Boy’s Life – Robert McCammon

Boy's LifeBoy’s Life starts off with the promise of a great novel about to unfold. I mean, just take a look at the opening passage:

“CORY? WAKE UP, SON. IT’S TIME.”

I let him pull me up from the dark cavern of sleep, and I opened my eyes and looked up at him. He was already dressed, in his dark brown uniform with his name – Tom – written in white letters across his breast pocket. I smelled bacon and eggs, and the radio was playing softly in the kitchen. A pan rattled and glasses clinked; Mom was at work in her element as surely as a trout rides a current. “It’s time,” my father said, and he switched on the lamp beside my bed and left me squinting with the last images of a dream fading in my brain.” Continue reading

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Fortunately, the Milk – Neil Gaiman

fortunatelythemilk1The Ocean at the End of the Lane (click for my review) is about the child’s mind telling a story to that of the adult. It reaches back through memory and speaks in a language that children know much better, and many adults have forgotten. Fortunately, the Milk does the exact opposite of that. Cory Doctorow sums it up neatly in his review over at Boing Boing: “a magnificent tribute to the fatherly art of trolling kids with straightfaced, outlandish tales”.

Doctorow’s review does a great job of presenting the book, which is short enough that you could read it in less than an hour, anyway. Unless you are reading it to your kid, which will inevitably get you entangled, I imagine, in serious existential discussions, thus prodding you to contribute to the perpetuation of the art of kid-trolling. Continue reading

Quicksilver – Neal Stephenson

quicksilver2Quicksilver is a book that defies with ease any attempts at writing a pithy and flashy review. Swatting-a-lame-old-fly is the kind of ease I’m going for here. Read the blurbs if you are looking for that, a review of this type just wouldn’t really be a review, but rather an extended blurb.

Quicksilver, the first part of the Baroque Cycle trilogy, is vast and winding. It spans decades and continents, its subject matter is difficult to pin down, its method is an even more elusive beast. Perhaps the most apt definition I have arrived at comes from the novel itself:

“It seemed that Jack, here, had blundered into the fourth or fifth act of a drama – neither a comedy nor a tragedy, but a history.”

And although the sentence refers to somebody else’s historical drama, it self-consciously echoes the structure of the novel. Which, like history, maintains only the illusion of such a structure. As some proponents of New Historicism would have it, historians and document-makers are part of the historical process they are untangling and seeking to document and explain. They are just as much embroiled in the material practices and texts of their time, as are the agents of their narratives. Continue reading

The Long Ships – Frans G. Bengtsson

thelongships1It is time to engage in a little bit of blog resurrection. My reading has been somewhat haphazard in the last few months, so choosing a book to review is not an easy task. The Long Ships by Frans Bengtsson is a novel I finished more than half a year ago; maybe I could have written a proper, detailed review in the beginning of 2013, but that’s not the case now. I feel, though, that I must write something about it. For this is the sort of novel you discover unexpectedly, like a hidden treasure buried in the piles of rubble you were distractedly raking through. Such gems must not remained unmentioned. The distance of time may not permit me analytical sharpness, but effusive enthusiasm I still have aplenty, so I will focus on that and try to tone down the effusive bit as much as possible.

In the introduction to the book Michael Chabon calls it a work of fiction that “stands ready, given the chance, to bring lasting pleasure to every single human being on the face of the earth.” What a way to negatively bias the readers. And yet, if Chabon’s impossible breed of a book ever existed, The Long Ships has its genes. Continue reading

Railsea – China Mieville

Everybody knows that there are two layers to the sky, four to the world. The downsky goes to two-three miles plus a biscuit above the railsea and after it comes the upsky, prowled by odd alien flyers. It is fortunate that dirt and mist hide that horrible scenery and only sometimes, when the clouds disperse, are you in danger of glimpsing any of those creatures. That Apt Ohm forbid one of them tumbling down dead on your head.

But we are not interested in the skies, we are interested in the four-layered world. The subterrestrial where the digging creatures dig and everything is trying to eat everything else. The mad iron squiggle that is the railsea lying on the flatland, long ago mapped out during the godsquabble, as if by a child scribbling haphazardly on a piece of paper. The third layer of hard rock islands, home to the human cities above the railsea. And above it the mountains, littered with danger and debris from the upsky, the destination of a handful of reckless updivers. Continue reading