Book Review: The Day of the Triffids / by John Wyndham

triffids

The Day of the Triffids

by John Wyndham

978-0812967128

Modern Library Edition

256 pages

I didn’t like this.

That’s the only statement I really want to make. But, since this is supposed to be a blog, I’ll elaborate.

I finished reading the book last night, and it was such a slog to get through. I was so irritated once I hit about the half-way mark. And, the problem is… I don’t really know why. But, it could have been a bunch of things:

Was it the character’s actions? Was it the immediate response by men to suggest it was time to repopulate the earth… before they’d even made their escape? Was it the fact that all of the characters appeared to be white, upper class, stuff shirt, obnoxious, idiots? London is one of the most multi-cultural places in the world – I’d expect to see even a bit of that in the 1950s. Was it the bizarre instant “romance” that occurred? Was it the fact that years pass without anything at all changing? Was it the lack of “climax”? Was it the comparison of this catastrophe to the Biblical flood as a way to cleanse the earth of sin? I mean, then why did those people survive? Or was it the fact that the only woman who takes charge, is a misguided fool who fails miserably in her mission?

There were so many things that became more irritating as I read. I didn’t mind the writing – and I actually didn’t at all mind the narrator/main character, or his love interest. They were interesting and resourceful people. They seemed to have reasonable responses to things, and tried their best to survive in the situation. But, all of the other entitled people who did survive…and the plot that just went nowhere… just became so tedious.

Summary (from Amazon):

Bill Masen, bandages over his wounded eyes, misses the most spectacular meteorite shower England has ever seen. Removing his bandages the next morning, he finds masses of sightless people wandering the city. He soon meets Josella, another lucky person who has retained her sight, and together they leave the city, aware that the safe, familiar world they knew a mere twenty-four hours before is gone forever.

But to survive in this post-apocalyptic world, one must survive the Triffids, strange plants that years before began appearing all over the world. The Triffids can grow to over seven feet tall, pull their roots from the ground to walk, and kill a man with one quick lash of their poisonous stingers. With society in shambles, they are now poised to prey on humankind. Wyndham chillingly anticipates bio-warfare and mass destruction, fifty years before their realization, in this prescient account of Cold War paranoia. 

I don’t know. I’m just not sure what I’m supposed to make of this. I even went through the guided “book club” questions at the back of the book. And even, they were confusing as discussion points.

Despite how much I was irritated reading this, there were still a few things that I liked about the book. The writing was pretty good. It was easy to read, easy to follow, and easy to picture. I wouldn’t mind reading more of John Wyndham’s books, and I believe I was given another of this for my birthday the same year I was given this one. So, I’m glad to know it won’t go to waste.

I really liked considering the moral dilemma that the remaining sighted people had to face. What can be done to help these people? Or, should they be helped at all? What are the potential dangers in a society where food and supplies are in a limited quantity? These seemed like interesting discussions that the novel explored at some length.

I also liked (for the most part) how blindness was handled. While many of the blind characters were faceless, opinionless dependents… and maybe only good to breed more sighted children, in general the blind characters were written as resourceful, clever, and capable. And, their reactions were interesting. I wish to have seen more of them, or that more of the blind characters to become central fixtures in the novel.

So, while I didn’t like the book in general, I don’t think it was a bad book at all. Just not for me. I’m glad I read it, and I’ll definitely check out other Wyndham titles in the future. But, I also know I won’t be returning to this book any time soon.

Light Novel Review : Genshiken : Return of the Otaku / by Iida Kazutoshi & Kio Shimoku

genshikenGenshiken : Return of the Otaku / by Iida Kazutoshi & Kio Shimoku

Based on the manga by Kio Shimoku

Translated from the Japanese by Katy Bridges, 2010.

Del Rey Manga/Kodansha Trade Paperback Edition, 2010

Originally published in Japan as Genshiken : Hairu Ranto no Yabo~Return of the Otaku, 2008

223 pages

978-0345516275

Stars: ★ / 5


From GoodReads:

The deafening whack-whack-whack of a helicopter above campus is the first indication that the balmy tranquility of the Genshiken Club is about to be disturbed. The chopper brings handsome Ranto Hairu: transfer student, scion of a powerful Japanese conglomerate, and newly named chairman of the on-campus club organization committee.

Hairu has strong ideas about the kind of clubs that deserve to survive (earnest, industrious) and the kind that don’t (arty, frivolous), and he’s a big fan of brute force. For Madarame, Kousaka, Ohno, and the others, the idea of losing their cherished club is the ultimate nightmare—but it’s only the first of many.
 
Fortunately, the Genshiken boys and girls have a few tricks of their own, including a certain swordfighter summoned from ancient times who could prove very handy Continue reading

Novel Review: Strange Weather in Tokyo / by Hiromi Kawakami

strange weatherStrange Weather in Tokyo / by Hiromi Kawakami

Translated from the Japanese by Allison Markin Powell, ©2012

Published by Portobello Books, ©2014

Originally Published in Japan in 2001 under the title センセイの鞄 (Sensei no kaban) by Bungei Shunju, Tokyo

978-1-84627-510-4

Stars: ★★★★ / 5

 


From GoodReads:

Tsukiko is in her late 30s and living alone when one night she happens to meet one of her former high school teachers, ‘Sensei’, in a bar. He is at least thirty years her senior, retired and, she presumes, a widower. After this initial encounter, the pair continue to meet occasionally to share food and drink sake, and as the seasons pass – from spring cherry blossom to autumnal mushrooms – Tsukiko and Sensei come to develop a hesitant intimacy which tilts awkwardly and poignantly into love. Continue reading

Novel Review: Agnes and the Hitman

Agnes and the HitmanAgnes and the Hitman

by Jennifer Crusie and Bob Mayer

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Despite my stumbling over several grammatical issues and the author’s definite love of the word, “coital”, I heartily enjoyed the story. It was cute, funny, and light-hearted. Plus, the ending caught me off guard. I’m not usually surprised by fiction, so that was a nice feature.

Novel Review: The Tenth Gift by Jane Johnson

The Tenth GiftThe Tenth Gift

by Jane Johnson

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I really enjoyed the story in this novel about a 16th century Christian Maid who falls in love with her Moroccan Muslim slave trade captor. She was an interesting strong character — and although brutal, her captor had a very human and relate-able side.

I had a hard time connecting with the main modern day character with her heart broken after nearly a decade of sleeping with her best friend’s husband. I just didn’t have any heart for her — but I appreciated that the romance that she does find is just that… romance. It makes the connection between her and her Moroccan guide that much more real. The only thing that really bugged me was that she attempts to exorcise some demon from the past. It was ridiculous and didn’t really match with the rest of the story.

Novel Review: Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy

Dumplin' (Dumplin', #1)Dumplin’

by Julie Murphy

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

It was cute. Somehow relate-able — but also, completely predictable. It doesn’t have that impact that I expected from a book like this (and especially after hearing friends rave about it). It just kind of fizzled out at the end. And, I found it strange that everyone in this book has the same “stress” response of chewing on their thumb. Anyone else notice this?

Novel Review: A Sentimental Journey by Laurence Sterne

A Sentimental JourneyA Sentimental Journey

by Laurence Sterne

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I read this because it is mentioned in the movie adaptation of Jane Austen’s “Mansfield Park”… and I was really keen on reading the passage “about the caged bird”. That was the very best chapter, in my opinion. (p.69 in my edition, btw)

As a narrative, it doesn’t really “do much”. My consciousness kind of went in and out while I read. (Which I partly attribute to reading at 6am on the train). He doesn’t describe the “traveling” he does so much as random comic anecdotes, digressions and moments of titillation.

There was something relate-able in so many of his anecdotes despite the complication.

That feeling of absolute dread…seconds after being carefree.
That feeling when you’re awkwardly left in a room with a stranger.
That feeling when you try to get out of someone’s way and keep failing.
That feeling of disgust with yourself as you analyse recent awkward conversation with someone.

I don’t know if I would recommend this to anyone, though. I would describe it as “dry”, “complicated”, “experimental”, “disjointed”, “short”, “of its time”, “deluded”… but still, there is something about it that I loved…

And, did anyone else think that that last “sentence” was absolute perfection?!

Novel Review: The Girl Who Leapt Through Time by Yasutaka Tsutsui

The Girl Who Leapt Through TimeThe Girl Who Leapt Through Time

by Yasutaka Tsutsui

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The stories are perfectly fine, if not a bit short. But the translation is so exacting in its use of language that it becomes a difficult read. It’s not a bad translation, but you can feel the Japanese-ness of it. And because the structure of Japanese is so opposite to the English language what you get are less flourishes of creativity, less mystery, more awkward stops between actions… Once I realized I was essentially reading Japanese in English I could sit back and enjoy the stories.

The Girl who leapt through time was to me the stronger of the two. There was a bit more action and mystery. A bit more tension. It also left me thinking about the idea of education in a world where technology is so advanced.

I didn’t care for the other story much. There was mystery but, the plotting was so linear which curbed all of the tension. I felt that the conflict was rather void. And, the solutions to the problems were extremely juvenile.

Overall I’d say due to the low level of conflict, and the directness of the translation that this story would most suitable for the preteen age group.

Novel Review: Dear Mr. Knightley by Katherine Reay

Dear Mr. KnightleyDear Mr. Knightley

by Katherine Reay

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

It was well enough. I was definitely entertained throughout the thing. Certainly too heavy on the Jane Austen references. And, she struggled to make the other fiction references interconnected. Might have done better to lighten up on Austen.

And, can I say how annoyed I was that the author didn’t go for the obvious joke at the end? She spent the entire book quoting Jane Austen like a fiend… went so far as to compare her protagonist to Emma, the benefactor to Mr. Knightley, to have their “shared parents” waiting outside the door during the romantic declaration… and then not say, “we are not really so much brother and sister as to make it at all improper”. Argh! Was that intentional? – Was she just trying to share an inside joke with this Austen fan, or did she really just want to tick me off. I mean, the end needed some levity and, I was waiting for it. And then… there were no more pages, and no more words to read. And, now… I’m not sure what to do with myself.

Novel Review: Confessions of A Jane Austen Addict by Laurie Viera Rigler

Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict (Jane Austen Addict, #1)Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict

by Laurie Viera Rigler

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

A light fluffy quick read about a modern woman who “wakes up” in “Jane Austen’s” England in someone else’s life. Wasn’t super substantial (either time, or content) but I enjoyed myself (for the most part).

I did appreciate the fact that the author/main character could quote from Austen’s “smaller” novels like “Northanger Abbey” and “Persuasion”. Austen is NOT only about Pride & Prejudiced people! [<– This is my mini-rant about Austen-inspired novels]

The references get a little heavy in some areas, particularly the end, which unfortunately concludes like a school research paper.

When an Austen fan (me) is reading a story about an Austen fan living in Austen’s world it’s difficult not to be hyper-aware of the wild inaccuracies. I won’t explain them here, because I don’t want to turn my book review into an Austen biography, and because you can have the pleasure of pointing them out yourself.

The story had potential, but I don’t believe was successfully realized. There was a “paralleling” between the heroine’s old life in Modern L.A. and her new life which didn’t seem to have weight – which is probably why the totally expected ending was so unsatisfying. I’m hoping reading the sequel will rectify this issue (or at least soften it a bit) for me.

Overall. I’d recommend this to someone who’s read enough Austen to get the references in the book but wants to spend sometime not thinking too hard.