But somewhat hopeful that we also at times disagree on things :) The Castle series aren't my absolute favorite, but I have read and enjoyed all of them a lot, and hope there will be more books to come. If that's how you feel about the first part, you're probably wise to step away. There is less and less Shift as the series progresses, and more and more infighting, as you call it. Hope your next read is a better fit for you!
Ha! Yes individuality strikes. My last read was much better, it was Darkmans, just struggling to write the review.
Nah, we had it on out bookshelves so no harm. I would have thought a book recommended by yourself, Ander's & Pete would have been a winner
Category 2 Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry. Tag: Epic
Darkmans by Nicola Barker
Ramshackle ghostly, wordy, epic, excellence
(Amazing. I think)
The truth' Peta informed him, baldly, 'is just a series of disparate ideas which briefly congeal and then slowly fall apart again...'
'No,' Kane shook his head, 'I'm not buying that. What's been going on feels really ... really coherent, as if everything's secretly hooking up into this extraordinary ... I dunno ... this extraordinary jigsaw, like there's a superior, guiding logic of some kind...'
A chaotic, epic brilliant mess of a book. A book where history bleeds into the present, of cruel practical jokes, cold revenge, of ghostly possession. A book where language explodes onto the page, into the font, into the layout. Where characters stop half way through their sentence tripping over the sudden complex etymology of words.
"Yeah. My . . . uh . . . My bat . . . uh . . . my beit . . . bite . . . my boat. . . .
A book of lust and love, of extreme comedy, of dysfunctional families and embarrassingly accurate social scenes. A book where I have no clue what just happened but I love it.
For there is no nice plot summary here, they flow and eddy, are hinted it, disappear and sometimes come back and don’t expect them all to be resolved. The characters carry the novel and its themes enrich it. Barkers unusual style allows you to dive straight in their souls and swim in dirty waters. She has an ear for natural dialogue and knows how to write with and nail down social scenes.
"I couldn't play along because I didn't know what the rules were."
The cast isn’t large for a tome of this size but it feels beautifully stuffed. So we meet salad fearing Kurdish immigrant Gaffer, who goes into beautiful monologues in Turkish that no one can understand. We are pulled into upright, uptight Beede’s (non) relationship with his charming, drug dealer son and their love of Elen (a chiropodist, a witch?). There there’s her narcoleptic (possessed?) husband and their gifted son Fleet (who is manically building the medieval Cathedral at Albi out of matchsticks). No one is a kooky oddball stereotype and everyone is pulled into the Darkman's disturbing embrace. It's hard to pin down a favourite though: probably outrageous, chav Kelly who finds god in visions and coincidences or that mocking unseen narrator.
Kelly frowned and tucked in her skirt so the wind wouldn't lift it and
show off her thighs. It was a little short -
Should'a thought of that-and the fabric was rather flimsy (for something supposedly military)
-although she'd never yet seen anyone wearing a mini-skirt in a situation of mortal combat.
Except for Lara Croft
Tank Girl-and she always did okay).
For such a weird book it flows well, Barker spends time at the beginning careful crafting the characters and building the world, layering its mystery. As a reader you have to relax and go with it, some of it is actually explained in the end and what isn’t well, choose your interpretation or wallow in lovely uncertainty. It’s never odd for oddness sake, its incredibly easy to read and look you can pay attention the 2nd time round.
It’s a brilliant book, quite unlike anything I have read and worth trying (50 page rule firmly in place). Lovers of oddity and language, history buffs and anglophiles will lap this up. Those who like neatish tales, wrapped up endings and tight action will probably want to steer clear.
Highly recommend and thank you to Anders & visbleghost for sticking it on my radar.
'The truth,' Peta smiled, 'is that there is no truth. Life is just a series of coincidences, accidents and random urges which we carefully forge - for our own, sick reasons - into a convenient design. Everything is arbitrary. Only art exists to make the arbitrary congeal. Not memory or God or love, even. Only art. The truth is simply an idea, a structure which we employ - in very small doses - to render life bearable. It's just a convenient mechanism, Kane, that's all.'
Excellent review! Took me a while to get to that relaxed state you talk of. I probably spent more time with the first hundred pages of this than with the following eight hundred. It was only when I decided to go with it (and realised that Barker indeed wouldn't be the firm guide through strangeness that the clarity of her style initially had me believe) that I started really enjoying it.
Not sure that's my cup of tea, but definitely thumbing the excellent review! It looks like part of a series - one that should be read in order??
If I may answer that, I think they only have location in common. I read the first book in the trilogy, Wide open, last year and didn't like it at all.
I had to go look. Yep, I used tag- Fear of Salad for Darkmans. Apparently, I'm the only LTer who uses the tag- Fear of Salad. Donna why, it's such a cool and accurate tag for that book. Very coherent review of a sometimes incoherent book. I remember a couple of passages that made me laugh aloud while reading that book also. I don't mean to influence you, but, I started a couple of her other books and never finished them. I'll try again someday though.
OK, back to deep lurker mode, well, more like LT hibernation.
Visbleghost: I did wonder who used that great tag :)
Thanks for all the thumbs.
Now I was going to seek out more Barker but I am not hearing good things.
I have been on a hard boiled crime fix.. so anyone who dislikes the genre please look away now :)
Category 6 Zoo City by Lauren Beukes. Tag Crime
Quarry's Ex by Max Allan Collins
A plot so boiled it's pure hard crime essence.
"I don’t want to kill you.”
“That’s almost like…almost like hearing you say you still love me, Jack.”"
Based on the ingenious premise of an ex-hitman who now makes a living following his ex-colleagues, identifying their targets and letting them know their life is in danger so he can offer to remove the assassin and the person who hired them, obviously for a large fee.
It’s got an amazing opening, setting the scene and Quarry's character and them wham! Tone set for the rest of the book and your hooked, with pitch perfect dialogue and tight plotting and it doesn’t let up for its short (under 300pgs) length. There is no over the top action, but it is a darkly amusing thriller as we follow Quarry trying to work out the when and the how the hit will be made and then tracking down the instigator. Tripping over B movie actors, gangsters, bikers, harried movie producers and of course his ex.
Does exactly what it sets out to do and does it damn well and it’s got such a amazing cover. Recommended
The Last Quarry by Max Allan Collins
Quarry's finale timeline wise but not of course the last story. This sees a bored Quarry getting involved in one last job, foiling a kidnapping and taking on a hit. Nothing goes to plan, of course. Quarry is still a sharp character and the black humour and zippy pacing is all there but you can tell it's two shorts put together and the obvious last minute suspense twist is slightly irksome. Still a great, fast immersive read that gives nice closure to a characters story.. now pass me the Quarry tale please.
Category 6 Zoo City by Lauren Beuke: Tag: books by Beukes
Moxyland by Lauren Beukes
Fast paced, futuristic thriller
Fast paced, near future sci fi, packed with ideas and cleverly weaving multi character strands in an emerging plot.
Taking the blurb
" In the near future, an art-school dropout, an AIDSbaby, a tech-activist and a RPG-obsessed blogger
live in a world where your online identity is at least as important as your physical one. Getting disconnected is a punishment
worse than imprisonment, but someone’s got to stand up to government inc., whatever the cost."!"
None of the characters are portrayed that sympathetically, they are mocked for their foibles, they are the warnings to this near future dystopia. Still you can’t hate them, Beukes makes them beautifully human. Sign up to be a living billboard but fail to read the small print, have high ideals but flail around ineffectively.
Told in 1st person(s) we get a dazzling array of views that slowly come into a coherent whole. So In the early stages we can lap up the world in all its frenetic glory and wallow in all those ideas. Real world issues, rub up with soon to be problems and frightening exaggerations of dystopian warnings. The book feels at once old school cyberpunk and cutting edge sci fi.
‘This is an unlawful, unlicensed gathering. You are advised to disband immediately.’ It’s pre-recorded. Legislation bars the cops from opening their mouths unnecessarily. There’s too much room for human error, which means ammunition for the human rights groups.
This is a wry, cynical book with political bite and yet I found it oddly endearing. It's not perfect though, partly because I am not a huge fan of this type of book but also I found where the book was heading a bit too obvious. Maybe if there had been a coherent thread and protagonist to root for it wouldn't have mattered, but in the end it was somewhat unsatisfying.
In the end recommend for lovers of Science fiction and futuristic thrillers and those who think corporations have your well being at heart.
I have at at least 4 reviews to write but instead of doing that I found this nice resource for second hand bookshops in the UK :)
I was found it by trying to get a name for a very atmospheric one in Preston at the weekend.. look at that staircase!
Don't you just love it when you find resources like the second hand bookshop one in your post above!
Does the fire department allow that? It reminds me of a used book store in Berkley I went into once (and won't go back again). Floor to ceiling books and as you went in the back there was once room after another fully 'booked'. (Ha!) There was no organization that I could see. And the prices were outrageous.
I think I liked Moxyland a bit more than you. I really enjoyed how Beukes kept things on a small scale, but still had a global, political, outlook. Will be very interested to see where she goes from here. She's "marked" Jo'burg and Cape Town as a sci-fi setting and an urban fantasy one. I'm curious to see if one of those places will ever be the setting in the other genre so to speak. And if she'll keep writing both.
201/200 I know, scary and beautiful at the same time. I had visions of being buried under an avalanche of books! The downstairs room is so very tiny, with a very very low ceiling and of course many many books. I am not sure what happens if you want a book at the bottom of a pile ;)
202 I would recommend the Quarry series, he wrote them over a long period of time but they seem to be universally good
@203 Oddly I hear rumours that her next book is based in Chicago, still time travelling serial killer? I can't wait
That reminds BBC world series asked Lauren to do an interview on African sci-fi. Premise is a bit dumb but loads of tips for authors/film makers.
#198 - Nice review of Moxyland. I'll probably get to it eventually, since I loved Zoo City. They sound somewhat similar in vibe.
Good review on Moxyland and the Quarry books look like they might be worth a look too.
@205 Thank you.
@206 Dave, I reckon you would like them.. plus they are quite short :)
Category 4 The Unwritten Volumes 1-3 by Mike Carey (author) and Peter Gross (artist). Tag: Horror/Fantasy
The Last Werewolf by Glen Duncan
“Reader, I ate him.”
Jacob Marlowe is the last werewolf. At 200 years old, tormented and lonely all that’s left to do is die. But as he awaits the murderous attentions of the hunters murder and intrigue coalesce around him.. not everyone wants him to die...
“The form and scale of its occupancy shifted. Sometimes its legs were in my legs, its head in my head, its paws in my hands. Other times it was barely the size of a kitten, heartburn hot and fidgety under my sternum. I’d wake and for a moment feel my face changed, reach up and touch the muzzle that wasn’t there.”
A sublime idea; take some heavy themes mix with an action pack thriller, take the protagonist straight out of wise cracking Noir and bam! You get a modern, intelligent and take on a unloved genre making Werewolves look sexy again. It’s a novel as a balancing act: philosophy versus sex and violence, beautiful descriptions against wise cracking dialogue, deeply amusing cynicism entwined with hope and love.
Anatomical Latin’s an un-judgemental friend if you have to rip people apart and eat them.
Its beautifully written, sometimes too much as the complexity overwhelms the straightness of the plot. Duncan gets in the head of both human and werewolf, the smells and feelings. Its uncomfortably realistic portrayal of the beast inside man, he doesn’t duck the fact that he lead eats people once a month, he embraces and turns it into a story you can empathise in.
“You know why they invented the phrase 'case closed'?
“So that the audience would know it wasn't.”
Self referential, Duncan knows his genres and how to play with them. If works very well as deliciously amusing commentary and when twisting expectations but I think failed when the plot (and background) lays itself out at your feet. It's too good, I thought to follow obvious pathways. There are a few pacing’s issues too, maybe have a low intolerance to philosophical, atheistic, immortal angst but felt Marlowe wallowed a bit too long. He need to change faster or just the lower the tone more for the action to kick in (which Duncan does extremely well, it’s almost cinematic). I didn’t get bored exactly just impatient..
“I suppose the word "unbearable" is a lie by definition. Unless you kill yourself immediately after using it.”
Major major major Spoiler Alert
No really its a huge spoiler..
It’s a hard thing to kill to get the killing of the narrator right and just swapping to another person was fundamentally irritating to me. Pet hate yes and maybe unfair but I still ground my teeth in frustration. Still at least he didn’t carry on narrating as I have seen in some authors..
End Major Spoiler Alert
Sexy, violent, damn funny and thoughtful I recommend it to practically everyone.. except perhaps Vampires and the French... (well ok joking about the French)
“I'm still bothered"
"You're French. If you lot stopped bothering the coffee and tobacco industries would collapse.”
Glad you enjoyed that one though sad you didn't like it more. The ending didn't grate on me so much and it will be interesting to see where he takes the sequel. It's the first continuation of a story that he's done and as I've pretty much loved all the Glen Duncan books I've read so far (still have 3 on mount tbr) then I hope he doesn't let me down with that.
I loved The Last Werewolf, although I agree with your point made in your Spoiler section. It was grating. I have mixed feelings about a sequel, sometimes I think a book should just end. But of course, that won't stop me from picking up the sequel!
@208 Oh don't worry, Dave, I am very glad I read it and will seek out more Duncan, which I wouldn't have if it hadn't been for you review. So thank you! (I forgot to thank you in my review.. ahem.. my bad)
Major spoiler warning for The Last Werewolf for both comments!
@208/209 It's a shame because I adored Marlowe's dryly amusing dialogue, not sure I could cope with the loss (in fact I am probably still sulking about it!) Still I am intrigued with what he does next
Category 2: Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry. Tag: wild west
True Grit by Charles Pontis
A true American classic
Told in memoir format, this is a tale of 14 yr old Mattie Ross who sets out from Arkansas in the 1870s to avenge the death of her father. Its short, amusing, harsh and terribly endearing. It's very easy to see why this is a much loved (and much filmed) book.
Mattie's character is simply wonderful, I can't better the description of "harsh innocence and indestructible vitality" and set against the wild west of bounty hunters, hanging judges and criminal gangs she shines like pure gold. Draped in an adults fore-knowledge adds added poignancy to what could be just a coming or age adventure we can root for and sympathise for at all ages, it also gives the story a deeply satisfying ending. Her co-stars, one eyed, drunk maverick "Rooster" Cogburn and pretty boy LaBoeuf, are perfectly drawn opposites; sniping and rubbing up against each other whilst she runs rings around them.
Character driven though it is, plot is tightly packed and the action sequences superb (if you can ever get the dramatic climax out of head I will be surprised). It’s a book that stays with and makes smile in a sad/happy way. Highly recommended, forget the films just grab the book.
Claire, glad to hear you're up for more of his works. Will be interesting to see what you think of some of the others. Lots of praise for The Last Werewolf before I got around to that one though I guess I was pushing his other books a little prior to that. Another reason that I'm looking forward to the sequel is that it will be his first female lead character so definitely want to see how he handles that.
Good review on True Grit as well. Really enjoyed it when I read it too.
I have The Last Werewolf on my wishlist, so I'm skipping your spoiler-section, although the "No really its a huge spoiler.." urges me to read on! :)
213 I hate Westerns, but loved the Coen brothers version of True Grit. BTW, great review. I've been planning on reading the book ever since I heard one of the actors say they read the book and it read just like a Coen brothers script - much of the dialog in the movie was lifted straight from the book. I'm sure it's proof that great books can come from any genre.
Category 5 Embassytown by China Mieville. Tag: Semiotics, Zombies
Pontypool Changes everything by Tony Burgess
Superbly bonkers zombie horror
"It gestates in the deep structures prior to language. Or, at least, simultaneous with language. In the very primal structure that organizes us as differentiated, discontinuous copies of each other. The virus probably enters, in fact, among paradigmatic arrangements. And then, almost instantly, the virus appears in a concept of itself. This causes all sorts of havoc."
It a delicious premise: a language virus that its 1st symptoms are manic déjà vu and aphasia followed by the revenge of cannibalism. This book is in some respects jaw droppingly brilliant, gob smackingly horrific (yes my mouth was open) and book throwingly frustrating (yes that IS a verb). Burgess doesn't want to concentrate on one story, oh no, and he will dash off into future musings, surrealist asides and whip up the odd chapter of meta fiction in and then kill everyone off (err.. probably) and start again. A bit like this review which I have only started to write 10 times..
But look don't be put off because it’s not too insane, or disjointed it does manage to depict an overarching story of the slowly unfolding apocalypse.
Split into two halves, the 1st is more focused, taking its time and setting the scene. Fewer characters, a tighter plot and hair pricking horror moments make this my favourite part of the book though it soon touches on some wacky (and fun) literary experiments. It also contains my favourite character a barely sane anyway, a recovering schizophrenic who has seen all this before and just goes to find his son. Madness Vs Zombies.. Brilliant. The second part zooms out not only with people but also in tone. So shift from sleazy TV host Grant Mazzy, the soon to be zombie teenager (and his guardian angel) and then to red neck survival horror (truly ugh!).
This chaos is just part of the fun, frustrating but it allows many ideas and arresting vignettes. Every time I look for a quote I keep rereading the damn thing. From the dying view of a zombie to horrifying last moments of an old couple hiding under the bed this an unforgettable book.
"And so, now that I have been asked to write this afterword, I realize it has to be an apology, not for the book, which can't be helped, but for the fact that I was unfaithful to its first virtue: I have asked you to read it, and now, sitting here at the end, I am telling you that it might be a mistake that you did"
Ignore the author, what does he know? A must for horror fans and lovers of the strange and experimental. Those who are squeamish or require an a straight plot should steer clear, everyone else it’s going to be a 50/50 chance of love/hate.
P.s. I forgot to mention is great little film too, a new story so no book spoilers. It's not too weird just a great quiet horror film with an odd ending.
Superbly bonkers zombie horror
Claire, I can't remember if you have read Boneshaker already or not but I am looking for some guidance on the zombie scale for Embassytown. I was okay with the zombies in Boneshaker - that is about my limit for what I am willing to sit down and read on a zombie scale - so I am wondering if Embassytown would be on a higher zombie gruesome/horror scale (I am too brain dead right now to think of a more appropriate phrase) or about the same.
There aren't any zombies that I have come across yet in Embassytown but some really strange aliens with a totally unique language system. The story takes place on their world. I'm halfway through the book now.
Category 11 The Troika by Stepan Chapman: Tag: Afterlife
Sum: Forty Tales from the Afterlives by David Eagleman
Stunning “what if” shorts
Prepare for gushing..
These contains 40 perfectly formed stories, exuberantly exploring the "what if" of our afterlife’s. Each exceedingly short tale (2-3 pages) not only contains a gem of an idea and is beautifully written but manages to twist and turn in wonderfully surprising ways. Not just a cool premise but a brief exploration of it, of what this idea could really mean.
Written by neuroscientist David Eagleman to fit into his idea of "Possibilianism", straddled between fundamental atheism and religious belief.. "with Possibilianism I'm hoping to define a new position — one that emphasizes the exploration of new,
unconsidered possibilities. Possibilianism is comfortable holding multiple ideas in mind; it is not interested in committing to any particular story"
You don’t have to care a jot for the reason behind the book, you can take joy in the stories. Only a strict fundamentalist could be offended, there are gods and a God, there are aliens, secret masters, robots and well just us.
It’s hard to pick a favourite but to give you a flavour (skip to the next paragraph if you want no idea spoilers) I loved the delicious view that in heaven God venerates Mary Shelley because he understands Dr Frankenstein and shuddered at the thought of an eternity where we live with all possible versions of us, so we always compare ourselves against the ones who did better & loathe the ones who failed.
Highly recommended to everyone, It is a joyful celebration of us and our imaginations and our ability to spin yarns.
I just added that to the wishlist after someone asked about it in the Name That Book group. The premise sounded intriguing, so it's great to hear that it's as good as it sounds! :)
Added Forty Tales to my list of books I might read later this year. It sounds interesting.
Hope you all enjoy them as much as I did :)
Right since I am have now up to date for all books read in June here is my mid year summary:
Books read: 45 in total, 49% made it into Challenge.
Top 5 Most Memorable books so far (in no order)
Angelmaker by Nick Harkaway
Hospital by Toby Litt
Atlas of Remote Islands by Judith Schalansky
Sum: Forty Tales from the Afterlives by David Eagleman
Pontypool Changes everything by Tony Burgess
The worst book so far.. so bad I refused to put them in the challenge...
Death's Dark Abyss by Massimo Carlotto
Most favourite genres(s)
Horror for the most memorable, crime for sheer quantity.
Category in most need of inspiring recommendations..
Category 8 The Rider by Tim Krabbe Tags: Random purchases, sport, journalism, bikes, memoirs & books by Krabbe
Right and since we have reach over 200 posts I feel a need for a clean sweep of a new thread ..
click the link below or this one: http://www.librarything.com/topic/139641
This topic was continued by Clfisha's 12 in 12 - Part 2.
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