Monday, 30 July 2012

John Green - An Abundance of Katherines

Title: An Abundance of Katherines
Author: John Green
Pub. year: 2006
Pages: 229
Editor: Speak

Summary: When it comes to relationships, Colin Singleton's type is girls named Katherine. And when it comes to girls named Katherine, Colin is always getting dumped. Nineteen times, to be exact. On a road trip miles from home [..I skip this part because it tells too much of the story IMO..] Colin is on a mission to prove The Theorem of Underlying Katherine Predictability, which he hopes will predict the future of any relationship, avenge Dumpees everywhere, and finally win him the girl.

That was the last solo book from John Green I haven't read yet (that is... until he writes another one). I was in a phase where I couldn't read much, because of the work I had to do and because I was too tired and not motivated and so on. So I had to pick a book that I was sure to read fast and to enjoy. Otherwise I would have spend too much time on it and I hate that. And it worked perfectly (even if the not-in-the-mood phase is back now...).

So Colin has this awesome friend, Hassan, who takes him on a road trip to help him to get over his former girlfriend. That's a pretty good idea, if you want my opinion. But it also means that you have a lot of time to think in the car. Not that cool. But anyway, Colin end up trying to have his Eureka moment by creating The Theorem, so having time is a good starting point. What I appreciate is that even if he spends a long time mourning his relationship, he stopped just before bothering me, because Colin doesn't stay in a state of nothingness. He gets over it slowly without really realising it.

Obviously, they meet people and settle somewhere for a while, they get to do stuff that they weren't expecting to do. I really enjoyed this "we're leaving what we know for a while to somewhere where everything is different and people don't do the same stuff" aspect of the story. They get to see another point of view of the world and that makes them think about who they are and where they're going. And apparently, Colin's ability to anagram very quickly helps him doing that too.

It isn't my favorite John Green book, but I enjoyed it very much. It's funny, smart and even if some parts are predictable, you still get some surprise on the way. So, if you want to discover what happened at Gunshot in this story and how the grave of the Archduke Franz Ferdinand managed to be there instead of in Europe, you know what you'll have to do!

Monday, 23 July 2012

John Scalzi - Redshirts

Title: Redshirts
Author: John Scalzi
Pub. year: 2012
Pages: 320
Editor: Tor Books

Summary: Ensign Andrew Dahl has just been assigned to the Universal Union Capital Ship "Intrepid," flagship of the Universal Union since the year 2456. It's a prestige posting, and Andrew is thrilled all the more to be assigned to the ship's Xenobiology laboratory. Life couldn't be better...until Andrew begins to pick up on the fact that (1) every Away Mission involves some kind of lethal confrontation with alien forces, (2) the ship's captain, its chief science officer, and the handsome Lieutenant Kerensky always survive these confrontations, and (3) at least one low-ranked crew member is, sadly, always killed.

It's Scalzi time, folks! I think everyone knows by now that I kinda love what he does, and I couldn't have been more impatient to read this new book—which you must have had heard about if you live on this planet (no, really?). To the point, now: how was it?

Weeell... When I read the beginning on Tor, I was thrilled. It sounded fun, and a bit crazy, and it was totally what I was looking for. When I read a bit further though, I realized several things, the first and main one being: I don't know the references of this story. In fact, I turned to my other half at that point and asked "so, red shirts... is that a Star Trek thing?" and he had to explain it to me. And I couldn't think anything else than "crap, this is gonna be full of inside jokes that I'm gonna miss".

I wasn't right, but I wasn't so wrong either. I can not tell you what this book is about, because for once the summary is not spoiling anything and you need to read it to believe it (err, or not). But there is no boundaries to the craziness of this book, and it's really some kind of homage to the old Sci-Fi series (did you know Scalzi worked on Stargate: Universe? Yeah, me neither) and silly stuff that happens in space. It's a bit gross, a bit emotional, a lot WTF?!, and the codas at the end are the cherry on the (space) cake.

I did enjoy it but not as much as I wish I would, and that's maybe due to my lack of interest for old Sci-Fi series, or maybe I'm just a grumpy lady who does not like to not understand the title of the book she's reading, who knows? Maybe it's because the book was dedicated to Wil Wheaton and this guy gets on my nerves!! Sorry, that's my Sheldon side, I guess.

I heard that Scalzi is planning a new book in the Old Man War series... now THAT's something I want to see!

Monday, 2 July 2012

Mathias Malzieu - The Boy with the Cuckoo-Clock Heart

Title: The Boy with the Cuckoo-Clock Heart
Original title: La Mécanique du coeur
Author: Mathias Malzieu
Pub. year: 2007
Pages: 176
Editor: Chatto & Windus

Summary: Edinburgh, 1874: Little Jack is born with a frozen heart and immediately undergoes a life-saving operation — the implantation of a cuckoo-clock in his chest. From then on his days all begin with a wind-up, in this dark, tender fairy tale spiced with devilish humour.

That's usually more Muffin's kind of book than mine. The atmosphere really Burton-like that she loves is almost always in Mathias Malzieu's books. But sometimes I give it a go, 'cause, you know, I don't dislike it and I like to try new stuff, especially if a friend likes it. I'm not actually sure she read it anyway, so I'll talk about it!

So we discover this unusual boy who is stuck with this cuckoo-clock heart and tries to live with it. I won't say he's endearing but there's something about him that catches the eye. And obviously, his heart becomes a real problem at some point and he has to find a way to deal with it. That is without saying he has a very peculiar entourage that didn't always help him and let trouble grow in his mind.

It is a really poetic and grisly story, filled with melancholy and a musical rhythm that goes along the words. And sometimes less poetic words (which didn't melt really well with the vibes, IMO). Kind of a mash-up between Edgar Allan Poe and Tim Burton's work, maybe with an ounce of Terry Gilliam.

As I said earlier, it's not exactly the kind of book I go for, and once again I see why, but still I enjoyed it. I'm just not a big fan of that kind of atmosphere (and of the author's work, whether we're talking about his books or his band's music). But I know there's a lot of fans of this genre, so I wanted to share this French book with you!

Mathias Malzieu is the lead singer of the French band Dionysos, who tends to make concept-albums, and sometimes they come from books he wrote. That's what happened here, so you can totally listen to the album (La Mécanique du cœur) if you want this world to be following you after the reading!