April 23, 2008

A Handful of Dust, Artemis Fowl, and Night of the Wolf

A few of the book I have read in the last couple of weeks are A Handful of Dust by Evelyn Waugh, Artemis Fowl, by Eoin Colfer, and Night of the Wolf, by Fritz Leiber.

I decided to read A Handful of Dust by Evelyn Waugh after reading some comments on the cover of the book The Tortilla Curtain. The author of the The Tortilla Curtain was compared to Waugh. Considering that I detested The Tortilla Curtain, this is probably not the best method for choosing a book to read. After reading A Handful of Dust, I can see the similarities between the writing. Both books have a light, witty tone that is used to describe tragedy. However, Waugh does a better job of keeping the tone light. The book describes adultery, death, and captivity, so keeping a light tone is not easy. The author accomplishes this by an almost total lack of internal dialog or introspection by the characters.

I had yet another flawed method for choosing the next book, Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer. Instead of getting suggestions based on a book that I didn't like, I got this suggestion based on a book I haven't read. On the Freakonomics blog, the author asked for suggestions for what to read after finishing the Harry Potter series. There were a number of people who recommended Artemis Fowl in the comments. I haven't read Harry Potter, but I decided to take this suggestion. My verdict is that it is a fun book for a small hypothetical child, but I would not recommend it for adults. The novel is about a twelve-year-old criminal mastermind who is trying to ransom gold from elves. One of the interesting elements of the book is that it describes Artemis using the internet to gather information. However, it might have been better if it were more hackerish, for lack of a better word. In one part of the story, a character sends data and/or firmware to a piece of hardware using email. That's a little too iPhone-ish for a computer whiz. What I'm saying is, Dear author, please rewrite your children's novel as a cyberpunk novel. That's not asking too much, is it?

The Night of the Wolf by Fritz Leiber is a collection of four short stories and novellas. The first story reminded me of the brief outlines of a science-fiction novel written by fictional author Kilgore Trout, as described by Kurt Vonnegut; the story is a what-if idea that is interesting but doesn't have any real feeling. After the first story, I almost stopped reading the book, but I am glad that I finished it. The remaining three stories were very good. This book is out of print now, but these short stories are probably included in other story collections of Fritz Leiber. The original names of the stories are "The Creature from Cleveland Depths", "The Night of Long Knives," "Sanity," and "Let Freedom Ring."



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