Thursday, October 29, 2015

jonathan strange and mr. norrell

This book is a big boy. And I'm happy to say that Susanna Clarke was able to close this story on a big upswing in action. I was a little worried; I thought the first half was a little slow. According to the book's website, Neil Gaiman wrote "... after 800 pages my only regret was that it wasn't twice the length."Well, I'm not sure I agree with that. Overall, I thought it was pretty good, but 200 pages could have been cut and it still would have been a good read.

Its seems to be a trend, which I assume follows on the heels of Game of Thrones, to turn books into TV shows rather than movies. The same is true for Strange and Norrell who have recently brought their powdered wigs to a BBC program. I assume it can be found here in the States. I bet its entertaining; there is plenty of room for period costumes, old-timely English accents, and magical special effect on the telly. What, what?

The second half of the book is reasonably well populated with intrigue, romance, magic, anger and spite, mystery, and madness. Sounds pretty good, right? Well, get some! Its been around long enough that its pretty easy to find at the liberry.

Friday, October 16, 2015

strange and norrell

Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell has been around for a few years but I haven't read it until now. I'm sure I've seen it, especially when it came out; its distinctive white-on-black book jacket, formidable size, and intriguing title. I saw it again just recently while browsing the titles in a tiny library in western Massachusetts, and I took a look through. Seems like my kind of book, so the next time I visited my own library, I picked it up.

Formidable is right! This beast is 782 pages and I'm about half way through it at this point. Susanna Clarke has taken it upon herself to write a 'historic' novel about the re-invigoration of English magic at the time of the Napoleonic wars, in the style of the era. What this means is that each of the chapters is titled, the story is carefully conceived, and told in that slow, deliberative style the seems well suited to you people of comfortable means, who may sit in a parlour and read to one another for a few hours each day to pass the time between tea and dinner whilst the servants busy about, out of sight

Think serial, a la The Count of Monte Cristo.

Just not as exciting.

I'm hopeful that second part of this tome has some action. It's been a little thin thus far, but I can see the chess pieces being set about the board, so there is plenty of opportunity for it. Let's bring it home Susanna!

More to come.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

love you more

Love You More is a suspense novel written by Lisa Gardener, whom I've never read before. My wife gave me this one and told me it was good. Love You More is ruthless in its suspense, having given away some of the background on this crime mystery in the prologue, we follow along as the police try to piece together the crime and the motive without the benefit we have of that critical prologian* information. And the closer the cops get to the truth, the more we realize that we don't have all the information needed to solve this crime after all.

It's a tightly woven and compelling story, told by a writer who clearly knows a fair amount about police procedures and believes in a strong female lead. In fact, the lead quickly takes on the role of the reluctant hero, and even makes us wonder at times if we're routing for the wrong team. As I said, there's a lot going on here and Gardener does a good job of meting out the info, switching back and forth from third person narrative to first person in the case of the protagonist. Nicely done.

* Yeah, I made that word up.

Saturday, October 3, 2015


It been a while since I've read science fiction, it used to be the bulk of my reading when I was a teen, so I was in the library thinking of what to get and I came across the SciFi section and decided to pick something up. I don't know Jack McDevitt, and frankly I was a little worried that this would turn out to be a horror story, but I was pleasantly surprised. chindi is what I would call old school SciFi, tracking a space adventure with a group of explorers in a kind of Odyssey retelling. Jason and his Argonauts are replaced by Priscilla 'Hutch' Hutchins and a group of amateur adventurers who are set on making first contact with intelligent alien life and have hired Hutch to captain their ship.

Hutch is similar to Jason, in that Jason leads, or captains, the Argonauts on their adventures, but the Argonauts are not just a crew. They aren't the invisible minions of say, the crew of the Nautilus, the Argonauts are somebodys. They have their own histories, and they make their own adventures. Hutch is in a similar position, she's the captain, but also the hired help, so her role as leader is tenuous at best, and when the crew wants to answer the Siren call, the best she can do is advise against it. don't. stop. danger.

This is where the tension lies in the story. As a good person, you can only help those who'll help themselves. And when they don't... you do your best to rescue their asses.

chindi is a great odyssey story, and a fantastic 'wouldn't-it -be-great-if' story. Well written, easy and fun to read. And you can't help smiling a little (in your horror) when you say, Oo, that's gonna leave a mark.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

assassination bureau

The Assassination Bureau, Ltd. is an unfinished Jack London novel, completed by Robert Fish, using London's notes. In the hard cover I read, London completed 122 pages of the 179 page total. London's notes about the conclusion of the story are located in the end matter of the book. Its interesting to see them after reading Fish's ending, I have a feeling that Fish did a better job than to simply follow London's notes to closely. I get the feeling that London didn't finish this story because he wasn't real clear on how to end it. Fish basically iginores most of what London jotted down and created a pretty good ending on his own for the most part.

The Assassination Bureau was made into an English movie in 1969 starring Oliver Reed, Diana Rigg, and Telly Savalas. Don't think I've ever seen that, but I found it while looking for a James McAvoy/Angelina Jolie movie with a similar theme that I thought might have been inspired by this book. Wanted isn't inspired by this book however, rather its based on a Mark Millar comics series of the same name. But who knows, maybe Millar was inspired by London?

The story follows the story of the founder of the Assassination Bureau, his niece, and her lover. These three make an odd triangle and the high-jinks soon ensues. The story revolves around whether or not the idea behind the Assassination Bureau is a net good or net bad for the world and society. The discussion becomes pretty philisophical, and I think that's really to point. Once London got to the point where he had established his view in teh dialog, I'm not sure he knew where to go from there.

An interesting literary bit of history, but little more than that in the end.