When she was eleven years old, Rose Franklin fell into a big hole. Nothing remarkable about that — adventurous kids fall into holes all the time. But When she was eleven years old, Rose Franklin fell into a big hole. Nothing remarkable about that — adventurous kids fall into holes all the time. But this one was different. At the bottom of it was a giant metal hand, and it clearly wasn’t made by humans.
Fast forward 17 years and a series of fortunate events have led Rose to the hand once more. She is now a physicist and becomes head of the team who will finally unravel the secrets of the mysterious hand. The hand must be part of a larger figure and the team search the globe for the remaining pieces. Within months they have found more pieces of a huge humanoid figure, and it’s now clear to everyone that man is not alone in the universe.
The novel deals with the discovery of these huge pieces and the revelations surrounding what they build. This aspect of the story is great fun but after that I lost interest. I did complete the book, just to see where it went, but I wasn’t engaged with it at all. Why not?
The major flaw with this book was the decision to recount the story through recorded interviews and personal journals. Most of the story is reported through interviews conducted by a nameless yet powerful character. This man is pulling the strings of the entire operation and although we get some insight into his position and motivations, the nature of these reports means we never get to explore the human truths that drive all the characters.
Dr. Rose Franklin is joined by Kara Resnick, a feisty (groan) helicopter pilot, Ryan Mitchell is the requisite every-man marine, and later we meet Victor Couture, a linguist, and several other secondary characters. Their testimony requires all sorts of literary contortions to make the text make sense and the story work. But it’s just not how people speak. It results in unnatural dialogue and strange exposition and it left me really annoyed. This is a deeply unsatisfactory way to tell a story. The story ends up directing the characters in what to do and say, when it should clearly be the exact opposite. It just didn’t work for me and I remain confused as to why the book is so popular.
I enjoyed the treasure hunting part of this story, and you could see that being the first 20 minutes of a mainstream blockbuster film. But if you’re into sophisticated, character driven sci-fi or expansive space opera, I think you’d be as disappointed as I was and you won’t be missing out if you skip this book entirely. Not recommended....more
Professor Andrew Martin must die. At least, that’s what a race of aliens on the other side of the galaxy believe. This unnamed race worry deeply aboutProfessor Andrew Martin must die. At least, that’s what a race of aliens on the other side of the galaxy believe. This unnamed race worry deeply about the safety of the universe, so they intervene, limiting the development of interstellar civilisations. Solving the Riemann Equation puts humans one step closer to interstellar travel, and thus Andrew Martin must die and all his research be destroyed to prevent it.
A lone alien is sent to Earth to carry out the murder. Not only must Martin be bumped off, so must anyone with whom he discussed his work. Our alien protagonist is therefore inserted inside Martin’s mind and body, and he takes him over, becoming Andrew Martin, yet still thoroughly alien. He’s uncomprehending of human ways, and must learn how to navigate the strange human world he’s now stranded on.
Andrew Martin was a bit of a git before he was inhabited. Distant from his wife and son and wedded instead to his mathematical work, it becomes clear that he had few redeeming qualities. But as the alien inside him begins to understand humans better, he begins to feel, something expressly forbidden on his home-world. He experiences joy and happiness, pain and despair, and slowly comes to understand that humans have a lot going for them after all.
Of course, this change is not welcomed by the bosses back home. They make it very clear that if he doesn’t finish the job, they’ll strand him on Earth and send someone else to do it instead. Our alien is having none of that though, and before the book is done, he’s changed his mind about many things, and become a better man than Andrew Martin ever was.
The Humans is a wonderful book in more ways than one. A comic and tragic sci-fi, it’s at times poetic, funny, philosophical and downright sad, yet above all it’s an honest look at the absolutely barmy creature we call human. Within the space of a page you can be laughing at a strange human convention our alien just experienced, and then crying at the absolute anguish he’s going through as he learns about human relationships.
Top marks to Matt Haig for giving us an alien who’s more human than many of us....more
It's about running. Every little detail in this book is about running. Don't be fooled by the 'thriller' label, it's as thrilling as running into a brIt's about running. Every little detail in this book is about running. Don't be fooled by the 'thriller' label, it's as thrilling as running into a brick wall. If you like running you might like this book, but for everyone else, avoid. It's very boring, entirely predictable and I was really surprised to discover the author is well established as it read like an amateur debut. I killed a few hours on holiday reading it and would have been better off sitting at the bar....more
When I write book reviews, one of the first things I do is think of their category. But it’s hard to do that with Our Endless Numbered Days, the debutWhen I write book reviews, one of the first things I do is think of their category. But it’s hard to do that with Our Endless Numbered Days, the debut novel by Claire Fuller. It’s a mystery, a survival adventure, a story of a broken family and a tale of human frailty. But it’s also a deeply unsettling account of the abuse of responsibility by the people we trust to care for us. From that perspective, it’s a bleak novel and not one that I could really enjoy.
The story is narrated in first person by Peggy Hillcoat, the daughter of famed concert pianist Ute Bischoff and her young husband James Hillcoat. Peggy recalls her story in two different times: in the mid 1970s from aged 8 and in 1985 aged 17 when she returns from her ordeal. And it’s her ordeal that’s at the heart of this story.
Peggy’s father James is a survivalist, a ‘Retreater’, one of a group of friends who make plans on how to survive any number of imagined future apocalypses. Forever building a fallout shelter in his cellar, he’s spent Peggy’s childhood teaching her how to survive should the world one day end. One day after a heated argument with another Retreater, he leaves the family home with Peggy. He tells her that they’re going on holiday. They travel through Europe to find a survivalist hut James believes will be a safe haven. Safe from what, we’re never quite sure, but it’s clear something is wrong with James’s view of the world.
The bulk of the novel deals with the nine years spent living in this hut and off the land. Peggy grows into a young woman as her father becomes increasingly disturbed. From early in their self imposed isolation, James tells Peggy that the rest of the world has gone and they are the only people left alive. Believing him completely, Peggy becomes his protegé, learning how to live off the land — and nearly dying of starvation in the process.
While this story unfolds, Peggy also recounts a second story, switching to present day 1985, where she tries to make sense of what happened. She gives us insights into her ordeal that begin to reveal twisted motivations. You begin to wonder what is real and whether or not Peggy is a reliable narrator. And if she isn’t, what happened to her in those years to make us disbelieve her?
I was required to suspend a fair amount of disbelief to get through this novel. The overall ‘survivalist’ premise is just a bit too far fetched. Some strands of the story didn’t really work for me, and some details were glossed over or ignored completely, particularly aspects of Peggy’s journey into adulthood. But maybe that was the point.
This is a disturbing exploration of abuse in a dysfunctional family. Yet despite the awful revelations towards the end, I felt quite detached. I should have been moved to tears but I wasn’t. I think the author spent far too long getting to the point: only at the end did I really understand the truth of Peggy’s story and I was disgusted by it.
I can’t recommend this book: it’s dark and sordid and utterly misrepresented by the blurb. I don’t usually bother reviewing books that I don’t enjoy, but this time I’ve made an exception as I feel neither the author nor the publisher have been honest with us....more
Reading There and Back Again will tell you far less about the Lord of the Rings films than you want and far more about Sean Astin than you need.
This bReading There and Back Again will tell you far less about the Lord of the Rings films than you want and far more about Sean Astin than you need.
This book isn’t for fans of the film at all, it’s a vehicle for Astin to muse about his life as an actor. My first point against the publishers would therefore be the misleading tagline the book receives: “An Actor’s Tale — A Behind-the-Scenes Look at Lord of the Rings”. There is barely half the book devoted to specifically LOTR material and it’s hugely disappointing.
Although disappointed by the lack of LOTR insights, I expected the rest of the book to be an entertaining view of Astin’s acting life. Sadly this isn’t the case: Astin is a whiner. Barely a page goes by without him complaining about some aspect of his career, whether it be critical indifference to his performances, his monetary worth, or the chip on his shoulder about never having really made the “big time” as he puts it (until LOTR at least).
It’s clear from musings about his early career that Astin suffers from low self-esteem, self-doubt and crushing under confidence in his own abilities. This of course is nothing new for many actors. He badly wants the recognition of his peers and seems desperate for it even when it’s negative. Yet bizarrely his writing becomes inconsistent when he later shows extreme over-confidence in his “heroic” portrayal of Sam or his annoyance that he couldn’t influence the production of LOTR more. At one point he remarks how Christopher Lee was crestfallen when Saruman was entirely cut from the third film: “Sometimes brutal decisions have to made”, yet when his own scenes were lightly trimmed he throws a fit and screams to his wife “They’ve ruined it!” It’s this self-absorbed nonsense that makes the book a tiresome read.
There is a degree of honesty about the problems Astin has faced and his descriptions of how he dealt with these issues. He has written erudite reasoning for his behaviour and many pages are devoted to analyzing himself and then trying to improve: a commendable trait and one that could be respected if you could believe it. But Astin has had far too long to think this stuff through and the cynic in me believes that his “self-improvement” thoughts were not experienced at the time as written, but only while he was actually writing his book several years later.
Beyond Astin’s self-confessed propensity for melodrama and a lot of personal background that I really didn’t want to know, his writing style is a mess. The book constantly jumps around between anecdotes of his early career right in the middle of an account of something on the LOTR set. It’s jarring, annoying and doesn’t respect the reader. When we finally do get some interesting information about the film production, it’s usually focused on some aspect that Astin wasn’t happy with.
It’s not all bad. Some of the anecdotes are almost amusing and I do think the friendships he describes with Elijah Wood and Christopher Lee were genuine as far as Astin saw them, but again the cynic can’t help but notice that the only people Astin seems to respect are those who are “successful” in the movies — he doesn’t seem to ever hang around anyone in the industry whom he feels is lesser than him.
I didn’t enjoy this book. I found the whole experience tiring and dull. I learned little about the LOTR films (the main reason I bought it) and more about Astin than I care to know.
I finished it feeling that although Astin is a decent actor with some good work behind him, he simply cannot get over himself long enough to recognize his accomplishments and enjoy them....more