A Blast From My “Crime Fiction” Past

While looking for details of a review I recall writing on my very first version of this blog (not on wordpress), I accidently came across the following, that shows my journey into crime fiction wasn’t quite as recent as I thought.
However the books I wrote about here definitely aren’t examples of the type of crime fiction I’ve recently begun to read.

Reading Jasper Ffforde’s Thursday Next series is like jumping into a blender with an armful of books selected from almost every genre. His stories defy narrow categorisation. They combine elements of Science Fiction, Fantasy, Horror, Crime and Humour, seasoned with a few pages from literary criticism and grammar text books. If I have overlooked a genre, it’s probably there anyway, like a familiar spice that you recognise in a meal but can’t quite isolate and identify.

complete article here:

http://out-shadows.blogspot.com.au/2010/11/jasper-fforde.html

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That was written over seven years ago and it’s been a number of years since I’ve read any Jasper Fforde.

It might be time to revisit him, but I have so many other books to get through first.

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Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. After the reading.

MissPeregrineMiss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children fulfilled the expectations built up by Gloria’s recommendation.

I started reading it on Friday evening after work and finished it mid-Sunday afternoon. I now have to wait who knows how long for Gloria to finish reading the second book of the series.

big fishAt the beginning of the book I couldn’t help think of the Tim Burton film, Big Fish, the story of a boy turned man who had grown to realise that the stories his father had told him throughout his life were at best exaggerated and more likely complete fantasies. The father’s continued insistence of the truth of his tall tales caused a rift in the relationship.

Miss Peregrine’s starts with the relationship between the Jacob and his grandfather Abe, and like the father in Big Fish, Abe seems to be a teller of tall tales with amazing stories of his early life.

As he enters his teens, Jacob begins to doubt the stories of the “peculiar children” that Abe grew up with in an idyllic house “protected by a wise old bird”; a refuge and safe haven from the monsters he’d escaped from in Europe.

Jacob begins to understand that Abe’s stories about his past are covering dark, very real experiences of a Jewish boy escaping from the Nazis and their east European death camps. But when Jacob himself seems to come face to face with one of his grandfather’s monsters, that understanding, as well as the safe but boring life planned out for him suddenly collapses. Plagued by nightmares he is referred to a psychiatrist to try to bring rationality back to his life.

As part of his road to recovery, he is taken to a small island off the coast of Wales, the location of Abe’s childhood refuge, to find the truth behind the fantasies, and hopefully restore his own sense of reality.

PeregrineThroughout, the book is illustrated with slightly weird historical photos that play a part in Jacob’s discovery of the truth, not only about his grandfather’s past, but also about his own life.

The author used genuine historical photos as inspiration for the book’s characters, especially the “peculiar children” of the title. In a short interview at the end of the book he tells us how he’d wondered who the people in the photos were “- but the photos were old and anonymous and there was no way to know. So I thought: If I can’t know the real stories, I’ll make them up.”

He cleverly spins these imaginative biographies into a compelling, intriguing story with elements of history, fantasy, horror and adventure that are grounded in a familiar, everyday world. He takes us beyond the edge of the familiar and recognisable and shines light onto things overlooked and ignored; those things we push away to maintain the security we find in predictable rationality.

After starting this book I found that the memories it stirred of a Tim Burton film had a degree of spookiness (insert brief excerpt of Twilight Zone theme). The cover of the book announces it is “SOON TO BE A MAJOR MOTION PICTURE”, what it doesn’t say is that Tim Burton is behind that project.

That doesn’t surprise me.

Miss_Peregrine_Film_Poster

The Dreamwalker’s Child, Steve Voake

dwcI took another short break from my reading about WWI. This time I wanted something not related to warfare and the military, so I turned to a fantasy novel for children that I could get through reasonably quickly.

However my escape from war and weaponry  wasn’t quite successful. because the story climaxed with a military attack, although the hardware in The Dreamwalker’s Child has an interesting difference to that in the histories I’ve been reading.

Regaining consciousness after a cycling accident Sam Palmer finds himself in an unfamiliar landscape where he is pursued caught and imprisoned. He is befriended by Skipper, a young girl in the next cell and together they face a conspirators determined to wipe humans from the face of the earth.

Sam discovers he is no longer in the world he knows but has somehow been transferred to Aurobon, whose inhabitants have the ability to move between worlds and have adopted the role of keeping the earth’s ecosystems in balance.

The book’s villain the evocatively named Odoursin has discovered a prophecy that he interprets as foretelling the destruction of mankind on earth, and he believes he is the one who can help bring about its fulfilment; leaving him as the heir and beneficiary of all of earth’s resources. However, the prophecy requires the involvement of the Dreamwalker’s child, assumed to be Sam, who Odoursin arranges to snatch from earth to Aurobon to facilitate the prophecies fulfilment.

For a while I thought The Dreamwalker’s Child had hints of Christian references, but before too much could be made of them, the author drew the story into a philosophical mix of environmental ideas and green “spirituality” that occasionally (with subtlety) questioned the Christian viewpoint.

 

The Hobbit: Peter Jackson vs Tolkien

hobbitMy first memories of The Hobbit come from Primary School. I recall a relief teacher reading part of it to the class.

I bought my first copy of the book about 15 years ago, a large hardcover illustrated by Alan Lee. It stayed unread on a bookshelf until a couple of weeks ago.

My neglect of the book came to an end after watching the first instalment of Peter Jackson’s film of the story. Ironically it wasn’t enjoyment of the film that led me to the book. My disappointment with the film made me want to know how much the film departed from the book, and how a book of about 300 pages could be stretched into a series of three, three hour films.

The answer to that last question seems to be: include extensive battle scenes where visual spectacle can distract the viewer from the fact that the brevity of the battles in the book helped to keep the story moving. And if you still need to stretch the film to three hours, add a battle or two not in the book and introduce parts of The Lord of the Rings book that had been omitted from the earlier films.

The book is a simple quest. Bilbo Baggins, the hobbit of the title, is recruited to join a group of dwarves who intend to reclaim treasure lost to the dragon Smaug when he drove the dwarves’ ancestors out of their kingdom. Their journey presents a continual series of obstacles and enemies that need to be overcome. The book’s climax brings together most of the journey’s adversaries (as well as a few friends) in a final battle. To me the book presented an intimate, personal story despite the epic nature of the journey and quest.

Tolkien later expanded the world of his children’s book the Hobbit in his creation of the more mature Lord of the Rings, presenting a grander quest with much higher, universal outcome at stake. In tackling his films of the two stories in reverse order, it seem to me that Peter Jackson felt the need to maintain the tone created in LOTR in his version of The Hobbit, but maybe he could have done so without “needing” to make them the same length.