A Fatal Crossing

Bought on a whim in an airport. Already had more books on me that I would read but I couldn’t resist this one. Perfect by-the-pool reading. Perhaps better for an autumn evening but nevertheless I thoroughly enjoyed this – what was essentially an intelligent, concisely written detective novel. The classic closed environment whodunnit, especially if maritime in nature is too much for me to resist. Refreshingly the story does not disappoint towards the end. Annoying that this guy is a decade younger than me and can produce something so accomplished as this! He’ll go far I suspect. 

Cryptonomicon

This is a door-stopper of a speculative fiction novel. I have mixed feelings about it. The two time frames, one during WW2 and one in the late 90s, were well imagined and quite cool. It is set around factual events but has a couple of random additions which I didn’t feel were necessary – the invention of two fake countries for example. The characters were well written and fleshed out well. One character seemed quite mysterious and although on the face of it presented quite a big plot hole, upon reflection I quite like this aspect. I particularly liked the mirroring of certain themes between the two time frames. 

The plot was good and centred on code breaking giving rise to modern computers and crypto currency. It does not seem to have been edited in any way however. Perhaps it is a testament to his writing that I didn’t struggle to get through it – it just took a long time because it’s so long – but I think it could have been easily trimmed to a sixth or seventh of its length without losing anything. Indeed this would have made it a bit easier to follow in places. I suspect his style is to write in a bit of a vague fashion with an underlying assumption the reader will infer what a character is doing or something that has happened off page without writing it. While it is his style, the book could have been more successful if he had written it in a more conventional way I think. He probably doesn’t care about that though.  

The spine of a cracker is there, it was just fleshed out to the nth degree, sometimes with rambling extraneous info and at other times random cryptography sections that would be better off in a text book. Overall, packed full of interest and action. A real epic.  

A Good Man in Africa

Back to my favourite author as I continue to ration his books so I don’t go through them all at once. This was his first novel and is quite the lesson in authorship. It is, as he has continued to demonstrate throughout all the other books pf his I’ve read, superbly measured – every word in every sentence counts, there is not one sentence out of line. This book creates a marvellous picture of the setting and of the main character. His flaws are excellently observed and his escapades hilariously told. A fantastic book.  

Kolymsky Heights

This was described by Philip Pullman as the best thriller he’s ever read. That should have made me wary as I think Pullman himself is massively overrated (I found the Northern Lights stuff a bit tedious and boring). This was the epitomy of tedious and boring. There was really nothing thrilling about this book. The intricate detail to which the writer goes into is unnecessary and makes for a snails pace throughout. Despite the detail he goes into, it is also incredibly vague. At the centre of it, the story is weird and the only saving grace is the bit at the end (I won’t tell you) although that is nowhere near enough to justify reading this book. Pullman is mistaken I think. This was a proper slog and far too long. Avoid.  

Project Hail Mary

This one was recommended to me as a good poolside read. This is a cool, science centred novel – one for the geeks but accessible to others too. It’s by the same guy that wrote the Martian, starring Matt Damon. I suspect this one would also make a good film. Pure sci fi, set in space, plausible but fantastical nonetheless and pleasingly meticulous. Enjoyable read, even if it does perhaps go on a bit (probably being slightly harsh there). 

Death and Croissants

The best thing about this book is its title. It really is a cracker and it sold it to me in one go. Unfortunately it’s all downhill from there. The plot is a bit simplistic, the prose is disjointed and built around various dad jokes  rather than the other way round and there is some shoddy, confusing dialogue on the other. Thankfully quite short so you can get through it nice and quickly but really, best avoided. Have a chuckle at the title but don’t be fooled to go any further than that. 

A Foreign Country

I sought this out as I read another of his books – Box 88 – and really enjoyed it. This lived up to my expectations. He writes very well and the action is tense, interesting and slick. I love the spy aspects it goes into and I will certainly be reading the other books he has written. 

Under The Blue

This was a random pick up in Waterstones. Cracking buy it was too. Although it was a classic cliched apocalypse novel, it was also a thought provoking account on the worth of humanity and how it regards itself. It carries an important environmental message and added to that, it is written very well. Enjoyable and I would recommend. 

Snow, Dog, Foot

An intriguing book, translated from Italian. This was gifted to me and can be read in an evening. I am no connoisseur of translated works but it seems to me they have done a marvellous job. The story itself is good. It charts the descent of a mountain man into dementia or madness over a winter, all in the presence of his dog. As things progress the dog becomes more and more human while the man changes in quite the opposite way and is a reflective account of humanity. Glad I read this.