Monthly Archives: April 2014


Review: Carrie, Stephen King



Bullied by her fundamentalist mother and outcast at school, Carrie White is slated to live a life of misery. Until she realises she’s telekinetic…

I’ve read quite a few of Stephen King’s books, but never got around to reading this until now. No reason, specifically, unless it’s the fact I read ‘salems Lot (Number Two) and thought it was clumsy and hard going.

What a surprise Carrie is then, in comparison. Carrie herself and Sue Snell, really the main two characters, are well thought out and three-dimensional, and I really felt for Carrie and her miserable life. And for Sue as well, trying to reach out to her in anyway she could. The fact that she left it too late is the real heart of the story, and the tragedy of it all.

King’s first book is a short tale compared to most of his others, and there’s none of the bloat that affects some of his later writing. The climax is slow and inevitable, but unaffected by that slow build. The book slips between the main events and the aftermath easily, lending a nice feel to it and breaking up the linear narrative.

I can see why King became such a popular writer after this. This isn’t a story of the boogie-man who eats children or vampires coming to town. This is an ordinary girl with an extraordinary talent; her only response to bullying is to fight back the only way she knows how, with terrifying and bitter results for the town where she lives.

Extraordinary, and without doubt one of the top three King books I’ve read.


Review: Monsters of Men, Patrick Ness




Todd and Viola – and a growing cast of others – have to fight for peace with the native ‘Spackle’, as well as keeping their own warring camps apart.

Phew. I’m exhausted. This is the third of the “Chaos Walking” trilogy, and I’m as war-weary as Todd and Viola. The pace is frantic, the writing dense and the characters actions thick and fast.

New this time is a “Spackle” character   – they call themselves The Land, with obvious references to Native Americans (Or for a more modern audience, Avatar), complete with complex culture, nobility and a deep connection to the planet. They even ride their mounts standing.

Patrick Ness isn’t afraid to use the page to show you what’s going on. Explosion?


Different character voices? Use a different font for each for extra emphasis.

After three books, some of his writing style was starting to grate though –

Like –

He will write something –

And then –

And do this –

And then do that –

…all the way down a page or two. His stream-of-consciousness style I can get behind most of the time though, tumbling together his sentences and images into a single paragraph. I certainly can’t complain, since I use it in my own writing style.

And as usual, his characters are full and three-dimensional and his world building is flawless, even the bit players like Ivan (who goes where the power is, something Ness uses to good effect).

The characters inaction frustrated me. Todd is over there, Viola is over here, and they spend a fair part of the book apart, worrying about each other, fighting to keep the warring factions apart. I wanted to shout at them: PICK YOURSELVES UP AND MOVE TO ANOTHER PART OF THE PLANET.

I was as frustrated as they were at the endless point-scoring of the Mayor and Mistress Coyle. What does it matter who wins the peace? All that matters is the end result. Not one person had the wisdom to tell them that.

Ness creates such a realistic world that I wanted to shout at the people who lived there to grow up. Now I know how it feels to be a politician, trying to bring peace to a war-torn country. No one can see past the hate and stupidity to see what bloody idiots they are. No one can see the futility.

I need to talk about The Mayor, the most developed character in the book. I never trusted him…well, maybe for chapter or two, but he never seemed anything less than sociopathic. Like most dictators, he was charming with it, able to (literally) bend minds to his will. He claimed that the best parts of Todd rubbed off on him. I didn’t believe him…until his actions at the climax of the book.

It’s a long haul from the start of book one right the way to the end of book three – it’s about 1500 pages, actually. I’ve been on that world with Todd and Viola, fought as they fought, felt their frustrations and their exhaustion.

Ness is one hell of a writer, and I’ll be back for more.

The Lady Vanishes

The lady emerges from the Christmas crowds and sits down heavily beside me, rubbing a hand across her eyes. I’m not one to ignore a pretty lady in distress, even one showing an indecent length of calf such as she, so I pipe up.

“Are you all right Miss?”

She looks back at me with direct eyes, appraising me. Her gaze flickers over me from top to bottom, like a recording machine. Her eyes seem to pause a second longer on my book. Somehow I know if someone asks her years from now what I look like, she will recall me with perfect accuracy.

Despite the intensity of her stare, I repeat my question. “Miss…I asked –“

“Yes, yes, you did. I am fine, thank you. As fine as I can be, in the circumstances.” Her voice belies the intensity of her gaze: It is soft and mellow.

There doesn’t seem much answer to that, so I relax back against the Promenade bench and continue with my book.

“Do you have-,“ she coughs and starts again. “Do you have a newspaper?”

I give her a glance. “I’m afraid I don’t. There’s a vendor down that way about a hundred yards.”

She looks where my finger points and notices my ring. “Oh, you’re married.”

I play with my ring with my right hand. “I…I was. Two years ago this week it would have been.”

“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to intrude.”

I wave away her concern. “Don’t mention it.” I study her left hand and notice a paler patch of skin. “You’ve taken yours off.”

She lifts her hand and examines her fingers. “You have good eyes. Yes..I…yes.”

“Widowed by the Great War?”

She smiles weakly at that. “Not exactly.”

I turn on my bench towards her. “Have you been in Whitby long?”

She looks at me and then quickly away. “Oh…oh, I’m not stopping here. I came from Harrogate for the day.”

“Lovely place.”

“Yes. Yes.”

Our conversation drifts to a stop.

I try again after a few more minutes. “So what did you mean when you said you weren’t widowed?”

“I…I ran away from him.”

That rocks me back on my heels. “Goodness me, you are a one. Whatever for?”

A shake of her head. “Please don’t ask.”

Shame makes me blush and I blurt: “Oh, I do apologise. Please forgive me.”

She opens her mouth to say something, then closes it again.

“He. He’s been with another woman, you see.”

“Oh, my dear lady…what can one say?”

She stares out at the crowds milling past us. Again there is that sharp look in her eyes, recording details, heights, the way people walk and talk.

She finally looks back at me. “So I ran away. Only…only now it’s gotten out of hand.” She lowers her voice and leans closer. “They’re looking for me, you see.”

It occurs to me then that the lady may be from the sanatorium along the coast. “Um, yes, of course they are. Why don’t you simply go back?”

“I don’t know if it’s too late. I need to start again. All over again.”

“If I may, Miss, you can’t do that by running away. It catches up with one eventually.”

She stares at me as though this is a thought that has never occurred to her. “You may be right.”

Suddenly, she gathers herself, and in an instant lifts off from the bench.

I reach towards her. “Wait…I don’t. I don’t even know your name.”

She glances down at the book on my lap. “I hope you enjoy my book. One of my best.”

I flick my eyes down to the name on the spine, but when I lift my head again, Agatha Christie is already gone.