September 14th, 2013

Dead Dog Cat

(no subject)

More books this week:

First was Reefs and Shoals, an Alan Lewrie series novel, a rapscallion captain in the Napoleonic era. Not quite as good as some of the previous novels in the saga, but good enough to keep me going. I'll move on to the next one, later this year.

Next was Osprey New Vanguard #82: V-2 Ballistic Missile 1942 – 52 talked about the precursors to our Space Program and the modern missile systems. Not bad.

Then there was Osprey New Vanguard #88: British Battlecruisers 1939 – 45: I wonder if you'd call this class of vessel a failure? Heavily armed, fast, but significantly under-armored? Interesting read.
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Books 75 & 76 for 2013

The Confession of Brother Haluin by Ellis Peters. 162 pages.

When Brother Haluin falls from an icy roof, no-one expects him to live. But he does, and having confessed an old sin in extremis, he sets off to seek forgiveness from the people he feels he has wronged. Brother Cadfael goes with him, as he is still weak.

But others are less happy to have the past stirred up and Haluin's journey causes upheaval in more than one household….

Another enjoyable reread, although the resolution was less than satisfactory in places.

Murder with Peacocks by Donna Andrews. 237 pages.

Blacksmith Meg Langslow returns to her hometown to organise three weddings, one of them her mother's. When one of the wedding guests dies in mysterious circumstances, Meg's mystery-obsessed father starts an investigation...

I was a little uncertain about this one to start with, as I was incredulous at anyone putting up with the treatment Meg receives from her family and supposed friends, but after a while, I realised it's not really supposed to be realistic and went along with the silliness and I quite enjoyed it. Some of the characters are quite endearing, especially Meg's dad, and I even gained a bit more sympathy for her lazy manipulative mother toward the end too, although I still want to slap her with a fish.

Book 164: NOS-4R2 by Joe Hill

Book 164: NOS-4R2.
Author: Joe Hill with illustrations by Gabriel Rodriguez, 2013.
Genre: Horror. Vampires.
Other Details: Hardback. 692 pages.

Victoria McQueen discovers that she has a talent for finding lost things when the Raleigh Tuff Burner bike that she receives for her 8th birthday opens the way across a decaying covered bridge that transports her wherever she needs to go to find the object or answer she is seeking. Elsewhere, Charles Talent Manx likes to take children for rides in his 1938 Rolls-Royce Wraith with the NOS-4R2 vanity plate. The car allows him to drive away from the everyday world onto the hidden roads where he transports the children to a sinister amusement park called “Christmasland” where they shall remain as children forever.

Vic McQueen, now aged 17, has a huge fight with her mother and in anger sets out on her bike to 'look for trouble'. Using the bridge she finds herself at Charlie Manx's Sleigh House where she finds the trouble she is looking for. A lifetime later, Vic is the only kid to ever escape from Manx and now is an adult with a child of her own. Yet Manx has never forgotten Victoria McQueen and now he is on the road again seeking a terrible revenge.

The original title in the US was NOS4A2, though it was published under the slightly different NOS-4R2 in the UK. I have to admit that I didn't get the title until Manx explains the meaning of his vanity plate to his minion Bing Partridge. This is very much an old-fashioned horror tale with a spine-chilling vampire at its heart who is neither glamorous nor romantic and more in the vein of Count Orlok from the 1922 German silent film Nosferatu as the novel's title suggests. I found Vic McQueen a brilliant character, somewhat Sarah Conner-like in her passionate desire to protect her child in the face of a formidable enemy as well as being hardened by her own experiences.

I do find a fair amount of similarity between Joe Hill and his Dad in their mutual ability to transform the everyday into the horrific and to create very down-to-earth working class characters. Indeed, given the number of tips of the hat in King's direction in NOS-4R2, there were a couple of times when I had to remind myself that this was Hill and not King. In an interview Hill gave about the novel he called this "my senior thesis statement on horror fiction," and also said that given his father's place in modern horror fiction that he had decided not to duck from this association and so playfully 'sampled' from King's works.

Hill has obviously taken inspiration from those films where there is an extra scene that takes place after the credits. So in this case it is well worth reading to the very last page for an embedded epilogue. He also playfully suggests that Apple's iPhone app is capable of tracking people beyond everyday reality.

This really was one of the most disturbing novels I have read for years; drawing on childhood fears and the tropes of classic and modern horror fiction. There is also a dark humour evident within the novel, often expressed by Charles Manx's in the form of quips and observations. I liked the line illustrations as they added a flourish to the story.

Book #46: A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin

Number of pages: 835

I made the decision to read the first book in the A Song of Ice and Fire series after hearing lots of good things about the Game of Thrones TV series, and enjoying watching the first season.

My impression of the storyline was that it was sort of like a fantasy soap opera for adults, with the large number of characters and intertwined plotlines, but I found that it grew on me easily.

This first book introduces the reader to the various characters, as George R.R. Martin's world is home to a large number of families, with the kingdom ruled by Robert Baratheon, with Ned Stark as his right-hand man. The book talks about the fierce rivalry between the Stark and Lannister families, which escalates into a battle later on in the book.

Quite early on in the story, Ned's son Bran Stark is pushed out of a window while eavesdropping and there is lots of talk about a conspiracy revolving around the death of Arryn Stark. There's another storyline about Danaerys Targaeryn living with a tribe known as the Dothraki, which also involves dragons' eggs. This is also mostly at the behest of Danaerys' obnoxious brother Viserys, who has been promised a "golden crown".

The next bit contains spoilers, so I'll put it behind a cut:

[Spoiler (click to open)]

When Viserys finally receives the crown, needless to say it isn't what he'd expected, as he succumbs to a very original death, which involves molten gold being poured over his head. The later parts of the book also deal with the King's desire for Ned Stark to take over the throne as his spoiled son and heir, Prince Joffrey, is too young to be King yet. However, Joffrey is having none of this and has Ned arrested as traitor.

Now, comes the shocking part that I did not expect; after Ned Stark - told he will go free - acknowledges Joffrey as King, he is beheaded anyway. I think I was particularly shocked when I watched the TV version, having not read the book yet, as I was expecting him to somehow be rescued. However, this is a book where every character can be killed off without much warning, and that's what makes it all the more exciting to read.

I found it useful to read the book after watching the first season on TV because it made it easier to follow what was going on at times. What makes this fantasy series original is that it focusses significantly on all of the behind-the-scenes political dealings, mostly related to the various feuds taking place. This does mean that the story is very character-driven and there is a lot of talking, but the dialogue for all characters is written very well.

Overall, I enjoyed the way this book was written, as it was very descriptive about what the world was like, and went into a lot of detail about backstories. There was a good impression of atmosphere, particularly in the sequences revolving around characters in the Night Watch. While at times it felt a bit long-winded, I found myself compelled to keep reading so despite the book's length I got through it in just over a week.

A recommended book.

Next book: The World According to Bob (James Bowen)