I’ve spent the last week or so enjoying the sun and sangria in Spain. This much needed break allowed me to catch up on some reading and to make a little dint into my TBR pile. Here are the books I read:
After the Crash by Michel Bussi
I read Bussi’s Black Water Lilies earlier this year and really enjoyed it. Shortly before I went away, I noticed that the first of his novels to be translated into English – After the Crash – was on one of Amazon’s many Kindle deals, and couldn’t resist. And I’m so glad that I didn’t!
After the Crash presents the sole survivor of a plane crash of the French / Swiss border – a three-month old girl. Two families step forward to claim the child as their own, and the novel focusses on the investigation by a private investigator to determine her identity – an investigation which takes 18 years.
There are multiple twists, and the investigation continually throws up various pieces of evidence to say which family she belongs to, before throwing some counter argument in the way, returning the reader (and the private investigator who has been hired to solve the mystery of the girl’s identity) back to square one. If, like me at the outset of the novel, you’re wondering why they didn’t just obtain a DNA test, this is incorporated into the novel, and is deftly handled, as is the whole investigation.
The Lie Tree by Frances Hardinge
I’ve been meaning to read The Lie Tree for some time now, as I had heard great things about it and thought it was an interesting premise.
The Lie Tree is set in Victorian times, and fourteen-year-old protagonist Faith and her family have moved to the fictional island of Vane due to a scandal at home. Faith isn’t a typical Victorian young lady, and when her father dies in mysterious circumstances, she begins her own investigation, and stumbles across a strange tree that is in her father’s possession – a tree that thrives on darkness and lies, producing fruit when the lie becomes established as fact. When eaten, the fruit reveals a truth to the person consuming it.
Whilst ostensibly a murder mystery and a coming of age tale, there is much more to The Lie Tree as it examines the roles of men and women in society at the time as well as the impact of Darwinism on Christianity. Told in the gothic tradition, I found The Lie Tree to be thoroughly enjoyable, and a story that would be enjoyed by readers of all ages.
The Vagrant by Peter Newman
The Vagrant walks through a land ravaged by war and corruption. A man with no name, he journeys across a dangerous landscape in order to bring a weapon to the Shining City – last bastion of the human race. A weapon which may be humanity’s last hope in the ongoing battle. His journey is a perilous one, and full of people who seek to double-cross him at every turn.
The Vagrant is a wonderfully original fantasy novel with a strong cast of characters – both good and bad. The Vagrant’s journey is partly hindered by the presence of a baby girl – the identity of whom becomes clearer as the novel progresses – who seems so out of place in the war-torn land. She is quite possibly the most delightful child in fiction, and never failed to bring a smile to my face. Her presence allows us to see a softer side of the Vagrant, as well as providing additional peril (as he seeks to protect her) and a little comic relief.
A strong debut, and I can’t wait to read the second instalment, The Malice, which was published in May.
Armada by Ernest Cline
Zack Lightman loves science fiction in all its forms – games, novels, films – he laps it all up. Due to graduate in two months, he daydreams about a more exciting life where something – anything – interesting might happen.
Staring out of window in class one day, he sees an alien spacecraft. And not just any alien spacecraft. This alien ship looks remarkably like the ones from his current favourite game, Armada – an online flight simulator in which players protect Earth from an alien invasion. Initially afraid that he’s lost his mind, he soon comes to realise that it’s real, and that he, and millions of other gamers from around the world, are now required to defend the Earth against alien invaders.
I absolutely loved Cline’s first novel, Ready Player One, and so I was really looking forward to Armada. I have to say, I was a little disappointed. Whilst the premise is interesting, there are large sections of info dumps that made the novel difficult to get into. There are multiple hints throughout that things aren’t quite what they seem which remove any possibility of a successful plot twist and I found the characters to be wooden and under-developed.
American Gods by Neil Gaiman
Shadow has spent three years in prison, and can’t wait to get back to his wife, Laura. A few days before his release however, he’s told that his wife and best friend have been killed in a car accident.
His life in pieces, he leaves prison with no plans for the future, so when he runs into the enigmatic Mr Wednesday, he accepts a job as a driver and occasional bodyguard, but soon finds himself caught in the middle of a war he doesn’t fully understand – a war between Gods whose followers brought them to America as they migrated, then abandoned them, and now Shadow has to do what he can to survive.
American Gods is another book that I’ve been meaning to read for ages, but for whatever reason never quite got around to until now. I’m glad I did though – American Gods is an epic novel which spans multiple genres, and draws heavily from mythology, particularly Norse. As readers of my blog will know, I’m quite taken with anything that relates to old myths.
American Gods is populated with fascinating and intriguing characters, and big, taciturn Shadow complements the somewhat whimsical gods nicely. Some characters are more easily recognisable than others, in terms of the gods they represent, and I enjoyed the way that multiple mythologies are interwoven successfully.
I can’t wait to see this brought to life in the TV series that is planned for next year.