Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Starter for Ten by David Nicholls


Starter for Ten

(Read 2013)

This is a book by the same author who wrote One Day (an excellent book whose review can be found here) and this was a birthday gift by someone who was sure I would like it, having never seen the film.

This is a book I put off for a while, and for good reason. The book itself wasn’t bad and enjoyed the general plot and setting. Nicholls has this talent which is used to good effect of writing books which exist in a very realistic setting and which are simultaneously mundane and interesting.

The film is a Rom-Com-esque affair, and the book is the same. Our main character is infinitely obsessed with his own self-appearance and finding a relationship with exactly the person he wants to be with while forgetting and ignoring more important aspects of his life. It’s a fairly typical coming of age story and the plot moves along nicely without plodding overly-much.

There’s very little I can say on the subject of the plot (beyond a typical synopsis) that can’t be said. It’s your average novel of a typical student and the things he gets up to in that and although it isn’t boring, it is infinitely mundane. The two things worth mentioning are the romance and the central event.

The latter is easier, so I’ll start there. The book is all about University Challenge- a British TV series which pits the teams of British Universities against one another in a competition of general knowledge, which is either very interesting and informative or dull and inane depending on which side of the fence you’re on. It’s essentially a daytime television so which is but more relevant. But the plot of the book is our protagonist wanting to be on this team and do well. He’s an intelligent lad and the entire thing is relevant mostly as a plot device, but in many ways I also felt it was a reflection of our MC himself because he obviously thought and ability to remember things meant he was intelligent and he concentrated on knowing facts. Maybe I’m just fundamentally different, but this irked me as a student myself because my degree (Maths) teaches that understanding supersedes just knowing facts because it is  way of thinking which they want to teach you and if all you do is memorise, then what have you learnt that you’ll actually remember? I find the whole things fairly bizarre, but then I have a poor memory for general knowledge. Maybe because I think of it as a little irrelevant.

The romance was...cringe-worthy. I won’t say too much on this because it reveals too much, but it was predictable and unsatisfying. It reminded me of One Day in that respect because Nicholls give you a (painfully realistic) non-perfect ending. It is a non-issue, but it makes the book weird and you can’t help but feel for the poor guy in his endeavours.

Not a bad book, but certainly not amazing. I think if you’re looking for an easy read over a period of time where you don’t have the hours to dedicate to reading, it’s easy going and not hard to follow. The downside of this is that I found it sometimes uninspiring thing to sit and read.

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

The Dead Tossed Waves and The Dark and Hollow Places by Carrie Ryan


The Dead Tossed Waves and The Dark and Hollow Places

(Read 2013)

These are the next instalments in the Forest of Hands and Teeth series. This is going to be a simultaneous review simply because I read both in such a short space of time that they aren’t really separate books in my head. (So if I say ‘this book’ I don’t distinguish between the two, although I know they are respective books!)

Firstly, wow.

A lot happens in these books. The Forest of Hands and Teeth is but a prequel to the events that go down. In many ways, it is that book that lets you see what the world is like before Carrie Ryan takes you on this amazing journey.

In general, the story and world are amazing. This is post-apocalyptic and it is completely understandable what is done even if we must disagree and not approve of everything. It makes it fascinating because you face moral dilemmas (from the safety of your armchair or bed!) that are almost worrying that you might think. I question who I agree with...and concluding that I agree with the idealist and the pragmatist/survivalist I don’t know where I stand. The plot nicely moves along and it never feels too centralised and dull- even without great movement (sometimes) there is always fantastic pace and Carrie Ryan uses her environment and world to great effect. Zombies are ever-present and this is taken full advantage of which makes both books engrossing and “unputdownable”.

The characters in both books are the same in terms of our main protagonists although obviously the cast of side characters differs between the two as befits the setting and progression of the story. But the characters...oh lord! There are circles within circles, triangles within triangles. It like trying to endless half a just goes into the infinity of numbers and it won’t end. Now imagine each of those halves is a part of the characters personality and they are built of these endless inconsistencies. Well now consider there are four main characters. Add in one or two important side characters who are similarly halved. You just have this huge amazing mess that creates this powerful, human characters. Now, I ain’t saying they’re perfect, but they are darn good...and they make for excellent reading.

So in general, I am very fond of these books. They were a huge improvement on the first and much more nitty-gritty. I’m taken along in this journey...I read these books over a two day period whilst on holiday and I was thrown into a rut after finishing (and after the first of the two books, the beach we were staying became infinitely eerie!). These come highly recommended.