Saturday, June 18, 2011

2011 books, #51-55

The jury must die, by Carol O'Connell [audiobook]. Read by Cristine McMurdo-Wallis. Rearsby, Leics.: W F Howes, 2005.

I got about half a disk into this and realised I'd had it out of the library before, remembered all the characters - but then had no idea what happened in the end! I'm hoping it was one I couldn't renew and had to return unfinished! I gather this one is also known as Dead famous in the US. There are some fascinating characters in this, including Johanna Apollo, a psychiatrist and hunchback, in witness protection since she was part of a jury which found a radio shock-jock not guilty for a crime he almost certainly committed, and since the jury members began being systematically murdered.

South: the story of Shackleton's 1914-1917 expedition by Sir Ernest Henry Shackleton. Kindle edition.

This is a completely fascinating and frequently quite gruesome account of Shackleton's ultimately failed journey to the Antarctic, frostbite and all. Although not one you're likely to want to read while you're eating - too much mention of eating partially-cooked seal blubber for that... Shackleton first covers the part of the expedition he was on, including the loss of the Endurance to the ice, and then takes his men's accounts of the other aspects of the expedition (there was the exploring party, and another party at the other side of Antarctica charged with providing supplies for the exploring party when they got to their goal). The first part of the book is absolutely riveting, as the climate ultimately becomes the winner and the goal becomes survival. However, Shackleton is unstinting in criticism of the landing party at the other side, who waited much longer to be rescued and lost three men - you do get the impression that he's unwilling to give the credit for good management to anyone else. There's a great deal of pathos, too, in the fact that when the explorers finally reach land in South Georgia in late 1916, they want to know who has won the war, and have no clue that it's still going on; and also in the fact that they all signed up, and lost as many men in the last year and a half of the war as they did in three years of endurance on the ice.

I went for the free Kindle edition, but there are many of these at different prices - I'm assuming the more expensive ones have maps.

The darkness of bones, by Sam Millar. Kindle edition.

Sometimes you get a book which is just awful on many levels. I kept on with this with a sense of horrified fascination. It purports to be set in Northern Ireland (and is based on a child sex scandal there) but apart from mentions of Dublin, Belfast and so on, it may as well be set in Joe Pickett's Wyoming or Charlie Parker's Maine woods. The spelling veers wildly between British and US usage - "the colour of the center", for instance - and there are some quite weird malapropisms - "voyageur" for "voyeur" - and many uses of homophones (the usuals, reign/rein, breaks/brakes, tire/tyre but also some bizarre ones like begin/begging). The plot is also pretty distasteful with a lot of badly-written graphic violence which seems to be included for effect, and no sympathetic characters. Not recommended. I would say 'you get what you pay for, and it was only 70p' but actually, you usually get an awful lot more than you pay for!

Silver, by Steven Savile. [S.l.]: Bad Press, 2011. Kindle edition.

This, on the other hand, was 70p extremely well spent!

Thirteen people burn themselves to death simultaneously in public squares across the world, while announcing forty days and nights of plague and terror on the world. Shortly afterwards in Berlin, there's a sarin attack on the underground. The shadowy Ogmios unit, an ultra-secret Special Ops team, go in pursuit of the Disciples of Judas, who have declared war on the West. The action concentrates on Berlin and Rome, with a very nicely- (and geographically-accurately)-written short episode in Newcastle. Highly recommended to anyone who would have liked The Da Vinci code to have been written with skill and imagination. The heresy at the heart of this one is original and fascinating, unlike the tired old "sensation" Dan Brown doled out, and the writing is taut and well-crafted with some interesting and likeable characters. Oh, and the word "symbology" isn't mentioned once...

Brooklyn, by Colm Tóibín. London: Penguin 2009.

A Kniterati book - not one I'd have picked up otherwise, but this time that's not necessarily a good thing. Eilis, an innocent in her early 20s, leaves her home in Ireland for a job in New York organised by a friendly priest. It's a fascinating look into New York in the 1950s, and a window into a different world of constraint, and standards of behaviour, and so on - ultimately I didn't enjoy it because the great "choice" Eilis has to make is largely determined for her - she's almost a cypher, and a bystander in her own life.

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