Wednesday, 28 July 2010

Things that make you go hmmmm.....

Continuing my list of 1001 authors and books you really need to read before you die, and let's face it I need to get a move on or it will end up taking me forever to complete it, my next choice (13) is something I read and mentioned last year!

Let The Right One In by John Ajvide Lindqvist is an alternative vampire tale translated from Swedish. Twelve year old Oscar is a loner who has few friends and is bullied at school when a new girl moves into the apartment next door. The pair quickly become play-mates but there is something strange about Eli far beyond the fact that she kind of smells funny or that she only appears at night. For Eli is not in fact a girl.....and Eli has been around for a lot longer than just twelve years....!

Gripping, scary and often quite nasty, this is the first debut horror novel in a long while to impress me and though the original language film based on this book is a little slow-going, a Hollywood remake is well on its way to completion. If you are looking for something different and more faithful to the vampire legend than say...Twilight for example, then this is for you!

Next in my list (14) are the Elvis Cole novels by Robert Crais. These Detective noir novels feature the wise-cracking Private Eye, Elvis Cole, whose office is adorned with Disney characters, and his silent but deadly partner, Joe Pike. Although I haven't read all the books in the series to date, I have read most of them and haven't found a bad one yet! Robert Crais' stand-alone book Hostage was made into a film starring Bruce Willis so some of you might have come across his work that way. Regardless, Robert Crais is an author you need to check out if you enjoy gritty crime novels and his Elvis Cole series particularly stands out!

Which brings me to my next choice for inclusion (15) which are the Quiller novels by Adam Hall. Much like the Elvis novels as mentioned above, I have yet to encounter a bad entry in the series which follows the misadventures of a British Secret Services Agent in his various missions overseas during the height of The Cold War. I know what you are thinking....you have heard it all before and that these books, many of which are now out of print, are just part of yet another spy series in the vein of James Bond but you would be wrong!  Quiller has no secret gadgets and no marvellous tricks at his disposal save for his own wits, ingenuity and his skill in martial arts. In many novels, he even refuses the use of a gun! Each novel is presented as a debrief report so there is little mention of anything not related to the mission in hand and very little is ever revealed about Quiller's personal life or relations. We don't even know Quiller's own name or the department for which he works which is always only ever described as a unit that doesn't officially exist. If Quiller gets into trouble, in most cases he is on his own  and the British Government will deny any connection to his involvement. In this way, this series is much more realistic and believable than most espionage thrillers in this genre! And that is why I wish to include them on my list! The books were due to be made into a film series but, due to arguments over rights etc, only The Quiller Memorandum has ever been made. If you have not seen it, it is well worth a watch but the books are a thousand times better!

Finally, the last book I want to include today is (16) Kamikaze by Michael Slade; someone whom I thought would be highly unlikely to get another mention on this list! Ever since the writing team of Canadian lawyers broke up leaving just one partner writing with his daughter, the Special X series has suffered from not being quite as accomplished as it once was. Kamikaze however, restores the series back to its former glory of novels such as the original book, Headhunter, which rightly earned a place in the top ten for its gripping plot and ingenious twists! Kamikaze is here for a different reason. It is here for the same reason that books such as Charlotte Grey are here. Kamikaze makes you think!

The plot here alternates between the Pacific war of WWII and modern day Vancouver as a US veteran travels to a conference there as Keynote Speaker. A Japanese Yakuza War-lord, who lost all his family in Hiroshima, has sworn a blood oath to take vengeance on the veteran, who flew in the infamous Enola Gay that dropped the bomb, known as Little Boy, but has not reckoned on the determination of the RCMP, and more importantly Special X, to stop him!

With much of the story being told in flashback, and scenes set both at Pearl Harbour and in the aftermath of Hiroshima's destruction, the book is highly compelling reading that begs the question were America's actions in the Pacific War any better than the actions of those terrorists who flew the planes into the Twin Towers on 9/11? Can such whole scale loss of life and destruction ever be justified? In the wake of information that suggests that Japan was bombed BEFORE EVEN BEING GIVING THE OPTION OF SURRENDER OR WITHOUT ANY TERMS OF NEGOTIATION EVER BEING DISCUSSED, you have to stop and ask yourself what right America had to ever make such a decision! How can such a large scale loss of life, not just at the time but for generations to come as the after-effects of the bomb continued with radiation poisoning ultimately leading to whole families being wiped out long after Ground Zero, ever be considered as justifiable? Why was America allowed to drop not just one BUT TWO Atomic bombs in what amounted to one of the most horrifyingly shocking atrocities of any war then or since!

The sections in Kamikaze that deal with Hiroshima left me feeling disgusted and ashamed even though I am not American because I belong to the descendants of the supposed victors of that war; The Allied Forces! One thing that this book very accurately puts across is that History certainly is written by the winners and I was not expecting when I picked this up this book that it would make me think quite this much! Because of the issues it raises and the moral spin it puts on events all of us take for granted that we know about, that we are taught in school, this book comes highly recommended!

Slade has also written a previous novel to this in the same vein set around Hitler's Bunker called Swastika and if it is anything like this, I cannot wait to read it! Kamikaze is a prime example of Slade at their best and if you only read one of their novels, it should be this one! It is right up there with books such as A Thousand Splendid Suns and Wild Swans for its importance! 

A shocking but brilliant read!

Right, well that's that for a while! Time for a breather, I think, after all that. Speak to you soon...stay cool, Sparky xxxx

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