August 2023 book blog.

Some books have just been there, my entire adult life. The Stand is one of them. Along with ‘IT’, this novel is one of the Stephen King books that I can’t imagine being without. Complete and uncut, this is the third time that I’ve read this edition, my readings of the book as a whole is probably in double figures now. I’m definitely getting to the age where a whopper of a book like this is as much a physical undertaking as a mental one, this book weighs a fair bit! Still, most of the time, I didn’t notice the size of the book, because I just fell into the story and stayed there until my eyelids started to droop. The Stand, even this updated version, is showing its age. There are words and scenes and points of view that King probably wouldn’t write now, but they weren’t that jarring back in the late seventies when the original book was published. That aside, this book’s greatness isn’t in its ambitious story telling, or even its politics, the reason I love this book and repeatedly come back to it, is the cast. Stu, Fran, Larry and Nick are part of my life. I know them as well as I know many ‘real’ people in my life, and it was an absolute pleasure to go back and meet them again.
So, from an old friend to something very new, a relatively recently published book by an author I’ve never read before, at least at novel length. ‘Hell Sans’ by Ever Dundas came very highly recommended by several people whose opinions I respect, but it never quite gelled with me. I admire the courage and imagination that went into this book, the changes in perspective in both first and third person are bold and central to the concept of the book. The world building is deft and the plot is intrinsically exciting, but sadly I just could not get into it. I made it to the end, and am glad I did, because this isn’t a bad book. I just need to feel some empathy for at least one protagonist in order to care about the story, and I found both of the central characters very hard to get on with. Four stars because it’s technically very competent and as a writer myself I found a lot to admire in some of the twists in the writing.
And … back we go. If you’re reading my decluttering blog, you’ll realise that I’m saying goodbye to a large part of my book collection. Some have been ruthlessly packed away and sent to a charity shop, others are getting a final read before they go. Clifford D Simak’s ‘Enchanted Pilgrimage’ makes that cut, primarily because I have no recollection of ever having read it. It’ll be a charity shop / market stall buy from years ago that got shelved then lost. I know why I bought it, Simak was one of my introductions to science fiction. My grandma bought me one of his collections at a jumble sale, probably closer to fifty years ago than forty years ago, and I read it avidly and repeatedly for a long, long time. So, here I am, suddenly finding myself with an unread Simak novel, and this is what I thought. This was very much a ‘few pages before bedtime’ kind of book. There were several lovely characters, who got great introductions but then seemed to fall by the wayside and become part of the background. A group of nice people find that they have a range of quests which lead them to the same place, so they decide to travel together. Their journey introduces some great ideas and the plot reveal would make a great fantasy book, but sadly this isn’t it. It’s a shame, I have a soft spot for Simak’s short stories, but this novel felt somewhat stretched. Great ideas, lovely characters, just a bit too fast paced if anything. At times it reminded me of Pratchett, which is, of course, a good thing.
I finished the Simak in early September, but will include it here because a two book month looks a bit sad, even if one of those books was The Stand Complete and Uncut.

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