The holidays were hectic so I’m combining these two months.
A Game of Thrones - George R. R. Martin (1996)
Amid plots and counterplots, tragedy and betrayal, victory and terror, the fate of the Starks, their allies, and their enemies hangs perilously in the balance, as each endeavors to win that deadliest of conflicts: the game of thrones.
I tend to avoid reading epic fantasy series before they’ve been completed for fear that I’ll get drawn into a world and (god forbid) the author dies or something and it’s never finished and I spend the rest of my life feeling unfulfilled - ok that may have been slightly melodramatic but you get what I mean. However, then the HBO series started and I was drawn into that anyway and so I gave up my rule and read the first book. It wasn’t a dull read despite the fact that the show has done a fantastic job at recreating it. If for no other reason, I was glad I read it just to get a little more on Jon Snow. They’ve done their best with him in the show, but as a silent, broody type it does add something extra to get to see his perspective in the novel.
A Game of Thrones is told from eight perspectives, and I have to admit some were much less interesting than the others (particularly Catelyn Stark) but it wasn’t the kind of fantasy you put down and walk away from - during the lesser bits you’re just eager to get back to other perspectives, the thought to give up on the story never crosses your mind. Just like the series, the fantasy elements (magic, mythical creatures, and the medieval-esque realms etc) are just the background for a fantastic and compelling characters that litter the story. It’s worth a read whether you’ve seen the show or not (but also watch the show - it’s great!).
Rage - Richard Bachman aka Stephen King (1977)
A disturbed high school student with authority problems kills one of his teachers and takes the rest of his class hostage. Over the course of one long, tense and unbearable hot afternoon, Charlie Decker explains what led him to this drastic sequence of events, while at the same time deconstructing the personalities of his classmates, forcing each one to justify his or her existence.
It’s a pity that this is a common reality now and not just fiction, so much so that Stephen King felt the need to let it fall out of print. Luckily, I picked up my copy from a second hand bookstore and if you can find it, I recommend doing the same, it’s well worth the $2 you’re likely to pay. Like a darker, angrier Breakfast Club, these are teens truly dissatisfied with their world and those that are supposedly trying to help. King wrote this in his senior year and while the prose might not be to the standard of his later works, it’s screams honesty and, while he has had real issues writing endings to other novels, this one doesn’t disappoint. As a writer, I was just stunned at the way he could construct the story so you’re empathising with a killer and are positioned against the traditional good guys - police, teachers and counselors, etc. I’ll leave you with my favourite quote from it:
”When you’re five and you hurt, you make a big noise in the world. At ten you whimper. But by the time you make fifteen you begin to eat the poisoned apples that grow on your own inner tree of pain.”
The Loved One - Evelyn Waugh (1948)
Set against a background of embalming-rooms and crematoria and the unforgettable Whispering Glades Memorial Park, ‘The Loved One’ is as ludicrous as ‘Decline and Fall’, as incisively shocking as ‘Vile Bodies’, and - underneath the laughs - as moving as death itself.
If it wasn’t apparent already, I enjoy macabre humour, my mother once accused me of only reading books about death - which isn’t exactly true but also wasn’t an unfair statement. So I expected this book would be right up my alley, and while I didn’t like it as much as the similarly themed Bernie (I highly recommend seeing it - I think it’s the best thing Jack Black’s ever done)which I happened to see around the same time, it was amusing and an easy read. The characters are all horrible or naive people and bring to mind the statement, it’s not prejudice if you hate everyone equally, but if you didn’t hate them it wouldn’t be funny.
Peeps - Scott Westerfeld (2005)
After a chance encounter with a mysterious woman one night, Cal’s life is changed forever. He’s been infected with an insidious parasite. The good news: he’s only a carrier. The bad news: he’s infected all his former girlfriends - and now they’ve turned into what Cal calls ‘Peeps’. The rest of us know them as vampires. And it’s Cal’s job to hunt them down, before they create even more of their kind.
I bought this book after seeing Scott Westerfeld, his wife Justine Larbalestier, and Isobelle Carmody speak at the Sydney Writers’ Festival. He spoke about the book in such an appealing way and with such enthusiasm I couldn’t resist and that passion for the subject is just as present in the book, making it hard not to enjoy it. It’s not for the squeamish though - every second chapter is about a real parasite and I loved the way this grounded the story and really made me interested in researching the topic further (despite my normal lack of appreciation for non-fiction). It’s not your traditional vampire fiction, in fact Westerfeld goes further back than most normal mythologies to Egyptian folklore and plays around with some of the genre stereotypes - such as the fear of crucifixes. It’s certainly nothing like Twilight - so don’t be turned off by the young adult vampire genre it has been stuck in. It’s a fun read but not for tweens looking for sparkly romance.
Until next time,
Slightly Bibliophilic xx