Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The Reading List (Part One)

Just to get the ball rolling, I thought I’d do some short reviews of some of the stuff I’ve been reading since being freed from the enormous time-sink of University reading.

Machine of Death
(Various authors)

A few years ago, Ryan North of Dinosaur Comics fame came up with an idea for a story in which a machine had been invented that could, just from a sample of your blood, predict how you would die. Nobody knew how it worked, and it wouldn’t give you the time or place, just the method of death – decapitation, cancer, suicide, whatever. Knowing how you died couldn’t help you avoid it, though – especially since the machine had a sense of humour. “OLD AGE” could either mean dying peacefully in your sleep, or it could mean being killed by an old man in a botched home invasion.

Over the last few years, people have submitted stories with this as their premise, and North and a few of his fellow webcomic artists have compiled the best ones into this book. And I’ve gotta say, I loved it. Not all the stories were winners, but the vast majority were – and the authors dealt with the premise in very different ways. A world in which everyone can know how they’ll die would be very different to ours, and the authors really explored this well.

I’d definitely recommend it, and if you want to check it out before purchase, North et al. have supplied a free PDF here.

Chuck Pahlaniuk – Choke

Honestly, I kinda like the story of how I came across this as much as I do the actual book. I had stayed in Melbourne after a night out, and caught the train from Watergardens into Sunshine to try to catch the Ballarat train on the way past. I got there, ran out and under the underpass, and got onto the other platform just as it left. So, preferring to wait an hour at Southern Cross than in Sunshine, I waited about half an hour and got on the next train in. Long story short, I ended up arriving at Southern Cross about five minutes after the Ballarat train left – so I’d managed to miss the same train twice. Thankfully, though, they have a bookstore at Southern Cross, so I had a look through and found a copy of Choke for like five bucks. With the amount of time I had to wait for the train, and then the train trip itself, I had read like two thirds of the book by the time I got home. Buying a book at the station and reading it on the train…there’s something just right about that. Very Penguin.

Anyway, the book itself was great. Pahlaniuk has a way of cutting to the core of people’s idiosyncrasies, of spotting the bullshit elements of society, that few others do. If you’ve seen the movie of Choke, you might have an idea of the general plot but believe me when I tell you that the book is way better. Way more of the little insights into people and the way the world works. After this and Fight Club, I’m definitely going to have to get some more of his stuff, so if any of you have read anything else of his, let me know what you thought.

JK Rowling – Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

I had already read this, of course, but only like once (compared to the number of times I’ve read the other Harry Potters, which is embarrassingly high) so I decided to re-read it before I watched the movie (this was when Deathly Hallows Part 1 came out). I’d have to say that it’s my favourite of them all, although by a very slim margin. It’s interesting, too, how much you notice on second and third readings – and just how much mythological allusion there is, far beyond the basics like character names.

As an aside, I started off reading the hardcover copy I’d bought on release day, but halfway through I found a Celebratory Edition copy in Angus and Robertson (whenever they put out a movie they re-release the book with a cooler cover) and so finished it off with that. So now I have all 7 Celebratory Editions and I can stop being all OCD about that! Yay!

Nick Hornby – High Fidelity

A few months ago, I woke up at a friend’s house with the worst hangover of my life. I opened my eyes and there, on the bedside table, next to someone else’s beer that I had stolen and drank half of, was a copy of High Fidelity. The same, Penguin Classics edition that I own but hadn’t yet gotten around to reading. So later that day, when I finally made it home, I moved it up the to-read pile and got into it.

I have seen the movie many times, and it’s one of my favourites. The book was good, but I’d have to rate the movie better, simply because it cut out a heap of boring, irrelevant parts with his parents. The top-five breakup thing is given much higher priority in the movie than in the book, but that was a difference that didn’t bother me either way. Also, Barry (Jack Black’s character) was annoying but funny in the movie, whereas in the book he was just an enormous pain in the ass. That said – it’s still a great book for all the reasons the movie is great, just not quite as polished.

(Part Two here, Part Three here)

No comments:

Post a Comment