Thursday, 20 March 2014

The Humans by Matt Haig

When an alien comes to Earth with a mission and deadly intent it finds that inhabiting a male human body gives more insights into the primitive species than it would have liked.

The Humans is a philosophical exploration of the human condition, dressed up cunningly as a novel. The alien inside Andrew Martin's body is, at first, disgusted by all he sees of this degenerate and crude species. However, it soon starts to see things from a human perspective. Music, love, culture, poetry and sex are all things it must tackle before it can complete its task of destroying those that have knowledge of Andrew Martin's mathematical breakthrough.

Matt Haig tackles some big issues with a sense of humour and a heart. There is no preaching or negativity here, just a lovely book that was a delight to read. You'd need a cynical heart of stone not to appreciate this wonderful novel. I shall try to keep some of the insights with me in troubled time. Note to self: I must read Emily Dickinson.

Wednesday, 12 March 2014

News from the Squares by Robert Llewellyn

In News from Gardenia Robert Llewellyn explored the idea of a society more advanced than our own. We saw through the eyes of Gavin Meckler, an engineer, who finds himself inexplicably catapulted into the distant future by a freak meteorological anomaly.

News from the Squares sees Gavin, stranded once more in a futuristic and bewildering age, in which he has no place. What I like about Llewellyn's fiction is that it is intelligently written and well considered. Meckler spends much of his time wandering around baffled, in much the same way that Douglas Adams had Arthur Dent wandering the galaxy.  You can't help but like Gavin Meckler.  He seems like one of those chaps without a nasty bone in his body. Much of the humour comes from Meckler's surprise at each new revelation this new earth has to offer. Yet the book comes across as an exploration of gender roles and even the hapless Gavin realises that he has deep seated prejudices that he never knew were there. This alternative earth is run by women, it is a patriarchal society. There are no wars, no poverty and all disease has been eradicated. Perhaps this is somewhere Gavin can settle? Yet he soon discovers that all is not well in this potential utopia. There is still room for hatred and anger but why is so much of it directed at him?

I devoured this novel voraciously, so it's fair to say the author's narrative gripped me. There's a refreshing gentleness to the Llewellyn’s work that you don't often see. This equates to not a great deal of action and no sex or violence, if you're looking for that go elsewhere. If you want a novel that'll guide you teasingly through a future filled with hope then try this excellent novel.

Sunday, 2 March 2014

Raising Steam by Terry Pratchett

Raising Steam is Pratchett's usual mix of humour and humanity. It's largely the story of the age of steam coming to the Discworld,  in the form of the train. However,  in his adept fashion, Pratchett seamlessly weaves other themes into the story. The dwarves are having problems with extremists, which leads to an attempted coop.

Moist Von Lipwig is, for the most part, the main character.  It feels like Pratchett has crammed so much into this novel but as with all of his works it leaves me chuckling and with a sense of hope. Aftet reading Pratchett you just feel that all is well with the world.