Archive for January, 2012

Book 787 Cormac McCarthy – Blood Meridian, or the Evening Redness in the West

January 23, 2012

One thing I am so sick and tiring of reading is the violence in Blood Meridian. True this is a book with a high body count but I see it as McCarthy’s way of telling us that the desert is a brutal place with no morals and full of savagery. It’s not  violence for the sake of it.

The book starts off with the main character (called the kid) running away from his house and travelling to Mexico. On the way he gets arrested and his only way of escape is to join a gang of scalp hunters, led by  The Judge.

The Judge has got to be one of the most fearsome literary characters ever invented. A man with his own code of morality , he kills and destroys life and yet he records the things he’s never seen in a notebook, and he adopts a mentally defective child on his journey with the scalp hunters.

Like All the Pretty Horses , McCarthy’s desert is full of nasty surprises and a certain ugliness assaults one wherever you go. Whether it is an army of blood thirsty Indians or a bear, danger is everywhere and the troop of  scalp hunters will stop at no cost to get their precious pound of hair filled flesh, even killing their own team in the process.

Yes this is a big ugly book , but McCarthy’s poetic descriptions just elevate it to another plateau. There’s even a cinematic quality to the writing, however unless it’s Alejandro Jodrowsky, I can’t really imagine anyone else trying to adapt Blood Meridian.

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Book 788 Carl Sagan – Contact

January 15, 2012

 

Funnily enough whenever I browse through the 1001 book I always land on the page where Contact is featured. Sagan has also featured in another way in my life as I had a lecturer who was obsessed with his works and carried a hardbound copy of Cosmos with her a couple of times during lectures.

So now our destinies meet!

Ellie Arroway is a scientist who specialises in extraterrestrial contact and one day she receives a signal confirming alien life. After lots of research and ethical discussions she discovers that the code the aliens were sending are actually the co-ordinates of a machine to visit the alien life. After even more discussions a team of scientists manage to build the machine and visit the star (Vega) on which the signals were emitted from.  When they do arrive they are in for a surprise.

Honestly I felt that Contact started well but had an ending which was a bit silly. In fact I felt ripped off plus the constant nerdy scientific detail was exhausting but other than that Sagan does write some very interesting points about the ethics of alien communication and there are some plot twists which come at the right moment – although I did predict some things as well. On the whole I felt that Contact was a good book but not as great as I imagined it.

 

Book 789 Marianne Fredriksson – Simon and the Oaks

January 1, 2012

 

 

 

A new year and a new book review! Unfortunately it’s not a very positive one.

I had very high hopes for Simon and the Oaks. I mean a coming of age story set in Sweden during the holocaust and then developing Europe. In theory this should make me salivate but it just didn’t.

Simon is Jewish and lives with his Swedish aunt and uncle (there is a reason for this but i’d be giving away half the book) and during his free time he spends hours amongst the oak trees , where he confides his secrets. Later on in the novel Simon is joined by a Jewish refugee, Isaak and the two grow up together and experience the trials of life.

On a positive note these characters are developed very well and Fredriksson does talk about teen angst, falling love and facing the world as an adult extremely well, but my gripe is that this book does not flow, rather it feels like a bunch of stories that were chucked inbetween two covers accidentally. At times I did get restless and when I did finish the book, I  ultimately felt that I wanted more.

Incidentally this book is out of print so I advise a bit of caution if you want to check it out.