Sunday 28 September 2014

Edge of Eternity (The Century Trilogy, #3)Edge of Eternity by Ken Follett
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I am the reader and Ken Follett is the writer, so how can someone even think of an resultant rating less than 5 out of 5. Its impossible, so as per the rules I rate this book a full five!!
But, frankly speaking this (the last) instalment in the Century Trilogy didn’t stand up to the other two. If read as a standalone this book is still a great read, but since it’s a part of a trilogy, comparisons are inevitable. Among the three I still rate Fall of Giants as the best, Winter Of the World as Second best, and this one comes third in a three way race. What went wrong for me in this book? The characters went wrong. Somehow Evie or Maria never matched up to the fiery Maud or Ethel or even Carla. Rebecca from the Von Ulrich clan had the potential to become another crusading Ethel Leckwith, but sadly Follett never transformed her into a main character. Dimka and Tanya are the best characters in this book for me. Dimka, a good man with his unyielding faith in Communism, and Tanya seeing the Commies as a mistake really took the cake away from the Russian characters of the previous books. They were bolder, stronger and their actions were funnier to read. Volodya, Illya or even Grigory never left this deep a mark in my mind.
In a similar way the Americans and the British characters left me a bit down. It was very evident that Evie, Dave or George though strong characters on their own, could never match up to the revolutionary Ethel, the compassionate Maud or Billy Wiiliams. Even Fitz with his wrong conviction was so ripe to be hated, that when he makes a cameo appearance in this book and expresses his true feelings for Maud, both in their 80s, the feeling it created within me, surpassed the sum total of all the feelings created by the current characters. The earlier heroes were far too good. Maria in this instalment was good, but somehow Rosa was mind blowing.
But, this book on its own stood strong and tall. Most books I have read till date that were set in the 60s dealt with Vietnam, Follett used his talent and focused on another buring issues of the 60s in this book, the Civil rights Movement. Just as he highlighted the overshadowed but equally horrifying Action T-4 pogrom of the Nazis instead of the much more highlighted Jewish persecution pogrom. To live in a FREE country and to be denied even the basic human amenities just because of the colour of one’s skin is horrifying. And Follett skilfully highlights how the Kennedys sat and did almost nothing to break the civil rights deadlock, while a Southerner from Texas, Lyndon Johnson stood up and arm twisted the segregationist into seeing sense.
And lastly the beautiful portrayal of the Communists. If all Follett wrote about Kruschev, Brezhnev, the East Germans, the Stasi are true then thank God Communism was shown door by the popular public. They were the worst, they fought against the Nazis and then managed to create a situation where they started competing for the “Worst Dictatorships of the World” prize. They were so full of crap, that even a true Communist like Dimka felt that at last it is better fi there is no Red in the political landscape of the world.
Ken Follett is a master storyteller. His thriller are class apart. And he had proved his worth as a historical fiction author with his previous books too. This book wasn’t an exception. Being a 1100 page book this had every opportunity to become a yawnathon, but just like the previous two books it held pace. Fast, entertaining and a great short course in modern history(on specific issues) this book will definitely go down as one the most favourite books of 2014.

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Monday 22 September 2014

The Monogram MurdersThe Monogram Murders by Sophie Hannah
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Re-incarnations of detectives in hands of a different author seldom succeeds, except in the case of Holmes, but that was possible maybe because the reincarnator was Sir Doyle himself. But, apart from that exception re-incarnations are meant to be not as successful as the original. The stories of limited success are limitless. Take James Bond, John Gradener or Jeffrey Deaver, the books still didn’t read like a Fleming Bond. Recently Asterix suffered the same fate. Yes, the return of our favourite heroes albeit does keep us hooked, but, at the end of the day neither those books nor The Monogram Murders left me with a satisfied smile.

First lets dissect the book purely as a crime thriller. On that point the book would score 3 or 3.5. I love twists, no doubt about that. But nothing tastes good when it is heaped upon a reader without any limit. The number of twists in this book got to me. By the end of the book they didn’t seem like twists at all. A definite case of trying too hard. The plot seemed a bit awkward. I cant put my finger on it, but somehow this was definitely not an EVIL UNDER THE SUN, not even a HICKORY DICKORY DOCK. The plot never slowed down, it was fast, but sometimes it got too fast to really comprehend what was going on. But at the end of the day, the twists of the double plot, and the solution at the end turned this book into a decent crime thriller. There were no pretensions, and though the solving of the crime was left to some circumstantial evidences, the ending was neat.

Now as far as the book goes as a Hercule Poirot novel, the book scores a big ZERO for me. I don’t know why, but this Poirot never felt like the Poirot I had read before. But it didn’t started that way, the man was getting into the Poirot shoes when suddenly the character became an impersonator instead of the real egg shaped Belgian. No, this man is definitely not the HP I knew. And somehow Catchpool, really didnt fit my idea of Hastings. I rather hoped that Hannah would bring back Hastings along with HP in this book.

Lastly, I respect Sophie Hannah. This was not an easy task. Not only did she have to churn out a twister but she also had to re-create the famous Hercule Poirot. Not every venture succeeds but a courageous move should be saluted. So, I salute Ms. Hannah for trying to bring back my favourite detective to me. Though I might not have enjoyed as much as I would have like to, I would still not lose hope. Maybe the second book, if there is any, will bring back the old Poirot I knew.

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Friday 12 September 2014

Mr. MercedesMr. Mercedes by Stephen King
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This book was so long, with so many pages that mid way I was wondering that whether I will be able to finish this book, ever. And with the added pressure of both the culprit and the hero known, the urge to go on was dimming slowly but steadily. But, I finished it. And, I wont say phrases like “Thank God I finished or else I would have missed out soooo much”, coz there wasn’t any missing out to be even had I decided to skip the last 300 odd pages. The culprit would have remained the culprit, and the hero would have remained the hero. Nothing would have changed, except maybe I would have missed out on HOW the villain was bashed(literally) and how the heroes saved the day.

The Mercedes Man was 300 pages too long. The book didn’t have any fault as far as the plot goes, or the way in which the culprit is brought to justice. The fault lies in the fact that though being portrayed as a go-by-the-rulebook ex-detective Bill Hodges suddenly decides to play the lone crusader. Not stopping at that he manages to drag a 17 year old juvenile, and two relatives of a victim dragged into his fight. One of them gets blown up. Then again there was no reason to show how Hodges gets gooey with the lady who gets blown. Neither was that needed, nor was there any reason to kill of a character. But, as due to some of his twisted logic since Hodges had decided to make this fight personal, the death of Janelle, the involvement of Jerome suited the plot. But, they didn’t make sense.

This was my first Stephen King novel. And, though there were loopholes in the plot, I can really see why this author is considered as one of the best. If for nothing else I finished the book for his style of writing. Normally I just enjoy the plot of a novel, paying not much attention to the other details. But, the way King describes Holly and her troubles, or for that matter Hodges fight with his retirement (though both the situations have become much used themes in crime novels) kept me hooked.

This book is supposed to be a part of a trilogy featuring Hodges. I might not have been to upbeat after reading this instalment, but I can surely say I will pick up the next one the moment it comes up on the shelves.

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