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Showing posts from April, 2013

The File on H by Ismail Kadare

It’s a great feeling to go back to an author that you positively adore. I like to space out people like Kadare, Vonnegut and Hrabal (it would seem in the later’s case with many years between books) so that there are moments of unalloyed joy to look forward to amongst the often unpredictable excitement of reading things I once thought might be interesting but have forgotten why. Kadare is one of my favourite authors, my collection of whose work is still blissfully incomplete. The File on H was purchased in one of those mad rushes to own the entire back catalogue of authors with whom I found a sudden connection – these rushes are destined to peter out and this one certainly did, but the impulse to complete collections carries me onwards however shiftless I become. Nonetheless, it’s been quietly calling to me for a while, so I did finally give in to its siren song.
Whoopee!
To label this, the winner of the Man Booker International Prize 2005 if such things matter to you, as satire is akin…

The Radleys by Matt Haig

To review this book, another long-held and seldom contemplated work brought to the forefront of the consciousness by the persistent presence of the author on somemicro-blogging siteor other, without first making clear a disclaimer for said review would be unjust, and I'm just the sort of chap to be completely unjust, just for the sake of it. And also for the cheap laughs. Therefore, before continuing, I must state the following:
1.    This book has teenage vampires in it 2.    It is also ostensibly a book for teenagers 3.    The author of this book writes other books for teenagers 4.    I made a mistake in reading this book
Number 4 could well do with a quick explanation. I regret nothing, except that I appear to have wilfully disregarded the majority of publicity that I had read both about the book and the author, and was at first surprised by numbers 1 to 3, and then disappointed that I hadn't remembered that I already knew all this.
And yet I persevered! I don’t just give up bec…

House Of Suns by Alastair Reynolds

To be honest – a disclaimer of such persiflage that it makes me do a little bit of sick in my mouth – I got this book free from Waterstones in 2007 as a give-away promo thingamee and have um-ed and meh-ed over it since. However, as it survived the Great Purge of 2012 I felt it must hold some latent significance so, unhindered by preference I finally picked it from the shelves to peruse.
An epic space opera it is, or is billed as such, and it ticks most if not all of the boxes for the genre – far future communities, massively advanced technologically, staggeringly epic life spans of protagonists, limited empathy for transient cultures etc. The Boy from Barry done good they tell me. Compares favourably to Banks et al I was flattered to read (vicarious gratification from a very tenuous local link). Shortlisted for a Hugo Award in 2011, eh? And yet, when I compare this to something like Marrow by Robert Reed, another doyen of the profession and  winner of a Hugo in 2007 (for A Billion Eve…

The President's Last Love by Andrey Kurkov

Preparing to write a review I considered what I knew of the former Soviet country from which Andrey Kurkov hails. And it amounted to this:

1) Former Ukrainian footballer Oleg Romanovych Luzhny [Олег Романович Лужний] is the most capped captain of the international side (which at the time of Luzhny's retirement from international football also included erstwhile Liverpool FC striker Andriy Viktorovych Voronin [Андрій Вікторович Воронін])

2) The national flag is split equally between two fields of yellow (bottom) and blue (top) thus:


3) Andrey Kurkov had written (at least) two novels featuring a truly poignant penguin named Misha, rescued from Kiev zoo when it closed.

4) I habitually but inexplicably refer to the country as The Ukraine.

This last thought caused me some confusion. I considered first that it might be because it begins with a vowel, but I don't say "The Albania". Perhaps because it begins with the letter U? No again; Uzbekistan does not share Ukraine's fat…

A Tan And Sandy Silence, and The Long Lavender Look by John D McDonald

Travis McGee novels are all uniformly rather good; entertaining narratives, jovial floridity, good-old-fashioned misogyny, guns, birds, boats and booze. Sadly, when read one after the other, this means that such trivial little things as plots get hard to differentiate from each other. My mistake therefore has been to read these two contiguously with no other literary diversion in between, as I can now no longer remember what happens in each. For those who like that sort of thing, I will attempt a limited, non-spoiling plot summary but, understandably, this may become confused and disorientating, so be warned. One thing I will say before I begin such a fool’s errand is that contrary to my opening statement, the previous Trav narrative I read, which may or may not have been Dress Her In Indigo, was disappointing, and these two novels represent a welcome return to a more polished form of gruff and chivalric silliness.


Travis runs his big daft car off the road after nearly killing a half-n…