Monday, 3 September 2007

What I read on my holidays

Some of these are shameful admissions, since I should have read them ages ago, but they were (not including sf for review books; coming soon to a Daily Telegraph near you):

The Book of Dave, Will Self.

Rather good, I thought. The orthography is certainly a challenge at first and, which I found annoying, stays that way; though I can't complain about it, since it is meticulously consistent. I kept fearing it would fall over the edge into childishness, the central conceit being so jokey; it never did, I thought. Strange and beautiful and moving - and properly even-handed and interested in the desire of Dave for his son and his general uselessness as a father. The motos are inspired, but I should have liked to have known something about CalBioTech's part in it all. Still, the book wasn't set up that way. You've all read it, I suppose, but I liked it quite a lot.

Soon I shall be Invincible, Austin Grossman

Yes, fine. But not literary enough to make it a good subversion of comics. I started out thinking this is fantastic; halfway through I wondered why it wasn't a comic. Then I realized it would be the same comic as lots of other comics. But such a good idea, and well enough written.

Spook Country, William Gibson

Wonderful. Will write about this again. But I loved Pattern Recognition, and I loved this, though it is not sf, nor even a very good thriller. Plot is not his long suit. But such splendid moments. A real pleasure to read.

Harry Potter and whatever it is this time

No, I'm fed up with this. OK, it wraps up the ends. Nothing happens for most of it, and there are sentences which are an affront to the language. Still, she's a genius who has created characters as enduring, I'll bet, as Holmes and Bond and Poirot and The Famous Five. There are attempts to deal with real issues here; it's a bit by the numbers for me, but then I'm not 8. But my 8 year old was a bit underwhelmed, too.

Polar Star, Red Square, Havana Bay, Martin Cruz Smith

I liked Gorky Park quite a lot. These are not quite as good, in descending order. Polar Star is pretty good, Red Square is OK, Havana Bay is disappointing. He can write, but only in a limited sort of way. Good for planes and beaches. I didn't bother bringing them back home.

The Last King of Scotland, Giles Foden

I haven't seen the film. Now I want to. Terrific book, I thought, because it's so well written. Not sure I cared about the story, but I cared about the sentences. I must read his other books, to see if he can do other voices.

Katherine Mansfield Short Stories

Well, they're fab, aren't they?

Cloud Atlas, David Mitchell

I'm sorry, I almost forgot this. That will be my shame at not having read it ages ago. He's fantastic at having an idea and telling a story. But he has no ear at all for the way in which people wrote or thought or spoke. None. He habitually makes basic grammatical errors which would be fine in any one person's voice, but would hardly be likely to be shared (like a comet shaped birthmark) across the generations. He can't know anything at all about music (though his nasty musical amanuensis is, despite that, much the best-realised character) or about 1970s Californian private eye conventions (the Rockford Files was so much better). The politics is infantile. Yet here is a clever men who can write well and is a born novelist. Where are the editors to tell him what works and what doesn't? A couple of minor tweaks, three weeks' work, and this would have been terrific. As it is, it's a shocking waste of what could have been excellent.

Potrazi i pronadi s Tomicon

Thomas searches for the Fat Controller. Is he in the engine shed? Ne, on nije odvje! To je Percy! Behind the station hut? Ne! To je Bero! Dolazi li on preko mosta? Ne! To je Hari! Svi Traze Debeljkica. Je li on ispod velikog suncobrana? Well, that's just where you're wrong! You have to look behind the sandcastle hidden behind it! Da! On je tamo!

Obviously a masterpiece, since I read it approximately 2,000 times more than all the others put together.