Jarv’s All New Holdiay Reading Part 2
This installment will be much shorter, because I haven’t as much interesting to say about the books. Still, it carries on with the odd mix of the previous part, and looking at it, I’m mildly disgusted at myself for some of the trash I’ve read on this trip.
Still, here it is…
Wormwood By G.P. Taylor
I quite like the idea of this book. It’s mid 18th Century London, and nerdy Scientist type Blake gets his hands on the Nemorensis, a book that holds all the secrets of the universe. No sooner has he started reading it, when a big comet is bearing down on the city causing dogs to go mad etc. Personally, provided the comet landed in the East End somewhere and obliterated the whole mess then I’d be for this. In the meantime, he’s having problems with his serving girl and fallen angels are battling for possession of the book. It all looks a bit apocalyptic really.
In all honesty, I reasonably enjoyed this one. It’s got touches of Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell to it (without being anywhere near as good, frankly) and for the most part was a passably entertaining fantasy potboiler. The supernatural elements of the book worked well, and as a whole, Wormwood was a completely acceptable way to pass a couple of hours.
However, although entertaining enough it is flawed for a few reasons. Firstly, it has the depth of a puddle, and secondly, it’s far too unfocused. There’s no coherent heroic character, Blake doesn’t cut it, and neither does the girl. Furthermore, it’s too short for the subject matter that it’s dealing with. By plunging us straight into a fully realised world it’s a touch disconcerting for the book to pop up with fairly big ideas or devices just when the narrative requires it. With a bit more fleshing out this could really have been something special, but it just falls aggravatingly short.
Overall, not an unpleasant read, and one I quite enjoyed all in all. I give it 2 bookworms out of 4, and have to say that this really isn’t a bad book at all, unlike
Shampoo Planet by Douglas Coupland
Terrible book this. I’m honestly convinced that there are two versions of Douglas Coupland out there. There’s the one that writes bang on contemporary satire with novels such as Girlfriend in a Coma and Miss Wyoming, then there’s the other hack who churns out oh-so-fucking-clever exercises in smugness such as this or All Families are Psychotic. I’m genuinely convinced that by the time of writing this book he’d crawled so far up his own arsehole that he needed a team of sherpas to retrieve him.
Shampoo Planet is a sort of sequel to Generation X about the “Global Teens” (even that designation makes me want to punch him). These are the most aggravating and patronising douchetards penned by the Canadian, and Douche in chief Tyler is one of the most supremely hateful characters put on paper. It sends me apoplectic even thinking about his “Shampoo museum” and that the cunt calls his car “the comfortmobile”. This is before I even get started on the vile group of sickening irony-seeking fuckfaces that fail to pass as human beings but nevertheless represent his friendship circle who give each other reassambled garbage in an ultimately futile attempt to find meaning in the mundane, while simultaneously patronising everyone that doesn’t share their nauseating quasi-middle class ambitions.
Just as a test, if the following doesn’t annoy you then you might get further with this book than I did:
” ‘Oh, Tyler, did you book a hotel yet?’ asks Anna-Louise. . . . ‘Is the hotel Marge? It has to be Marge. I want atmosphere.’ (Marge is Anna-Louise’s word describing sad, 1950s-ish diner-type places where the waitresses are named Marge.)
‘Yes, it’s Marge.’
‘What’s the name. The Lucky Puppy? The Plucky Ducky?’
‘You are my trailer park.’
‘And you, Anna-Louise, are my tornado.’ “
Basically, the French “Selfish to the point of being autistic” girl, Stephanie, is clearly the villain of the novel, but she’s so transparently and obviously hateful that it has to be a conscious choice by Coupland (honestly, not one redeeming feature), however, if you look at the exchange above, all the characters are so self-consciously hip and downright fucking obnoxious that giving a shit about his hippy mother or pyramid selling grandparents becomes impossible.
Fuck this book. Fuck it long, fuck it hard. It is so fucking smug and revolting and every character in it is in dire need of an appointment with a chainsaw. Shampoo Planet is a truly, truly hateful book and I instantly regretted picking it up. Orangutan of fucking doom, and fuck you Tyler, just for this:
“Europe lacks the possibility of metamorphosis . . . . (It) is like a beautiful baby with super distinctive features who, while beautiful, is also kind of depressing because you know exactly what the child will look like at twenty, at forty, at ninety-nine. No mystery.”
What. A. Fucking. Cunt.
After that disaster, I decided to regress a bit with a genuine classic:
Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
Heller was asked once why he hadn’t written a book as good as Catch-22 since the publication of his debut novel. His reply was the frankly fucking brilliant “well, nobody else has either”. He’s got a point.
I’m not going to review this at length, because it’s another hugely dissected novel, but Catch-22 is essential fucking reading and one of the greatest novels of all time. This is an obvious 4 out of 4 book.
For those that don’t know, Catch-22 is about a group of pilots stationed on Pianosa in World War 2. Their commanding officers are inept and keep raising the amount of missions they have to fly before going back to America. Yossarian, the main character, discovers that it is possible to be excused flight detail if you’re insane, but you have to ask the doctor for the diagnosis of insanity, which is where Catch-22 kicks in: As soon as you ask to be grounded, then you clearly aren’t insane because it shows concern for your own welfare. Therefore, the only way to be grounded is to be insane, but the only way to demonstrate insanity is to keep flying.
This is a bitter, hilarious, and genuinely superb novel. Recommended with a maximum.
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson
Completely overrated novel that’s been made into a completely overrated Swedish film. And a pointless American one.
Still, the story of Mikael and Lisbeth investigating the various shady family doings is quite compelling, and it is a reasonable thriller. Although, let’s face it, this is actually a potboiler, but a higher calibre one.
Nevertheless, it does piss all over the film from a great height simply because the background at Millennium magazine is filled out in more depth and as such the events transpiring on the page make a lot more sense than those on the screen. I can’t get especially excited about it, but it did pass the time in a pleasant enough way and the eventual dénouement was actually far more satisfying than the film version. I would give it a higher rating than I’m going to, but for this:
Each chapter has a quote before it relating a statistic about violence against women in Sweden. For the most part, these don’t bother me especially and they’ve got fuck all to do with the story anyhow. However, this one gets right on my nerves:
92% of women in Sweden who have been subjected to sexual assault have not reported their most recent violent assault to the police.
To quote Mark Twain, there really are lies, damned lies and statistics, and to quote Vic Reeves, this is another example of the fact that 88.8% of statistics are made up. Firstly, how on earth do they know this if the incidents aren’t reported? Secondly, it implies that victims of sexual assault are likely to be serial victims which is clearly not the case as well. I happen to know the background and the inspiration for this novel, and when taking with Sweden’s frankly insane sex laws (ask that poor wikileaks bastard for examples) into account, then this heinous abuse of statistics and fact left a really nasty taste in my mouth.
As a direct result of this my enjoyment of the novel soured significantly, and so I’m docking it a bookworm and rating it as 1 out of 4. I hate this sort of shit.
Nevertheless, it’s a reasonable thriller, if you ignore this garbage then it will pass the time quite happily.
The Girl Who Played With Fire By Stieg Larrson
Having been quite critical about the first of these books, I have to say that I was treating this with some caution. Not only is the film utter wank, but as I wasn’t jumping through hoops for the first novel, I had very low expectations for it.
However, when I’m wrong, I’m really wrong. This is much, much better than the first book, and is in a completely different class to the frankly piss poor film. This time out, the focus is more on Lisbeth’s background and the revenge her Guardian attempts to obtain, which opens up a can of worms in a major way and shines a light on a government cover up.
Again, this is a potboiler, there’s no real denying it. However, this is actually a pretty storming book. It rips along at a rare old pace, the events (unlike the film) are coherent and exciting, and the eventual finale is a real edge-of-seat set piece.
I was genuinely surprised at this, and was thinking about finishing the trilogy only to discover that we don’t own the third book. Nevertheless, The Girl Who Played With Fire is a massive cut above the original, and if he hadn’t insisted on including weird and mildly gross passages about Erika’s sexuality then I’d be rating it even higher. As such, though, it can have 3 out of 4 simply because it’s inspired me to find the third book.
That’s this installment done, next up is a right old mix with British comedy, American legal drama, homosexual noir, and a look at one of Britain’s longest running comic creations.