Posts Tagged ‘fiction’

The Book Thief

Sunday, August 6th, 2017 | Books

I confess that I have not fared well with Markus Zusak’s novel The Book Thief.

It is certainly a well-written book and interesting story. Who doesn’t love death as a narrator? However, it has not captivated me. Half way through I found that my reading simply stagnated and I did not get any further.

I’m just not that excited to find out how it ends. And, well, I kind of know that already, because it’s included in the story. No doubt there were some exciting twists to come. But I shall never know.

Summer on the Horizon on iBooks

Tuesday, October 18th, 2016 | Books, News

Yesterday I announced that the Leeds Restaurant Guide had returned to the iBook Store. Today, I am pleased to announce that my novel, Summer on the Horizon, is available on the iBooks Store for the first time.

It is already available from Amazon in paperback and Kindle edition, and is now available on the iBooks Store as well.

summer-on-the-horizon

The Wind in the Willows

Monday, August 29th, 2016 | Books

I read The Wind in the Willows many times as a child. It is a lovely story so while looking for a low cognitive load and pleasant read, it seemed like an excellent choice. It was. It is such a fun story and moves at a pace that it is difficult to get bored. There was none of the usual awkward drag I find plagues most novels at least once. This is despite, or possibly in part because, I knew what was coming next.

the-wind-in-the-willows

Reasons to read fiction

Wednesday, August 3rd, 2016 | Thoughts

book-with-tulip

If you are a massive over-thinker like I am, you may well spend a lot of time thinking about extracting the maximum utility out of your reading time. If I invest the 10+ hours in a book, I want to know what measurable outcomes I will get out of it.

On the face of it, fiction does not seem to stack up. If I read a non-fiction book I will learn things and become smarter. With fiction, the path is less clear. However, if you too feel this way, there are some good reasons to get stuck in to a good story.

It’s fun

Books can be a bit of a slog. I like starting and finishing a book, but the middle can sometimes be a bit of a drag. This can occur with any book, but on the whole I think good fiction books drag less often. Instead of considering every book for its knowledge, you could just read because it is enjoyable. Time well wasted.

Stories are memorable

Good fiction often has a take-home message, and a moral. Non-fiction does too, but it can be hard to remember plain facts and figures. Stories on the other hand, are very memorable. Humans seem to be wired to sharing stories and we remember them much better than we remember stats. Non-fiction may have more knowledge on paper, but once you have forgotten most of it the gap is a lot smaller.

Part of the reason could be that fiction is often more emotional. A textbook on the Great Depression is unlikely to teach me more than John Steinbeck did in The Grapes of Wrath because he really makes you feel the pain and frustration of those travelling west, chasing the hollow dream they had been sold.

It can explore ideas

In fiction, you can explore ideas that you cannot explore in non-fiction. You can also take ideas further and come up with contrived scenarios. George Orwell explored the dark side of communism through Nineteen Eighty-Four and Animal Farm. Star Trek explored the ethics of AI through Commander Data in a far more involving way than a simple thought experiment ever could.

You get references

In Capitalism in the Twenty-First Century Thomas Piketty discusses theories of economics using analogies from the writing of Jane Austen. It was a great way to explain the point, but if you hadn’t read Jane Austen it may have been totally lost on you. I wrote about this last year in a post entitled The Benefits of Austen.

They pop up in all sorts of places. There is a Gary Jules song named Umbilical Town in which he sings about Dostoevsky’s Crime & Punishment. It is a beautiful song anyway, but understanding the background only makes it better.

Smart people have read classics

Are you so shallow that you want to me seen as well-educated among your peer group? I certainly am. How about seeming clever in front of your children? Again, yes. Why not read some Russian literature and be ready to spring into conversation with “that wasn’t my interpretation of Tolstoy!”

The Time Machine

Friday, May 20th, 2016 | Books

The Time Machine is a science fiction novel written by H. G. Wells. It was published in 1895 and tells the story of a man who travels into the distance future to find that humanity has split into two separate species.

It feels more modern than it should. The ideas are rich and relevant. I had to keep reminding myself that it was not merely a piece that attempted to invoke Victorian society as a backdrop: it was genuinely written in these times.

It was quite a short read; about half the length of a typical novel. Very much enjoyable.

the-time-machine

Year of the Hare

Thursday, April 21st, 2016 | Books

The Year of the Hare is a 1975 novel by Arto Paasilinna. It was originally written in his native language of Finnish, and has since been translated into many other languages, including the English I read it in.

It tells the story of a journalist who is bored with his life. He runs off into the wilderness with a tame hare he becomes friends with. He travels around Finland meeting people and picking up odd jobs.

Given it has been a best-seller in both Finland and France, and won several awards, I was expecting more. Perhaps it is the fault of the translation, but the language is uninspiring. I could not help myself wondering what Steinbeck could have done with such a tale. I probably missed the point though.

The plot is silly, and it is supposed to be. It is both a description of what it means to be a Finnish man, and a farce. Being British, some of this is lost on me. Looking back though, it does accurately and humorously sum up many of the elements of Finnish culture.

year-of-the-hare

Summer on the Horizon published

Sunday, April 17th, 2016 | Books, News

I am pleased to announce that my first novel, Summer on the Horzon, is now available for buy.

I will be honest with you, it is not the finest literary work ever produced. It was written for NaNoWriMo and while the first half has been proof read by someone other than me, the second half has not. There are no mistakes in it though. It is set 400 years in the future. Anything that appears to be a spelling or grammar mistake, it actually just the evolution of the English language.

Here is the description:

Four hundred years in the future, humanity is struggling with the impact of climate change. The population has been forced to retreat into enclosed cities. As one newspaper aptly puts it, ‘humanity is domed’.

I have had the proofs sitting around since January. Then began the long process of editing. It is a lot easier to do when you have a physical copy you can scribble in.

The book is available from the following locations:

summer-on-the-horizon

The Wayward Bus

Thursday, February 18th, 2016 | Books

The Wayward Bus is a 1947 novel by John Steinbeck. Many of Steinbeck’s novels are long-ranging affairs, some taking place over several generations. In contrast The Wayward Bus takes place over over a single day.

What is the novel about? Well, it’s about a bus that gets stuck in the mud. This only happens towards the end of the novel. The rest is build up to the bus getting stuck in the mud. Looking back now, I am not sure entirely sure how Steinbeck spun out an entire novel based on that. He did though, and it was interesting.

One thing I have always enjoyed about Steinbeck’s work is his ability to create emotion within me. With The Gapes of Wrath I felt a small sampling of the frustration felt by the farmers who were victims of the financial system. With The Wayward Bus I experienced, if only for a moment, the frustration of being trapped in a small town with dreams of getting out.

The-Wayward-Bus

The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul

Monday, January 11th, 2016 | Books

The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul is a novel by Douglas Adams. It is the second book in his Dirk Gently series.

I tried reading the novel a few decades ago and never got very far, so it was nice to make a fresh (and successful attempt). In between a saw the BBC TV series, which was fairly entertaining.

I was so-so on the novel. The humour and wordplay was very good. I found myself laughing at several points. However, I was not as much of a fan of the story line. Why are gods suddenly wandering around? It seemed an odd combination of fantasy, detective and humour. It was okay, but no h2g2.

The-Long-Dark-Tea-Time-of-the-Soul

How popular is NaNoWriMo?

Saturday, December 26th, 2015 | Distractions

When I tell people that I did NaNoWriMo in November, they often ask how popular it is as most people have not heard of it. This is not surprising as I only heard about it through a friend at Toastmasters. It is predominantly an American thing, as the international shipping I refused to pay for my winners t-shirt demonstrates. It does have a large international following however, with plenty of people here in Leeds entering.

In total, 351,489 people entered this year. 40,301 finished it (11.5% of entrants).

In Yorkshire, a total of 1,034 people entered. The average word count was 20,000, though there is no break down of this. It could have been that 400 people finished it and 600 people wrote nothing, it could be a similar breakdown to the worldwide stats. Probably the latter.