The Book Club of One and a Half – Catching Up

Let me begin by saying that Giggles is the slowest reader ever. She’s only on chapter 10 in The Life of Pi. In her defense, she’s way busier than I am, so doesn’t have as much time to read as I do. I will forgive her. Meanwhile, I have forged ahead onto other books. I never gave a proper review of it, though, so here it is.

According to the back of the book, The Life of Pi, by Yann Martel, is the story of an Indian zookeeper’s son trapped on a lifeboat with a tiger after a ship sinks. Considering the ship doesn’t sink until about after 100 pages in, it’s not JUST about a boy and a tiger on a lifeboat. The first part of the book is about Pi’s search for God. A lot of people who recommended this book to me said the story got interesting after the boat sinks, but I have to disagree. I think the story is interesting from the first page. His search for religion is just as crucial to his survival on the boat as his knowledge of tigers.

When the ship sinks and he is on the lifeboat, he is originally accompanied by a hyena and a cripped zebra, and soon joined by an orangutan. (Did I spell that right? I write these things in NotePad.) He doesn’t even know about the tiger until about the third day, after the hyena has killed the zebra and the ape. The hyena doesn’t last very long after that, leaving poor Pi Patel alone with the man-eater. All of this information can be gained from the back cover, so I’m not spoiling anything.

He spends over two-hundred days adrift with this tiger, surviving on his resourcefulness, his wit, and his faith. At the end of the book, obviously, he runs aground in Mexico and is rescued. The insurance weasels come around to ask how the boat sunk, and Pi relays the truly unbelievable tale of his lifeboat adventure. True the the adjective, the insurance guys don’t believe his tale. So Pi tells them a different tale of his lifeboat ordeal, one with no animals at all. In all likelihood, this second story is the truth of events, but it’s not the one we want to believe.

I have recommended this book to several people since I put it down, and I will probably read it again a year or two down the road.

After Pi, I picked up an old classic: Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye. I never read this in high school, and figured I’d expand my mind. Boy, was I in for a letdown.

The story is about five days in the life of Holden Caufield, a screw-up adolescent who doesn’t fit in anywhere. It opens with him revealing that he’s been thrown out of a prep school, the most recent of several, and continues on with him sneaking home to wander about the city. You don’t even get the reference to the title of the book until about three-quarters of the way through it.

If Holden could be anything he wanted, he would be the only grown-up in a rye field full of playing children. This field would be on the edge of a cliff, and Holden’s job would be to catch these kids before they ran off the edge of the cliff to certain death.

Riiiiiiiight. First of all, I wouldn’t want this screw-up anywhere near my kids, let alone having the sole responsibility for their safety.

I suppose that, if I were still going through my adolescent phase thinking no one understood me, I could identify with Holden better. I also suppose this is exactly why two assassins (John Lennon’s and Ronald Reagan’s would-be assassin) were found with this book on their person. But that part of my life is behind me, and I don’t remember it being nearly as tiresome as Salinger makes it out to be.

I threw this book away as soon as I finished it. I’ve never thrown a book away in my entire life.

After Catcher, I needed something I’m used to. I chose the science-fiction book Neuromancer, by William Gibson. I had thought I’d read this before, but after the first two chapters realized it was all new to me. I also realized I couldn’t put this book down. This book opened the door to the “cyber-punk” genre, and it did so in a masterful way.

The story is about a man named Case, an ex-hacker who was double-crossed his employer and paid the price for it. They surgically removed his ability to hack. (Hackers in this story enter the Matrix through internal hardware, much like in The Matrix movie.) Case is approached by a new employer, who says he can reverse the procedure and restore his ability to jack in, in exchange for one job.

Gibson does an excellent job of describing the setting and moving the story along at a good pace. To describe this story would require I give more back-story than I want to, so I’ll just say that I’ll be reading this book again, probably several times.

Sticking with the genres that I like, I moved on the A Game of Thrones, by George R. R. Martin. I’m currently about half-way through this book. After the first few chapters, I almost put it down. I’m glad I didn’t.

Martin combines several genres in this story. There’s action, mystery, romance, drama… all in a fantasy setting. A friend of mine described it as a soap opera, and I have to agree with him. But it’s a well-written one.

Why did I almost put it down? The prologue is about seven pages and introduces three characters. At the end of the prologue, all but one dies. The first chapter kills that one, and introduces five new characters. The second chapter introduces three more characeters. Hell, the first quarter of the book (about 200 pages) is all introductions to a HUGE cast of characters. I actually started writing names in a notebook to keep up with who was who. Once the stars are introduced, though, the plot picks up rather quickly, and I find it harder and harder to put this book down each night.

My one concern with the book now is that I don’t know who to root for. There is one family, the Starks of Winterfell, which I think is most deserving of being the heroes. They’re the most honorable lot in a cast full of weasels and backstabbers. Of course, this means that they’re probably going to get set up by another house or stabbed in the back.

This book is thick, and there are several books that follow which are no thinner. I think I’ve got my reading cut out for me while Giggles catches up.

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