1001 Books Round-Up March 2021
I am calling it early because there is no way I am reading any more 1001 books this month.
Super-Cannes by J.G.Ballard – BOTM #1 – What GR says: Eden-Olympia is more than just a multinational business park, it is a virtual city-state in itself, with the latest in services and facilities for the most elite high-tech industries. Isolated and secure, overlooking the luxurious French Riviera, the residents lack nothing. Yet one day Dr. Greenwood from Eden-Olympia’s clinic goes on a suicidal shooting spree. Dr. Jane Sinclair is hired as his replacement, and she and her husband, Paul, are given Dr. Greenwood’s house as a residence.
Unable to work while recovering from an accident, Paul spends his days taking a close look at the house where Dr. Greenwood shot himself and his three hostages. He discovers clues in the house lead him to question Eden-Olympia’s official account of the killings. Drawn into investigating the activities of the park’s leading citizens, while Jane is lured deeper into Eden-Olympia’s inner workings, Paul uncovers the dangerous psychological vents that maintain Eden-Olympia’s smoothly running surface. An experiment is underway at Eden-Olympia, an experiment in power and brutality. Soon Paul finds himself in race to save himself and his wife before they are crushed by forces that may be beyond anyone’s control. Yep that sums it up nicely.
My Thoughts: I was not expecting to enjoy this book as I figured it would be similar in style to Crash which I hated, however I was pleasantly surprised to find myself caught up in the world of Eden-Olympia.
This book will not be for everyone it should come with Trigger Warnings for almost anything you can think of and yet Ballard manages to handle it in a way that while it is shocking it actually makes sense to the story. I didn’t feel like the violence was thrown in off hand to make things more exciting or to prove how violent an imagination Ballard had instead I felt that he was exploring what humans are capable of if they consider they are above the law and if they can consistently get away with their actions.
It was interesting to work through the Dr Greenwood’s killing spree to see what it was he was trying to achieve and why particular targets were chosen. It was also fascinating to see Paul and Jane fall into the trap of Eden-Olympia.
The ending is one that will stick with me mainly because it is perfect sequel bait with no sequel which leaves me as a reader wondering if Paul will be able to achieve what he is aiming to do and if he is right to believe that Jane will perform the role he has assigned to her.
4 Stars – You have been warned but if you can take the violence and sexual corrupt behaviour this is a great exploration of the human psyche.
The Newton Letter by John Banville – BOTM #2 – What GR says: A historian, trying to finish a long-overdue book on Isaac Newton, rents a cottage not far by train from Dublin for the summer. All he needs, he thinks, is a few weeks of concentrated work. Why, he must unravel, did Newton break down in 1693? What possessed him to write that strange letter to his friend John Locke? But in the long seeping summer days, old sloth and present reality take over. This explains why he went to the lodge not the book.
My Thoughts – This is an unpopular opinion but I have no idea how a writer can make an 80 page book so dull. Reading other people’s reviews it seems I missed a lot of the actual details that for them made the book engaging. It may be due to recent events in the UK but all I took away from this book was a middle aged man having an affair with a younger woman while fantasising about a different woman and to be honest that did not play well with me.
Other readers enjoyed the way the book looks at the reliability of historians, of research into the past and how situations can be completely misinterpreted giving rise to the idea that all things are relative.
2 Stars – It is only 80 pages long so read it and make your own mind up and if you love it come back and explain to me why.
The Possessed (The Devils) by Fyodor Dostoyevsky – Tackle the TBR – What GR Says: Pyotr and Stavrogin are the leaders of a Russian revolutionary cell. Their aim is to overthrow the Tsar, destroy society, and seize power for themselves. Together they train terrorists who are willing to lay down their lives to accomplish their goals. But when the group is threatened with exposure, will their recruits be willing to kill one of their own to cover their tracks? Savage and powerful yet lively and often comic, Demons was inspired by a real-life political murder and is a scathing and eerily prescient indictment of those who use violence to serve their beliefs. Savage & Powerful? More dull and longwinded. Lively & often comic? More boring and often morbid.
My Thoughts: The page count for this book is 768 and yes it really does feel like it. For me personally you could easily lose 500 pages without actually losing the thrust of the story as provided by the GR summary.
Perhaps to provide a human interest side (it failed for this reader) the author begins the book with a love affair and estranged children returning home. By the time the actual plotting and action began I was losing the will to live.
The bulk of the action takes place over the last 100 or so pages and does indeed show how far the plotters are willing to go to cover their tracks but by this point I really didn’t care who would be sacrificed.
It may surprise you to learn that I found no humour in this book. Perhaps this was lost in translation.
3 Stars – just because there are far worse books on the list and as a cure for insomnia it would be hard to find better. At some point you are going to have to read this if you want to finish the list so pick your timing well.
Have you read any of these? Share your thoughts with us.