Monthly Archives: May 2017

The Lovely Bones

The Lovely Bonesby Alice Sebold

Fourteen-year-old Susie Salmon was murdered on a cold December afternoon in 1973. Outwardly, here was nothing special about Susie other then she attracted the attention of the local loner who also happened to be a serial killer.

Now, from her place in heaven, Susie watches as her family and friends come to terms with her loss and face a future without her. From this vantage point she becomes aware of the threads that bind those who loved her and just how much damage can be done when those bonds are broken. The police are literally clueless in the search for her body and her killer. Only her father realises the truth but is unable to convince anyone else of what he has seen and felt.

Lovely Bones is the story of family falling apart from within, trying to come to terms with the devastating loss of a child. Told from the perspective of the teenage victim it remains strangely naive and optimistic despite the breakdown of all that is normal.

Through the eyes of Susie Salmon, Alice Sebold investigates the ways in which extreme tragedy can impact on all of us. Fr some, the need to understand what has happened forges closer bonds, for others the introspection drives a wedge between them and those around them.

Although I sometimes found the portrayal of heaven to be a little over indulgent, it is a vital element to Susie’s story. It just wouldn’t have worked without it. And to have told the story from any other perspective other than Susie’s would have left it too dark and introspective.

There are times when I find it difficult to put my feelings about a book into words. IT either comes across as formulaic and insincere or rambling. Lovely Bones is an example of this. The tragedy at the heart of the story is one that few will have to face, but many will fear. How would any of us cope with the loss of a child or sibling? What effect will this loss have on even the closest of families? As a parent, I found Lovely Bones to be both heart-warming and deeply disturbing. At times it was difficult to read, but I was comforted and lead on by the voice of young Susie.

In all, Lovely Bones is a beautifully told story of the ultimate loss. But at the heart of the book there is a feeling that we can overcome tragedy, there is always another path. An excellent and compelling read.

The Gods Themselves

The Gods Themselvesby Isaac Asimov

As one of the true giants of Science Fiction, reading any of Asimov’s books for the first time brings with it a certain expectation and, for me, some trepidation.

I have read “classics” before and sometimes found them disappointing. So, as I slowly work my way through the Gollancz Masterworks series, of which this is part, I have learned to keep my expectations realistic as not all books are as good as the critics claim. In this case though I needn’t have worried.

First published in 1972, The Gods Themselves represents a change in style for one of Sci-Fi’s most prolific and best loved writers. Whilst scientific theories remain at the heart of the story, the focus of this book switches between the all-too-human preoccupations of politics and self-preservation and look at a very non-human life cycle. The book is in three parts, each focusing on a separate set of characters.

The first concerns the invention of the Electron Pump, an apparently free and inexhaustible supply of energy that revolutionises humanity. However, not everyone is convinced about the process which involves isotopes with a parallel universe. But is the negative voice driven by something other than science, or is more personal? With the Pump’s inventor seen by the bulk of humanity as some kind of savior, dissension cannot be tolerated and no one wants to consider that this new era for mankind has any kind of price tag attached.

Part two moves to the other side of the exchange. Here Asimov looks at life in a universe where the laws of physics are different from our own. It is this deference that lies behind the Electron Pump. The life forms here are very different from ourselves, but it seems that the desire to survive is just as strong, even if it threatens the very existence of our solar system.

The final part moves to the Moon and continues the seemingly impossible quest for the truth in the face of institutional resistance.
At every turn, self-presentation, greed and an almost ostrich-like denial of anything that throws doubt on the established position question the credibility of those who dare question the Pump and what it has done for humanity.

Isaac Asimov is a respected and much loved writer for a good reason – he is one of the twentieth century’s great visionaries and a damned good storyteller as well. He has avoided the kind of detail that could so easily date a book of this type and period. In fact, I only found one reference (to tape) that could be considered out of place now. It is a reflection of his skill that the book is as relevant today as it was in 1972.