zondag 16 juli 2017

"A Burnt-Out Case" by Graham Greene

"Liking is a great deal safer than love. It doesn't demand victims."

Querry is a famous architect who is tired of life. He doesn’t feel anything anymore, no drive for his work, no love, no faith - he has nothing more to live for. He escapes the misery of his life by travelling anonymously to a leper colony in the Congo, where he just wants to be left alone. But his intentions are misunderstood - people start believing he's a hero for leaving a successful career behind and helping the lepers. Before to soon a journalist arrives who wants to tell Querry's story to the world. While Querry was gradually starting to heal, tragedy now looms.

It's interesting to see how Greene compares Querry to Deo Gratias, a native who has been diagnosed as a 'burnt-out case' - a leper who is pronounced cured, because he has lost everything that can be eaten away by the leprosy. Querry's mental state is similar to this.

There's very little story here, but the characters are absolutely marvelous. Lots of very philosophical dialogue, but I wasn't bored for a minute. It's a deep-felt novel about suffering and happiness, love and loathing, religion and faith ... This is another of Greene's absolutely brilliant novels. There's very little story here, but the characters are absolutely marvellous. As with some of his other novels, it's very dark and depressing, but there's so much humanity in these pages that it's irresistable. Greene has definitely become one of my very favourite authors.

Author: Graham Greene
Title: A Burnt-Out Case
Publisher: Vintage, London
Year: 2004 (orig. 1960)
Number of pages: 192 p.
ISBN: 9780099478430 

dinsdag 11 juli 2017

"The Blood Cell" (Doctor Who) by James Goss

"'Oh, shut up. I do have charm. This is me doing charming. It just gets mistaken for indigestion.  Normally by Clara.'"

The Governor is running a high-security prison on an asteroid in space. He's having quite a lot of difficulties with Prisoner 428, who just won't stay in his cell and seems to ignore just about every rule the prison has. And then there's this stubborn young woman, who keeps on trying to get in touch with 428, although she's been told time and time again that visitations are not allowed. But then people start getting killed and soon, the Governor is quite happy that Prisoner 428 -who calls himself the Doctor- is around.

I used to read a lot of fiction tie-ins to movies or television series (Star Trek, Doctor Who, Babylon 5 ...) but I've discovered that, while these books are a nice way of expanding the backgrounds of these series, most of the stories are actally pretty lame. "The Blood Cell" is one of the better examples of "Doctor Who" books. The characterisations of the Doctor and Clara are well done, which is a must in this kind of fiction. Doctor number twelve is his sarcastic self and Clara is very recognisabe too. The bickering between the two is really funny. The beginning of the novel is exciting and the mystery builds up nicely. The fact that we see the events devoloping through the eyes of the Governor, makes this a quite original read. About halfway through, the magic is gone, though, and it turns into a merely good, but unremarkable story. Still, it wouldn't be a bad choice for Doctor Who fans who want to fill the void before the twelfth Doctor's swan song on television at Christmas.

Author: James Goss
Title: The Blood Cell (Doctor Who)
Publisher: BBC Books
Year: 2014
Number of pages: 252 p.
ISBN: 9781849907743

"King of Ithaca" by Glyn Iliffe

"The great beast shifted across the stone floor not two strides away from them. Eperitus realised this was no mere snake but an animal of supernatural proportions. Fighting the urge to take out his sword, he dared to turn his head and behold the full horror of the monster."

"King of Ithaca" is the first in the six-book series "Adventures of Odysseus", which retells the story of mythical Greek hero Odysseus. In the small kingdom of Ithaca, the deceitful Eupeithes threatens to overthrow the aging king Laertes. The best way of protecting Laertes's dynasty seems to be to put his son Odysseus on the throne, but most agree that the young warrior should find a wife first. The titular hero travels to Sparta in a bid to win Helen's hand - the most beautiful woman in the world - and gain the support of Sparta. But there are a lot of other suitors.

These days, there's a tendency in fiction to de-mythologise - ancient tales are told as if they were history, taking all supernatural elements out of the story (Bernard Cornwell's "Warlord" trilogy or Colleen McCullough's "Song of Troy" come to mind). Not so with this story. There are encounters with gods, clashes with giant monsters, love potions, people raised from the dead ... The author uses the myths to great effect, but adds quite a lot to them. In fact, most if this first book stems from the author's imagination (what's a kraken doing in a book about Greek mythology?). So this is not a series you want to read if you want to learn about Greek mythology. Read it as an exciting adventure or fantasy story and you'll be fine.

Author: Glyn Iliffe
Title: King of Ithaca (Adventures of Odysseus)
Publisher: Pan, London
Year: 2009 (orig. 2008)
Number of pages: 384 p.
ISBN: 9780330452496