Friday, 25 May 2012

The Mystery Of Edwin Drood by Charles Dickens

I'd like to start by saying, to any who don't already know, that this is Charles Dickens unfinished book. He died before he could finish it (and left no useful notes for anyone to let us in on the ending - very careless).

The book is set in fictional Cloisterham, thought to be based on Rochester in Kent, and follows the main character Edwin Drood and his uncle John Jasper, the cathedral's choir-master.

Edwin has been betrothed to Rosa Bud since they were young children and both were orphaned young. As they were given no choice over the engagement they seem to take it for granted that they will marry but are constantly seen arguing with one another. It is not thought that, given the option, they would've ended up with each other as they seem such an imperfect match.

Edwin and his uncle's relationship, however, is a lot friendlier. With only 6 years age difference between them John seems to worship 'Ned' as incapable of doing anything wrong. This is more of a friendship relationship with Jasper occasionally giving advice, than that of an uncle and nephew. However, this relationship turns out to be sliughtly blighted by Jasper's fascination with Rosa and his use of Opium, taking him up to an opium house in London on occasion. He passes his withdrawal symptoms off as bouts of pain and Rosa doesn't tell Edwin too much about her tutor's infatuation with her due to their close relationship.

The story follows the inhabitants and clergymen of Cloisterham, the arrival of two new characters, Neville & Helena Landless, from Ceylon, Rosa and Edwin reaching the conclusion in their relationship and tragedy befalling the city of Cloisterham. This is a great work by Dickens and would've been one fo my favourites so far... if it had been finished. Unfortunately the conclusion of events and the tragedy/foul play never happens and we are left guessing what happened through whatever clues we have been given.

As Dickens last work I found this to be well written, with all the long windedness of previous works out of his system and pages upon pages of descriptions cut down to just a paragraph. The characters were well-rounded individuals, or as well-rounded an individual can be when written in Dickens way of parodying the typical characters of his time whilst also dealing with his morbid moods near the end of his life. John Jasper with his dark secret hidden behind the mask of a caring choir-master and music tutor is definitely the better written of all the characters because of his multi-layered characteristics.

I thought that, by going into this book knowing that it didn't have an ending, I'd be alright with that fact. I wasn't, at all, not even a little bit! That bloomin' Dickens had the audacity to write a gripping murder mystery, drag the reader in and then keel over before telling us what happened - how rude!

Aside from that though I highly recommend this book. Not just to Dickens lovers, not just to murder mystery lovers but to everyone. This is a classic that needs reading (and I just want everyone to feel as annoyed and confused as I do) and as it's only half finished it's not exactly a 'Great Expectations' feat.

Sunday, 20 May 2012

The Insidious Dr Fu-Manchu by Sax Rohmer

Written in 1913 I feel it best to warn anyone who picks this book up that you will find racial slurs and prejudices in there that were acceptable at the time.

Following the sudden appearance at his home by his old friend and rather mysterious man with connections, Nayland Smith, Dr Petrie finds himself embroiled in a chase about London after the mysterious Dr Fu-Manchu. Skilled in sciences beyond their (and, at one point, our) comprehension their foe is always two steps ahead and increasing his body count as he goes.

Smith describes his foe as "tall, lean, and feline, with a brow like Shakespeare and a face like Satan," which really says it all about the sort of character we're expecting him to be.

Smith & Petrie go tearing through London trying to save the lives of rather influential figures in a way rather reminiscent of Holmes and Watson (though Smith isn't as glorious in his deductions and Petrie's quicker on the uptake than Watson). In fact, at the beginning of the book there were one or two scenes in which a man had been found dead in a locked study with no clue of how it happened and I started thinking that maybe I'd already read this book!

Looking past the non-pc terms we are given a good action book that would do well for any of the more grown up 'Boys Own' reader and with the fast paced action and mysterious plot twists it does well to keep the reader enthralled.

Unfortunately this book is all about the action and we learn nothing about the characters involved. They all seem to be one-dimensional with no building of personalities beneath the obvious 'what you see is what you get' written on paper.

I enjoyed this book for what it was, a quick read for action and an attempt to cash in late on the Holmes style of plot. Don't expect your mind to be particularly stressed when reading this and put your modern day political correct thinking on the shelf and read this as an example of popular 'pulp book' fiction back in it's day. If you enjoy this then I have found out that it is only the first in a series. If you carry on with them then feel free to drop me a line and let me know how you found them!

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Unnatural Time by Julio Angel Ortiz

A short story (about 40 pages or so on my eReader) that follows a retired grim reaper and a discharged cherub as they investigate a Mr Kite's Cavalcade.

The premise is that Peter (the cherub) and Palequus are to investigate Mr Kite's innocuous seeming cavalcade for more sinister reasons. In the meantime, however, they are invited to look around what appears to be a travelling fair of the great mysteries and such stuff from around the universe in order to see that nothing out of place was happening. This is when we could've been given brief glimpses of background stories and more character build-up but I'm afraid that wasn't the case.

The story itself would work if it was one of many cases that appeared in a longer book format - this is almost like a tease of what could be something that I'd happily buy. The characters, whilst not built on much, are just interesting enough for you to want to know more about them and how they ended up working together. The premise of a company being out there to investigate any illegal going-ons in the universe is quite intriguing to me.

This is an entertaining quick read and good to just pick up - especially if this sort of premise interests you in any way, shape or form.... now I just need to convince the author to make a big case studies type book out of it :)

Sunday, 13 May 2012

Just An Announcement

I've looked through my eReader and realised I have one or two indie eBooks from when I first got my little eReader that I haven't got round to reading.

This seems unfair that I have all these popular books marked down as 'dusty' and seem to have missed off some of these ones so I shall endeavour to change that and add in the indie ones - heck, I've found a fab author from Smashwords so who knows what I'll find :D

I'm also hoping, in future, to be putting myself out there for any authors who are wanting reviews for their work. Anyone talented and brave enough to put the culmination of all their hard work out there for the public to see deserves all my support and unbiased reviews :)

Next book to read will be Unnatural Time by Julio Angel Ortiz.

Saturday, 12 May 2012

A Game Of Thrones by George R. R. Martin Part Two

So this is it - Book one of this series is finished and, as much as I loved it, I can't move straight on to the second book. This isn't because I don't have the second book, I have the first four, it's because the first book asks the reader to give it your feelings and brain power, screws around with both for the entire time you're reading and then hands them back to you at the end as a screwed up, drained mess before daring you to pick up the second book. Now I don't know about you folks but I need time to straighten my head and heart out again and let them fill back up before jumping back in the ring!

What also doesn't help is the fact that all of the chapters (as mentioned in review Part One) are written from the perspectives of different main characters (about eight of them taking turns) so you do end up sympathising with all of them at some point or another which means that a fondness for them all takes root - and this is deadly! Martin's world isn't one where bad guys always get their come-uppance (points if you get the bad movie reference) and the good guys come out on top. No, this world is life, this is reality in a book dealing with the fact that there are real shades of grey and keeping to your honour or doing the 'right thing' won't always get you rewarded.

Unfortunately I can't really tell you much about the plot without giving anything away and being lambasted for even the slightest spoiler so I'm really just sticking to my feelings here.

This book, this series probably, is fantasy writing on a dark, gritty scale. No magic, no foolish wand waving, this is all about creating a believable world with believable, flawed characters. Even the most honourable appearing person is shown to have flaws on some level and it is that sort of thing that will make you keep coming back to the book even after you've had to put it down for making you upset or angry.

The whole setting of the lands and the people in them are believable in that you're pretty sure that's exactly how real people would act given their statuses and situations they find themselves in, they all have doubts and all make mistakes - which is human nature - and it's captured and written down well. This sort of political intrigue and trickery along with the battles and suspense has ruined me for other fantasy books out there as I found myself in a bookshop today thinking 'hmm, doesn't sound as good as...' and putting books back on the shelf!

What George R. R. Martin has created here is something that may come close to my favourite fantasy book, Gormenghast (Mervyn Peake), in it's writing, showing human nature in all it's glory - warts, lies and all - and still managing to have so many underlying story plot threads that are barely visible to the reader and only being hinted at.

I strongly suggest this book to any epic fantasy lovers who want something a bit different from the standard offerings in that section. I will happily be moving on to the second book once I've had enough time to iron my inner self out.