Nowadays, there isn’t a huge amount of “original content” on this site. Yes, it’s good that other people want me to write for them, but I do feel bad having my own blog be nothing but links.
In the near future, I might try and ready a post or two about where I’m at (or something less horrific-sounding), although my actual process hasn’t changed much since I wrote this one, but for now – here are two books I’ve read recently and wanted to quickly get some thoughts down on. They have almost nothing in common with each other.
Against A Dark Background – Iain M. Banks
This one has ended up being accidentally topical since Banks sadly passed away last weekend, but I finished the book a week or two back. Fortunately, this is going to be a pretty positive review, otherwise I’d feel a tad guilty about posting it. Basically, Against A Dark Background is a sci-fi action-scavenger hunt adventure, with a lot of heisting, wisecracks and, at the end, a sudden tug into seriousness.
I read this as a rare experiment in “hard” science-fiction, and perhaps it wasn’t the best choice, as it’s actually quite breezy. Still, Banks throws some cool concepts around (especially the plant-planet in the middle segment, and the all-important “Lazy Gun”), and at least I didn’t feel alienated by it. The second half in particular really pulled everything together – after I’d started to worry this was a shallow book about people being snarky and running, we’re hit with a string of emotional sequences and reveals.
Really, I should’ve expected that an author this renowned would be pretty skilled. Banks toys with a constantly floating third-person perspective, very odd when I’m used to the standard close third, but it still works. Against A Dark Background is perhaps not a life-changer, but a fun, ultimately satisfying space-romp. As a first dip in the science-fiction pool, good stuff.
Cuckoo In The Nest – Nat Luurtsema
In my early twenties, I read a lot of “real-life” comedy books, by Danny Wallace, Dave Gorman and so on, where an author writes about their hilarious real life, while we laugh along and wonder how much of this crazy stuff was planned for the book. Cuckoo In The Nest has a similar chatty comedy style to those, but with added plausibility, which can only be a good thing.
Well, perhaps not for Nat Luurtsema herself, as she’s writing about being forced to live with her parents for six months, aged 28, due to chronic househunting disorder. It works, partly because Luurtsema is funny, but equally because she’s willing to be brutally frank about her life – or at least, honest enough to elevate this book beyond moany blogging. (It did, in fact, start off as a blog.)
It’s the right length, perhaps stabs a bit suddenly for pathos as the end approaches, but the scattershot sense of “Oh, um, yes, this is what I should do here” works with the voice, especially as Luurtsema proceeds to knowingly undercut her own conclusion anyway. As a creatively-aspiring late-twenty-something who lives in ongoing fear of boomeranging back home, maybe I’m rather squarely in the target demo, but still, enjoyed this book.
And now, for added multi-media content points, here’s a book trailer thingy I found for Cuckoo In The Nest whilst googling for the above cover image.