Tuesday, 29 August 2017

Don't work too hard

Super-Cannes JG Ballard's Super-Cannes is a crime story set near Cannes in the South of France. Most of the action takes place in and around the Eden-Olympia business park, a closed community where Jane, a paediatrician, has taken a short-term contract. Her husband Paul, who is convalescing after a flying accident, tells the story.

Prior to the couple's arrival the previous paediatrician had run amok and killed 10 people, and as Jane becomes more engrossed in her work, Paul becomes obsessed with finding out what had provoked the bloody massacre.

I liked much of Ballard's style of writing, especially his descriptions, however the dialogue occasionally felt forced. There were a couple of points at which characters seemed to make implausible decisions, briefly rendering the plot far-fetched. In addition, the more I read, the more I felt the book to be male-centric. It seemed that the female characters were there primarily to titillate the reader.

In spite of these niggles, I really enjoyed the story, its premise, and how Paul slowly uncovers the recreational activities of Eden-Olympia's high-flying executives whilst pursuing his amateur investigation.

Tuesday, 15 August 2017

Magic, dragons and witches

A Wizard of Earthsea (Earthsea Cycle #1) A Wizard of Earthsea tells the story of Ged, a boy with a gift for magic. He lives in the fantasy world that Ursula Le Guin has created, with dragons and witches, and where residents rely on local mages to cast spells for mundane situations such as changing the weather or protecting boats.

The tale unfolds in the narrative style of an ancient saga, as Ged learns his craft and becomes a powerful wizard. His youthful arrogance unleashes an evil shadow which must be hunted down and destroyed. It's a quest that takes Ged on a journey of self discovery.

Ursula le Guin tells a great story, but I was perhaps a little too old to really be captivated by it. I wish I'd read it as a teenager, when I was entranced by The Hobbit, and The Once and Future King.

Thursday, 10 August 2017

The future problems of debt

The Transition The Transition is set in Britain of the near future, when buying property has become too expensive for the majority, and rents are so high that even well paid professionals cannot afford them. Nonetheless married couple Karl and Genevieve are happy until Karl's debt spirals out of control and he is convicted of fraud. Rather than prison, he signs the couple up for a six-month project called The Transition.

Karl and Genevieve live with and are mentored by Stu and Jenna, a successful, older couple. There's something comical about their fervent desire to help, but also something vaguely creepy and cultish about the process that purports to turn "failures" into "successes." The story is told from the point of view of Karl, a likeable character who loves his wife and his job, but seems to have little in the way of ambition.

Luke Kennard manages to generate and maintain tension throughout the story. I was rooting for Karl and Genevieve and by the end felt rather sorry for Stu and Jenna. The baddie of the book, I felt, was The Transition's shadowy corporate entity. I wanted a different ending so only awarded it three stars. But it's Kennard's work and not mine and it really deserves four stars.