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December 31, 2008

52 Books in 52 Weeks - December 2008

My final two books of the year were

39. World War Z - Max Brooks
40. A Game of Thrones - George R.R. Martin

So you can see, I didn't make it to 52 :-(

I'll do a full year review post (when I get enough tuits, the round ones) but the jist of it was that I stopped commuting by train, and lost ~eight hours reading a week. Without giving up other things in the evening and weekend, I was lost.

The last two books were really fun to read. "World War Z" was a great zombie novel, which postulated what would happen to the world if zombies really did exist. Then "A Game of Thrones" rounded the year off with some more epic fantasy.

Posted by se71 at 11:45 PM | Comments (0)

A Game of Thrones - George R.R. Martin

A Game of Thrones - George R.R. Martin

Book 40 in my 52 books in 52 weeks in 2008

This is my final book for 2008 - so you know I didn't make it to the full 52. This is a shame, but I didn't know I'd lose four months of train commuting, so it wasn't to be helped. Nevertheless, this is I think ten books more than 2007, so I'm very pleased about that. I'm still cycling to work, so 2009 is looking like a 20 book year. We'll see, maybe I'll get a new contract.

How many epic fantasy series can one person read? When each book is about 1000 pages, and authors insist on upwards of ten books, it is a real struggle. You need to choose carefully. I read "Magician", the first in the Riftwar series by Raymond E Feist not that long ago. it was OK, but I didn't feel inclined to continue. Robert jordan's "Wheel of Time" books get a lot of bad press, particularly the later ones. I don't know much about any other series, but this one from George R.R. Martin gets universal acclaim, so I felt it was time to start. for anyone interested, I only just managed to finish it in 2008, at about 30 minutes to midnight, and it took me a couple of months to get through it, a chapter a night.

The first thing to say about this book is that it is really brutal. If it was a film, you'd maybe want to look away occasionally, or have a sick bag handy. Human life is cheap in this medieval society, justice is swift, and it doesn't pay well to be a woman, even a rich one.

The second thing is the almost complete lack of fantasy. There is a bit of course, and heavy hints for more to come in succeeeding volumes no doubt, but this is primarily a book about the politics of ruling a large kingdom when the people in charge all hate each other.

I did enjoy reading this. You get a total immersion feeling from the world you are inhabiting. There is a big cast of characters, and the chapters flit between them giving you views of the situations from all angles. The country itself seems to be about the size of England. In the north, it is freezing all the time and a huge wall has been built across the northern part country to keep the Others/Wildings out. What are the Others? I'm still hardly any the wiser. The climate is variable, but it seems that every ten or twenty years a mini ice age occurs. No one can predict exactly when it will happen, but in the time of the novel, it is overdue, and definitely imminent. Winter is coming.

Any epic fantasy without battles, heroic deaths, treachery and deceit and all those good things would be pointless, so we're not disappointed in those areas. But it is reallllly long, and there are so too many characters that it is easy to get lost a bit along the way. The narrative shifts from person to person and each has their own individuality that you come to recognise, but the bit players, all the knights and outlaws and so on, merge into one at times.

This book is merely a prelude to the ones to come, like a pilot episode of a long running TV series. It introduces the cast and sets the scene for all the shows to come. And it has a great climax to get you to come back for more. I'll be back.

Posted by se71 at 11:30 PM | Comments (0)

December 29, 2008

World War Z - Max Brooks

World War Z - Max Brooks

Book 39 in my 52 books in 52 weeks in 2008

Finishing off the year with a couple of books that go back to the basics of some good old SF/Fantasy/Horror. First off, this one, which all the cool kids have been reading, and I've looked forward to since I first heard about it in the spring. Coincidentally, Penny Arcade also featured it while I was reading it - here in a funny cartoon.

What would happen to the world if zombies were real? I do not think this is a disaster scenario that the United Nations are considering, but no need, Max Brooks has it covered.

This is a clever story told from the point of view of the survivors of a World War against zombies. Some of these are ordinary people, some soldiers, and they come from all four corners of the world, from China to Israel; Cuba to Australia.

Every story is in the form of an interview, and each interview follows chronologically if not geographically on from the last. It begins with a doctor who discovered the first outbreak in a remote Chinese village. As the infection spreads, interviewees come from neighbouring countries, until the whole world has to deal with the zombie horde.

I was worried a bit about the detailed political and military knowledge I might need to follow to get me through the book, and in places it does get a little overwhelming. It quickly switches tack though away from this bigger picture to tell individual stories of survival and heroism - some would be great standalone short stories.

It is a very enjoyable and grizzly read, and a testament to just what you can do if you take one ludicrous idea, assume it is real, and extrapolate from there. I loved the way the zombies, with no mental facilities except the desire for human flesh, walk into seas and lakes and get lost (they don't drown of course, just wander around).
There quite a few neat touches like this.

so, finally, a book that does live up to the hype. Read it.

Posted by se71 at 11:47 AM | Comments (0)

December 01, 2008

52 Books in 52 Weeks - November 2008

I am now certain to fail in my challenge, which is a shame. i've tried this past month to read a bit at my desk at lunchtimes, and managed a few chapters. It's difficult though.

Cycling to work is great, and on the days I do not cycle, my new office is only sensibly reached by car. So no public transport and no time to read.

I am ploughing slowly through a large fantasy novel at home, which I aim to finish before the end of the year. About a chapter a night before I go to sleep.

Nevertheless, here are the two books I completed in November

No Time For Goodbye by Linwood Barclay
Coraline by Neil Gaiman

The Barclay novel is a thriller, and not that bad, considering it is a Richard and Judy bookclub book. High literature it is not, but it was easy to read at my desk

Coraline I read to my daughter as a bedtime story. It worked well like that, and we both enjoyed it, and are now looking forward to the release of the film adaptation next year. Once again though, I struggle to see just what it is about Gaiman that people love.

Posted by se71 at 01:10 PM | Comments (0)