Saturday, 23 October 2010

Reading Round Up: Project Fill in the Gaps

Looking for Alaska

As I mention here, I actually started Project Fill in the Gaps in June.  At first it was manual, this crazed list in the back of my reading notebook, but now I've actually taken it to the proper site I thought I'd do quick reviews of the books I read before September - these will be quick because I read them some months ago and only have my copy of Looking for Alaska with me (and that's been forced on lent to a friend).

Pyramids - Terry Pratchett
I'd started reading this as a teenager when I first discovered Pratchett but didn't get very far.  Rereading, I thought I'd find it the same struggle now as I did then - was I wrong.  While I didn't enjoy it as much as some of his other early Discworld (like Wyrd Sisters and Guards! Guards!) it's still a great read.  I can't really talk about it without spoiling, but once again there are all sorts of arguments about human nature going on in a novel that, on the face of it, is merely a piss take of Ancient Egypt complete with walking mummies.

Eric - Terry Pratchett
Have to confess: I'm not the biggest fan of Rincewind, so I really wasn't sure how much I'd enjoy Eric.  It is a slight read (because of it's start as, I believe, a graphic novel) and is basically a reworking of Faust.  Eric himself isn't meant to be likeable and he really, really isn't.  The concept of be careful what you wish for is taken to its logical conclusion.  There were some great bits that were basically The Iliad: If Everyone Had Been Sensible and Listened to Odysseus's Sneaky Ideas From Day One, and the ending is dark and bleak (especially for the villain) but it's definitely a very slight tale for all that.

Small Gods - Terry Pratchett
Another that I'd tried and failed to finish when younger.  Introduces Lu-Tze, who is so instrumental in two of my favourite later Discworlds, and takes a look at fanatical religion.  Again, the villain's fate is very bleak, which is fitting as the villain is one of the scariest/creepiest in the Discworld series - there's something about madmen acting for the best reasons which is very Pratchett and very scary.  Again, not going to knock any of my favourites off my list but I enjoyed it (that sounds like damning with faint praise but isn't).

Skellig - David Almond
On the list because it's one of those books which is always highly praised and which I thought I ought to read.  I enjoyed it more because I thought I should than because it gripped me - does that make sense?  The ideas, style, writing, everything is there and while I do give it 4 stars I'm still not sure how much I actually liked/enjoyed it from a purely Reading Is Fun sense.  This is very muddled, and possibly makes me sound like I hated it; I think the best way to describe it is that I probably would have loved it if I'd read it 10-15 years ago, but now I was reading it from a different perspective of "oh, this is a good bit of writing" which may have detracted.

Looking for Alaska - John Green
Having said that about Skellig above, I was also viewing Looking for Alaska as "oh, this is a good bit of writing" but I was also loving it the whole way through.  The book made me cry, that should be enough to show how much I became invested in the characters.  And I read this and his other two novels (An Abundance of Katherines and Paper Towns) over three consecutive days, wandering round the house with my nose stuck in them, making coffee one handed*.  Possibly my favourite of the Project so far, I again can't really talk about it without spoiling so will just close with: read it, for it is awesome.

*Less of a disaster than might be supposed.

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