Sunday, July 01, 2007

Recent Reading

Over the past week or so I've been reading a variety of different genre books.

I read The Bird of Kinship a fantasy trilogy by Richard Cowper, We, a distopian novel by Russian author Yevgeny Zamyatin and most recently, Jonathan Lethem's latest novel, You Don't Love Me Yet.

The Bird of Kinship series is set in a post apocalypse Britain, where global warming has inundated Europe resulting in the formation of island kingdoms. The story centres around the legend of the martyrdom of young Thomas a talented piper and pupil of the wizard Morfedd, who has gifted the boy with a set of magical pipes, which when played, induce in the listener an enchantment that brings forth an overwhelming feeling of kinship with the land and towards other people. The phenomenon is represented by the image of white bird.

The growing cult of kinship is vigorously opposed by the established church who, after The Drowning (as it is known), along with a feudal aristicracy, control the remnants of society.

The three novels in the series present three different ages in the evolution of the new popular belief in kinship, and how the established church is overcome for all time.

Not a bad read at all.

Zamyatin's novel We is a distopian novel along the lines of 1984. The book was originally written in 1920 and its first publication was an English translation of the Russian novel. It is obvious that George Orwell was influenced by it.

In We, society is depicted as living in the One State. Individuality has been abnegated and each member of this society are known only as numbers. The story is told by D503 in the form of a diary. His encounter with a woman known as E330 disturbs his acceptance of the status quo, where each number (as individuals are called) live in the rigidly structured society, where each action of the day is performed in synchronicity with every other number. Freedom is anathema. D503's diary describes his fall from grace within the One State as he is drawn in to a rebellion through the seductive wiles of E330.

It is a highly original novel and is as chilling as 1984.

You Don't Love Me Yet was a complete change of pace. I read it this morning, so it is fresh in my mind. I've been a fan of Jonathan Lethem's novels for years and each one has been quite different from its predecessors. His first novel Gun With Occasional Music is a bizarre science fiction cum hard boiled detective novel, Amnesia Moon is an equally odd road novel. Motherless Brooklyn is perhaps his most extraordinary novel in that it is a murder mystery narrated by a character who suffers from Tourette's Syndrome.
The opening lines of the novel say it all:

"Context is everything. Dress me up and see. I'm a carnival barker, an auctioneer, a downtown performance artist, a speaker in tongues, a senator drunk on filibuster. I've got Tourette's."

Motherless Brooklyn is a veritable firecracker of a novel. It is marvellously well sustained through the explosive voice of Lionel Essrog the tourettic hero. I highly recommend it as a most unusual reading experience.

This latest novel, You Don't Love Me Yet, is possibly Lethem's most straightforward novel yet. That's not to say that it is lacking charm - it is a very engaging novel. It is a love story, and as with many of Lethem's novels explores popular culture, in this case a rock n roll band.

Peter Wild at Bookmunch has a great review here.

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