Monday, April 24, 2006

Use of Weapons by Iain M. Banks

Use of Weapons is set around the edges of Banks' utopian star-civilization the Culture and focuses on Cheradenine Zakalwe, an elite agent of the Culture's Special Circumstances division and a tortured soul, haunted and scarred by his past.

The novel explores the layers of Zakalwe by shifting between a traditional forward timeline narrative in which Zakalwe undertakes a political stabilization mission for the Culture, and a second timeline that moves steadily backward in time, following Zakalwe's career as an agent for Special Circumstances, back to his recruitment by Special Circumstances and early war experiences, and, finally, back to his formative years.

The net effect is a stellar, literate SF novel. Definitely recommended.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Go Ask Alice

Go Ask Alice is a classic diary by an anonymous teen about the pressures of adolescence, drugs, and sex.

The text, presented entirely as a series of diary entries, chronicles the unnamed diarist's experimentation with drugs and sex, her eventual drug addiction, and the consequent exalting highs and excruciating lows she experiences.

Go Ask Alice was first published in 1971, and though there is still some question as to whether this diary is real or fictional, the continued popularity of the text indicates that it has made a profound impact on millions of readers during the more than 25 years it has been in print.

Monday, April 03, 2006

A Long Way Down by Nick Hornby

Four suicidal depressives, meaning to do themselves in, meet on the roof of Topper's House — a traditional London suicide haunt — and instead form a pact in author Nick Hornby's comic fourth novel.

What follows is a narrative of the next ninety days in which the four would-be suicidals become friends (sort of) and stay involved in one another's lives. At its heart, this novel is not about suicide but what happens when you don't kill yourself, and the well-executed and thoughtful tale Hornby tells never digs too deep and simultaneously doesn't denigrate the seriousness of its characters' dilemmas.