Tuesday, 14 April 2009

I've got a blog, so my views matter, right?

One great thing about a blog is you get to shove your opinions down people's throats. Until they all go away and you're talking to yourself, that is. But risking all, here's what I've been reading since leaving the UK. Being a hoarder, it's been painful parting company with some of these books, but I was determined not to carry useless baggage, so they've all gone to hopefully good homes:

Impartial History of Britain - John O'Farrell: Comic history, more of England than Britain, as the author admits. Very easy and occasionally amusing read, though lots of cheap jokes at obvious targets too. Left with my couchsurfing host Colin in Melbourne, I think he actually wanted it for the history rather than the comedy. It does both, though anyone using it as a reference should be careful about which is which.

The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Klay - Michael Chabon: A 'Great American Novel' type book, brimming with content. New York social history, the war, the holocaust, all against the backdrop of the early heady days of comic books and their explosion in popularity. Compelling characters and scenarios, I loved it. Left in Vic Hall hostel in Melbourne with my enthusiastic recommendation.

The Road - Cormac McCarthy: Like Kavalier and Clay, a Pulitzer prize winner (only the best...) but very different, a grim, spare, repetitive post-holocaust trudge through a dead world, focused on an unnamed father and son only. Addictive but depressing, and it annoys me that 'literary types' think this is the 1st time this sort of thing has been done, simply because it's a 'novel' and doesn't carry the Science Fiction banner. Set in that context, it's a little better written but basically no different to much that's gone before. Also left in Melbourne as an antidote for anyone who's taken too many happy pills.

Pyramids - Terry Pratchett: I needed something funny and full of human optimism like this after The Road. If you know Pratchett this book won't surprise you, if you don't it's time you tried. I think it's one of the better ones I've read but maybe that's just because I was in the mood for it. Left with Matt Donaldson with my recommendation, Alan can give him the comprehensive guide to what he should read next if he likes it.

The Jane Austen Book Club - Karen Joy Fowler: Upmarket Californian chick-lit, tieing the lives of 6 characters in a club to discuss Austen's novels with the 6 Austen novels themselves. A bit inconsequential but full of clever insights, and I like Fowler's use of her characters to recommend good SF (which she used to write) to the reader. Would have meant more if I'd actually read any of Austen's novels, of course, though I know the plots of 3 of them from various films. Left in Te Anau youth hostel prior to commencing the Milford Track, which saved it from a soaking.

Last Call - Tim Powers: The Anubis Gates is one of my favourite novels, a brilliantly plotted and atmospheric time travel story, full of Dickensian ghoulishness. I'd tried 3 of Powers' books since, except for brief moments none had recaptured the spark. But Last Call gets much closer, the imagery and mystique of tarot and gambling is lots of fun, and the plotpot boils nicely throughout, even if there's never much doubt about where it's heading. The characters and setting are all a bit American for me, and the book is too long, but basically I'd recommend it. Though if you've not read Anubis Gates (and unless I persuaded you to do so, it's unlikely you have) then read that first. Left in Dunedin Hostel.

Not sure what'll be next. Recommendations welcome...

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