December 18th, 2010

Dead Dog Cat

(no subject)

Over the last few days, I've read a graphic novel written by Warren Ellis called Two-Step. It's a mildly amusing look at a future fictional London, nicely illustrated, rather graphic. Not bad.

Book 132: The Inheritance of Loss by Kiran Desai

Book 132: The Inheritance of Loss.
Author: Kiran Desai, 2006.
Genre: Period Fiction (1980s). Indian Literature. Literary.
Other Details: Paperback. 324 pages.

This 2006 Man Booker winner is set in the mid-1980s and moves between the dual locations of India and the USA. It is the first of three novels I read this autumn, selected by reading groups, that deal with the issues of illegal immigration, economic inequality and racial prejudice.

In the town of Kalimpong at the foot of Mount Kanchenjunga in the Himalayas lives an embittered old judge who wants nothing more than to retire in peace. When his orphaned teenage granddaughter, Sai, arrives on his doorstep change is inevitable. Meanwhile his cook's son, Biju, is living in New York City bouncing from one menial restaurant job to another, trying to stay ahead of the US immigration services. Biju's experiences are paralleled by the judge's memories of studying in England in the 1940s. In India, chaos looms as an Indian-Nepali insurgency grows and Sai finds that her tentative romance with her Nepali maths tutor, Gyan, is threatened by their conflicting political interests.

For such a short novel it is extremely rich in ideas and hosts a large cast of characters. It tackles a range of issues including multiculturalism, fundamentalism, inequality, racial prejudice and globalisation. It does also address themes of love, duty and regret. Although the narrative is fairly bleak throughout, there are also moments of humour often provided by the small incidents in its characters daily lives.

When the novel won the Man Booker, it was subject to threats of book burning by residents of Kalimpong. Although not strictly autobiographical, Desai does have a personal history with the region and admitted that elements were close to her own family's story.

Overall I found this a complex and beautifully written novel that didn't shy away from examining racial and other prejudices as they exist within diverse cultures. However, I found it a novel that was easy to admire for its depth and the important issues it addressed but proved hard to love. As a reading group selection it generated a lively discussion on its issues, style and various characters.

This novel was selected in 2009 for The Guardian Book Club: 'The Inheritance of Loss' - Book Club Page.

Books 133-134: Relic and Undead and Unreturnable.

Amidst some fairly heavy reading it is always refreshing to read something lighter, which doesn't require any reflection. Both these fall into that category

Book 133: Relic (Agent Pendergast 01).
Author: Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child, 1995.
Genre: Science fiction. Horror. Thriller.
Other Details: Paperback. 442 pages.

Relic is set in and around a fictional version of New York's American Museum of Natural History. Preparations are under way for a major exhibition titled Superstition when a series of brutal murders take place within the museum. There are rumours of a Museum Beast and tension runs high among staff and law enforcement officers. As the museum's directors are determined to go ahead with the opening night bash in spite of the murders, it falls to a few individuals to discover who or rather whatdunit.

Forensic evidence points to a doomed exhibition to the Amazon basin in the 1980s in search of the lost Kothoga tribe. An important Kothoga relic was found and shipped back to New York linked to the legend of the Mbwun ("He Who Walks On All Fours"). Could this have some relation to the murders? Well, as the fairly unsubtle tag line on my edition's front cover reads: 'Alien meets Jurassic Park in New York City' no great spoiler to say that a beastie is involved.

I have been dragging this poor bedraggled paperback around for the last month reading bits here and there. As I had read the book back in 1996 and also seen its film adaptation, The Relic, a fair few times, I was familiar enough with the story. My main reason for re-reading it now was that I recently became aware that my favourite supporting character in the book, FBI Special Agent Pendergast, has continued to featured in a series of thrillers by Preston & Child that enter X-Files territory. So I wanted to refresh my memory on the original book before tackling the sequels.

I realised reading it that there were quite a few elements of the film that I thought were in the book that weren't. Still certainly a fun and exciting read and easy to see why this collaboration has proved such a winning formula.

'Relic' Page on author's web-site with links to background info and excerpt.

Book 134: Undead and Unreturnable (Queen Betsy Book 04).
Author: MaryJanice Davidson, 2005.
Genre: Paranormal Chick-Kit. Humour.
Other Details: Unabridged audiobook; Length: 5 hours, 6 mins. Read by Nancy Wu.

The fourth instalment of this vampire-lite fluff has been my audiobook in the car in December. I was very glad of it yesterday while I was stuck in traffic for ages while a flurry of snowflakes brought my little corner of England to a stop.

This was quite a light slice of Betsy and associates with a Christmas theme that suited the current holiday season. There was a sub-plot about a serial killer targeting women of Betsy's physical type but as she's already dead and has all that vampire strength it was hard to see this as anything but a minor threat. A fair amount in this story felt like a set up for later books in the series. Fun and undemanding and with each book I am growing fonder of Betsy and her pals.
El Corazon

244. Krakatoa...

Krakatoa: The Day the World Exploded, August 27, 1883
by Simon Winchester

Started: December 10, 2010
Finished: December 18, 2010

This history of the great volcanic explosion at Krakatoa was well-written and -researched. Unfortunately, it was also kind of boring. I've read some of Winchester's other histories and enjoyed them, but I think this one was just too broad a subject. There weren't any distinct people or personalities to follow. Still, it's not a bad book at all, just not my cup of tea. 384 pages. Grade: C+
Total # of Books Read in 2010: 244
Total # of Pages Read in 2010: 61,053