52. Lazybones by Mark Billingham, 2003, 406 pages.
53. Girlfriend in a Coma by Douglas Coupland, 1998, 284 pages.
I’ve been depressed lately, and with depression comes a lack of ability to read, so thus far this is the entirety of the reading I have accomplished in August, which is a record low for me. Even worse, the first two books, the Billingham novels, were re-reads, as I simply couldn’t concentrate on anything new and finally searched my study shelves for something I thought would catch my interest enough that I could stop playing Farmville for five minutes and try reading a book. It did work, but my span of attention was far shorter than usual. When my daughter bought me the Coupland book for my birthday earlier this week, I was pleased enough that the computer got stowed away and I’ve been reading pretty happily since then; I do love his books.
Both of the Billingham books are very good; I particularly recommend Sleepyhead. It’s his first book, which is nothing short of amazing, as the plot, the characters, the writing, are all so taut, and the ending is so swift and clear and believable, even when you can’t believe your eyes. It deals with a serial killer who is not trying to kill his victims, but is trying to make them victims of locked-in syndrome; he has managed it once and now he has Scotland Yard tripping over its own feet trying to prevent it ever happening again.
‘Girlfriend in a Coma’ is an odd book, but excellent reading, that starts in September of 1979 when a 17-year old female named Karen, having just had sex for the first time, has two vodka and tonics and two valiums and then falls into a coma for 17 years. Her friends and the world change around her and what happens in her friends’ lives before and after she wakes up is the subject of the story. I found the book extremely good until the last twenty pages or so, at which point Coupland abandons his usual skill at writing fine endings for books, and instead preaches, moralizes, and otherwise almost managed to turn me off the entire novel. I was very disappointed that he chose to wind things up this way. However, the book is still worth reading, but if you haven’t read Coupland, start with Microserfs or Hey, Nostradamus! instead.