zaterdag 12 augustus 2017

"The Five" by Robert McCammon

"Some things don't change, they never do.
Some things do change, they change with you."

Nomad, Ariel, Mike, Berke and Terry make up the struggling rock band 'The Five'. While on the road, one of them is shot by what at first appears to be a stray bullet. But when the others are fired at as well, they realise the band is being hunted by a sniper. The media coverage skyrockets CD sales and the demand for gigs is enormous. Furthermore, the FBI wants to use the band as bait to catch the shooter. So, the band decide to continue the tour. But they soon realise the sniper is not their only problem.

I really adore Robert McCammon's writing. "The Five" is yet another excellent thriller, which focuses on characterisation. This is quite a hefty tome (nearly 600 pages), but it never becomes dull because you can really feel for the characters. The 'bad guy' is not yet another deranged serial killer, but a well-rounded character whose actions are believable. It will probably help if you like rock music, because a major part of the novel is about life on the road. So much more than just another thriller, "The Five" is a thought-provoking story about friendship and love, good and evil, doubt and faith, courage and cowardice. I really don't understand why this author isn't more popular. He should be right up there with the likes of Stephen King and Dean Koontz.

Author: Robert McCammon
Title: The Five
Publisher: Tor, New York
Year: 2013 (orig. 2011)
Number of pages: 599 p.
ISBN: 9780765370266

"Het alfabet van de stilte" van Walter Van den Broeck

"Alles en iedereen staat op zijn kop. Het hele land, het hele dorp, de hele familie, en ikzelf. En dan willen ze dat ik mijn scriptie op tijd afkrijg: 'Kindermisbruik in de Kerk'.

Het was slechts een kwestie van tijd vooraleer de literaire wereld zich zou storten op de pedofilieschandalen in de Kerk. Met "Het alfabet van de stilte" schreef Walter Van den Broeck in 2013 een, volgens de achterflap, 'beklemmende en serene roman over mensen die de waarheid niet onder ogen durven te zien'.

Kristien Daeleman is een studente die een scriptie wil schrijven over kindermisbruik in de Kerk. Aanleiding is het recente schandaal rond Bisschop Van Groeneweghen, de oudoom van Kristien. De focus is voor haar niet het misbruik zelf, maar de vraag of het celibaat de oorzaak is van alle ellende. Aanvankelijk is haar omgeving zeer enthousiast over het project, maar dat verandert wanneer ze steeds dieper begint te graven. Ze komt in zwaar conflict met haar promotor, haar vriend en haar familie.

Het verhaal wordt afwisselend, in korte hoofdstukjes, verteld door de vele personages uit het verhaal. De taal is overwegend erg volks. Allen vullen de geschiedenis van de familie aan en/of geven ze hun mening over de feiten. Het kindermisbruik wordt slechts sporadisch vermeld - de focus ligt op hoe de verschillende personages alles ervaren. De vraag of het celibaat aan de oorsprong ligt van het misbruik wordt tekens opnieuw in een ander daglicht gesteld. Een antwoord wordt niet echt gegeven. Dat zou ook veel te gemakkelijk zijn. Geen slecht boek, maar niet zo aangrijpend als het onderwerp zou kunnen doen vermoeden.

Auteur: Walter Van den Broeck
Titel: Het alfabet van de stilte
Uitgeverij: De Bezige Bij, Antwerpen
Jaar: 2013
Aantal bladzijden: 223 blz.
ISBN: 9789085425076

maandag 31 juli 2017

"Ex Machina" (Star Trek) by Christopher L. Bennett

"'It is illogical,' Spock countered, 'to disregard the role of emotion in sentient thought. Emotions evolved for a reason; logically, they must serve some practical function.'"

One of the countless Star Trek tie-in novels. "Ex Machina" takes place right about where Star Trek: The Motion Picture ended and focuses on the ramifications of the events described in the movie. It is also a sequel to the TV episode "For the World is Hollow and I Have Touched the Sky", so if you want to read this book, it might be a good idea to (re-)watch these.

Bennett summarises the aforementioned movie and describes how the events have changed the main characters. Spock's encounter with V'Ger has motivated him to look for a balance between living with emotions and controlling them. Kirk is dealing with the guilt he is feeling for the crewmembers that were lost during the mission. And McCoy is still not certain if he wants to stay in Starfleet. The other regular characters also get their bits in the limelight, just like new characters that were introduced in the movie and some new characters the author introduces. It feels a bit crowded for a mere-377 page novel. And then there's the new story which harkens back to the episode mentioned above - this is an often used Star Trek theme of what religion can cause if fanatics want to take over. There are also lots of references to other Star Trek episodes and novels - only Star Trek die-hards will probably find all of them.

It's clear that Bennett tries to to a lot of things in this novel and maybe that's a bit over-ambitious. There's very little of an actual story here. It is very much a novel about the more cerebral aspects of Star Trek and about characterisation; if you expect more action, I suggest that you look elsewhere. I quite liked this one, by the way.

Author: Christopher L. Bennett
Title: Ex Machina (Star Trek)
Publisher: Pocket books, New York
Year: 2005
Number of pages:  377 p.
ISBN: 0743492854

vrijdag 28 juli 2017

"Een krans om de maan" van Clem Schouwenaars

"Goed eten, goed drinken, goed vogelen. Dat zijn de drie belangrijkste dingen in het leven."

We volgen leraar Michel Oostkamp tijdens enkele dagen rond de allerheiligenvakantie. Zijn relatie met een getrouwde vrouw is net beƫindigd en hij is single en eenzaam. Hij bezoekt verschillende mensen: zijn moeder, zijn zus, vrienden, een collega ... en observeert het leven van ' de anderen' - echt contact kan hij niet met hen maken.

Dit is een roman die gaat over de eenzaamheid. Er gebeurt bijzonder weinig. Oostkamp doet bijna letterlijk niets dan 'eten, drinken en vogelen', zoals hij het zelf omschrijft. En als dat gegeven je weinig interessant lijkt, dan heb je nog niets van Schouwenaars gelezen. In zijn typische stijl trekt hij ons mee in de gedachtegang van Oostkamp. Als lezer kruip je in de huid van het hoofdpersonage, beleeft zijn eenzaamheid, voelt zijn weemoed en begrijpt zijn cynisme. De roman laat vooral een trieste indruk na.

Auteur: Clem Schouwenaars
Titel: Een krans om de maan
Uitgeverij: Hadewijch, Schoten
Jaar: 1985 (oorspr. 1971)
Aantal bladzijden: 199 blz.
ISBN: 9070876221

woensdag 26 juli 2017

"Eeny Meeny" by M.J. Arlidge

"Sam is asleep. I could kill him now. His face is turned from me - it wouldn't be hard. Would he stir if I moved? Try and stop me? Or would he just be glad that this nightmare was over."

People are getting kidnapped in pairs. They're locked up, given a gun and a choice: if you kill your partner, you'll be set free. If not, you'll both die of hunger and thirst. The work of a very sadistic -female- serial killer. An extremely difficult case for D.I. Helen Grace, especially when she finds out that she knew some of the victims personally.

"Eeny Meeny" is the first in a series of seven (and counting) about D.I. Helen Grace. It caused quite a stir when it was first published. I have to say I'm not quite sure why. Sure it's an easy read, but then for me, there was absoultely nothing that made it stand out from countless other thrillers. The very short chapters and many changes in point of view make this a quick read, but also make it seem very fragmentary. There's very little that's original and character development is just about zero. I never could relate to the protagonist, and the other characters are all rather flat, so that didn't help. Furthermore, some of the events were really a bit far fetched. People surviving without water for two weeks? I don't think so. Sabotaging a car's petrol tank, so that it runs out of fuel at exactly the place you want? Not very likely. Someone chewing their fingernails to the blood, and then being found with long, dirty nails? Oops.

Still, all in all it's a decent thriller, just nothing really memorable.

Author: M.J. Arlidge
Title: Eeny Meeny
Publisher: Penguin, London
Year: 2014
Number of pages: 421 p.
ISBN: 9781405914871

zondag 23 juli 2017

"Revelation Space" by Alastair Reynolds

“The human capacity for grief. It just isn't capable of providing an adequate emotional response once the dead exceed a few dozen in number. And it doesn't just level off—it just gives up, resets itself to zero. Admit it. None of us feel a damn about these people.”

Human colonists are settling Resurgam, the homeworld of the Amarantin, an alien species which was wiped out completely thousands of years ago. Dan Sylveste is an archeologist who is investigating an ancient Amarantin city. He finds out that the very thing that destroyed Amarantin civilization, might still pose a threat.
Ilia Volyova is a crew member of the giant spaceship Nostalgia for Infinity, and is looking for Sylveste, who she thinks can help her captain, who has been infected with a strange virus.
Ana Khouri is an ex-military, now professional assassin, who is hired by the mysterious 'Mademoiselle' to murder Sylveste.
The three stories blend together as Sylveste tries to escape his fate, while at the same time trying to find a cure for the Nostalia's captain and finding out what led to the Amarantin's demise.

An intriguing novel. A quote from fellow author Paul McAuley describes this book as 'cybergoth space opera' and that is an excellent description. There's the universe and time-spanning scope, the cyberpunk factor and a touch of horror. This is so-called 'hard SF', which means there's a lot of focus on technology. It's pretty tough to get your head around the weird science fictional concepts in this book. Ultimately, this is what started to put me off a bit. For me, the book could have done with about 200 pages less, which would have helped the story develop more fluently. A case of 'a touch too much'. It has to be said, though, that this 'hard SF' is usually not my thing, so I'm sure afficionados will love the stuff. Still, I quite enjoyed the book.

Author: Alastair Reynolds
Title: Revelation Space
Publisher: Gollanzc, London
Year: 2013 (orig. 2000)
Number of pages: 598 p.
ISBN: 9780575129061

zondag 16 juli 2017

"A Burnt-Out Case" by Graham Greene

"Liking is a great deal safer than love. It doesn't demand victims."

Querry is a famous architect who is tired of life. He doesn’t feel anything anymore, no drive for his work, no love, no faith - he has nothing more to live for. He escapes the misery of his life by travelling anonymously to a leper colony in the Congo, where he just wants to be left alone. But his intentions are misunderstood - people start believing he's a hero for leaving a successful career behind and helping the lepers. Before to soon a journalist arrives who wants to tell Querry's story to the world. While Querry was gradually starting to heal, tragedy now looms.

It's interesting to see how Greene compares Querry to Deo Gratias, a native who has been diagnosed as a 'burnt-out case' - a leper who is pronounced cured, because he has lost everything that can be eaten away by the leprosy. Querry's mental state is similar to this.

There's very little story here, but the characters are absolutely marvelous. Lots of very philosophical dialogue, but I wasn't bored for a minute. It's a deep-felt novel about suffering and happiness, love and loathing, religion and faith ... This is another of Greene's absolutely brilliant novels. There's very little story here, but the characters are absolutely marvellous. As with some of his other novels, it's very dark and depressing, but there's so much humanity in these pages that it's irresistable. Greene has definitely become one of my very favourite authors.

Author: Graham Greene
Title: A Burnt-Out Case
Publisher: Vintage, London
Year: 2004 (orig. 1960)
Number of pages: 192 p.
ISBN: 9780099478430