As far as I'm concerned, Jeffery Deaver is the master of plot twists. His short story collections Twisted and More Twisted are packed with brilliantly...moreAs far as I'm concerned, Jeffery Deaver is the master of plot twists. His short story collections Twisted and More Twisted are packed with brilliantly crafted gems, and his on-going Lincoln Rhyme series has more stings in the tale than a rattlesnake. So I was excited to see what he'd do with The October List, a thriller told quite literally backwards. We open on chapter 36, with a frantic mother awaiting news of her kidnapped daughter. The door opens, revealing not her rescuers but the kidnapper himself, wielding a gun and a deranged grin. How did it come to this? We're about to find out, in reverse.
Although it takes a long time for the full picture to become clear (the game changes constantly, and the kaleidoscope doesn't come to rest as a fully-formed image until you've read all the way through to chapter one), the pace is never anything less than frenetic. I finished the book in around a day, and kept reading for several hours after I really should have been sleeping (when you physically can't hold the book open in bed, it's probably time to call it a night.)
Does the gimmick produce satisfying results? Yes and... hmm. The format does lend itself to some difficulties. You know the piece of proofreading advice, that if you read a document backwards you're more likely to catch mistakes? While there aren't mistakes here as such (ultimately, everything ties together beautifully), I think the problem with starting from a place of complete bewilderment is that I never really fully trusted anyone, nor took any information at face value. When the revelations come, they're more of the 'ah, that makes sense of that!' variety than the sudden sharp shock of being completely surprised.
When working with a regular chronology, Deaver is fully adept at misdirection and sleight of hand, techniques that I think this format fundamentally makes more difficult. I'm definitely not saying I guessed the resolution in advance, but I also wouldn't say I was miles from the ballpark. There are times Deaver's caught me from another continent entirely, so this wasn't necessarily in the same league.
That said, I think this will definitely bear a repeat reading, perhaps in reverse this time, to really catch all the subtle clues laid throughout. It's probably only a shade over half the length of most of his other books, so it wouldn't surprise me if this was the intention. I've quickly re-read the first (last?) chapter, and the additional depth and nuance once you know what's really going on is brilliant. As is the contents list at the back - I actually laughed out loud at how clever he'd been in places with the chapter illustrations.
Overall, while I wasn't completely blown away by The October List, I do think Deaver's writing here is very, very clever, and I'm looking forward to going through it again when it's not quite so fresh. For readers unfamiliar with JD, it does take a while to get in to - it was probably sixty pages or so before I stopped being completely bewildered, and maybe as much as another hundred before I was really rolling along - because of course, telling a story backwards does run the risk of making it choppy, disjointed and frustrating. My advice would be just to trust that he knows full-well what he's doing and that it will all pay off eventually. And enjoy!(less)
Important upfront disclosure: The Shining is by far my least favourite Stephen King novel. (I got a touch grumpy about it in my review".) It's the onl...moreImportant upfront disclosure: The Shining is by far my least favourite Stephen King novel. (I got a touch grumpy about it in my review".) It's the only King tale I've ever rated a solitary 1 out of 5, and as such I wasn't that excited about its sequel, Doctor Sleep. That said, some of his recent works have been really, truly excellent (11/22/63, Joyland) and so of course I still had it in my hands on publication day. While it's not one of my favourites, nor do I think it will prove to be especially memorable, it was still a serviceable 500 pages that I had fun delving through.
We meet up with Dan Torrence - The Shining's five-year-old protagonist and possessor of multiple supernatural abilities - several decades down the line. Now an alcoholic and all-round waste-of-space, Dan almost immediately hits rock bottom and spends the next several hundred pages engaged in a redemption arc I was initially dubious about, but which King ultimately managed to pull off.
Any quibbles I had with the novel are largely the same I have with many of King's works - chiefly that for a while, the whole thing turned into a bit of a boys-club romp (when there's a thirteen-year-old girl with her life on the line, it's not really excusable to cut her mother out for a hundred pages at a time while her dad, family doctor, psychic-shining-friend and random-train-driver have all the fun). Abra (said thirteen-year-old) lacked authenticity to me, and scenes in which she swapped bodies with Dan were especially bizarre.
There's a fairly substantial "twist" towards the home stretch which left me somewhat underwhelmed, and while King repeatedly has Dan brush aside the coincidence of it all, it felt unfortunately contrived to me. However, all this aside it was still a fast, well-paced read with villains as heinous as their backstory was complex. I enjoyed reading it despite my dislike of The Shining, and while the climax seemed over a little too swiftly, I was overall satisfied with the way things panned out.
(My biggest gripe is mainly that the US cover is way cooler than the UK one. Unfair!)(less)
Parks and Recreation is an absolutely wonderful little show - hilarious, on-the-nose, with a whole lot of heart. Tie-in book Pawnee: The Greatest Town...moreParks and Recreation is an absolutely wonderful little show - hilarious, on-the-nose, with a whole lot of heart. Tie-in book Pawnee: The Greatest Town in America is lacking in comparison, but still made me laugh obnoxiously loud a good half dozen times. It's ostensibly a history of and guide to the fictional Pawnee, penned by deputy Parks director Leslie Knope (in actuality written by Nate DiMeo and the show's creative team).
It's a little bizarre in that it really does capture Amy Poehler's Leslie extremely well in places, and yet I absolutely can't believe this is the same book Leslie wrote in the context of the show. In a bid to include the other characters, each is ascribed a feature section which, while entertaining, would never have made it past Leslie's stringent quality control (Really, I love Jean-Ralphio, but a guide to Pawnee's clubs rated by most bangable women? Leslie Knope would never.) Also, while we regularly see elements of Pawnee that are less than wonderful - eg. its genocidal origins - the dearth of scandal presented here makes Leslie's unwavering pride in her hometown veer from endearing to maniacally naive.
That said, certain sections brought me unmitigated joy, particularly the dossier on Pawnee's raccoon infestation and the feature on the years the town was run by a cult who worshipped the six-tentacled lizard god Zorp. I'd definitely recommend it to fully-fledged Parks devotees, but it's not essential reading for the casual viewer.(less)
I don't think The Ersatz Elevator is the breakaway point of ASoUE - I'd peg that more as being The Vile Village or The Hostile Hospital - but it is th...moreI don't think The Ersatz Elevator is the breakaway point of ASoUE - I'd peg that more as being The Vile Village or The Hostile Hospital - but it is the point at which you can tell the game is about to change, the rules are about to be re-written and the familiar formula abandoned, and that's an exciting thing. It's wonderful to re-read a book knowing exactly what will happen and still hope for a different outcome. The general well-meaning patheticness of Jerome is almost painful - you want to root for him, but he just won't. quite. let. you. Big mysteries come into play here, and as a book of transitions - from the familiar to the unknown, from few questions to all too many questions - TEE is a successful bridge.(less)
This was a pleasant enough read, but a bit too technical to sustain my interest throughout. The sections that focussed on Kirkman, Darabont, the chara...moreThis was a pleasant enough read, but a bit too technical to sustain my interest throughout. The sections that focussed on Kirkman, Darabont, the characters and cast were enormously interesting, but I think the book was hampered by Ruditis' selection of principal interviewees. Of the cast members, only DeMunn, Yeun and Riggs have a voice here. The crew are by far the most predominant, and while, yes, it is interesting to read about Nicotero creating zombies, I'm just not sure I was ever this interested in the scoring, visual effects, post-production process etc. It's the insights into the characters' psyches, the development of the comic and the transition into the TV series that really interested me, and compared to the bulk of the book - which focusses on the technical process - they're a bit lacking. Still, it was enjoyable enough to dip into here and there before bed each night, if not a compelling can't-put-down read. I'm sure there's something to relish here for most avid fans, if not the casual viewer. I'd like to read something similar on season two, but given the veil of secrecy that descended over Darabont's departure, it's sadly hard to imagine that working.(less)
I first read this, I think, when I was about eleven or twelve. I remember being horrified and physically sickened, and while my reaction upon re-readi...moreI first read this, I think, when I was about eleven or twelve. I remember being horrified and physically sickened, and while my reaction upon re-reading it wasn't quite so visceral, this still makes for an incredibly bleak read. Over the course of his young life, Frank has murdered three of his family members. He spends his days building bombs and torturing animals, as his older brother Eric - recently escaped from an institution - makes his way back towards the island where Frank and his father live. To say that this book is unpleasant is an understatement. There are places where the violence verges on gratuitous, and Frank's rituals can be hard to read. I don't know how this reflects on me as a reader, but I found the most compelling chapters to be the flashback to Frank's murders. The present, and day-to-day minutiae of his obsessions were less engrossing, and made convenient points at which to set the book down. I picked this up again after so many years because Iain Banks did a local talk. He proved to be engaging, warm and good-humoured, and I look forward to reading his latest novel, Stonemouth. I'm not sure The Wasp Factory is one I'll ever return to, but it is one that made a lasting impressing on my pre-teen psyche, and one I doubt I'll ever forget. (less)