August 21, 2017

Lionel Asbo by Martin Amis

Wow! But is Amis on form in this one.

Lionel Asbo is an uncomfortable character – the illogicality of some of the characters is hard to deal with.

Lionel himself is a London thug, who wins the lottery whilst in jail – and the novel goes to some lengths to explore the potential impacts of the ‘wrong’ person winning. As well as our celebrity obsessed culture.

I’d definately recommend it.

Pygmy by Chuck Palahniuk

pygmyChuck Palanuik is one of my favourite authors, so I was looking forward to reading Pygmy a lot. And it doesn’t disappoint.

Once you get used to the writing style (not as hard as A Clockwork Orange) it’s a fascinating book. Pygmy is a child terrorist sent to the USA on a school exchange, and the book is his reports on the mission. That includes some reports reminising back to the time of being recruited and the training.

I felt the story is more about how American society functions than the terrorism aspect – Palahniuk is using the eyes of Pygmy and the actions of the terrorist cell to highlight the shortcomings of modern western society.

There’s a lot of humour here, as well as some really shocking moments.

Another fascinating book.

The Wasp Factory by Iain Banks

the wasp factoryIt’s been a while since I’ve read an Iain Banks (The Crow Road in about 1997 I think), so it was great to read another this month.

The Wasp Factory was his first novel, and is about a somewhat fucked up family on a tiny island in Scotland. At first you think some of them might be normal, but then you realise – nope they’re all rather strange.

The story is told in a fascinating way – in real time, but with the reminiscences that explain every dropped in occasionally. So the reader is both uncovering the past and the future as the book progresses.

Mr Penumbra’s 24-hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan

I was recommend Mr Penumbra’s 24-hour Bookstore by a colleague – such a good recommendation!

It’s a bit of mystery story, but that’s underselling it. Our narrator gets a job at the bookstore, and starts to discover strange goings on – that lead to an ancient society. But for a change it’s not Mr Penumbra's 24-hour Bookstoreabout knights and swords, and the end of the world. In fact quite the opposite!

I found it a very pacey read, and the twists and turns kept it nice and interesting.

JPod by Douglas Coupland

Can’tjpod believe how long it’s been since I’ve read a Douglas Coupland, so it’s a great pleasure to pick up JPod.

What a book – another brilliant glimpse of the lives of the coders. JPod is set in a computer games design company and focuses on the 6 people randomly allocated to sit together in the “jpod” – the group of desks which only people whose surnames begin with J end up sitting in.

Lots of crazy stuff happens, including a couple of appearances by Coupland himself, dead drug dealers, and viral karoke videos.

The layout is pretty cool too. Within the story are a number of random lists of things and numbers – breaks up the story and the pace in a very interesting way.

I really enjoyed reading this one, not a hunger-games-espe page turner, but still pretty un-put-down-able.

Another Coupland classic

Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins (Hunger Games)

Mockingjaymockingjay is the third of the Hunger Games series (so if you haven’t read the first 2 don’t read this review! Read my review of the first book).

The second book ends very abruptly as the Hunger Games in which Katnis and Peeta are playing suddenly falls to pieces. We learn that the rebellion is in full swing with war in most of the Distsricts. Mockingjay takes us through the rebellion as Gale, Haymitch, Katnis, Peeta, the other Victors and their families battle to find the right solutions.

It is not as fast paced, or as compelling a page turner as the first 2 books (that might be down the size of my hangover when I read most of this). Either way it’s a very different style of book. Here we see the full extent of the corruption that’s crept through Panem since the original rebellions and the setting up of the Hunger Games. We see that no-one is immune from corruption, and how much things need to change.

It’s a scary, reflective book that is true to life in that there are few happy endings. A must read, well the whole series is!

Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins (Hunger Games)

Catching Firecatching fire is the second book in the Hunger Games Trilogy. (Warning – if you’ve not read the first book, don’t read this review – go and read my review of book one).

After the trials of the Hunger Games Katnis and Peeta are back in District 12, trying to live a normal life in the Victors Village. Then it’s time for the victory parade around Panem, and all the chaos kicks off once more. Their performance in the Hunger Games had a bigger impact that anyone realised, and seems to have kicked off a lot of unrest. One thing leads to another (I don’t want to give too much away!) and the whole book ends on a serious cliffhanger.

(so much of a cliffhanger that I’ve gone and started book 3 before writing this review – so apologies if it’s a bit disjointed, I’m trying to keep the 2 stories seperate).

Catching Fire is as thrilling a read as The Hunger Games. I finished it under 24 hours – cue serious loss of sleep – but it was well worth it. It’s pacey, there are lots of twists and turns – if you thought the Games were devious in the first book, you’ve seen nothing yet.

This is a series for anyone who likes pacey, fast books – a great read.

The Road by Cormac McCarthy

the roadI haven’t seen the film, so I’m coming to the book cold. I first heard about The Road as a book my book group had read before I joined.

Wow – what a tale.

Left with about a million questions at the end, I can see exactly why it got the Pulitzer.

The Road is the story of the day to day life of a man and his son in a post-acopolypse America. We don’t find out what happened, but most things are now burnt, and most people are now dead. They are travelling to the sea, again we’re not exactly sure why and I had a sneaking suspicion it was based on the – let’s head somewhere, otherwise we might as well die.

On the road they meet all kinds of other survivors, and live a world of scavenging and distrust.

It’s quite fascinating, and is really a look into what makes a human, rather than a sci-fi end of the world fantasy.

I very much recommend it.

The Stepford Wives by Ira Levin

the stepford wivesI picked The Stepford Wives up in one of Amazon’s Kindle sales. I’m really glad I did.

Like many I’ve always understood the phrase “Stepford Wives”, but never really understood the full concept of the book. (I’ve not seen either film, yet, either).

The edition I read has a great intro by Chuck Palahniuk which I found very useful to understand the full scenario in which the book was written.

I was surprised by how short the book is (I think I’d got it a little confused with the tome-like Valley of the Dolls), and it’s also pretty scary.

It tells the story of Joanna Eberhart and her family as they move out of New York to the small town of Stepford. Where something odd is going on, with all the women these perfect wives.

It really gripped me, and I think it’s one I’ll def be reading again, and wishing for a different outcome.

Room by Emma Donoghue

roomI’d been wanting to read Room by Emma Donoghue for quite some time, so I was very pleased to find it in a charity shop I was browsing. Wow! What a read.

This book only took me a weekend, and was both an easy read, and hard to put down. Room is told by a 5 year old boy who was born and has grown up in a small room, hidden from the world by his father – the man who’s holding his mother captive.

Despite this front-and-center plot line, the book’s really a reflection on modern life, our daily assumptions and expectations. It’s very cleverly written and worthy of all it’s awards and pludits.

I highly recommend it to anyone.