Monthly ArchiveOctober 2004

Fiction 25 Oct 2004 12:23


Robert Sawyer

This is the second book of the “Neanderthal Parallax” series; if you haven’t read the first book yet, be aware that the following text may contain some spoilers.

The story begins right after the previous book ends, and we follow mostly the same characters. After a quick introduction, our world receives a new visit from neanderthals, but this time things are much better organized: they send an ambassador, who meets the Canadian Prime Minister and speaks at the United Nations. The “tunnel” between the worlds is kept open, so people from our world can visit theirs as well, and a few do.

Once more, we are presented (some times gratuitously so) with the several differences between our society and theirs, and religion plays an important part in the way the characters feel and act. The way it’s presented, their society seems almost utopic, except for a few “dark sides” here and there (and no, the total lack of privacy is not presented as a dark side). The plot doesn’t really advance much, but there are a few clues about what may be in the final book.

Still an enjoyable book, but at times it reads a little like a lesson in what the author thinks a better world would be like. The part about differences between hunter-gatherer and agricultural societies is very good, them, and contains some very interesting ideas. I’m looking forward to reading the third book.

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Fiction 14 Oct 2004 14:22

Good Omens

coverGood Omens
Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett

If I didn’t know better, I’d think this book was written by Douglas Adams as well. The style is certainly the same (not that this is a bad thing). This one tells the story of the Apocalypse (yes, the big one, the end of the world), but with a sense of humour. The Antichrist, due to an oversight, is raised by a regular middle-class English family. The demon tasked with making sure everything goes as planned is not very enthusiatic about the whole thing, because he rather likes this world. His best friend, an angel, while sure that his side will win in the end, would also rather avoid that whole “war” thing. The Four Horsemen are actually the Four Bikers of the Apocalypse. A witch who has a very accurate book of prophecies in looking for the Antichrist (in the right place), while a witch-hunter is looking for her. And so on.

It’s hard not to laugh out loud several times while reading this book. There are lots of deadpan jokes delivered in all seriousness; I particularly liked the bit about Earth being a Libra. As I said, the style is very “Douglas Adams”, so, if you don’t like his books, you won’t like this one (but, then again, who doesn’t like Douglas Adams?). If you do, you’ll love it. I strongly recommend it.

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Fiction 07 Oct 2004 14:21

Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency

coverDirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency
Douglas Adams

Well, how can I put this… if you’ve already read anything by Douglas Adams, you probably have a good idea about what this one is like. If you haven’t, there’s nothing I can do to really explain it. It’s, well, kind of surreal, but in an utterly logical way.

I guess a quick plot description is in order. Some spoilers may be in this description, but I don’t think it’s anything that would detract from anyone’s enjoyment of this book. This is a mystery novel, as can be guessed from the title. A murder mystery, to be more exact. The person who is killed is a software millionaire (this book was written in the mid 1980s), and one of his employees, Richard, is the main suspect, for several reasons. Dirk Gently is a detective and an old friend of Richard’s, and he’s trying to help him. Not by finding out who is the killer, mind you, but by finding out why he was climbing a third-floor window in the middle of the night for no good reason.

In the end, several other characters join up, including Richard’s girlfriend (and sister of the victim), a very old professor, an Electric Monk and his horse, the victim’s ghost, a disgruntled former magazine editor who is more than he seems to be, a 19th century poet and a cat. It’s a very cool story and, in the end, all the loose ends are tied beautifully, as only Douglas Adams could do.

The cat, sadly, dies.

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Fiction 02 Oct 2004 16:08

Black House

coverBlack House
Stephen King and Peter Straub

This book is a sequel to “The Talisman”, showing a grown-up Jack Sawyer who, after working for a while as a detective for the LAPD, is now living quietly in a small Wisconsin town. Quietly, that is, until his past catches up with him in the form of a serial killer that turns up to be more dangerous than he looks like.

At first, the book looks like a never-ending introduction; everything looks like a set-up for the actual events, for some reason. By the time I reached page 500 or so (of little more than 800), I began to believe that that was the actual plot, and not an introduction. Very well done, though.

In general, it reads like a Stephen King book, which is not really surprising. I really enjoyed the plot, even though it’s one more of those books where things start looking very simple and, in the end, you have a huge battle between good and evil which the book characters get dragged into. “Insomnia” is a good example of this type of book, as well.

Also, this book seems to be closely related to the “Dark Tower” series; this series is a huge gap in my Stephen King reading, as I have read none of the, by now, five books; they simply didn’t seem very appealing to me. I guess I’ll have to go after them in the near future, as I’m quite curious about that story now.

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