Catching Up On Books

For something I’m really passionate about, I sure don’t write a lot about books. Reading is a large part of my life, and the feeling of being taken away into the depths in the ways that only a good story can do is easily one of my favorite things. And while I might not have been talking about it that much, it doesn’t mean I haven’t been reading lately. Although, and this seems to be a usual state of mind for me, I haven’t been reading as much as I’d like. I wonder if there will ever be a situation where I feel like I’ve spent enough time reading during it. Perhaps not.

Anyway, let’s get on with the list.

The Stand – Stephen King

I started reading this during my last week in Ireland. I didn’t have much money on me, but I did have enough to afford at least one book. It was a hard choice between several books that had been on my list for a long, long time. But during the week before it I had blasted through three books in their entirety, so I figured I’d need something a bit longer. In other words, I chose The Stand for its sheer size. It’s a doorstopper.

The Stand starts off fantastic and strong. A virus breaks out and spreads across America, killing almost everyone along the way. The way King documents the outbreak and its flow across the country is chilling. The pursuits of the characters during all of this completely gripping. Most of the way, I just had to know what the hell was going to happen next. How it would unfold.

Then when the second half comes round the corner it kicks the flow in the stomach and tells it to just chill. It stagnates. Becomes dull. And then the ending rolls over and you wonder what you spent all this time into. I’m not sure what it is with Stephen King, but he seems incapable of piecing together an ending worthy of most of his beginnings. And it’s a shame too, with a start this strong. I’d still recommend it, if only for everything that happens around the beginning.

Dune – Frank Herbert

I think that with this, I’ve read enough science fiction novels to safely say that science fiction is not for me. There’s just something about the genre, or at least most of it, that just doesn’t draw me. I didn’t like Ringworld. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep is one of my least favorite books. I found Ender’s Game to be a great idea, with some really strong flaws in its writing. And I only managed to get through Brave New World because the ideas and the world were so fascinating, not because I enjoyed reading it. I think I can safely put Dune in line with those books.

There’s just something about the writing style that suggests that the writer wasn’t sure how to build suspense, or create compelling characters. That problem in which almost everyone comes across as the same person with perhaps a difference based on their class or species, and the perfect main character who starts something because he’s ruthlessly trained to do so.

I’m not entirely sure why I didn’t put the book away early though. Maybe I was expecting it to get better. Most of my enjoyment with Dune came from all the other things that are referencing it. Seeing where it originally came from was interesting. Although personally I found it that most works that referenced Dune were actually better written than Dune.

Around The World In Eighty Days – Jules Verne

A book that’s been on my list of things to read for ages. And another massive letdown at that. In a way, it reminds me of the experience I had finally reading The Hound of the Baskervilles, but with a much larger focus on celebrating all that is British.

What pained me most reading Around The World in Eighty Days was the fact that the author, Jules Verne, is a Frenchman who barely traveled. It felt like an explanation of why the “write what you know” rule of writing is so important. For the most part, the book blurs away with a series of times and location names as the character ignore most of the scenery surrounding them during their crazy dash across the glove. Until they go on the odd adventure. And when they do, they’re often met with a lack of respect or appreciation of everything that isn’t British. It even goes so far that the lovely Indian girl the main character meets along the way is described to have very fair British qualities.

Perhaps back when it was originally released this would have come across as less jarring, seeing as people in India back then were still under British oppression and it was still okay for everyone (note: western countries) to have a glorious empire stacked away. Reading it now it just comes across as awkward and strange.

Animal Farm – George Orwell

Can you believe this is the first time I’m reading something by Orwell? Another book that’s been on my list for ages. Animal Farm however, did not disappoint. I loved reading through it. It might have only lasted me half an afternoon, but in that short time it managed to become a memorable experience.

It’s quite amazing that commentary on so many serious matters and historical events can be played out in a near fairytale-like manner without coming across as forced. I really wish I’d had read this one sooner.

Norwegian Wood – Haruki Murakami

I’ve been wanting to read up on Murakami for ages. Maybe it started somewhere around my anime and Japan-loving phase. I’m really not sure. If it did, it started near the end of it. It would also explain why I never made good on it. Some time ago I decided I’d read his works anyway, but I just couldn’t decide where to start. That’s often a problem when I want to read someone’s works before having even started reading anything by that person. Most of the time I only decide I want to read the rest of their work after I finish a certain book in particular.

So, why Norwegian Wood? Because of all the books the library had of Murakami, Norwegian Wood is the only one I remember being endorsed by someone who’s opinion I trust. And after reading it, I’m pretty sure to trust her opinion on another book as well. I realize it’s very different from his usual works, and that Murakami himself wasn’t too happy with the success this book had in Japan over his other novels, but it’s still a very solid story in itself, and anyone who can put out something that feels this strong and whole deserves more of my time. Even if it’ll be entirely different.

The Call of Cthulhu and Other Weird Stories – H.P. Lovecraft

This isn’t the first time I’m reading Lovecraft’s work, but it is my first time going through this collection. I quite enjoy his descriptive style, and the horrors that embody his works. Although I’m not too big a fan of his dialogue, it doesn’t destroy his the experience of reading his work, like with some authors.

Interesting, I set out to write a post with sort of mini-reviews of the books that I’ve been reading, but I mostly just ended up writing about my experiences with them rather than actually critiquing them. I think I’m actually happy with the way this has come out. Perhaps I should do the same with some of the games I’ve been playing and movies I’ve been watching soon.

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