Category Archives: Fiction

Altered Carbon – Richard Morgan

Wow! How does one review something like this book?

To start with… It’s hard, brutal, nasty and cruel. It’s got rape, torture, snuff, hardcore literary pornography and other unpleasant stuff, even some bestiality thrown in for good measure. So if any of that kind of stuff bothers you, seriously, don’t open this book. Instead, you can go and watch, what i presume will be, a tamed down version on Netflix. I say ‘presume’ because i most certainly am not going to be watching it after reading this book as i don’t want Netflix ruining it for me, plus, i’ve got plenty of really good books to read instead. After reading this book, i’m very content with the impression the book leaves, any video hack job of this book will only diminish that contentment.

The story is in the first person narrative of our protagonist, Takeshi Kovacs, who was a highly trained military asset known as an ‘Envoy’. ‘Envoy’ being quite the twisted, euphemistic description of what his military role used to be. And as an Envoy, Kovacs was trained to have no feelings towards anyone or anything. He’s essentially just a pure, flat affect machine designed to get a job done that normal military assets can’t be used for, for one reason or another. But now he no longer works for those who trained him and instead uses his training as a free lance criminal with devasting effect.

So, with that in mind, you are taken on a journey from the point of view of a weaponised, mal-adjusted, amoral, machine like mind, and at times it can become quite the uncomfortable ride.

On top of all this, the book is set in the future where human minds can be decanted into software and ‘re-sleeved’ into new bodies, either real, synthetic, semi-synthetic or virtual and as such some of the characters have been alive for over 300 years. These older characters are known as ‘meths’, short for ‘Methuselahs’ named after the longest living character in the bible. It is one of these meths that has employed Kovacs, under duress, to find out who killed him in his last ‘sleeve’. And so we go on a high octane, magical carpet ride on steroids as Kovacs takes on the worst of the future of humanity in his search to find answers.

It’s not an easy read either. As you are seeing things from the point of view of this highly trained military killing machine you have to pay the attention to the details as he is, and you do find yourself having to re-read a few pages here and there. But it’s certainly worth that extra effort in what it pays back.

All in all, to sum it up, ‘A fantastic book, but most definitely not for the faint of heart.’

I can’t wait to get into book 2 of this series, ‘Broken Angels’

Richard’s Page.

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A Fine Balance – Rohinton Mistry

I paid nearly £5 for this over 4 years ago and i’ve no idea why. I just found it while sorting through my Amazon account. And because i paid so much for it i’m gonna have to read it, ain’t i?

And at that price it had better be very, very good, or i shall have a rather extreme, fictional hissy fit and pretend to do something really, really naughty.

Rohinton’s page.

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The Bone Clocks – David Mitchell

One more David Mitchell book has been read, this one, maybe even his greatest.

When i began reading David’s books it was simply because of the furore generated by the film, ‘Cloud Atlas’. With all the expense, $102 million budget, it seemed worth it to me to give the book a read before watching the film. After all, no one paid $102 million to see this film be made without having read the book first.

So i read the book, and was so impressed by David’s writing that i went back to the beginning and read all of his books in order.

What i loved about some of his early books, like ‘Cloud Atlas’, were his subtle interconnections between seemingly unrelated short stories to create a whole story throughout. But as one moves along his list of books in their published order, one gets the feeling that he’s doing this with the books themselves. Each book does have subtle interconnections to his other books, and one is left wondering, after finishing his 6th book, is there a bigger story underlying all of his books that is yet to be revealed? Maybe, maybe not, it certainly wouldn’t detract any if there wasn’t but one can’t wait for his future books to see.

Back to ‘The Bone Clocks’… our story begins in Gravesend, Kent, with our protagonist, a teenager, Holly Sykes, who hears voices in her head and sees imaginary people. The story then flies off into the supernatural world of other beings and whizzes around the world with all kinds of odd and strange things going on, some natural, some supernatural, but all of which keep leading us back to Holly. It’s certainly quite a journey that Holly goes on and it’s one worth tagging along with her through this book.

And while we’re happily whizzing around the world, our writer also throws his usual little critiques at our contemporary world and life randomly into the mix, and David does have an exceptional talent in this area which always adds a little food for thought and makes reading his books a joy, IMHO.

Longlisted for the Man Booker Prize 2014, but didn’t get shortlisted – shame on them! But it does show just how good a writer David is when he’s had three of his six books longlisted, and two of those shortlisted. That’s quite a tally, and not to mention the other awards his books have received along the way.

I still haven’t got around to reading more of David’s books. I keep putting it off until my memory of the first 6 fades away then i’ll re-read them and totally binge on all the new ones as well, and see what this back story tells in them.

David’s page.

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The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet – David Mitchell

And onto David Mitchell’s fifth book…

It’s certainly a change from his other books, being based in Japan at the end of the 18 Century at the Dutch East India Company’s island/trading post, Dejima.

When the Shoguns closed Japan to westerners they left Dejima as the only doorway into Japan for Europe’s trade, and it was the Dutch who ran Dejima.

The book centres around actual historical events, but names and dates are changed to allow David to weave his tale. And the tale takes us inside ancient Japanese nefarious occult beliefs and practices as we follow our protagonist and his love for a Japanese midwife who becomes entrapped within the cultists’ lair, all the while having to deal with the political machinations within the interplay between Dejima, Nagasaki and the Shogun in Edo.

Once more, a great piece of story telling from this incredible writer, and a also an incredibly interesting look inside the life and work of Dejima itself at a very interesting time in Japanese history. Well worth a read after you’ve read David’s first four books, but do expect something rather different.

And i’m now embroiled in David’s 6th book, ‘The Bone Clocks’, which is more in style with his first four books and i’m enjoying immensely. I’ll let you know what i think soon.

David’s page.

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Black Swan Green – David Mitchell

One more book by David Mitchell that i just finished.

This book is definitely different to his first three books in that it’s semi auto-biographical. David is a stammerer and uses this book as his kind of coming out statement by creating a protagonist, 13 year old Jason Taylor, who is also a stammerer.

Jason lives in the, ‘nothing much happening at all’, village of Black Swan Green in Worcestershire (wherever Worcestershire is), and the book is written in 13 chapters each representing one month from January 1982 to January 1983.

One of the things that stands out most about this book is the utter lack of political-correctness, words and views. Back in the early 80’s, and before, we had no concept of political-correctness whatsoever. Children with defects and disabilities were hounded, abused and bullied — i know, i was a child with a serious disability in the 60’s and 70’s, or, as we were officially termed… ‘invalids’. It’s quite incredible to think back to how society used to view people with disabilities… simply dismissed, officially, as ‘invalid’ people.

There was simply no concept whatsoever in the general population of disability discrimination being seen as anything wrong — it was completely socially acceptable. I was 17 in 1982 and the way things were back then were very different to today. We had never heard of dyslexia, for example, and children who couldn’t read or write well were just branded as retarded, stupid idiots, segragated into remedial classes and generally shunned. For David Mitchell growing up with a speech defect back then i can imagine that life would not have been easy at all for a 13 year boy – which is what this book tells the story of.

But i have to say, this is an excellent look at life back in the early 80’s in general. The views of the school children that David writes about really take the reader back in time so vividly, especially for those of us who were teenagers back in the late 70’s early 80’s.

So i definitely recommend this book to anyone who was a teenager back in the late 70’s early 80’s, especially if they had any kind of disability. Having been a child with a disability back then i found this book very cathartic. And i would also recommend it to all teenagers today, especially those who think that people’s disabilities and differences are invites to be bullied and abused and to be thought of as being lesser people. I would even go so far as to say that this book would be an excellent book for GCSE English, it would certainly make children think about a few things that they should be thinking about — it would be far more socially constructive for the next generation to be reading books like this than reading ever more shakespeare and dickens which haven’t done anything to improve our society at all.

Anyway, well worth a read. And i’ve now just began reading David’s next book, ‘The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet’. I’ll let you know what i think once i’ve finished it, as always.

David’s page.

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Cloud Atlas – David Mitchell

All i can say is if you’ve watched the film and haven’t read the book then you’re missing out on something special. Go read the book, the film is utter shite.

For those who don’t know, the book is a set of six short stories that all interconnect with each other, but here’s the thing, is that you get half way through the first short when you are dumped into the second. Half way through that you are dumped into the third. And so on until you read all the way through the sixth one and come back down to the second half of the fifth, fourth, and so on until you finish the second half of the first story and reach the end. Amazing climax!!!! Literary orgasm!!! Superb read!!!!

I really like this six shorts in one with ties between thing. It’s definitely a thing, albeit rather rare. It’s certainly something that i want more of.

‘What Lot’s Wife Saw’ is also a 6 part book. Instead of short stories it’s about 6 letters all being intertwined into one story. Admittedly a lot different to Cloud Atlas, but still the six come together to make the whole.

So anyways, if anyone reading this knows of any other books that are a collection of 6 intertwined naratives that make the whole (i won’t complain if its 5 or 7 so don’t be too picky ), please let me know as i’m really enjoying this genre of writing.

David’s page.

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number9dream – David Mitchell

Yet another great book from David Mitchell.

This story has us following a young Japanese man, Eiji Miyake, looking for his father through Tokyo’s twists and turns.

Eiji has never met his father as he is the child of one of his father’s affairs. Eiji’s twin sister died in a swimming accident when he was young and he is also estranged from his mother, and in so being this puts even more emphasis on meeting his father and being acknowledged as his son and finding some family.

The strange thing with this story (there always seems to be a strange thing with David’s stories), is that while the whole book is written in Eiji’s first person perspective, only part is real while the other part of it is the pure fantasy of Eiji’s imagination. But where real and fantasy meet, and which is which, one is left feeling never quite sure as they blend so seamlessly taking the reader on a journey where fantasy and reality become the same and/or irrelevant.

This is certainly a great book, especially for those estranged from parents while young, and a fantastic adventure (or maybe a fantastic fantasy) through the seedy underworld of Tokyo.

Well worth a read! David Mitchell is truly one of the greatest writers of our time.

David’s page.

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Ghostwritten – David Mitchell

David Mitchell’s first book, and what a masterpiece of a short story collection it is.

I’ve now got ‘Number9Dream’, also by David, lined up, then i plan to read the rest of David’s books in order and when David’s added a few more to the pile i’ll definitely be coming back to re-read them all over again from the beginning.

I’m definitely a huge fan of David’s writing and can truly see why he’s been shortlisted with two books for the Booker Prize already and has won other awards for his writing also.

David’s page.

The following is a little bit of a spoiler, and if you are definitely going to read the book, then do that before reading the rest of this post as you’ll spoil it.

<<<<< SPOILER BELOW >>>>>

 
 
 
 

In a similar way to ‘Cloud Atlas’ each short story is subtly interconnected as you move from one to the next. But whereas in ‘Cloud Atlas’, where each story is a jump through time, in ‘Ghostwritten’ one is left with this weird feeling of the oddest synchronicity.

The image i’m left with in my head after reading this book is that of the never ending stairs…

Never ending staircase optical illusion.It really is an incredible piece of writing and a wonderful use of short stories. I do plan to read it again, so i’ll update this post if i have a different idea of it after a second reading as i’ll already know where i’ll end up when i start the book so it’ll be a whole different experience — ergo my spoiler alert.

So have a read and see what you think at the end – or maybe that should be ‘when you get back to the beginning’.

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Lost For Words – Stephanie Butland

A most lovely book in its own right, but especially if you like books about book shops. If you do like books about book shops then this ones a good ‘un, it’s like a mix between ‘The Little Paris Bookshop’ and ‘The Keeper of Lost Things’.

But as well as being a lovely book in its own right, it really spoke to those of us who have been through the ‘Care of the Local Authority’ system (or at least it did to this one of those ‘us’).

And then there’s the added bonus that was all the Whitby stuff. I used to go there a fair bit in my teenage years and if, like me, you remember Whitby from your childhood, then that’s another reason to read this book.

Did i mention the mystery thing? Yeah, there’s the usual mystery going on for you mystery readers — will it be solved or won’t it, what’s it all about, etc., etc..

Oh, and before i forget, there’s even a love story thing as well? Yeah, one of those, but, don’t worry, it won’t distract you from the best bits.

So it’s pretty much got a bit of everything going on in it, and it’s got it going on really well, so it’s definitely a keeper. One day i plan to get around to reading it again.

Stephanie’s page.

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More 2018 Braggin’

Yeah, more literary braggin’ from 2018. This one shows the total pages i read as well as the total books.

While it would be nice to beat the book total in 2019, my actual goal is to beat the pages read total – because, as you can see, the books can vary in page length by a huge amount. Anyone can read 300 books in a year if they’re all shorts of about 14 pages, and likewise, anyone would struggle to read 20 books if they were all around 1,498 pages.

So i’m thinking 25,000 pages has to be the goal — we shall see how it goes at the end of 2019.

Not surprised at ‘The Night Circus’ being so popular. If Erin never writes another book she’ll always be deservedly famous for that one, and can probably retire off the funds too. But instead of retiring, Erin’s new book is out in November 2019, and we’re all looking forward to that, aren’t we?

What i am surprised about is ‘A Child at Heart’ being the least popular. It’s a great book and really is worth a read by everyone — especially parents. No wonder the world’s going to shit in a u-bend if people won’t read stuff like this. #nohope

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