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Showing posts from April, 2017

Books of Note

Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts

Yah, yah, I know, I’ve been lollygaggin’ and work-shyin’ and leaving all my lovely spammers in Tamil Nadu with nothing on which to post spam but old reviews. I’ve not even been all that busy, except when it comes to slapping on weight and destroying some neural connections, both of which I’ve done with glazed-eyed indifference and robotic monotony. Still, I feel I owe it to GDR to at least put Shantaram to bed before I buy (whoops, sorry, already done) and read his next book, The Mountain Shadow, which even now is winging its way to my door by the magic of Amazon Prime Same Day DeliveryTM.
It turns out that GDR was indeed a bit of a knob. He robbed building societies in Australia, always dressed in a three-piece suit and minding his Ps & Qs, and only targeting those with adequate insurance. How he knew which did and didn’t have adequate insurance is not mentioned. On the back of this, or maybe it was the other way around, his wife kicked him out and he lost contact with his only da…

The Child Garden by Geoff Ryman

If art has taught me nothing else, then in all the world, in every situation, it feels like every single person is conflicted by the need for stability and the inescapable contradictions of the mutable self. We're idiosyncratic. We're unpredictable. We vacillate. We waver and flip-flop. We believe we hold deep-seated philosophies and morals, profound ethical positions and beliefs, and yet these can be unseated at any given moment. We want things we know are bad, and we desire things we probably know will make us miserable, or at least definitely not ameliorate our misery, no matter how shiny or expensive. In the Buddhist sense, it is our desire which leads to suffering. That's a hard thing with which to come to terms. And yet many significant advancements in science and technology come not out of actual necessity, but out of desire; a desire to help, a desire to heal, a desire, ironically, to stop suffering; a desire to murder as many of our enemies with little cost to our…

Timequake by Kurt Vonnegut

Please assume I’ve included the usual Vonnegut disclaimer here to start with. That way I can charge straight into the regulation waxing lyrical.
OR NOT.
Cue gasps of horror and disdain etc. and so on.
Well. I should probably explain. Timequake is Vonnegut’s “last” novel, published in 1997. It struggles somewhat with the fact that the main plot device, a blip in the linear nature of time which causes everyone on the planet to jump back ten years and live it all over again with no ability to affect the direction of their lives or change any decisions already made, is ostensibly that of a novel which he hasn’t been able to write to his own satisfaction. It became this novel partly because he lacked the focus and willpower to shape it into a novel in its own right, and so instead, like the many Kilgore Trout short story ideas that litter this and other novels, it is just the bones of an idea lacking the meat (which would be ‘eaten by sharks’ anyway, so he reports in a prescient statement as …

The House Of God by Samuel Shem

This book is as old as I am. Not necessarily the copy I own (that was reprinted in the 1990s and I got hold of it through the amazing Free Books Carmarthen initiative that is keeping books from adding to landfills), but it was written in 1978, a good year for the world by all accounts*. Back then, it wrought much anger from the medical community in America, leading the author and psychiatrist Stephen Joseph Bergman to assume a pen name to avoid suffering the professional backlash - it didn't work, but then he says his patients didn't seem to care.

Told in flashback, from the sunlit terraces of a holiday in France where the narrator still feels the spectre of his internship haunt his every waking moment, it is a riotously, bawdily furious work. Dr Roy Basch is a mature** intern at The House of God, the best Jewish hospital in the city. He and other interns are grist for the hospital mill, often taking the worst cases and saddled with the care of the hospital's GOMERs - that …