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The System Of The World (Baroque Cycle 3)
The System Of The World (Baroque Cycle 3)
by Neal Stephenson
Edition: Paperback
Price: 6.99

12 of 19 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Epic, yes. But well-written?, 17 Mar 2006
I can't quite join in the unadulterated praise for the Baroque Cycle - particularly by the time you get to the flabbiest instalment yet: the System of the World.
What happened to the rip-roaring exploits of Jack and Eliza? Totally unplausible as they were - and I've got no problem with historical fiction being implausible - they at least provided some sparks of genuine fun and colour in Stephenson's dry arrangment of nerdish factoids. By the time we get to this book, his style is more ponderous than ever: whole passages seem redundant to narrative, simply existing to demonstrate knowledge. It's still a fascinating era in British history to pick up on, but it's a hard, hard slog to get through it all. For devoted fans of an egotistical author.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Dec 19, 2010 10:54 PM GMT

by Michel Houellebecq
Edition: Paperback
Price: 6.29

25 of 34 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Fatuous, Derivative, Massively Overrated, 23 Aug 2003
This review is from: Atomised (Paperback)
On the evidence of 'Atomised', at least, there is nothing profound or original to Michel Houellebecq that a British reader cannot read in a column in the Daily Mail.
Sex is a commodity, human beings are emotionless automatons (or going that way); we seek instant gratification. Life is pretty crap for most of us unless we manage through some fluke to get laid.
It's a depressing - and dishonest - picture. And although, to be fair, given with some literary panache and at least a dash of humour, Atomised is just another salvo in a reactionary war against humanity itself.
Houellebecq blithely brushes over centuries of of human achievements to give us two horrific characters who we are asked to believe somehow 'represent' humanity. Michel is a scientist who could never even kiss his girlfriend and wonders about in a scientific haze. Bruno drops his trousers whenever he sees a girl - the sticky results follow soon after.
Maybe the author should leave the island he lives on and find some human contact elsewhere. He offers a laughable indictment of humanity which he has no right to give.
For a real insight into the malaise of European postwar civilisation I suggest you pick up the infinitely more erudite and, indeed, humane, W.G. Sebald. ("Austerlitz", "The Emigrants")
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Nov 9, 2010 5:02 PM GMT

Shogun: The First Novel of the Asian Saga: A Novel of Japan
Shogun: The First Novel of the Asian Saga: A Novel of Japan
by James Clavell
Edition: Paperback
Price: 7.69

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Clavell's masterpiece: story-telling at its best, 7 Jan 2002
I must have read Shogun at least 10 times by now but I will never tire of it. Far and away Clavell's best work (King Rat and Tai-Pan a little unengaging; Gai-Jin an over-ambitious sequel), Shogun boasts a tragic love story, the clash of two rival cultures, an engrossing power struggle betweeen rival warlords in feudal Japan - and makes us care passionately about all of it.
The genius of Shogun is that it gives us both a hero to pin our hopes on - Richard Blackthorne, stranded Elizabethan sailor - and yet a fantastic canvas of other characters and sub-plots, all of whom make up an unforgettable picture of a civilisation I had previously known next to nothing about. Read it. And again. And again.

Sputnik Sweetheart (Panther)
Sputnik Sweetheart (Panther)
by Haruki Murakami
Edition: Paperback

5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Time for a change, Mr. Murakami?, 20 Nov 2001
This may be the last Murakami book that I read until the author finds some new inspiration. In itself, it contains the beautiful, haunting yet simple language we have come to expect from Murakami, yet none of the themes presented in 'Sputnik Sweetheart' develop those in his other works.
So again we have a nihilistic male narrator, thoroughly westernised as ever. His beloved is a screw-up, not attractive by most people's standards. The difference this time is that she is a lesbian, but really Sumire and Miu are foils for the deadened passion of K.
Hair colour, cats, wells,'s all there again, but with none of the complexity of 'Wind-up Bird Chronicle' or the emotional nakedness and terrible sadness of 'Norwegian Wood'.
Let's hope for better soon.

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