Just five books for October, but there were some big reads.
Pure by Julianna Baggott caught my eye when it first became available on NetGalley, but I was very wary of the YA dystopian genre and decided not to request it. After reading a few reviews I thought I might have made the wrong choice, and then Tammy at Women24 gave me a copy as a gift. Pure turned out to be surprisingly grotesque and brutal, and I mean that in a good way. It’s got great world-building, themes, characters and writing. The downside is that the backstory is full of holes and it suffers from that annoyingly common American bias. Still, it’s worth a look.
I received Switched by Amanda Hocking from Pan Macmillan South Africa. The novel itself is a dreamlike success story; it started out as a self-published work and ended up on the bestseller lists. I’ve heard reviewers and readers praise it for being “something different”, mostly because the protagonist is a troll. She also has three love interests instead of the usual two. But in my opinion there’s nothing different about this paranormal romance. My guess is that the author is just using the word ‘troll’ (known as “Trylle” in the novel) to distinguish her novel from countless others like it. Her trolls all look like beautiful humans and are furnished with a variety of random supernatural powers. They live according to a royal hierarchy, and prance around in expensive clothes. The protagonist is beautiful but endearingly flawed (at least to those who like this stuff) and every major male character is into her. So yeah, totally mainstream. Nothing subversive or original, and it’s full of contradictions and stupidity. I was going to write a full review, then decided that doing so would be unkind, since I was bound to hate it anyway.
Your House Is on Fire, Your Children All Gone by Stefan Kiesbye was a Halloween release from Penguin, and the latest in my search for a terrifying novel. It’s a relatively creepy book about some thoroughly messed up people and overall it was a pretty good read. Review to follow, hopefully later this week.
My two big reads for October were the sci fi classic Contact by Carl Sagan and Life of Pi by Yann Martel, which won the 2002 Man Booker Prize.
Contact was dead boring. It had way too much hard science, relied far too heavily on infodumps, and fell painfully short on storytelling. It also had the most un-alien alien encounter I have ever read, and it’s ideas almost completely failed to arouse any interest in me. I couldn’t help but compare it to Existence by David Brin, which came out earlier this year. It’s clear that Brin was inspired by Contact, but in my opinion Existence is an infinitely superior novel, surpassing Contact in every way.
I received a review copy of Life of Pi from Canongate via NetGalley, presumably as part of a promotional campaign for the upcoming movie. I don’t normally like movie covers, but this one if quite beautiful. The novel was not what I expected and it often pissed me off, but it also led to some interesting conversations and musings. It was also an excellent example of my belief that you should finish the books you start, because they might just surprise you. While it will never be one of my favourites, I won’t be able to forget it easily either. Review to follow soon.