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DOWN UNDER By Bill Bryson – Reviewed

Posted in Reviews, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 25, 2011 by stanleyriiks

I bought this book just before going to Australia myself and never got round to reading it. I have to say that although it’s an interesting account of Bryson’s travels around Oz, and his amusing anecdotes offer a little insight into the country, I didn’t really miss much.

It’s an interesting book rather than fascinating. Amusing rather than funny.

The problem is exactly what drives people to read Bryson’s books, their very ordinariness. His adventures (using the term loosely) around Australia were almost as exciting as mine. The places he visited similarly to mine, although I didn’t get to the outback or Perth, I definitely saw more of Melbourne than he did, and my brief trip to Sydney seemed to encompass more than his.

The insights aren’t anything special either. You only have to talk to a couple of Australian and visit their cities to see the issues they have with the Aborigines.

Australia is an interesting and very new and empty country, and you get that idea from Bryson’s book. His travels around the country offer an insight if you haven’t ever been, but it’s much more fun to explore yourself. You’ll likely come to similar conclusions.

Where Bryson’s book does excel is his research. There are some fascinating histories in here amidst the middle-of-the-road traveller’s adventures. He seems to spend every evening in a bar having a beer, a traditional Aussie past-time perhaps, but hardly exciting for the reader.

Down Under isn’t a massive success, nor is it a massive failure. It’s difficult to get excited about the book either way. I neither feel compelled to read another of his book, nor bothered to remember not to.

Unlike a guidebook you don’t feel the sense of exciting of discovery, and Bryson’s mild excitement isn’t really enough to make you want to discover more.

May be this is one of his off books, and may be they’re all like this. I just can’t be bothered to find out.

DISTURBIA By Christopher Fowler – Reviewed

Posted in Reviews, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 2, 2010 by stanleyriiks

This starts off magnificently, Fowler’s richly styled first chapter promises much only to fall away and concentrate on the story. A story that reminds me of a cheap version of The Da Vinci Code, despite being written fourteen years ago.

Vincent Reynolds (working class writer) meets up with Sebastian Wells (son of Lord, never worked in his life) to research a piece he’s writing on the class struggle in London. He soon becomes involved in a race for his life, as he delves too deep into the secret society of the Prometheus Club, a group of power-hungry rich aristos. Vince must follow the clues, enlisting a strange group to help him discover the truth, otherwise he will be killed, as he plays a deadly game set by the Club.

This starts off well, but then the style and the violence fall by the wayside to be replaced by the chase. And although the tension remains high throughout, that’s not enough. Vince is well drawn, and Fowler obviously knows his city, exploring it with skill, but I’m afraid it’s just not enough after the great start. This feels like a poor-man’s The Da Vinci Code, with sprinklings of China Mieville’s socialist slant.

Not a failure, this is more a missed opportunity. The clues aren’t as exciting or as solvable as The Da Vinci Code, and you end up witnessing the bizarre clues rather than following along and solving them yourself.

Could have been so much better. Promised much but ultimately failing to deliver, still not bad, but Fowler has done better.