Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Oryx and Crake

I took at break from my 100 book list to read something contemporary for a change. This was just along the shelf from Lucky Jim (next on the list) so I grabbed it.

I first read Margaret Atwood during my A-levels when The Handmaid's Tale was on the syllabus. I have enjoyed all of her book (I think I've read them all) and this was no exception. This falls in with her dystopia novels and is very different from the more domestically based offerings such as The Edible Woman, The Robber Bride and Cat's Eyes.

Oryx and Crake is set in a future where the main protagonist Snowman, aka Jimmmy, appears to be the last human being alive. He moves around his world, whilst we are privy to flashback to his childhood and life before the 'event' which leads to his lonely existence.

Several reviews complain that the science fiction side of this novel is not well enough explored or researched, but I do not find this a problem. The futurist events are all progressions of current real life work and projects that we read about everyday in the paper - genetic modifications and selection for example - and this make the conclusion all the more haunting.

Hard-core Sci-Fi fans might consider it a little light-weight, but it is gripping and hugely readable, so give it a go.

If you liked Oryx and Crake, you might also try Never Let Me Go.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

I, Claudius

I have vague memories of my parents watching the BBC production of this when I was a child. I can vividly picture Derek Jacobi as the stuttering limping Claudius and John Hurt as the increasingly mad and out of control Caligula.

So, I was very interested to read the book which had spawned the series and see how it compared.

Overall I really enjoyed it, and found it for the most part hugely entertaining. There were a couple of moment where the narrative wandered off into the details of the Germanic wars and such like that my mind might have floated elsewhere, but on the whole it was great.

The most remarkable feature of the book is the relentless blood lust - character after character is 'removed' from the stage of Roman politics in more and more nasty ways. From Livia's poisoning of anyone who gets in her way, to the gladitorial 'games' to mass executions for so called treason. No one was safe from the plotting and scheming and life was held at very little value. On attending a gladitorial display, Claudius discribes how everyone laughed hysterically when one of the competitors arms got lopped off!

Apart from perhaps Claudius himself, most characters are unlikeable. Those that seem like they may have some sort of morality or goodness in them are quickly dispatched n one way or another by their less honorable colleagues.

Inconclusion - all in all a good romp though the Roman Empire, and deserving of its place in the 'best debauchery' category.