Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Old man and the Sea

Old man and the sea

By Ernest Hemingway

This book is a classic. I'd describe it akin to the best engineering designs - everything in the story is there because it has to be and nothing more.


Friday, August 19, 2005

The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay

The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay
by Michael Chabon

I rather liked this. It covers a fairly large span of time - from when the two main characters, Joe Kavalier and Sam Clay, are just boys to when they're successful comic book creators.

The one thing that did bother me about the story was minor inconsistencies (I think). Like at the end of a chapter, it would say something like Joe would never drive a car again and then at the start of a new chapter, Joe would be driving a car. Maybe it was just me parsing these details to quickly, but I could have sworn it happening multiple times.

I think the thing that really works about the book is that it is this wonderful amalgam of comic-book and fiction based on real-life. The characters combine real-life comic book creators from the Golden Age of comics and the comic-book superheroes they create. As in comic books, the characters have their flaws and make mistakes that make you cringe. And of course, there are the love stories, which I do have to say somewhat conveniently work out in the end, but were interesting nonetheless. But overall, it's a solid mixture of its elements. In particular, it really seems like Chabon did a fairly extensive job of investigating what it was like to live in those times and see what real comic-book creators were influenced by and what problems they faced.

So to quickly conclude, definitely worth a read.

(Recommended by Judy)

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
by Mark Haddon

I felt kind of blase about this one. The main character is autistic. He tells a story of how in the process of investigating the "murder" of a neighbor dog, he inevitably is lead into a further adventure.

The story is quite realistic - I mean it could happen to someone real. And it was interesting getting into the mind of a real autistic. It's just that at times, it doesn't feel authentic - it feels like someone who isn't autistic creating a character who is and trying his best to inhabit that mind. (It turns out that the author isn't autistic - he was a volunteer at one point helping autistic children.) It's an somewhat ambitious goal, and it works at times (an autistic perspective renders certain realities somewhat humorous), but it doesn't work all the time, which makes it feel forgettable.

(Lying around. Shan's)

The Alienist

The Alienist
by Caleb Carr

I don't know how else to describe it, but the writing in this book just has a very classic feel. Kind of like reading a Sherlock Holmes. In certain ways, it seems like this book is influenced by the Sherlock Holmes series.

The story is set in New York in the late 1800's and a serial killer is on the loose. A reporter, John Moore, provides the common man perspective (similar to Watson's character). He is invited by his old Harvard friend, Dr. Laszlo Kreizler, a renowned psychologist, and the Commissioner Theodore Roosevelt to help bring in the killer. Together they assemble a small team of personalities to assist.

I can't say that anything about The Alienist is that novel, but things are put together quite nicely. The classic style of writing I mentioned before and the characters in the story help to evoke the late 1800's setting, although I wasn't so sure that it wasn't just taking advantage of the readers impression of that era through stereotypes. The action proceeds along organically as one would expect such an investigation to go, which I appreciated and there were nice action moments that were page turners. All in all, this was quite an entertaining read.

(recommended by judy)