Adventures in Reading

Fiction: Nation by Terry Pratchett

I’ve been trying to write on Terry Pratchett’s Nation for ages, so here are a handful of notes I wrote down while reading: story begins with a creation myth, looks at god superstitions, written by an atheist, some characters taught an unquestioning faith in belief, religion and/versus science.

Nation is Terry Pratchett’s most recent novel and the first in quite awhile not to occur within his fantastical Discworld series. In a bit of an alternate reality that is very similar to our own 19th Century, a tsunami strikes destroying much of the populations of this world’s equivocal South Pacific and also happens to shipwreck an English ship. The only immediate survivors are a man-child (with no soul (give me a moment on this)) MAu and a British girl going by the pseudonym Daphne.

I can think of three reasons why you would want to read this book, and the first most easily being that you love Terry Pratchett and as there is no new Discworld book this year what else are you going to read? Believe me, you won’t be disappointed!

Secondly, this is a wonderful book for young adults. Our protagonists are both at the coming-of-age period when the tsunami strikes – it’s The Lord of the Flies with much less madness and much more humor. Mau is returning home from his rite-of-passage during the disaster and his ceremony is never concluded, and thus he finds himself in limbo without his soul from childhood, but no way to enter manhood. Daphne is going to meet her father who is a member of the British Empire and one in a long queue to be the next king. Nation is interesting, thoughtful, funny, and has some brilliant speaking points: sex and gender, religion, colonization, beliefs, etc.

Three, you love atheism, hate atheism, or are interested in atheism. Pratchett, an atheist, has written a book on belief, why people believe, and perhaps even the need for some people to believe. The book concludes with a series of warnings including that the book might make you think. Unlike Pullman’s more in your face style, Pratchett is putting out the query of why do people believe and trying to present his answer.

The book concludes with Carl Sagan and Richard Dawkins visiting the island. Really, what more do you need?

Conclusion: Keeper.

Other opinions: Book Addiction.


Fiction: A Long Fatal Love Chase by Louisa May Alcott

Louisa May Alcott perhaps best known for her novel Little Women (or the various film adaptations of it), which Alcott referred to as her “moral pap for the young,” much to my surprise had also written a good amount of other works. When I stumbled across A Long Fatal Love Chase at the library book sale, a book espousing on the cover “He stalker her every step—for she had become his obsession….” I couldn’t resist and in my continuing excursion to read the teetering stacks of books I already own I jumped right in.

A Long Fatal Love Chase is extremely different than Little Women. Alcott went to Europe with a friend for a trip much like a Grand Tour and upon returning immediately began writing to help with her family’s financial troubles. Alcott was asked to write 24-chapters for a pulp magazine though A Long Fatal Love Chase was not published until after Alcott’s death. It’s a romantic, dark, and scandalous novel of the fair Rosamond falling in love with the fiendish but dashing Philip Tempest. They marry and lead a gay life until Rosamond discovers that she has been duped: Tempest was already married.

If one of the Brontë sisters had taken it into her head to write a sweeping melodrama that unfolded across various countries of Europe from villas to impoverished apartments to mental asylums, Alcott’s novel would have been a reasonably good comparison. A Long Fatal Love Chase follows the story’s heroine as she attempts to escape Tempest and pursue her own freedom. The editor Kent Bicknell reminds the reader of Alcott’s reoccurring themes of “quest for physical, financial, intellectual, and spiritual independence” running through the novel.

I found the book fairly reminiscent of earlier novels such as Clarissa and the works of Radcliffe. Though Rosamond is not nearly as simpering or delicate as these other heroines, she does succumb to a rather pornographic death finale as if Tempest cannot have her no man will. Alcott is also a bit heavy handed with the symbolism and foreshadowing. Every second chapter of the book is also written as a bit of a cliffhanger and all together Alcott produced quite the sensational and titillating read. A Long Fatal Love Chase is a great contrast novel for anyone who has read her little men and women stories.

This book is available through Bookmooch.

Other opinions: the Book Mine Set.

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“But the one thing you learn during war is that you can’t pick and choose, and in the end, pretty much everyone is a loser.” Ruth Ozeki’s “Jiro” from Click

In my experience there is nothing wrong with judging a book by its cover. In fact, I have discovered many books simply by taking a risk on the cover art. At work I walked by the novel Click and found myself turning back, and I could barely believe that the cover was a plain dust jacket and not a layered cardboard design – the camera just looked too real to be a photo. It was only after I picked up the book that I discovered how brilliant this book could be.

Click is a young adult novel written by ten authors (Linda Sue Park, David Almond, Eoin Colfer, Deborah Ellis, Nick Hornby, Roddy Doyle, Tim Wynne-Jones, Ruth Ozeki, Margo Lanagan, and Gregory Maguire) and the proceeds are donated to Amnesty International. The actual story these ten authors tell is about the legacy of the fictional photojournalist George “Gee” Keane and this man’s influence and effect on those he encountered during his life. The story is told through a variety of voices including Gee’s grandchildren and the subjects of his portraits.

As a whole Click is an easy, interesting, and fun read. With the holidays fast approaching Click is the perfect book to take on an airplane or to snuggle up with over a hot cup of chocolate. The book is described as “one novel ten authors,” but this perhaps is not entirely true. However, it is also not a short story collection. Click is a frame story where each author writes a new “frame” that develops the plot as a whole. In some ways the actual physicality of the text – or at least the terminology describing the text – sustains the idea of photography. Other continuing themes in the book reflect Gee’s grandchildren’s inheritance: his grandson Jason receives a package of autographed photos and his granddaughter Maggie receives a box containing seven seashells.

I admit that in addition to the dust jacket that I picked up this book after seeing Nick Hornby and Roddy Doyle were contributing authors. Otherwise I very well may have passed it by. Some chapters were certainly stronger than other chapters and I now need to spend some time with books by David Almond and Ruth Ozeki. My least favorite chapter was actually the first chapter by Linda Sue Park. I had never read anything by Park, but I found her chapter the least engaging and original of the collection. Regardless of the one weak chapter, Click is a terrific book to pick or to give to a young adult in your life.