This month I have been mostly travelling on trains and sitting in parks and hanging out in hostels and reading. I’ve read way more than I thought I would, including a couple before I left which I can’t remember the names of, so they’ll be added to March’s round-up. And so!
The Affinity Bridge – George Mann
This is touted as a steampunk mystery…which it is. It’s also not very good. The plot is all sorts of interesting; Victorian England is developing steam and clockwork power, there are road trains and automatons are the NEXT BIG THING, serving drinks at parties and being accused of murder. There is also a plague, brought from India, which turns people into cannibal zombies. Okay, okay, so it sounds kinda cool. I had been recommended this book by someone who’s opinion of literature I respected, so I was a little disappointed when it turned out to be a fairly mediocre romp with poor characterisation and laughable romantic tension. With the right expectations though, I probably would have enjoyed it more.
Scoop!– Evelyn Waugh
I hadn’t read any Evelyn Waugh before, and we’d been talking about Brideshead Revisited, so I bought Scoop! from The Shakespeare Bookshop for three measly pounds. Scopp! is pretty hilarious; a satirical account of journalists rushing off to a ‘thinly veiled Abyssinia’ and making up news about the ‘war’. According to Wikipedia all the characters are based on real people at the time. The protagonist is a chap called Boot, the countryside correspondent for The Daily Beast, who accidentally gets sent off to be war correspondent. He takes a canoe, has an affair with a German woman, writes a scoop(!), and goes home. It’s very, very funny. Anyone read Brideshead? I imagine it’s a lot different.
Devil May Care– Sebastian Faulks writing as Ian Fleming
Bond! Cars! Girls! Planes! Spy Cameras! Sebastian Faulks is one accomplished writer and he gives good Bond. So, our dear James has been given some time off from Queen & country to recuperate but gets roped back into action by Scarlett; action which sees him rush from Paris to Afghanistan then stumble through Russia via trains, planes and ekranoplans. Girls are used as bait and emotional blackmail, Bond faces tests of endurance and crazed torturers, double-00’s and double agents abound. Fun fun fun.
Bad Thoughts – Jamie Whyte
A funny & philosophical essay about woolly thinking and people who argue badly. This is very interesting when it comes to analysing political debate, or in fact, any discussion. From people who tell you to shut up! because you’re fat to inaccurate statistics, Whyte covers the basics of comebacks which either don’t have a lot to do with the actual facts and points raised or are just plain distractions. I liked this, mostly because I argue with people quite often and now I have new weapons in my arsenal, namely the ability to point out if they are arguing wrong. Mwahahaha.
Nightwatch – Sergei Lukyanenko
Russian Others wandering the streets of Moscow, the Nightwatch and the Daywatch engaged in a never-ending quest for domination, or…are they? The novel is split into three stories, all centered on Anton, a Light other and member of the Nightwatch, entrusted with various missions – finding Dark vampires, averting curses, arresting Dark Others & generally doing good. Or does he…? Despite the Dark/Light, Night/Day labels, it’s made very clear throughout the novel that the lines between ‘good’ and ‘bad’ aren’t so easy to draw. There is a place beyond…between…beneath…the world, called the Twilight, which Dark & Light others may enter, a place which both drains them and energises them; another of the many not-quite-contradictions of the novel. I’ve heard that the translation isn’t that good, which means that reading it in it’s original Russian would be AMAZING since the novel is very, very wonderful. If you’ve seen the film then the first story is a little bit similar to the plot – a Dark girl vampire learns the Call and draws a young boy to her, while at the same time the Nightwatch work to discover who cursed Svetlana and how to remove it. Throughout the stories Anton is told over and over how unimportant he is, and irrelevant to the grander scheme of things, while he is the pivot upon which the plots turn. The second couple of stories are more like the film DayWatch, with the Chalk of Destiny and Anton and Olga’s bodyswap. The novels comes in a trilogy too; DayWatch focuses on Alice the Dark Witch and her love for a Light Other, and Twilight Watch returns to Anton and his relationship with Svetlana. This is newly one of my very favourite novels.
The God of Small Things – Arundhati Roy
Wow & wow again. I love Booker Prize winning books, they’re always so full of themes and clever language tricks, intense characters and lush settings. For the last few pages I was so tense, I couldn’t put the book down at all, my eyes were hungrily roaming the sentences as everything everything came together. The feeling at the end of a Booker Prize winner is just that, a rising feeling inside, tensions swelling as the characters act out their parts and the plot unwinds in ways alluded to throughout the novel, so you’re always vaguely aware of what might happen but never sure until it unfolds fully. I needed a sit-down after this one.
It followed the childhood of Estha and Rahel in Ayemenem, parts of Rahel’s adulthood in New York and their family’s secrets, desires, jealousies and fears. Estha and Rahel are twins from different eggs who share memories, their town is being swamped with Communists, their family is tight-knit but tense with the shadows of lost love and too much love, the smell of the river is another character covering the town. Smell is important in the novel; the river, the Paravans. Caste and Communism, workers and Workers, The Sound of Music & Shakespeare all play a part. It’s very, very good.
It’s possible I’ll finished another book before Sunday; I’ve started Hatred of Democracy by Ranciere which isn’t very long but pretty dense and political philosophical. We shall see.