zondag 17 juli 2016

"Dourado" by David Wood

“It occurs to me that if I cannot understand the mind of my fellow human being, how can I ever presume to know the mind of God?”

I'm still having trouble with the idea of reading books on electronic devices and real paper books will always be the real stuff for me. But I have to say: an e-reader is very practical and it has some great advantages. There are, for example, lots of free books. Take this "Dourado", for example, the first of a series and completely free of charge. So, why not try it out?

Dane Maddock, ex-SEAL, is a treasure hunter and is hired by Kaylin Maxwell, a charming young lady, whose father was murdered when he was on the brink of discovering a ancient Biblical artefact. Maddock goes on a treasure hunt and soon finds out why some people are determined to prevent the item from being found.

"Dourado" is an old-fashioned adventure novel, full of action and with lots of twists and turns, exotic locations, mysterious characters, a bit of humour and a hint of romance. Think "Indiana Jones". Not a lot of character development, but that's not something I would expect to find in this kind of books. Fine entertainment, if a bit shallow.

Author: David Wood
Title: Dourado
Publisher: Gryphonwood Press
Year: 2015 (orig. 2004)

"The Day of the Triffids" by John Wyndham

“It must be, I thought, one of the race's most persistent and comforting hallucinations to trust that "it can't happen here" - that one's own time and place is beyond cataclysm.”

How will the human race react to a catastrophe that is so terrible it completely destroys civilization as we know it? It's a very common theme in science fiction (think, for example, of the TV series "The Walking Dead" and "Survivors"), and John Wyndham's classic novel "The Day of the Triffids" is one of the earliest (and best) examples of this post-apocalyptic genre.

Bill Masen wakes up in hospital, after being temporarily blinded. He can see again, but his blindness has saved him from a catastrophe: flashing meteor showers have blinded most of Earth's population. Humanity is helpless now, and is attacked by a mysterious and deadly kind of plant, called triffid, that seems to have the ability to think and is determined to erase mankind from the Earth. Bill Masen flees the triffids, and meets lots of people, who all, in their own way, try to build up society once again.

The triffids are indeed terrifying creatures and it's a chilling and suspenseful tale, but it isn't a horror novel. It is in fact a very human story and the focus of the story is more on human society and how this evolves after the catastrophe. Excellent book and a true science fiction classic.

Author: John Wyndham
Title: The Day of the Triffids
Publisher: Gollancz, London
Year: 2016 (orig. 1951)
Number of pages: 273 p.
ISBN: 9781473212671

"Het Woeden der Gehele Wereld" van Maarten 't Hart

"Zou je op dat plekje verkeren, en met een kijker naar de aarde turen, dan zou je jezelf kunnen zien staan - daar bij dat open raam, in de zon, voor altijd vastgenageld op dat ene punt in de tijd dat nimmer verloren zal gaan."

"Het Woeden der Gehele Wereld" vertelt het verhaal van Alexander Goudveyl, die opgroeit in Maassluis. Als zoon van een voddenman wordt hij op school zwaar gepest. Hij heeft geen vrienden en in zijn achterhoofd speelt voortdurend de gedachte dat hij niet thuishoort in deze wereld en dat God hem wil doden. Alexanders leven verandert wanneer hij in het pakhuis van zijn vader een piano ontdekt. Een nieuwe wereld gaat voor hem open en hij is vastbesloten om componist te worden.

Tijdens een evangelisatiedag in zijn dorp wordt een man vermoord, vlak achter de rug van Alexander. Hij ziet vluchtig de moordenaar, maar niet goed genoeg om hem te identificeren. Jarenlang zal de mysterieuze moord het doen en laten van Alexander blijven beheersen en de angst dat de moordenaar ook hem wil doden, blijft hem achtervolgen.

Met dit boek won 't Hart in 1994 de Gouden Strop voor de beste misdaadroman. Verwacht echter geen typische thriller. Ja, het misdaadmotief speelt een belangrijke rol in het verhaal, maar verder is dit een heel typisch 't Hart-boek, met heel wat autobiografische elementen. Zo zijn z'n verering voor klassieke muziek en zijn uiterst kritische houding tegenover het geloof alweer overduidelijk aanwezig en het lichtelijk neurotische hoofdpersonage doet sterk denken aan andere personages uit het oeuvre van de auteur. 'Spannend' in de zin van wat je voelt bij het lezen een nagelbijtende thriller kun je dit boek niet noemen, maar 't Hart weet wel het alomtegenwoordige gevoel van angst prachtig weer te geven.

Auteur: Maarten 't Hart
Titel: Het Woeden de Gehele Wereld
Uitgeverij: Arbeiderspers, Amsterdam
Jaar: 1993
Aantal pagina's: 282 blz.
ISBN: 9029520310

"The Last Kingdom" by Bernard Cornwell

"That was in the year 867, and it was the first time I went to war. And I have never ceased."

Last year, a new BBC series was shown on television, hailed as an answer to the massively popular "Game of Thrones". I haven't seen it yet, and I take these advertising slogans with a large grain of salt. For one, this isn't fantasy, it's historical fiction, so don't expect dragons, giants and creatures raised from the dead. The series is based on Bernard Cornwell's "Warrior" series (or "Saxon Chronicles" in the USA - now, in "Game of Thrones" fashion, retitled as "The Last Kingdom", the title of the first book), about King Alfred the Great.

It is the 9th Cenury AD. The Danes are invading Britain. The young Uthred of Bebbanburg is captured by Earl Ragnar the Fearless, one of their leaders. Uthred grows up among the Danes, being adopted as a son by Ragnar, and participates in the Vikings' conquests in Britain. Against his will, he is 'rescued' by a priest and taken to Wessex, where he meets Alfred for the first time. He joins Alfred in his defense of Britain against the Danes. Having to choose between his country and the people he has learned to see as his family, Uthred's loyalties will be tested time and time again.

There are quite a few similarities between this series and Cornwell's "Warlord" trilogy (about King Arthur), which I read last year. The voice of the narrator, Uthred, is very similar to that of Warlord's Derfel and the characters of Alfred and Arthur are also quite alike. The "Warlord" trilogy was one of the best things I've ever read, so was expecting a lot from "The Last Kingdom". I wasn't disappointed, although it doesn't reach the hights of the Arthur books. Still, I'm definitely going to read the next parts of this series (which has grown to 9 books by now; number 10 to be published in October).

Author: Bernard Cornwell
Title: The Last Kingdom
Publisher: Harper, London
Year: 2015 (orig. 2004)
Number of pages: 333 p.
ISBN: 9780008139476