Thursday, 30 May 2013

Cumming C, 2012, A foreign country

Before opening the book you've got a Big Clue. The past is a foreign country, they do things differently there.

 Spy thrillers are places you've visited before: you'll have fond memories of how it was before the tourists started coming,  and a basic grasp of the language. Ths spy thriller won awards, which got me to read the first few pages even though I'm not a fan of the bullets n bullshit genre.

By page 30 you've got the set up: top spy disappears, disgraced ex-spy brought in on hush hush terms.

By page 30 you've also got a very cynical view of marriage. Is there really so much shagging around in Vauxhall?

First line
Jean-Marc Daumal awoke to the din of the call to prayer and to the sound of his children weeping.

Last line
"Jean-Marc, there is somebody I would like you to meet"

Saturday, 25 May 2013

Ryman, G 2004 Air

Just a few pages in and I was thinking this author doesn't like women. At least, he definitely doesn't like his lead character Mae: a shallow, bitchy wannabe who isn't. I like her though. Creating her space in the village selling fashion and cosmetics, she reminds me of the many women entrepreneurs listed on Kiva. If she needed a $25 loan, I'd cough up. Mr Ryman: I think you could write Mae more sympathetically.

I don't know why, but something in this book makes me think of Roberts' The Land of the Headless. When I've finished Air I'm going to read other reviews and find the connection. And then I might reread Roberts, although I remember the concept being more interesting than the story. I do hope that's not the connection...

First line:
Mae lived in the last village in the world to go online.
Last line:
[redacted for possible spoilers] , all of them, turned and walked together into the future.

Update: Mae is written more warmly as the story unfolds. I was interested to note that I had no believability problem with the surprise pregnancy (spit: don't swallow) but for me a talking dog was a an innovation too far.

Thursday, 23 May 2013

Howey H, 2011, Wool omnibus edition (1-5)

A dystopia. With knitting.

What's outside the silo? Start this book and you will need to know. This is a stay-up-all-nighter. In fact it's a stay-up-all-nighter then read it again the next day just to check you didn't miss something important at 5am. For me, there's something terrifyingly immersive about the world Howey creates and I'd vote for Mayor Jahns given half a chance.

Yes, yes I liked this book.

First line:
The children were playing while Holston climbed to his death; he could hear them squealing as only happy children do. 
Last line:
'I think you're right,' he told little Elise, pulling his radio free. 'I think everything's gonna be just fine...'

Spolier: never trust the bastards in IT.

Grisham J, 2004, The Last Juror

We're in Mississippi in the early 70s. The protagonist is a hippie with enough family money to buy the local newspaper (lucky boy) and enough commercial acumen to turn this into profit. He's also Not A Racist,  developing an unconvincing close friendship with a middle aged Black woman who likes to feed him and tell him stories.

There's a murder, there's a trial, there are legal shenanigans: it's a John Grisham. You know what you're getting.

You'll keep on turning the pages though. If you think death is the wages of sin you'll be fine with how the plot turns out. If you'd rather a more subtle legal system, with a more nuanced view of the world, you're probably better reading something Swedish.

Word of warning: do not read before dinner. You'll eat everything in the house after reading about Miss Callie's carefully tended veg garden and her amazing three-hour lunches. Or is that just me?

First line:
After decades of patient mismanagement and loving neglect, the Ford County Times went bankrupt in 1970.
Last line:
Eventually, slowly, with great agony, I began the last obituary.

Heinlein R, 1951, The Puppet Masters

Ooo, but Heinlein has some dodgy ideas about sex. He truly is a dirty pleasure, and you always need a good wash after reading anything he's written. But he's a first person plotter who gallops at a story and I find I can forget about the dodgy until after the story's done. Turn off your thinking, and thrill to the action.

So: what happens? Alien slugs invade and control the people of Earth.  The people of Earth - rugged individualists from the US of A - heroically fight back. The people of Earth from other countries are pathetic walkovers, and collaborators.

RH likes naked. He particularly likes naked redheads (female variety). Sadly, despite our Viking ancestry ticking the redhead box, our English fear of nudity means we're an early casualty in the alien war...

I wonder: can you tell anything about Heinlein's politics yet? Or his sexual politics?


First line
Were they truly intelligent? By themselves, that is? I don't know, and I don't know how we can ever find out. I'm not a lab man; I'm an operator.
Last line
Death and Destruction!

Harris C, 2012, Deadlocked

Vampires and werewolves and fairies in the Deep South. Why not?

Made the mistake of reading this in book form rather than on kindle. This allowed Himself to see what trivial crap I fill my mind with at bedtime. I think I lost some respect. But hey. People are people and stories are stories, even if the protagonists are undead. And while Himself is laughing at me for reading about myths, he isn't noticing that it's really a straight romance novel. If he knew that he'd really lose respect for me...

First line:
It was as hot as the six shades of hell even this late in the evening, and I'd had a busy day at work.

Last line:
That was going to be a delicate conversation. 'Sure Sam', I said, very quietly. 'Another day'. 

The plot? Everyone is in love with the heroine, she dithers. Isn't that the plot of all romances?

Note: there are a dozen or so books in this series. I reckon I've read about half of them, in no particular order. Continuity isn't necessary. Neither are your critical faculties.