Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Book Review

A few books from the last few years:

Achebe, Chinua Things Fall Apart
White man disturbs paradise; our arrogance is overwhelming
3 Stars

Ackroyd, Peter The Clerkenwell Tales
By the author of “London” sometimes hard to follow
2 Stars

Amis, Kingsley Lucky JimApparently a seminal novel; England from the ashes of WWII; another faculty novel
2 ½ stars

Banville, John The Newton Letter
Trivial stuff
1 Star

Barnes, Julian England, England
A Theme park based on, well, England. Another dystopia novel. Very good.
3 ½ stars

Barnes, Julian Aurthur and George
Sherlock Holmes and racism in late Victorian England. Interesting.
2 ½ stars

Bester, Alfred The Demolished Man
Bester, Alfred The Stars My Destination
Classic Sci Fi. Reading TSMD again after 50 years was a trip. Rewire my nervous system, please.
3 stars

Black, Benjamin Christine Falls
Ireland not only has high tech, it now has junk detective novels. They’re all the same.
2 stars

Burke, James Lee The Neon Rain
Burke, James Lee Heaven's Prisoners
Burke, James Lee Black Cherry Blues
I read them to get a New Orleans experience. Just can’t take the gratuitous violence.
1 ½ star

Butcher, Jim Storm Front
Butcher, Jim Fool Moon
High Tech Vampires and Wizards. Clever but no thank you.
1 star

Caldwell, Ian and Thomason, Dustin The Rule of Four
Absolutely, positively the worst book on the list.
½ star

Chayefsky, Paddy Altered States
From the man who brought you Network. I’m interested in the isolation tank, but he got a little far out. (A little? More like waaaaay far out.)
1 star

Chomsky, Noam Hegemony or Survival
From the man who brought you THE theory of linguistical knowledge. Now a champion of the liberal position. He is actually very good. You can tell that by how badly he is trashed.
3 stars

Clark, Susanna Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell
First Harry Potter, now a different angle. An effort to domesticate magic. Not sure it works. Long, long, long.
2 stars

Connelly, Michael The Black Echo
Connelly, Michael The Black Ice
Connelly, Michael The Concrete Blonde
Connelly, Michael The Last Coyote
Connelly, Michael Trunk Music
Connelly, Michael Angels Flight
Connelly, Michael A Darkness More Than Night
Connelly, Michael City Of Bones
Connelly, Michael Lost Light
Connelly, Michael The Narrows
Connelly, Michael The Closers
Connelly, Michael Echo Park
Yea Harry Bosch. I have to say, one keeps coming back and reading him. Quite a bit of development of the main character. I am not sure how real the others are. Most are stereotypes.
3 stars

de Assis, Machado Dom Casmurro
Very interesting Brazilian writer from the last century. Apparently a classic in Brazil.
2 ½ stars

de Kretser, Michelle The Hamilton Case
Now this is a switch. A murder mystery on Sri Lanka, and not by Michael Ondaatje. Absolutely fascinating in its depiction of life there.
3 stars

Dibdin, Michael Ratking
Dibdin, Michael Vendetta
Dibdin, Michael Cabal
Dibdin, Michael Dead Lagoon
Dibdin, Michael Cosi Fan Tutti
Dibdin, Michael A Long Finish
Dibdin, Michael Blood Rain
Dibdin, Michael And Then You Die
Dibdin, Michael Medusa
These are all set in Italy with a single detective. They are pretty bloody and I guess they are true to life. Except Dibdin is an American. Recently expired. Probably worth a read if you like Italy.
2 ½ stars

Dick, Philip K. UBIK
Started it all. What can I say. A little hard to read today.
2 stars

Dideon, Joan Play It As It Lays
Another Hollywood novel. Angst. Angst. Angst.
2 stars

Farrell, J.G. The Singapore Gap
Farrell, J.G. Troubles
Farrell, J.G. The Siege of Krishnapor
Now this guy is great. Why have we not heard more from him? I particularly liked The Singapore Gap. What is best is the wry humor.
3 ½ stars

Fitzgerald, Penelope The Book Shop
Fitzgerald, Penelope The Golden Child
You got to like Fitzgerald. Quirky to the enth degree, but worth every bit of it.
3 stars

Furst, Alan Night Soldiers
Furst, Alan Dark Star
Furst, Alan The Polish Officer
Furst, Alan The World at Night
Furst, Alan Red Gold
Furst, Alan Kingdom of Shadows
All of these are set in pre WWII Europe. They are well written and very dark. I couldn’t finish Red Gold but some were very good.
3 Stars

Galouye, Daniel Dark Universe
Interesting old Sci Fi about people caught below ground until they go blind.
1 star

Galsworthy, John The Forsythe Saga
Finally read this. As you will see, I have high standards in this kind of fiction (Trollope). However, a good read and presages Buddenbrooks.
2 ½ stars

Harris, Sam The End of Faith
The first few pages are great. Then he gets shrill. A little too much blame on the Muslims and a little too much exoneration of us and the Israelis.
2 stars

Heinlein, Robert Starship Troopers
Ouch! I used to really like Heinlein (The Roads must Roll). This is just a pean to militarism. The only people who can vote on this world have served in the army. A high tech army, no doubt.
2 stars

Hornby, Nick A Long Way Down
Not Hornby’s best, but an interesting examination of people’s attitudes towards suicide.
2 stars

Ishiguro, Kazuo Never Let Me Go
He goes weird on us in this one. Raising people for their donor organs? What.
1 ½ stars

Kerrigan, Gene The Midnight Choir
A very dark Irish police story. Not a very satisfying one but since I lived in Dublin once, it was a nice trip around the city.
1 ½ stars

Leon, Donna Death at La Fenice
Leon, Donna Death in a Strange Country
Leon, Donna The Anonymous Venetian
Leon, Donna A Venetian Reckoning
Leon, Donna Acqua Alta
Leon, Donna The Death of Faith
Leon, Donna A Noble Radiance
Leon, Donna A Sea of Troubles
I don’t know why every thinks Leon is the cat’s meow. She has a fairly interesting detective and, like Dibdin above, she is an American living in Italy. But, you got to like Venice, so read them.
2 stars

MacDevitt, Jack The Engines of God
MacDevitt, Jack Deepsix
MacDevitt, Jack Chindi
MacDevitt, Jack Omega
MacDevitt, Jack Odyssey
MacDevitt, Jack A Talent for War
MacDevitt, Jack Polaris
MacDevitt, Jack Seeker
MacDevitt, Jack Eternity Road
MacDevitt, Jack Moonfall
MacDevitt, Jack Infinity Beach
Even if you don’t like Sci Fi, read MacDevitt. He has a very easy style and slips in some of the most interesting questions. Everyone has wondered how we could possibly be “alone” in the universe. MacDevitt explores that.
3 ½ stars

Mankell, Henning Faceless Killers
Mankell, Henning The Dogs of Riga
Mankell, Henning The White Lioness
Mankell, Henning Sidetracked
Mankell, Henning The Fifth Woman
Mankell, Henning One Step Behind
Mankell, Henning Firewall
Mankell, Henning The Man Who Smiled
Another detective series, this time in a small town in Sweden. Very well written and the protagonist is believable human with lots of foibles. Apparently made into a TV series in Sweden. Get them.
3 ½ stars

Mitchell, David Ghost Written
Mitchell, David Number 9 Cloud
Mitchell, David Cloud Atlas
Mitchell, David Black Swan Green
Alright. I admit, this guy writes for people like me. Particularly “Cloud Atlas.” He is all over the map but about as interesting as can be. A particular penchant for Japan in the first three. The last fits in with Julian Barnes genre.
4 stars

Moody, Rick Garden State
A dystopian novel about young adults in New Jersey. Grunge, Grunge and more Grunge.
1 ½ stars

Murray, John A Few Short Notes on Tropical Butterflies
Absolutely fascinating. Absolutely. Short stories done in an exquisite manner
3 ½ stars

O'Brien, Flan At War
Newspaper columns from the Master. During WWII in Dublin.
2 ½ stars

Pagels, Elaine The Gnostic Gospels
Sort of blandly written but what she says will make you think. For someone who had 16 years of religious teaching it will make your hair stand up.
2 ½ stars

Pearl, Matthew The Dante Club
Such a good idea. Such an awful book.
1 star

Sandford, John Broken Prey
This guy can churn out a mystery a day. I read this because I wish I drove a Porsche.
1 ½ stars

Scott, Paul Jewel in the Crown
Scott, Paul The Day of the Scorpion
Scott, Paul The Towers of Silence
Scott, Paul A Division of the Spoils
You want to know about the British experience in India? Read Scott.
3 ½ stars

Sebald, W.G. The Rings of Saturn
This man, who died in an automobile accident at the end of the 90’s, has one of most unusual perspectives on people and the landscape that you can imagine. I’ve read two others by him and they all haunt.
3 ½ stars

Sholokhov, Mikhael And Quiet Flows the Don
How this guy won the Nobel Prize I’ll never know. I guess it was a sop to Stalin. What the Cossacks did in the Russian Civil War.
1 ½ stars

Simenon Tropic Moon
Not his best but gripping. Right in there with “Heart of Darkness.”
2 ½ stars

Simenon Monsieur Monde Vanishes
Didn’t finish it

Skvorecky, Josef The Engineer of Human Souls
A Czech writer living in Canada teaching English and rewriting his experience in WWII. Hard to finish but interesting.
2 stars

Smith, Alexander McCall The Full Cupboard of Life
Smith, Alexander McCall The Sunday Philosophy club
Smith, Alexander McCall Portuguese Irregular Verbs
Smith, Alexander McCall The Finer Points of Sausage Dogs
Smith, Alexander McCall At The Villa of Reduced Circumstances
The ultimate in trivial reading (well, maybe not the ultimate). But, I’ll be honest, they can entertain.
2 stars

Stegner, Wallace Angle of Repose
The great American going West novel. Actually quite good. A little forced, and interesting in its comments on the late 60’s culture.
3 stars

Stendhal The Charterhouse of Parma
You got to read this a few times in your life. It’s a rush and then its over.
3 stars

Trollope, Anthony Lady Anna
Trollope, Anthony The Belton Estate
Trollope, Anthony Rachael Ray
Trollope, Anthony The MacDermots of Ballycloran
Trollope, Anthony The Kellys and the O'Kellys
Trollope, Anthony Orley Farm
I never tire of reading this guy. I particularly liked The MacDermots and The Kellys because my ancestors came from Ireland where Trollope worked as a postal inspector or something (he invented the red British pillar mailbox). Somehow these stories in their certainty just fascinate me.
4 stars

Turgenev, Ivan Fathers and Sons
I know, I know, the modern classic. Introduces the blasé revolutionary. Still too Tolstoy for me.
3 stars

Waugh, Evelyn A Handful of Dust
This guy can be very cynical. Not up with Brideshead, but pretty close. Particularly the ending in the Amazon. Reading Dickens. Ah…
3 stars

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