This is a delightful comedy based on the unlikely plan to release salmon into a river in the hot and dusty Arab state of Yemen. It deals with the nature of faith and the boundless optimism of hope, whilst also promoting the application of technical skills to a seemingly insolvable problem. And it has a sly dig at politics and the duplicity of politicians.
Continue reading Salmon Fishing in the Yemen, by Paul Torday
I have mixed feelings about Ernest Hemingway. I loved Farewell to Arms but struggled through To Have and Have Not. And Hemingway himself was the kind of man I despise: a shooting, hunting, fishing type who loved bull fighting and drank too much and equated all these nonsensical pursuits with masculinity. So, mixed feelings.
The Sun Also Rises was Hemingway’s first full length novel. Finished in 1926 and told in the first person, the book is loosely based on a trip that Hemingway made to Spain with a group of friends to see the bullfighting during the Pamplona Fiesta. Continue reading Fiesta: The Sun Also Rises, by Ernest Hemingway
The Orchid Thief: A True Story of Beauty and Obsession
This book is based, loosely, around the Florida orchid thief, John Laroche. Susan Orlean is a journalist who hears about his story and attempts to discover why he has become so obsessed with these flowers, and one in particular, the Ghost Orchid. Laroche is a fascinating and complex character. Susan Orlean is both attracted and repelled by this man and her description of him is amazing in its detail and ruthless in its honesty. Continue reading The Orchid Thief, by Susan Orlean
Gibson’s first novel, Neuromancer, is a cyberpunk classic and was published in 1984 – an apt year for such a visionary novel. Pattern Recognition is written in much the same style, using ‘hip’ language and featuring computer technology – but it isn’t a science fiction book.
The book is engagingly written in Gibson’s cyberpunk style. Continue reading Pattern Recognition, William Gibson
Published in Poland in 1961, this novel is a very interesting work from a Sci-Fi perspective. The book deals with the darkness of the human psyche, communication difficulties and the unknowability of alien life forms.
Narrated in the first person, the novel begins as a seemingly straightforward space adventure – with a scientist called Kelvin leaving a space ship in a small capsule. His mission is to join an established scientific expedition aboard a space station in orbit around the mysterious planet Solaris. Continue reading Solaris, by Stanislaw Lem
This book was published in the same year as I was born – 1956. It is the story of the personal journey of an anti-hero – Gully Foyle – as he pursues his revenge against the ship that abandoned him to die in space. During that journey he commits terrible acts, learns new skills and eventually turns from personal retribution to saving humanity.
This book is crammed full of great sci-fi concepts. Continue reading The Stars My Destination, Alfred Bester
Written in the first person, this is a crime novel told through the point of view of the murderer. The language is simple and conversational, using the idioms and figures of speech consistent with the narrator’s background, era and nationality – he is a Californian insurance salesman. While I’m sure this was perfectly in keeping with the time, the language seems quaintly old-fashioned in the 21st Century. (I guess this is an important lesson in how quickly our contemporary fiction can become dated.) Continue reading Double Indemnity, by James M Cain
This is crime fiction at its best. Kay Scarpetta is the Chief Medical Examiner in Richmond, Virginia, and works with the police to uncover the identity of the serial murderer who is terrorising the city. There is no equivalent role in the UK, but Scarpetta’s responsibilities appear to be a combination of postmortem pathologist and police surgeon. Continue reading Postmortem, by Patricia Cornwell
The subject of the story is Buddy Bolden, a black American musician living in New Orleans at the beginning of the twentieth century. Buddy was famous for his cornet playing and for being one of the early pioneers of jazz music. Continue reading Coming Through Slaughter, by Michael Ondaatje
This book was written the same year as I was born, 1956. A short book, it describes the interweaving lives of the first West Indian immigrants to England as seen through the eyes of an established immigrant, Moses Aloetta. The book is written in the third person and includes a number of characters, but the narrator is firmly established at the outset as Moses. Continue reading The Lonely Londoners, by Sam Selvon