Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Books News

Since I still have another six chapters of Terry Pratchett, Ian Stewart and Jack Cohen's Darwin's Watch: Science of Discworld III to read, I bring you some book news and reviews from others, instead of a book review from me. (I'm pleased to say I've skipped very little of the science chapters in this book; I ended up skipping almost all of the science in The Globe: Science of Discworld II because it just went straight over my head, unfortunately, so I just read the Discworld chapters by Terry instead ! I did persevere through most of the science in The Science of Discworld though !)

Anyway, the best news I've had today is that the proposed HMV buyout of Ottakers has been referred by the Office of Fair Trading to the Competition Commission. Apparently the OFT's chief executive John Fingleton said the two book retailers competed closely on a number of non-price factors such as range and variety of books. "In particular, our economic analysis shows that Ottakar's competes harder on non-price factors when a Waterstone's is nearby," he said. "The unusually high level of consumer complaints to the OFT shows that UK book-buyers value the fruits of this competition, which the merger would eliminate." Hooray for consumer complaints !!

In other news, Jim Dale has allegedly said that he believes JKR will kill off Harry Potter in the final book (this is reported in one of the downmarket UK tabloids, so if anyone has seen anything to back this up, please let me know !)

Finally there are some reviews of books for teens in the Independent by Brandon Robshaw, some of which have clearly gone down better than others ! I have to say, though, that this sentence "Carl Hiaasen is better-known as a writer of adult crime fiction" made me laugh; I'd never heard of Hiaasaen until he started writing books for teens - and I'm not exactly a stranger to crime fiction !

However, Robshaw liked Melvin Burgess's Bloodsong which is "a re-telling of the Norse Volsunga saga, set in a post-apocalyptic Britain of the future, and chronicles the monster-slaying exploits of young Sigurd." Apparently it's calculated to appeal to teenage boys - I clearly don't have an inner boy, because it doesn't sound at all appealing to me (I'll stick to the original Norse saga, I think !)

He also liked Helen Dunmore's Ingo, of which he says "has masses of girl-appeal - and clearly I have an inner girl, for it appealed to me. [...] It's all wildly implausible, but so gracefully written that one suspends disbelief not just willingly but eagerly. Put it in the Christmas stocking of the teenage girl in your life - or a teenage boy who is in touch with his feminine side. And it's the first book of a trilogy. Hooray!"

But Adèle Geras' re-telling of the Odyssey from the point of view of those at home didn't appeal to Robshaw who says of Ithaka, "It seems an extraordinary achievement to make the Odyssey boring, but Geras has done exactly that. There are long, long passages where nothing much happens: endless speculations about whether Odysseus will ever come back, strangely inconsequential visits of the gods, interminable conversations where the characters tell each other things the reader already knows. It's written in the drearily elevated diction often thought suitable for historical novels: months are "moons", a lot is "many", crying is "weeping", everybody is "all" and so on."

Finally, Robshaw mentions Geraldine McCaughrean's The White Darkness which he also enjoyed. "It's the story of Sym, a 14-year-old girl, regarded as a dork at school, whose best friend is the long-dead Captain Oates, with whom she conducts long and entertaining conversations in her head. Her Uncle Victor drags her away on a madcap expedition to the South Pole, and it seems likely she'll share the fate of Oates and his comrades. The writing is intense, insistent - it's a page-turner, but as the tension rises, and conditions grow more and more desperate, one turns the pages with dread. [...] This is a literary novel of superb technique, and has more real excitement than any amount of shoot-'em-up action stories. The White Darkness is as good as it gets."

No wonder my friend Kelly, over at Big A, little a is keen to read Ingo and The White Darkness ! I shall be hunting for them in the library myself after D-day (Deadline Day, that is, not June 6 !)

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