Saturday, December 29, 2012

Back to fiction: The Sisters Brothers

In 2012, non-fiction featured quite heavily in my reading list so it’s nice to end the year by going back to fiction. 

It's holiday time and I just wanted a great story to take me away.  Patrick Dewitt’s The Sisters Brothers, certainly did that!

This book is a strange, violent and compelling Western about two brothers who are assassins.

Yes that is right, I read a Western! I must admit the Western is a genre that I’m not too familiar with and don’t have much of an interest in.

Dewitt’s book, described as a ‘revisionist Western’, tracks the relationship and adventures of the much feared and loathed Charlie and Eli Sisters who are on a job to kill a gold prospector Hermit Kermit Warm.

Set in the 'wild West' of the Gold Rush era, the story is told from the perspective of Eli Sisters and it’s really his voice that really makes the novel so interesting, original and at times very poetic.

An overweight, sensitive, romnatic and philosophical assassin is the last thing you expect in a Western genre, but Eli Sisters is exactly that. 

I’m not sure that The Sisters Brothers has ignited my interest in Western, but it is certainly a terrific read.  

It’s hard to describe this strange, funny, violent and compelling story but from the first chapter it had me totally hooked. 

One reviewer described the book as a bit like a Coen brothers movie, which is very apt as you are either a fan of their type of movies or not. There really is no in between. 

I'm a big fan of the Coen brothers, so I really enjoy this type of story telling with quirky characters and situations.  

It’s a sign of a great writer when the story and characters stay inside your head long after you have finished the book.

Charlie and Eli Sisters have certainly stayed with me.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Justin Cronin’s The Twelve

Book two finally arrived! 

The Twelve is Justin Cronin’s eagerly awaited sequel to The Passage, his best-selling ‘adult’ vampire novel.

I couldn’t wait to get my hands on this novel, especially as The Passage was one of my favourite books of 2010.

I was so eager to be transported back to the post-apocalyptic world of virals.

Where The Passage was a more intense and  emotionally gripping read, this second book shifts the series into an action/thriller genre.

But the main problem is that does so in a very slow way. It isn’t until a good third into the book that the pace picks up and the characters all converge to (another) climatic battle scene.

In these sections, you do have to admire Cronin’s ability to drive the narrative forward creating a gripping and compelling page turner. 

A lot the set peices are perfect for the Ridley Scott produced movie to come.

The final battle scene is so vivid, with the gore and violence certainly pitched up a notch.

But unfortunately the start of the book did leave me a little bit cold and I had to really persevere.

For me the book certainly didn’t hit the high notes of The Passage, and in some ways get a bit too swallowed up in its own mythology.

Overall, I felt that Cronin just wasn’t able to sustain the epic world that he created so wonderfully and vividly in The Passage.

Here's hoping Book Three: The City of Mirrors (2014-really so long again!!!) brings back some of the spark.