Thursday 13 January 2011

some recent reads

The Man Who Japed by Philip K Dick: An early PKD novel, this is already characteristic of his work, creating a dystopian setting where morality is enforced by the community, aided by spy robots, and mass media serve to help reinforce the Puritan values that prevail. The options to this are to wallow in the fantasies provided by a mental health institutes 'Other World' or to head out to the frontiers of space and start again as a colonist. Nearly any other American SF writer would have his hero choose the last option, but the man who japed finds a different path, although one that will eventually lead him to outer space. AE van Vogt's influence on PKD is always worth noting, and is perhaps reflected here by the fact that the protagonist is ultimately shown to be the only sane man in an insane society - shades of Gilbert Gosseyn (Go-SANE)? Some fresh, evocative turns of phrase as well, belying one common assumption that PKD had great concepts but was a sloppy or limited craftsman. 

Life: A User's Manual by Georges Perec: This book is a maze, a mosaic, a jigsaw-puzzle and a hall of mirrors. Perec describes all the people, animals (all cats, incidentally) and things within a single apartment building in Paris at a particular point in time just before the death of one of its inhabitants. In the process, he ranges far afield in time and space to tell us the strange, and often strangely parallel stories of the people who have lived here over the years. Writers as diverse as Borges, Calvino, Beckett, Nabokov, Chandler and Hemingway would have been glad to have invented some or all of these stories. This book is great fun to read, purely for the pleasures of the imagination that it offers, but there are interesting things going in the subtext too.

Igraine The Brave by Cornelia Funke: A warm-hearted, funny fantasy tale for younger readers that is not without its moments of suspense and wonder and the odd subversion of genre cliches. And a talking cat, who talks just about as much as you'd expect your local tabby tom to talk if given the power of speech, which is to say, not very often and always to the point.  


braindrain said...

I was hoping to read a larger review.. I read this some 15 years back. Its time for a second read..

JP said...

I think the act of reading 'Life' beats the act of writing about it! :)