Saturday, November 3, 2012

A Reading Maze

Orion, £7.99
   I'm reading three books at the moment. I don't know how many people do this, but I can't imagine any other way of organising myself.
   Last week, I started reading Justin Cronin's 'The Passage'. I was gripped right from the start by this one, beginning as it does with subtly and implicitly horrific goings-on in the Amazon Jungle. If it wasn't for the sheer size of the book (1000 pages in my paperback edition), I think it would be a great introduction to the science fiction/fantasy genre for anyone, given how frequently we come across the post-apocalyptic trope in TV and cinema. I know I'm arriving very late to the game with this one, but when I saw the sequel 'The Twelve' arrive into the shop, I knew the time had come.
Hodder & Stoughton, £7.99
   One of my problems with this book was that I don't usually read scary, spooky, or freaky books. So, after reading for a while each night, I needed a chapter of something else to allow me to sleep and keep the nightmares away. Something such as Jasper Fforde's latest Thursday Next blockbuster 'The Woman Who Died a Lot'. This is a series, and an author, that I unreservedly recommend to absolutely anyone. Thursday Next is a literary detective: in earlier books she works for SpecOps 27 and spends her days investigating fake Shakespeare manuscripts and discouraging Tennyson zealots; later on in the series she goes to work inside the Bookworld, which is to say inside books themselves, tackling Grammasites and retrieving stowaway characters. A few minutes of the wit and levity of this book have been enough to banish nightmares of vampire monsters.
Penguin, £9.99
   Another problem I had with 'The Passage' is that its size renders it very impractical as a book to bring along when I have an appointment with the orthodontist (two 30 minute bus journeys and some waiting). So I turned to a new discovery, Peter Mayle's 'Toujours Provence'. I had read 'A Year in Provence' (loved) and 'Encore Provence' (liked), so I was thrilled to find this one second-hand. It's just as engaging and evocative as the first, and a lovely neat size for carrying around in a handbag.
Penguin, £9.99
   Another obstacle to finishing 'The Passage' cropped up in the form of our book club choice 'The Man in the High Castle' by Philip K. Dick, which I frantically read over two nights this week. I have to admit (sacrilegious though it may be) that I wasn't crazy about this one. This 1960s-set tale of a world in which the Axis powers triumphed in the Second World War features a USA divided between Germany and Japan, a rocket commute between Germany and California which takes 30 minutes, a controversial banned book which explores the alternative history of the Allies winning the war, and some very distinctive dialogue as the formal and hierarchical Japanese culture adjusts to the English language. It was not a very popular book club read, but we got a good discussion out of it, so that's the important thing!
   So we're now two weeks later, and I've got three half-read books to show for my efforts. I can't wait for the feeling of achievement I'll get when I finish them all!    

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