by Justin Cronin
The Twelve is the second instalment of Justin Cronin’s tale of a world (well, just North America actually) that has been ravaged by a vital plague. In the first book, “The Passage”, we were introduced to the main characters and the very different world they inhabit.
Most of the action in the second book set almost 100 years after the outbreak of the deadly plague, and a world where viral “vampires” hold sway over most of North America. Mankind has been reduced to a few outposts.
But unlike the first book, were men only had the ravaging virals themselves to deal with, in “The Twelve” we find that there is much more going on.
The Twelve referred to in the title are the twelve original victims, infected as part of a secret government experiment. Made up of death-row prisoners, they may not be the most suitable people to find themselves in control of a whole new breed, but that is what they. The only chance mankind has lies in the hands of a small girl called Amy – the girl from nowhere. But Amy isn’t what she seems. She has been a small child for almost 100 years but as the story nears it’s dramatic conclusion, she finds herself becoming a young woman.
There are several different threads to follow, with the main characters coming together for an explosive end.
The story is well paced and well written. Justin Cronin knows how to tell a tale and his characters are as believable as ever. Where the first book had the advantage of setting the scene for a very different vampire-style tale, the second concentrates on the relationships and emotions of the protagonists. Maybe this is why some readers found it a little disappointing. For myself, I can only say I enjoyed it and would recommend both books.
by Meera Syal
I picked up “Anita and Me” from a local charity shop several weeks ago. Like many people I knew of Meera through her TV appearances, but I hadn’t noticed that she had turned her hand to writing novels and screenplays. I saw the film version of the book several years ago and remember Meera playing a part, but had not noticed that she had actually written it.
Having seen the film I knew the basic premise of the story – a young Indian girl growing up in a small west midlands town in the early 1970s, trying to balance her heritage with her desire to be one of the gang.
The book follows a pivotal year in young Mena’s life. Like all nine-year old girls, she longs to grow up and hates being different. Her budding friendship with Anita Rutter, the self-confessed queen of the streets, brings her into conflict with her parents and the seemingly endless stream of “aunties” and “uncles” she is obliged to server and entertain at weekends.
Through Anita, Meena discovers that the grass is not always greener, and some friendships are not what they seem. But as Meena begins to see the darker side of her new found friend, and consequently the darker side of life in general, Anita finds herself drawn to her young friend for support.
Written with great insight and passion, this book is warm, funny and tragic, often all at the same time.
I look forward to reading more.
by Arthur C Clarke
The Hammer in the the title is an asteroid that is heading for a collision with planet Earth. Not a new idea, but when the subject is tackled by someone like Arthur C Clarke, you know you are going to get more than you bargained for, or at least, that’s what you would expect.
It was an interesting enough book, but hardly a SciFi classic. I do sometimes find that his books sacrifice plot for science, and whilst I admit that one of the reasons I like his books generally is the high factual content, in this case, what remains of the plot after getting his scientific thesis across, is rather limp.
If you have seen Armageddon, then you know the plot of this little tale. The characters have little or no depth and seem to be there just to provide conversations on which to hang the scientific facts.
If I had wanted to read a thesis on the probability and history of asteroid impacts on the Earth I’d have gone to the library or the internet.
It was OK but a little disappointing. Maybe there was a good reason I hadn’t read it before.