Friday, February 29, 2008

Looking for Alaska

by John Green, 2005

John Green's first novel (at the tender age of I think 27). He also wrote "An Abundance of Katherines" which I reviewed a while back.

The story starts as Pudge, a high school boy with no friends, decides to transfer to a boarding school in Alabama to, as he puts it, "seek the Great Perhaps." The Great Perhaps was mentioned in someone's famous last words before dying, which Pudge takes a strange interest in. Throughout the book he quotes people's dying words with a morbid interest.

He arrives at boarding school, meets his roommate, and begins the various lessons of a young person's life: drinking, smoking, sex, and pranks. All of these "firsts" are written with a freshness and awkwardness that feels authentic.

The book is split into two parts. The first is designated "Before", and each chapter begins with how many days before it is. It begins "one hundred thirty six days before." Before what, the reader doesn't know. The tension builds though as we get closer to the day of the event.

The second half of the book is designated "After", and again, each chapter begins with how many days after it is. The tension fades as the memory of the event fades.

All in all, a good book for revisiting those awkward days of teenagedness. Tense, dramatic, and sad, but illuminated by learning and dare I say, enlightenment.

Anansi Boys

by Neil Gaiman, 2005

I only just now realized that this is "Anansi Boys" and not "Anasazi Boys", which is what I had been saying in my head when I read it. That's kind of a mind bender.

Anyway, the story starts with the death of Fat Charlie's father, who was quite a lively character. Always singing, dancing, goofing off, and womanizing, Fat Charlie's father never ceased to embarrass him. So, needless to say, they'd had a strained relationship and now his father's dead. Fat Charlie ends up learned a lot more about his father from old family friends at the funeral, and also learns that he has a brother! In the course of the book, Fat Charlie learns that his family is a lot more strange than he ever suspected. At this point, the book veers into a strange, otherworldly aspect that intersects nicely with Fat Charlie's regular life.

I've read other of Gaiman's books, and I generally like him. His style is humorous, and a little dark. I might describe him as a bit of a darker Terry Pratchett. In fact, the book they wrote together was pretty much the perfect blend.

The Eyre Affair

Another work by Jasper Fforde. I'm on a kick right now. This is the first of the Thursday Next series. Thursday Next is a literary detective, that is, she solves crimes that are somehow related to works of literature, like a stolen original manuscript or something like that. In this book, the criminal has found a way to actually enter the literary work and mess with it; in this case, he has kidnapped Jane Eyre. Also, as a side plot, there are elements of time travel (Thursday's father used to work in the time division of the police force, now he's on the lam in time).

All of Fforde's unique elements are in this as well. Actually I think this was his first published novel. Fun literary nods and clever word play abound. I've got the next couple Thursday Next books on hold now. yay!

The Big Over Easy

The first of the Nursery Crimes series by Jasper Fforde. I seem to be taking this series out of order. This one was a murder mystery about who killed Humpty Dumpty, who was found broken to bits at the base of his wall. When his body was reconstructed, they discovered a bullet hole. Oh my!

Once again, lots of literary puns and allusions, lots of nursery tale characters appear, and Jack even has an encounter with a beanstalk. Not much else to say that I didn't say about The Fourth Bear, I'll just reiterate that I love Fforde's style, very funny and a light read. I look forward to more.