Book 55: The Dog Stars by Peter Heller

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The Dog Stars by Peter Heller

Finished reading June 25, 2013

Rating 8/10

The end of normal human society seems to be one of the pet themes for writers these days.

This book is another one, where most of the human population has died, surprisingly it’s not because of one illness, but because of two. Also as a slight difference it starts nine years after most people died, so that the main characters have had a lot of time to get used to their situation.

The story follows Hig, who together with Bangley, a guy who one day arrives with a truck full of weapons, are keeping a perimeter around their grounds. Naturally as there are few people left and the two illnesses, a deadly flu and some kind of blood disease have not disappeared anyone new might be contagious and since all the resources are scarce, are potentially after their food and water and guns.

Hig spends a lot of his time flying with his Cessna that he calls the Beast together with his dog Jasper.

Sometimes they notice strangers from high up, but on occasion they creep up on Hig and Bangley.

But to find out more about you’ll just have to read it.

It was interesting, both the situation and the actions of the characters.

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Book 54: The Secret Life of Saeed the Pessoptimist by Emile Habiby

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The Secret Life of Saeed the Pessoptimist by Emile Habiby

Finished reading on June 24, 2013

Rating 6/10

This book is another one about Palestinians in Israel. However, although the topic and main events are the same as in “Mornings in Jenin” or “The Lemon Tree”, then it’s been served differently. It is sad, but also really funny, because of the main character – Saeed, who is one of the family of Pessoptimists, as he describes, already his mother was one and some before I believe as well, their views of life  could maybe be shortly described in this sentence: “It is better to die in some ways and not in others”.

Be that as it may.

I think this would be a good introductory reading to someone interested in the Palestine-Israel question, it’s not too long, the writing is clear and concise and funny, it almost seems as if no-one even dies in this book, which is a great surprise… though maybe I just missed it.

It’s got the standard content though, for a novel on this topic – spending time in a prison, in hiding, trying to get to Israel. But there’s one more theme – being an informer for Israel.

The scene I remember the most from this book was one where Saeed is listening to a news-report saying that Palestinians who have surrendered to Israel should hoist a white flag on their house. However he’s missed the fact that it goes for the “occupied” part of Israel and definitely not for Jerusalem, where Saeed is living and thus he has a visitor explaining things to him rather harshly (also because the flag was hoisted on a broomstick..)

It was okay, but I’ve liked some other books on this topic better.

Book 53: The Bachelor of Arts by R. K. Narayan

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The Bachelor of Arts by R. K. Narayan

Finished reading June 23, 2013

Rating 7/10

This rather short piece is about Chandran, a history major whom we first meet being asked to be the Prime Mover in a debate ” The Historians should be slaughtered first”. So already the beginning of this novel is catchy.

It continues with Chandran’s life in and out of the university, for example establishing a History Association, trying to get a marriage arranged between himself and a girl he sees and follows on a beach, his depression when their horoscopes don’t match and hence they cannot marry…. And all this followed by months of him being a sanyasi, someone who renounces worldly and materialistic pursuits.

After around 9 months he returns home to his worried parents and has to decide what to do next – to go to England maybe…? or take up a venture into a newspaper venture? And all this while his mother is giving arranging a marriage for him another try.

It was a rather good read, it could just have been a lot longer…

Book 52: Across the Universe by Beth Revis

PIMG_4012Across the Universe by Beth Revis (first book in the trilogy)

Finished reading June 22, 2013

Rating 7/10

Despite the cheesy cover and being classified as “young adult sci-fi novel” I found it quite good.

I liked the main ideas, although the execution could have been better but, oh, well…

So there’s a spaceship on its 300-year long mission on its way a planet in the Alfa Centauri system. There are some people cryogenically frozen on board, who are specialists in a variety of fields and are supposed to help with terraforming etc on the destination planet. Among these people is a girl by the name of Amy, who is “woken up” aka melted fifty years early and has to face the reality of the life on a spaceship where none of the residents have ever seen the Earth, and not even seen real stars (what a bummer… seriously people living on a spacecraft not being shown the stars?)

The people on the ship are led by Eldest, one of the oldest people on the ship, and Eldest is also a sort of mentor, teacher and father-figure to Elder, who after Eldest is gone would become the next leader.

So Amy wakes up on a strange ship, not knowing why or who melted her and has to deal with this strange society and someone seems to be trying to kill the frozen people, among whom are Amy’s parents. So mystery ensues.

It has a lot of interesting twists and turns in it, so I rather liked it, and probably will read the next book as well.

Book 51: The Buddha of Suburbia by Hanif Kureishi

PIMG_4008The Buddha of Suburbia by Hanif Kureishi

Finished reading June 18, 2013

Rating: 3/10

This book is about Karim, a boy living in the London suburbs with his British mother and (probably?) Pakistani father. It’s about the people he meets and their lives. Though mostly it is about Karim and his father, Haroon.

Haroon, in the beginning of the novel is about to leave his wife for another woman, Eva. As Haroon moves together with Eva and her son and Karim’s mother and his brother Allie move to one of her aunt’s place, Karim sort of gets lost in a way.

No-one’s really there… Karim leaves school and at some point he becomes an actor…

And well there are some other stories going on in the sidelines – for example one of Karim’s best friends, Jamila is forced into an arranged marriage – her father goes on a hunger strike and only starts eating again when she says she’ll marry the chosen guy. But the guy’s nothing like his description was, he’s kind of lazy, one of his arms is just a stump and well.. he’s kind of silly.

Oh, well… actually the part of the novel that was about Jamila and her family was my favourite part, I didn’t like the rest of the plot or characters, so that’s why it got altogether three points out of ten.

And there was also a BBC miniseries made after the book. Here’s a clip from it:

Book 50: Gone by Michael Grant

PIMG_3910Gone by Michael Grant (First book in the Gone series)

Finished reading June 17, 2013

Rating 8/10

This was a creepy, scary, and at times horrifying book. Despite  or perhaps because of that it was gripping and really difficult to put down.

It starts on a day when suddenly all people above the age of 14 disappear. What could possibly happen if there were only children left in the world? Well, as appears a lot of things, as adults just “poof” out of existence and that in itself leads to dangerous situations such as car crashes, stoves left unattended etc.

But that’s not all! There’s the added mystery that has to do something with a nuclear power plant around which there’s  a barrier with a 10 mile radius, leaving Perdido Beach, the main location for all the events in the book cut off from the rest of the world with the exception of a school for rather difficult children, Coates inside the sphere. That barrier is not the weirdest thing though – some of the children appear to have developed some odd powers that don’t really fit into the universe with the known laws of physics.

All the rest you can read for yourself. 🙂

However just a bit more about the book in general – It might remind one a bit of the Harry Potter books:

First: There’s a Know-It-All Girl who becomes really good friends with the main character

Second: There’s the main character’s best friend who feels insecure…

Third: There’s a battle for life or death and a feast in the end of the book.

Otherwise it’s totally different. (Though made me want to read Harry Potter again…)

However all the magic in Harry Potter can’t reach the cruelty of this book, I mean Voldemort and the Death Eaters are fluffy little kittens compared to some of the characters and their actions in “Gone” . Plus children are cruel.

 

Book 49: A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle

PIMG_3909A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle (First book in the Time Quintet)

Finished reading June 13, 2013

Rating 7/10

This is a nice little story about a missing father and two children who go out on a search to find him. The two children are joined by a friend of theirs and three old women Mrs Which, Mrs Whatsit and Mrs Who. It’s a fantasy/sci-fi, as the children learn about “tessering” which would basically be wrinkling up space and time in order to travel in it in another dimension a lot faster.

It was quite interesting. I’ll certainly be reading the next book soon.

 

Book 48: Collapse by Jared Diamond

PIMG_3875Collapse by Jared Diamond

Finished reading June 11, 2013

Rating 10/10

This book took me about two weeks to read, filling every day with another society that collapsed.

This books presents you with a variety of societies in different locations and conditions and ages of the world that for some reason failed after a shorter or longer time of sustainability.

The writing and the low of the book are excellent. It’s kind of an eye-opener, as much as the other book by Jared Diamond that I read last year – “The Rise and Fall of the Third Chimpanzee“.

You can read about the history of some of the cultures, the likely reasons for their downfall and how those same precursors for collapse are still in the game in the world today.

Although it seems to have been categorized as history, which it certainly is, it is also about the environment. It has a really strong message, which seems to suddenly creep up to the reader by the end of the book. A part of it is that although in historical times societies fell in relative isolation without much impact on other parts of the world, then at the present time the globalized world could and should be viewed as one intertwined society, that is influenced by the activities of all the world’s population and politicians, miners, fishers etc.

Having just finished reading the book about an hour ago I’ve got a feeling that I’ll be still thinking about it a week from now.

A TED talk by Jared Diamond on the same topic:

 

Book 47: The Bourne Identity by Robert Ludlum

PIMG_3879The Bourne Identity by Robert Ludlum

Finished reading June 9, 2013

Rating 6/10

I got this book as a kind of challenge for myself. Usually I don’t even look in the thriller sections in book stores, but a week ago I thought I should give it a try.

The Bourne Identity was something I’d heard of, the movie of course  not the book. And as I read the first few chapters I realized that I haven’t even seen the movie….

The story could be told this way: A man is found half-dead floating in the Mediterranean, he is found and taken to a small island where he stays for six months with a doctor, as he doesn’t really have any other logical place to go to, as he doesn’t remember anything about who he is and only information about his former life comes from a microchip that the doctor found in his hip, which has a bank’s name and an account number on it.

As the time passes the man must try and find out who he is…. trouble, blood and shooting ensues.

It was indeed what might be called “thrilling” and it kept me reading it although  it’s a rather long book. However I’m still of the opinion that thrillers are not really my thing, I’d much more prefer unicorns and rainbows. So that’s the reason for the rather low rating, the writing is good though.

As for the 2002 movie – yesterday evening I saw the first 40 minutes of it and it was rather different from the book, I guess I’ll have to finish watching it some time soon to find out whether there are any bigger modifications to it than I’ve already seen (thus far I think the book is better than the movie). A link to the trailer.

Now I found there’s also a 1988 version of the movie (miniseries?), so I might have to look into that, at least I see the English doctor on the character list, who doesn’t exist in the 2002 movie…