Tuesday, October 14, 2008

The Memory Room

By Christopher Koch

The first sentences of the blurb read:
'What is a spy? Are they born, or are they made?' With these words, Vincent Austin analyses his future occupation. Some spies are made, he says, but his kind is born. He is devoted to secrecy for its own sake.

It sounds like an exciting spy-novel. However, this is by no means a conventional espionage thriller. It's not an espionage novel at all really, except for maybe a chapter in China where a fantastic picture is painted of Chinese politics before, and during, the rule of Deng Xiaoping.

The novel follows two best friends, Vincent Austin and Derek Bradley, on their separate journeys from a sleepy Hobart up through the ranks of ASIS - the Australian Secret Intelligence Service.

The Memory Room reeks of great thriller potential from the very first page but is largely unfufilling and disappointing. There is also something unnerving about a meeting in a coffee shop in Canberra's "Civic centre" and trenchcoats by Lake Burley Griffin. To me, this suggest more of porn-trading politicians than top spies at the height of the Cold War.

To me, the best thing about reading this novel was the difference and changes in Hobart between the 1950's and the 1990's. Other than that pretty picture, I was left wanting a lot more from such an acclaimed author.

Monday, August 4, 2008

August's Book!

What? An actual book to be read and reviewed???


Eh, we all have busy busy lives and whatnot, but I've had this book, The Book Thief by Markus Zusak sitting Unopened and Unread on my bedside table for a couple of months now... so lets read it together...

RV back here on Aug 15!

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

The Charlie Novelettes

As told by Vince Noir

The Charlie Novelettes focus on the central character, Charlie and his journey from the rock-and-roll era of the 70s through to the mass-consumerism era of the 90s / 00s.

This collection of stories deals with all the trials and tribulations that are faced by the youth of today. The relevance is frightening.

Overall, I'd say that the Charlie Novelettes are a great light read. The crayon drawings really add to the general feeling of calm that is generated just by holding Charlie.

A must read / am surprised this is not in Angus & Robertson's "100 books you must read before you die"

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Tokyo Station

This book follows the story of Harry Niles; son of American Missionaries that has grown up on the streets of Tokyo.

Harry is an undesirable type who owns a bar in Asakusa and regularly cheats people for money and business.
The book focuses on Harry's life and his plans to leave Japan before the inevitable break out of WWII. However it isn't so simple as he is hunted by a Samurai and several dealings from his shady past have come back to haunt him.

All in all, it's a very disappointing book from an author i thought would have offered a lot more.

This review isn't useful unless it stops you from reading this book. Unlike other Cruz Smith books, I can't paint such a great picture of Tokyo (as opposed to really feeling like being in the Soviet Union in the Gorky Park Series) and the character of Harry Niles just isn't believable.

Friday, April 25, 2008

The Ex-Boyfriend's Handbook.

Firstly, my apologies for forgetting to write this up earlier. Its 10:30 on Anzac Day and I have nothing better to do than write a book review. How sad.

Moving on.

The book I chose for this month was The Ex-Boyfriend's Handbook by Matt Dunn. From picking up the book and a quick perusal of the blurb I surmised it would be something like Bridget Jones' Diary, from a male perspective. I wasn't wrong.

Edward has been happy in his rut of a life. Until his girlfriend (a bitch, by any definition) leaves him. In an attempt to win her back he overhauls his whole life. And in the space of three months goes from dud to STUD, overhauling the a to z of his life with the aid of his friends.

A variety of his adventures show us different aspects of Ed. And the characters contrast and promote his personality. Best mate Dan, is a player so shallow that he would make a mouse fart seem deep. He provides insight into what women want, how to read them and how not to be to keep one. Wendy the barmaid keeps Dan's rediculous ego in check, and provides insightful but witty one liners. And Sam is the glimmer of hope that keeps him going and gets to know Ed during his transformation, providing gentle encouragement along the way. And Natasha is a man eater. She allows Ed to see the vulnerable positions a woman puts herself in when she's in a relationship. And then she shags Dan. Which is pretty much a full circle of characters. Except for Billy the homeless guy who's too smelly or drunk to care if he's in the list.

One thing I would have liked out of this book would have been a little more closure with Jane. Yes, there was some but I wanted her to see him and talk to him, and realise that while she has gained in her life, she has also lost.

Overall I found it a nice book, good for a holiday read. Something you can sit at for a few hours on end or not pick up for a few days if you're busy. It was easy to read and very entertaining. I know I'll be looking for more of this authors work.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Polar Star

I should start by saying that i'm normally not a detective / crime novel kind of guy, but Martin Cruz Smith's Gorky Park Series has me totally hooked

Polar Star follows our hero, Arkady Renko, after he has essentially been exiled from Moscow by the KGB. He is working on the slime-line of a Soviet Factory ship which is buying fish from smaller, more skilled, American trawlers.

Like all Renko novels; there is a murder which he is to investigate. Like all novels, there is an attempted cover-up by everybody else and like all Renko novels, he persists when everybody is trying to force him not to.

What I love about this series (from what i have read) is the picture that Cruz Smith paints of life in Soviet Russia. It's as if he has been there and experienced it. In Wolves Eat Dogs, i have never read a better description (whether it be entirely accurate or not) of Chernobyl and surrounding villages. I just can't get enough of it.

The Gorky Park / Arkady Renko Series

Gorky Park *
Polar Star *
Red Square
Havana Bay
Wolves Eat Dogs *
Stalin's Ghost

*I have read these, and plan on reading the rest very soon.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

A Long Way Down

By Nick Hornby.

A Long Way Down is the sotry of four people who randomly meet after deciding to kill themselves, by throwing themselves from a building, on new years eve. Except they all choose the same place and a bond / pact is formed so that they can help each other.

The story is narrated by all four characters (Maureen, Martin, Jess and JJ) who have completely different reasons for trying to do what they all wanted to do. The group (or 'gang' as they put it) are sometimes led down a completely unbelievable path by Jess' antics.

I could not stand the character of Jess, not one bit. If you read it i am sure that you will agree too, the only problem is, she is essential to the story.

Maureen's character, for that matter, was rather boring.
The only real entertainment i received from reading this book was through JJ and Martin, which is just over half the book.

The book also doesn't achieve anything at the end. it just ends, like that. done. None of them are feeling any better (except Maureen), but at least none of them have committed suicide (i don't think that gives anything away).

Having said all this, i couldn't put this book down and read it in 3 days (i was a bit over it from about 3/4 of the way through though).

It's entertaining, it's easy and it is very well written.