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Our main cast (and I really should stop treating this as if it was a movie script, but I just can’t seem to) and as a reminder they are:
- flawed scientist hero
- lady scientist love interest
- scientist’s son
- old man with secret knowledge
- exterminator chappie
have not yet recovered from the shock at the end of book one which I won’t go into here, and are re-grouping to decide how they are going to deal with the big bad guy that they failed to stop and whose nefarious plan is coming to fruition. The Big Bad Plan is more extensive than anyone thought, and it becomes really, really, seriously important to discover how the vampires originally came into being, and so the search for this story’s McGuffin – an ancient text called the Occido Lumen – becomes the focus for a large portion of the book.
And that’s probably enough plot, because let’s face it, the main thing this novel has going for it is its plot, so not fair to give more away.
I’m not going to say that the writing is bad as such, but it is pretty workmanlike and totally in the service of driving the story forward. There are huge chunks of exposition throughout which were on occasions a bit distracting, as were the flashbacks (some of which at least served to give some context) and various diversions, including one to the International Space Station which, unless I missed something, didn’t really serve any purpose apart from a bit of gosh-wow-this-is-really-serious-stuff.
Having said all that I did stay up late to read the last third of the story and I will be buying the final volume just to see how on earth (if at all) they all get out of this one. But if you are planning to read this (1) don’t start here and (2) expect a certain amount of middle book of trilogy syndrome. Would still love to see it as a mini-series.
This was on my master list for RIP VI but not read as part of that challenge.
I decided to read this after I had such a wonderful experience with A Visit from the Goon Squad earlier this year, and several people said that they thought this was better in many ways, so how could I possibly resist? I took it on holiday with me in october and made a good start but took ages to finish it, not because I wasn’t enjoying it but because as often happens, life got in the way.
But finish it I did and I’ve been thinking about it ever since.
Charlotte Swenson is a model now in her early thirties, past the peak of her career but still getting catalogue and other work sufficient to maintain a certain lifestyle in Manhattan. The book begins with her back in her home town near Chicago, recovering from a terrible car crash, her injuries so severe that her face has had to be reconstructed. While there she visits the home of her estranged best friend from school while she believes everyone is out, and gets caught by Ellen’s teenage daughter, also called Charlotte. The novel alternates between their two stories from that point on.
This is a book about identity; older Charlotte’s face looks just different enough that many of the people she knew from her glamorous life simply don’t recognise her, and she struggles to regain her place, ending up taking part in an internet experiment where her life will become available for everyone to follow online. Young Charlotte is struggling with growing up, trying to work out who she is and what she wants from life, against a background of her younger brother’s recovery from cancer and the strain that’s put on her family.
This summary of the very bare bones of the plot makes it sound really glum but I thought it was a smart, engaging and thought-provoking story about how we present ourselves to the world, regardless of what’s going on inside our heads. One of older Charlotte’s gifts (if you can out it like that) is to be able to see the secret inner life of the people she comes across; this only happens when they think no-one is watching and their guard comes down. Older Charlotte almost can’t relax with a person until she has seen that secret self.
There are a number of other characters in the book who serve to illuminate the struggles of the two main characters, including the mysterious Z who seems to have his own agenda as he infiltrates older Charlotte’s world. Indeed, it’s worth reading the author’s afterword where she talks about creating the character of Z well before 2001 and how differently the character appears after the events of 9/11.
My only quibble is that I felt the ending was in many ways rushed. Not badly written at all but I had become so attached to both Charlottes that I just wanted to know more about how things were finally resolved, though that may say more about me as a reader than the success of the novel.
I’m really not very good at “directed” reading – you just have to look at the number of challenges I’ve started and failed at over the almost five years this blog has been underway. But I am determined to really crack on with the read-a-long of Wolf Hall which is being hosted by Coffee and a Book Chick from tomorrow until the middle of December. This is due to the extreme embarrassment of having bought the book as soon as it came out in hardback and being too scared to start reading it in case I don’t like it.
After all, the sixteenth century is one of my things (my degree dissertation was on Philip II as King of England 1554-1558) so I should have leaped into reading this with some abandon.
Except I didn’t.
But now that I have a girl crush on Hilary Mantel and someone is telling me how much to read and when, surely, surely I should be able to do this?
The schedule is as follows:
- November 28: Reading commences on or before
- December 4: Progress post for Parts 1 & 2
- December 11: Progress post for Parts 3 & 4
- December 18: Final Progress post for Parts 5 & 6
Wish me luck!
I am currently reading The Fall (book two of The Strain trilogy) by Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan. This was on my RIP VI reading list and I’ve decided as part of my reading plan (such as it is) that I’ll finish off the RIP books before I start anything else. The exception to this rule may very well be Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel as Coffee and a Book Chick is hosting a readalong and I am seriously considering signing up for that.
Two new books came into the house this week:
- The Habitation of the Blessed by Catherynne M Valente – can’t remember who recommended this (sorry) but it is all about Prester John and sounds intriguing as well as having beautiful cover art
- Therapy by Sebastian Fitzek – pretty sure I picked up this because of Lizzy, don’t think I’ve read any German crime before (as opposed to crime set in Germany a la Philip Kerr) so looking forward to giving it a try
Other than that it has mostly been all about movies and coming up with a Christmas wish list…..
Have a good reading week!
Readers of this blog will know that I am very fond of John Ajvide Lindqvist having read and reviewed his Swedish vampire novel (Let the Right One In) followed by his Swedish zombie novel (Handling the Undead) both of which were about considerably more than the tags I’ve given them here. Both were about love and relationships and harbour is in many ways no different, though I haven’t yet been able to come up with a suitable Swedish tag for it.
There is a tiny wee story behind this, in that having persuaded my friend Silvery Dude to try Lindqvist he has been racing ahead and actually read this some months before I did. he recommended that I save this until the autumn, which is why I took it with me to berlin on my recent trip. It felt right to be reading this story in a more European setting than good old Surrey, and his recommendation and my instinct were both correct.
So, Harbour tells the story of a community, Domaro, which makes its living from the sea and from the summer visitors who have built houses there. Our entry to the community is through Anders who has a foot in both camps. One winter day he and his wife take their little girl, Maja, out onto the thick ice to visit the local lighthouse. They only look away for a few minutes, but in that short time every parents nightmare occurs; Maja has disappeared. There are no holes in the ice, nowhere that she could have gone, and despite searching high and low with the help of their neighbours, Maja can’t be found.
Two years later, his marriage destroyed and dependent on alcohol, Anders returns to Domaro determined to find out what happened. At this point we are also introduced to Simon, a stage magician and the partner of Anders’ grandmother. As strange events begin to occur and the secrets of Domaro begin to be revealed, Simon comes to understand that despite the number of years he has spent there he is very much an outsider. Between them he and Anders begin to unpick, albeit accidentally at times, what has been lurking underneath daily life.
I really, really enjoyed this novel. As in his previous books, Lindqvist shows great skill in describing strong emotions such as love, grief, betrayal and anger. His characters are fully rounded (my favourite was Simon) and I really wanted to know how they would get through the events which unfolded. The introduction of the supernatural elements (I’m not sure how else to describe them) builds up slowly and by the time some of the more bizarre incidents take place I was really invested in the story. How the community came to collude in and rely on the secret at its heart was all too plausible. If weird.
I agree whole heartedly with the comment on the cover “a third consecutive masterpiece”; so much so that I have already got a hold of his fourth novel, Little Star.
So Carl’s RIP challenge has come to an end for another year and I’m really pleased that I that I did finish the main challenge as well as dipping into movies and short stories and had a really enjoyable experience.
In terms of books I read the following:
- Duma Key by Stephen King
- The Possessions of Doctor Forrest by Richard T Kelly
- The Dead of Winter by Chris Priestley
- The Rapture by Liz Jensen
- Dark Harvest by Norman Partridge
- Harbour by John Ajvide Lindqvist
I read and wrote about five of the stories from Lovecraft Unbound edited by the wonderful Ellen Datlow and will continue to read the collection
I only watched two of the films on my list but saw an additional one, Contagion, which I’ve decided to include as a worldwide epidemic says “peril” to me.
- The Others
- The Nightmare before Christmas
Still got many of the reviews to complete and publish which I’ll do during the course of this week, but pleased with what I achieved.
This was my first week back at work after three weeks on holiday and the impact on my reading pattern was felt immediately; got hardly any reading done at all. This was due to a combination of standing on the train (I still haven’t mastered the art of handling a rucksack, handbag and book while trying not to bump into the lucky people with seats), working at home (I also haven’t mastered the art of taking a reading break at lunch as I am all too likely not to go back to my desk), and an evening at the ballet. However I did have a trip to Manchester and read a little on the way back.
All that means that I am still reading and enjoying Look at Me by Jennifer Egan; I am refusing to guess when I will finish it, I gave a little hostage to fortune in my last TSS post.
But at least I successfully completed Carl’s RIP VI challenge and will be writing a wash-up post later.
No new books this week; probably just as well……..