Now, this was a nice surprise! I picked this one off my husband's bookshelf because I had a long bus journey ahead, so no expectations. But the storyNow, this was a nice surprise! I picked this one off my husband's bookshelf because I had a long bus journey ahead, so no expectations. But the story sucked me into its world and kept me gripped until the end. As other reviewers have mentioned, Ramon is not an immediately sympathetic protaganist. He's violent, foul-mouthed, self-centered, and misanthropic. Then again, his world seems to be composed of people running away from something and consoling themselves with alcohol and fighting, like a galactic Tijuana slum. His orneriness grew on me, especially when asks the aliens the questions that a more politically-correct protaganist would avoid. And the aliens are not just humans with pointy ears and corrugated foreheads. They're truly otherworldly; their thought patterns as well as their physiology are different from us. Ramon must explain humanity to his captor, Maneck, which makes for some thought-proking and humorous moments. The pace never flags and the outcome is always unpredictable (although maybe not if you've read some of the other reviews. Use the spoiler tags, people!) That bus journey passed a lot quicker than I thought it would....more
Neal Stephenson returns to form with this slice of 21st century life, seen through the prism of his weird imagination. The main characters are: A 50-sNeal Stephenson returns to form with this slice of 21st century life, seen through the prism of his weird imagination. The main characters are: A 50-something draft dodger turned drug smuggler turned technology billionaire. His supersmart niece, adopted from an Eritrean refugee camp and now geology and programming expert Some Chinese online role-playing hackers Some Russians of variable moral ambiguity A resourceful Chinese woman with blue boots Some Islamic terrorist Some British spies Various geeks of varying geekitude
As a teenager, I was enthralled by Daphne Du Maurier's Rebecca, and I sought out any other Du Maurier that I could find. Some I loved (My Cousin RacheAs a teenager, I was enthralled by Daphne Du Maurier's Rebecca, and I sought out any other Du Maurier that I could find. Some I loved (My Cousin Rachel, Frenchman's Creek), some I didn't (Mary Anne, I'll Never Be Young Again), but somehow I missed out her penultimate novel, The House on the Strand. Then recently I read Margaret Forster's biography of Du Maurier, where she describes THOTS as one of Du Maurier's "masterpieces" (the others being Rebecca and The Scapegoat), and decided I should give it a go.
THOTS uses an interesting mechanism for time travel; a type of hallucinogenic drug enables our narrator, Dick Young, to partake in the world of the 14th century. But it is a limited type of time travel. Dick can see and hear and smell the past, but he cannot touch it or influence it in any way, and no-one in the past realises that he is there. Despite these limitations, and the drug's dangerous side effects, he becomes increasingly addicted to these time-travel journeys and decreasingly attached to his own present world. Decisions about his own future are put on hold as he digs further into the past. A medieval woman who he cannot touch or talk to becomes more important to him than his own wife in the present day.
Du Maurier's storytelling is as absorbing as I remember. Is there a warning here for the writer or reader about how fantasy can become more absorbing than reality? If so, then THOTS is as dangerous a drug as any, sucking you into its world and not letting go until the very end....more