Archive for July, 2011

‘The Coffin Dancer’ by Jeffery Deaver

July 20, 2011

A thriller about a criminalist genius (a crime scene investigator) and a devious hit man. I was slightly disappointed with this book on reading the first few pages, because the writing seemed full of clichés. Being just a humble reader, not an actual literary critic, I cannot put my finger on what’s bad about these sentences; but try them out yourself: ‘… they’d flipped a coin last night for the left-hand seat and she’d won, then given him one of her trademark victory grins’ (p. 3), ‘Tall, brunette Lauren, Talbot’s assistant, had worn her lucky dress, whose blue color matched the hue of the Hudson Air logo …’ (p. 4). I guess trademark grins and lucky dresses are things I don’t want to have explicitly pointed out to me. So I suppose this book is not an exemplar of good writing — but still, I read it to the end and don’t regret it much: it’s fun to read, and exciting/gripping (I’m afraid there’s no good English equivalent for the German adjective spannend). The story does, however, take a really unbelievable sharp turn near the end.

If you like CSI (I do, at least the original Las Vegas series) you’ll probably like this novel, too. If you’ve got something good to read, better read that; but if not, you might just as well read this.

‘The Devil in a Forest’ by Gene Wolfe

July 20, 2011

This is an early (1976) fantasy novel by one of my favorite authors. I had a German translation, which I read ages ago, but I gave it away recently to replace it with a copy in the original English. (The German copy was published by Bastei-Lübbe, which seems to me a sloppy publisher, so I doubt the translation was good.) I can’t claim I read it in one go, because I have too many other obligations, but I put it down reluctantly and was always very eager to resume reading; so I went through it rather fast.

The novel takes place in a tiny mediaeval village and involves a robber (does it say ‘highwayman’ in the book? or ‘wayfarer’???), a witch and a weaver’s apprentice, among others. Wolfe likes to keep his readers in the dark for stretches at a time, either not knowing who’s good/trustworthy and who’s not, or not knowing what happened in the meantime. That makes reading Wolfe’s books slightly taxing at times, but they are nevertheless (or possibly also because of this) a joy to read. (At least, most of them are: I didn’t really like his 1975 novel Peace — maybe that was too taxing for me.) I guess this not knowing also makes his books somewhat more like real life, but that shouldn’t put off those who like adventure and color; there’s lots of those, too.

If you are looking for ‘high literature’ in the fields of science fiction and fantasy, Wolfe is a very good suggestion. Probably all his books, including The Devil in a Forest, are very good books, but some are more likely to delight many readers than others: If you like fantasy, read The Book of the New Sun, that is, the five novels The Shadow of the Torturer, The Sword of the Lictor, The Claw of the Conciliator, The Citadel of the Autarch and The Urth of the New Sun (standardly, it seems, the last one is not counted as part of The Book of the New Sun, but I can’t see why). If, on the other hand, you like science fiction, read The Book of the Long Sun, which starts with Nightside the Long Sun (you can find out the other titles from Wikipedia), and, if you liked it, continue with The Book of the Short Sun. But anything else by Wolfe you might stumble upon is certainly also worth reading.