Search This Blog

06 October 2012

'The Dirty Streets of Heaven' by Tad Williams

Exciting, full of action and humor ... and trouble

I've come to that point in my life; everything I read reminds me of something else.  This is not a bad thing when it reminds me of something good.  Bobby Dollar reminds me of Harry Dresden.  Both these characters have the amazing ability to spot trouble and immediately make it worse.  This quality they share has nothing to do with super powerful beings in books; it is a quality inherent in being males, which is probably why it is so easy to suspend my disbelief.  Please bear with me on this...

I have a relative who tried to fix the plumbing in the kitchen by sawing through a pipe. His idea was that he would cut out the leaky portion and try to glue the two smooth portions together.  His wife went to have a quiet coffee in the living room, secure in the knowledge that she was going out for dinner, probably for a few nights.  He knew ahead of time that his approach was not likely to work.  He felt that action, any action, was better than paying a plumber first.  Another male of my acquaintance often tries to put furniture together or install software without reading the instructions (incomplete information).  He insists that logic will get him through and his favorite complaint is "this doesn't make sense!"

So you see where I am headed with this?  Take a powerful being (but not the biggest fish in the pond) and give him a super problem, missing souls instead of a leaky pipe, and set him lose in the kitchen or city of your choice.  The whole approach is so consistently masculine and, yes, endearing.  I flinch every time Bobby decides to put his foot in it.  The most desirable partner for such a man is obviously a she-devil, as are all wives one way or another from a man's point of view.

The story was exciting, full of action and humor.  The universe Tad creates stays consistent which is important with so much action and unknowns.  I kept reading all day... I was laughed at by a friend when she terrified me in my car (waiting for kid X to come out of sport Y).  I did not put the book down until I was done.  Alright Tad, I am persuaded to hunt some of your other books down until I get to hear more of this fun angel.

Tad Williams
ISBN: 9781444738551

03 October 2012

'Dodger' by Terry Pratchett

 'Dodger' put me in a 'Nation' state of mind

Once upon a time, Discworld novels were humorous jewels I read on an annual basis.  For a while I read them on a quarterly basis when I realized I was so far behind.  I caught up...  These are the books that B.P.R. (Beloved Proof Reader) resigned himself to purchasing on hardback, freshly pressed, as I would not wait for paperbacks.  Then one day I received 'Nation' and it was wonderful, even with an obvious lack of space turtles and patient elephants.  'Dodger' put me in a 'Nation' state of mind.

Anyone who has read previous blogs knows that I applaud Terry's enthusiastic treatment of muck.  He doesn't tire of this disgusting topic and neither do I.  As I reflect on my reading preferences I realize I can and do tire of gore.  Those kinds of books make an appearance well separated by other books and topics.  Muck, richards, sludge, slime, urine (horse, don't ask) and sewage are so much more entertaining with the right author.  'Dodger' sets out to entertain and, I suspect, remind us of how far we have come and how far we have to go in our big cities.

Something else comes to mind...  You know gentlemen of a certain age "pass gas" without realizing or do so because they are now old men and can do as they please.  Well, I wonder if some of Terry's current interests are not the literary equivalent of this attitude.  He is indeed an experienced writer of a certain age, rich and can now write what he pleases....

The story itself is fun and full of icky thoughts.  And I don't mean the obvious ones when you are in a sewer but more along the lines of the difference between 'truth' and 'facts'.  I liked the idea of Charles Dickens as an intelligent, observant, slightly dangerous character pointing out the strengths of people's beliefs as opposed to facts.  Dodger, the hero, knows what he likes, knows how to survive and like a true "geezer" knows how to pick his friends... which brings me to Sol.  Sol or Solomon Cohen is my favorite character.  I was happy to see a character that balances or addresses prejudices put forward by a certain famous book quite close to our current object.  Sol is a gentle, grateful, educated, cautious and thoughtful man.  He also has a sense of humor and a smelly dog.  Every book needs a smelly dog.

The bad guys I will not discuss in detail because they seem to represent concepts rather than pure individual, unique badness.  There are, of course, the usual suspects, unsavory, violent and cruel but these guys were tools used by others.  Society itself, vested interests, war mongering, social snobbery, poverty, lack of education, politics and the status quo were the real bad guys. It is probably easier to give someone a nasty scar, a silky cat and lots of missiles then to point the finger at your own governments for the unfairness of a short, dirty life.  'Dodger' points the solution towards individuals and not to believe everything you read ... I wonder if he is trying to tell us something?

Terry Pratchett 
ISBN: 9780385619271