Very disappointing. I LOVED both of his previous novels. This one is very well written, and has several points where I laughed out loud whilst reading...moreVery disappointing. I LOVED both of his previous novels. This one is very well written, and has several points where I laughed out loud whilst reading it (on public transport often), but it just isn't very interesting.
'And then we came to the end' was much funnier, 'The Unnamed' was far more moving. I hope he picks it up again. (less)
For me, Gardner's first two Bond novels (Licence Renewed and For Special Services) are a bit weird, bringing a little of his off-kilter Boysie Oakes-s...moreFor me, Gardner's first two Bond novels (Licence Renewed and For Special Services) are a bit weird, bringing a little of his off-kilter Boysie Oakes-style to the Bond franchise (which is what it had become). But his third novel, icebreaker, was one of his best, and it seems he'd found a formula and style that suited the mid-to late eighties period of these books. The follow-ups, Role of Honour, Nobody Lives Forever and this one, No Deals Mr Bond make up his best Bond books, relying more on a Le Carre style tradecraft which suited Fleming's character brought into an eighties world. It fell apart a bit again in the nineties, with the odd exception (The Man from Barbarossa I thought was good).
I re-read them all periodically and really enjoyed this. If only there'd been more films in the second half of the eightgies than The Living Daylights and Licence to Kill then they could have done a lot worse than taken these plots and characters.
My main quibble is that the lead female character, Ebbie Heritage, is so pathetic, all dewy-eyed and cloying. I suppose that's another sense in which this book takes from Fleming, though, and it was when Gardner tried to make his leading female characters stronger that he lost the Bond essence (not necessarily because of that).
Still, if this was Dalton's first Bond, or maybe his third after TLD, fans wouldn't be diassppointed.. neither should fans of cold war spy fiction. It's a good read, and I think that's what this site is all about.(less)
When I read The Year of the Flood, I didn't realise it was a sequel to Oryx and Crake (which I'd loved) until I was about halfway through it. I also d...moreWhen I read The Year of the Flood, I didn't realise it was a sequel to Oryx and Crake (which I'd loved) until I was about halfway through it. I also didn't realised a third book was planned. They seemed to tell the story fairly well.
And this book is a little different, as I note from other reviews. Without meaning to give anything away this book is set in the post-holocaust world of those two books, but is mostly told in flashback - filling in a few details of the characters that were not yet known.
The story told in the present does seem more trivial - in some ways it felt more like 'The Robber Bride' than the previous two - but Margaret Atwood is such an amazing writer that it is terrific fun.
MaddAdam manages to be sincere and foreboding and yet also irreverent and subversive.
It is mostly about sex. But then much great literature is mostly about sex and many popular songs. That's not a bad thing. In fact, when I think about it, virtually everything Margaret Atwood has written (like Kate Bush) is about sex.
It is possible, I suppose, that she might decide everything else she wants to say she can say in the universe of MaddAddam. I'm sure she would do that with her customary skill.
I loved Oryx and Crake. And I loved The Year of the Flood. I thought the two of them told an incredible story. But I really enjoyed MadAddam and if there were more, I would enjoy those too. Because Margaret Atwood is an incredible writer and I have never not enjoyed her writing.(less)
Overall, a really exciting children's book. Used magic, but in an imaginative way and great characters and plot.
Two rather big quibbles though.... 1) S...moreOverall, a really exciting children's book. Used magic, but in an imaginative way and great characters and plot.
Two rather big quibbles though.... 1) Supposedly the main character is English and lives in Cambridge, but she played baseball with her baseball obsessed friend and sat and chatted to him on the fire escape. This is very American, yes, but not very likely at all in England. I can see why the Australian author had to make it set in Europe, but details like this matter. 2) Perhaps connected, but an awful lot of characters were described by their race and unfortunately the colour of their skin. It wasn't overtly racist, but there is no need to characterise people like this. Saying, "The enormous man with the big white teeth" (as I did when I read it out aloud to my daughter) is much better than "The enormous black man with the big white teeth" for a whole number of reasons.
The editors need to work harder if this is to reach a global audience.(less)
Very impressive. Lengthy but always accessible. The first third wasn't always hugely compelling, setting out the story, but it was always readable and...moreVery impressive. Lengthy but always accessible. The first third wasn't always hugely compelling, setting out the story, but it was always readable and as it went on it became more and more compelling.
A mystery story with perhaps a few too many coincidences, but structured so brilliantly, that it makes one think afterwards that all mystery stories should be structured in the same way. There's loads and loads of metaphor here too that's way over my head.
But the best thing about it is that the story works, the - fairly smally number of - characters - for such a long work are all beautifully realised and the setting of the time so wonderfully evocacative.
It's not particularly moving, but it's a cracking read, beautifully written and it's very, very clever.(less)
I know Amsterdam very well but knew very little of it's history and loved reading this.
In attempting to explain the 'liberalism' of Amsterdam, the au...moreI know Amsterdam very well but knew very little of it's history and loved reading this.
In attempting to explain the 'liberalism' of Amsterdam, the author occasionally loses sight of what's socially liberal, what's good social democracy and Capitalism itself... I think it would have been more effective if he dropped the attempt to make it about why Amsterdam is so 'liberal' and just concentrated on the city itself.
A genuinely laugh-out loud novel. Clever and real. Just failed to be as moving as it could have been perhaps, but equally imaginative (and quite diffe...moreA genuinely laugh-out loud novel. Clever and real. Just failed to be as moving as it could have been perhaps, but equally imaginative (and quite different) to The Unnamed. I think Joshua Ferris is one of new favourite writers, and apparently his latest novel is his best yet.
We both enjoyed it a lot. I've never read it - or any Verne - but I think we're going to be reading some mor...moreHave just finished reading this to my son.
We both enjoyed it a lot. I've never read it - or any Verne - but I think we're going to be reading some more now.
And I'd just like to say, the language was a bit complicated at times, but it's lovely to read that to an 8 year old. Even I didn't know what some of the words meant. The world has changed since the 1870s. We didn't shirk from that. We stopped so that I could explain why Verne had written that frequently - in order to describe his colonialist attitude towards Indians, weak-willed women or typical Americans with no sense of humour. I think that's part of the experience.
There was only one word I skipped. I could explain all of that, but I didn't want to explain why Japanese people were described as having 'slanted eyes'.
All the same, in some ways it wasn't as racist or sexist as Ian Fleming, for example, and the storytelling was first rate.(less)
SOME SPOILERS - particularly if your book club is about to read this.
Very elegant prose and easy to read. But ultimately, this didn't tell me anything...moreSOME SPOILERS - particularly if your book club is about to read this.
Very elegant prose and easy to read. But ultimately, this didn't tell me anything much about human life I didn't know and didn't provoke any great inspiration or interest in anything else for me.
Its a tale of a rather unremarkable man, who has a rather unremarkable life. He's also weak and lets other manipulate him - his moral and ethical compass perhaps being the disguise for a lack of courage and conviction.
But everyone else raves about it, so maybe I'm wrong. I'll go and read some more reviews on Goodreads... for now I'd say go and read some Steinbeck or Faulkner instead.(less)
Like all of Houellebecq's books, there are some wonderful observations here.. some wonderful dialogue... particularly when he's talking about sex (whi...moreLike all of Houellebecq's books, there are some wonderful observations here.. some wonderful dialogue... particularly when he's talking about sex (which he does a lot). There is no writer quite like him.
A friend of mine who's a film-maker likes to always summarise a film in one line - what's it about? You can do that with most films, but you can't do it for as many novels. Particularly not great novels.. or Houellebecq, which isn't to say he isn't a great novelist, but I think I'd find it difficult to describe a book like this as great.
But having said that, what is it about? I didn't know for the whole first half of the book, which seems to be mostly about sex, and as such had me at times uncomfortable, at times depressed and at times engaged. But then eventually the plot kicked in. And it became mostly about the end of organised religion (and how such a thing might come about) and mostly about what it would be like for someone that really doesn't enjoy life to become immortal.
Lots to ponder there. Houellebecq's cynical world view is perfectly framed by Daniel, and by a plot that does see the end of religion, and eventually the end of life as we know it.
And what takes over is strangely beautiful. More beautiful (and lacking in cynicism) than anything I've read by Houellebecq before. More beautiful (though no less eloquent) than I would have given him credit for... and so I think this is his best novel (I've read 4 out of 5). A great novel perhaps - it'll stay with me a long time - but for the slowness to get going, and those familiar erotic passages that dominate the first half. Not, as it turns out, superfluous to the plot, but perhaps not necessary in such detail.(less)
I deliberately waited a few days after finishing The Bone Clocks before writing about it. I wanted to be sure that the impact I felt immediately after...moreI deliberately waited a few days after finishing The Bone Clocks before writing about it. I wanted to be sure that the impact I felt immediately after it finished was real.
It’s been 2 or 3 days now. I’m still thinking about it. Still feel a bit strangely dis-loyal to be reading something else. Disappointed that it won’t be as good.
That’s proof enough for the 5 star rating. Now for the review.
David Mitchell, despite his obvious gifts for structure and the fantastical, remains for me, one of the greatest current writers for realism. His scenes in Kate Bush’s recent stage show, Before the Dawn are testament to this (the first would not be out of place in The Bone Clocks, the second is the prelude to ‘Watching Me, Watching You’ from The 9th Wave). And it is this gift to his writing that makes him so accessible.
The opening stories of this novel are so captivating, the characters and their lives so real, that I was hooked, wanting to finish each section and wanting more.
There is one scene in the very first that is weird. It’s surreal. It doesn’t fit in with the rest of the ‘episode’. Any experienced David Mitchell reader knows it’s going to get more surreal later. But I read over it quickly, wanting to find out how this story resolved and what happened to Holly Sykes.
The jumps in time are initially disconcerting. As they are in Cloud Atlas, one wants to find out how the story ends. In CA one does, when the stories finish themselves off. In The Bone Clocks, it’s not until the latter stages that they all fit together. For me, this was when I got to page 292 and suddenly figured out what the whole book was about. Wow! That was amazing (and had me re-reading those earlier surreal scenes, just to check how it fitted in).
Some have been dissapointed at the disparateness of the stories in CA, struggling to find a coherent narrative in them. Not so in The Bone Clocks, where as the book progresses each one of them becomes fundamental to the plot and one very definitely feels that one has read a continuous novel by the end, without anything wasted.
And what a plot that is! It does have moments where it feels a little like a Christopher Nolan film, but I don’t think anything in here could be done justice by a film – it is only the medium of the novel that allows this story to be told in all its glory.
I don’t think I’ve given away any spoilers yet, but I have to say (slight SPOILER ALERT), that the last section, as the characters head to their inevitable conclusion, is a particularly grim vision of the near future, one where the polar ice-caps have melted and the oil has run out. But the very final resolution is perfect.
Finally, this is the first time I’ve been aware of a political current in Mitchell’s writing. That pleases me, as it’s a good sentiment. The Cambridge students in it to make as much money for themselves as possible are the villains, the Comprehensive school graduates from Gravesend are the heroes. The Gulf War is covered in as visceral way as anything since Paul Greengrass’s Green Zone, but more politically (Bush’s government the main villains), and the final grim future is a consequence of Capitalism gone wild.
There is so much here, and so incredibly written. I loved it and I can’t remember when I read a book I’ve loved as much. (less)
I love John Le Carre. I've enjoyed every book of his I've read (which is most of them), some more than others. None more than Tinker Tailor Soldier Sp...moreI love John Le Carre. I've enjoyed every book of his I've read (which is most of them), some more than others. None more than Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. I've written extensively about that, here and elsewhere.
I also love Homeland. I've been watching it since September, when I started watching Series One, going into Series Two and now finally caught up, watching Series Three live.
This is a review of A Delicate Truth, but it's also a little about Homeland. It seems as good a place to do so as any. Because Homeland has always been very John Le Carre. He could have created and written all of Series One. Series Two was a bit ill thought-out, a bit poorly written at times. Le Carre wouldn't have had anything to do with that. But as soon as Series Three started I loved it again. It's full of tradecraft and then (Homeland Spoiler coming up.....) it paid the ultimate homage. And lifted the plot of The Spy Who Came in From the Cold. That was the whole first half of this series (if you know them both, you'll know what I'm talking about, if not then its probably best kept a surprise). Brilliant stroke.
And now Le Carre's written A Delicate Truth. Probably the most Homeland like book he's written. But also Le Carre to a tee. The prose is elegant, the plotting is impeccable, the narrative is not quite linear.. and its about an issue of Homeland security.
But it is a lot more open about it's Politics than Le Carre often is. His early work bristles with subtext, his later novels tend to have focused on one event... this puts the character into an ethically uncertain position again, but the subtext is further back in it.. and while Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is all about social class in Britain in the 1970s, A Delicate Truth is openly about the lack of ethics in New Labour politics; about public private partnerships and MPs who find themselves in cahoots with Private lobbyists.
In the past reading Le Carre, you want to try and work out which real life characters his 'made up' ones map to. Here you don't have to. He name checks Tony Blair, Gordon Brown and the Iraq War, which becomes the moral centre of the novel.
But his made up characters are equally mappable... did anyone else spot Adam Werrity? Okay maybe he hadn't quite emerged into the headlines when Le Carre was working on this, but he could have.
I definitely enjoyed this more than any other Le Carre since Absolute Friends (with the possible exception of The Mission Song). If you're a homeland fan and you've never read Le Carre, then you will love him. If you're a Le Carre fan you must be a Homeland fan, right?
But in any case. If he keeps writing like this, I hope he keeps going for much longer.(less)
Well okay, I'm not really finished. Because I did the most liberating thing I've done in ages. I decided I'd had enough. It's not terrible, but it is...moreWell okay, I'm not really finished. Because I did the most liberating thing I've done in ages. I decided I'd had enough. It's not terrible, but it is very tedious. 148 pages in, it had been a struggle since about page 30 and I still had 350 to go. That was going to be three weeks of my reading life I'd never get back.
I don't mind when it's enjoyable prose. But this is contrived rubbish. The narrator is smug, his 'mysterious' father deathly uninteresting. It was when the ventriloquist's dummy came out that I pulled out my bookmark and closed the book.
Sadly, this was recommended to me, and more sadly, by my Dad, who usually has quite good taste. Don't know what he saw in it.(less)