Saturday, August 13, 2011

Light reading catch-up

It was a strangely good week for new books (conventionally they still seem to be published on a Tuesday, which was the old-school tradition). If you pre-order for Kindle, they then appear as if by magic when the official publication date arrives, and I was delighted to devour Charlie Williams' latest installment of the Royston Blake saga, One Dead Hen (if you've been reading here for a while, you already know that I think Charlie is one of literature's great unsung geniuses of the comic first-person voice - this book is great, but start at the beginning of the epic with Deadfolk - it's like reading Proust, the volumes are self-standing but there's no reason not to start at the beginning!); Lev Grossman's The Magician King (excellent, and definitely up to the high standard set by the previous installment - I was initially mildly skeptical, I have perhaps read "The Voyage of the Dawn Treader" too many times myself, but was completely won over by about 10% in, and particularly enjoyed the narration of Julia's backstory); and David Liss's The Twelfth Enchantment, an Austen homage of sorts with something of the feel of Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell - I especially liked how it came alive when the characters talked about the balance of European trade and mechanization, the Luddite plot is inspired!

All of these books were highly absorbing - as I say, it was a very good week for new releases - but perhaps the book that most deeply transported me was an advance copy I obtained via the interesting new service Netgalley, which provides digital galleys to potential reviewers in a variety of formats. It is Deon Meyer's Trackers, and it is absolutely superb. It features several characters from previous books, but I don't think you'd need to have read them in order to immerse yourself in this one; it has an unorthodox structure, to the extent that I slightly started to worry about three-quarters of the way through that a different book had somehow been spliced into my electronic copy, but it all comes together beautifully in the end. If you enjoy crime fiction and aren't yet reading Meyer's books, this is a situation to remedy as soon as possible: he's incredibly good, I just looked through the Amazon listings to see if there was one I'd particularly recommend but really you can't go wrong.

I also read and enjoyed another Netgalley book, Kyle Garlett's inspiring and moving Heart of Iron: My Journey from Transplant Patient to Ironman Triathlete, but that will be more appropriately reviewed at my other blog!

Finally, I am relieved to report that Stephen Knight's vampire book seems to me significantly better than his zombie one, though still rather too much weaponry and firepower for my tastes (it is the same sort of disproportion, compared to the usual thrillers I read, as one finds with paranormal romance when it comes to sex: it is perplexing to encounter these very full descriptions of acts and details that are conventionally minimized or excluded!).

Gravity's Rainbow is mesmerizing: I'm about halfway through, will go back to that now I think...

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