Thursday, 5 March 2015

Getting back to reading

It took a while for me to start reading again this year. Between Christmas and mid-February I read nothing at all. But now I'm back in action!

I started this year with Half a King by Joe Abercrombie. I'm a big fan of Abercrombie's dark and twisted adult fantasy, and I was really excited to read the first book in his youth fantasy trilogy. It didn't disappoint. Like most his other books (Red Country being the only exception where I could see through the whole plot) I didn't expect a lot of the twists and turns, the least expected one was probably the final revelation which was very nicely hidden. I liked all the characters and unlike some authors of youth fiction who make their characters very plain and simple because their audience is young, the characters of Half a King were all very layered. The only problem I have with this book is that it seemed so finished in the end and I'm not sure how he's going to turn this into a trilogy. Still, I'm looking forward to reading the next one!

Next up was American Gods by Neil Gaiman. I hadn't read this one yet although it's considered one of his most important works. In general I liked it, but there were so many sub-plots that I lost track of some of them during the course of the book. I'm not even sure if all the sub-plots were resolved by the end. However, I did like Shadow as a character and I did not expect the revelation in the end. I also read the short story Monarch of the Glen, which was included in the end of my edition of American Gods. I had previously read it in either Fragile Things or Smoke & Mirrors (I tend to mix those two up), but it made a lot more sense now after I had read the main story ;) I think I'm seeing hints towards more stories with Shadow as the main protagonist and I'm looking forward to reading more Shadow. I also need to include my favourite quote from this book. I don't know why it's my favourite but there's something about it that I find strangely beautiful. But it's also ridiculously long.
"I can believe things that are true and I can believe things that aren't true and I can believe things nobody knows if they're true or not. I can believe in Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny and Marilyn Monroe and the Beatles and Elvis and Mister Ed. Listen - I believe that people are perfectible, that knowledge is infinite, that the world is run by secret banking cartels and is visited by aliens on a regular basis, nice ones that look like wrinkedly lemurs and bad ones who mutilate cattle and want our water and our women. I believe that the future rocks and I believe that one day White Buffalo woman is going to come back and kick everyone's ass. I believe that all men are just overgrown boys with deep problems communicating and that the decline in good sex in America is coincident with the decline in Drive-In Movie theatres from state to state. I believe that all politicians are unprinicpled crooks and I still believe they are better than the alternative. I believe that California is going to sink into the sea when the big one comes, while Florida is going to dissolve into madness and alligators and toxic waste. I believe that antibacterial soap is destroying our resistance to dirt and disease so that one day we'll all be wiped out by the common cold like the Martians in War of the Worlds. I believe that the greatest poets of the last century were Edith Sitwell and Don Marquis, that jade is dried dragon sperm, and that thousands of years ago in a former life I was a one-armed Siberian Shaman. I believe that Mankind's destiny lies in the stars. I believe that candy really did taste better when I was a kid, that it's aerodynamically impossible for a bumblebee to fly, that light is a wave and a particle, that there's a cat in a box somewhere who's alive and dead at the same time (although if they don't ever open the box to feed it it'll eventually just be two different kinds of dead), and that there are stars in the universe billions of years older than the universe itself. I believe in a personal god who cares about me and worries and oversees everything I do. I believe in an impersonal god who set the universe in motion and went off to hang with her girlfriends and doesn't even know I'm alive. I believe in an empty and godless universe of causal chaos, background noise and sheer blind luck. I believe that anyone who claims to know what's going on will lie about the little things too. I believe in absolute honesty and sensible social lies. I believe in a woman's right to choose, a baby's right  to live, that while all human life is sacred there's nothing wrong with the death penalty if you can trust the legal system implicitly, and that no one but a moron would ever trust the legal system. I believe that life is a game, life is a cruel joke and that life is what happens when you're alive and that you might as well lie back and enjoy it."

Then I moved on to more recent Gaiman publishings: First up was The Sleeper and the Spindle, which I absolutely adored. Snow White saving Sleeping Beauty instead of some handsome prince. The beautiful illustrations by Chris Riddell made everything even more fabulous. Then there was the nice twist in the end that took me by surprise. You think you know these fairy tales? Not when Gaiman's the story-teller.

Second of recent Gaiman publishings was Trigger Warning. He's amazing at writing short stories and Trigger Warning did not disappoint although I had previously read both The Truth is a Cave in the Black Mountains and The Sleeper and the Spindle. My favourite stories in this collection were the curious The Thing About Cassandra, the sci-fi Orange, the odd but strangely satisfying A Calendar of Tales, the Sherlock Holmes story The Case of Death and Honey, the horror stories Click-Clack the Rattlebag and Feminine Endings, as well as the latest American Gods' Shadow story Black Dog. I honestly thought that his Doctor Who story Nothing O'Clock would be amongst my favourites since I love Doctor Who and I've loved the two episodes he's written, but no. I liked it but I didn't love it. Could it have something to do with 11 not being exactly my favourite?

From today I'm reading The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith a.k.a J.K. Rowling. I've only read 100 pages so far, but it already seems more interesting than the last one!

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What's the first thought in your head after reading this? Let me know!