Monday, June 8, 2009

Nowhere to go - Lee Child's Gone Tommorow

Somehow I keep going back to authors like Patricia Cornwell and Lee Child when I should just stop.

Is it the optimist or masochist i
n me?

I keep hoping that their latest book will be good and they get back the form that made them such fantastic thriller writers.

But alas, after reading Child’s 13th Jack Reacher novel, Gone Tomorrow, I have given up hope.

Gone Tomorrow is a strangely flat and subdued affair, with no real suspense or action. Actually, what action there is comes right at the end and is so formulaic and boring I almost slept through it.

It's really sad because part of the fun of reading Child’s Reacher novels like Echo Burning and Tripwire, are the action sequences and military setting. The first few books were fantastic, brillant opening sections that got you right into the story and just kept you turning that page in suspense.

This latest book is the opposite. The narrative is quite convoluted with a lot of unnecessary exposition. Child tries to get Reacher involved in wider political issues, like Afghanistan and US Senate race, but done so superficially and badly. Really he is better off leaving it to a master like Frederick Forsyth.

In the end I just didn’t care about the characters or story, it was a bit like “yeah I’ll keep reading, but is something interesting going to happen…like soon?”

I just think that there is a point where there is nowhere for the character to go anymore. No doubt about it, Child has definitely reached that point with Reacher in this novel.

I am happily back to Ian Rankin’s Inspector Rebus series, book 4 Strip Jack.

Ahhhh, it's so nice to be reading good writing again. Rankin is such a brillant story teller.

Maybe reading Rankin has really spoilt me for other crime and thriller writers?

Sunday, June 7, 2009

The Angel's Game - Disappointed

The Angel’s Game is the much anticipated follow-up (prequel) to Carlos Ruiz Zafon’s mega hit, The Shadow of the Wind.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t quite live up to expectations. I loved the first three quarters of the book: great story telling and intriguing mix of gothic mystery, detective and of course tragic love story.

I was totally enthralled. Zafon elegantly and teasingly draws you into his story. The evocation of Spain in the 1920s is wonderfully moody and the characters captivating and charming.

I liked the main character of Daniel Martin, who is cynical enough to be classed as a smart arse, but of course deep down is a softie. The dialogue between Daniel and his seventeen year old assistant Isabella is short, sharp and witty.

But the last quarter of the book really lost me and left me a bit bewildered. It seemed to turn a sharp corner and become a non-stop action book. There was just lost of action and hardly any real craft.

In his review Telegraph critic Mark Sanderson comments, "it's as if Zafon is trying to be Dan Brown for those who have read something other than tabloids".

Ouch! But so true.

The twist and turns are revealed but almost all too easily and without any real detailed follow through. In the space of a few chapters many characters are killed off.

Even now I’m a bit shell shocked at how quickly the novel turned. Actually shocked and also VERY disappointed.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Alan Bennett The Uncommon Reader

Just in time for Queen’s Birthday holiday this weekend I picked up Alan Bennett’s The Uncommon Reader. It’s a cute little book, packed with ideas, humour and wit.

The premise of the book is what happens when the Queen discovers, much to the displeasure of her staff, the joys of reading. She accidently happens, by way of her rascally corgis, onto the Westminster travelling library bus and decides it would be rude not to borrow a book.

This book is joy to read; Bennett light heartedly pokes fun at the monarchy, modern management practices, bureaucracy and New Zealand too! The book is also packed with ideas about how reading can challenge, stimulate and be ultimately quite subversive. There are many laugh-out loud moments as Bennett’s humour is quite deliciously wicked.

A part of the book that was a real “Aha” moment for me was the point where the Queen points out the difference between reading and being briefed:

“briefing is not reading…antithesis of reading. Briefing is terse, factual and to the point. Reading is untidy, discursive and perpetually inviting. Briefing closes down a subject, reading opens it up.” (p.22)

As someone who has to write a lot of briefs for work, I always find it quite an unenjoyable task. Sure there is considerable skill needed in being able to write an effective, concise and readable brief, but reading Bennett’s book made me realise just why I find them so painful – the act of writing a brief is not really a creative act.

Will be chasing down Bennett’s autiobiographies –
Writing Home and Untold Stories