‘She had no existence, in herself. From earliest childhood she had believed this. Rather she was a reflecting surface, reflecting others’ perception i...more‘She had no existence, in herself. From earliest childhood she had believed this. Rather she was a reflecting surface, reflecting others’ perception if her, and love of her.’ (p. 378)
What happens when you are no longer able to live up to the label everyone else has put upon you? When you are the youngest sister, your sister is the pretty one – and you are the smart one, but failing at it. What happens then? Nineteen years old Cressida Mayfield, daughter of the former mayor, is missing. She went to visit a friend and never came home. Investigations are made and it turned out that she acted rather out of character the last evening before she disappeared. She went to a bar to talk to her sister’s former fiancé, Brett Kincaid, something she never did, and they left together. The next day, Brett is found sleeping in his car, alone. But he’s parked in the forest, there’s blood in his car and he’s acting strange. He is taken to the station and later, he’s questioned in the disappearance of Cressida. Cressida’s family – and especially her father Zeno – is desperately searching for her and not willing to accept that she is anything but lost. But then Brett confesses that he killed her. Brett is a disabled veteran of the Iraq War and since he got back, he hasn’t been quite himself. And now, although he confesses, his confession is mixed up with memories from what he experienced in the war and so it is not quite clear if he actually killed her or not – although he is convicted of it. Cressida’s family has to adjust to the loss of her – and of course this has huge consequences for the three remaining members of her family. And no one writes this better than Joyce Carol Oates. Oates is a master at writing about the destruction of families, loss and suffering, and heart ache. She is such a skilled writer and her characters are so real that whatever they do, feels real. She creates flawed characters suffering because of both their own and others’ actions. Zeno and Arlette handle the loss very differently and grows apart because of it. Cressida’s sister Juliet, having lost both her fiancé and her little sister, is taking the loss hard – especially since she is presented as fighting with her sister over a man as well as dumping a war veteran. So slowly, the family is broken apart. It is almost unavoidable to compare this to We were the Mulvaneys since both deals with the breaking up of a family caused by something happening to a daughter. Despite having these similarities, they are still very different books; We were the Mulvaneys being the sadder ones in some ways, probably because there’s a hope of redemption in this one. I’ve rated them both the same but I am giving the edge to We were the Mulvaneys – it is a a better book, although both are excellent. One thing you can always count on with Joyce Carol Oates, is her taking on difficult subjects. In this one, besides the unability of families to handle serious traumas, she discusses both the death penalty and the way the US takes care of it’s (disabled) war veterans. The last one is a issue in many countries – how do you get wounded soldiers who are damaged both mentally and physically back into society without them being a safety risk to others? The death penalty is not an issue in many countries – especially not in Western countries. I don’t see Oates as being in favor of the death penalty even though she writes the following: ‘… if you were a foe of capital punishment, it was a good idea not to know what condemned prisoners had been convicted of doing to their victims. Good not to temper mercy with too much information.’ (p. 259) She also writes about The Innocence Project as well as have a significant part of the novel taking place in a death penalty facility and a significant plot turning being caused by a character lying down in a execution chamber and by that being reborn. As always, Joyce Carol Oates delivers. I enjoyed myself every minute I spent reading this book and as always, her way of writing is what impresses me the most. I’m still as blown away by it as I was years ago when I picked up Blonde. This is a really good book and even though Cressida isn’t necessarily the most likable character, Oates makes your care about what happened to her and interesting in reading about her childhood and the experiences that shaped her and brought events in motion which led to a young girl seeking out her sister’s ex fiancé to declare her love for him.
‘You do not want to disappoint those who love you or whom you love. Always it is the easiest thing to kill them as it is easier to kills civilian who might fuck you up with a complaint, easier than to negotiate a deal, once a person is dead there are no longer two sides to a story.’ (p. 180)(less)
You were only a pawn,” I said. “You and all the others were nothing but pawns in a struggle between forces you could not conceive.” (p. 134)
TG durtro-...moreYou were only a pawn,” I said. “You and all the others were nothing but pawns in a struggle between forces you could not conceive.” (p. 134)
TG durtro-2So I really don’t know much about horror. I dislike watching horror movies and the only horror I read, are Stephen King – if you can even call him a horror writer. As I understand it, horror either deals with creepy-crawleys (some with tentacles) or with some kind of more existential horror, roughly said. Thomas Ligotti definitely writes horror of the latter kind and though he tries to show the bleakness of existence, the purposelessness of it all as well as the shadows and blackness that controls us, I don’t find it horrifying. Mostly because I don’t believe in one meaning for us all but rather, that we all are responsible for creating meaning in our own lives and therefore I find the idea that life in general is meaningless to be … well … wrong. When that is said, there are some of these short stories that deal with the horror of the 9-5 – and I do see the horror in that! I can get truly horrified when thinking about going to work day in and day out for the next 30 years or so. It might be more true to call these weird fiction, as my friend Henrik has pointed out – and he’s probably right too, he’s the expert. I’m just not quite sure how you define weird fiction but I guess the category is less important than what I think of what Ligotti has put on the pages. The book consists of 13 short stories as well as some collections of poems. Some of these were just so weird and left me with no clues about how to understand them – or about what to do with them. The writing was lovely but when I was done with a story, I just thought ‘huh?’. There are stories about nasty marionettes, creepy factories, weird towns across the border, mutants, factory workers and struggling artists. One of my favorite stories was ‘Teatro Grottesco’ about a weird company, the Teatro Grottesco, who destroys artists or rather, the artistic impulse. But I’m unsure whether I really liked what Ligotti did here or because it reminded me of the Torchwood episode ‘From Out of the Rain’ about a traveling show as well as began in a way, that reminded me of Monthy Python’s ‘Spanish Inquisition’ sketch. Another I liked was ‘Gas Station Carnivals’ which was about remnants of carnivals located close to gas stations and always with a sideshow. Or is it? Maybe it’s just about delusions and the inherent chaos of things. I also quite liked ‘The Bungalow House’ where a man discovers some audiotape artworks in a gallery where the artist seems to have very much in common with himself. Some of the themes in these stories are about identity and delusion, the role of the self, and whether we have any power over our own destiny or it’s all just an illusion. Ligotti seems to have a life philosophy (he would probably not like me calling it that and I don’t much like it myself either, but anyway) consisting of three rules: there is nowhere to go, nothing to do and no one to know. And according to the last story, ‘The Shadow, the Darkness’, we are all just bodies activated by the shadow, the darkness. It is clear that with such an on life, the resulting artwork will be rather grim and dark. And while it is so in the short stories, it definitely turns from dark to darker in the poems which are either just too much explicit bleakness or just indifferent. What I think Ligotti completely forgets in this work, is a very simple thing but at the same time a very powerful one. Hope. When he paints the world so dark, deterministic and hopeless, he completely forgets that it’s also about your point of view and how you look at the world. And yes, it is full of pain, war, terror, sorrow, destruction and so much more. But it is also full of children laughing, sunshine, rainbows, art, love and hope. And you definitely don’t find any of that in Ligotti’s work. Still, even though the world he creates is so dark and sinister, the words he uses to create it with, are beautiful and his writing is really amazing at times. But sometimes he uses these brilliant words to create fascinating and interesting settings – which he then does absolutely nothing with. Which is rather infuriating. It takes more than an interesting set-up to make a story. What I did like was – besides that some of the stories made me think – was the interconnectedness of the stories. Towards the end, I was almost playing a game with myself, questioning whether the narrator from ‘Teatro Grottesco’ was the same as in ‘The Shadow, The Darkness’ and if the latter story is a sequel to the first and how these two were connected to ‘Gas Station Carnivals’ and how many of them took place in a town just north of the border etc. and these apparent links between the different stories made the collection more interesting to me. In conclusion, Ligotti is a powerful writer who unfortunately lets the words run away with him so they paint fascinating images but images Ligotti seemingly don’t know what to do about. It’s not a scary book but the horror is the more silent and sneaking kind that can catch you unaware as you sit as your desk, getting through the daily work. It’s a bleak look at the world as we think we know it and as it definitely not is to Ligotti’s mind. And while this is interesting and fascinating, it’s really not that much for me.
‘Wihtout the interference of my mind and my imagination, all that nonsensical dreaming about my soul and my self, I was forced to see things under the aspect of the shadow inside them, the darkness which activated them.’ (p. 259)(less)
‘The time has come, the Walrus said, to talk of many things. Of shoes and ships and sealing wax, of cabbages and kings, and why the sea is boiling hot...more‘The time has come, the Walrus said, to talk of many things. Of shoes and ships and sealing wax, of cabbages and kings, and why the sea is boiling hot, and whether pigs have wings.’ (p. 55)
So when I was contacted by Post Hill Press and asked if I wanted to read some new novellas by John Steinbeck’s son Thomas Steinbeck, I was interested just because of the name. And then I read the synopsis and thought it sounded kind of like fantasy and thought that could be really interesting. Of course, Thomas Steinbeck is his father’s son and of course, he didn’t write fantasy. He writes realistic fiction, set in the early 20th century and dealing with people in trouble. Titus Gatelock is a man whom no one really knows. He never cares what anyone says about him and even when people start saying that he was a bandit and that he was part of a famous train robbery, he just smiles and shakes his head and says, ‘There’s real history and real truth out there everywhere, but when it bumps heads with a whopping good yarn that everybody enjoys, then the truth is sure to cross the line in last place every time.’ (p. 1-2) But Titus is a good man. He does good things for the people around him and he’s almost a second father to the two boys living close by, Lobosito and our narrator. These two boys strike up a strong friendship despite the differences in their circumstances. The narrator’s father own a ranch, Titus is a tenant on it and he hires the mexican man and woman who are Lobosito’s parents to help him out. But the friendship between the boys never wavers, despite them making different choices with their lives they always stay close and work together towards a common goal. Especially as time gets rough, banks falter and people start starving. And it’s clear from the way Titus and the boys’ parents behave that they don’t have this from strangers. There are several great things in this novella. I loved how Titus gets the two boys to dig a lot of holes for apple trees while making them believe they were digging for treasure – and then making them believe that they themselves come up with the idea of planting apple trees. And the pig, oh my, the pig. Titus has a pig, a heavy cast iron thing which he paints – and others paints – in various garish colors – thereby naming it The Speckled Pig of Destiny. That pig was amazing! So this was a really good read. I went into it not really knowing what to expect but when I had finished and had read the last page, I was really impressed. I can’t compare Thomas to John, in part because what I love most of John’s work, are the long novels (East of Eden and The Grapes of Wrath) and this was only 59 pages – but mostly because it’s not really fair to do so. Even though this book takes place close to Salinas Valley where John was born and which he used as a setting for some of his books. And the type of person the author seems to be based on his work, seem to be impressive for both father and son. Suffice to say, that I think it’s definitely worth reading both Steinbecks.
‘My only responsibilities are to treat my fellow creatures with appropriate respect, do the best work I can do for those requiring my services, and treat all people as honestly as I would lie to be treated myself. And lastly, if possible, harm no one on my journey through life. Nothing else is anyone’s business.’ (p. 22) (less)
Sigh. I really wanted to like this novel. It had so much going for it and yet … I am left with a very annoyed and disappointed feeling after having fi...moreSigh. I really wanted to like this novel. It had so much going for it and yet … I am left with a very annoyed and disappointed feeling after having finished it. Anyone who read my review of Det syvende barn will know that one of the things I hate the most, is novels with lots of potential but which doesn’t live up it. Kristina is a young paralegal with a past. She moves to San Diego after her father’s death and leaves her past completely behind – or so she thinks. But pasts have a way of popping up again when you least expect it and when Kristina meets a kind judge who introduces her to a nice and funny single lawyer who not only offers her a job but becomes her boyfriend, Kristina suddenly realizes that she has to face down her demons for a chance at happiness. And on top of that, Kristina and her new boyfriend ‘Duck’ have to deal with some really tricky court cases – and stay in shape by riding ultra long rides on their special bikes… So before I start saying what’s wrong with the novel, let me say this. I don’t normally read crime fiction, court room drama or anything of the kind. So this book is a bit outside of what I normally read but not much since there’s no murder to solve and the court room parts are not the most important parts of the book. I also couldn’t quite get that her childhood was all that bad. And it did feel a bit unrealistic that she starts a blog, writes 5 posts or so – and then gives it up because she hadn’t completely thought it through. This feels too much like the author had to find a way to tell the story of her childhood and wanted to do something more clever than using flashbacks – and the thought was good, but the execution lacked. He might also have had to big ambitions and wanted to do so much. We have a troubled main character, we have a love story, trial cases, the whole bike thing, the rare diseases – it felt like too much. Or maybe an author with more books under his belt could have pulled it off. Parts of it does get to feel a bit cliché, like a rather poor reworking of the Cinderella story. Add to this that Kristina as a character didn’t feel quite convincing, she didn’t feel true. Of course it’s always difficult to judge how people become after having lived through traumas, but Kristina didn’t feel right. Oh and then there’s sentences like this: ‘It would be eight in Smethport. But her dad was dead now.’ Really? Right now at eight, he died? Or too much description and stage setting – hard biscuit … bleach-spotted sweater … cold coffee … chipped suacer … All these in just 5 lines. That quickly gets to be too much! My biggest critique of this novel is, that it lacks an editor. It actually has so much potential. The story could have been really good and Tim Stutler is a great writer. I actually really enjoyed reading it – but then something jars, something is overdone or doesn’t make sense and I’m torn out of the reading experience and left wondering what happened. Like when the characters walk into the kitchen, one of them hands the other a glass of juice – and then she turns on the shower. Combined kitchen and bath room? Or when he suddenly refers to his main protagonist as ‘the paralegal’ instead of Kristina or she. It made me stop and wonder who he was talking about. And when you use typography to show when a character starts speaking, you have to remember to also show when that character stops! It’s pretty basic stuff and it’s the kind of stuff a good editor would catch. Without these types of flaws, I would probably have given it 4 stars – but these errors dragged it down. And then the ending … Oh, the ending. The ending was so bad that it removed another star from my rating. It felt like the author couldn’t decide if he wanted a good or bad ending for his characters – so he just gave us both. And both are so unrealistic, they just didn’t make any sense. I really hope that a good publisher will give Tim Stutler a chance with a new book because the guy can write. But he needs an editor to help him get the errors and flaws out of the novel – and to tell him to pick one ending and then stick to it! Sigh. I’m really sad to write such a sour review but I just get so annoyed with books that could have been so much better. But that is the danger of self-publishing and Millcity Press seems to be a sort of self-publishing press but unfortunately it seems to have more focus on the technical aspects of publishing – like converting to e-books – than on editing…
I received this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.(less)
So lately I’ve been struggling so much with my reading. I have hardly any time to read, except in bed, and when I do that, I read about 5 pages, take...moreSo lately I’ve been struggling so much with my reading. I have hardly any time to read, except in bed, and when I do that, I read about 5 pages, take a nap and then read 5 pages more, nap, give up. This has gotten so bad that I’m starting to feel stressed about it. Books and reading are such a big part of my life that it has a negative influence on me when I don’t have time to spend on it. My new job is taking up a lot of time and energy and that’s fine. I love my new work place, my colleagues and the challenges I face every day. Each day is different and I enjoy that. At the same time though, I really need to have my reading and my escape into books and the inspiration they give, to be the best employee, mother and person. So the only possible solution I could think of, was changing my reading material. I was reading literary fiction as well as philosophical non-fiction and this simply wasn’t keeping me awake – despite my interest in it. So I have changed my strategy – even though it might mean that I will be unable to complete my reading goals for the year. But so be it – there’s nothing else I can change right now. So because of that, I dived into a new genre to me, urban fantasy, as well as a new series, The Dresden Files. I’ve had these recommended by a friend who shared quotes on Facebook and then we got to talk about them and she got me to reconsider my previous position of having absolutely no interest in this series. Harry Blackstone Copperfield Dresden is a P.I. in Chicago. But he is also a wizard. Dresden is struggling to make ends meet for himself and his cat, Mister. So when he gets hired by a woman to find her husband as well as called in by the police to assist in a double murder with a seemingly magical origin, he feels that his luck has changed. However the murders are somewhat more grizzly than Dresden and the police are used to and soon, there’s a lot more at stake. Not least because the White Council, a sort of board ruling the wizards, is after him, claiming that he has broken the wizard laws and used black magic – and because the local mob boss and the vampire queen are both involved in the affair and neither seem particularly happy about Dresden’s involvement. Oh, and then there’s the demon. And the scorpion. And women who wants to go out with him. It’s a mess! So what I liked about this book, is the world. I like the idea of supernatural beings living alongside humans and humans not knowing about it. I know there’s nothing new about it and it has been done in lots of other series and shows, but for me, this was what I needed now. Even though I don’t think the writing is all that good, I was intrigued by the story – and more importantly, kept awake for the most part. I like Harry Dresden and I especially like that wizards aren’t all powerful but get burned out if they do a lot of magic as well as need wands, amulets and more to better control their magic – as well as talking craniums. So as pure brain candy but with the potential to evolve into something both darker and more sinister as well, this is a good thing. Harry Dresden is a character who isn’t yet all that fleshed out but who can become something really interesting. I’m hoping his huge fan base isn’t wrong and that the already 13 further novels published in the series will continue to keep my interest. Wizardry is all about thinking ahead, about being prepared. Wizards aren’t really superhuman. We just have a leg up on seeing things more clearly than other people, and being able to use the extra information we have for our benefit. Hell, the word wizard comes from the same root as wise. We know things. We aren’t any stronger or faster than anyone else. We don’t even have all that much more going in the mental department. But we’re god-awful sneaky, and if we get the chance to get set for something, we can do some impressive things. (location 1261-65).(less)
In a novel split into three separate but intertwined story lines, we meet a young man and a young woman having tr...moreOh what a ride this was. What a ride!
In a novel split into three separate but intertwined story lines, we meet a young man and a young woman having troubled love life in ways, that are not so easily remedied. Like for instance Andrew Harrington who is madly in love with Marie Kelly – who is then murdered by Jack the Ripper. Andrew is thrown into huge depths of despair which after 8 long years causes him to want to kill himself. However, his cousin intervenes, claiming that it will be possible for Andrew to travel back in time and save Marie by killing Jack the Ripper.
Because time travel is possible. A man has opened a business in the middle of London where he offers the possibility to travel to the year 2000 and see the final battle between the humans and the automatons. So the cousins visit this man, Gilliam Murray, to make him help them go back in time.
But time traveling is not all that easy so Murray encourages them to enlist the help of the one man responsible for putting the idea of time traveling and dreams of the future in to the minds of everyone, the author of The Time Machine, H.G. Wells. Because guess what he has stashed away in the attic?
Meanwhile, Claire Haggerty is quickly making herself impossible, refusing to bow down to her parents’ expectations about how it is proper for a young lady to behave. When she and her cousin goes on one of Murray’s time travels to the year 2000, she falls in love with the handsome captain leading the human charge, Derek Shackleton. Another impossible love, separated by more than 100 years and with unforeseeable consequences should one of them attempt to stay with the other.
Not much is exactly as it seems in this novel. People are not telling the truth, real historical figures rub elbows with imagined ones, and with the possibility of time travel nothing is sacred. Everything is subject to change. Or so it seems.
And just when things really get weird or when people start getting intimate, the author calmingly inserts himself to explain a few things, point something out that the characters may not know (yet) or even to give them a bit of privacy. He does this all the way through this book and I loved that!
I’m fascinated by the paradoxes time traveling causes. In this book, the characters are faced with the typical ones; the ones, we know from Return to the Future, Doctor Who and more. What happens if you kill your own grandparents? If you change something in the past, how will it effect the future? And is time traveling even possible?
I really haven’t read much science fiction, I haven’t read anything by H.G. Wells, and I don’t know much about the theories behind parallel universes but I absolutely loved this novel. Parts of it were better than others, but still, the ideas in this novel are so fantastic and amazing that I just loved it. I am no judge as to whether these are actually new and amazing ideas or I’m just new to the genre, so keep that in mind but this one comes with my warmest recommendations. This is the way I like my speculative fiction!
With surprise guests like Bram Stoker, Henry James and The Elephant Man, this novel is a roller coaster of unexpected twists and turns. Reality is not what you thought it was – or maybe it is – or maybe it isn’t. Who knows? You’ll have to read this thing to find out what’s real and what’s not because I’m not telling. And guess what? There’s a sort of sequel so it doesn’t end here! Or maybe it does…
‘Aren’t there lies that make life more beautiful?’ (p. 418)(less)
So if a man decides to leave his family and move out in the forest, I immediately assume that there’s something wrong with him? What does that say abo...moreSo if a man decides to leave his family and move out in the forest, I immediately assume that there’s something wrong with him? What does that say about me? Yes, I know he just lost his father and then fell on his bike and hit his head, but still, when reading a book which is a critique of our modern consumer culture, it feels strange to realize that I buy so completely into that culture that I can’t even see it as a valuable life choice. And yes, I wrote ‘buy into’ deliberately.
Doppler leaves his wife and two children because he is sick and tired of being nice, he doesn’t want the only focus in his life to be how much money he makes. He want a simpler life. Or maybe he had a concussion and is having a breakdown because his father died. This is never clear. He feels lucky to have hit his head and realized the wrongness of his ways – but whether this is a sudden moral clearness or a brain damage, is up to the reader to decide. To be fair, it’s not really hinted that it could be something wrong with him, the author probably intends it as an awakening.
But the fact is, Doppler lives in a tent in a forrest just on the edge of Oslo and to sustain himself, he steals from the nearby houses – and he kills an elk. This elk turns out to be a mother to a young calf and so Doppler ends up adopting a calf which he names Bongo: ‘I’ll call the calf Bongo after my father, I decide as I’m strolling back into the forrest. Even though my father wasn’t called Bongo I’ll name the calf Bongo after him. Sometimes you’ve got to be open to associations of this kind.’ (p. 32-33).
Doppler and Bongo build a close relationship – at least that’s the way Doppler relates it to us. They play games, they have long talks, they pee together and just hang out. Even though Doppler thinks Bongo is a bit thick since he doesn’t quite understand even the simplest games, he still loves him. They build a sort of father-son relationship which is obvious since Doppler just lost his father – but strange, since he has a young son at home, missing him. This is not the only father-son relationship. His son eventually joins him in the forrest and Doppler also meets a man who spends his time recreating the part of World War II where his father lost his life. And inspired by this, Doppler decides to build a totem pole to honor his father; a pole, which seems more to honor the idea of a father and fatherhood than the man who was Doppler’s father. Maybe because Doppler didn’t really know him.
This novel focuses on one man’s struggle to find himself in a world that doesn’t focus all that much on introspection. It is difficult for him to find peace in the forest since he gets company soon, both from other people and from his young son. Maybe also because he didn’t really leave civilization all that far behind. Maybe the novel is more intended to show us that we are really not capable of living this way anymore?
It is quirky in a lot of ways and there were parts of it I really liked. For instance, his annoyance with children shows’ theme songs. He actually ends up giving his son’s DVDs away to a robber one night – what parent haven’t imagined that? Maybe even dreamed of that?
Another part shows him being annoyed with the Iraq war because it comes at a time where he is focused on redecorating the bath room: ‘I remember being irritated when I discovered that now we would also have to take a stance on this war. It was very distracting. As if it wasn’t enough to have to decide on all this bathroom stuff. Now we would have to take sides in Iraq. I didn’t like things going on in the world which in effect reduced what I used my brainpower on to trivia. Not only did I not have my perspectives clarified, but I didn’t want them to be. For weeks it had irritated me that they couldn’t wait to start the bombing down there until we had finished doing up the bathroom.’ (p. 22). I love this quote and it shows something very true about our way of life, I think. That we are fine thinking about the troubles other places in the world as long as it doesn’t interfere with our own daily lives.
But with all that being said, I was a little disappointed in this book. I had expected something funnier and quirkier. Quirky in particular. With that cover, that subject, I had expected something that would leave me with a lot of food for thoughts and ideas for other ways to see the world and our society, our materialistic culture. But I didn’t feel like I got it and in the end, I felt I was kind of left hanging, like what you get is a short series of impressions with a rather clear beginning but not so much of a clear ending. I’m not sure how I would have liked it to end – but what I got, wasn’t enough.(less)
The first story is written by Eoin Colfer of Artemis Fowl fame. It’s a short, fun romp and even though I have to admit that I have never watched the f...moreThe first story is written by Eoin Colfer of Artemis Fowl fame. It’s a short, fun romp and even though I have to admit that I have never watched the first Doctor, I got a clear impression of how different a doctor he was, than the 9th, 10th and 11th doctors who are my doctors.
Eoin Colfer lets the Doctor and his granddaughter Susan go up against the Soul Pirates, some nasty fellows who kidnap children and then chop them up for parts. The Doctor has already been up against them before – and that caused him a hand. Thus, we meet him in this novel shopping for a new hand. And of course, while he does so, Susan gets into trouble and so, it’s the Doctor to the rescue. But a rescue made somewhat trickier by the fact that the Soul Pirates beam their victims up in a way so the victims loose any idea of where they are and what’s going on but instead think they are in a kind of paradise.
I can’t judge whether Colfer nails the Doctor – I have no clue about that – but I liked that he felt different and distinctive compared to the Doctors I know. And I liked Colfer’s many nods to the Doctor’s time traveling ability and to culture, Hogwarts, Mr. Scrooge and others.
And I thoroughly loved the epilogue’s nod to Peter Pan! It’s kind of obvious and the story had incorporated Peter Pan elements earlier too and it was very nicely done, I thought.
Overall, I enjoyed myself. It was half an hour or so well spend. Nothing that blew my mind or anything but a nice way to spend some time while we wait for the new Doctor Who episodes in March.(less)
The Drawing of the Three kicks off just seven hours after The Gunslinger ended. The Gunslinger Roland Deschain is lying on the beach after his encount...moreThe Drawing of the Three kicks off just seven hours after The Gunslinger ended. The Gunslinger Roland Deschain is lying on the beach after his encounter with the man in black. And true to Stephen King, the action starts right away. Some weird-looking sort of lobster is carefully approaching him and Roland seriously underestimates it. Which means that on page 10, Roland has lost not only two of his fingers on his right hand but also one of his big toes… Being on an unfriendly beach with hardly any water or food and a bleeding hand and foot, would dampen everyone’s spirits but Roland is a determined chap and of course, he soldiers right on, following his instinct down the beach.
And finds a door. Just standing there. Right on the beach. No wall around it. Just a door. And only visible from one side.
It turns out that through doors like this, Roland can get in touch with the people who are to become parts of his quartet. He encounters three doors, each one leading to New York, each one leading to a new person. And through these doors, he meets up with the people, the man in dark foretold he would meet: The prisoner (Eddie), The Lady of Shadows (Odetta/Detta) and The Pusher (Jack).
I loved The Drawing of the Three. It just sucked me right in and took me along for the ride and it has some terrific scenes. When Roland meets Eddie and has to help him avoid being busted leaving a plane with a lot of drugs, priceless! It’s so funny reading about these two trying to orchestrate an escape plan for Eddie with Roland not really knowing our world or the English language quite enough to completely know what’s going on – but being shrewd enough to be aware that things are not going the way they should if he is to have his way and get Eddie to join and help him.
Despite the issues Roland has with getting Eddie back through the door, it’s nothing compared to the issues he faces with Odetta and Jack. And the battle he has to fight with his own poisoned body. But the gunslinger is nothing if not able to just keep on and on, put mind over matter and do what has to be done. He is tougher than Clint Eastwood ever looked and I do believe that if he dies before reaching the tower, his dead body will just get up and walk on. This being a King novel, that’s not altogether unlikely!
As usual, King knows exactly how he not only gets the action going but also keep turning up the pace so you just have to keep on reading and reading to find out what happens with these four characters and how Roland handles them all. King also has some nice comments on how our culture and society has evolved. At one point, Roland gets some medicine. He pays for it with an expensive Rolex watch – and the shop owner is flabbergasted that he pays for this cheap medicine with that kind of watch. But the thing is, in Roland’s world, that medicine is the difference between life and death so of course Roland is going to think it’s expensive. I don’t think medicine should be expensive – everyone should be able to afford getting what they need to be well – but I do think that this scene shows how the way we value things are sometimes a bit skewed.
I still really like how our world and Roland’s world exist parallel in some ways but still different from each other. How some things have overlapped – like Hey Jude, mentioned in both The Gunslinger and this book. But I’m curious about how King pulls it all off because I still have so many questions. How come there was three doors leading into three people, the three people who Roland needed to start forming his Ka-tet? In the first book, Jake died in our world and then appeared in Roland’s world. And now Roland can walk through a door and appear in our world? How are they connected? I guess I’ll just have to read on and see how King solves it all.
The Drawing of the Three definitely kicks The Dark Tower series up a notch. I liked The Gunslinger but not only was this a better book, it also made me even more interested in reading this series, even more interested in finding out what the dark tower is and what happens if and when Roland finally catches up to The Man in Black.(less)
‘And sometimes, too, she knew what someone was about to say before they said it or what mundane incident was about to occur – if a dish was to be drop...more‘And sometimes, too, she knew what someone was about to say before they said it or what mundane incident was about to occur – if a dish was to be dropped or an apple thrown through a glasshouse, as if these things had happened many times before. Words and phrases echoed themselves, strangers seemed like old acquaintances.’ (p. 127)
As a writer, I guess you sometimes sit down and write various things as anexercise to keep your juices flowing. Imagine your joy and/or surprise when you discover that your writing exercises is much more than use exercises and is actually something useful, something that can be turned into a novel. I think that is how Kate Atkinson must have felt after writing several versions of the birth of a little girl and discovering that there’s something there, something more than just exercises. Discovering the spark that could become a book. This is how I feel Life After Life starting. As a series of writing exercises that suddenly turned into something interesting. Ursula is born on February 11, 1910. And she dies that same night. But then she’s born again and manages to survive to the age of five years old – when she drowns. And is born again. And dies again at age five by falling from the roof. But slowly, she’s learning. She gets swimming lessons, she avoids climbing on the roof to get her toys and slowly, she grows older. She vaguely remembers her previous lives and what would have killed her in a previous life, she can avoid in a later life – even though it sometimes takes her several tries to get it right. Throughout the book I was so impressed with her ability to keep on writing the same scene over and over without it becoming boring in any way. To judge by this book, life is sort of like one of those ‘Choose your own adventure’ books, so popular in the 80s. A situation is described and then you choose what your action will be – and either die or live. If you die, you can go back and try again and eventually you will manage to make it all the way to the end. Life is also changed by just one small thing being changed. Let’s say a boy kisses Ursula – this sends her down one chain of events and turns out to be a bad chain. In her next life, then, she avoids the kiss and a whole new chain of events unfolds. So it isn’t always her death she has to prevent, it can be a small events that triggers a lot of other events and she then has to stop or change that one event. Ursula stumbles and falls and seems to be a very accident prone young girl but she learns. She learns how to survive the Spanish flu, she learns how to survive the London Blitz. But the lessons come with a price and for much of her life – for many of her lives – she isn’t happy. Her childhood though, and Atkinson’s description of it, is marvelous. I enjoyed reading about Ursula and her siblings, her parents, her friends and all their dogs. It reminded me of parts of A.S. Byatt’s The Children’s Book - which I also really liked. This also meant that I really started caring for Ursula and having a character you rather like die eight times in 140 pages can be a bit rough. And then there’s about 300 more pages after that. This book definitely comes with it’s fair share of tragic events. We have abortion, so many deaths, wife abuse, love affairs, wars – and even Adolf Hitler. This is a historical fiction novel but with a strong philosophical overtone. Her descriptions of the events of World War I and II and especially the London Blitz are spot on and as Ursula gets to relive it several times, we get to do so too. Time is just a construct in this novel. All that is real, is the now. There’s no stability and things just seem to go round in circles. Or so it is for Ursula. But is it that way for any other characters? There were times where I suspected it – but I’m not sure. And of course, philosophically speaking, to have only one person being able to change her life like this, seems to indicate that all the rest of the population is just figments of her imagination. And then we’re on the straight path towards solipsism – the worst philosophical evil in the world, according to my old philosophy professor. However, this didn’t prevent me from enjoying this book quite a bit. And any book that makes me wonder about determinism, the question of time, solipsism, the problem of identity through time and a whole list of other philosophical questions while caring about it’s protagonist and her troubles, is making me a happy reader. Especially since this book is also funny at times. I noted down several wonderful quotes while reading this book: ‘She supposed she would go to bed with him eventually. There was no great argument to be found against it.’ (p. 368) or this one: ‘you should read philosophy at university, you have the right kind if mind for it. Like a terrier with a terrifically tedious bone.’ (p. 200) or this description: ‘Mrs Fellowes, a woman to whom nature had denied elegance and who always smelled vaguely of fried onions. Not necessarily a disagreeable thing.’ (p. 70). I also like that Ursula takes swimming lessons from a man who just barks orders at them until they are too afraid to sink! And I really enjoyed that the book Ursula uses to distract her while hiding out in the shelters during the London Blitz, is Proust: ‘Now that the war looked as if it were going to last for ever Ursula had decided she might as well embark on Proust.’ (p. 263). When nothing better to do in the middle of a war, read Proust! The novel begins with Ursula trying to kill Hitler. The reason for this is fairly obvious, of course. ‘Don’t you wonder sometimes,’ Ursula said. ‘If just one small thing had been changed, in the past, I mean. If Hitler had died at birth, or if someone had kidnapped him as a baby and brought him up in – I don’t know, say, a Quaker household – surely things would be different.’ (p. 261). But reading the book, you don’t really care much about whether she will succeed or not. What you do care about is whether Ursula manages to succeed in living the one life that’s her true life. If such a thing exists.
‘Sometimes it was harder to change the past than it was the future.’ (p. 447) (less)
‘Hobbies involved preferences and preferences had to be avoided; preferences excluded people. One had no preferences. Her job was to take an interest,...more‘Hobbies involved preferences and preferences had to be avoided; preferences excluded people. One had no preferences. Her job was to take an interest, not to be interested herself.’ (location 38-44)
As most people probably can guess, I like to read. And because of this, I also like to read about other people reading. So when I heard about a book where the English Queen finds a mobile library while searching for her corgis and then feels obliged to borrow a book, I was hooked. She borrows the book and when she returns it, she takes another book out – and ends up promoting a boy from the kitchens she met at the library to help her with her reading lists and with acquiring new books. And then she starts to read. And read. And read. And suddenly she starts getting bored by her official duties, she starts bringing books with her when driving anywhere, she starts cutting meetings and audiences short – she just wants to read. And then everyone starts working against her. Her employees hide her books and they get rid of the boy who was helping her. And some even suspects her of suffering of a beginning senility: ‘/…/ the dawn of sensibility was mistaken for the onset of senility.’ (location 647-53). But a love of reading is not so easy to stop and so she keeps on reading until she has read a lot and starts feeling a need to not only be passive but be active. Do something herself. Like writing… I loved how Bennett shows how she grows as a reader – and as a human being. How at the beginning she finds some books difficult and for instance has trouble understanding the differences in and importance of social status in Jane Austen’s novels because she is so high above everyone else that the subtle differences between the characters in Austen’s novels are lost on her. At first. But she learns. ‘Books did not care who was reading then or whether one read them or not. All readers were equal, herself included.’ (location 233-45) Oh, and it was funny. When someone recommends Harry Potter to her, her answer is a very brisk ‘One is saving that for a rainy day.’ (location 336-42) And when her staff sends her off on a long trip to Canada and makes sure her books are not packed, she meets Alice Munro who kindly enough gives her some of her works. Which she loves, of course, which is quite fitting in this, Alice Munro’s year of winning the Nobel Prize. Even though this is not a biography and the characters are not truly the persons they are based on, this book still made me think favorably of the English Queen. And I guess that’s what’s the issue with books like this, loosely based on real people. Even though it’s fiction, it reflects on the people the characters are based on. In this case, it’s favorably – in other cases it isn’t always. I absolutely loved the ending. And it really makes me want to read Proust!
‘One reads for pleasure,’ said the Queen. ‘It is not a public duty.’ ‘Perhaps,’ said Sir Kevin, ‘it should be.’ (location 349-55)(less)