Archive for November, 2012

‘The Hobbit’ by J. R. R. Tolkien

November 26, 2012

I read this book once or twice before, ages ago, in a German translation. Still a nice read, although I’d recommend it more because it’s a classic than because it’s so terribly stunning. It doesn’t stun me, at least. (If you want to know which books I really love, look for the authors whose names reappear over and over again here: Banks, Wolfe, Ellroy, …)

From the narrator’s tone of voice it is clear that The Hobbit is aimed at a juvenile audience (also, the inside blurb says so [is it a blurb if it’s inside?? More like an informational text, in this case]: he read it to his children). But it’s not all juvenile: the end of the dragon is not the end of the problems; various decent people (dwarves, men, elves) almost go to war over who gets how much of the dragon’s hoard. (Okay, I may be rather susceptible to finding worthwhile messages in books which many would not take serious, e.g., Harry Potter …)

I wonder how Peter Jackson has managed to turn this not-very-long book into three full-length (or quite possibly overlength?) movies, like he did for The Lord of the Rings. I mean, TLotR (the books) probably has five or ten times as much content as The Hobbit. I am confident that he succeeded in making a good trilogy, I’m just curious about how he did it. (Mostly I am very eager to see the movies.) Looking up The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey on IMDb furnishes the beginnings of an explanation: apparently Sauron (a.k.a. The Necromancer), Saruman and Galadriel feature in the movie, even though they are never onstage in the book, and Saruman and Galadriel are even never mentioned at all, as far as I remember. (And who the f*** is King Thranduil?) So it seems like Jackson has added action that is at best hinted at in the book. Oh, I trust he did his job well and I will enjoy the movies.

Actually I once sent a postcard to Peter Jackson (or at least I tried to: I didn’t have a real address; don’t know whether it ever arrived) suggesting he might consider filming The Book of the New Sun by Gene Wolfe (having proved himself capable and worthy by his version of TLotR). Perhaps he’ll read this blog? Perhaps you’ll all write him postcards promoting the sake of TBotNS?!

Next: Brightness Falls From the Air by James Tiptree, Jr., and maybe then Norstrilia by Cordwainer Smith. Although I suspect I’ll get much more urgent books soon for my birthday …

‘The Glass Books of the Dream Eaters’ by G. W. Dahlquist

November 26, 2012

This book is too long. Otherwise, it’s not bad at all. It is well written, in a pseudo-19th-century style (reminded me a little of Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke, in that respect — also a long book, but I really liked it). It tells an interesting story with elements of science fiction as well as fantasy. Horror too, I guess. It is sprinkled with bits of kinky sexiness. It is gripping — but I think it is just too slow in getting to a resolution, takes too many turns.

What I have read

November 9, 2012

As time passes, ‘blog’ here becomes more and more an abbreviation for ‘backlog’. I don’t find — or don’t take — the time to comment on what I am reading. Here’s at least a list of what I have read since last I posted something here:

  • Léo Malet: Stoff für viele Leichen (Des kilometres de Linceuls) — okay, but it seems that Malet’s Nestor Burma novels just don’t contain the kind of humor (or crime) I enjoy.
  • Carl Hiaasen: Native Tongue — that’s much more like it! Hiaasen writes very enjoyable funny crime novels; not as over the top as Kinky Friedman (who is, however, also very enjoyable).
  • Pascal Mercier: Nachtzug nach Lissabon (Night Train to Lisbon) — Hmmmmm … not as boring as a novel serving as vehicle for the author’s deep thoughts threatens to be.
  • Gene Wolfe: An Evil Guest — Yes! Very enjoyable, very good writing; as usual with Wolfe, full of surprises and often a little mystifying. I didn’t understand the ending at all, and that wasn’t the only thing I didn’t understand.
  • John Grisham: The Appeal — Oh well, it’s readable, and one does learn something about what’s wrong with the US law system.
  • DBC Pierre: Vernon God Little — Quite good! Funny as well as tragic. Kind of Oliver Twist in modern-day Texas.
  • Mark Fabi: Wyrm — Nice science fiction adventure, recommended to computer nerds, fans of Douglas Hofstadter and suchlike. The technology seems retro already, however, even though it’s only from 1997. (For something along these lines that’s really good, read Neuromancer by William Gibson, or his other books.)
  • Stephen King: Gerald’s Game — Good. Nothing really fantastic or supernatural here. In a sense, the book deals with child abuse, though within the framework of a thriller or horror story. (Can it be a horror story when it doesn’t have supernatural elements??)
  • Andrew Vachss: Haiku — Okay, but not as good as his Burke novels. Sometimes I wonder about the ideology implicit in Vachss’s novels. There is always this small group of, let’s say, blood brothers (or sisters) who understand each other almost without words, who have a strict notion of what is right, and where outsiders are almost always … hm … inacceptable, almost contemptible? I don’t know what that implies, but it somehow seems not modern, rational, humanist, constructive … It may well constitute some of the appeal Vachss’s novels have for me, but even if I enjoy it, it is not healthy.
  • Wolf Haas: Das Wetter vor 15 Jahren (The Weather Fifteen Years Ago) — A very strange kind of novel which consists entirely of a (fictitious) interview with the author about the very novel that can’t be read in the book. Nevertheless, quite enjoyable (sorry for overusing that word; my active vocabulary is limited, especially late at night) and even spannend in the end. I do prefer his Brenner novels, however.
  • Patrick Rothfuss: The Name of the Wind — A nice fantasy novel. I’m not yet entirely sure what to think of it; it’s only the first part of the trilogy The Kingkiller Chronicle and I’d have to see where it goes and what it does with all the material already written. But I certainly do want to read on. There are as a matter of fact numerous parallels to Harry Potter in the story, but it is still something completely different.
  • David Peace: 1980 — Another very good one, luckily not quite as depressing as 1977.
  • Rider Haggard: Allan Quatermain — Ages ago I read King Solomon’s Mines in a (translated) Reader’s Digest condensed version, and I liked the color and adventure (the illustrations were also very nice). This was nice too; reminded me a bit of the German adventure writer Karl May. I’ll certainly read more Haggard.
  • Carl Hiaasen: Strip Tease — Another very entertaining Florida crime novel. You see, I obtained the second Carl Hiaasen Omnibus (already enjoyed the first one), containing three novels, of which this is the middle one.
  • Stephen King: The Langoliers — Fun to read. From the four-novella collection Four Past Midnight. I always find King (yes:) enjoyable and not as psychologically shallow as, say, Grisham. Apropos psychological shallowness: I wouldn’t say Hiaasen is psychologically extremely penetrating, but the reader certainly does seem to get an insight into what makes run-of-the-mill criminals tick.
  • David Peace: 1983 — I couldn’t wait very long to read the last part of the tetralogy (I detest the term ‘quadrilogy’ — why are decent movies like Alien 1–4 burdened with this pseudoword?). Finally a few truths come to light and some mysteries are unraveled. Yet there’s a lot that I still don’t understand … Maybe I’m just not that attentive or intelligent a reader. I’ll reread them some day. (The film version Red Riding is also supposed to be quite good.)
  • Carl Hiaasen: Stormy Weather — Actually I’m not finished yet, but almost. The last novel in the second Omnibus. Good again. I’ll gladly read more by Hiaasen. (Although reading the latest works by Gene Wolfe and Iain Banks certainly has priority. And Wolf Haas’s remaining Brenner novels. Don Winslow also sounds interesting — maybe comparable to James Ellroy and David Peace? Oh well, there’s so much to read …)
  • Next, however, I want to reread John R. R. Tolkien’s (makes you wonder whether ‘George R. R. Martin’ is just a pseudonym chosen to embark on a fantasy-writer career; but he started out as a science fiction writer, as far as I know) The Hobbit — before the movie trilogy starts (though only the stars know when I’ll have the opportunity to see the movies — and they are only miasmata of incandescent plasma, as They Might Be Giants remind us).