October 2003
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  - All of this month's books have extracts available to read online -

October - super-natur, scorpio rising.

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Simon's Library >>


by David Mitchell
As recommended by Justine

An exquisite work by the author of "No 9 Dream". This, his debut novel is a series of stories which either crucially or tenuously overlap to create a visionary patchwork world, with human spirit being the landmass that rises from the sea.

I found some of the stories, for example "Holy Mountain" are so touching that I had to stop reading awhile, in order to contemplate the beauty and compassion contained therein. While others such as "Petersburg" are fast action, low-life thrillers. And it works; the book has a real climax and, quite unexpectedly a proper ending. And, I'm not going to spoil it by saying any more.

"Digital Fortress"
by Dan Brown

In the light of the current hysteria surrounding "The Da Vinci Code" I thought I might give this, one of Dan Brown's previous works a shot and.......... Wow, what a disappointment this turned out to be.

I guess I should have known better when I read that.... "Becker was dark-a rugged, youthful thirty-five with sharp green eyes and a wit to match" .....it gets better...." His strong jaw and taut features reminded Susan of carved marble." ....by this point I want to vomit.... "After soundly beating his opponent...He would cool off.... soaking his tuft of thick black hair"....spew. And as if that's not enough you then get.... "Susan Fletcher's legs. Hard to imagine they support a 170 IQ. He mused to himself. Gimme a fuckin break.

So this is all about Ken and Barbie and a whole lotta Tom Clancy type govt. operators out to facilitate the National Security Agency's ability to read all electronic mail, encrypted or otherwise that is sent over the internet and may pose a security threat to the USA. Except it isn't, it's actually about civil liberty and the individual's right to privacy. But, it is so horribly put together, it doesn't matter that the intention is good... it's just a waste of time. Neal Stephenson addressed the same subject with so much more panache in "Cryptonomicon"

The plot is mind numbingly tedious and predictable you've already guessed what's gonna happen pages ahead. The climax of the book is so laughably obvious; with the supposedly "highly intelligent" characters' (top cryptographer, university professor, Director of Govt. agency and other assorted professional) behaviour so crassly stupid - that the reader is treated to the literary equivalent of being in the pantomime audience - sitting there, shouting "it's behind you".

Please don't waste your money on this. I hope for my sake that "The Da Vinci Code" is better than this, seeing as that's what I'm reading now ...





"The Wind up Bird Chronicle"
by Haruki Murakami
translated from Japanese by Jay Rubin

Now some people are going to love this and some are going to hate it. Me? - I fall very much into the first category, I fucking love this story, it goes straight in to my top five greatest books ever.

Very dark; this is a surreal psychic thriller which centres on the very ordinary unemployed, salaryman Toru Okada. Not ordinary for long, Okada's life begins to spiral wildly out of control when first his cat, named after pain-in-the-arse brother in law, and then his beloved wife Kumiko go missing. He is carried on a bizarre and fascinating current of events into a maelstrom psychic world which begins to take on nightmarish proportions as he struggles to regain his lost life.

Murakami gives us incredibly real and believable characters, ordinary people, heroic not in bravery but in their fear and their failings. People who come alive as they tell their often harrowing stories. You really start to develop an understanding of the post-war Japanese perspective.

Riveting, 600 pages+, this is as good as it gets.

"House of Leaves"
by Mark Z. Danielewski

This book has no ending. OK I'll come clean I haven't reached the ending yet. But if it stays true to it's form so far, that is: completely off-the-wall-unconventional, then it won't have an ending, or if it has, it probably won't be at the end of the book and I may even have read it already.

I sure as hell am.

But I really like it. Two stories that run in parallel, firstly the narrator - Johnny Truant's own personal tale. The other is the written description of a psychic event, that he discovers in a deceased blind man's Hollywood apartment. The psychic event documented on various films and writings concerns a manifestation, a physical otherworldly place of vaguely human architecture and at times unimaginable dimensions and antiquity in which people can enter, go crazy, die and disappear forever.

And then there are the lists and the footnotes - footnotes for days - and the upside down text and the pages with one word on them and the page with no words on it - just a dot - and the page with nothing at all on it and the ever growing sense of dread insanity which gets deeper, chapter (if you can call them that) by chapter.

Very inventive, at times tedious, quite entertaining mindfuck.

Have it.
But don't feel like you've got to finish it.












"The Da Vinci Code"
by Dan Brown

... and it's not looking good; I've already come across "A dark stubble was shrouding his strong jaw and dimpled chin" and it's only page 8.