Saturday, 2 October 2010

Douglas Adams; Life, the Universe and Everything

At the end of The Restaurant at the End of the Universe Arthur and Ford, separated from Zaphod and Trillian, found themselves crashing on to prehistoric earth, and finding themselves stuck there, with a bunch of hairdressers and telephone sanitisers. Luckily, they don't stay there for long in Life, the Universe and Everything, and by means of a stray, floating sofa find themselves at Lord's Cricket Ground, a few days before Earth's scheduled destruction. But they don't stay there for long, either, for Slartibartfast has also found his way there, for a very important reason. He's trying to stop the imminent destruction of not just Earth, but of everything.

Maybe because this is the first book that I was unfamiliar with, or maybe because it just seemed to be not quite as funny, witty or brilliant, I just didn't find this book as good as the preceding two. Trillian's character... well. precisely. What character? She seemed to be just a plot device with a name, useful for wrapping the whole thing up nicely, but not a lot else. There were still moments of brilliance - bistronomics, for one, Arthur forgetting to land for another, but on a whole, it seemed as if things were starting to fray a little at the edges. It just wasn't quite as brilliant.

Douglas Adams; The Restaurant at the End of the Universe

After the adventures of the first book, Zaphod, Arthur, Ford and Trillian find that they're rather hungry, and therefore, decide to go to Milliways - the restaurant at the end of the universe. Of course, with the writer being who he is, and the characters being who they are, this isn't as simple as it sounds. Zaphod finds himself separated from the rest of his group and part of a mission to uncover the true ruler of the universe. A mission which he himself chose to conceal from himself.

I was still on familiar territory here, for the most part (thought there were some variances from the radio shows I remember). The paragraphs explaining all the different tenses that function in Milliways was pure genius to me, and the whole book worth reading just for that. Adams is just as witty and brilliant in this book as in the first. I was, as with the first book, rather surprised at how much action he could fit into such a short book, there really is a distinct lack of dull moments and even if the plot seems a little erratic, I found I was happy to coast along with it both for the humour of the various character's reactions to their constantly changing plights, and because Adam's narrative style means that you really don't mind what's going on, as long as it's him who's telling it.

Douglas Adams; Hitch-Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy

Dear blog, I hate you so much. Twice now, I've tried to write this review, and twice, twice you've just deleted it. Do you think I enjoy writing the same thing over, and over again? Do you think I enjoy trying to remember what I wrote last time, and, despairing of that, trying to come up with something all over again? Do you? Well you're wrong. I hate it, and I'm rather starting to hate you, too.

Arthur Dent's house is about to be destroyed. he's not happy about this. His planet is also about to be destroyed and if he knew about it, he probably wouldn't be happy about that, either. He may cheer up slightly if you told him he and his friend Ford Prefect would survive the demise of his planet - but only slightly, because what he'd really need after all that was a drink of tea. And the only planet which produced tea has just been destroyed. He's going to be even grumpier when you try to explain to him, without his having had any tea, that his entire planet was in fact a giant computer which was destroyed moments before completing the program it was designed for, and that Ford Prefect isn't even human.

It seems rather blasphemous to me that I've only just, this summer gone, read The Hitch-Hiker "trilogy", but my excuse (and I'm sticking to it) is that I grew up listening to tape recordings, and later, CDs of the radio show. I still remembered parts of them vividly, so I never really felt the need to read the books. And because of that, despite having never read them, it did feel like re-reading a much loved book from childhood.

Adam's is funny, witty and incredibly clever. The book is fast-paced and it's almost impossible (unless you've read/heard it before) to guess where it's going. The plot is incredibly whimsical, and it sometimes feels that it's just a device used to allow Adam's to get in various funny observations and witty remarks. Which is not necessarily a bad thing, but it does mean that if you don't like Adam's sense of humour, you'd probably find the whole book incredibly stupid and incomprehensible.

Whoops!

What with visiting Domibaars, going on brief holidays and moving back to the my internetless house in Bristol, I've managed to fall way behind on keeping up with blags. I've got 13 reviews to try and write before I read much more - but also a lot more to read! My goal was to read 100 by the end of the year, and I've currently finished 53 - not good. Does it count for anything that one of the books was War and Peace?

Anyway, review-vomit coming up.

Wednesday, 25 August 2010

Charlotte Bronte; Jane Eyre

Jane Eyre is the story of young, poor, unloved orphan, who, by the time she is twenty, is neither poor, unloved, nor completely without family. There are some ups and downs and at times it really doesn't look like it' going to work out, but thanks to a curious string of coincidences it all turns out alright. There are a few minor unhappy incidents designed to make you think that it didn't quite turn out perfectly, but they rather just highlight that it did. Having said that, the characters are likable enough, so it's forgivable.

I'm pretty proud of myself for finishing this book, because it's one of the very few books I tried to read before and never finished. When I first read it I hated Jane, I thought she was whiny, self-pitying, attention-seeking and just... generally eugh. This time, I found her tolerable to start with, and even likable as she grew up. But I can perfectly understand why my younger self really didn't like her. She's the kind of person my younger self would have wanted to punch if they'd met in person.

Unfortunately, however, I am apparently some sort of soulless demon for not crying at the end. So sayeth some idiot wannabe journalist writing for my Universities student newspaper. And, as briefly mentioned, one of the reasons I didn't cry is because it's all just so perfect. Then minor bad events are just highlight how pukingly perfect everything is rather than conceal it. It's tolerable, but I can't love it. Also, Bronte's occasional decisions to change tense just completely threw me out of the story every time she did it. I could cope with it the first few times, when she seemed to be doing it to get across the intensity of Jane's feelings when she met Rochester, but there were a few other times she did it that rather baffled me, and even the early times weren't done skillfully enough to avoid me breaking off and thinking 'hey, wait, what? ...Eh, fine...' I also found some of the descriptive language rather amusing. It made me think of Tiffany Aching and her dictionary swallowing.

It's not a bad book, but I found it a bit contrived, cliche, and not fantastically written, probably one of the worst classics I've read (bearing in mind that even the worst classics are a good deal better than most other books).