Monday, 27 June 2011

Craig Robertson – Random

A serial killer known as The Cutter has Glasgow living in fear with his brutal and random murders. The police can’t work out who is committing the murders or why as there seems to be little evidence left behind and no links between the victims.

This book is written in the first person from the perspective of the killer which is what drew me to the book as crime novels tend to be from the perspective of the police, a victim or other onlooker so it was really interesting and unusual to see a book written in this way.

As the story progresses we move gain more insight into the mind of the killer, his reasons for the murders and his life. At first he comes across as cold blooded and heartless but as we learn more about his circumstances and discover his reasons it becomes almost possible to sympathise with him.

I liked the newspaper reports that were dotted throughout the text. The author is a journalist for a Scottish newspaper so that must be his nod to his journalism roots and I think it works nicely to pull together information and give a different perspective.

So overall the good pacing, nice writing style and interesting story made for an enjoyable read.

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Justin Cronin – The Passage

The army was conducting experiments in trying to lengthen life span and improve the healing capabilities of the human body. Instead what they created turned the test people into ferocious vampire type creatures who managed to escape and kill or infect people with the virus. The survivors end up living in a walled encampment surrounded by bright lights to keep the creatures away. A girl called Amy holds the key to survival.

I had been looking forward to reading The Passage as I love post-apocalyptic fiction and the comparisons to Stephen King’s The Stand along with praise from Stephen King himself all added to the appeal so when it arrived it jumped straight to the top of my to read pile.

Personally I didn’t think that the book was very much like The Stand (the cause of the apocalypse is a man made virus, the book is quite long, there’s an old woman in it and a band of survivors travelling together for a common purpose are pretty much the main similarities although most of these could be said about a lot of post-apocalyptic books). If I was going to compare it to anything I’d suggest Swan Song by Robert R McCammon but I think comparisons are generally pretty pointless, I’d rather look at books in their own right.

The Passage has two distinct sections. The first covering the cause of the virus and it’s leak into society which tales up about a third of the book and the second section which covered the aftermath and follows the survivors almost one hundred years afterwards which takes up the rest of the book. I have seen several reviews saying that they loved the first part but not the second so much but personally I really liked it all. It was really interesting to read about how the virus came about and it was equally interesting to read about the survivors and how their lives are almost one hundred years on and their quest to save themselves.

I liked the story and the style in which it was written which included a variety of different types of writing including first person, third person, diary entries and emails which I think all worked well together and added to the reading experience.

There is quite a large cast of characters most of whom were memorable and easy to distinguish between (I did have to remind myself who a couple of the scientist / government characters were in the first part of the book but apart from that I found them easy to keep track of). The band of survivors in particular are very interesting and likeable and I very much enjoyed reading about them. There are s few characters who I think are pretty much safe but at the same time Justin Cronin is not afraid to kill off other important characters which I like, it keeps the reader on their toes knowing that one of their favourite characters could die at any given moment.

The Passage is apparently the first in a trilogy. I’m not sure what to make of that really. I think the book works perfectly in it’s own right, it doesn’t need anything more. At the end the situation is not all tied up nice and neatly but that doesn’t matter, most of the human race has been wiped out that does not make for a nice neat ending. There are unanswered questions but I am not a person who needs all the answers, sometimes it’s nice just to have something to think about and wonder and to be honest I’m not sure how another two books could be filled (especially if they are anywhere near as long as The Passage is) but then perhaps that’s why I’m a reader and not a writer! I will of course read the next book and I’ll probably really enjoy it (I liked the sample chapter that was included in the back of this book) but I don’t think that a sequel is in any way needed.

I liked reading the afterward of the book about how Justin Cronin wrote The Passage. I also like the inclusion of the recommended reading list as well, I have read quite a few of the books on that list already but will look into some more of them at some point.

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Tom Fletcher – The Thing on the Shore

When Arthur was twelve his Mum died in slightly strange circumstances. Now, fourteen years later, Arthur and his Dad Harry are still in the same house living a somewhat miserable life. Harry seems to be losing his grip on reality and sinking into alcoholism and Arthur is working a job he hates in a call centre wondering if there is more to life. There are changes afoot though. Arthur and his friends have noticed some strange things happening recently. Arthur has the feeling that something is going to happen but he has no idea what it could be.

The strongest element of this book, for me, was the characters. They felt very realistic and we got to know them well. They had their quirks and their problems and in many ways I felt I could relate to them. There were several times throughout the book that I wanted to give Arthur a big hug and tell him that everything would be alright. Even if nothing much had actually happened in this book I would still have enjoyed it because of the characters.

The plot was a bit of a slow burner. We know that something is going to happen but are not sure what. The story builds slowly but steadily towards the big finish. To be honest I’m not sure what to make of the thing that happens. It’s very odd but interesting (and it did leave me thinking about it afterwards) but as I said before it was the characters that made this book for me.

The Thing on the Shore was the first Tom Fletcher book I have read but it certainly won’t be the last. I really liked his style of writing and will look forward to reading more of his work in future.

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Claire Seeber – Fragile Minds

Claudie’s young son died several years ago and she is still struggling to cope having suffered a breakdown and splitting with her husband. When a bomb blast near her work at the Royal Ballet Academy kills her friend Tessa Claudie’s world is once again turned upside down. Claudie realises that she has lost periods of time and after sereral strange occurrences she begins to feel that she may have had something to do with the blast. DCI Joe Silver is on the case but he has problems of his own and is distracted.

This book has an interesting plot with lots of twists and turns including clues and red herrings. I had suspicions about several of the characters but didn’t quite manage to work out who did it.

I quite liked the way the book was written, jumping between the perspectives of several of the characters. Claudie’s chapters were written in first person and the other character’s chapters were in third person which sounds a little odd but seemed to work.

On the whole the characters aren’t particularly likeable but they are quite interesting. We slowly learn the stories behind Claudie and Silvers problems and get to know quite a bit about some of the other more minor characters as well.

There was one thing that annoyed me in the book. One of the main supporting characters, a detective called Kenton, is a lesbian. Fine. What was annoying was that the author saw fit to go on and on and on about it. Pretty much every time Kenton was mentioned there was a reference to her sexuality. It was like the author was saying “Look! Look! I’ve put a lesbian in my book! Look!” It had no bearing on the plot whatsoever and became distracting. It started off being mildly irritating and by the end I wanted to grab the author and scream at her “I know she’s a lesbian, you have mentioned it eight thousand times already, I don’t care, tell us something else about her”! I think what made it more annoying was that Kenton seemed like an interesting and likeable character and it would have been nice to have seen a bit more character development and find out more about her.

Having said that I did still enjoy the book. The story was gripping and the pacing was just right. I do have another Claire Seeber book in my to read pile so I will be giving that one a go at some point.