The Crane Wife- Patrick Ness

This beautiful fable has cemented Patrick Ness on my list of favourite authors. I was lucky enough to find a signed copy in Readings in Carlton and it has sat on my shelf waiting for me to have time to give it.
It is the story of an ordinary, kind but mild-mannered man, George Duncan, and his meeting with an extraordinary woman Kumiko. She is definitely not what she seems and the reader gives George many wise nods as he falls in love with her. It is not just a love story though. It is a story of time and legend, of caring for oneself and others and of forgiveness.
George’s daughter Amanda is a prickly and difficult character who is unable to fit in even when she really tries. She also is fascinated by Kumiko and learns from her. Amanda arguably gains the most from her relationship with Kumiko as she learns to be more accepting and forgiving of herself.
Kumiko is unknowable but George still loves her, even to the point of dealing with her idiosyncratic inscrutability and secrecy. He is the gentle soul that she really needs as she tries to rest from her long trial.
The fable centers on an old tale, twisted slightly to fit the novel form, and a song by The Decembrists. Who the author recommends to his readers, pitying those who had not heard them. It is a tale of a vengeful and passionate lover who pursues a beautiful woman who will not kill him. Their elemental forces exist outside of time and the earth. Ultimately it will end badly for some, I won’t give away the ending, but read it for yourself. It is beautifully worth it.



Still ducking and weaving

Now two thirds of the way through Weaveworld and so glad that I decided to re-read it. Susannah, Mimi’s daughter, and keeper of the carpet in which the Fugue is woven, is still on the run from Shadwell, Immacolata and now Hobart, the rabid policeman. She has reconnected with Cal after Jerichau has been taken and is trying to find a place to hide the carpet, not an easy thing to carry with you when you are on the run.

The tension has been constant and the imagination behind the rendering of the world is simply awe inspiring. Little wonder that Clive Barker is seen as the master of this (sub) genre.

Highly recommended for lovers of speculative fiction, fantasy and even horror.

Voice of the Shuttle

I am re-reading Weaveworld by Clive Barker. This book is a piece of genius and I absolutely loved it when I first read it in the *cough* late eighties. I have decided to re-read it after seeing it on a shelf at Borders and having a moment of nostalgia. It wil be interesting to see if it lives up to my expectations.
Last night I read the first three chapters and things look promising. Immacolata is every bit the evil protagonist I remember and her sisters still have the ability to make the reader shudder. Shadwell is scarily familiar to anyone who lives in the modern world and so makes a plausible adjunct to the evil team.
Cal has just been taken by these characters and we are waiting to find out how he will get out of this situation. I always like to stop reading at a moment like this so that I prolong the suspense. Next time, let’s see what happens.

American Gods

This is really interesting reading. I love the idea that people bring their gods with them to America and when they stop believing the gods are just stuck there or fade away, bit like Tinkerbell, but much more sinister. Gaiman’s characters are fabulous illustrations of America’s hidden people. They’re fascinating and believable. I haven’t yet finished this one, but I am loving it so far. It is way better than Stardust and on par with Neverwhere, which I really enjoyed.
Shadow is seconded by Wednesday, who is really Odin of course, to assist him in the war against the new American gods who are trying to supplant the old ones brought by the immigrants across the millennia. The new gods are suitably modern, clinical, clever and brought into being by technology. This could be read as a diatribe against the modern world, but I don’t think that Gaiman is that simplistic. The old gods are also flawed characters but our sympathies lie with them, much as they do with the middle American people that we are introduced to. A cast of hundreds will keep any reader interested. I look forward to seeing what happens with the showdown.
I will try to remember to post when I’ve finished this one.

The End of Mr Y – Scarlett Thomas

Well, I looked around quite a bit to find this one. I’d read a review of it in The Age that said it was quite good so I thought well it looks interesting, I’ll give it a go.
As with any new book, when you’ve bought it you can’t wait to get home to crack the covers and begin. I had to wait a little while as it was school holidays and I had a job application to write as well. Once I got started however, I was drawn in easily. It’s about a girl called Ariel, who lives in Oxford and is doing a PhD in English Literature focussing on nineteenth century authors particularly those who used scientific ideas and the more arcane idea of ‘thought experiments’. It begins with a building falling down and Ariel finding a rare manuscript. This just happens to be one that she is working on, but before you go ‘Oh No! too contrived’, I have to let you know that there is a good narrative twist that explains this fortunate event. The thought experiment part of the narrative begins to take over and Ariel finds a recipe for a method of entering what the 19th century author Lumas calls the troposphere and the CIA call MindSpace. I’ve already given too much away now, the astute reader will be able to see the links here.
Anyway, things go along at a cracking pace and the author who likes references to Derrida and post modernity will be satisfied. I do confess to some doubts, religion gets credited with power, the power of human thought, which may be plausible, but not completely satisfying in a novel which references the simulacrum a la Baudrillard so often.

Warning: There was a terrible moment, when I nearly gave up as the plot let me down. At one stage Ariel has met a hunky ex-priest who is smitten by her as he senses she’s quite, ahem, experienced. He takes her to a shrine, because she needs holy water. The shrine of St Jude. She asks him who St Jude was!!!! seriously, she’s read and studied Hardy, what was Thomas thinking?
Don’t let this put you off. It was still an entertaining read and thought provoking too, what more can you ask for on holidays?

The Raw Shark Texts

Well, I finished ‘the Ringmaster’s Daugher’. I really enjoyed it. The ending was not at all predictable. It really dealt well with the writer’s world and a very unusual character who lived right on the edge of it and yet was eventually too valuable for his own good.

I was reading through the paper at the weekend looking for new books and I found this one. The Raw Shark Texts by Stephen Hall. WOW! I read it in two nights and absolutely loved it. It’s a fantastic concept. Part Matrix, part Wizard of Oz, part Jasper Fforde and part Jaws. It was unpredictable and fascinating.
Eric wakes up and hasn’t any clue where he is. What’s worse, he doesn’t have any idea who he is. He finds a series of letters and they lead him to a psychiatrist who he assumes is helping him. She tells him not to open any letters addressed to the ‘first’ Eric. Which he manages to do for an amazingly long time lulled into a false sense of security by his boring domesticity and daytime TV. Eventually he gets curious and opens some mail which leads him into a fantastic adventure to find the real him. He travels across Northern England looking for one Dr Trey Fidorous and finds Scout (or she finds him). They set off in search of Dr Fidorous pursued by a vicious Ludovicius. (well you’ll have to read the book to find out what this is, I can’t give it all away) Needless to say this was a masterpiece of modern fiction. I loved the way that it played with the idea that texts were ideas bigger than reality. Hmm maybe they’re Platonic forms? anyway it’s the cult book of the year.
Must read. Look out for the quirky text layout too.