Month: January 2016

Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer

Into the Wild is the non-fiction expansion of Jon Krakauer’s article “Death of an Innocent” which was published in Outsider in 1993. It describes the real story of Chris McCandless, an American who’s decision to explore the wilderness of the States led to him starving to death in an ill prepared trip to the Alaskan wilds.

McCandless’s story is mesmerising not only due to his travels but for the effect he had on the people he met during them. Krakauer pieces together the charming and  intelligent personality of McCandless, who was known as Alexander to his fellow travelers. Obsessive in his desires to go on his self-proclaimed “Alaskan Odyssey”, the narrative from his diary leads us to have little sympathy for his death due to his naivete of believing he could survive with so little.

Whilst Krakauer makes McCandless’s unfortunate end obvious from the beginning, we still feel hope for the wanderer throughout his travels.

Krakauer ranges through several wanderlust struck characters like John Waterman who went missing during his 4th attempt to reach the peak of Denali solo. And Carl McCunn who lost his life because he simply hadn’t arranged for a pilot to pick him up again after a month photographing near the Coleen River, which isn’t far from the Brook’s Range.

But despite their apparent naiveté in these trips, each of the men seemed to be lost in dreams and seemed to make a big impression on everyone they met. Krakauer focuses on these personalities instead of lingering on their deaths. He assures us that whilst McCandless is similar to Waterman and McCunn, he isn’t the usual bush-casualty stereotype.  It seems as though Krakauer has a connection with McCandless that makes him determined for readers to see him in a positive light rather than condemn him for the futility of his trip. Perhaps this comes from his own journey to Alaska that nearly ended in disaster.

Krakauer’s attention detail brings all aspects of the the book come to life, drawing attention even to the soft west- American accent of Chris McCandless’s father; Walt McCandless. His ability to weave beautiful points of detail into the saddening story of Chris without drawing away from the poignant moments of McCandless’s life is masterful.

Rivers of London by Ben Aaronovitch

Published in 2011, Rivers of London was the first fantasy novel by Ben Aaronovitch, his previous writing being science fiction and primarily based in the Doctor Who universe.

A more adult, earthier version of The Spook’s Apprentice with plenty of swearing, Aaronovitch manages to weave a comical masterpiece worthy of Tom Holt, with an entirely believable mythology. The mythology of the various rivers in London stays true to the city’s geography and history, showing the city in it’s truest grubby form that both Brit’s and Londoners love.

Narrated by PC Peter Grant, the story follows the constable as he is thrown into the world of the supernatural as he interviews a ghost as the witness of a murder. Whilst not the most academically brilliant person, and lacking in any real talent for policing, Grant is full of curiosity about the world and more cunning than he originally seems. Whilst inexperienced with the world he has been drawn in to, we can thankfully say that he never crosses the line into the annoying and whiney instead accepting his fate a little too stoically.

The story follows Peter as he becomes part of the Metropolitan Police’s little known supernatural department previously comprising of a single member; Inspector Nightingale. From here we meet river sprites, vampires that suck the life out of everything around them and revengeful spirits eager to exact their punishment among those who wronged them.

Grant seems to take all of this a little too much in his stride, even for an officer who has seen many bizarre cases around London. Surely he would have been at least a bit shocked by meeting all these creatures and whatever it is that Molly claims to be. The otherwise extraordinary narrative is dimmed by the apathetic response to the supernatural but Aaronovitch’s remarkable skills still leave us in anticipation of what is next.

The latest book in the Peter Grant series is The Hanging Tree which will be published this year.

The Peter Grant series is as follows:

  • Rivers of London (2011)
  • Moon Over Soho (2011) https://commiserationstoreader.wordpress.com/2016/02/18/moon-over-soho-by-ben-aaronovitch/
  • Whispers Under Ground (2012)
  • Broken Homes (2013)
  • Foxglove Summer (2014)
  • The Hanging Tree (2016)

 

 

Our Shared Shelf – Emma Watson’s book club

Our dearest Emma Watson, role model to many and hated by virtually none has come up with the best idea — to start an online book club. Obviously, I’m joining but I want to do more than just read the book and read what Miss Watson has to say about it. So for the next twelve months, along with my regular posts, there shall be a review of the books chosen for the club and my own little commentary on them too.

Forewarning for those interested in getting involved – this is no book club filled with mysteries, thriller and romances. Following her usual trend Emma is educating the world on equality and the club is all about this.

Book commentaries will go up as soon as possible, but expect them at the end of the month. This gives me time to read them, gather my thoughts and see what the book club has to say about them too.

January’s book is “My Life on the Road” by Gloria Steinem.

If you want to join us in the literary journey of equality this year then follow the link below to see all the upcoming books and our thoughts on them.

https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/179584-our-shared-shelf

Star Wars: The Force Awakens

(Author’s note:  there are pointers to plot and maybe a few spoilers in this review, and we advise you to watch the film before you read this!)

A beautifully crafted film that nods maybe a little too much to the past, The Force Awakens has brought new life to the series that was darkened by the reluctantly mentioned prequels. A foot in each generation, the film brings strong new characters into the story, whilst still giving us that fuzzy feeling when Solo and Chewbacca appear together once more. It provides more fan service and déjà vu than imaginative storylines, but we can accept the similarities if only for more tearjerker scenes between R2-D2 and our new droid companion BB-8.

New faces like Finn (John Boyega) and Rey (Daisy Ridley) are played flawlessly despite some vagueness in their identities, which leaves us hoping that they will be fleshed out in the following films. Rey has to transform from this childlike character who owns a pilot doll to a grown fearless woman, who is quite capable of looking after herself she’ll have you know, and her mysterious background leaves few clues as to how she will continue to change. Whilst Finn is built through lack of action and his interaction with Rey and Poe (Oscar Isaac) who is a dashing and daring star pilot. The ex-Stormtrooper’s biggest pull comes in the form of what we assume is an old comrade, with the fan given pseudonym of “TR-8R”. We all want to know who he is and what he meant to Finn before he went AWOL.

When it comes to villains, forget Vader and Palpatine, I introduce to you Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) the son of Han Solo and Leia Organa. He may still be in the midst of the teenager angst phase but he shows us power like Darth Vader never had, with less training than any villain we’ve seen before in the franchise. Some say the gangly youth has too many tantrums to be taken seriously, but anyone who can stop a blaster shot mid-flight and then continue giving orders gains my respect. Bring in the mystery behind his special lightsabre and his corruption whilst under the tutelage of Luke Skywalker, and he becomes the villain this franchise really deserves. His inner battle between the dark and light forces within him almost gives us hope that he may be the one to balance the force. But with the ghost of Darth Vader hanging above him, it may be too difficult to betray his grandfather’s true legacy.

We can’t forget the sneer perfectionist that is General Hux (Domhnall Gleeson). Never seen without a snooty expression, the General looks more prone to a tantrum than Kylo Ren. The rivalry between the two characters as they fight for approval from Supreme Leader Snoke (Andy Serkis) adds an interesting angle to the Ren’s story. He is more powerful than Vader, but he still has to prove his worth against someone as ingratiating as Hux and we can only imagine how much that infuriates him.

Think crazy plans, the Millennium Falcon, lightsaber battles and Stormtroopers missing (and even not missing) their targets. J.J Abrams manages to keep the old Star Wars charms that we know and love whilst bringing all aspects of its production into the 21st century. His revival of the beloved series has us waiting in anticipation for the rest of this trilogy to unfold, albeit in the hands of Rian Johnson.

The next Star Wars release will be the spin-off Rogue One in December 2016.

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