Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Reading List - February 2017

This is the 23rd Inspector Banks novel. I think I've read them all. I'm afraid this was a weak entry. As is often the case in these books, there are 2 investigations. Banks is investigating a case of "historical abuse", a famous person who, long ago, raped a young girl. It's a 'ripped from the headlines' kind of story as Robinson frequently references a recent actual case, of Jimmy Saville. The other case involved 'grooming', where young girls are taken by older men, given gifts, etc. until the girls trust them and have sex with them and their friends. Neither story was particularly strong and both were told with much preaching by the author.

This was a pretty ridiculous story. Faller is a guy who lives on what appears to be a fragment of our world, a fragment probably of New York City. Nobody, including him, can remember anything different. The people here are running out of food and things are getting desperate. He has some clues in his pocket which suggest an earlier life. He builds a parachute and leaps off the world to find there are other fragments of our world. The story is interspersed with another story of people trying to cure a deadly man-made disease by replicating the person's body without the disease (sounds like a plot from an old Star Trek episodes). This device is powered by a man-made black hole. What could go wrong? The stories eventually come together but incredulity was stretched way beyond the breaking point.

This is the classic 1965 spy novel by John Le Carre. His third novel, but his first best seller which enabled him to quit his day job with a British intelligence agency and become a full time novelist. I originally read this around when it was new, so I was 14-15 years old. It's probably one of the first really adult themes books I ever read. It's still a powerful story today. I also watched the movie, with Richard Burton. John Le Carre was a nobody when he wrote this book but within a year he was making a movie with Richard Burton, rewriting the script almost daily. He had to change the name of one of the characters in his novel from Liz because Liz Taylor was hanging around the set.

It's not really a coincidence that I just finished "The Spy Who Came In From The Cold". I got this biography from my youngest son for Christmas. It's probably not something I would have picked up on my own but it was a pretty good read. Le Carre (whose real name is David Cornwell), grew up during the Second World War. His father was a first-rate con man and Cornwell spent most of his life trying to recover from that. He wrote many more books than I realized. The description of his creative process was interesting. He would do extensive research, visiting each location in the novel if he could. He wrote in long hand, rewriting and rewriting until he had what he wanted, often making changes after submitting the work to the publisher. Many of his novels were made into successful movies, including "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy" with Gary Oldman in 2011. The movie "Our Kind of Traitor" was released last year based on his 2010 novel.

The John Le Carre biography was real long so I balanced it with this very short book. Scalzi is a science fiction writer whom I like a lot. This, as it says, is a collection of very short (at most 3 pages) fiction. Enjoyable.

This is as hard as hard science fiction gets. The human-prador war is over but peace is uneasy. The prador are large crab-like intelligent, but deadly, aliens who can't help themselves in their hatred of humans. Although not as technologicly advanced as humans, there were a lot of them. But the artificial intelligences who control human affairs were able to out think them. Now, one of these AIs, who went rogue during the war, is in the background, manipulating human and prador to bring about some transformation only it understands.

Surprise, another Le Carre book. I've got his stuff on my list of things to read. This was about an intelligence agency (the Department) in England, mostly composed of old men, relics from the Second World War. They stumble on what seems to be a plot by the East Germans to install Soviet missiles capable of hitting London. Having no assets in Europe, they recruit a Polish man living in London, who, as a teenager, had worked with the French Underground. It's a story of betrayal and how some people (the older members of the Department), can't stop doing the things that made them feel alive even though their time is long past.

1 comment:

Hackenbush said...

I'm not generally a genre reader but the Scalzi book looks intriguing. His blog looks interesting as well: