This is not one of Peter Carey's best. It is not as well organised or engaging as so many other great Carey novels. I feel that he is at his best in hThis is not one of Peter Carey's best. It is not as well organised or engaging as so many other great Carey novels. I feel that he is at his best in historical Australian settings so modern London & historical Europe prove a challenge too far. You may have noticed that I gave 4 stars, so how can I be so hard on the book? Quite simply, even when Peter Carey doesn't hit his mark he still exceeds the standards achievable by most modern authors. This is a great novel with a shocking ending, the kind of unusual characters only Carey can bring to life and lines of prose that are pure poetry....more
For much of the book, Ellory offers little more than glimpses of characters hidden in mystery and secrecy, half-truths and unbelievable events that coFor much of the book, Ellory offers little more than glimpses of characters hidden in mystery and secrecy, half-truths and unbelievable events that coalesce into a nightmare scenario, and a central character so far out of this depth that he's treading water in the South Pacific with no chance of rescue. What the book does offer is a growing sense of dread, which builds as the novel progresses (think about that annoying whine throughout The Dark Knight). The climax is Tarantino with a conscience - is that a contradiction? A blood bath erupts on the streets of New York and, as in all good fiction, the bad guys get what's coming to them. Our main character, Harper, gets what he's owed - a clear explanation of who he is and the reasons for the tragedies that surrounded his early life. Not Ellory's best - but I'm not the first to point that out. I suppose what makes it less than great is that the story needs so long to grab hold, and this is probably where the problem lies - in getting the balance between slowly engulfing our hapless character into a situation from which there is no return and running a plotline fast enough to keep the reader's interest. I kept going because the writing is still crisp and highly expressive and the range of characters drawn into the plot are rich and lifelike. Many other readers do not seem able to hang in there for an explosive finale - they missed out....more
Eskibahce (modern-day Fethiye) is an idyllic coastal mediterranean village at the end of the 19th century, populated as is the norm in Anatolia, by TuEskibahce (modern-day Fethiye) is an idyllic coastal mediterranean village at the end of the 19th century, populated as is the norm in Anatolia, by Turks, Greeks, Armenians, Jews and others - each group generally performing different functions in village life. We are introduced to a rich cast of characters including Iskender the potter, his son and his friend whose sister is considered the most beautiful girl in the world by all who set eyes upon her. It does not matter to Ibrahim that Philothei is from a Christian family, both families soon agree that one day he will marry the beautiful girl. Christian and Muslim families have intermarried so many times in the village it is generally accepted that the wife will take the husband's religion. It will all work out in the end - and often the wives carry on with their original rituals in private or even in public. Nobody seems to mind. At the same time we are introduced to Mustafa, later Mustafa Kemal, later General Mustafa Kemal Pasha, later Mustafa Kemal Ataturk. We follow him as his life takes him to the point where he can take control of his country's destiny, saving it from the decay of the Ottoman Empire but by making enormous sacrifices along the way. Around the time of the First World War, these two stories collide - in the case of Iskender's son, Mehmetcik, he is assigned to Mustafa Kemal's mobile unit as a sniper and while serving under him, meets General Mustafa Kemal. In the village, life is turned upside down, even before most of the young men are sent off to fight. While there is general hostility towards Armenians, and one of the village's inhabitants feels that hatred, everyone is shocked when 'their Armenians' are led away as they all know that 'their Armenians' never did any harm to the empire. We learn of the grisly end of their Armenians at the hands of their Kurdish handlers just as we hear of the grisly ends of Muslims fleeing Bulgaria, Macedonia, Thrace and Greece and just as we hear of the terrible retributions paid upon the Kurds. Important events being played out on the world stage - the fates of empires - are constantly viewed through the prism of village life in Eskibahce. Clearly, de Bernieres feels strongly that all of these events ruined the peaceful co-existence of so many cultures and religious practices. He typically portrays the villagers as some of the most interesting and sympathetic people you would ever have the good fortune of meeting. From the aga (or Lord) Rustem bey, his unfaithful wife and her replacement mistress, and the religious leaders to the peaceful, honest hard-working villagers including the leech-gatherer, the ice-bringer, and the Armenian apothecary, de Bernieres wants you to feel the beauty that pervades their lives and fills them, even when petty prejudices take hold, with love for one another. Meanwhile, catastrophes in places like Gallipoli and Smyrna (now Izmir) are described not just as historical injustices and tragedies, or events motivated by forces beyond the control even of the leaders of the country, but as personal tragedies. Perhaps this paragraph best exemplifies what the book says, but typically does so at a very personal level: "The triple contagions of nationalism, utopianism and religious absolutism effervesce together into an acid that corrodes the moral metal of a race, and it shamelessly and even proudly performs deeds that it would deem vile if they were done by any other." This book is an amazing achievement. It exudes sympathy for its main characters and welcomes you into its tolerant, multicultural paradise, only to eject you into the throes of war, horror and international, national and personal catastrophe....more
I felt like I was having an affair. After years of being faithful to Rebus - he is probably still my favourite detective - I felt like I was going behI felt like I was having an affair. After years of being faithful to Rebus - he is probably still my favourite detective - I felt like I was going behind his back to discover Rankin's new character, Fox of The Complaints. I wanted to give Rankin the benefit of a book dofind the right voice and feel of this new character. This is not Rebus. Fox is much more together as a police officer and in his personal life - it's everyone else in his life that need help. This is a tightly woven detective story, with a long section of the book turning into a whodunnit with dark secrets and mysterious characters liberally mixed in with underhand motives and misplaced loyalties - not to mention a fair amount of Scottish nationalism into the bargain. To Rankin's credit, once we know whodunnit, the action really heats up and we are treated to a foot-race that the drinking, sofa-living Rebus would never have lasted. The low life in 'The Impossible Dead' are not as low as those that Rebus dealt with - Fox starts at the level of bent cops. But the top brass that Fox tangles with are as top and as brassy as they come. All in all, an enjoyable ride. The final 2 days of the plot are far more exciting than would have been predicted by the first 6 or 7, and Fox has some growing to do in Rankin's mind, but there is certainly a lot of potential. Perhaps the next story - where Fox meets the retired Rebus - will see who can really do the chasing....more
Peter James loves Brighton. I love Brighton. Peter James writes detective fiction. I like detective fiction. Peter James is a car nut. I'm a car nut.Peter James loves Brighton. I love Brighton. Peter James writes detective fiction. I like detective fiction. Peter James is a car nut. I'm a car nut. Sounds like I should be stalking him rather than reading him, but somehow, despite great expectations, it didn't really turn out that way. Admittedly, I learned a lot about police procedure from dead Man's Grip, so a lot of realism and a lot of research went in the book. I was reminded of the sleazy parts of Brighton - places that can be forgotten in my picture-postcard memory. I was introduced to a range of interesting characters, some more life-like than others. The plot escalated, quite quickly, to a tense and enticing game of chase. So, why do I not feel the need to gush about the greatness of this book? I felt that the book was more of a film than a novel. I could probably write the screenplay myself - with no training, in my lunch hour - it feels that close to a 'movie.' Although we are dealing with some particularly nasty characters and some very gruesome crimes, I never got the impression that it would be rated higher than a PG film, or would be shown after the 9pm 'watershed.' The fast-paced action is partly the result of short chapters that always throw you from one set of characters and part of the plot to another - a cheap trick in my view. Most of all, though, loathe him or love him, Roy Grace is the hero of the book. Peter James clearly loves him. And that is where we differ. Grace is too flawless to be believable. Even when bad things happen in his life, they happen to him (his girlfriend almost loses their baby) rather than because of him. In the crucial turning point in the chase, Grace gets a hunch that this is the clue they need to catch up with the villain, and without that hunch Grace would not be the hero. This makes Roy Grace a real chancer - willing to risk people's lives on scant evidence and then moving to make an arrest with just one DC in tow. Peter James has created a detective from the days when all policemen were unquestionably clean and dedicated to upholding the law at all costs - even to themselves and their families. Too many years, too many miscarriages of justice, too many high level cover-ups and too many cop shows and novels have passed to believe that the police are like that anymore. ...more
With mixed feelings, I started John Rebus' last case before retirement. Would he be killed off? That would not really fit with the realism that is sucWith mixed feelings, I started John Rebus' last case before retirement. Would he be killed off? That would not really fit with the realism that is such a strength of the series. Would he wimpier out a tired and disillusioned grumpy old man? That would not be a fitting end to such a great detective and a powerful character.
So I plunged in, even though I have not read all the other cases. (To be honest, whenever I looked at Rebus books in the shops I could never be sure if this was one I had read, one I had seen on TV or one I had missed.) And I was not disappointed. Gritty streets, nasty villains, nastier bureaucrats and power mongers and Rebus' wavering moral compass produce another case full of dead ends and misleading clues. Rebus does an excellent job of being both wrong, because of his blinding convictions, and right, because of his tireless detective work.
It all adds up to a bitter-sweet farewell to Rebus, Clark, Big Ger and others. Somehow, though, Rebus will always stay with us....more
Eco is on fine form in this fin-de-siecle page-turner. What excites me most about the best of Eco's work is his ability to place you in the mindset ofEco is on fine form in this fin-de-siecle page-turner. What excites me most about the best of Eco's work is his ability to place you in the mindset of a period in history where assumptions were so different to those held today - or maybe not as different as we would like to think. In The Prague Cemetery, Eco presents an incredible story of the rise of anti-semitism and the popularisation of the rituals of freemasons, various types of devil-worshipping cults, Knights Templar, Rosicrucians and others....more
Subtle, compelling and strange, there is nothing here that you can put your finger on and say That is what makes this book such a great read. That itSubtle, compelling and strange, there is nothing here that you can put your finger on and say That is what makes this book such a great read. That it is a great read is difficult to dispute, but what makes it so is difficult to explain. As with the best of magical realism, the story and the characters just sound absurd when you try to tell someone. As with great science fiction, the plot takes our familiar world and assumptions (in this case 1984 Tokyo) and introduces one or two small changes. As with the best literature, the prose is just enough - not too much that it becomes laboured but not too little that descriptions can't be dense, detailed and delicious. As with postmodern novels, it is self-aware as a novel. You certainly need some patience - the start of the book takes some time to get going, and there appears to be some repetition and obsessions that may tire some readers. However, if the reader just allows the book to take its time to get going, the rewards are plenty. The stories of Tengo and Aomame alternate until seemingly unconnected and uncontrollable events conspire to reunite them. We are left with many questions unanswered. This would be fine as an ending, but book 3 awaits. I am not expecting answers from book 3 - just like the TV series Lost, very few straight questions get straight answers. Murukami expects us to live with the ambiguity....more
I wasn't very impressed for most of the book and then I wasn't very impressed for the rest of it. Perhaps my biggest complaint is the poor structure.I wasn't very impressed for most of the book and then I wasn't very impressed for the rest of it. Perhaps my biggest complaint is the poor structure. Whether the book is about a place or a person we are lead on extravagant digressions. One of the final chapters is in rhyming couplets. Only one. For no reason. And it's not so good. The few events of real drama are glossed quickly while tedious moments are delivered in depth Another aspect that just never sat comfortably with me was the mixture of languages. Our perspective is Dutch & so the first language of the major character is Dutch which may or may not have similar expressions, idioms and jokes as English, but the wordplay employed appears to be very English. Then we have Japanese which is sometimes spoken as a second language, haltingly and at others in translation into Dutch in English. Just when you might feel at ease with the unlikely mixture, guess who turns up! The English, and you are back to square one. An interesting premise, an unusual exotic setting in a rarely discussed pocket of history, but a promise unfulfilled....more
Not surprisingly the story of "Minority Report" is quite different to the Tom Cruise film - better, of course. If you are hoping to read the-book-of-tNot surprisingly the story of "Minority Report" is quite different to the Tom Cruise film - better, of course. If you are hoping to read the-book-of-the-film then you will be disappointed & probably quite confused. If you are hoping to experience an incredible variety of science fiction scenarios & some poignant philosophical conundrums, then you have come to the right place - Phillip K Dick delivers on cue. Some of the stories will confuse, some will inspire, some amaze and some confound you, but each one should make you think. ...more
What makes this such an astonishing novel, for me? The deft sleight of hand involved in the shift of narrative, of hero and of perspective. You startWhat makes this such an astonishing novel, for me? The deft sleight of hand involved in the shift of narrative, of hero and of perspective. You start reading one novel and finish reading quite a different book altogether. This is my 2nd reading of this modern classic, and it could only be a modern novel because of the subversion of the novel form. It is a classic because there is no novel like it in terms of setting, characterisation and plot, and the writer's style is unmistakable. Without giving away the plot there is not much more that I can add, so just give it a go. Bowles takes you on a journey through a foreign land of tense personal relationships, unusual motivations and exotic beliefs and cultures. ...more
Olivier is a French aristocrat whose family narrowly escaped, but witnessed, the full fury of the revolution. Still encircled by the lifestyle and eduOlivier is a French aristocrat whose family narrowly escaped, but witnessed, the full fury of the revolution. Still encircled by the lifestyle and education bestowed by centuries of privelege, Olivier is a 'delicate' child watched over by his 'Abbe' - full-time tutor, nursemaid and partner in adventure. Parrot, or John Larrot, is a highly-talented mimic in sound and visions. His birth and loss of both parents in England resulted in deportation to Australia under the supervision of a French defender of the aristocracy (think of the Scarlett Pimpernell with really rough edges), and that same defender proves to be his saviour and later master. These two contrasting characters are thrust together due to circumstances beyond their control. After an initial, understandably, dislike and distrust of each other, they warm to each other's talents and come to appreciate how they can help reach their goals. Apart from a slightly misleading title (less than half of the action takes place in America as we are given most of the biography of both main characters), this is Carey on fine storytelling form once again. When Carey gets it right, as in this case, the most unusual combination of characters, settings and events become utterly believable with the most vivid prose trailing the reader through wondrous stories. His account of the old worlds of England and France, both facing their own problems, and the wondrous potential that the new world offers in the hands of the new Americans burst with characters and contradictions, plans, plots and descriptions of sights and sounds alien to our main protagonists. No spoilers here - this is one you have to read for yourself....more
Not the best Rebus story, but only because he gets everything right this time. Rebus not only outwits serial killers, drug dealers and half the oil inNot the best Rebus story, but only because he gets everything right this time. Rebus not only outwits serial killers, drug dealers and half the oil industry, but the combined wits of about 3 Scottish police forces. The main killer does get away in the end - just 1 step ahead of Rebus - to show that in life the police cannot always get their man even when they know who it is they want (and they may even have enough evidence to convict). Unusually Rebus spends a lot of his time outside Edinburgh in this story, spending some time in Aberdeen and the Shetlands which are as evocatively portrayed on the page as the more familiar Scottish capital. This is Rebus at his most triumphant - and he's still a miserable git!! That's what we like about him - not to mention the extreme loyalty he shows to the people he trusts. Despite my reservations, this is a great crime thriller, with a fast paced chase to catch killers and evil-doers, to uncover mysteries and to protect the innocent. After this I think Rankin succumbed to Rebus' reality, as his successes became more tinged with defeat....more
The Sea takes you through waves of bereavement, splashes of love and a long trawl of memories, while surfing the tide of beauty in the surroundings. TThe Sea takes you through waves of bereavement, splashes of love and a long trawl of memories, while surfing the tide of beauty in the surroundings. This could be the first book in a long time that I would label Literature; the focus is on the medium more than the message. What can you say about the 'story'? Not a lot. An elderly gentleman takes stock of his life on the shores of a childhood resort town. Having recently lost his beloved wife to disease, he feels now is time to resolve troubles from his past. He faces up to these troubles, but fails to resolve them. Not much else to tell really. So that leaves us with the turn of phrase and expression in the book. The art of Banville's writing is not in the twisting, winding, sprawling sentences with multiple asides - asides which often bring you closer to the thoughts of his protagonist - or in additions or repetitions, or not so much repetitions but corrections, nor is it in his bent for the obscure, the pedantic, the idiosyncratic predilection for hitherto unreconnaissanced manipulations of hapax legomena unknown to the populace - his tendency for unknown words - and neither is it in the perfectly pinpointed perceptions of covert emotions, but it is in his inconspicuous conscious manipulation of the subconscious made explicit. If art is the ability to express meaning without words, where does that leave verbal artists? In Banville's arena. In the arena of the joining of words and sentences into ideas that never occurred to you before, even though you may not be sure exactly what you are expected to take from them. Banville's comparison to poetry stems from his deliberate selection of words into combinations that he hopes will hide their selection. And here is why he creates such divided opinion. If you can see the joins, the cracks, the scaffolding left over after the job is complete, you complain to the builder that his workmanship is clearer than the product of his work. You feel cheated. If your builder produces a unique artefact with the most complicated of machinery and technique which are made entirely invisible at the end, you appreciate the workmanship. At times I felt as though I could see Banville at work, turning phrases over, replanting ideas and scaffolding his clauses. At other times, I could relax in luxuriant sentences, bathe in the warmth of his voice and drift through the landscapes and images he conjures. It was here that I felt I was in the presence of a master painter rather than a master builder. For me, The Sea by John Banville boasts more Bonnard than Bonomi....more