Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Christopher Paolini - Eragon

Earlier on This is My Face, I wrote a review of A Cavern of Black Ice where I said that I had tried to find a fantasy novel that tried to get away from Lord of the Rings connotations. However, long before I had that brainwave, I purchased Eragon, a fantasy novel involving a boy and his dragon. And some Elves. And Dwarves. And Orcs... oops, I mean Urgals.

However it isn’t a complete rip-off. Paolini did come up with his own world map and characters with their own problems. The boy and his dragon is something the target audience will can with; every young boy wants his own pet dragon, surely??

The whole novel is written from Eragon’s perspective which makes it easy to follow. The book is 497 pages long and doesn’t take that long to read once you get into it, which does credit to Paolini’s writing style.

However, going back to the similarities with Lord of the Rings, the general concept is the same. Young character inherits strange object; The One Ring/The One Dragon Egg. Character must then travel; to destroy The One Ring/to protect The One Dragon (now no longer an egg.) The character has elders and friends to help them; Brom and Murtagh/Gandalf and friends. The story is told over three books; Eragon, Eldest, Brisingr/Fellowship, Two Towers, Return of the King.

The best aspect of the novel is the main character. Eragon does everything the reader would expect him to do. He acts his age, is curious and adventurous but at the same time makes mistakes and learns from them. I wasn’t ripping my hair out with frustration, like I have done with many other books, where the characters are overly stupid and end up creating problems for the author. It’s another credit to Paolini. He understands and has control over his characters.

So who would I recommend this book to? Fans of Lord of the Rings would probably like this or children and young adults. Any fans of dragons and the like would also appreciate a bit of Eragon, best served flame-grilled with a hint of scales.

Eragon by Christopher Paolini was originally self-published by Paolini International* in 2002. Due to its success, it was then re-published Doubleday in 2004 and Corgi in 2005. RRP £6.99 (Corgi, Paperback)

*I was actually disappointed that Eragon wasn’t a pile of shit. Then I could have gone on a tirade about how Christopher Paolini is a spoilt child whose parents gave him everything, even his own book. I’m going to have to find something bad to read next week to make up for all this... niceness.

Saturday, 18 September 2010

Malcolm Pryce - Aberystwyth Mon Amour

My reasons behind reading this one were purely course-motivated. I was writing a piece set in the Welsh sea-side town of Aberystwyth and thought that Malcolm Pryce’s book, set in the same locale, would provide some much needed inspiration. I was wrong for two reasons.

The first being that Malcolm Pryce must have been on some kind of high-powered hallucinogen when he came up with the most absurd story I’ve ever read. The characters are so ridiculous that it’s hard to relate to the setting at all. We’ve got a crazed teacher-cum-gangster called Lovespoon and Dai Brainbocs, the aptly named boy-genius. The plot is so twisted and bizarre that the setting could be planet Mars and it wouldn’t make that much of a difference.

The second reason, and I think the most important, is that Malcolm Pryce wasn’t even living in Aberystwyth when he wrote Aberystwyth Mon Amour. I’m not the kind of writer that focuses too much on research, but having lived in Aberystwyth for a year and read this book, I can honestly say a little field trip wouldn’t have done any harm.

It’s hard to focus on the writing when the plot is so whacked out. It’s one of those books that uses the, ‘oh my God, what could possibly happen next?’ approach to keep the reader going. But it goes too far. The only reason I got to the end is because it’s only 245 pages long (and because I refuse to stop reading books once I’ve invested any amount of time in them. Let’s call it OCD).

Like any book, no matter how bad they are, there are always good points and that falls to the main character, Louie Knight, Aberystwyth’s only private detective. He seems quietly aware of the fact the world around him is fiction and it makes it believable because he attitude and dialogue seem to hint that he doesn’t care that he is a private detective in arguably one of the only places in the UK where they aren’t needed or wanted.

Also, Mr Pryce is a very good writer. His prose is clean and I believe if he kept his imagination under a little more control Aberystywyth Mon Amour could have been a corker. And I haven’t even mentioned Myfanwy, the local dancer who does... something naughty with Brainbocs or Sospan, the ‘philosopher-cum-ice-cream seller.’ I can’t make this shit up. Thankfully, or otherwise, Malcolm Pryce can.

Recommendations go to anyone who is a fan of crazy. And, based on 23 year’s experience, that’s a large proportion of the British public. On reflection, I guess Malcolm Pryce does know his audience.

Aberystwyth Mon Amour by Malcolm Pryce was published by Bloomsbury Publishing Plc in 2001. RRP £7.99 (Paperback)

Saturday, 4 September 2010

Stephen King - Carrie

I’ve been wanting to review Stephen King’s Dark Tower series of books for a while now, but it’s been so long since I read the first one that I need to read it again to recap what actually happened – and familiarise myself with the mistakes. In the meantime, after completing a university assignment on the man himself, let’s pay a visit to 1974 and the beginning of King’s career as a novelist.

So what can I say about the book? Well, for starters, reading about a girl getting her first period wouldn’t normally be my first choice of literature, but I’ll roll with it because King has a fantastic way with words. When describing a girl losing her virginity he says, ‘it felt like being reamed out with a hoe handle.’ Is he speaking from experience?

There are many things about Carrie that highlight King’s future prowess, but there are also many examples of inexperience, impatience and sloppiness. I think that King’s agent must have only asked for the first 80 pages of the manuscript because if Carrie’s publication came down to pages 80 to 242, it wouldn’t have seen the light of day.

Here are some of the more noticeable mistakes: ‘reaons’ instead of reasons, ‘throught’ instead of through, ‘dowtown’ instead of downtown and, my personal favourite, ‘so domething’ instead of do something. There are so many spelling mistakes, it almost makes Cy Flood, the travel rep, look good. Almost.

That said the first 80 pages are very well polished and professional. I was drawn in from the start and couldn’t help but feel a degree of empathy towards the characters.

Carrie is written from three different perspectives and King does well to write in this way and still keep the reader’s attention. However, the perspective strays from time to time and I found myself having to reread one paragraph a couple of times before working out which perspective it was from, and even then, it still felt out of place.

My last issue with the book is the ending. Even though it’s a short book, the majority of the ending feels unnecessary as it’s just other characters’ perspectives of the event which the reader witnessed firsthand. However, the last few pages add a nice twist... and also make the novel inconclusive.

Recommendations would go to people who had already read Stephen King but have failed to read Carrie and here is why. I’m afraid new readers to King would be put off the rest of his work after all this stuff I’ve just said. King is a good writer and a fantastic storyteller. It’s just a shame that, on the whole, Carrie doesn’t get the basics right.

Carrie by Stephen King was published by New English Library in 1974. RRP £7.99 (Paperback)