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Posts Tagged ‘books’

Just Read: 419 (Will Ferguson)

May 31, 2012 Leave a comment

I just finished reading 419, Will Ferguson’s new novel. It’s about Nigerian e-mail scams and related topics, and I recommend it. Ferguson became one of my favourite writers because of his books on Canadian history and culture, but he’s also done a couple of travel books which I liked. I suppose there was some chance of his becoming the Canadian Bill Bryson, which wouldn’t be too bad of a thing to be, but he’s taken a left turn by switching to fiction. His first novel, Happiness^TM, won all kinds of awards although I really didn’t care for it. Second up was Spanish Fly, which I thought was tremendous, and now 419.

One interesting but frustrating thing about Ferguson’s books is how eager his publishers seem to be to retitle them:

Hokkaido Highway Blues was retitled Hitching Rides with Buddha
Generica was retitled Happiness^TM
Spanish Fly was retitled Hustle

Anyway, at the start of 419, this one character dies. Now, I don’t want to do the work for you here, but I believe that Ferguson was being very very careful and clever when he chose the name for this character. It’s a name that has appeared in fiction before, and in a context that contrasts very neatly with the themes of 419. I’m sure he did it on purpose. You go read 419–you’ll like it, it’s good–and then look up what other character had the same name as the dead guy, and think about that. It’s pretty neat. I like it when writers do stuff like that.

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Talk Amongst Yourselves

May 18, 2011 Leave a comment

Tyrion Lannister and Miles Vorkosigan: compare and contrast. Discuss.

Read: Agent to the Stars; Old Man’s War

May 12, 2011 Leave a comment

Recently I started reading John Scalzi’s blog, and eventually worked my way all the way back through the archives. That inspired me to try his actual books, which I’ve also been enjoying. Just last week I polished off Agent to the Stars and Old Man’s War, two of his earlier works.

They’re very different books in many ways, but they share some virtues: they’re extremely readable, they’re entertaining, they have admirably direct plots, and they both have something for you to think about (specifically, they’re both concerned with the nature and preservation of human identity, among other things). They’re in the highest tradition of genre fiction. And Scalzi makes it look easy.

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Read: Riddle of the Ring

May 10, 2011 Leave a comment

One of the books I enjoyed reading when I was really young was Karin Anckarsvard’s The Mysterious Schoolmaster. Anckarsvard was a Swedish author, and the book was about two kids, Michael and Cecilia, who come upon a mystery in their little Swedish town, and get to the bottom of it by being plucky. There were sequels, but I could never get them all in the right order.

Fast forward to about a year ago. I determined to track down all these books and read them in order and see if I liked them as much now as I did then. There were four of them: The Mysterious Schoolmaster, The Robber Ghost, Madcap Mystery, and Riddle of the Ring. I was able to order the first three from a used-books website, but not the last one. That was okay; I’d get the last one some other time. But then I read some kind of suggestion someplace that Riddle of the Ring wasn’t a Michael-and-Cecilia mystery. So when I finally did order it earlier this year, I was curious about just what the deal was.

Turns out that the deal is that RotR does take place in the Michael-and-Cecilia-verse, but the main characters are Tommie, another girl in the same town, and Henrik, Cecilia’s younger brother. Since Madcap Mystery, Michael and Cecilia have grown up and gotten married. Michael has joined the navy, and is therefore hardly ever home, and Cecilia has had a baby, and they’re very happy.

Nothing against the story of RotR, which was perfectly serviceable. And nothing against Tommie and Henrik, who were engaging enough characters. But what I wanted was more of Michael and Cecilia. In particular, if they were going to fall in love and get married and stuff, I wanted to read about it. Even worse, I think it sucks that Cecilia goes from solving mysteries to being cooped up in an apartment with a baby and acting like she likes it.

Oh well.

I imagine Cecilia’s not as good in a fight as Lisbeth Salander. But she’s better company and just as reliable.

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28/4/2011 Superhero of the Day: Doctor Camelot

April 28, 2011 Leave a comment

Read: Silverwing, Sunwing, Firewing

April 22, 2011 Leave a comment

It’s a fantasy series by Canadian author Kenneth Oppel. It’s about bats. It would probably not be completely out of line to say that this series is to bats as Watership Down is to rabbits. Except that Watership Down is an all-time classic, and this series is generally decent.

Maybe my problem was that I had a hard time identifying with the bat characters, because after all bats are pretty unlike humans in a lot of ways. But then at the same time Oppel tries to write them as close to human as he reasonably can, and that also takes me out of the story, because I just don’t buy it that they’re like that. It’s tricky. He’s achieved a legitimately good adventure story, which I have to give extra points to because of how unconventional it is… but I had a hard time getting it down anyway.

Oppel has written other stuff I’ve liked better, like his steampunkish adventure series about young aviator Matt Cruse and young scientist/heiress Kate de Vries (consisting of Airborn, Skybreaker, and Starclimber); recommended. And then he did some books for much younger readers, including Peg and the Yeti, which I got a kick out of when I read it to the kids. So Oppel is okay by me, but the bat trilogy isn’t my favourite. There’s a prequel, Darkwing, that I think I will not hunt down; enough is enough.

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Read: The Ghost of Dibble Hollow

April 18, 2011 2 comments

Patience is important. That’s what I really want to say. Patience is important.

See, there’s this book, The Ghost of Dibble Hollow (by May Nickerson Wallace, whom I know exactly nothing about). It’s a kids’ adventure book from 1965, about a boy who spends the summer in the country, in a house that’s long abandoned but has been in his family for a long time. He meets the ghost of his great-uncle, who died as a boy way back when. Not a great book, but enjoyable and readable. I had a copy when I was young but I don’t know what happened to it.

I decided a few years ago to try to track down another copy, partly because I liked the book and partly to use for inspiration for this one project I’ve had on the back burner for a while. And it turned out to be really hard to find. When I checked on abebooks.com and alibris.com, all I could find were copies for like $50, $80 bucks. Which, forget that.

So I bided my time and kept my eyes open. And earlier this month I was at a used book sale where I plucked a copy of The Ghost of Dibble Hollow off one of the kids’ tables for a buck.

Math: $50 cost + patience = $1 cost.

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