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I loved this: a timeless tribute to a particular place and time, a vivid setting filled...moreI just wrote a long review and then closed the wrong tab. Oops.
I loved this: a timeless tribute to a particular place and time, a vivid setting filled with a community of memorable characters. Doc: the fount of all wisdom on Cannery row. Mack and his gang of misfits from the Palace Flophouse. Mr and Mrs Sam Malloy who live in an old boiler. Lee Chong, the proprietor of the remarkably well-stocked local store where you can buy anything at any time, particularly "Old Tennis Shoes" whiskey. There's not much real plot, unless you can count Mack's ongoing well-meaning ineptitude and desire to throw a party for the Doc, but it's interwoven through and binds together the portraits of people and places, and even animals (like the poor gopher with the perfect burrow but no mate to share it with).
I really enjoyed this - even if the Arthurian parts with Perceval on his Grail quest mainly reminded me of the medieval literature I studied at univer...moreI really enjoyed this - even if the Arthurian parts with Perceval on his Grail quest mainly reminded me of the medieval literature I studied at university...(less)
As a survivor... veteran..., um, alumnus of two different universities, a worrying amount of this seemed familiar! The continuing chaos of Jim Dixon's...moreAs a survivor... veteran..., um, alumnus of two different universities, a worrying amount of this seemed familiar! The continuing chaos of Jim Dixon's attempts to master his teaching career and love life, and survive Professor Welch and his family, let alone Dixon's spectacular lecture on 'Merrie England' are don't-read-on-a-bus-because-you'll-look-like-a-loon laugh-out-loud funny...(less)
I've meant to read this for quite a while - the reason why New Orleans is supposedly a vampire Mecca. I found it quite intriguing, with Louis the more...moreI've meant to read this for quite a while - the reason why New Orleans is supposedly a vampire Mecca. I found it quite intriguing, with Louis the more 'human' (i.e. emotional) vampire compared with the others who are more directly juxtaposed to humans for the most part. In his own way, though, Lestat is even more human - just the not-so-nice-and-cuddly parts that we're less quick to admit to, taking advantage over others where he can. I was also intrigued by the interview format, with chunks of conversation directly between interviewer and interviewee bookending sections of the vampire's tale.(less)
**spoiler alert** The latest in my run of reading or re-reading Wyndham's novels this year in no particular order and for no particular reason other t...more**spoiler alert** The latest in my run of reading or re-reading Wyndham's novels this year in no particular order and for no particular reason other than I felt like it!
This has quite a different feel for me than, say, the more apocalyptic (if quietly so) tales such as The Kraken Wakes or The Day of the Triffids. There isn't so much of a sinister feeling throughout, even though we're talking about a child being 'inhabited' by an alien presence and even when this turns into an actual 'possession' with the alien Chocky controlling Matthew's body it's still not totally horrifying. Odd, certainly, and a little creepy, but Chocky's actions, saving Matthew and his sister Polly from drowning, and intent, to offer positive assistance to one of the few other intelligent forms of life Chocky's people have found, are explicitly benevolent.
This view is mainly influenced by the narrator, Matthew's father, who is quickly ready to believe in Chocky's existence and is more intrigued than worried, seeing little need to interfere when his son is healthy and happy. It should perhaps seem more sinister, but the kidnapping of Matthew by people who want to learn the alien's secrets actually seems worse. Clearly it would be a very different book if written from the perspective of the mother who swings between concern, dismissal of an 'imaginary friend', horror at the possibility of possession, fear for her child, returning to denial of Chocky's existence... That would be a far more uncomfortable read. As it is, it's an enjoyable and even cheery story, but with a sinister edge of what could have happened that creeps up on you afterwards.
Once again I loved Wyndham's characters, especially the children here: with Matthew's frustration when trying to convey Chocky's ideas by finding his vocabulary lacking, and little sister Polly who can describe anything that has happened to Matthew in comparison with events from the life of "Twinklehooves", the show-pony/ballerina from her favourite books!(less)
The diary of suburban "nobody" Charles Pooter who, while being the target for a (gentle) satire of the Victorian middle class, is quite endearing in h...moreThe diary of suburban "nobody" Charles Pooter who, while being the target for a (gentle) satire of the Victorian middle class, is quite endearing in his complete lack of self-awareness and his unfailing belief in the power of terrible puns to amuse anyone... Instantly recognisable characters and situations and just as funny over a century after it was published.(less)
Like many people, I suspect, I've come to Fleming's James Bond after seeing the films. This is not the "Bond. James Bond" who likes his drinks "shaken...moreLike many people, I suspect, I've come to Fleming's James Bond after seeing the films. This is not the "Bond. James Bond" who likes his drinks "shaken, not stirred", rather he prefers: "A dry martini. ... In a deep champagne goblet. ... Three measures of Gordon's, one of vodka, half a measure of Kina Lillet. Shake it very well until it's ice-cold, then add a large thin slice of lemon peel. Got it?" Can't imagine why they didn't go with that as his catchphrase in the movies!
This novel is far darker in tone than the 'original' films and much closer in style to the 'new' version of Bond played by Daniel Craig in the 2006 adaptation of this novel, which is pretty close to the source material. 21st century Bond is somewhat more enlightened: he works for a female M, whereas the Bond of the novel is annoyed by "These blithering women who thought they could do a man's work. Why the hell couldn't they stay at home and mind their pots and pans and stick to their frocks and gossip and leave men's work to the men." In other words, each version is very much of his time.
Bond comes across as a bit of an idiot in places - he blames Vesper for getting caught in an obvious trap that he, the spy, didn't realise was a trap until after she had been captured. It shows that he's human, not a perfect 'superhero' spy which makes it easier to identify with him, even if you don't agree with his views.
Most importantly, perhaps, I've now learnt the rules of baccarat...
I had a conversation the other day about upside-down trees (the shape of family trees, or a computer's directory structure) which, naturally, made me...moreI had a conversation the other day about upside-down trees (the shape of family trees, or a computer's directory structure) which, naturally, made me think of baobabs, which in turn, of course, made me think of Le Petit Prince. Which tells you something about how my mind works...
A lovely little book with the author's own watercolour illustrations and, in this particular copy, my own handwritten scribbles from when we read it in French class at school a looooong time ago!(less)
So once again Wyndham's world ends, à la T.S. Eliot, not with a bang but a whimper as society collapses when the vast majority of the world's populati...moreSo once again Wyndham's world ends, à la T.S. Eliot, not with a bang but a whimper as society collapses when the vast majority of the world's population wakes up blind the morning after watching the green flashes in the sky of a supposed comet. The ambulatory carnivorous plants of mysterious origin known as triffids are able to take advantage of this with sightless humans finding they are no longer at the top of the food chain...
Wyndham always seems to do 'creepy' very well, here deriving a high level of menace from a strange-looking plant that is able to hobble and wobble around on three legs and would seem ridiculous were it not for it's deadly poison delivered by a lashing sting, and the signs of intelligence driving them: apparent communication, lying in wait for their prey. He makes this quiet end of the world feel real with scenes of the gradually decaying cities and landscapes being reclaimed by nature.(less)
Fantastic stuff. I've started reading or-rereading Wyndham's novels this year (I recently read The Midwich Cuckoos) and I'm struck by how low-key the...moreFantastic stuff. I've started reading or-rereading Wyndham's novels this year (I recently read The Midwich Cuckoos) and I'm struck by how low-key they seem. Not for Wyndham the heat-ray or giant mechanical monsters of H.G. Wells's prototypic alien invasion, instead there's more of the mystery and foreboding with the realisation that there is a threat to be dealt with only coming when it's far to late to do anything about it even if anything had been possible before.
The fact that we never know what the 'bathies' look like or their motivations or really anything about them is ever known makes them all the more effective antagonists: creepy and unpredictable, unlike the more conventional human enemy of the Soviet Union, to whom at first their activities are linked. And again, these activities don't start on a flash-bang Hollywood movie set-piece scale - there are just some odd things happening at sea.
Meanwhile, the characters are also fantastic. Michael and Phyllis Watson both know which of them is in charge, and the strong character of the wife makes it all the more effective when she begins to break down and lose hope.
**spoiler alert** Intriguing and not a little creepy...
It's interesting that the characters compare and contrast the insidious invasion of the Childre...more**spoiler alert** Intriguing and not a little creepy...
It's interesting that the characters compare and contrast the insidious invasion of the Children in Midwich to H.G. Wells' Martians (i.e. from "The War of the Worlds"): "As the original exponents of the death-ray they were formidable, but their behaviour was quite conventional". Alien invasions have usually been depicted quite simplistically as a technologically superior force invading and subjugating the indigenous population, with far less complex motivations than, say, Europe's conquest and colonisation of the New World.
The Children may be a form of homo superior, a natural evolutionary replacement to homo sapiens, though the apparent involvement of UFOs in the "Dayout" in Midwich and elsewhere would seem to contradict any natural involvement. Hence the consideration due to the ever-present mystery of a Missing Link (there's always another link seen to be missing between any new missing link that is found and the ones already known), perhaps mankind's evolution didn't take place alongside the natural evolution of the rest of the world, but perhaps humanity was placed here ready-made in the same way as the Midwich Cuckoos by whatever outside intelligence put them here. Such a theory would, apparently, account for the differences between the races of the 'white man', 'black man', 'red man' and 'yellow man'...
Some of the ideas may now seem *a little* out of date in terms of current scientific thinking and politics, not just the supposed 'differences' between the races, but also the suggestion by some male characters that the women are simply 'hysterical'... The Children, however, remain fascinating and creepy with their clear understanding of the place of their species in competition with humanity. Yup, creepy...(less)