Saturday, February 25, 2017

playing the percentage game in book reviews

Hello Reader

Or indeed greetings "robot" bot thingie, for some 50% of all web traffic is not real.

And so I have finished reading another two books, look you see. Standard protocol has come to be that I would then at such time pass comment on those that I have read, or if you like fashion some sort of review from my thoughts, feelings and reactions on them.

In terms of this protocol, or standard way of doing things, it would be a given that the first image of such a post would be the front covers of the two novels which I read, with the following comments being a quick, spoiler free overview. Let me not move away from this approach.

Spoiler free review? As far as I can, sure. The Sleep Room off of someone called F R Tallis was one of the finest books which I had ever read but is inexplicably and irrevocably ruined by the bizarre, unnecessary and awful final 2.65% of it. By contrast Nomad by James Swallow starts off a little bit cluttered, smooths out, becomes highly compelling reading and carries on being outstanding all throughout the whole of the novel.

Right, for those wanting a more in depth look at the two books then do, please, read on. Be warned, though, for one of them sensational *** SPOILER WARNINGS *** is in place for the remainder of this that I write.

As ever links to the books are purely for convenience. They are to the worldwide grocer and in no way are any sort of endorsement or affiliation from me, or if you like moi.

To start with the first of the two I read would also be to start with the most frustrating experience. Well, start “reviews proper” at the least. And that is precisely where we shall go from, then, with a look at the sins unnecessarily committed by the novel The Sleep Room by, as noted, F R Tallis.

Provenance of my copy? ₤1, off of The Works shop when I found it in their sale section earlier this year. It all looked rather interesting, and I did not consider the cost to be a gamble. Also not making it a gamble was the conversation the lady of the till had with me. I wouldn’t suggest or infer it was flirtatious, but the custodian of cash for the shop did seem to spend a great deal of time discussing with me how much she loved the book, and indeed how she had paid the full retail value price to read the book when it was first published, 2013 or 2015 I suspect or otherwise think.

Plot? It’s set in and around 1950s England. A young psychiatrist, James Richardson, is offered a position in an experimental like psychiatric facility by someone he has acolyte like feelings towards, the well respected Dr Hugh Maitland. The facility is somewhat controversial. For the most part it promotes Maitland’s view that any psychiatric problem can be treated via chemicals and medication alone. The jewel in the crown of this approach is the sleep room of the title, a section of the facility where patients are kept asleep for some 23 hours of the day.

The purpose of this is, well, perhaps too much of a relevance to any enjoyment of the novel to reveal here. As, for the most part, would be a discussion of the events and developments which happen affecting Richardson and his tenure at the facility.

Pages 1 to 366 of this novel are brilliant. Superb, as point of fact. The text is rich, lovely, exquisite and beautiful. Its free flowing way makes it an absolute pleasure to read, and yes, to borrow the cliché, it is one that you would wish to keep reading rather than put down. The Sleep Room is a truly wonderful, neo-gothic, semi-post modernist gem of a tale. At least, it is as far as pages 1 to 366 go.

It is so very sad, then, than pages 367 to 376 go right ahead and undermine the above. Undermine to the extent of ruin, spoil and trash what would otherwise be a superb novel, one worthy of praise and promotion.

Despite the fact that the novel had, on page 366, reached a very satisfactory and good, natural conclusion, there are these 10 seemingly sellotaped on. Why? Is it the author trying to say he is “more cleverer” than his readership? Did he seek to deliberately trash and pollute the quality of his own work? And why did no editor or publisher step in and say this last part was a mistake?

To show how little I know, a quick survey of the internet suggests many published reviews liked the last part. There are, however, also voices of discontent and displeasure with it; ones which echo my words.

I would love nothing more to rant and rave with an explicit and specific look at the problem with it, but to do so would be to reveal all of the novel. This would strike me as being rather unfair for those reading this who may want to try the novel for themselves. And, as some 97% of the novel is so well written and wonderful, I would not wish to tamper with that potential experience.

Onwards, then, to Nomad off of someone called James Swallow. No, I had not heard of him before. He has now, however, been added to my list of authors who I shall actively seek out the works of, for this novel was really, really, really good.

Provenance of my copy? Double that of The Sleep Room, for this novel cost me ₤2 new off the shelf off of Tesco. It was not so much the price that lured me in, however, as it was the sticker on the front. This sticker said that it was for fans of I Am Pilgrim. As it happens, I am very much the fan of I Am Pilgrim. Not sure if I reviewed it here at the time (I seldom do when I read things on the e-reader, the print in the paperback version was too small for proper reading), but I Am Pilgrim was one of the best things what I had ever read. So look out for that one too.

The plot? Barcelona is hit by a terrorist attack. And not just any sort of attack. It is the work of a bomber who has managed to infiltrate and place a bomb despite supposedly stringent measures being in place that would have detected and stopped it. This is something of a sinister game changer, then, and has very dire, serious and scary consequences for world security.

In the light of this, a somewhat secretive British military unit are investigating a possible lead on the perpetrators. Disaster and death strike, however, leaving all but one of the unit dead. And, in a true sense of the English way of doing things, the one who lives is immediately under suspicion of being responsible for the death of the others. The one left must use what skills they have to prove that they were not responsible, and further find out who exactly was.

To be honest, and I expressed my concerns to my (considerably) better half, after the first two chapters I thought that this would be a bit too cluttered and distracting. So much goes on in the first few pages that it gets a bit confusing. I feared that I simply would not be able to recall or keep track of who was who and what meant want. This settles down quite quickly thereafter, however, and you are left with a superbly written story.

The approach I have taken above has been quite deliberate in avoiding too much of the details. This is a novel that I would not hesitate to recommend to anyone. On that note, it is possible that you’ve already picked up the book, noted that the most prominent review quoted on the back of the book is off of The Weekend Sport, as in sister paper to the Sunday Sport, and decided that it is not for you. Up until then I had no idea that any of the editions of the Sport did book reviews, but please all the same do not let that distract you.

My understanding is that Nomad is due for publication and purchase in America this very year, with this year being 2017. I do hope our American friends like it. The novel is pretty much cut from the same cloth as James Bond and, indeed, the Jack Ryan novels off of Tom Clancy. It is also every bit as good as the superb I Am Pilgrim was.

And so there you have it. One novel which was brilliant and then undermined with a pointless, rubbish 2.65%, one which started off with a shaky 2.65% and turned out to be brilliant. Both, I would boldly suggest, are worth reading.

Hopefully this has all been of use to someone somewhere out there. Thank you, as ever, for taking the time to read all of this!

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

Post a Comment