Original Book Reviews, Recommendations and Discussions

Mental-floss on a grand scale – Death’s End by Cixin Liu

It has been said that many authors seems to be unable to grasp or describe how big outer space is. So it takes a bold and visionary Science Fiction (SF) writer – and I mean “visionary” in the sense of being able to come up with a vision of a setting in outer space – to describe space in both scientifically acceptable and literarily pleasing ways. Some writers gloss over the whole thing – it’s just “big”, “enormous”, or “there”. Others try to think beyond the usual ways of describing it. So, how big is it? And does LIU Cixin get it right in his sweeping epic of a space opera novel, Death’s End? Continue reading

Nice but Light-Weight – Britt-Marie Was Here by Fredrik Backman

Britt-Marie Was Here, by Fredrik Backman, translated from the Swedish by Henning Koch, published by Sceptre, an imprint of Hodder & Stoughton, UK, May 3, 2016, 336 pp., paperback.

I did not like Backman’s previous novel, A Man Called Ove, but was spurred on to buy book no.3, Britt-Marie Was Here, by a very insistent salesperson in the Chapters bookstore, who had been so entranced by it that she was practically hugging her own copy. I bought it against my better judgment and I was underwhelmed all over again, despite trying my best to be objective. When Backman writes, he repeats certain words and phrases over and over, and makes each chapter and paragraph follow the same basic pattern, so that it sounds almost like a children’s rhyme, a medieval poem, or a traditional fairytale. The novel is nice but light-weight, like a pretty balloon. Because I do not agree with people categorizing a frothy piece of writing like this one as a literary masterpiece, I will, below, debunk the myth. In any case, when I see the words “international bestseller”, particularly “New York Times International Bestseller”, on a book’s cover I am immediately suspicious.  Continue reading

Easily digestible lessons for modern life – The 100-Year-Old Man and Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk


The past few years has seen an increase in films and novels that rework and modernise classical fairytales and folklore. These include:

  • Fairy Tales, BBC, 2008 – TV series
  • Beauty and the Beast, CBS, 2012 – TV series
  • Once Upon a Time, ABC, 2011 – TV series
  • Grimm, NBC, 2011 – TV series
  • Snow White and the Huntsman, 2012 film
  • Jack the Giant Slayer, 2013 film

Fairytales is a sub genre of folklore, age-old moralistic tales, with magic added. The increasing number of them makes me think that writers are running out of ideas – or perhaps the comfortingly familiar tales with their easy, magical solutions are what people want in today’s world – children’s books for grown-ups is all they can stomach. This trend can also be seen in publishing, with a large number of novels in the format of updated folk tales, or modern adaptations of fairy tales.  Here are two modern takes on classic folk tales that have sold very well.  To my mind, neither one is a memorable addition to the genre, but both were enjoyable reads while they lasted. Basically, they are lightweight fodder, not a fraction of the dark and chilling original fables from which they sprang.

The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed out the Window and Disappeared, by Jonas Jonasson

The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed out the Window and Disappeared, by Jonas Jonasson

(HarperCollins Publishers, Toronto, Canada, English language translation by Rod Bradbury, 2012)

This seemed to be a good idea for a novel, an old-age-pensioner version of “Forrest Gump”. It was mildly funny and entertaining at first, but after the so-manyeth incident where the old man and his companions almost get into trouble but then get saved by some amazing coincidence, it becomes predictable. It is basically a modern version of a folkloristic quest tale.

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