Sunday, July 7, 2013

Micro-Reviews of Books Read, June 2013

Reviews of books read last month: three novels and a collection of
short stories.

1. "The Man Who Was Thursday: A Nightmare" by G. K. Chesterton

A secret society of anarchists has a ruling council where each of the
seven members uses a day of the week as their code name. Gabriel Syme,
an undercover policeman, manages to infiltrate the Central Council of
Anarchists. A former poet, Syme was recruited by an even shadowier
chief detective who is setting up a corps of "philosopher policemen".
The newly-elected Thursday finds all is not quite what it seems as he
tries to foil an attempt to assassinate a member of European royalty.
This was a short and surreal novel was fast-paced and very enjoyable.

2. "Il tempo forse" by Francesco Genitoni

This is the story of an elderly widow living on an old family farm in
northern Italy. Her unwed son lives with her and still runs the farm,
but he mistreats her. Television and the occasional visits by her
other children and grandchildren provide company in her declining
years, but there will inevitably come a time when she has to leave
the farm and village where she has spent her whole life. A brief and
poignant story, as told through her grandchild's eyes. The title
translates literally as "Time, perhaps".

3. "Pump Six and Other Stories" by Paolo Bacigalupi

A collection of thought-provoking short stories set in the future,
when food and animals are genetically modified, energy sources have
become scarcer, and global warming has caused major political and
social disruption. Like a lot of good science fiction, the stories
take an aspect of current life and examine its consequences by
extrapolating into the future. Many of the stories are quite
disturbing, but almost always imaginative. Characters and ideas
in these stories are explored further in the the author's award-
winning novel "The Wind-Up Girl", which I enjoyed and also recommend.

4. "Puttering About in a Small Land" by Philip K. Dick

This is a contemporary novel set in 1950s California. Roger runs a
modest television repair business. He lives with his second wife
Virginia, a frustrated dancer. They have a son who they send off to
private school every week. They meet another couple, Chic (Charles)
and Liz Bonner, whose two sons go to the same school. A complex
relationship develops between the two couples, as their underlying
differences, impulses and ambitions are slowly revealed. I was
pleasantly surprised by this change of style from an author who
made his name writing science fiction novels and short stories.
His work has been made into several movies, including "Blade
Runner", "Minority Report" and "A Scanner Darkly".