Tuesday 29 July 2008

Three books and some sad news

I’ve got a lot of catching up to do after being too busy to post last week and then being away for the weekend. Besides spying on readers in transit, I’ve also been, you’ll be shocked to learn, reading. What? You’d like to know what I’ve been reading? How nice of you to ask!

1) World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War by Max Brooks
I love zombies wherever they might show up – films, videos, public zombie walks, Halloween parties, and now novels. I don’t love them just because they’re kind of scary though – I love them because they’re kind of scary and really funny at the same time, as Simon Pegg so brilliantly showed in Shaun of the Dead.

Unfortunately, Max (son of Mel) has forgotten his hilarious roots and created an entirely straight look at what would happen to the world in the event of a zombie plague. Here’s why this is so disappointing:

a) It’s an oral history featuring many people from different countries, age groups, ethnic groups, experiences, etc. Yet, everything is written in exactly the same style. Boring.

b) The majority of the stories are told by male characters from the military. There were a lot of these and what with the EXACT SAME VOICE being used every time, I found them indistinguishable.

c) Too many loose threads: there were a lot of hints dropped about things to be explained later that were just left hanging. The one that irritated me the most was some character’s offhand reference to how scientists actually knew what caused the zombie plague to spread – but this was never returned to.

In the end, I can only say that World War Z is a good idea very poorly executed and I wish someone else had written it.

2) Nothing But Blue Skies by Tom Holt
At my last job, I kept hearing of this one man named Ian who was the most intense and committed reader and book collector on the face of the planet. Months went by and I didn’t meet him, until a week before I ended up leaving. We had a good chat about books and he (henceforth to be known as The Buchmeister) recommended this book to me if I was looking for funny (which I always am).

This was a nice, silly, well-written romp into the hitherto unexplored connection between the loathsomeness of weather forecasters (who are always wrong, of course) and the dragons that secretly control the weather. I had some good laughs and can’t wait to check out more of Holt’s stuff.

3) Lush Dreams, Blue Exile by George Elliott Clarke
I find reading poetry difficult, especially poetry written after say 1660, but am always willing to put the work in for George Elliott Clarke. Clarke’s excellent Whylah Falls and incomparable Execution Poems are definitely in my top ten list for poetry, regardless of era.

This collection didn’t blow me away though and I’m going to guess it’s because it’s not unified by some overarching theme or narrative the way the above two collections are. I enjoy being blown away by beautiful language as much as the next guy but in the end, narrative is what keeps me interested and committed.

Because this had no common thread tying everything together I read it piecemeal and it took me about 3 weeks to get through it, and I’ve already forgotten everything I’ve read from this collection. On the other hand, I still pretty vividly remember “Reading Titus Andronicus in Three Mile Plains, N.S.” from Execution Poems and it’s been about a year and a half since I’ve looked at that one. But blame my poor relationship with Lush Dreams, Blue Exile on my short attention span; Clarke is worth taking a risk on any day.

4) And now for the sad news
While in Kingston last weekend, I, of course, went to all the bookstores there to see what was new and exciting. The only thing I found (this being the first time I’ve ever taken a trip back to Kingston and not bought any books) was that The Book Shop, a used store which has been operating for about 25 years, is going out of business.

I asked the woman working what this was all about and she indicated that the owner couldn’t make money off of it anymore because people weren’t buying books the way they used to. While The Book Shop wasn’t my favourite store in Kingston, I have bought quite a number of books there over the years and am sad to see another one of the old guard falling to the hard times booksellers are feeling these days.


Anonymous said...

I listened to the audiobook version of World War Z and really liked it (great cast). It was also abridged, so I'm guessing there was less repetition.


Bookphilia said...

Given that the book is supposed to be an oral history, I'm not surprised that the audio book version works. If nothing else, the actors could give their individual stories nuances that Brooks apparently couldn't when he was writing them.