Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Short Takes

Monument 14 by Emmy Laybourne.
A book needs a plot, a climax and an ending.
This unfortunately had none of the above.
Unless you count 14 kids stuck in a store while the world outside is ravaged by "hail that was not the size of hail" and a gas cloud (that turned some people berserk, or have hallucinations or come out in boils) as a plot. The characters were very uni-dimensional and the only even slightly likeable character was Max, a kid whose age hasn't even been mentioned. Mediocre writing coupled with badly dealt emotional scenes was all there was to read. 
Actually come to think about it, 1 star.

The Year of Our War by Steph Swainston.
This book features some terrific prose. The writing is honed to a level rarely displayed in debut novels. Features a unique idea, and a very well developed protagonist. Miss Swainston offers some very interesting insights into the mentality of a junkie. Although there is an inherent flaw to her unique idea of having giant insects as the enemy; they aren't all that interesting and they can't have a point of view either.
I Liked this one considerably apart from the weird secondary world. I have a problem with weirdness when it stretches the limit of believe-ability, when my brain starts viewing fictional content in terms of toonish animation rather than the visually crisp dream-like experience, I rely on fantasy to deliver.
Don't get me wrong I love animation but things like three human heads on top of a rat's body or a creature with a hand in-place of a head that communicates through sign language may be delightful for some people but just doesn't work for me.(Not that any of these things actually appeared in the book, this is just an example of why I don't love Mieville-ish or new-weird aspects.)

Overall, though this is a very fine piece of fiction which I must admit in-spite of my reservations due to the secondary world weirdness. 

4 stars with reservations.

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