4th of October: Off a Cliff-Edge

Knew this would happen. The first post came on the back of a full month where I travelled a lot and had loads of time to read, so made me look like some sort of book-devouring genius. I’ve had company for most of the fortnight and I’ve been getting really good* at Company of Heroes so I’ve read two books. S’OK though, because I’ve just started reading a book in Portuguese which will only take me about eight times longer than a normal book would.

Also one of the reviews is about as substantial as a school book report so there’s that to look forward to!

Never have new ideas, kids.

Anyway, book reviews.

*not really, I keep getting bantered off by fourteen-year olds and I hate it

Look to Windward – Iain M. Banks

There’s a point in almost every Iain M. Banks book I’ve read, about two-thirds of the way through, where all of the disparate plot strands, settings, and characters, finally come together in some way or another, and you understand why they were all there, and you’re then just waiting for it all to go up in flames. It normally works very well.

Look To Windward is, I think, an exception. The coming together happens a bit too late in the book for Banks to really do anything much with it, so the resolution is basically a bit deus ex machina which fair play this is a universe with literal god-machines but it’s pretty inert. There are also several twist endings in the final few pages which, again, shrug – they again come so late that it’s hard to care or even be that surprised.

Which is a shame, because elsewhere, it contains some lovely lyrical description stuff, lots of cool stuff on all the future-tech and also on the in-universe history of the Culture.

End of the day, it’s an Iain (M) Banks book, which sort of guarantees entertaining dialogue and inventive space stuff – it’s never capital-B Bad. Bit disappointing – which, tbf, I found with the last pile of Banks novels I bought – all of them had a separate gimmick that put me off.

One thing though – the book, written in 2000 and dedicated to “The Gulf War veterans” contains the most exhaustingly transparent critique of Western policy on Iraq that gets less subtle as the book goes on, culminating in a three page rant on, basically, liberal interventionism. Banks is rarely apolitical but he’s generally a lot more subtle than this.

To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee

Genuinely don’t see the point of this one – not only is it a capital-C classic but I am reading it after having been instructed to by most every one I know at one point or another, so this review will find no audience. Anyway, a system’s a system and if I start not reviewing books when I don’t have anything to say about them, the game’s up.

it’s good

I tried to read Mockingbird when I was a lot younger and struggled with it – I think I lost interest somewhere in the early Boo Radley bits, and while I do sort of see the point of them now, a part of me would rather have gotten to the trial bits more quickly, because they’re good. Even Atticus’ speeches, which do sort of toe the line of shading into soliloquies and taking you out of the text, kind of work. Lee does brilliant work humanizing the vast majority of the characters in Maycomb, making excellent use of the child’s perspective.

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