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2020 50 Book Challenge

FlyingMonkey

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24. Remembrance Day by Brian Aldiss

I stagger on into the the third of the Squire Quartet - Thomas Squire actually make a very brief appearance in the book too. This one deals with the very ordinary lives of people who happen to end up in a particular seaside hotel on the day that the Provisional IRA detonate a bomb in it, bookended by the story of an American 'stochastic sociologist', who is trying and failing to obtain research funding to investigate his (frankly ridiculous) theory that the people who were killed were victims of some sort of inevitability that can be seen in their, what seem to him, miserable lives. I'm not quite sure what Aldiss is trying to say in this book, but it's said with his customary irony.
 

California Dreamer

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1. Damascus, by Christos Tsiolkas
2. Dr Knox, by Peter Spiegelman
3. The Hills Reply, by Tarjei Vesaas
4. Cold Fear, by Mads Peter Nordo
5. The Drover's Wife, by Leah Purcell
6. The Silent Death, by Volker Kutscher
7. Darkness for Light, by Emma Viskic
8. The Silent Patient, by Alex Michaelides
9. Recursion, by Blake Crouch
10. When All is Said and Done, by Neale Daniher
11. How the Dead Speak, by Val McDermid
12. Goldstein, by Volker Kutscher
13. Saving Missy, by Beth Morrey
14. Hi Five, by Joe Ide
15. Onwards Towards Our Noble Deaths, by Shigeru Mizuki

16. The Real Peaky Blinders, by Carl Chinn

17. Agent Running in the Field, by John le Carré

On return from a long stint spying in Europe, Nat is assigned to head up The Haven, a local cluster of misfits without many career prospects in the service. He continues to indulge his passion for playing badminton, and receives a rather abrupt challenge from an awkward young man called Ed. Ed turns out to be a bit of a firebrand, who hates Brexit and Trump with a passion.

Nat is contacted by a long-buried sleeper agent who alerts him to the fact that the Russians are about to recruit a British source as a double agent. Nat gets included in the operation to monitor this event; things go spectacularly badly and he ends up looking at the end of his career.

This is supposed to be le Carré's "Brexit novel", but it's not very good in that light. It doesn't capture the background chaos of the Brexit negotiations in the UK and the EU. It doesn't really capture the division in the various parts of the UK that the narrow Brexit vote resulted in. It certainly lacks the tension and near-paranoia of his great Cold War novels. This is really just a pedestrian spy story, and little more.
 

California Dreamer

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1. Damascus, by Christos Tsiolkas
2. Dr Knox, by Peter Spiegelman
3. The Hills Reply, by Tarjei Vesaas
4. Cold Fear, by Mads Peter Nordo
5. The Drover's Wife, by Leah Purcell
6. The Silent Death, by Volker Kutscher
7. Darkness for Light, by Emma Viskic
8. The Silent Patient, by Alex Michaelides
9. Recursion, by Blake Crouch
10. When All is Said and Done, by Neale Daniher
11. How the Dead Speak, by Val McDermid
12. Goldstein, by Volker Kutscher
13. Saving Missy, by Beth Morrey
14. Hi Five, by Joe Ide
15. Onwards Towards Our Noble Deaths, by Shigeru Mizuki

16. The Real Peaky Blinders, by Carl Chinn
17. Agent Running in the Field, by John le Carré

18. The Good Turn, by Dervla McTiernan


* I would like to thank NetGalley and the publisher for the opportunity to review this book. *

Galway detective Cormac Reilly receives a report of the abduction of a young girl. In such cases, Reilly is used to getting all resources necessary, but his Superintendent denies him any additional resources at all due to a big drug surveillance operation. Left with a skeleton crew, Reilly and his team scramble to find the girl and track down her abductor before it is too late. Things go awry, there is a police shooting, and Reilly and his sergeant, Peter Fisher, are stood down.

Fisher is relocated to rural Ireland to serve under his hated father, while Reilly is suspended entirely. In the course of his new office duties, Fisher comes across a murder case that simply does not look right to him, but his father is insistent that he drop it and wrap up the case. Fisher ignores him and follows his instincts instead.

I liked the plot of this novel. While it's not as devious and knotty as some that I've read, McTiernan ties her story threads together nicely. I especially liked her descriptions of the Irish countryside in winter; I could almost feel the cold along with the characters.
 

samtalkstyle

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10: The Time Machine - H.G. Wells

I read this cover to cover during a very long wait at the doctor. I'm not sick, just a follow up from a previous injury.
I always find it interesting reading older literature and marking the difference in language use. A good short read overall.
 

Geoffrey Firmin

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15.POLICE by Jo Nesbo

Psycho killer...gruesome murders..dysfunctional ex alcoholic polis same ol same ol
I don’t know why I bother
I read this little scene...I’ve read it so many times.
People fighting over murderous thing and wasting my precious time.
I might be better off ..I think...the way it seams to me just giving up on scandi noir.

Apologies to David Byrne.
 

samtalkstyle

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11. Frankenstein - Mary Shelley

@Journeyman 's comment about having read haunting books in school brought this one to mind, that I haven't read since primary school. Seventh grade to be precise.
 

Geoffrey Firmin

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@samtalkstyle Remember the Boris Karloff films from primary school and the De Niro version.

But never read Mary Shelley till my 30’s.
 

FlyingMonkey

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25. Somewhere East of Life by Brian Aldiss

Okay... the final volume in the Squire Quartet*, and the one I was really wondering about because by this stage the sequence suddenly gets a little science-fictional. This one is a kind of William Gibson-esque 'round about now' type of SF, and the actual SF in the story comes and goes, sometimes seeming like a real technological nightmare (eastern European gangsters can get into your head and steal your memories to sell on), and sometimes a metaphor, and sometimes perhaps just a dream or something that didn't really happen at all. The novel centres around another upper middle-class Norfolk man, Roy Burnell, linked to Thomas Squire by geography and family, and again connected to the arts - this time, a roving investigator for a global historical heritage organisation, he checks out crumbling Byzantine churches and suchlike. However most of these threatened sites are in areas where government is weak and often open civil war is going on, and Burnell finds himself successively robbed of ten years of his memory in Budapest, fighting a psychopathic rebel leader in Georgia, and finally making himself unpopular in the 'stans. The geographic, social and political detail is clearly well-researched and often very funny, but underlying it all is a sense of drift and fear for the future that seems to be increasingly chaotic. It may be the best of the sequenc eand perhaps my only complaint is that it doesn't really go anywhere in the end, but that's life, right?

* and so it is, but it actually turns out that Aldiss's late novel, Super-State, is set in the same milieu, 40 years on, and even features Thomas Squire's funeral... I read it a while ago and I don't remember that.
 
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Geoffrey Firmin

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16.The Vision:the complete collection by Tom King Writer and Gabriel Hernandez Walta & Michael Walsh visual artists.

Keeping in the same vein as Frankenstein, Roy Thomas created the character The Vision in 1968. He too was an artificial man a synthezoid created by a mad robot. He like the original was made from many men both artificial and real, well it depends how you perceive reality via comics.

The author descried the story as Breaking Bad meets the Incredibles, myself The Jetsons meets All In The Family and Homeland on a bad night.

The story spans twelve issues and dips heavily into the Frankenstein narrative, a lot of classic comic themes and then some. This time out the wife becomes the monster of the tale, murder most foul, Shakespeare is invoked in an interesting narrative line both in terms of which play and a very good joke about teenage masturbation from a robots POV...hmmm getting a bit too weird here.

Tom King was a Eisner Award Winner for best Writer in 2018/2019 for work on DC’s Batman. Not what exactly I imagined it would be but entertaining for an afternoon read.
 

Fueco

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19. Listening Point, by Sigurd F. Olson

A wonderful collection of vignettes from a place along a lake in northern Minnesota. This is partly a recollection of past trips combined with current (this book was written in the late 1950s) events and artfully written looks at the natural world around Ely, MN. Olson was a biology teacher and was president of the Wilderness Society and National Parks Association.
 

California Dreamer

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1. Damascus, by Christos Tsiolkas
2. Dr Knox, by Peter Spiegelman
3. The Hills Reply, by Tarjei Vesaas
4. Cold Fear, by Mads Peter Nordo
5. The Drover's Wife, by Leah Purcell
6. The Silent Death, by Volker Kutscher
7. Darkness for Light, by Emma Viskic
8. The Silent Patient, by Alex Michaelides
9. Recursion, by Blake Crouch
10. When All is Said and Done, by Neale Daniher
11. How the Dead Speak, by Val McDermid
12. Goldstein, by Volker Kutscher
13. Saving Missy, by Beth Morrey
14. Hi Five, by Joe Ide
15. Onwards Towards Our Noble Deaths, by Shigeru Mizuki

16. The Real Peaky Blinders, by Carl Chinn
17. Agent Running in the Field, by John le Carré
18. The Good Turn, by Dervla McTiernan

19. Amnesty, by Aranid Adiga


* I would like to thank NetGalley and the publisher for the opportunity to review this book. *

Danny is an illegal immigrant working as a cleaner in Sydney, having left Sri Lanka for good. In the process of cleaning one of his regulars' places, he notices the police arrive at a nearby flat. He tries to keep out of their way, but soon understands that they are not interested in him; there has been a murder.

Danny also soon realises that he knows the victim; she was one of his former clients. He also thinks he knows who did it, and is now in a moral dilemma: does he tell the police what he knows, or keep his head down and not risk deportation? This decision is made even tougher when the man that he suspects, Prakash, starts calling him incessantly and demanding that they meet.

Adiga does an excellent job of showing the inner Sydney environment through the eyes of a recetn immigrant; the book really has an excellent sense of place. He turns the screws on Danny relentlessly and ratchets up the tension in the novel accordingly, making the moral choice he must make ever harder. A very good read.

20. Downfall, by Inio Asano

* I would like to thank NetGalley and the publisher for the opportunity to review this book. *

Fukazawa is a successful manga author who has just completed his long-running and highly thought of series. As he casts around for an idea for his next series, he grows to detest the industry that he is part of, the vapid and cheap ideas that are needed to be successful. His cynicism destroys his creativity and his marriage, while friends and employees are jettisoned along the way. In the meantime, he meets a mysterious cat-eyed woman at a girlie bar ...

I really enjoyed this book and its theme of the creative spark that dies in middle-age. Fukazawa's friends and fans are all admiring of him being able to live his dream, unaware that to him it has become a nightmare. This is a very human story with just a touch of mystery to it, and Asano's art conveys it beautifully.
 

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