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A rather charming collection of very short pieces, fact, fiction, and somewhere in between. Largely sitting technically within the sci-fi genre, this is a particularly accessible bunch. My favourites were probably 'F is for Fairies', 'Neptune', and 'The Mask'. I'd like to read the wider story around the latter.
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Now, this takes me back. This is another one in the Favourites roundabout (and if it looks like I'm only reading things from BookCrossing, that's because they're the only ones I've got the brain to write up at the moment).

I first read this at school - sixth form, it must have been, from the shape of the library in my mind's eye - and enjoyed it then. It was interesting to revisit it, and to find that on the whole it's very much as I remember it.

This is set in one of those dystopian societies that look very neat and tidy on the surface, and then turn out to be a little too neat and tidy when you dig a little. The titular Giver holds all the world's memories - because the world has decided it's easier without remembering things like love and war, but somebody has to have them - and is passing them on to Jonas, the new Receiver. As before, I found this concept intriguing, and was hooked on the gradual deconstruction of the society. As before, I found myself getting rather bored with the end of the story. It was quite late at night, I will admit, but it did feel as if it finished two chapters too late - though this time I picked up on the ambiguous nature of the ending.

Interesting to revisit a book I'd enjoyed before, and to see how my relationship to it has changed over the past ten years (very little, as it happens).
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Mark Dunn, "Ella Minnow Pea"

Well, my first reaction to this was 'But Thurber did this better in The Wonderful O!' Actually, this is not the case. The Wonderful O is better, but it's not doing what Dunn does here. What both authors do is portray the havoc wreaked in society by the outlawing of a letter or letters. What Dunn does, and Thurber doesn't, is inflict the same privation upon himself. Inevitably, it felt rather contrived.

Various, "Spinechillers: Ghost Stories"

One of those 'get kids reading for a quid' things. Not really very scary, it must be admitted.

Davey Moore, "Dark Planet: Decide Your Destiny No. 7" (Doctor Who tie-in)

I used to love 'Choose Your Own Adventure'. Granted, one usually ended up dying horribly for the simple reason that one opened the wrong door, but it was fun to have a bit of control over a book. This was a bit of a disappointment, in that there were only three possible endings, and the choices that were offered to the reader didn't seem to make much difference to the overall trajectory of the plot - whatever you chose, you ended up in more or less the same place, in more or less the same state. Not so much fun.

Amanda Addison, "Laura's Handmade Life"

This is 'L' in the ABC roundabout, and the first one that I've really been apathetic about. ('J' was really Not My Cup Of Tea, but had a certain trainwreck fascination about it - 'she's not going to go there... she's really not going to go there... she went there'.) This one was just... meh. I really didn't care about anybody in it, nor did I find any of them interesting. Some of it was plain bad writing (important plot points happening offscreen, for example, after there had been a big lead-up); some of it was annoying. (A sewing business that just happens? Dream on. Where on earth does she find the time? And I don't care if Kitkat is fair trade these days; I was very disappointed to see the narrative unquestioningly endorsing Nestlé.)

Sarah Rayner, "One Moment, One Morning"

This one I liked a lot. While the plot is built around the death of a man, it is centred upon three well-drawn women. Well-written, sympathetic but believable characters, a positive portrayal of a lesbian character, and the sort of book that keeps you reading. Recommended.

Cassandra Golds, "Clair-de-Lune"

A rather strange little fable about a mute girl and a dancing mouse. Missing a couple of pages, unfortunately, but happily they're early on in the book so I don't think I missed too much. I will admit to shedding a tear or two.
stapsreads: 'The man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who cannot read them' (Default)
My obsession with The Count of Monte Cristo continues unchecked. First The Stars' Tennis Balls, and now this. The vengeful antihero in this case is Gulliver Foyle, Mechanic's Mate 3rd class. He is taking revenge on the ship that passed him by, leaving him to die in space. If you enjoyed The Count of Monte Cristo, and were able to reach beyond the troubling clichés in that, and/or if you are a devotee of the golden age of sci-fi, you'll like this.

Worth reading not just as a curiosity for devotees of Dumas, but also as a sci-fi classic. A sci-fi classic of the fifties, mind, with all that implies - i.e. lots of bits that make me cringe, and some that are just plain nasty - but also wacky imagination, wackier characters, and a reader who's assumed to be intelligent. An implied rape scene (actually, I was rather more disturbed by Neil Gaiman's foreword, regretting that the reader had to do more work in the fifties) and a society in which women are kept behind closed doors - but several well-drawn female characters and an explicit acknowledgement of how broken that society is. Some terrible racial stereotyping, a disabled antagonist... it's of its time, yes. Problematic. But when it wasn't doing that, I did enjoy it.
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Thoroughly enjoyable satirical post-apocalyptic GM dystopian sci-fi. (I don't think Atwood likes calling it sci-fi, but tough. That's what it is.) It took me a while to get into this but it's very skilfully constructed; once I began to work out the history and where everybody fitted in, I was hooked.

I'm not surprised this is somebody's favourite.
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A classic example of 'never judge a book by its cover'. I did, and title + cover photo of Keira Knightley made this a book I'd never have picked up but for book club.

So, as it was a book club book, we're playing by book club rules. My one word to describe this was 'dystopia'. I had to define this. It's the opposite of utopia.

Never Let Me Go took me right back to sixth form and Nineteen Eighty-Four. It's another of those wonderfully bleak, understated, British dystopias, where everything is quietly miserable, up until you get a glimmer of hope three quarters of the way through, and then... nothing changes. You can't beat the system. You love Big Brother.


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June 2013

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