Thursday, October 27, 2011

The Devil's Star by Jo Nesbo

Another nice entry into the category of Scandinavian Crime Fiction, but my first question when it comes to Jo Nesbo (and to the same point many of his contemporaries) is would he be as popular amongst American Crime Fiction fans had it not been for Stieg Larsson, the author of ‘The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo’.  My gut tells me that in the specific case of Nesbo the answer is yes.
There’s something very old-school of about the way Nesbo writes, something that harkens back to the heyday of Noir, of pulp fiction and dime novels, and thats a style thats always resonated well with American readers.
This book, ‘The Devil’s Star’, is the third of Jo Nesbo’s American releases, all of which i’ve read.  They have so far all followed the career of Inspector Harry Hole of the Norwegian Police, and while they are not what I would consider ‘intellectually taxing’ reads they are thoroughly enjoyable.  Some element of his writing goes to the reader in me that needs it dark with the only light in the room on the page, and I’ll just sink into the story to the point that several times I’d not heard someone enter the room I was in until they spoke and startled the crap out of me.
Basically, if you’re a fan of Crime Fiction, and you’ve not read Nesbo, check him out.

Friday, October 21, 2011

'The Sense of an Ending' by Julian Barnes

Well, let the obvious first be said - Just because a book is award winning doesn’t mean that its perfect.
I’ve never read Julian Barnes before, so this was untested ground for me.  I’d pre-ordered this book some months back as it was on a list of most anticipated releases of 2011, and it sat on my shelf for a week or two before I got around to it.  I must admit hearing that it had just been award the 2011 Man Booker Prize was the final push that made me pick it up.
The book is broken into two parts, the first sixty pages or so are of the man young, that latter part is of the man old reflecting on his younger years.  During the first section I texted a friend of mine to tell her that this book was depressing the hell out of me, and I believe I described it as ‘Too fatalistic in a distinctly British way...passive depression with a stiff upper lip’.  I stand by that, though after reading the whole work it has taken on more complexity.
Not having read the other books short listed for the 2011 Man Booker I can’t with any certainty say that ‘The Sense of an Ending’ did or didn’t deserve the honor, but what I can say is that it is an important book in my mind.  Brief enough to hold in mind all at once while being thought provoking and capable of inducing the reader into reflection of his/her own life’s choices.  This is a book that not only could I re-read, it is a book I WILL re-read.
On this first reading my only complaint is the absolute ending, which I felt was one twist to far, or perhaps I should say the last one was unnecessary.  As I said I’ve never read Barnes before, but after this I can guarantee I will again.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Underground by Haruki Murakami

I’ve had this book on my shelf for at least five years.  I bought it after I’d read several of Murakami’s novels and had fallen for his writing style, and from from time to time I would pick it up and read the first 5 pages or so only to set it down in favor of a novel.  Then at the beginning of this year I committed myself to reading all of Murakami’s works in 2011, and at last the time came to read ‘Underground’.  I must admit I was not looking forward to it.  I also must admit I’ve been very pleasantly surprised by what I found.
The premise of the book is Murakami’s attempt to understand the effects of the sarin gas attacks on the Tokyo subway system on March 20, 1995 and what the victims were doing at the time of the attack.  He broke up the book by the separate lines of subway that were attacked, dealing with the various victims  for that line, then moving on to the next line.  One would assume that the repetition of similar accounts would become monotonous, but I found that because of Murakami’s approach each account brought something new to the table because of the subjectivity of each experience, something Murakami addresses at times in the book.
The second half of the book, the part that dealt specifically with the members of the cult responsible for the attacks, though not actually any of the responsible parties, I found not so much to my liking, though I’m sure there is much there that many readers would indeed find interesting.
The book itself turns out to be an intriguing sociological study of post economical bubble Japanese culture during the late 1990’s, and has much to say about modern American society and the question of rampant consumerism.

Yeah I'm a slacker

Yup, I completely neglected this blog after committing myself to writing a full review of all of Tolkien's work.  I admit it, I suck.  But, I'm back, and will do my damndest to write a review for each and every book that I read from here on, or until I completely disappear again.  I'll have a new post up in minutes about Haruki Murakami's 'Underground'

Friday, April 1, 2011

April Update

    Hey all!  Just wanted to give an update on the lack of new reviews for the last week or two.  Well, I've have dubbed this month, the month of April, Tolkein Month.  I will be reading as many of the Tolkien books, both those considering middle-earth and his other works, as I can.  I started with The Hobbit, and am now working on The Lord of the Rings.  I also plan on reading The SilmarillionJ.R.R. Tolkien: A Biography, and J.R.R. Tolkien: Author of the Century, an analytical look at the middle-earth books and how they were written.  When I have completed these books I'll be writing one large Middle-Earth review.
   I have to say re-reading these books has once again had the effect of testing the limits of my imagination and rekindled childhood wonders.
    The review should be up in another one or two weeks and should be considerably longer than previous reviews.  Depending on how this goes for me I may be doing more cluster reviews like this in the future.

P.S.- For this interested in learning more about Tolkien's works in an academic way I recommend visiting Tolkien Professor, the website of Corey Olsen, a tenured English Professor at Washington College on which he has posted many podcasts of his classes on nearly every Tolkien work and other works of classical Faerie stories.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

2011 Haruki Murakami Challenge #4

    What I Talk About When I Talk About Running is, obviously, Murakami's memoir-ish telling of his 25 plus year relationship with running and his preparation for the New York City marathon nearing the age of 50.  I really liked this book, not because of any clever writing techniques or unconventional imagery (both things he's known for) but for the honesty and incite contained in the writing, particularly the incite into how and why Murakami writes his novels, which thankfully is not in the same pontificating vein of writers writing a book about writing.  I think this is because Murakami did not set out to write about writing, but about running, something he clearly has a passion for as must anyone whose run over 20 marathons, and as he writes about running that passion spills out, over and into his passion for writing and shows incite into how he goes about it, with patience and proper pacing.  In other words, how he runs how taught and helped him be a better and healthier writer 'body and soul' as he puts it.
   An enjoyable read for any Murakami fans or runners, who can probably appreciate the pains he talks about all the better.

2011 Global Reading Challenge Asia #2

    Vladimir Sorokin is not well known amongst American readers, but I think given some time that will change.  I've come to this conclusion after reading his latest work offered in English, Day of the Oprichnik: A Novel, his vision of a Russia nearly two decades from now in the year 2028 in which a new Monarch has arisen, taken the title of Tsar, and reinstated both the Draconian governance of Ivan The Terrible and  the Oprichnina, the secret police/death squads whose only task is to torture and murder dissidents.
    The story follows one of the Oprichnina, Oprichnik Andrei Danilovich Komiaga, through a 'normal' day.  One in which he and other Oprichniks kill a member of the court who has fallen out of favor, rape his wife, and burn his home to the ground, and thats just how the day starts.
    I saw in this book equal parts Kafka's paranoia of the total state, Orwell's technological 'big brother', and even a quality of Raoul Duke's 'Gonzo' hedonism amongst the Oprichnina.  This book left me with only one complaint, that I wanted to keep reading, and that goes to Sorokin's economical writing.  He didn't overindulge in his story and give too much or go too far.  That to me is the sign of a writer on top of his skills, so I will be reading more of his work.
    On a side note, and partially kind of sort of joking but not really, I'm surprised Putin hasn't 'disappeared' this guy already.  This book, while looking to a future of extremes, could be considered subversive and seen as critical of the modern Russian regime, which is known to sensor its press and artists and manipulate its economy.
    I highly recommend this book to all (adult) readers, as its not too 'big' in actual length or conceptual meaning, but has enough to offer for both the casual and serious readers.