zaterdag 24 juni 2017

"Never Let Me Go" by Kazuo Ishiguro

"All children have to be deceived if they are to grow up without trauma."

It isn't easy to review this book without giving away spoilers, but I'm going to try anyway. Really, you have to discover what's going on yourself to really appreciate the book. Superficially, the beginning of the novel might make you think "Never Let Me Go" is a standard coming-of-age story, told by Kathy, a young woman who looks back on her childhood in a boarding school. She tells us about friendships, love and first sexual experiences - things that every youngster growing up finds important. But then there are signs that not everything is at it seems to be. From the beginning she tells us she's a 'carer' but she doesn't tell us exactly who or what she cares for. She also uses words like 'donors', 'possibilities' and 'deferrals' - but it takes a while before we fully understand what they mean. And then there's the enigmatic 'Madame' and her mysterious 'gallery'. Although the story takes place in the 1980s and 90s, it's clear that we're actually reading about an alternate Britain and of a society that is in some ways very different from ours. Or is it?

Kazuo Ishiguro is a British author of Japanese descent. He's probably best known for his novel "Remains of the Day", which was filmed with Sir Anthony Hopkins.  In "Never Let Me Go", Kathy tells her story in a very casual, conversational way. The information is fed to the reader piece by piece. Her na├»ve point of view is endearing, but once you realise what is actually happening, you really start feeling for her and her friends. The "Never Let Me Go" is a clever novel about hope, the destruction of hope and of resignation. This will stay with me for quite a while.

Author: Kazuo Ishiguro
Title: Never Let Me Go
Publisher: Faber and Faber, London
Year: 2005
Number of pages: 263 p.
ISBN: 0571224121

zaterdag 17 juni 2017

"Vermoorde onschuld" van Jo Claes

"Met spijt trok hij zich terug. Afronden. Er een einde aan maken. Hij drukte haar gezicht in het kussen, sloeg zijn twee handen om haar keel en kneep. Ze rochelde. Hij kneep nog harder. Ze begon te stuiptrekken. Lang duurde het niet."

De Leuvense thrillerauteur Lukas Lebowski ontmoet in Siena een hevige fan. Het kost hem weinig moeite om de knappe jongedame mee te nemen naar een hotelkamer en haar daar te versieren. Niet lang nadat hij haar verlaten heeft, wordt de vrouw echter vermoord aangetroffen op de kamer. Lebowski kan een alibi voorleggen, dus wordt hij snel vrijgepleit. Maar niet lang daarna worden nog enkele vrouwen uit Lebowski's omgeving vermoord. De verdenking valt nu uiteraard wel op de auteur, zeker omdat de moorden op een vrijwel identieke manier worden gepleegd als hij in zijn nieuwste, nog ongepubliceerde, roman beschrijft. Hoofdinspecteur Thomas Berg wordt op de zaak gezet en die ontdekt al heel snel dat iemand alle moeite doet om de misdaden in Lebowski's schoenen te schuiven. Berg heeft met een wel heel gewiekste moordenaar te maken, en hij moet die bijzonder snel weten te vinden, want alles wijst erop dat er nog slachtoffers zullen vallen.

Het achtste boek alweer uit de reeks rond hoofdinspecteur Thomas Berg en auteur Jo Claes lijkt nog lang niet uitgezongen. Opnieuw schotelt hij de lezer een ingenieus plot voor. Hoewel ik het verhaal aanvankelijk een beetje te veel vond lijken op 'Getekend vonnis', een van de vorige delen, evolueert het uiteindelijk helemaal anders. Er zijn heel wat verrassende plotwendingen en de ontknoping is uiterst bevredigend. Zonder twijfel een van de sterkste delen uit de reeks.

Auteur: Jo Claes
Titel: Vermoorde onschuld
Uitgeverij: Houtekiet, Antwerpen/Utrecht
Jaar: 2015
Aantal bladzijden: 394 blz.
ISBN: 9789089243263

zondag 11 juni 2017

"The Fountains of Paradise" by Arthur C. Clarke

"Here, at the foot of the rock, he had conceived and created Paradise. It only remained, upon its summit, to build Heaven."

Most popular science fiction has interesting stories that are put into a futuristic setting. Many readers are put off by this, but if you take away that setting, the stories could easily be told in other settings and just be westerns, war stories or what have you. But lots of science fiction is actually about the science itself. The implications of the progress of science is the core of the story. Arthur C. Clarke was without any doubt one of the best authors of this so-called hard SF.

I'm not a science buff, and there are a lot of ideas in science fiction stories that I don't find particularly interesting. But Arthur C. Clarke could always tell his story with so much enthusiasm, that you can't help but get very much involved. This is also what happens in "The Fountains of Paradise". To be honest, the obsession of an engineer to build an elevator into space wasn't an idea that I thought sounded very exciting. But again he builds a solid story around it, with an interesting main character and more than enough intrigue and conflict to keep everyone happy.

"The Fountains of Paradise" won Clarke both the Hugo and Nebula Awards, and although I don't think it's his best novel, it's indespensible for anyone who likes this kind of old-fashioned science fiction storytelling.

Author: Arthur C. Clarke
Title: The Fountains of Paradise
Publisher: Gollancz, London
Year: 2004 (orig. 1980)
Number of pages: 258 p.
ISBN: 1857987217

zondag 4 juni 2017

"The Accident" by Linwood Barclay

"If I'd known this was our last morning, I'd have rolled over in bed and held her. But of course, if it had been possible to know something like that -if I could have somehow seen into the future- I wouldn't have let go."

Glen Garber's wife Sheila dies in a car crash, leaving Glen alone to take care of their eight-year old daughter Kelly. The loss becomes even more difficult to accept when he finds out that Sheila was heavily under the influence of alcohol and caused the accident. What prompted her do be so irresponsible? Glen just can't understand, because it was so unlike Sheila do to something like this. Things get even weirder when Sheila's friend Ann dies just a few weeks later, also in a accident. Glen goes looking for some answers and discovers both Sheila and Ann were involved in some shady business.

Linwood Barclay has a very clear and fluent writing style and this makes "The Accident" read like a train.  As a thriller, it's not particularly special or original, but it has good characters and enough mystery and surprises to keep you reading. This book reminded me of another author I've recently read, Harlan Coben. Good book.

Author: Linwood Barclay
Title: The Accident
Publisher: Orion, London
Year: 2012 (orig. 2011)
Number of pages: 472 p.
ISBN: 9780752883373