Read my reviews for June? Here are my one’s for July!
The Hobbit – J. R. R. Tolkein (1937)
A classic novel if there ever was one. I was a bit hesitant to read The Hobbit initially, fearing that it would be a near mirror of the collectively sighed upon Lord of the Rings trilogy. But assumptions aside, this novel was fantastic. Such an easy to read, enjoyable book with all the twists and turns necessary in a fantasy quest.
The Hobbit follows the story of hobbit Bilbo Baggins, who is tricked by the wizard Gandalf to act as the ‘burglar’ on an expedition alongside over a dozen dwarves who are on a journey to steal treasure guarded by the dragon Smaug. Along their journey many a mythical creatures are encountered, such as trolls, goblins, giant spiders and the infamous Gollum. This is also the first encounter we get with “the ring” and only receive a mere glimpse into it, mainly its invisibility features, which Bilbo uses on his escape from the creature Gollum.
The language of the book is really easy to follow and the interactions between all the characters adds a nice light heartedness despite the weariness along the journey. You can definitely see the myriad of directions the plot can take following The Hobbit, mainly because of the sheer scale and detail of the world Tolkein has set up, and the number and variety of characters and creatures encountered. A little frustrating in the book, however, was Bilbo’s constant longing to return home with his fireplace, late morning starts, hearty breakfast and baths. Compared to many of the other characters, he was usually the main sort of complaint. But other than that, I guess I’m going to have to start on The Lord of the Rings after all. I will brace myself! It can’t be that different…really?
The Adventures of Tom Sawyer – Mark Twain (1876)
The ultimate tale of boys and adventure. The story follows the mischief and nuisance making of young Thomas Sawyer who grows up along the Mississippi River. Whether he’s at school, home, church or generally out and about, Tom is always running amuck with his friends and acquaintances – trading possessions, unknowingly poisoning animals, playing pirates and Indians, breaking girls hearts, running away from home, pretending to fall in love, digging for buried treasure, using “meowing” as a secret code to sneak out at night, smoking and drinking, and even attending their own funeral. Early on in his adventures, Tom meets Huckleberry Finn, described as being the ultimate cool kid – not giving a damn and completely rebellious with no one of authority to report to. You get the feeling that Tom secretly wants to be just like Huck and share his nomadic coolness. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn are also a direct sequel to this novel, published later on in 1884. Must get onto reading that one shortly.
The story has a lot of twists and turns and has the full spectrum of general mischief making to the extent that they are caught up in a wide-scale missing persons search and court proceedings. The language is mighty cute too. Set in the American South, phrases like “I’ll learn you” (I’ll teach you) or “I’ll lick you” (I’ll beat you up) are riff throughout the book and might take you a few goes to understand what’s going on. I would recommend definitely reading this book if you want to read an old charming classic that has stood the test of time and can definitely be reimagined in a contemporary space.
Contest – Matthew Reilly (2000)
For the Read3r’z Re-Vu theme of Architecture for July, it took me a bit of a long, hard think of a cool, not so highly reviewed, book to review, which had something to do with architecture (does anyone have some good ideas!?) Anyway, this book popped into my mind! I picked up a second-hand copy of Matthew Reilly’s Contest at Elizabeth’s Bookshop, mainly because the author was gonna be in town doing a book signing. Sadly, I hadn’t actually read the book before the signing. Even sadder, I didn’t know a thing about Matthew Reilly – his genre, his style of writing, his audience…what he looked like! Australian and famous are good attributes to know…right? Reading the back cover, I recalled the book referring to a library and thus read the whole thing. Incidentally, the book is also Reilly’s first novel which he funded himself to get published.
After reading this book, wow, did I get a good understanding of his genre! Can I say in the outset that it is absolutely hilarious. So this library right, specifically New York library, is the main site for a ‘contest’ between the protagonist Dr. Stephen Swain and aliens from outer space – you read right – seven life forms from somewhere intergalactic battling in a ‘contest’ known as the Presidian, and fighting until one is left standing. Apparently this ‘contest’ has been held for many years and Dr. Swain by random happens to get caught up in it all with his young daughter. He’s guided through the quest and learns all the tips and tricks to use via his actual guide (and alien!) Selexin.
To be honest, if I had previously heard the plot of this book I would’ve been like nooooo way, this is not me. But tell you what, it was so enjoyable, so easy to read, fast paced and actually kept me engaged for the whole thing. The language is also a joy. I love Reilly’s constant use of italics in the novel for emphasis: “the Karanadon, crouched on one knee, slowly rising to its full height. Right behind Holly!” Or: “He listened in the silence. The silence.” Okay, so I don’t think this book is going to be winning any major literary prizes soon, but it’s a great quick read and if you do actually like that genre, go for it!