Sunday, January 08, 2006

2006 Book 2

"Fight Club" by Chuck Palahniuk

I thought I'd get in early with one of my "I've always meant to read that" books and grabbed myself a copy of "Fight Club" to read when I was down the coast for New Year's (about which, more later) and I hafta say I'm glad I did. The story is just similar enough to the movie to be comfortably familiar, while different enough to be enjoyed on its own merits.

I won't go through the story, because if you know it you know it (duh) and if you don't, then it's way too complicated to go into in a brief 50 Book Review[TM. Suffice it to say that "Fight Club" is a quick-paced, enthralling novel with a lot of sick laughs and harsh actions, wrapped up in smart prose and with a smattering of social commentary to entice the palate (sorry, had a wonderful lunch at Poacher's Pantry and now I'm thinking in food analogies). In addition to this fast pace is the fact that it's not the longest novel I've ever read, and so doesn't get a chance to outstay it's welcome, which is also good.

Four repetitious rules out of five.

2006 Book 1

"Anansi Boys" by Neil Gaiman

What a way to start the New Year. A brand new Gaiman book for Xmas (thanks, Michael!!) and I polished this one off in about two days. It's sort of a companion piece to "American Gods", a 'stars' Fat Charlie, a US-born Englishman (of Jamaican ancestry, just by the by) finding out after the death of his father that a) he has a brother and b) his dad was a god. He was, in fact, Anansi the Spider God of African mythology. As a cultural note, Anansi was a trickster and joker, similar to the Norse Loki, but less of a prick about it. :) If you want to know more, check out the Wikipedia link.

Rarely have I enjoyed the character arcs of a novel so much as I did with "Anansi Boys", especially Fat Charlie and his brother Spider's. The bad guy(s) are enjoyably, palpably creepy and the humour flashes from between the pages. The narrative is smooth as silk and one of the more enjoyable novels I've read in recent memory.

Four and a half embarassing fathers out of five.


So there we have my 50 books for 2005. Despite a late"ish" start (or rather, a big gap in the middle where theory and research took over). I was counting from the 6th of January, 'cause that's when I started, so I managed to get my 50 with a few days to spare (finishing "Prey", as I did, on the 31st). Thinking back (but not looking back, 'cause that'd be too hard... :) ), the highlights of the year are the Gaiman I read, especially "Smoke & Mirrors" and "Coraline". I was also well impressed with the Lemony Snicket books and some of the hard-core cyberpunk I read, like "Spares" and "Altered Carbon". Of the "You have to read these books" books I finally read, I enjoyed "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas" the most, although "The Hobbit" did have its charms.

The dogs that stand out were "Funnelweb", obivously, and "Prey". Funnily enough, I'm not sure if I would rate "Prey" as a complete dog, if only because I don't really have feelings that strong about it. I was a bit disappointed with "Haunted" and "In The Presence Of Mine Enemies", while our very own John Birmingham kept me hugely entertained with the World War 2.0 series.

Now on to 2006 and I'm currently at 2 books and counting...

Book 50

"Prey" by Michael Crichton

Another 'read it quick and enjoy the fast-paced lightness of it' novel. In this one, we have a computer programmer and house-dad helping to contain and defeat an intelligent, self-replicating, nano-swarm (or two) out in the desert. And that's pretty much it. There's some character stuff in there, but with the best will in the world it is clunky and really in need of a couple more drafts. My theory is that someone told Michael Crichton; "hey, dude, your stories are fun and fast-moving, but I don't get much depth to the characters" and so Snr Crichton just shoehorned in a bunch of 'depth' to silence his critics and it didnae work too well.

Don't get me wrong, the science behind the story is well-researched, if not perfectly accurate (but that's why it's fiction, not a documentary on nanotech). There is a fair amount of excitement to be had at a couple of points in the story, but when you've worked out the "twist" within the first couple of chapters, it just gets a bit laborious working your way up to it. In all, this was a pretty pedestrian work, which I sure paid a great many bills for Crichton, but it could've been so much better.

Two microscopic machine swarms out of five.

PS: I know this means I gave "Funnelweb" more than this book, but at least "Funnelweb" just took its crapness and had fun with it.