Sparky Travels

June 28, 2010

Book Review Pt2

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Neil Gaiman does fantasy better than almost anyone else and his novel American Gods is an enthralling adventure. Twisting the symbolism we take for granted in life into intricate plots about worlds existing in the shadows of ours, as The Guardian would say. Gods, in America as The Sun would say. Cracking read.

****

Bill Bryson’s A Short History of Nearly Everything is a brilliant book that attempts to provide exactly what it’s title says. As a travel writer, Bryson displays a layman’s curiosity in how the earth and universe work. With anecdotes and descriptions of the people who shaped our understanding of the world and simple descriptions of complex ideas it really makes you marvel and the wonders of life.

*****

Fermat’s Last Theorem by Simon Singh is an unconventional book, about mathematics and the personalities behind it. It tells the true story about a lone englishman’s attempt to prove one of the greatest ever mathematical theories. Gets kinda bogged down in the middle and not as good a book as I hoped it’d be.

***

Stranger In A Strange Land by Robert Heinlein is the story of a human raised by martians returning to earth and trying to understand humanity. Overly long and although it starts from an interesting premise it becomes muddled with attempts to be intentionally provocative. Controversial in its day it has now aged badly.

**

Joseph Heller’s  Catch 22 is  hysterical. No really, it’s probably the funniest book I’ve ever read (yes, better than Joe Pasquale’s latest opus) and clever with it too. No surprise that this is a classic. A book I look forward to reading again. Heller’s blending of the realities of battle and the ridiculousness of war until the two become indistinguishable is masterful while his characters are full and colourful.

*****

May 21, 2010

Book Review Pt1

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I’ve managed to get through a fair few books on my travels, mainly on 15 hour bus or train journeys, waiting for flights and on the beach. I’ve picked up the books from other travellers, book exchanges and sometimes even in (heaven forbid) bookshops.

Here are the first few reviews…

The first book I read as I left Caledonia was Kidnapped by Robert Louis Stevenson. I bought it as a cheap and small novel to stick in my bag. Set during Eighteenth century, it displays RLS’ great characterisation as it follows a young man’s flight through Scotland to reclaim his title and freedom. The familiar highland and lowland settings made it all the more enjoyable.

****


Next was Treasure Island, also by Robert Louis Stevenson. I’d never read it before and only had vague memories of Muppet Treasure Island so the twists and turns were unexpected. I see why its such a classic; Its easy to read, exciting and Long John Silver is as charismatic and manipulative a character as imaginable.

*****


While visiting the infamous S-21 prison camp in Phnom Penh I bought Loung Ung’s First They Killed My Father. It is the harrowing autobiographical account of a young girl’s experience of the Khmer Rouge regime in Cambodia. Horrific at times and shows the brutality of life under Pol Pot. The simplistic childlike writing starts to grate after a while though.

****


Black Dogs by Ian McEwan seemed like a book that was written to win a prize or in anticipation of being studied at school. It’s a real novelist’s book, all subtle metaphors and suchlike. While obviously well written, I’m not sure that I actually enjoyed it.

**


Chrysalids by John Wyndham - written in 1955 -  is a sci-fi novel set in a post-apocalyptic world where genetic mutations are seen as blasphemous deviations. An interesting premise and decent read but the ending falls a bit flat.

***

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