Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Last Sookie Stackhouse book:Dead Ever After

I think any series that goes beyond ten books is really pushing it. 

In a previous blog post, I wrote that the Sookie Stackhouse series really started to go down hill for me around book nine.

So I approached the final book, Dead Ever After, with very low expectations. I have such fond memories of the early books that I felt somewhat obligated to ‘complete the series’ by reading this last book. 

Dead Ever After follows the same plot lines as many of the previous books: Sookie find herself in danger, hunted and defended by various supernaturals and trying to work out who she really loves.

The only difference is that this final book brings some closure to Sookie’s romantic life and the whole: will she stay with Eric or go back to Bill question is finally laid to rest.I was a bit tired for the whole Eric/Bill angsty love triangle story line and was really glad Harris didn’t invest too much of the last book on this.

While it wasn’t a compelling read, it was certainly a nice way to wrap up the series. And the final book is really targeted towards fans as a lot of old characters make their way back into the story.

It’s not the best of the Sookie Stackhouse books but it’s certainly not the worst either, just somewhere in the middle. It’s all sort of ends with a bit of ‘meh’ for me.

So it’s hard for me to understand some of the outrage from fans about this last book. Maybe it’s kinda hard to get outraged when your expectations are already so low.

Just a quick glance at the Amazon reviews and significant number of one star ratings (765) shows that a whole lot fans are ANGRY about this last book.  

As this Guardian article shows the online vitriol directed towards Harris has been quite extraordinary. Again, demonstrating the very thin line between fan love and hate/and also just plain crazy.

I believe that you get hooked onto series, like Sookie Stackhouse, because you get invested in the characters and their lives. This is through the skill and imagination of the author.

It can be disappointing, frustrating and saddening to see what happens to characters as a series continues.
But in the end these characters and stories are the creation of someone’s imagination. So how can anyone  stake a claim to control someone’s creativity and imagination? It’s both unrealistic and totally unreasonable.

I also thought Harris’s acknowledgment of her fans was heartfelt and gracious as she writes:

“Thanks for sticking with me through the books that succeeded and the books that fell a bit short of my aspirations.”

In the end, I think there is a sense of relief from both the author and certainly this reader that we can say a final goodbye to Sookie Stackhouse and her supernatural friends.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Dan Brown's lnferno - disappointing and pedestrian.

Our favourite Harvard professor, Robert Langdon, returns in Dan Brown’s latest book Inferno (2013).

Langdon is back doing what he does best: deciphering symbols in artworks, visiting amazing buildings in Europe and of course, saving the world.

I thought Brown’s first three books in the Langdon series, Angels and Demons (2000), The Da Vinci Code (2003) and The Lost Symbol (2009), were all hugely fun, entertaining and enjoyable thrillers.

But Inferno is hugely disappointing, lacklustre and just plain boring.

In its review The Daily Mail called it ‘bilge, but one hell of a page turner’.  A tad harsh, but after finishing the book I don’t even think it rates as a page turner at all!

In fact, completing the book became a real chore because I had lost interest midway through the book.

Let’s face it, thrillers in the genre like The Da Vinci Code all have completely outlandish plots. I think that is fun part of the read, but really if you are going to do outlandish then as least make it interesting, intricate and fun outlandish.

The story begins with Langdon waking up in hospital in Florence and suffering amnesia after being shot in the head. He is unable to remember why he is in Florence and why a range of people are seemingly out to hurt him. He is left with a clues found in a Botticelli illustration for Dante's The Divine Comedy.

I don’t want to give too much away but a whole lot of elements didn’t really work for me and the plot twists when revealed were oh so pedestrian.

In the end I think Brown overreached in his focus on Dante’s The Divine Comedy and rather than engaging with it a meaningful way it was just used as simply a plot device.

One of the biggest grips I have about the book is that a good portion of it is full of badly written descriptions of very famous religious buildings like the Palazzo Vecchio and Sophia Hagia. 

Oh and the also the fact that Langdon seems to care more about his Mickey Mouse watch than the potential end of the world.

I must admit reading the various reviews of Inferno have actually been much more fun and entertaining then the book itself. That really says something!   

Some of the reviews are also master classes in the art of the backhanded compliment. The highlight being Jake Kerridge in The Telegraph who wrote “as a stylist Brown gets better and better: where once he was abysmal he is now just very poor.” SNAP.

Also from the Telegraph’s Michael Deacon’s written-in-the-style-of-Dan-Brown “Inferno” review is a real hoot too.

But in the end I feel disappointed, because I'm not a Dan Brown 'hater' and I actually wanted to like this book.

I was looking forward to a fun and interesting page turner, but instead it felt like a rather dull art history lecture.