That's two book reviews in as many weeks, but don't panic this isn't going to become a book review thingy.
I've been really looking forward to getting hold of the new Hitchhikers Guide installment 'And Another Thing' written by EoinColfer (of Artemis Fowl fame). Douglas Adams' widow Jane gave the go ahead for Colfer to be the author to continue the trilogy and I was delighted at this. I'm a big kid at heart, and have read all of the Artemis Fowl books. They are fabulous immersive tales, with that classic sci-fi winning formula of a well-formed other world. Aimed at teenagers, and as I have never really grown up that makes them perfect.
OK lets cut to it, this preamble could go on and on - the book stinks! I didn't get past the half way point before I gave up trying to make sense of the characters who changed personality every second page, the rambling going nowhere in particular disjointed narrative, and lets not fool ourselves that there is a plot to follow, because there isn't. And why on earth did Colfer feel the need to pay sickly homage to past characters whilst at the same time giving them different personalities and functions. An example is Wowbagger the Infinitely Prolonged who travelled the universe insulting people. Now Wowbagger is suddenly a super being who insults whole planets at a time, and then he doesn't insult people any more. Except Zaphod, who has become contrite, or Arthur who has become terribly assertive and uses space slang, although he is still tea-obsessed just to let the readers know he is the same character. But again, he isn't.
This is a mess of a book, and it will be going back to the library early. It fails miserably as a Hitchhikers episode, and even more so as stand alone new work. Bah!
This year has been a year of learning so far for me - and I'm enjoying it!
I've spent my life wallowing in knowledge, determinedly learning no practical skills. My father was an incredibly capable man, and could do pretty much anything he turned his hand to. I can recall clearly him bringing home an old gas canister (a big one, about 2-3ft high) and leaving it at the top of the garden with the valve open to leak away its remaining contents. What? Why? The following week, happy that it was empty, he welded an electric motor to it, did some other magic, and made a compressor that he used in his garage for years and years. When I was ten, he built the extension on our house - a huge two room thing that had a kitchen and dining room in it. First he excavated the garden, then started measuring out right angles with three bits of wood he had cut to 3, 4 and 5 feet respectively. Ah ha, he said, these three bits of wood made a right angle. That was knowledge, I was happy with that and have always remembered the moment and the clear picture of him telling me. Digging foundations, putting in new drains, building walls, etc. - just more magic. He even built the kitchen worktop from first principles - I have another very clear memory of him putting glue on a big slab of wood, and more on a huge piece of laminate. He waited for them to get to just the right level of tacky dryness, and brought them together expertly. No mistakes allowed as the two parts would be irreversibly stuck once they touched. These days even the most ardent DIYer would surely buy a worktop at Wickes? His final proof of being Bob The Builder was in my early teens. He came home with some bits of wood and a book. It took him a few hours to make a lovely architects drawing board. The book was the current Building Regulations. Two years later he had built a house on a patch of land in the Cambridgeshire fens, and a little later when I was at university acquiring more knowledge (and some life skills!) he upped sticks and moved there.
So how come I grew up unable to change a light bulb? It must all be in the head, so moving into our current house three years ago has been a catalyst for learning new things. I've already 'done' plumbing (proper plumbing, cutting pipes and everything) and been on a woodwork course, built many things out of wood, some of them competently, but most of all I've been doing garden stuff. And the pinnacle of this has been my first ever path. First of all the bit you can't see, leveled and hammered down aggregate base, weed control fabric, and then some nice pea shingle on the top. Cyberkim kindly offered some advice on the top step, which I have completely ignored, but thank you anyway. Wifey likes it so much, I'm now carrying it on all the way to the bottom of the garden.
So what next, car maintenance? Don't be daft, they run on magic.
Blimey, I'm about 50 pages from the end of one of the longest books I can ever remember reading. Its an odd story set in the early nineteenth century whereupon two magicians battle it out over the best way to return magic to England. At 782 pages, it is longer than the fattest of the Harry Potters (and has much smaller print!)
But what makes it stand out is the author's use of postscripts. Almost every page has one, and in even tinier print. Many of them take up far more of the page than the actual story, and even take up two and even three pages. One memorable page had six of them. Now I don't mind a postscript, perhaps a reference or bit of extra information that would otherwise have broken the flow of the story. In this book, the postscripts occupy a whole extra novel and must account for a third of the page count, and at times rendered the book unreadable - one aside about the Raven King wrapped around three pages, and by the time I returned to the main story I had to reread a couple of pages to remind myself what was going on. Quite extraordinary! And no wonder the author looks so grumpy...