Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Book review: The Andromeda Strain by Michael Crichton

The Andromeda StrainThe Andromeda Strain by Michael Crichton
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Book C in my A-Z of authors was The Andromeda Strain by Michael Crichton. I am a massive fan of his. I own every season of ER and have read quite a few of his books. It always amazes me how each one is so different.
I'd seen the film of the book first, and I know that's normally a bad idea but in this case I think it helped.
I enjoyed the story. Crichton doesn't dumb it down for his readers. In fact, sometimes it's quite hard work to follow all the science but he explains well the process for each machine. However, sometimes this was boring. There were charts and results printed alongside the text which more often that not meant nothing to me. I would've preferred a character to just tell me the results.
I also wish more detail had gone into the description of the dead bodies in Piedmont. This was one of the initial attractions after seeing the film. We're also not told very much about the characters in the book. The only ones we really follow are Stone and Hall but by half way I'd forgotten what their specialities were.
Generally it was a good book. Crichton's brain is absolutely brilliant, but sometimes he gets so caught up in the science, he forgets he has to tell a story too.

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Thursday, 14 June 2012

Book review: Long Way Round by Charley Boorman and Ewan McGregor

Long Way RoundLong Way Round by Ewan McGregor
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Author B in my A-Z was Charley Boorman although it says that Long Way Round was just written by Ewan McGregor.
I'm a fan of both actors but I've never seen the TV show so I went into this with a fresh mind not really knowing what to expect. And can I say it was the biggest disappointment.
Both authors moaned, whined and cried their way around the globe. I know it must be hard to miss those you live with constantly, but they were crying when they left and cried during a lot of the journey. When they weren't crying they were moaning about the conditions of the road, which they should have expected and each other.
On top of that it was hard to tell which of them were narrating. Their writing styles were very similar and when events happened they were brushed under the carpet. Nothing was explained in much detail. In fact more time was spent complaining about the state of the roads.
In Ewan McGregor's sections he would constantly 'film drop' mentioning what he'd been in as well as any encounter when someone recognised him from a film. Although I like him as an actor, I didn't really care about that in this context and when he started worrying about his career I skipped large chunks of text.
There were a few bits I enjoyed when there was a lot of tension, or funny moments, which it should have been for the majority of the book in my opinion, which is why I'm giving it two instead of one. But overall it was a complete and utter let down. I don't think I'll be reading one of their books again.

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Thursday, 7 June 2012

Book review: I, Robot by Isaac Asimov

I, RobotI, Robot by Isaac Asimov
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The first book in my A-Z of authors was I, Robot by Isaac Asimov. It wasn't what I expected, in that it was several short stories, somewhat connected rather than one continuous story.
Some of the stories I loved, especially Robbie and the one about the politician who everyone thought was a robot. But some were clogged down in science and I struggled to understand them, or really care.
I loved the ideas that Asimov had, about the world being divided into four parts rather than continents and countries and how robots would be used in the future.
Considering this book was written in the fifties Asimov was definitely ahead of his time and makes you really think the impact robots could have on human life.

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Saturday, 2 June 2012

Book review: 11.22.63 by Stephen King

11.22.6311.22.63 by Stephen King
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I have always been a massive fan of Stephen King. There are two kinds of his novels that I like, the apocalypse ones like The Stand, Cell and Under The Dome and the simple stories like The Body, Rita Hayworth and The Shawshank Redemption and The Green Mile. Despite its size, this in essence is a simple story about a man called Jake Epping/George Amberson and his love for Sadie Dunhill. But Stephen King can't help but throw in a little apocalypse at the end.
I wasn't alive when JFK was assassinated so my only impression of the man is from films, stories and TV. From what I've gathered he was a man that believed in the right things and tried to do his best for a country at one of its most difficult times. But really, this book isn't about JFK at all, it's about love and doing what you think is right and what really is. Time travel is a very small part of it.
First of all I need to mention King's ability to create a wealth of likeable and believable characters. There must be at least a hundred characters and yet it's easy to keep track of them, remember their relation to the story. Jake/George is a lovely character, someone I wish I had as a teacher who struggles with what he has to do despite the bigger picture. The character has flaws, but that makes him all the more brilliant and for every word of every page I was with him.
The second character is Sadie and she is just as fleshed out and loveable as Jake/George. King describes their relationship perfectly and at several times throughout the book I was shouting 'just tell her!' when she wanted to know what he was doing in Dallas.
King is also brilliant at setting the scene, particularly the era in this case. Despite being born in Britain in 1992, I now know what America in the 50's and 60's feels like and wish I could go there. This particular time appears often in King's novels and it's obvious he feels passionate about it.
My last point about this incredible novel is actually the ease of reading it. It's no effort, it's not a challenge or difficult anyway and you just can't stop yourself being pulled in to King's world. I love the way he injects songs into the prose and there were probably lots of references to It and Dreamcatcher in there too, but I haven't read It so I'm sure most of it went straight over my head. My favourite parts of the story were when George was directing Of Mice and Men and when he chaperoned the school dance with Sadie. If King wanted to he could write chicklits and women would be hooked on his every word.
My only, very tiny, negative point is that I found the parts where he was watching the Oswald family quite boring. I knew the very basics of JFK and his death and found these parts to drag but then maybe I just wanted him to get back to Sadie.
Now, I imagine a lot of people have talked about the ending, although really it ends twice, once in 1963 and again in the present day. In the first ending it is very sad but a little bit predictable and it's obvious what Jake/George will do but the second ending is so sweet and so lovely it just makes your heart melt, like all Stephen King books do.

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