"The Chrysalids" by John Wyndham
My rating: 5/5
I was gripped from the beginning of The Chrysalids, and my attention was fully held until the end. The writing style that John Wyndham employs within this novel is somehow eloquent whilst retaining striking directness and simplicity. This directness moves the narrative along wonderfully, and the reader is introduced to a fantastic array of drama and adventure. The unique theme that runs throughout lends itself beautifully to some sublime character work. Through his fiction, the author repeatedly proposes excellent observations on the world, specifically regarding society and community in this case; I adore John Wyndham’s ability to fit the grand ideas and sense of wonder you might find in a novel of 500 pages or more in a mere 200. He doesn’t mess around. Every word is dynamic, and character motives are understated yet truly heartfelt. A brilliant story, by a man who I am growing to admire very much for his cleverness, which is sheathed in simplicity and presented via his glowing ability as a storyteller.
As a side note, the cover artwork on my 1980’s Penguin edition of The Chrysalids shows a green, intimidating, alien looking creature. This is absolutely baffling as it relates in no way at all to the story. Perhaps it was to capitalise on a science fiction readership and the success of The Day of the Triffids, apparently proposing that the creature is a “Chrysalid”. The title actually refers to a major theme in the book, being conceptual and meant in reflection of the story; it is not relating to a race of creatures called Chrysalids. Whatever the reason behind this cover artwork may be, don’t let it put you off. This is an engrossing, addictive piece of storytelling that is hugely entertaining on a number of levels.
"Death Note" volumes 1 - 12 by Tsugumi Ohba (Illustrated by Takeshi Obata )
My rating: 5/5
With no preconceptions of what depth and quality the Death Note series could possibly contain, I received the first Black Edition for Christmas and was thus introduced to a brilliantly entertaining work of fiction. Deciding to hold off writing a review until I finished all the books, I arrive at this retrospective in a way emotionally exhausted. The reader is whisked onto a rollercoaster of inner turmoil, brought about by the thrillingly intricate mind games played out by a superb cast of main characters. There were countless moments where I found my heart relentlessly pummelling against my ribcage; it’s doubtful that another book has gripped me so completely in a purely adrenalin fuelled way. I absolutely loved the questions posed regarding morality, which melted into an excellent commentary on human ego, trust and competition. The characters were deep and believable, displaying a full spectrum of behavioural patterns that are truly absorbing. The final few chapters left me almost in a daze, yet contrary to the disappointment I’ve seen in other reviews, I found it to make perfect sense. The culmination remains true to the core themes of the series and stirs up a whirlwind of reflections and emotions. Tsugumi Ohba has crafted an excellent, expansive piece of fiction and social commentary, which Takeshi Obata compliments greatly with such beautiful, emotive and intricate artwork. Should you decide to read the first few chapters, I doubt you’ll be able to resist the allure of Death Note
Insurgent by Veronica Roth
As the story of Beatrice / Tris continues, I find myself continually gripped. A great book that I’d whole heartedly recommend to the younger readers it is targeted at. For anyone else who enjoys an easy read, and certainly for those that have a taste for post apocalyptic teen adventures, this series is ticking all the boxes. Great moments and a nice representation of the multi faceted aspects of being human. The ruthless interspersion of shocking and brutal moments that is becoming so common in YA fiction is here in abundance. When I was a young teenager I’m sure I didn’t read such gory literature, but it’s surely addictive!
“John Dies at the End" - by David Wong
My rating: 3.5/5
A book that is quite original in format and voice; it is hilarious at times, thoughtful at others and sometimes both at once. Sadly, the narrative pace and quality of humour both seem to diminish towards the centre, so I did lose interest a little. The ending makes up for this, and the humour resumes with full force while the story reaches its rewarding and creative final pages. There are more penis jokes than you could shake a penis at, and the narrative is filled with completely ridiculous occurrences, but these are for the most part great and help develop believable characters. It’s only when the writing gets tied up in describing action piece after action piece that it tends to trip up. The character work is great, and the voyages into the surreal are mostly vivid and amusing. From the first chapter I thought I’d love every second of this book, the style and irreverent tone of humour immediately connected with me. As it turned out, I didn’t love every second, but it is still brilliant in places, and if you stick with it there are some passages towards the end that really glue everything together nicely.