April 29th, 2012


Book #27: 2010: Odyssey Two by Arthur C. Clarke

The sequel to 2001: A Space Odyssdey was never going to live up to its predecessor, but I still found it to be an enjoyable read, having picked it up several years ago, and decided to make my way through the whole series again. Of course, now that it is 2012, this book (set two years ago, and written in 1982) is now somewhat dated.

Because I realise not everyone will have read the original book, or seen the film, I’ll put the rest behind a spoiler cut.

[Spoiler (click to open)]

Arthur C. Clarke constantly recounts events from the previous book, and occasionally gets a bit carried away, presumably for the benefit of anyone who didn’t read it; aside from that, the way this book is told is very similar to its predecessor, with a lot of the story taken up by quite impressive descriptions of events that occur out in space.

The book brings back Heywood Floyd, who is part of a team sent to find out what happened to Dave Bowman, who also shows up, now in the form of the Star Child, and the book does explain more about what was going on at the end of the original book. HAL is also resurrected, although he doesn’t actually get that much to do.

Some of the characters in the book are easier to care for than others, although there is an apparent sexual tension between some of the characters, which isn’t explored as much as it could have been. I also found the moments with Dave Bowman appearing to his mother (through the television) to be very moving.

The first few chapters of the book seem a bit slow-moving, but the story picks up in the second half, and the finale is quite breathtaking at times, with Jupiter being destroyed and a new sun appearing above Earth, but most of what the book does is pose new questions instead of explaining what is going on, and I was never sure if Arthur C. Clarke had the whole series planned in his head when he wrote this, or if he was just making it up as he went along.

This is a worthy follow-up to one of the greatest sci-fi books of all time, but don’t expect anything that will completely live up to its predecessor.

Next book: Lean on Pete by Willy Vlautin
Dead Dog Cat

(no subject)

Before my day started, yesterday, I only had a few pages left to read in my book, so of course I finished it:

Zen and the Art of Stand-Up Comedy was a solid discussion of what it's like to do stand-up, and how to go about it. It goes into attitude and appears to give sage advice to the newcomer. I found it quite engaging.
book and cup

#47 Landed - Tim Pears (2010)

I was lucky enough to be sent this novel by Windmill books following a give-away on Twitter. Landed was originally published by William Heinemann in 2010 and then by Windmill books in 2011.
This was Tim Pears 6th novel – I have only read 2 of the others – one I loved (In the place of fallen leaves) and one I like rather less (Revolution of the sun). I also watched the TV adaptation of his novel In a Land of Plenty – and heard from my mum that the novel was wonderful too – I didn’t manage to get around to that one but wish I had.

Landed is quite a bleak novel, the story of a man’s life as it comes apart at the seams is terribly sad, but beautifully written. Owen Wood is a quiet man, a gardener who had spent much of his childhood on the hills of the Welsh Marches helping his grandfather on his sheep farm. Owen has a love and understanding of the natural world, but now he lives in Birmingham. Following a car accident that results in the loss of his dominant hand and his eldest daughter Sara, Owen’s life begins to fall apart. His marriage fails, his business fails, and he is tortured by phantom limb pain, he takes to drink.

The story of Owen’s childhood with his grandfather learning about the ways of the countryside is interspersed with documents surrounding the events of Owen’s progress following the accident in Birmingham, an accident report, a case study, internet forum posts – these documents keep the adult Owen at arm’s length for the reader at first. This I am sure is deliberate – as Owen does slowly emerge – a deeply wounded man, separated from his two children, estranged from his wife. Owen decides to undertake a journey – back to the hills in the west where he had spent so much time as a boy. As the journey Owen takes with his children progresses the reader does feel that something isn’t quite as it seems, and yet I was a bit dim about what was happening and so didn’t see the end coming at all, I am sure I should have done. Landed is a beautifully evocative novel, the descriptions of the countryside, so rich in detail, one can smell the woods and see the hills rise up off the page. The picture of a broken man is truly heart breaking. This is a novel that will live in the memory for a long time. I now want to go back and read the earlier novels of Tim Pears I have missed.


Genl U. S. Grant famously described his 1864 Overland Campaign with a line, "I propose to fight it out on this line if it takes all summer."  That campaign took more than the summer, but ended the war, at a lower human toll than that levied by his predecessors in the east.  Twenty years later, the now past-President Grant lent his name to a Ponzi scheme (as events transpired) set up by Gilded Age hustlers Ferdinand Ward and James D. Fish.  The Ponzi scheme unraveled, and Mr Grant contracted a cancer.

To provide his survivors with an income, he, in partnership with Mark Twain, contracted to write his memoirs.  Grant's Final Victory: Ulysses S. Grant's Heroic Last Year, is the account of that writing.  Book Review No. 11 will note that it is a lot more.  Samuel Clemens, for instance, deserted to Nevada from a Missouri Rebel unit that was being pursued by the 21st Illinois Regt, then under the command of Col Grant.  President Grant expressed regret about the conquest of the Southwest from Mexico, and anticipated the potential of the U.S. as a world military and commercial power.  The reader will also learn of a Presidential appointment of a three-year-old grandson to West Point (yes, there was a Genl Ulysses Grant in service in both World Wars) and of other contemporary military histories of the Civil War that might make for instructive reading.

(Cross-posted to Cold Spring Shops.)