Red Moon – Kim Stanley Robinson

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Any time I hear Kim has a new book it’s an auto purchase for me, no need to even read the blurb. After so many hits I just know whatever story he tackles next will be great and this book is no exception.

An interesting observation I noticed while reading this book was that I do find it quite interesting how books and movies and their choices in protagonists change over the years. Back in the 80s, the baddies were always Russians but now we see the Chinese being used more and more, no doubt a reflection of US politics. This change is a mixed bag in my mind, while I do enjoy the chance to explore characters of different backgrounds, it’s the names I struggle with. I’m completely clueless when it comes to their naming conventions and pronunciations, which leaves me unable to fully immerse myself in the characters. Hopefully, increased exposure to these types of characters may sort that out but only time will tell.

The best part of Kim’s stories is that they are always dosed with a touch of reality, the stories really feel like they could happen. I can fully see the Chinese sending people to the moon and that in turn starting another space race with the USA, so for the book to have this idea as the backbone of the story was great and easy to digest.

A simple technician (Fred) on an almost routine trip to deliver a product to the moon gets involved unknowingly in an assassination plot. Colour me intrigued. From there it’s a quick jump into political instability, power struggle and coup-de-tats, which seems more important than one of the main characters who might be the first to give birth on the moon, Chan Qi. While I thought Fred and Chan Qi were the main characters the events back on earth seem to overshadow the idea of a human born on the moon, with that story being given only a few lines, to my great annoyance.

That aside I really loved the political flavour of this story, trying to figure out along with the main characters what was going on and who was involved was quite a bit of fun. Definitely more of a political thriller than a sci-fi story but a great read nonetheless. I might even have a look at trying to read some more political thrillers now

 

The Sudden Appearance of Hope – Claire North

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Claire keeps one-upping herself with each new book and its unique plot. This time around we find our story revolves around a young woman named Hope. Hope is unique in the sense that when she was 16 people started to forget her. Now stay with me, for this does sound strange but for some reason, people that meet Hope are unable to make long term memories of her, so pretty much as soon as they look away they forget all about her. It really serves the story that Claire doesn’t try to explain how or why this occurs. The downside to this unique ability is the loneliness, Hope can’t have friends as they just forget about you and her family has no clue who she is, Fortunately, the story doesn’t harp on this too much but it does focus a lot on her loneliness but it isn’t an overly emotional book thankfully.

From this unique concept, a story is born. Imagine what you could get away with if people forgot who you were as soon as they can’t see you. Walk out of a restaurant without paying, go on a massive shopping spree, Rob a bank. Fortunately, Hope chooses a more interesting choice and becomes a Jewel Thief. It is in the process of stealing some jewels that the plot thickens when a woman in the same hotel commits suicide which brings to Hopes attention a social media app called Perfection.

Perfection is control, that pretty much sums it up. The app “suggests” to you what to eat, who to be friends with, what to wear, locations for holidays and then rewards you for doing them. It’s an advertisers dream, not to mention that it’s also linked to your planner, bank accounts and every aspect of your life. It’s truly a creepy big brother for the 21st century.

This app becomes the focus of Hopes anger and where our story really heats up. I really liked this story, even though I found it difficult to relate to Hope it didn’t detract me from the story. It also serves as a great warning on how much of our personal data we should let social media have access too. I can’t wait to see what Claire delivers next

 

The Little Prince – Antoine De Saint-Exupery

136538I have often heard of The Little Prince, so when I decided to increase the number of “translated” books I own. I thought i’d give this one a try. Yet as I worked my way through the story I found myself asking what the heck is this about, It read like a kids book, with matching pictures and i had trouble connecting with it as such.Some crazy trip to different planets with bizarre and weird occupants, was very reminiscent of Hunter S. Thompson.

After finishing it i was still at a loss to describe the book, i have never had to delve deeply to discover what a book was about. In general a book conveys a story but this story didn’t make sense, so i reached out online to try and find help in understanding this story. I remember i used to mock my Shakespeare obsessed, socially quirky English teacher back in high school because she was always trying to over-analysis a story by asking what did the author mean, what concepts was he/she trying to convey. I was like chill Miss he just wrote an entertaining story about adventure why ruin it by over-analysis. But now with this book i needed that over-analysis to figure out what was going on.

I had found a place to discuss this book but before i could even start, The first thing i read was by a woman who wrote, (SPOILER ALERT) firstly are you aware the little prince dies at the end? I mocked her to myself and thought no he didn’t he goes home. But then she goes on to say to reread the book but with the eyes and mind of an adult.

As i begun this second read through, it occurs to me that since i initial thought it was a child’s story i read it as such. So as instructed i approached it differently and it was as if the curtains had been pulled down from my eyes. It was as if the story was like one of those crazy 3D images where on the top is one picture but if you look hard underneath is another. This book is like that, on the surface its a child like bedtime story but if you look through the narrative you see a cleverly crafted world beneath trying to teach a lesson.

Every planet The Little Prince visits has its own Moral, it shows just how weird adults and their behaviours can be to a child. The lamplighter, who follows his orders to the letter without question giving him only 1 minute of free time a day, The business man, so busy counting stars he fails to live his life, or the drunkard who drinks to forget the shame of drinking. Such behaviours to a child come off strange and weird and yet to an adult they are somewhat familiar.As adults we can sometimes get so caught up in what society expects, we forget to think about what we want or whats truly important.

Then we come to the fox, how can a child’s story have such a profound impact on an adult. but yet here i am reading of a fox who tells me that true beauty is invisible to the eyes. Society drills into us so much that looks and appearance are all that matters but when you come to the heart of it that’s all bullshit, its whats underneath that’s truly important

Now i come to the sad part, originally sad because i thought the story was over and the Little Prince goes home but really its much worse than that. The Snake is society, the little prince a child. Society promises the world to a child and in the case of the book, the snake tells the prince i’ll help you get home. But in reality, all society does is kill off the innocence and purity of a child. The Death of the Little Prince corresponds to the death of the child in each of us. We become mindless automatons in society lacking imagination and focus on materialistic things rather than fun. We do things because they are expected of us or because we “have to” not because we want too.

This isn’t really a children’s book, its for us adults who still can remember being a child and have that knowledge that we can never really go back to that time of innocence and youth. This book tells us its important to hold onto that memory and that we don’t have to listen to the Snake. There are still parts of the book i cant quite understand or determine the morals and perhaps that is because society hasn’t fully changed me and i still have a little bit of my inner child still alive in me….

 

Touch by Clair North

22314178I have read quite a few books (who hasn’t) probably a couple of hundred and I can count on one hand the number of books that made me lose sleep and hide from society. I’m not talking from fear or sadness, I’m talking about a book that hooks you in so bad that you lie awake at night wondering what happens next, you cancel social engagements to allow time to read. You call in sick to work to ensure you don’t run out of time and have to leave the book at a crucial point because it’s time to go to work.  This author has written two of these books.
Claire north is just a pseudonym for Catherine Webb, who in her teens wrote a lot of YA books, then when she hit 20 she started writing adult fantasy and so her publisher said its pseudonym time (kate Griffin) to ensure readers don’t get confused. Later on as she wrote books of a completely different style of writing and content it was time for a new name (Claire North) As someone who judges books by covers, and googles authors before picking up a new book this makes a lot of sense. If when I first saw 15 lives of harry august and then googled her name, if I saw she wrote YA I probably wouldn’t of grabbed the book. So kudos to her publishers I am the very type of person they thought of when saying its pseudonym time.
Touch is an amazing roller-coaster of a story, the plot is unique enough to pique my interest and her writing clever enough to keep me wanting more. It isn’t so much so the character I love but the story, I mean just wow. Kepler, is brutally murdered but in the last moments reaches out to the murderer, when suddenly the unthinkable happens, she switches. Kepler is now in the killers body. Kepler now has the ability to jump from one person to another and we are now drawn into a world where people are paid to allow someone to “reside” in their body. A secret society if you will, But when one such body is brutally murdered, Kepler soon finds out not everyone is happy with the idea of this ability

Claire delivers another knockout story, the level of depth she brings into the world is stunning. After I read her first book I went out and bought all the books by Clair, so I cant wait to dive into her next one

Home – Harlan Coben

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I’ve been waiting 5 years for this book, granted for most of that time it didn’t exist but i had hoped for another book in the Myron bolitar series. Then new years day this year Harlan posted on his twitter a picture of page one of this novel being typed into his word program. After 5 long years book 11 was on its way, while not the longest wait between books in this series that belongs to to book 8 being 6 years after book 7, it was the hardest.

Book 10 Live wire, really wrapped a lot of story lines up. Myron shut down his Sports Rep company, so his employees  Esperanza and Big Cindy go there own way, and his best friend Win goes into hiding. It really felt like the story was over.

Set only 1 year after the previous book in the series, we find Win still in hiding but on the trail of a kid who went missing 10 years ago and after a disastrous encounter with the kid, Win decides  to call his friend Myron in to help as this case is personal. The kid is one of two who went missing 10 years ago, once of which is Win’s cousins kid, which i guess makes it his second cousin.

After the reunion between these best friends,  Win explains very little to Myron about his time away, however in a change of pace there are a few chapters that are from Wins POV and has him explaining stuff to the reader, something quite different for Harlan. It was through these POV expositions that we find Win was a lot closer to home than we realized. In the intervening year when with the help of his nephew Mickey, Myron final finds his brother long thought dead and in a touching tribute to the strength of their bromance we find Win was close by just in case.

This story was one of Harlan’s best, i loved it! I’m sure part of that love is being reunited with these characters after all this time. So one must wonder if another book was released in this series would i still feel so positive about this book?

While this book does in a sense have closure with the gang back together again, i still feel like there is the potential for another story dealing with Win’s absence and what occurred while he was in hiding and in true Harlan style it could easily be something from his past coming back to grab him, a recurring theme in his books.

A careful reader will also notice the shock revelation about Em’s long elusive father at the wedding.

 

The Long Cosmos – Terry Pratchett & Stephen Baxter

The Long Cosmos – Terry Pratchett & Stephen Baxter
There is something immensely bittersweet about the final book in a series, the fast approaching conclusion and reality of it being the last time we visit this world always makes the final book in a series a sad thing. More so this time considering the author died before this book was released
Many months back on hearing the news of his death i selfishly was concerned that the book would be unfinished or someone else would finish it and thus the writing style be different but it turns out Terry and his co author pretty much wrote all 5 books years ago. So my worries were unwarranted.
The final book in the series is set several years after the previous ones. Our main man Joshua has lost his wife and is estranged from his son. So in keeping with his character he says screw the world i’m going for a sabbatical and by sabbatical he means a journey into the many parallel worlds that make up the long Earth. I just love the concept of parallel worlds (the long earth) in the book. Such a unique spin on this scientific concept.
At the same time he leaves a startling event occurs, a message is received from space and while the message is analysed and deciphered,  Joshua runs into trouble out in the wilderness when he breaks his leg when an animal runs him over. Trapped in the middle of no where with no one around he contemplates his life right when the world at large needs him the most. The message has been deciphered and it says JOIN US.
Final books in a series always run the risk of not living up to expectations and while i loved the story, the ending left me wanting more. I should of seen it coming, each of the previous books rarely answered questions and this is the same. The book drew many parallels with the book/movie contact and just like that, this ones ending is left unresolved.
I loved this series so much, it tapped not only into the human desire to explorer but also notions that family isnt always blood and that the pursuit of knowledge for knowledges sake is a worthy adventure.
I really will miss these so very well crafted characters and with one the authors passing it really is the end. So many tv shows get canceled before they finish properly and the same can be said for book series much like the bourne series, yes someone else may pick up the reigns and continue but its just not the same. Here we were lucky to have a series of books from start to finish and such a wonderful series it was

The 100 Year Old Man Who Climbed Out The Window And Disappeared – Jonas Jonasson

The 100 Year Old Man Who Climbed Out The Window And Disappeared – Jonas Jonasson

Who needs to describe the plot when the massively long title does it for you. But for those of you who hadn’t already figured it out, the story is about a 100 year old man who yes climbed out a window but its a bit more complicated that. Alan (the 100 year old man) is in an old folks home, not really by choice, he was sent there for blowing up his home, but that is a long story. He has a nasty nurse who keeps taking his hidden booze off him, so when he finds out that the old folks home intend to throw a surprise 100th party for him he has had enough and wants out. Being limited in his options and mobility, he decides to climb out the window and run away albeit very slowly since he is 100.

First stop after a sloth like crawl out the window is the nearby bus station, a short walk away for most but for him it was tiring, he approaches the sales person and asks how far he can get for 500 crowns, well its set in Sweden so all the currency is theirs too. Google converter tells me its about 20 bucks. Which seems a far more reasonable amount for a senior to have on them.The money wont get him too far, guess bus travel is expensive over there. So while he waits a few minutes for the bus arrive he sits down. Then a stranger approaches him and asks if he could hold his suitcase while he goes to the bathroom, before Alan can respond the man is off running for the toilet, just as Alan’s bus arrives.

Here is where the story takes an interesting turn, Alan looks at the bus, then looks at the suitcase and pretty much thinks ahh screw it, and takes the suitcase. At the end of the bus journey Alan with the help of a new friend opens the suitcase and discovers it is filled with millions of crowns, not actual crowns of course but the currency used in Sweden, what follows is an hilarious adventure and accidental heroism that would put the Pink Panther or Mr Bean to shame.

A hilarious adventure of Alan avoiding the police looking for him (our of concern) and of the gangsters looking for their money, Along the way Alan gathers new friends including an Elephant. We find out all about Alan’s past including meeting Presidents, Dictators, Secret police. We learn of his albeit almost unbelievable good luck and Alan finds out once again what it means to feel truly alive.

A fantastic read full of laughs