Tuesday 30 October 2012

The Game

Laurie R. King

I can’t and won’t give any stars to this book, as I couldn’t finish it. THE GAME by Laurie R. King, based on the classic KIM by Rudyard Kipling, features amateur sleuths Mary Russell and her husband, another literary heavyweight, Sherlock Holmes, as the duo travels to India, and tries to find Kimball O’Hara, who has gone missing, and is wanted back in THE GAME by the British Government. Yes, the same Kim, Kipling had created. And, by doing so, saving the British Raj from the Russian Bolsheviks

Surely with two fascinating characters, I was eager to read the book. But somehow after reading 90 odd pages, I had to give up.
The plot was going nowhere. The total plot material related to THE GAME and Kim, could have been easily written in 10 pages, and so by default, the other 80 pages became a Yawnathon. And, somehow I became sure that this ratio would continue in the book.

King used two literary heavyweights, who happened to e in public domain. The possibilities for this book was huge. So, when I left the book midway, the disappointment was of equal proportion!!!

I never judge a writer, by a single book. So, definitely I am going to read another of King’s work, considering the fact that she is a well praised and celebrated Crime novelist.

Thursday 18 October 2012

The Life And Times Of The Thunderbolt Kid
Bill Bryson
14th to 18th October, 2012
5 stars

“Making a man laugh is tougher than making him cry”
   1. I was depressed, my life was going nowhere and then I read Bill Bryson.
         2. I was not passing my exams, I was depressed and then I read Bill Bryson.
         3. I was still single and depressed, and then I read Bill Bryson.

So, finally I did read Bill Bryson. And, now that I have, I can safely say divide my reading life into two parts,
         1. Before I had read Bill Bryson
         2. After I had read Bill Bryson.
The Life And Times Of The Thunderbolt Kid, describes the growing up years of Bill Bryson, in the 1950s, in the city of Des Moines, Iowa.

Generally I tend to stay away from non-fiction but Goodreads had long ago recommended Bryson to me. But his books were so costly that I never came around to buy them. So when I found his books at a used book store, I could not help but grab them.

Since I was not born in 1950s, my dad was born in 1950s, but not in Iowa instead in Rajasthan in India, I took every fact and incident stated in the book at its face value, and laughed out loud, only to stop, so that I can move on to the next paragraph.

This book was one of the funniest books I have read. The way Bryson describes the events of his childhood, though at times leaving me scared (especially the ingenious yet scary endeavours of Doug Willoughby, the treatment of Milton Milton among others), made me laugh without any restraint and move forward with the book.

The book was a fast read. Though it was outside my comfort reading zone of small paragraphs, the prose never slowed down the book. Such was the power of the Thunderbolt Kid. From Chapter 1, Bryson converted his autobiography into an adventure. Oh! I forgot, his was the adventure of the Thunderbolt Kid, the son of King Volton.

And what descriptions!!! From Bizzaro world to Dewey the dog, to strippers tent at the Iowa State Fair or putting one’s hat into another’s hatbox. Perfect words for the appropriate events.And, the last chapter. Oh! The last chapter. Seldom had I read something that had made me this sad. His friendship with Jed Mattes, his search for the city of his youth or even the retirement of the Thunderbolt Kid.

Truly a master writer, who made me laugh throughout the book, only to make me realise that at the end, most laughter are born to shield the deepest sorrows!!

Wednesday 17 October 2012

The Mysterious Affair At Styles
Agatha Christie
5/5 stars

I had read this book long ago, when I was in the eighth standard. That was in 2000, more than a decade ago. At that time I was not much impressed by it. I found the ending to be silly and had the opinion that Christie had written better whodunits than this one.
After 12 years, I still hold on the idea that Christie had written better novels, but with certain modifications to that view.
This one may not be her finest, but certainly this one is one of the most significant of her works, aside from the fact that this was her first novel.
In this novel we find Poirot, searching for mud stains and torn dresses. A definite HOLMESIAN modus operandi, which he later came to dismiss and rely more on his little grey cells.
This was Christie’s first, and she was long way from developing Poirot’s distinct traits.
And, she pointed out in her autobiography that she did read Holmes, and maybe she did get influenced by his methods, although Poirot might not have liked it.
Another aspect present in this book, quite different from Christie’s later works was the presence of the LOCKED ROOM MSTERY approach. Although she seldom used this approach in her later novels, this was nevertheless a very popular technique of the time she wrote STYLES...
Here we find a murder taking place, in a room, the doors to which is locked, with a distinct question as to how the criminal entered the room. Though not a LOCKED ROOM in the purest sense, but it was close enough.
If the book was compared today, the solution is full of circumstantial evidence, but the sheer amount of clues and the massive no. Of twists, delete any negative feeling about the book.
In short, all I can say is that, after completing the book, it doesn’t feel like a re-read at all. The pleasure derived was as good as reading a book for the first time.

Sunday 14 October 2012

Beggar’s Banquet
Ian Rankin
5th to 14th October, 2012
2/5 stars

I am not a fan of short stories. But, I also agree that a good short story can provide a lot more thrill than a long drawn novel. It’s almost like a tequila shot, instead a mug of beer. The sensation is strong sharp, and it’s easily forgotten once the next shot comes in hand.

But, for this sensation to happen, there are two basic points according to me, which must be present,
1.  The story must be well defined. There is always a restriction on the quantity of words, so the story must contain all the elements of a plot, to not to leave the reader asking questions about gaps in the story, after finishing it.
2. The writer must be someone who is well versed in writing short stories. There are not many I have read, who can write a novel and a short story with equal acumen. Among the modern writers Jeffery Archer and Jeffery Deaver are the names that come to mind, and among the oldies Agatha Christie had the same effect.

Now coming to this collection of short stories by Ian Rankin, BEGGAR’S BANQUET, I must sadly say that I was very much disappointed.

While reading an Ian Rankin, I always make a concession of plots and twist. His plots are good, characters strong, but the twists aren’t present. His books are much more o HOWCATCH’EM instead of WHODUNNIT.

So, I was in the correct frame of mind when I started this book, about what to expect, but what I got was nowhere near it. There are only a few stories I can safely say that I remember still, even among those three made any impact on me.

As I mentioned in point no. 1, the plots left a lot to be desired. Make no mistake that these plot when turned into a full scale novel, or even a novella, would turn out to be great reads. Rankin has that power to create masterpieces, but with restrictions on word count, those same plots become summaries of a full scale novel. I mostly understand what happened, but left the story with a lot of unanswered questions. Almost all the stories left me with a sense of incompleteness.

For example, in a story, a murder victim is first suspected to be gay, but as it turns out in the closing paragraph he is straight. Now, this process of destroying the false hypothesis of his sexuality needed at least one paragraph. The reader should be told how the truth was uncovered, but here the writer failed to take that step, because, the restriction on word count.
So, despite the 2 stars rating, I still consider Rankin as one of my favourite. I still regret the fact that I missed him when he visited my city Kolkata. I have another of his novel, THE BLACK BOOK, which I am sure will delete all misgivings I had about this book.

Thursday 4 October 2012

The Sleeping Doll
by Jeffery Deaver
27th September to 4th October, 2012
1/5 stars.

Very few things to write about this book.

1. I did not finish it. I could not finish it. I mean I finished it, but if you call it finishing, after skipping around 300 pages. The plot was going nowhere, the culprit was going nowhere, even the police seemed to be stationary.

2. The main protagonist of Katheryn Dance, is best suited as a cameo character, like her role in another Deaver Novel.

I am not a chauvinist, but this lady doesn’t have what it takes to become a main character. (I have nothing against women. Marple and Millhone, JAI HO!!! )

3. The culprit and the sidekick was comical. Yes, they did have a violent streak but they were comical, no doubt about it.

4. Useless words, meaningless dialogues. The book was filled with these. Dialogues which could have been easily avoided, and would have sped up the book.

5. Like every Deaver book, the subject taught here was Kinesics. The subject was interesting; I would definitely wear shades, the next time I lie. But, it was not helping the plot. So, sadly it became boring.

6. The book could have been completed in 250 odd pages, had these extra arms chopped off. But, it was stuffed and made to bloat to 500 odd pages.

7. Deaver should stick to writing for the ones who cares for the mystery genre, as opposed to sticking to the maxim of “BOOKS SHOULD BRING MONEY”, like fellow writer James Patterson, and throw away any substance from the book.

8. I have had enough of Deaver, can’t believe he was the one who wrote A MAIDEN’S GRAVE.