Well, March wasn’t my best month for reading. I only (just) made it through four books, and one of them was a graphic novel so comparatively quick to read. That’s what happens when I pick up a book that doesn’t draw me in – I go into procrastinate mode and do everything else instead. (Although I did make a bunch of pretty DIY t-shirts in all that time I didn’t spend reading books.)
Anyway, with some delay here’s the Bookshelf for a rather meh-y March.
Trigger Warning: Short Fictions and Disturbances by Neil Gaiman
Oh, so conflicted. I love Neil Gaiman. Love, love, love his novels and children’s books. Every single one of them. But this book just seems to be lacking the essential Gaiman-ness that makes his other works so brilliant and magical. When reading a collection of “disturbances” with a title like Trigger Warning – a choice which the author even emphasises in the foreword – I would expect to be at least mildly disturbed or triggered. Well, I’m freaked out easily, by stuff that most people wouldn’t even consider really scary. And yet there was only one single story in this whole book that got to me. As for the rest, some stories are mildly creepy in a pretty cliched and predictable way, and many left me completely unmoved, so – and I’m really sorry to say this about one of my favourite authors – for me this book just didn’t deliver what it promised.
Pens: 2 out of 5 (because that one story was really bloody scary…)
V for Vendetta by by Alan Moore and David Lloyd
I don’t really read graphic novels. In fact I think I’ve never read a full graphic novel – well, certainly not since I grew out of reading the Ducktales comic books. I came across this one in the middle of my dystopian reading wave and really enjoyed it, even though I found it a bit weird to read something that’s not written in neat lines and also caught myself skipping over the artwork and actually having to go back several pages to look at the pictures. (Doh.) It’s a great story of oppression and anarchy, and a beautiful piece of dystopia – even though V’s lengthy political and sociological monologues can be a bit over-dramatic at times. But I guess the drama is part of the appeal… And now that I’ve mastered comic book n00b level 1, you might see the odd graphic novel appearing on my future bookshelf. (In fact two more are already ordered and on the way!)
Pens: 4 out of 5
The Long Earth by Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter
When Terry Pratchett went and started a new sci-fi series I knew I had to read it, even though I don’t massively enjoy sci-fi. At least this wasn’t hardcore sci-fi with aliens and spaceship battles and stuff, but I still found it fairly difficult to get into. I think the problem – as with many series – is that the book spends too much time setting the scene. I mean, the whole idea of an infinite number of copies of Earth suddenly being available for anyone to explore should be exciting enough, but I found myself waiting, and waiting, and waiting for the actual plot to emerge – which it finally does, in the last third or so. Sure, there’s stuff of interest happening before, but it all feels a bit like loose ends (or rather loose beginnings) which don’t seem to lead anywhere, and I personally find it very hard to stick with a book if I can’t see where it’s going, or at least where it’s aiming for. In fact, I got really hooked on the last 50-ish pages, so I immediately bought the sequel. Certainly works as a business model, or if you’re planning to read the entire series. But as a book standing on its own, The Long Earth doesn’t really deliver what it sets out for.
Pens: 2 out of 5 (and that’s being generous, with one star purely awarded for character development)
The Long War by Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter
It pains me to say this about a book by Terry Pratchett, and I’ve tried – I really tried, even reading the second book after not particularly enjoying the first – but I just really didn’t like the Long Earth series at all. Usually I finish a book in less than a week, so just the fact that I spent most of the month on those two books will probably tell you how utterly they failed to engage me. You’d think that a sci-fi saga of humanity spreading out into countless copies of Earth that have suddenly opened up would make for an exciting adventure, but in the midst of all the Earth-stepping and discovering new worlds I think the authors forgot to keep an eye on the plot. Because the plot hops, much like the steppers of the Long Earth, somewhat randomly across worlds and narrative strands, repeating the same old conflicts over and over and OVER. Explorers of new frontiers vs those who stay at home, defenders of untouched environments vs the industrial machine, advocates of newly discovered sapient species vs backwards-thinking conservatives who want to control them… I would have thought that once we’ve covered all these themes, somewhat tediously, in the first book, maybe the second part would have something new to offer. Instead it’s basically the same story warmed over and served again, without any kind of development to speak of. (And the war promised in the title never even happens.) According to the title of the third book, they’ll be going to Mars next. Well, I’m staying at home.
Pens: 2 out of 5 (and only because I can’t possibly give a one-pen review to a Pratchett book)