Tag Archive | speculative fiction

The Book Thief By Markus Zusak

Source: Purchased as a nookbook from Barnes and Noble

In The Book Thief, the reader is not taken to a historical setting of the holocaust in terms of widespread horror and tragedy, but instead to the small microcosm of Liesel Meminger’s life on Himmel Street. A microcosm filled with all the same horror and tragedy, but also with love and beauty and words.  This is the story of Liesel Meminger, a young girl growing up in Nazi Germany during WWII.  After moving in with a foster family, she suffers with the loss of her mother and brother.  She also suffers humiliation at school for being behind in her education.  As a way to ease her mind, she begins to learn to read with the help of her papa, some paint, and her first stolen book.  As the years go on, and her life becomes more complicated, Liesel’s eyes begin to be opened to the nightmare going on all around her.  But through her friends and her stolen books she learns of the beauty that exists alongside it.

This book literally “tackles” the ideas of love and beauty, tragedy and evil, victory and defeat.  It covers how humans are the workers that bring all of all of these things to reality, and how a person is affected by them.  This can be a tough topic to handle without becoming sappy and cliché, but this book is neither of those.  The reason it is so grounded and believable is because it is the story of a little girl, and her child-like acceptance of the reality around her.  She sees the lack of adequate food, and the Jews marching to Dachau through the same eyes that she sees the beauty of the clouds in the sky.

Zusak masterfully brings his characters to life in this novel.  You will love Liesel and you will love the people Liesel loves.  You will feel like you have walked down her street day after day and met her neighbors.  The feelings that these characters evoke in the reader are the pathways of an emotional journey that will stay with you forever.  Every part of this book, from the author’s choice of Death as narrator, to the way Death is portrayed, to the way Zusak brings his characters to life and makes you love them, to the actual style of the words on the page, is not merely written, but crafted.  You will love this book not just for the story, not just for the characters, but for the beauty of the use of the words themselves.  I highly recommend this book to not only young adult readers but also to adult readers.  This book will certainly open the minds and hearts of anyone who reads it, and will stick with you long after you finish.

** I read and reviewed this book by my own choice and was not asked to do so by the author or publisher.

Spook Country by William Gibson

Source: purchased from Borders

Spook Country is a novel that blends every day technology with a cutting edge use into an underworld lurking just beyond the surface of everyday life.  I think Gibson’s aim in this novel is to show the reader a new world, a spook country, that exists in and interacts in the everyday world, but which most people are completely unaware of. The world this story is set in is our world, but it isn’t at the same time. It is the seedy, steamy side that we don’t see in our every day lives. A world that probably doesn’t exist in real life the same way it manifests in fiction and movies, yet we are all addicted to this high-energy, exciting world of crime and mystery. Gibson is a master at weaving technology into this setting, making it a vital part of it, and he does it without alienating the non-techy reader, yet without boring the technically savvy. Into this setting Gibson pulls Hollis Henry, an ex-rock star turned freelance journalist to whom this world is as strange as it is to the reader. Hollis finds herself employed by a magazine called Node which may or may not actually exist, on assignment to write about an emerging new art form called locative art. She is charged with finding a pioneer in the “production” of this art form, Bobby Chombo. Parallel to Hollis’ story is the story of Milgrim, a junkie (and translator of rare Russian dialects) held captive by Brown, some sort of intelligence agent, who is chasing an information smuggler named Tito who is part of a Chinese-Cuban crime family operating out of New York.

I think Gibson does an excellent job creating spook country, and bringing it to life. I don’t think the story line was the main point of this novel, I think the point is to illustrate the [possible] existence of spook country, and it’s relationship to everyday life through the cutting edge use of everyday technologies like GPS. In this respect, this novel was amazingly well done.

I found myself page-turning from the very beginning, maybe as much to find out how the multiple story lines could possibly be connected as to find out where it was all going. Gibson has a way of drawing the reader into the story while hardly giving any facts about what is going on until the very end. I page turned until the last few pages, and this is where the problem comes in. After I first finished reading, I felt the ending to be a bit weak, which was very disappointing to me. I felt there were a lot of loose ends not tied up, and a general lack of resolution and explanation of the main story line. It felt to me as if Gibson was rushed to end an otherwise fantastic tale. And as a reader I felt like I invested a lot of time into something that just dropped off the edge of a cliff. Yet I still can’t say that I wouldn’t recommend this novel, because I feel like the ending, or rather the lack thereof, was meant to facilitate the knowledge that “real” life goes on, right next to life in spook country, and all the action, and all the grit doesn’t even cause a ripple on the surface of what most of us perceive in our surroundings. And that, is what the author was after in the first place, isn’t it?

** I read and reviewed this book by my own choice and was not asked to do so by the author or publisher.

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