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Sunday, May 23, 2004

Book I’ve Finished Reading

Well of Lost Plays: A Thursday Next Novel by Jasper Fforde.

One of the blurbs on the cover of this book says it’s in the same vein as Harry Potter, only written for an adult audience. And I think that a pretty apt summation of the books in this series. Certainly, Fforde has done a great job of establishing a fantasy world where one can enter books and the agencies and rules that govern it. In a lot of ways, this series is for book lovers what Shrek is for movie goers. There are a lot of references to other fictional works and stories and it all comes at you at a mile a minute pace. And if you get the reference, great; if not, well, the story is still well told enough that you won’t feel like you’re not understanding the main plotline if you don’t know the particular references. In fact, the references littered throughout the books may encourage you to want to seek out the original literature and read it again. (There’s one amusing sequence where Thursday and Ms. Havisham give anger management to the cast of Wuthering Heights. It’s really quite amusing and made me realize how long it’s been since I’ve thought about the basic plot of the story and even then, I’m not sure I read the book so much as I saw the movie). Thursday is hiding out from the forces of evil who went back into a book and erased her husband at the end of the last novel. She struggles to remember him, but is helped daily by her granny who is determined Thursday not forget him, lest he be lost forever. Meanwhile, a new system of presenting books is being developed and implemented—think a new software upgrade to make books more user friendly. But it may not be all that its cracked up to be.

Of course, that’s oversimplying things a good deal, but the main thing is, the story flowed well and went by at an extremely rapid pace. Fforde definitely leaves you wanting more and he does leave some things unresolved at the end of the story, thus setting up the fourth book in the series, due out in August. Overall, an enjoyable book that was a lot of fun to read and definitely a series that I will keep my eye out for in the future.


Blind Lake by Robert Charles Wilson

I’ve read Wilson’s The Chronoliths and found it extremely enjoyable. So, when I saw this one was up for this year’s Hugo award, I was eager to pick this one up and see if Wilson could live up to the promise he showed with his early book. And, for the most part, he does. Wilson’s stories here reminds me a good deal of some of the stories of Stephen King—you put a group of diverse people together, facing some kind of new and unexplained phenomen and you slowly watch how they deal with the situation and each other. And as far as that goes, this novel really, really works. There are some interesting characters here and there is, of course, the guy who isn’t quite right and slowly loses his grip on reality. There’s an echo or two of The Shining in this one—namely in the form of a little girl who turns out to be at the center of the weird, wacky events unfolding in the course of the novel. Again, this is one of those books that was a good page-turner, but in the end, I was left feeling like there was something missing. I can’t quite put my finger on what it was, but it felt like we rushed to a conclusion and then never got the satisfying resolution the storyline really deserved. Maybe Wilson is setting us up for a sequel—not an uncommon practice in sci-fi novels these days. In a lot of ways, the story felt like an episode of The X-Files, where you have this great situation set up and it’s interesting, dark and creepy but when you get to the denouncement you scratch your head and go—that’s it?!? Honestly, after investing 250+ pages into this, I was a bit disappointed that it got off track so quickly in the final 75 or so.

Childhood’s End by Arthur C. Clarke.

A couple of posts ago, I lamented as to why Clarke was voted a grand master of sci-fi. Well, I take some of that back. Childhood’s End showed me why. Clarke takes the old concept of alien invaders coming to Earth and turns it on its head. Now, I know this book is about fifty years old, but I’m not going to give away why the aliens have come or some of the other twists and turns of this novel. I’m sure there are plenty of other web sites that can do that for you if you’re dying to know. What I will say is Childhood’s End does a great job of establishing a sense of mystery about these creatures who have come and then slowly giving out pieces of the puzzle. We don’t get the full picture of who they are and what their motivations are and there is a sense of mystery and frustration that humanity feels throughout the novel and it transfers well over to the reader. This is definitely a classic of sci-fi and I can’t recommend it enough to anyone just looking for an enjoyable summer read.


posted by Michael Hickerson at 5/23/2004 12:48:00 PM | |
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