21 August 2006

So Many Books

It occurs to me that there are several books over there on the right that I have not reviewed. Before they get any farther down the list I thought I’d give them each a quick review.

I'll starting with V for Vendetta, by Alan Moore and David Lloyd. This is the comic book series (graphic novel, if you prefer; this format is a collection of several comic books into a book-length narrative) on which the recent movie (that I dearly loved) was based, and of course I was intrigued and wanted to read the comic. It’s pretty darn good. It’s also pretty darn different from the movie in a number of ways, not least the fact that V, in the book, is very much an anarchist, rather than simply a liberator of a captive populace, although the regime against which he’s fighting is equally oppressive. Most of the key events from the book made it into the movie. V is an altogether more difficult character in the book, though, a more complex protagonist. I enjoyed this but unless you are a comic book fan or a fan of the movie it’s probably not worth your time.

Next up, the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. I’m not going to review this book because you should already know what it’s about, and that it’s very good. And if you haven’t read it I will track you down and make you do so; ask Smittygirl if you don’t believe me.

Then we have Finding Meaning in the Second Half of Life, which I picked up a while ago in the bookstore on a whim. I really enjoyed reading this book, but it wasn’t an easy read. No book that encourages you to ask questions about where you’ve been, to search for patterns in your life and identify the myriad ways you’ve been reacting to your life the way you did when you were a child. FMSHL argues that we react to most events in life based on the way we saw the world as children, and we have to learn to break away from our habits and our childhood understanding to really live as adults. The book is targeted at the midlife-crisis crowd, but I found that much of the book had a lot to say to me.
Frankly, this book deserves a longer review and some discussion. It’s not the sort of thing I can recommend without knowing whether you need to read it or not. But I found it a thoroughly engrossing read.

A Walk in the Woods, by Bill Bryson, was outstanding. It’s my favorite of Bryson’s books, at least of the books I’ve read. Any outdoorsy person should read it, especially if you’ve ever considered hiking any part of the Appalachian Trail. I’ve hiked on perhaps as much as a mile of AT over the course of my life and probably will never attempt any significant stretch of it, mainly because as Bryson points out much of the trail is not especially scenic and there are lots of other scenic hiking trails to go on. But you have to admire what the man attempted to do, and this book is a fascinating and at times hilarious read. This one’s very highly recommended.

Basket Case is one of Carl Hiaasen’s more recent novels, and he’s as funny and entertaining and off-the-wall as ever. Hiaasen is my favorite Florida crime author by a wide margin (a club that includes John D. MacDonald, Elmore Leonard, Tim Dorsey, Randy Wayne White, and a few others) and this book is in keeping with my expectations. But there’s an upsetting difference between this and nearly every one of Hiaasen’s earlier books (apart from Stormy Weather): this one doesn’t take place in the real world. Hiaasen skewers south Florida most effectively when his characters operate in a real city; Basket Case, though it manages a good satire of south Florida, is weaker for taking place in some ill-defined mythical town.

The Sir Apropos of Nothing series was a lot of fun. You can read reviews of the Peter David series from the esteemed Lucky Bob here, here, and here. On his recommendation I decided to bring the series out to Africa with me to read. I’m glad I did. I don’t usually read fantasy literature. Actually, apart from Harry Potter, I don’t read any fantasy literature at all. I’ve never even read The Lord of Rings trilogy (although I did enjoy the movies). You have to wonder about a person whose introduction to an entire genre of literature comes from a series of books that satirize the genre. I like to think the eponymous hero of the series would rather appreciate that.
I’m not likely to start reading fantasy literature any time soon. I don’t dislike it, it’s just not my thing. But this was an excellent series, and I went through the books pretty quickly. They are all quite funny, though I think the first book is funniest because it’s newest. The third book might have had the most laugh-out-loud moments, though, in particular the exchange about Ho, and Who Ho is. Had a good laugh at that; actually, had to go look up the whole Who’s on First routine for another good laugh.

These books were more than just simple fantasy, though, because the protagonist is quite the introspective fellow at times, and we are treated to some very interesting viewpoints on the notion of heroics and chivalry and fate, and when Apropos descends to darkness it’s not hard to see just about any of us doing the same thing. Absolute power indeed.
This was a fun series of books, and while as I said I’m not going to start reading a bunch of fantasy novels now, I would encourage anyone who wants something unique and humorous that’s not completely throw-away to give these books a look. You'll certainly enjoy yourself. As for me, I'm sort of hoping the adventures of Apropos aren't yet over.


Lucky Bob said...

OOoo. Book reviews. I’m interested in V for Vendetta myself. I kind of like the less anarchistic movie version, but I need to read the book. I must also admit that I haven’t read The Hitchhikers Guide. It’s one of the series that I want to read, like The Space Odyssey series, The Uplift Series, The Lensmen Series, Lord of the Rings Series and books, and others I can’t think of. Hmm, reading hiking and nature books. Maybe I need to add another group of books to my list. I’m glad you liked the Apropos series. I wasn’t sure if you would like them or not. They are different, but I found them a lot of fun. I too am looking forward to the possibility of more in the series. Apropos is just too interesting a character to let lie. I’m hoping Peter David is taking a rest to gather his thoughts.

smittygirl said...

See? I knew I wasn't the only one who hadn't read Hitchhiker's Guide!

(It's very good though, so it is definitely worth picking up, hint hint!)

Ayzair said...

Wait, wait, Lucky Bob hadn't read that? How did that escape his required reading? Just because you're part of a large collective brain doesn't mean you get a pass! :)