Wednesday, May 18, 2016

adventures in modern reading

hello you, the people

Wowee, look you see, it does feel like the gap between book reviews here gets wider, or indeed if you like longer. This pains me probably more than it pains you, dear reader, for it is a sign that I am simply unable to read as many books as I may wish. Once again that’s with thanks to Arriva, the theoretical public transport company who appear to loathe and detest the idea that anyone may with ease use their buses.

A look at the two, for there has been decidedly two novels I have read since the last reviews, novels which I have read most recently? For certain.

Quick, spoiler free reviews of both, for those that want a rough idea? For sure, to be sure. Both were excellent reads overall. Black Order suffers from familiarity with “codes hidden in history” novels, whereas The Secret Speech is, say, 80% genius and 20% let down.

The remainder of this blog post should be read with a fabulous, sensational *** SPOILER WARNING *** in mind, although of course I shall endeavour not to wreck or spoil the novels you want to read. And, as ever, any links to books here are not a sign of affiliation, endorsement or advertising; included purely for your ease.

Let’s start off, then, with Black Order by James Rollins. Provenance of my copy? Second hand copy off of the library, 50p I think or maybe ₤1. No, 50p, I checked.

Plot? Well, what’s a super secret, highly efficient, deadly, world saving outfit called Sigma 6 to do when there’s no actual threat to the world? The answer is use the down time to, at the request of a Monk, have a bit of a gander at some odd shenanigans near a Tibetan monastery related to flashing lights, whilst also investigating someone making expensive purchases of rather rare, famously owned books across Europe.

Wouldn’t you believe it, those two fairly innocuous sounding things end up being connected, and all related to something which is very much a threat to the world. In this case, it all ties in to an utterly bonkers idea of a wealthy, reclusive right wing South African to resurrect the idea of a Nazi “master race”.

Any good? Yes. I thoroughly enjoyed this read. Sure, there were many preposterous turns and co-incidences, but that’s what fiction is kind of for, kids. The only real problem I had was, as alluded to earlier, just too much familiarity with this sort of thing..

I will be honest and say that more than once I had to stop what I was reading and have a think about whether or not I had in fact read this one before. I don’t think so, but far be it from me to stop you searching to see if I had in fact done that and the review is somewhere on this blog. It’s more likely, however, that it’s just the case that there are only a finite number of stories once can conjure up around Nazi exploits in Tibet, and so concepts in novels looking at hidden secrets shall inevitably overlap.

What kept me going was how much I enjoyed the writing style. This is a long novel, but also an immersive experience of one. It really did pull me in and give me an expansive, thoroughly enjoyable yarn to indulge in. I enjoyed it so much I’ve bought another book by the same author. It, alas, seems to be one with the same characters as Black Order but from earlier in the series. I will imagine that I’ll still enjoy it.

On, then, to The Secret Speech by Tom Rob Smith. This would be the third novel I have read by this author, and yes indeed it is the one that is the sequel (of sorts) to Child 44, which was a brilliant novel and something of a hey-ho film.As for the provenance of my copy, exactly £1 second hand off of the library, although weirdly I have seen it for sale at that price in Poundland.

Plot? It’s three years after the events of Child 44. The Soviet Union after the death of Stalin is a very different place. New supreme ruler Khrushchev is a liberal in comparison, and is making previously thought impossible statements about how it worked under Stalin was all wrong. The foundations of Soviet rule, in particular with regards to law and order, are being shaken.

Protagonist Leo Demidov is not untouched by this. His efforts to keep his false family, sellotaped together from scraps of lies and murder, and his dedication to keeping his homicide office running as an actual thing despite officially there being no crime in the Soviet Union, come under threat when his past actions as an enforcer of the Stalin way come calling for revenge and retribution.

This novel is mostly genius. It’s hard, dark and unsettling as you’d expect, but as usual – for the most part – it’s got a solid plot and showcases some of the best writing you will find in the world today. Certainly it is far better than mine. The problem is that for all the highly satisfactory pacing and twists, as you get to the end it goes very rushed, and in its rush things that you would consider key details – like how some people got where they were and why – are skipped over. This has happened in the other novels by Tom Rob Smith I read.

My abiding thought is that it’s a shame Child 44 did not perform well at the box office. That fact probably means no green light to film this, and that’s a loss as this would make a much better film, even if Tom and Gaz did it all with their very silly Russian accents. Also,. Hollywood would be brave to make this film with the Stalin/Kruschchev dynamic, as many would rush to suggest it’s all a bit comment on Putin in intent.

Will I be having a go at the third part of this trilogy, Agent 6 I think it is called? Certainly, if I can find a copy of it at a most agreeable price. But not for a while, for I have many other books sat here that I wish to read. I think it's roughly a year since I read Child 44, so perhaps at this point next year I will do business.

And so there we have it. Two novels which, I doubt I need to say again, I thoroughly enjoyed whilst acknowledging that they have flaws. If you were giving thought to reading either I would say go for it, although, unlike me in respect of 50% of the above, make sure you do it in the order of sequence in which the respective series were published.

I do hope and trust, as ever, that this has been of use to someone somewhere!

be excellent to each other!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
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