09 November, 2013

Fast Pace

Simon Kernick

Like the others of Kernick's books i have read, this was zipped through in one or two sittings, the sole difference being the time of day when i pick it is and what commitments i have over the next four to six hours. The essential theme of the plot was taken from the events in Mumbai in the autumn of 2009 when terrorists attacked and took control of several buildings there; here, the action is transported to London, and the motivations of the criminals are not so transparent or unitary, as there are some who appear to be terrorists of a vaguely Middle-Eastern variety but others who are acting solely for financial gain.

Kernick has the knack of creating characters and giving us sufficient information about them and their situation that we become sympathetic to them, which obviously is and excellent ability for a writer of suspense novels as he can ratchet up the suspense by worrying us about the future of the characters we have been taught to like. I find that, although once started i have to read the book as fast as i can, once done i am satiated for the foreseeable future with the level of tension he creates. This is good, i suppose, as it means that i am in no hurry to rush and find another of Kernick's books but, in some months or more, if i come across one as they are rotated around the various branches of the Powys library system, i can be free to pick it up and have another race for the end.

Speaking of the Powys library, the most annoying thing about this book was a part of the the physical artefact itself: Whoever covered it for the library did a less than perfect job, so that the dust-cover and its plastic protection were not correctly folded around the front cover. I constantly found myself trying to adjust it, to make it fit properly, but it was not possible to do so. Mind you, i am aware that this may say more about me than the book!

06 November, 2013

J. Mead Falkner

There was no question of passing this book by when i saw it in the library: Falkner wrote Moonfleet, one of the best children's stories ever written, so clearly i was going to have to see if i enjoyed this as much as the other. It is different, quite different, that is important to say at the outset. Stradivarius is a lot shorter, possibly a novella or novelette, though i'm never sure of definitions with those words, and intended for adults not children (not to say that Moonfleet can't be enjoyed by adults). It is more of a ghost or Gothic tale rather than an adventure; indeed, very little adventurous happens at all: It is more what happens within the characters, most especially the protagonist, who is almost possessed by a ghost or a piece of music or a violin, or all three.

Falkner has purposely reached back into the past ~ his past, as well as ours ~ to create his story, telling it by means of a letter from an aunt to a nephew ~ the protagonist's sister and son ~ some number of years after the event, as an explanation of his family's past. I have to say that, were this the first of Falkner's books i had read, i would not now be considering it a success; my reception of it, however, is affected by my affection for the other. Gothic is not my favourite genre, though i don't hate it; nor am i overly enthusiastic about the narration technique ~ not just here, but in general the epistlatory style is not one i love. These are not enough to make me turn from it, though; i think that more of my response is due to the story itself, which is curiously plain, meaning that the events do not seem to flow properly from the character and actions given. It is more forced, in other words, than i am comfortable with.