Book Reviews Update

I started to read two books simultaneously: JR by William Gaddis and “A Journal of the Plague Year” by Daniel Defoe. I must confess reading JR will require time and special tecnique, because it’s nearly unreadable (I didn’t say bad, please don’t misunderstand me). I completely ignored the 25 pages intro of JR and all the advices for using a reader’s guide to read it. Hell, I was told to use a reader’s guide to read Pynchon and after I’ve read 3/4 of all Pynchon wrote I thought that “author’s guide” thing to be a real over the top exaggeration. Finding Pynchon readable, I thought “oh well, let Gaddis come.” – I was wrong. I’m still fiddling with this one.
I started with Defoe’s book which is a great account of the plague years in the middle ages. A bliss of shocking reality into the stream of zombie novels I have been reading. So far from zombieness the middle ages were not.

Book Review: Zone One by Colson Whitehead

OK, so Colson Whitehead is technically good at writing a book. Hs english is perfect, he uses fancy thesaurus words. BUT: Nothing happens in this book. This is a no-story. It’s 200 plus pages of endless empty useless stream of consciousness, with right-out-of-the-thesaurus nouns exaggeratedly embelished with half a dozen adjectives. The book consists of endless reminiscing episodes that could as well have been read randomly or backwards: it wouldn’t make any difference to the story. It’s like looking at a photo album: it doesn’t matter which photo you see first, it’s all still just fragments of the same event. “Zone One” is not horror, not spooky, it does not caused me any feeling but that of dropping the book to never see it again. Stay away from this one. I don’t understand how this book was even published. I only gave it one star because i couldn’t rate it 0 stars.

Link to “Zone One” on “Goodreads”:

The Girl Who Played With Fire by Stieg Larsson

The second book of Stieg Larsson‘s Millennium trilogy is so much better than the first one! It’s faster paced, with many action sequences, and secondary characters play an active role in the story instead of being only an endless list of names with little if no participation at all. (In “The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo”  the key to resolving the story involves motstly 3 constantly active characters: Blomkvist, Salander and Vanger and his lawyer. Bjurman is important as an articulation factor for the second book, but his importance in the development and conclusion of the first book is nearly zero; and Martin Vanger only reveals himself near the end of the book.)

I have seen the “The Girl Who Played with Fire” film beforehand, and I tried my best to ignore the fact that I already knew how the story would develop and how it would end. I can tell that if I hadn’t seen the film I’d have loved the book as well. Every character’s storyline slowly merges perfectlly to the end and, unlike “The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo”, this book ends up in a major cliffhanger and leaves many other minor stories unresolved.

Although the book is exceptionally well written and better than the first one, I think it could be some 200 pages shorter. All the pages about Salander’s musings while travelling the world, her getting silicone prosthesis and saving a woman from her abusive husband while have a romance with a teenager in Grenada seem to me like one of those filler episodes in a TV show with high ratings. I understand that’s partly Larsson’s way to show us how Lisbeth is getting more adult, mature. But that could perfectly have been achieved in no more than 10 pages. Also, there are way too many descriptive fight scenes. It’s descriptive kicks and punches that last 3 to 4 pages. Extremely boring and of no difference to the story. Even though I aprecciate the extra action in this book, it’s really not that kind of action.

I’ve started with “The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet’s Nest” but I’m only on page 13. (I’m still reading “The Disappearing Spoon” simultaneously)

Edited to add this: But how could I forget about it! If you thought there was too much product placement on book one, wait until you read this one. There is an obnoxious ammount of mentions of specific brands, all the time. It’s never like “she called Blomkvist”, It’s “she called Blomkvist with her Nokia phone while sitting on her IKEA couch. She left to see him in her burgundy Volvo instead of her Kawasaki” etc etc etc. I don’t know about other people, but I get enough of ads on TV and Internet. I’d like books to be ad free.

“Roadside Picnic” by Arkady Strugatsky – Book Review

I read this book because I watched a film based in it, “Stalker” (1979). As usual, the book is much better than the film, and in this particular case, the book has almost nothing to do with the film. Roadside Picnic is not regular easy fiction, with beginning, middle, end, and all the sci-fi tidbits already chewed up and spit there on the paper for the reader’s digestion pleasure. When you start reading it, it feels like you’re in the middle of a book and the first pages are missing, because you can’t quite understand: all these things that the characters are talking about, where do these come from? What are this things? What happened? These questions are slowly elucidated through the characters dialogues. There are only a few occasions in Roadside Picnic where things are actually openly explained to the reader.

Half way into the book I was starting to ask myself “why on earth is this called Roadside Picnic”? Am I missing some big obvious metaphor? Then the answer to my question came in the book’s greatest philosophical passage. And after that the reading only gets more interesting… until we get to the end, that leaves you with the same feeling you had when you started the book: there must be some pages missing. Which is not a bad at all. 🙂

I’m in the middle of reading two books…

One is “The Disappearing Spoon: And Other True Tales of Madness, Love, and the History of the World from the Periodic Table of the Elements” by Sam Kean. It speaks about the development of the periodic table by telling stories the involve the use of the each element. I’m only in the beginning of the book, thus I wasn’t very surprised perhaps because the explanations were aimed (mostly) at lay people (since I studied chemistry for one and a half year…). But I was perplexed by the tale of  the exploration of Niobium and Tantalum in Congo and its repercussion. Niobium and tantalum are fundamental parts of cell phone batteries (or mostly other electronics batteries) , and are part of the root of conflict in this country – yes, the same country of the “blood diamonds”. It seems it’s not only the diamonds that are bloody after all. At this height  is there anything that comes out of Congo that is not blood tainted?


The other book I’m reading is another non-fiction called “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks” by Rebbeca Skloot. 

I’m in the middle, I’m loving it and there’s so much to say about it that my comment alone would make another book! I’ll write a longer review about it after I’m finished, now all I can say is: highly recommended!

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