Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Replay by Ken Grimwood

Ken Grimwood
1987, 1992, Ace, New York

Jeff Winston dies of a heart attack in October 1988, then awakens again in his old college dorm room, as his younger self. He goes on to 'replay' his life again and again.

This book made me smile. The prose is really beautiful and it's so full of hope. I loved being drawn into the story, and also to consider what I would do given these circumstances.

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Sunday, December 28, 2008

The Little Friend by Donna Tartt

The Little Friend
Donna Tartt
2002, Random House, New York

Set in a small town in Mississippi, The Little Friend tells the story of Harriet, whose older brother was murdered when she was a baby. As a twelve year old, Harriet vows to find and punish those responsible for her brother's death.

This is a dark story, I didn't think it was as taught as The Secret History, but it's still a great book. Tartt writes such fantastic characters and puts them in scenarios so real you can nearly smell the dusty streets of Mississippi.

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Friday, December 19, 2008

Love and War by Paul Cornell

Love and War
Paul Cornell
1992, Doctor Who Books, London

The Doctor and Ace travel to a planet called Heaven where the dead from a number of cultures are sent for burial. Ace falls in love with a Traveller called Jan, but their love appears doomed when the dead begin to rise again.

An enjoyable, if convoluted story, and utterly confusing. The 'war' parts of this book were much better than the 'love' parts ... haha.

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Friday, December 5, 2008

The Twelve Deaths of Christmas by Marian Babson

The Twelve Deaths of Christmas
Marian Babson
1979, 1981, Keyhole Crime, London

A psychopath is on the loose in London at Christmas, killing strangers with whatever is at hand. The book is written with some chapters from the point of view of the killer, and the rest of the chapters are written in the third person.

It was such an interesting device to have part of the book written from the killer's point of view. The narrator never gives away their identity, just little clues dropped every now and again. It's like a manor mystery, with a limited number of suspects all living in a house together, and I didn't guess who it was until they were revealed.

This is just the story to get you in the Christmas Spirit!

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Wednesday, December 3, 2008

The Farseekers by Isobelle Carmody

The Farseekers
Isobelle Carmody
1990, Starscape, New York

This is book two of The Obernewtyn Chronicles set in a post-Apocalyptic world where some humans have developed new mental powers. Elspeth is a farseeker - she has the ability to look into the minds of others. When her home is threatened, she begins a quest to find an old library, and a new powerful ally.

The first chapters of the book are a bit of recount of what has happened in the first book - which was good for me seeing as I hadn't read the first book, but chapters like that can be a little boring. I enjoyed the story, although I felt it was let down by a lack of focus. Most quest stories have one really strong quest, which isn't resolved until then end, but this one had a series of connected quests and they gave the novel a stop-start feel. The premise of the story was interesting, but hardly unique; the well-developed characters are what really drove the story.

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Friday, November 21, 2008

The Clockwise Man by Justin Richards

The Clockwise Man
Justin Richards
2005, BBC Books, London

The ninth Doctor and Rose Tyler travel to 1920s London and encounter a mystery involving faceless killers and mechanical creatures.

This was an adventurous story, full of action. I really liked the character of the painted lady with all her masks.

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Saturday, November 15, 2008

The Bloody Wood by Michael Innes

The Bloody Wood
Michael Innes
1966, 2001, House of Stratus, Thirsk

Sir John Appelby, a senior detective inspector, is visiting his friends, Grace and Charles Martineau, as Grace is near the end of a long illness. When Grace turns up dead prematurely, and Charles soon follows, Appelby investigates their deaths.

The dialogue in this book is a little stilted and loquacious, but when you get used to the writing style, it is rather witty and charming. I love old English manor murder mysteries, and this was a good example of the genre. Innes writes with intelligence and subtle humour - it's very British!

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Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The Apprentice by Tess Gerritsen

The Apprentice
Tess Gerritsen
2002, Bantam Press, London

Sequel to The Surgeon in which Detective Jane Rizzoli captures the serial killer William Hoyt. In this book, another serial killer has been using Hoyt's signature, then when Hoyt escapes from custody, the two killers team up to form a horrific partnership.

This was another good thriller from Gerritsen ... she can't seem to do much wrong. One annoying thing was the over-explanation of crime scene scientific method - yes, well all know what LumaLight is, we do watch CSI. Tad predictable, but books in this genre are supposed to be predictable, that's the fun.

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Saturday, November 8, 2008

The Ancient Guild of Tycoons by Matthew Condon

The Ancient Guild of Tycoons
Matthew Condon
1994, UQP, St Lucia

Brucey Bird is an all-round celebrity and administrator of an island in the Pacific Ocean. His father was the original administrator of the island, which was claimed by the Empire Garbage Company as a refuse.

This book is impossible to describe, as evidenced by my poor explanation of the plot without trying to give too much away! I was reading this for a long time, but I did enjoy it. It's quirky and clever - there are parallels with Australian history if you can spot them, and its exploration of modern culture is stinging. It's far too complex to describe in full - I really recommend that people read it for themselves.

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Friday, October 24, 2008

Enslaved by Ducks by Bob Tarte

Enslaved by Ducks
Bob Tarte
2003, 2004, Algonquin, Chapel Hill

Bob Tarte is a writer who one day decides to get a rabbit. That one rabbit eventually becomes parrots, geese, turkeys, ducks, more rabbits, and an assortment of other birds. This books tells of their adventures and misadventures.

I really enjoyed the read. A lot of books about pet owners are glossy, cutesy books with overly-crafted scenarios, emotional highs and lows. But this book is excruciatingly honest. The animals are all psycho, and the clueless humans are neurotic and not ashamed to admit it

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Friday, October 17, 2008

Life Without Limits by Helen O'Neill

Life Without Limits
Helen O'Neill
2003, Random, Milsons Point

This is the story of David Pescud, whose severe dyslexia means that he can neither read nor write. He was the skipper of the first Sydney to Hobart yacht manned entirely by people with disabilities. The first half is a typical biography, telling of his struggles with school and life, and the second half turns into a real adventure story of the treacherous 1998 Sydney to Hobart race.

Pescud's is an amazing story. He overcame such great obstacles to become an enabling inspiration to disabled people. The book does not make me want to sail!

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Monday, October 13, 2008

Alien by Alan Dean Foster

Alan Dean Foster
1979, 1993, Warner Books, London

This is the novel based on the movie of the same name, printed in an omnibus edition along with Aliens and Alien 3. The crew of the cargo ship Nostromo are awoken from cryosleep by a distress call emanating from a planetary system they pass though. When they arrive, they discover a deserted ship on the surface of the planet, which is hiding a horrific surprise.

I've never seen the movie, which is shameful, as this is one of the seminal science fiction movies, and one of the only few to have a female hero. I will have to go see the movie now because the story is brilliant. Sure it's predictable, but it's a wild ride.

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Friday, October 10, 2008

Jog Rummage by Grahame Wright

Jog Rummage
Grahame Wright
1974, Pan Books, London

This is a fantasy story about the Jogs and the Rats - sworn enemies until a common threat unites them. Jog Rummage is the brave Jog with the vision and courage to face this new foe.

I absolutely adored this book. The prose is so beautiful, though a little vague at the start. But as the reader continues through the story, it becomes clear that the vagueness is a device designed to keep us from knowing what it truly going on until the author wants us to know. It is superbly crafted.

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Saturday, October 4, 2008

Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman

Neil Gaiman
1996, 2003, Perennial, New York

Richard Mayhew has a normal life in London until he stops to help a young girl bleeding on the streets. She is Door, an opener from London Underground, a fantastical and terrifying place hidden beneath our own world.

This is a very well written fantasy novel. It is set in a place not too far removed from reality which is a clever devise not seen much in the fantasy genre. The characters are all memorable, I especially like Mr. Vandermar and Mr. Croup (reminded me of Mr. Kit and Mr. Wind from James Bond). The prose is image-laden, and the action horrific. It had a tendency to be a bit uneven, but that did not detract too much.

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Friday, September 19, 2008

A Thousand Bones by PJ Parrish

A Thousand Bones
PJ Parrish
2007, Pocket Books, New York

Joe Frye is a female deputy for the Leelanau Sheriff's Department in the 1970s when a small number of bone fragments are discovered. The ensuing investigation uncovers a series of brutal murders, and Frye is set to become the killer's next victim.

This is a well crafted mystery with no fancy tricks - it's just a solid thriller. It was interesting to read the growth of the characters throughout the story, because that is one thing the mystery genre is not known for. The murders were interesting, and I enjoyed the mix of Indian folklore.

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Friday, September 12, 2008

Away and Beyond by AE van Vogt

Away and Beyond
AE van Vogt
1963, 1968, Panther Books, London
no isbn

Eight short stories from one of the masters of the classic science fiction genre, AE van Vogt.

This is an interesting collection, consisting of mainly technology driven stories. It captures all the wonder and hope of the 1960s science and space dreams. My favourite story was The Great Engine about an engineer who discovers a fantastically advanced drive for a ship. I felt the last story in the collection, Asylum, really let it down as the story was vague and confusing.

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Friday, September 5, 2008

Tell No One by Harlan Coben

Tell No One
Harlan Coben
2001, 2005, Orion, London

Dr. David Beck lost his wife eight years ago when she was kidnapped and murdered by a serial killer. But now he receives a mysterious email in which he sees his dead wife alive.

I found the narrator too self-aware and whiny - I know it's supposed to be an emotional book, but the emotion didn't come across as real. The parts that were written in the third person were by far much better. And I really enjoyed all the scenes in New York City, it gave a great feel of the city.

I think this book tries to be clever, but doesn't achieve that as well as it would like. You can see most things coming - there is a kick in the tail, but because of the lack of connection with the reader, we don't really care.

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Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Armageddon Sky by LA Graf

Armageddon Sky
LA Graf
1997, Pocket Books, New York

The Deep Space Nine crew are ordered to investigate when a scientific vessel containing high-ranking Starfleet delegates is caught in a battle with Klingons and crash-lands on a planet being bombarded with comets (what a day!). There they discover a group of Kilngon exiles living with the planet's native population.

Again this author is a bit of a show off with scientific knowledge and big words, but I love it! This book had the right mix of science and technology, character development, and action - one of the better Star Trek novels I have read.

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Sunday, August 24, 2008

Death of a Glutton by MC Beaton

Death of a Glutton
MC Beaton
1993, 1995, Ballantine, New York

A group of people visit a Scottish highlands hotel as part of a matchmaking service. When the co-partner of the matchmaking service - a disgusting, gluttonous woman - is murdered, all of the matchmakees are suspects.

This is a solid entry into the murder-in-a-big-house genre. It has all the conventions - the limited number of unique characters, all with motive and all with something to hide; the love interest for the local, humble bobby; plenty of twists. I thought the characters jumped to conclusions a little too quickly, but other than that, it was a great light-weight read.

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Saturday, August 23, 2008

Rising Son by SD Perry

Rising Son
SD Perry
2003, Pocket Books, New York

Jake Sisko comes across a prophecy which states that the son of the Emissary will travel through the Bajoran wormhole and return with one of the Chosen. He assumes this means his father, who has been taken by the Prophets. When Jake goes through the wormhole, he is thrown deep into the Gamma Quadrant by a storm and picked up by a ship of adventurers.

This is one of 'tenth anniversary' books, so it is set after the TV series left off, which gives the author a lot of license to go nuts with the plot. While I enjoyed the new Gamma Quadrant aliens such as Pif and Brad, I thought there was far too much new plot introduced into the story. This book actually reminded me a bit of an episode of Dr. Who, especially the Wa.

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Sunday, August 17, 2008

The World in Winter by John Christopher

The World in Winter
John Christopher
1962, 1978, Hunt Barnard, Bucks

A great winter comes and knocks the northern nations off their feet. Britain is rendered virtually inhabitable and the Europeans must emigrate to Africa.

I thought this may have been the book the movie, The Day After Tomorrow, was based on as the blurb ends in the sentence: "The World in Winter could be an uncannily accurate prophecy of the day after tomorrow." It is, however, a different story - that's not to say that the movie wasn't based loosely on the premise - this story is about a Briton and his emigration to Africa, whereas the movie is set on the American continents.

It is a book about race, and like The Time Machine, reverses the roles of the day in which it was written (although not to such an extreme). With the European continent in turmoil (and out-of-sight, North America), Africa becomes the most prosperous place on the planet. This is a book of its time, but should not be mis-interpreted as racist. It explores themes of race, but I think it does it fairly and honestly. There is a delineation between blacks and whites, but neither side comes out on top, and neither side is more moral or more immoral than the other.

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Thursday, August 14, 2008

The Head Book by John Marsden

The Head Book
John Marsden
2001, Pan Macmillan, Sydney

John Marsden, Australia's foremost author for teenagers, writes about history, culture, and life in this short book with the aim to arm young people with necessary information.

This is history on steroids. Marsden gives his audience bite sized chunks of information on beliefs, historical events, politics, literature, and the world's greatest thinkers. It is written with the right amount of humour for the teenage audience - just a touch - it's informative without talking down. A criticism is that it gives the facts, but doesn't make the reader think or allow discussion, though it does give additional reading for most topics.

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Wednesday, August 13, 2008

The Cider House Rules by John Irving

The Cider House Rules
John Irving
1985, 1986, Black Swan, London

Set in rural Maine, this is the story of an orphan named Homer Wells. He grows up in an orphanage run by Dr. Larch who takes cares of unwanted babies and gives abortions for unwanted pregnancies.

This is a glorious book - I was moved to tears a few times. It is written in a lovely prose, the transitions in particular are beautiful. And the characters are drawn to perfection.

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Friday, August 8, 2008

Thunderball by Ian Fleming

Ian Fleming
1961, 1989, Johnathon Cape, London

This is a novel based on the screen treatment by K. McClory, J. Whittingham and I. Fleming. A prototype aeroplane carrying two nuclear warheads is stolen by an organisation known as SPECTRE. James Bond travels to Nassau (of course) to investigate.

Classic Bond. Whilst having more detail than the movie, this is still your typical Bond adventure. Bond is cheeky and ruthless, the stakes high, and the girl strong and independent yet fragile as a kitten. There's nothing ground breaking, it's just a safe spy thriller with all the staples of the genre.

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Friday, August 1, 2008

Star Trek in Myth and Legend by Thomas Richards

Star Trek in Myth and Legend
Thomas Richards
1997, Orion Media, London

This book looks at and evaluates the themes of the Star Trek TV series. It takes a film studies approach to the subject matter, focussing on The Next Generation series, but covering all series' and movies.

It is an interesting description of the themes of the TV show. I wish the author would not use such broad strokes when describing non-Trek science fiction though. Star Trek is unique, but I don't think it's as unique and ground-breaking as the author would have us believe.

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Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Seven Houses by Alev Lytle Croutier

Seven Houses
Alev Lytle Croutier
2002, Washington Square Press, New York

Story of a family in Turkey spanning four generations (1918-1997). The book focuses on the women and their lives, culture and history.

The premise of this book - of having the houses tell the stories - is interesting, but not done well. It could have made the book very unique if it had been carried out properly. I did like the writing style however, it's like the reader is viewing things through a veil. And the stories of the family along with the Turkish culture are fascinating.

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Sunday, July 27, 2008

From Baghdad, With Love by Lieutenant Colonel Jay Kopelman with Melinda Roth

From Baghdad, With Love
Lieutenant Colonel Jay Kopelman with Melinda Roth
2006, 2007, Macmillan, Sydney

Story of a little puppy found abandoned in a building in Iraq by US Marines. Kopelman decides to save the dog, and attempts to get him out of the war-torn country.

This book is both heart-breaking and heart-warming. It's about the horrors of war, but also about the hope that an innocent creature such as a stray puppy can bring to those in the middle of it.

I may or may not have gotten a little teary ...

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Saturday, July 26, 2008

Verdigris by Paul Magrs

Paul Magrs
2000, BBC, London

The third Doctor and Jo Grant are visited by another (maybe)Time Lord, Iris Wildthyme and her assistant Tom in their red double-decker bus TARDIS. They have an adventure involving trains full of literary characters, evil sheep and a strange creature named Verdigris.

The writing style of this book suits the weirdness of Doctor Who, without being too weird as to impede reading. I loved all the self-referring references! Iris Wildthyme is an interesting character, she seems to be a reverso-Doctor.

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Thursday, July 24, 2008

The Dispossessed by Ursula K. LeGuin

The Dispossessed
Ursula K. LeGuin
1974, 1975, Avon Books, New York

This is a story of two worlds - a capatalist planet with warring nations and natural beauty, and its moon, settled by anarchists in a created socialist utopia. A brilliant physicist from the moon world travels to the planet in an attempt to teach, learn and share.

This is such a beautiful book. The descriptions of the two disparate societies, and some hard-core physics make for an interesting combination. Even though 'the future of Earth' is only mentioned in a passing comment, I think this book is still important to reflect our own society and perils we may face.

The ending is so uplifting, I have to quote this from the second last page: "A night-blooming flower from some unimaginable world had opened among the dark leaves and was sending out its perfume with patient, unavailing sweetness to attract some unimaginable moth trillions of miles away, in a garden on a world circling another star."

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Monday, July 21, 2008

The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark by Carl Sagan

The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark
Carl Sagan
1996, 1997, Ballantine, New York

Carl Sagan looks at pseudo-sciences such as alien encounters, faith healings and psychic abilities and compares them to the testable hypotheses of traditional science. He argues that the modern world needs to develop a more skeptical view.

Sagan writes with such passion, it's hard to not be affected by it. I particularly enjoyed the section on UFOs. I hadn't read much from the skeptical side about UFOs and abductions before. The comparison to visions of angels, fairies, demons, et al was very interesting. It's an exciting topic which could teach us much about the universe or about human psyche. Why do so many people experience the phenomena? And why do others not?

But the book is about more than debunking UFOs and other pseudo-sciences, it's about clear thought and critical reasoning. Here is a favourite quote of mine from page 429: "(T)he cure for a fallacious argument is a better argument, not the suppression of ideas."

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Monday, July 14, 2008

Dancing Girls and Other Stories by Margaret Atwood

Dancing Girls and Other Stories
Margaret Atwood
1977, 1989, Seal Books, Toronto

A collection of short stories by Canadian author Margaret Atwood.

Most of the stories are excellent, the rest are pretty damn good. And all of them are about us. None of the characters are particularly strong or brave in a traditional sense - they are normal people the reader can identify with. The collection is by turns melancholy and intense, light and amusing. By the end you are left with a feeling of honest optimism.

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Friday, July 11, 2008

When the Wind Blows by James Patterson

When the Wind Blows
James Patterson
1998, 1999, Headline, London

Frannie O'Neill is a veterinarian living in Colorado who makes an amazing discovery in the woods near her home. This novel is about genetic engineering and the pursuit of scientific breakthrough.

Another 'feel good' thriller from James Patterson. I found this one particularly badly written, but that doesn't necessarily get in the road of the story. The constant brand-name dropping gets on my nerves, as does the author's need to describe how the characters are feeling. If you took out a certain scene, and one swear word, I would say this book was written for 14 year old girls.

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Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Masks by John Vorholt

John Vornholt
1989, Pocket Books, New York

The Enterprise is sent to a planet called Lorca, which is inhabited by descendants of Earth who travelled there 200 years ago and subsequently forgot their technological advances. The people of Lorca all wear masks to signify their occupation and position in society. When Captain Picard's away team goes missing (when does it not?), Commander Riker heads his own team to retrieve them.

I found the Lorcan culture and history fascinating. This is more of an anthropological Trek story rather than a technological one - they seem to be the two main genres of the Trek books. The plot line was pretty basic with Prime Directive issues, technology issues, and losing all the command staff on a hostile planet issues. And Picard pulls a Kirk with the exotic alien female!

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Monday, July 7, 2008

One Hundred Great Books in Haiku by David Bader

One Hundred Great Books in Haiku
David Bader
2005, Penguin, London

Long books told in short
Haiku approach poetry.
Makes reading them fun.

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The Rising Sun by Douglas Galbraith

The Rising Sun
Douglas Galbraith
2000, 2001, Picador, London

Story of a seventeenth-century Scottish ship The Rising Sun which heads a fleet to Central America in order to set up a trading colony. The narrator is the clerk of the ship, and it follows him from boyhood, to how he came to be aboard the ship, and the aftermath of the voyage.

This is a well researched and vividly detailed account of life in Scotland in the seventeenth-century and on board a fleet ship. It is well constructed, but a little obvious in places. I loved the subtle humour of the narrator and the prose is beautiful. However, I thought it could have done without Part Three altogether, and just left the story at the end of the sea journal.

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Saturday, June 28, 2008

Star Struck by Val McDermid

Star Struck
Val McDermid
1998, 1999, HarperCollins, London

Kate Brannigan is a Manchester-based PI who takes on a body guarding job for one of the country's most popular soap stars. However, when a clairvoyant is murdered just after seeing her client, Kate is drawn into the investigation.

When I started this, I didn't realise it was a 'cozy', but I enjoyed it nevertheless. It's a solid mystery story with plenty of interesting characters, and enough depth to keep you guessing.

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Friday, June 27, 2008

Armageddon 2419 AD: The Seminal Buck Rogers Novel by Philip Francis Nowlan

Armageddon 2419AD: The Seminal Buck Rogers Novel
Philip Francis Nowlan
1962, 1978, Ace Books, New York

This is an edited novel which integrates two original novellas published by Nowlan in the late 1920s in the Amazing Stories magazine. Buck Rogers is a chemical engineer living in the early twentieth century who becomes trapped in an underground cavern which leaves him in a state of suspended animation due to the cold and various gasses (rather dubious, actually!). He awakes in the 25th century to find America in a state of decay - the native Americans hunted by another dominate race, the Hans.

I would love to read this in it's original form, as this edition was changed to suit the 'modern' (1960s) reader. It's like a cross between a hard science fiction novel, boy's own adventure, and war drama. I found some of the science fascinating, such as inertron and the ultron universe, which is similar to matter/antimatter theories.

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Wednesday, June 25, 2008

The Autograph Man by Zadie Smith

The Autograph Man
Zadie Smith
2002, 2003, Penguin Books, London

Alex-Li Tandem is a Chinese Jewish autograph dealer who lives in London. This book follows him through his life, his search for that elusive piece of paper touched by someone famous, and his search for enlightenment.

I really loved this book. As some of the reviews printed on the cover say, it is just a pleasure to read. The characters are beautifully drawn, and the prose expertly woven. It is a hard book to describe once you've finished, because of the many layers. So I will just have to mark it as highly recommended and leave it at that.

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Saturday, June 21, 2008

Invasion!: The Final Fury by Dafydd ab Hugh

Star Trek: Invasion!: The Final Fury
Dafydd ab Hugh
1996, Pocket Books, New York

The fourth and final instalment of the Invasion! series, set aboard the USS Voyager in the Delta quadrant. Voyager receives a Starfleet distress call from the crippled shuttle flown through the wormhole by Lt. Redbay at the end of the second book, The Soldiers of Fear. When they investigate, they discover the terrifying homeworld of the Furies - a race of demonic beings which enslaved the Alpha quadrant millennia ago.

The first third of this book was a bit disjointed - and it's filled with annoying metaphors, such as page 64: "Kim was giddy, swaying in his seat; he grimly clung on consciousness as if it were a clarinet that some was trying to yank from his hand." Also, the internal monologues of the characters (how they are feeling, et cetera) is distracting.

Despite all that, it's a fantastic read! Ab Hugh always writes great banter between the characters, and this case is no exception. I also adore all the 'real world' Star Trek references in his novels (like Paris and the 'Starburst manoeuvre'). The science/technology side to this story is solid and interesting.

Overall, the series was very well written. By far the best Trek series that I have read.

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Friday, June 20, 2008

The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne

The Scarlet Letter
Nathaniel Hawthorne
1850, 2003, Barnes & Noble, New York

Set in early colonial America, this book centres around a woman guilty of the crime of adultery who is forced to wear a scarlet letter 'A' upon her breast. It's a tale of passion, jealousy and revenge.

I quite enjoyed this story. Although it was written in 1850 about the 1600s, the themes of human behaviour and relationships are still relevant and surprisingly potent. If this were a modern book, it would be described as being 'uncomfortably honest', however, the dated language leaves the modern reader at a distance.

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Sunday, June 15, 2008

The Big Bad Wolf by James Patterson

The Big Bad Wolf
James Patterson
2003, Headline, London

Alex Cross joins the FBI and is immediately entangled in a case involving white slavery, kidnapping and the ruthless man behind it all known as The Wolf.

This was another so-so 'thriller' from James Patterson. The short chapters make it feel like a fast-paced ride, but it constantly loses tension, especially in the parts about Alex Cross' personal life.

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Saturday, June 14, 2008

Contamination by John Vornholt

John Vornholt
1991, Pocket Books, New York

A scientist working aboard the Enterprise - Lynn Costa - is murdered and Lt. Worf and Deanna Troi are appointed to investigate.

This was basically just a murder mystery set in the Star Trek universe. It was interesting to read about a section of the Enterprise and its characters not normally focussed on in the TV show or in the books - the science section and micro-contamination labs. However, as a mystery, it was a bit predictable.

And note to the author - there are no igloos in Antarctica ... the word you are looking for is 'Arctic'. There were a few typographical errors too, but that's Pocket Books' fault.

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Friday, June 13, 2008

The Bobby Gold Stories by Anthony Bourdain

The Bobby Gold Stories
Anthony Bourdain
2002, Bloomsbury, New York

Bobby Gold is an ex-con heavy working for some of New York's finest criminal element. He is quite happy doing their dirty work until he meets Nikki, a chef, and then things get a bit out of hand.

I read this in one sitting, but not because it's the greatest book ever written ... it is written in a very simple style. I suppose this means it would be ideal for reluctant adult readers, but it had the potential to be a better book. Still, the set-up was good and the characters memorable, so I would say it's a fine example of the genre for the male I've-never-read-a-book-since-they-made-us-in-high-school crowd.

However, it says 'A Novel' on the front cover, so I would love to see this written as a novel, and not a novella. It leaves the reader itching to know more of the background of the characters. I mean, Bobby Gold, a Jewish pre-med student winds up in prison becoming best buddies with a bunch of huge Aryan Nation guys ... come on! That deserves more than two sentences in the middle of a paragraph!

I suppose there could always be sequels.

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Double Helix: The First Virtue by Michael Jan Friedman and Christie Golden

Double Helix: The First Virtue
Michael Jan Friedman and Christie Golden
1999, Pocket Books, New York

The final book of the Star Trek Double Helix series. Set outside of television universe, it focuses on Captain Picard when he was in charge of the Stargazer. The Stargazer is sent to investigate a series of terrorist attacks which are set to start a war between two alien races.

This was an interesting read in that it is set outside of the normal Trek universe, and features Commander Jack Crusher along with Ensign Tuvok. It was hard to keep a track of all the different characters in the first half of the book, and a couple of the chapters just felt like padding.

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Tuesday, June 10, 2008

The Form Guide: The Customs of the Contemporary World by James Valentine

The Form Guide: The Customs of the Contemporary World
James Valentine
2007, Australian Broadcasting Corporation, Sydney

James Valentine from ABC Radio in Sydney hosts a weekly segment called The Form Guide where people call in with questions about various social situations. Some of these discussions have been collected together in this book.

This is a very amusing book, but I think it's certainly written for the culture of Sydney city. A lot of it remains irrelevant for me personally, and yet it is still readable. I liked how it was also a cultural history guide - if a little skewed. But the tiny proofing errors irritated me! It needed just one final check through looking especially at bolding and colon use.

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Saturday, June 7, 2008

Power Hungry by Howard Weinstein

Power Hungry
Howard Weinstein
1989, Titan Books, London

The Enterprise is sent on a mission to the planet Thiopa to provide aid to the people there due to an environmental catastrophe. When they arrive they discovery the Government more concerned with protecting its own power than protecting its citizens.

This is a typical Trek plot - a little bit clichéd. Nevertheless, the lack of a unique premise is made up for with the quality of the writing.

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Friday, June 6, 2008

American Psycho by Brett Easton Ellis

American Psycho
Brett Easton Ellis
1991, Vintage, New York

Patrick Bateman is a rich Wall Street banker living in New York City in the late 1980s. He has a fairly typical life except for one thing: he likes to do depraved things to women (well, maybe).

This was not really an enjoyable read, however, it was a very interesting book. I loved the contrast between the boring banality of Patrick's everyday existence, and the sheer horror the torture and murder scenes. My favourite chapter was the one on Whitney Houston - it was just hilarious.

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Thursday, May 22, 2008

The Voyage of QV66 by Penelope Lively

The Voyage of QV66
Penelope Lively
1978, Mammoth, London

A post-apocalyptic book about a group of animals who set off on a voyage in a little boat through the flooded remains of England. They are trying to find London Zoo and have many adventures along the way.

It's a cute book. I like how it was told from the point of view of the dog, and only gave hints as to what happened to the humans, without being a cautionary tale.

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The UFO Phenomenon by Time Life Books

The UFO Phenomenon
Time Life Books
1987, Time Life Books, Morristown, NJ.

Encyclopaedic look at the UFO phenomenon from the 1940-1980s. The book details some stories of close encounters, hoaxes, culture and theories about unidentified flying objects.

This book has a lot of very pretty pictures, but is a little light on the content. I realise that it's an encyclopaedia so is only going to give a glossy overview, but this was a bit too dry and dull. The illustrations however, are spectacular. It's a gorgeous book.

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Saturday, May 17, 2008

Five go off to camp by Enid Blyton

Five go off to camp
Enid Blyton
Hodder & Stoughton, London, 1948

The Famous Five - Julian, Dick, Anne, George and Timmy the Dog - go off on a camping trip, and end up having an adventure with spook trains, black marketeers and gingerbread.

What a smashing story! As a child, I had a video of this episode from the 1970s TV show, so it was great to be able to read the original book.

And it made me hungry for gingerbread.

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Special Topics in Calamity Physics by Marisha Pessl

Special Topics in Calamity Physics
Marisha Pessl
2006, Viking, London

Blue van Meer is a bright girl who has spent most of her life travelling around America with her university professor father. When they settle in a town for her final year of high school, unusual events begin to take place.

This was a fantastic book! It was gloriously pretentious - woven together beautifully and with such ease. Sure it was a little bit slow in places, but it was one hell of a ride.

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Friday, May 9, 2008

Objective: Bajor by John Peel

Objective: Bajor
John Peel
1996, Pocket Books, New York

The Deep Space Nine crew encounter The Hive - a large ship which came from another galaxy and destroyed one of the Bajoran colony worlds and is on it's way to destroy Bajor itself.

This was another interesting Trek book. It's refreshing to read one where the 'bad guys' are not bad at all. The Hive inhabitants are great aliens with inventive technology. And the tie-in with the Cardassians and Bajorans was well established.

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Wednesday, May 7, 2008

The Man of my Dreams by Curtis Sittenfeld

The Man of my Dreams
Curtis Sitenfeld
2006, Random House, New York

This is a coming-of-age novel about a young woman learning about life and love. Hannah is a shy girl who struggles to find her place in the world.

The characters in this novel are similar to those in Prep, so much so, I wonder if it's slightly autobiographical. Like Lee in Prep, Hannah has low self-esteem and is exceedingly selfish in the way she sees other people. I enjoyed reading about these characters - I can see aspects of myself in both of them, in the way they think and how they view the world.

This book is very honest and full of little 'real' scenes, which are beautifully poignant. The honesty can be uncomfortable, but that's what makes it a great book - you want to keep reading.

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Saturday, May 3, 2008

Grounded by David Bischoff

David Bischoff
1993, Pocket Books, New York

The Enterprise investigates an emergency on a scientific station on an uninhabited planet with unusual properties. There, the ship becomes affected by an alien presence, and the crew must find a way to dispel it or the Enterprise will be destroyed.

This was written well and it was an intriguing story. I thought some of the dialogue was not great but that's a minor thing - I liked that the book was written in a few different voices and styles. There was just enough science to be interesting and not boring.

And I think that this is one of the only Trek books I've read that could be enjoyed by non-Trek fans.

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Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Tithe by Holly Black

Holly Black
2002, Simon & Schuster, London

Kaye is a sixteen year old travelling around with her singer mother until they go to live with her grandmother. There she rediscovers her childhood faerie friends and gets drawn into their world.

I am not too familiar with the faerie tale genre, but enjoy teen fiction, and I felt that the two genres clash, they don't mesh in this story. Perhaps people who are into lore would enjoy it more. However, it was a well constructed story and the characters were well presented.

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Thursday, April 24, 2008

Velocity by Dean Koontz

Dean Koontz
2005, HarperCollins, London.

Billy Wiles discovers a note on the windshield of his SUV which says if he takes the note to the police, an elderly woman will be killed, and if he doesn't, a schoolteacher will be killed. He thinks it's a hoax and the schoolteacher dies. This is the start of a terrifying game of a twisted mind.

It's a great story - told with a soft voice. It could have been a bloody, grisly book about the darkness of humanity, but in this case, it's equally about beauty. The characters are so very believable, and you are along for the ride with Billy the entire way.

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Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Doctor Who: Full Circle by Andrew Smith

Doctor Who: Full Circle
Andrew Smith
1982, WH Allen & Co, London

Novelisation of a Doctor Who episode starring a mechanical dog ... oops! I mean ... starring Tom Baker. The TARDIS is headed for Gallifrey when something goes wrong (I know, I know) and The Doctor and Romana end up on the planet Alzarius from which no one has ever returned.

This is a great story with swamp monsters. What more could you want?

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Monday, April 21, 2008

Vanish by Tess Gerritsen

Tess Gerritsen
2005, Bantam, London

A corpse wakes up in the morgue and is rushed to hospital where the young woman takes a number of hostages including 9 months pregnant Detective Jane Rizzoli. This is just the start of a series of events which lead to murder, slavery and political intrigue.

Gerritsen always writes a page-turner, and this is no exception. A little clichéd in places, it's nevertheless a very interesting and well conceived story.

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Saturday, April 19, 2008

The Romulan Stratagem by Robert Greenberger

The Romulan Stratagem
Robert Greenberger
1995, Pocket Books, New York

The Enterprise crew is sent on a diplomatic mission to offer Eloh - a newly discovered world - membership into the Federation. When they arrive, they realise that the Elohsians have also been in talks with the Romulan Empire.

The writing style was a bit inconsistent, the plot bits were good, but the action scenes were poorly written. I liked the story - it was simple and linear. And the little aside with Ensign Ro was amusing.

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Saturday, April 12, 2008

Seldom by Dawn Rae Downton

Seldom: A searing memoir of secrets and lies in a Newfoundland fishing village
Dawn Rae Downton
2003. Headline, London

Story of a family from Newfoundland, told by the grand-daughter of the mother figure, Ethel. This sweeping book tells of their lives and their secrets.

The writing style was inconsistent and not very engaging. Some vignettes are written so well to the point of being heart breaking, other passages will bore you to tears. It's best not to concentrate too hard on the story, but just to go along for the ride.

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Thursday, April 10, 2008

Abducted: The True Story of Alien Abduction by Ann Andrews and Jean Ritchie

Abducted: The True Story of Alien Abduction in Rural England
Ann Andrews and Jean Ritchie
1998, Headline, London

Story of the Andrews family from rural England, specifically the son Jason who has had strange encounters his entire life with aliens. The book is about his experiences and speculates about the causes.

This story has everything - abduction, lights, mutilations, UFOs, shadowy government figures - but I found that this abundance of different experiences associated with alien encounters didn't add to the credibility of the story ... it seemed a bit too perfect. Still, it's very well written and researched, giving a great depth of detail about the family's life and history, and I think it could be read as a simple biography by someone who was not interested in aliens or UFOs. It could have done without the speculation of intent of the aliens on the part of the author - just leaving it as a description of facts would have made it a more credible book.

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Wednesday, April 9, 2008

What's Your Poo Telling You? by Josh Richman and Anish Sheth

What's Your Poo Telling You?
Josh Richman and Anish Sheth
2007, Raincoast Books, Vancouver

Small book which lists different types of poo and explains what causes each type. It contains little informative tid-bits about poo culture and history.

I never realised there were so many different types of poo. I have led a sheltered life. This book was laugh out funny, but too shameful to laugh at!

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Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Panic by Jeff Abbott

Jeff Abbott
2005, Time Warner, London.
367 p.

Evan Casher is a young documentary film-maker living a normal life until his mother calls him one day in a panic. When he arrives at home, he finds her dead on the kitchen floor and his life is turned up-side-down.

This is a solid enough thriller. But neither the story nor the characters were very engaging. It was a bit confusing to keep all the characters and the plot straight at the start, and I think there were too many plot twists. However, it is an interesting premise in that it is a politico-thriller told from a very personal stand point.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Dearly Devoted Dexter by Jeff Lindsay

Dearly Devoted Dexter
Jeff Lindsay
2005, Vintage Books, New York

Dexter is a forensic blood-spatter expert. But he is also a homicidal monster. Taught by his cop foster father to only kill the bad guys, Dexter shares his body with the 'Dark Passenger', the part of him that is not human. This is the second book in the series, the first was Darkly Dreaming Dexter.

Another delightful dally with Dexter. I really love this character - he's so cavalier. I thought this book got a little repetitive at times, but it didn't interfere too much with the story. And the story was great! Wonderfully devious again. I love the 'happy' ending.

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Saturday, March 29, 2008

Secret Histories: Finding George Orwell in a Burmese Teashop by Emma Larkin

Secret Histories: Finding George Orwell in a Burmese Teashop
Emma Larkin
2004, John Murray, London

This book is about Burmese history and culture, past and present. It is loosely based around the places George Orwell lived when he was a policeman in Burma, which are visited by the author.

I liked how the author let the Burmese people tell their own stories. Some of the subjects written about are tough, and it's nice not to be dictated the information from some omnipresent narrator. The devise of following George Orwell was very clever, and the writing style is lyrical. I enjoyed this book even though I have had no experience of the topic before.

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Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Midnight for Charlie Bone by Jenny Nimmo

Midnight for Charlie Bone
Jenny Nimmo
2002, Egmont, London

Charlie Bone discovers he can hear people talking in photographs. This special gift means that he is sent to a school for 'endowed' children - children who are descendants of the 'Red King', an ancient magician. There he has to fight to reunite a young girl with her family.

I enjoyed this book - it has a wonderful premise. The characters are well-rounded, although they jump to conclusions too quickly, and the overall pace of the book is a bit fast. Still, that means that there's a lot of neat characters and magical plotlines crammed in.

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Sunday, March 23, 2008

The Six Sacred Stones by Matthew Reilly

The Six Sacred Stones
Matthew Reilly
2007, Macmillan, London.

Another typical Matthew Reilly action book. This is the sequel to Seven Ancient Wonders. A group of heroes from around the world are led by Jack West Jr. on a mission to save no less than Earth itself from the Dark Sun.

As always it's not the best written prose in the world - how many times can the man use the word 'easily' anyway? He used it easily a hundred times. But this was a great high-action adventure. I loved the diagrams and pictures, and loved how so much action and so many military devices were crammed into one book. On the surface the research is great, but I wouldn't want to delve to deeply into checking everything out.

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Friday, March 21, 2008

Fat Land: How Americans became the fattest people in the world by Greg Critser

Fat Land: How Americans Became the Fattest People in the World
Greg Critser
2003, Mariner, New York

This was a great in-depth look as some of the causes for the American obesity epidemic. It gave a history of nutritional thought and dieting, and a history of the progression of Physical Education in American schools.

It was well written and very well researched. With enough background information to make some solid suggestions for the future. I agree that fat 'acceptance' is a huge issue which needs addressing. An annoying thing with writing style was the over-use of pretentious big words! Like 'promulgate' and 'fulminating'.

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Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Making Contact: A Serious Handbook For Locating And Communicating With Extraterrestrials edited by Bill Fawcett

Making Contact: A Serious Handbook for Locating and Communicating with Extraterrestrials
Bill Fawcett
1997, Avon Books, New York

A great guide filled with very useful information about what to do in case of an alien encounter. For example, carry 18 coins around in your pocket so you can demonstrate your knowledge of the solar system, and wear heavy-duty boots, but not steel-caps because the radiation will cause them to heat. The book also includes some alien visitation/UFO sighting stories which were extremely interesting. And it gives a variety of theories about UFOs and aliens, and the possibility to extraterrestrial life. I especially liked the part about Tectonic Stress and Electro-Magnetism.

There are a lot of contributors to this book - some of the authors are very dry, others write quite well, with a bit of humour thrown in for good measure. It's a little tongue-in-cheek in places, as you'd expect.

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Sunday, March 9, 2008

My Brother's Keeper by Michael Jan Friedman

My Brother's Keeper
Michael Jan Friedman
1999, Pocket Books, New York

Just after having to kill his friend Gary Mitchell on Delta Vega, Kirk returns to Earth for the funeral service. He reminisces about an incident from the past where Mitchell, Kirk and Spock fought a Klingon threat.

This wasn't written all that well, but the plot was interesting. I enjoyed reading about some of the pre-history of The Original Series TV show, from before Mitchell was killed on the planet. One thing that annoyed me about the writing was that the author kept saying "his friend Mitchell" or "his friend, the navigator" ... I mean, we get it, Mitchell and Kirk were friends!

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Sunday, February 24, 2008

Vertigo by Pierre Boileau and Thomas Narcejac

Pierre Boileau
Thomas Narcejac
1956, 1997, Bloomsbury, London

Set in France, Vertigo revolves around two men and a woman. Gevigne hires Flavieres to follow his wife Madeline who he feels is in danger of committing suicide after her great-great-grandmother committed suicide at the same age.

A real psychological story - a bit of a slow-burn thriller which really picks up the pace in the last few pages. And a twist I, for once, didn't see coming.

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Saturday, February 23, 2008

Invasion of the Body Snatchers by Jack Finney

Invasion of the Body Snatchers
Jack Finney
1954, 1989, Fireside, New York

Small town Mill Valley, California becomes the centre of an alien invasion, whereby the inhabitants of the town are slowly being taken over. Dr. Miles Bennell discovers this plot and attempts to thwart it.

This is a fantastic book! I love the slight parody tones it gets at times - great for something written in the 1950s. It was a very lineal story which is a relief from the overly-complicated stuff I've been reading lately. A nice 'string-of-pearls' plot. I know at the start of the book the author says not to read it if you don't like open endings, but in my opinion it didn't leave too many questions unanswered.

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Friday, February 22, 2008

Eddie's Bastard by William Kowalski

Eddie's Bastard
William Kowalski
1999, Black Swan, London

Story of Billy Mann, who, as a baby, was left on his grandfather's doorstep in a basket with the note "Eddie's Bastard". He grows up in seclusion with his grandfather in the small town Mannville which his family used to own. The story tells of Billy's childhood and of his ancestors story.

This is a fantastically woven tapestry of a story. It reminded me a bit of To Kill a Mockingbird. It is funny at times at utterly heartbreaking at others. I loved the slight supernatural themes to the story, and the prose was beautifully written. I didn't want it to end.

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