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16 October 2013

'The Best of All Possible Worlds' by Karen Lord

Karen Lord struck the best of all possible balances between a planetary catastrophe and individuals who want to live worthwhile lives

I won this book on Twitter from Jo Fletcher Books, @JoFletcherBooks.  I answered a question correctly.  I was excited as I rarely win anything and books are way up there on cool things to win.  I read this book in one day.  In other words, I loved it.  These days it is rare that I will turn off electronic devices to avoid distraction.

First let me tell you about my love of Science Fiction.  And please do not stop reading because you do not like SciFi, bear with me... I started reading SciFi around the age of 12 or 13 when my father gave me 'I, Robot' by Isaac Asimov.  One of those books I love to reread.  I went on to read quite a bit of Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke and Carl Sagan amongst many others.  There are some wonderful writers out there.  Unfortunately, over the years I found that not all SciFi was as entertaining.  I thought maybe I outgrew it.  Ironically, I was still reading Fantasy... Now I realize  I was reading the wrong kind of books for me.  I have never been keen on the technology side of things.  I do not need pages and pages of a ship design and launch.  Ok, a bit is interesting but lets face it, I do not even know how my phone works.  I do not need quantum theory based propulsion systems described once 20 Newtonian objections are quickly discussed and then dismissed by imaginary future scientists (sorry Sheldon).  I want to know about the people who live with, and in this technology.  I want to know their fears, loves, problems, solutions... I want to relate and not just sit and envy them because they have a propulsion system that gets them to other planets in safety and within a reasonable time span (can you tell space exploration was a childhood dream?).

'The Best of All Possible Worlds' was such a book.  With the sudden destruction of a home planet, survivors have the multi sided problem of continuing to survive in the long term.  I like the idea that other groups try to help them.  Assimilation is not an ideal option because then an entire culture is lost.  The solutions suggested in this book are interesting and grounded.  I felt that technology is an aid or a curse but people are still people.  In this setting technology cannot cure the cultural stresses and gender imbalances experienced by people.  The solutions reached favoured groups but not always individuals.  Karen Lord struck the best of all possible balances between a planetary catastrophe and individuals who want to live worthwhile lives in the aftermath.  She also adds some satisfying poetic justice in there to the instigators of planetary destruction which made me smile... I know she has written another book, so it is on my Christmas list.  Karen Lord can write.

Karen Lord 
ISBN: 9781780871660 

04 October 2013

'The Cuckoo's Calling' by Robert Galbraith, J.K. Rowling

Cormoran Strike; funny, meticulous, thoughtful, awkward, strange, cautious, flawed, clever, insecure and interesting.

I could not finish 'The Casual Vacancy'.  It dragged, I just did not care, so I dropped it.  Which is completely the opposite from my Harry Potter experience... The point I want to make is that I was not in a hurry to read 'The Cuckoo's Calling'... Crime novels are not my favorite and well etc etc.... Right, awkward... as my teen sometimes says, because Beloved Proof Reader brought it home.  He read it first and announced that I should read it too.  Nah, don't feel like it, have a pile to do here... So I finally picked up this book. Ehem.  I loved it.  Now I have to tell you why.

I will start with the only problem I have with this book.  The protagonist, Cormoran Strike (fantastic name) stumbles into pubs quite regularly and always orders a pint of Doom Bar.  I am in Germany.  I can find certain bottled ales but variety and quality are not great.  My favorite ale happens to be Doom Bar.  I love to walk into a pub and order two pints of Doom, one for me and one for BPR.  My BPR is well aware of my preference and laughed quite loud when I complained that for the first time in years I want something different than tea to drink while reading.  There is no cure for this thirst however until I next visit the UK.

The story, it grabbed me.  It made me care.  It made me smile.  And very important, unlike several other crime books, it was not an obvious "who dunnit' by chapter 3, which is one of my pet peeves with these kinds of books.  Now I have to go back to Cormoran Strike, who happens to be a gift.  He is funny, meticulous, thoughtful, awkward, strange, cautious, flawed, clever, insecure and interesting.  In other words, he is an engaging character that I want to know better.  This book feels like the start of a series, I hope it is too...

The story line itself is basic, with a body, a grieving family, surprising twists and turns and at least one serious hangover.  London was explored well.  The weather, the pubs, the neighborhoods felt real and familiar.  As I reflect on this book I realize that Robert Galbraith (aka J.K. Rowling) did not make any of it feel like a cliche, which is a talent given the genre and the premise.  Some of the side stories regarding Strike's life were perfect as side stories.  In all a well balanced book that I would recommend to crime novel fans but especially to those who are not crime novel fans.  Oh and do have something to drink while Strike is at a pub, you will enjoy the experience more...

J.K. Rowling 
ISBN: 9781408703991