Say what you will about Ed McBain stories - they know what they are and they do it well. Short length, always progressing and enough character flavor...moreSay what you will about Ed McBain stories - they know what they are and they do it well. Short length, always progressing and enough character flavor to make it perfect popcorn reading. Written in 1961, some aspects of the story haven't aged so well, but others (such as the typing of forms on carbon paper) only add to the story, giving them the feeling of a day home sick from work cruising the TV channels for cheesy midday movies that don't tax the brain overmuch and don't try too hard.
Some of the writing did make me laugh inappropriately - take this one passage, a description of the main character of the ongoing 87th precinct series... "He was a tall man, and he stood in slender deceptive grace by the meshed grille, the later afternoon sunlight washing over him, his angular body giving no clue to the destructive power in his muscular arms and chest. In profile he looked slightly oriental, the sun limning high cheekbones and eyes that slanted curiously downward." This description struck me as something more suited to a Mills and Boon than a detective novel, and it made me laugh out loud, imagining Carella reclining on a chaise lounge with a puffy white shirt. But such flowery language is rare and usually better suited to the story. A later description of a breezy autumn funeral and the bending trees had me imagining the leaves scraping down the gutter with each gust. But still - this is not a story for those who take their reading super-seriously. This is a chocolate bar book - satisfying junk food for those who know what they are getting. And there's nothing wrong with that - I can't read literary classics all the time any more than I can eat nothing but carrots. Pass the popcorn!(less)
I had read four fifths of the book when it went missing. I had misplaced it and for two weeks I could not find it anywhere. It was almost a relief. Wh...moreI had read four fifths of the book when it went missing. I had misplaced it and for two weeks I could not find it anywhere. It was almost a relief. While I liked some aspects of this story, I had reached a point where the book was going through what my mind insisted on calling a 'science wank'. That is, there were long, scientific explanations and explorations on the development of the universe that didn't seem to serve any part of the story and seemed better suited to a scientific paper. I read on and on, waiting for the story to go somewhere and for all this to make sense and it never seemed to happen. Even the characters in the story had no idea what was going on. So when I lost the book I was almost glad... except for the nagging sense that I should finish it eventually and of course the mystery of where the darned book had gone.
I did eventually find the book where it had fallen behind the bathroom door after a long reading session in a steamy bubblebath (which is marvelous whatever the book). I had read an entire other book in the meantime (a trashy, throwaway Ed McBain which I enjoyed immensely for the contrast and the brevity) and I think the break helped. I enjoyed the end of the book more than I expected. But still - the mysterious motives of ineffable beings using scientific knowledge beyond our scope is an interesting idea, but on it's own it does not make the best story when nobody has any idea what is happening, let alone the reader. It would take a great deal of character to hold such a story together, and Emma seemed to let herself be pushed this way and that by whatever current was flowing like a bland piece of kelp, while Malenfant went off being a secretive, boy-genius jerk abusing her trust, and Cornelius a super creep and I wanted to slap all of them in the face, even Maura who started out interesting but turned into even wiltier kelp being pushed around by political machinations. Nobody really seemed to react as a character - everyone seemed to be pushed around by the story like a shopping trolley, without even a wobbly wheel to keep it interesting. I wish I liked it more as the brain tumbling concepts of time and space kept me confused and interested, but it just didn't tie together enough.(less)
This book featured on the English syllabus when I was in primary school in the late 80s. When I saw the cover in a second hand book sale, it was like...moreThis book featured on the English syllabus when I was in primary school in the late 80s. When I saw the cover in a second hand book sale, it was like a wormhole back into childhood. I had a few vivid memories of the story (one of which turned out not to be in the book at all!) but only vague ideas of what it was actually all about. I was very interested to see how it all turned out.
On re-reading, I was pleasantly surprised at the detailed characters and the number of pre-teen social issues the book hit upon without sounding preachy. Leader/follower conflicts, the struggle for identity, broken families, mental illness - these issues and more come into play as a natural part of the story, intertwined with a rather silly and dated story about a Japanese video game. I can see why the Australian Psychological Society sponsored the book, and why it was put onto the school syllabus (one of the very few sci-fi stories to make it onto a syllabus - and certainly the only non-classic like Brave New World etc).
The dated technology doesn't detract too much from the story (I'd be interested to find out what today's kids would make of game cartridges and Hanimex consoles) and the issues are still valid so I'd still recommend it just as much for todays kids - but perhaps lower the age group to 9-10 year as it isn't that dark, and kids do seem to be becoming aware of these issues at a younger age. The book doesn't talk down to kids and isn't afraid of using complex language. In my edition, some of the words (such as 'enthralling', 'diabolical', 'perversely' and 'exasperated') have been underlined in pencil, as this is obviously a former student's book - I hope you improved your vocabulary, Dale from 7D!
Now to work out where that misremembered scene came from (standing on top of a climbing frame and looking up at the stars). It certainly wasn't in this book - was there a sequel? Ah! After looking up the reviews (something I never do before reading a book or writing my own review) I see it was part of a trilogy and Skymaze really ring a bell. So I bet I'm thinking of that one. I'll have to keep an eye out for a copy!(less)
My mother lent me a whole stack of Maeve Binchy books, and I had been putting off reading any, thinking they would be to saccharine for my tastes, but...moreMy mother lent me a whole stack of Maeve Binchy books, and I had been putting off reading any, thinking they would be to saccharine for my tastes, but I guess I should have trusted her judgement as I enjoyed reading this book. It reminded me of an Agatha Christie or Ruth Rendell story with the murder taken out of it. The lives of a whole brace of characters are woven among each other, and although the sheer amount of characters can become confusing, it's interesting to see how they all end up relating to each other. I heard this is a sequel, and while I don't think I could read two of these enormous books in a row without getting all the characters muddled up, I am sure I'll read more of them in the future.(less)
I don't know why short story collections aren't more popular. Small mouthfuls of story are ideal for the times you don't want to commit to some enormo...moreI don't know why short story collections aren't more popular. Small mouthfuls of story are ideal for the times you don't want to commit to some enormous tome. There may be as many words as in a novel, but the frequent changes and pace and characters are refreshing.
Some of the first stories have unpredictable ends that are somehow anticlimactic but I still enjoyed them. The best story, however, was a demented mix of Children of the Corn and the Darling Buds of May. I'll say no more to avoid spoilers, but it was a really interesting idea, even if the switching of narrator did confuse me in a few places.
All up - a solid read and enough difference between the stories to keep you interested. And they aren't all murders or small town mysteries, although many certainly have that element.(less)
Phew, after a few of the other books this year, it was good to finally read something that flowed well. Although it touches on a number of very confus...morePhew, after a few of the other books this year, it was good to finally read something that flowed well. Although it touches on a number of very confusing concepts, and for such a short book describes two very different cultures (a highly advanced human culture and the more primitive human society derived from it when it fell) without becoming unreadble or too confusing. There were still a lot of concepts left unexplained, but that didn't compromise the story - it just left some mysteries to think about.
I enjoyed the story. It packed a lot in a very small space, but still allowed me to feel for the characters involved.(less)
I've been struggling with this book for months. I don't know why -perhaps in that it was just barely readable enough. Perhaps part of me held out hope...moreI've been struggling with this book for months. I don't know why -perhaps in that it was just barely readable enough. Perhaps part of me held out hope that it would pick up at the end. Perhaps I just wanted to know what happened?
But no, the real reason I read this book is to get ideas on how *not* to write. This book was such a clear example of crippling passive voice and excessive foreshadowing that I had to keep going - just to satisfy that little budding author voice inside of me that was crying out "Oh, I see! Don't do that or the reader is going to be disappointed. And oh! This would have had much more impact in active voice!" My inner author got plenty out of this novel, but the part of me that desired escapism and a good story was battering down the doors to get out!
Here is what frustrated me about this book: Major action often took place off-screen. Huge battles were only described by their aftermath or not described at all. Deaths of major characters are mentioned almost as an afterthought. An example - one character discovers his sibling dead after only just being re-united with them. This is announced by the passage 'the next day she was dead' and goes on to describe the surviving sibling's depression, but not one word is spoken about the discovery of the body or what happened when they found out she was dead. Surely a dramatic moment, but it is not even touched. Almost every major event is so heavily foreshadowed it has absolutely no suprise, and I was begging for major characters to just hurry up and die, as if it was the opposite of Game of Thrones. The passive voice everywhere! Maybe it was an issue with the translation, but is seems the majority of the book it written in the most passive voice imaginable. The narrator also blabbers. Melusine wanders off into philosophical musings and the personal histories of irrelevant characters at every opportunity. Even at the climax of the book she wanders off into self-indulgence yet again, forcing me to skim entire pages or abandon the book entirely in frustration.
I did not know until I finished the book that it was a translation. I try to read books without knowing too much about them or it can skew your expectations. Perhaps I would have been more forgiving had I known that it was not originally written in English, but at the end I found this book very unsatisfying in almost every respect instead of it's lessons to the writer in what not to do.(less)
The interplay between the characters is really getting very interesting. Some new characters are introduced and some I would have liked to know better...moreThe interplay between the characters is really getting very interesting. Some new characters are introduced and some I would have liked to know better make their exit, but with all this going on it's still easy enough to follow the action - rare when there are so many threads going on at once!
Oh, and bonus star for the extra art at the back - about time Fard got some pants.(less)
I chose to read Kissing the Gunner's Daughter after reading another author's book that I had disliked, because I wanted to read something dependably e...moreI chose to read Kissing the Gunner's Daughter after reading another author's book that I had disliked, because I wanted to read something dependably entertaining and familiar. I was not disappointed. The observations of small town life and the intricacies surrounding a murder investigation were stock standard for this genre - interesting but rarely hugely surprising. The descriptions of the characters and surroundings are three dimensional without being overwordy. One character in particular I could picture as if I was watching a television drama rather than reading a book. The plot itself seemed to wander around a bit, and the conclusion seemed a bit hasty and was a little unsatisfactory to me. So many possibilities were presented, but nothing concrete is revealed until the last few pages, and then in the course of a rather ordinary conversation. There was very little drama to the ending for a book so full of murders and mystery figures in the darkness. All up though, it is a good solid read and a good distraction - well written and a good addition to the 'small town murder mystery' genre.(less)
**spoiler alert** Ugh. Finishing this book was a bit of a task. The protagonist was boring, stubborn and astoundingly negative throughout the entire b...more**spoiler alert** Ugh. Finishing this book was a bit of a task. The protagonist was boring, stubborn and astoundingly negative throughout the entire book. There's a rather gratuitous rape scene near the start, which the protagonist barely thinks about for the entire rest of the story until finally he remembers 'Oh yeah, that girl I raped. How's about I send her a magic horse or something?' and then promptly forgets all about her again. Many of the parts of the book were dull and redundant (The 'bad guy' gives a James Bond villain monologue that goes for a whole page without pause right at the start, which I barely made it through). I found some of the magic systems interesting, but most of the rest is a pretty derivative Tolkien-style journey, with a magic ring and orcs (but we call them ur-vills), goblins (cavewrights), elves (woodhelvin), and ents (giants), and an underground journey which may as well be Moria, a forest that may as well be Murkwood.... etc etc.
I have no desire to finish this series, and this book will go straight back to Lifeline. Mainly due to the rape scene turning me off the book right at the start - I mean, maybe he was under some sort of evil control, or was somehow filled with passion after being healed by the magic dirt, but he was still leering at the girl who was 'at most 16' long before that happened. Which leads me to believe he was just a shithead, so it made me very hard to follow his journey as he whined about his terrible leprosy while whole communities were slaughtered around him, but oh no, he's sick, so he can't lift a finger to help. Ugh, just ugh. What a jerk.(less)
**spoiler alert** Standing in Another Man's Grave starts with a swift and expressive introduction of Rebus as the grizzled, retired detective who isn'...more**spoiler alert** Standing in Another Man's Grave starts with a swift and expressive introduction of Rebus as the grizzled, retired detective who isn't quite ready to give up the game but is standing on the wrong side of a long and controversial career. The story unwraps in the expected manner, with a nasty crime and a cast of suspicious characters to pin it on. Despite it's formulaic nature, I enjoyed the book, the atmospheric descriptions of Scotland and the grimy underworld characters of the cities. My big issue was with the way it ended...
So, fine, a killer is on the lose and our hero must solve it in an unconventional manner as the proper procedures aren't working. As per usual. However, at this point I had an idea that they were on the wrong track, and that perhaps a different individual, who had been mentioned several times in passing (the obsessive mother's mysterious 'brother' Alfie - who had perhaps attached himself to the overbearing mother to both gloat and throw police off the track, while keeping an eye on proceedings), might in fact be the true killer. Convinced there was going to be a surprise switch to this new path of investigation, I read on, only to find that the book plodded along on the usual formulaic path with few surprises along the way. The Unconventional Detective had a hunch, the hunch was of course correct, and the Unconventional Detective, who has failed to convince the Proper Authorities, must do things his own way. The end. How much more fun would in have been, I thought to myself when I threw the book down in frustration at the finale, if the Unconventional Detective had been WRONG? What if he unleashed the full power of his dodgy methods on an innocent man, only to have the real killer dug up by the Proper Authorities and have him questioning everything about himself (but perhaps able to easily cover up his blunder)? What a delightful ending (and great setup for a sequel) that would have been! But no, that didn't happen and I was disappointed. Even worse, I remained entirely unconvinced by the evidence for the Unconventional Detective's hunch, and didn't even have the satisfaction of having it properly confirmed or denied. Did Rebus harass an innocent man and his brother? Did his methods almost get an innocent man murdered and buried in a shallow grave? And that whole thing about 'scaring' the proposed serial killer didn't even work in the end and could have gone wrong in a thousand different ways making Rebus complicit in an arranged killing... it just seemed silly and wrong. Maybe the killer was on the autism spectrum and that explained his strange reactions and the protectiveness of his brother. Maybe his brother really did suspect him but was wrong... I enjoyed a lot of the book, but I enjoyed the ending in my head far more than anything in the book. Maybe I'll just pretend that's what I read.(less)
It is interesting to see a children's adventure story from so long ago that was not afraid to mix science, fantasy and spirituality in such large dose...moreIt is interesting to see a children's adventure story from so long ago that was not afraid to mix science, fantasy and spirituality in such large doses.
While a good part of the action takes part in the mind, with lots of thinking and wishing and willing going on to move the protagonists past their various perils, there are a large variety of interesting alien creatures and time travel and strange places to move the story past these sometimes tedious battles of the mind.
Based around a very Christian view of morality and the battle between good and evil, sometimes the characters (in the third book in particular) can seem a little shallow (some, it seems, are doomed to be bad by their genetics!) and a bit too black and white, but it's still an enjoyable adventure despite it's flaws and gentle proselytising tone. Charles Wallace and Meg shine out as the most memorable characters, shining most strongly of all in the first book as strangely wilful children with agendas all of their own.
It's worth reading the three books in one go. They are easy to read and it's interesting to see how their characters change over time, as well as the change in the writing style.(less)