Monthly Archives: June 2011

Dracula – Bram Stoker

Dark, chilling and truly horrifying, Dracula is twisted tale of suffering, death and pure evil. Written entirely as journal entries, letters and news clippings, the story follows one Jonathan Harker, a young trainee solicitor, as he travels to Transylvania in order help the mysterious Count Dracula purchase a London property.

However, after witnessing a series of strange happenings, Harker makes a horrific discovery about the Count’s true origin, after which he must escape the castle and flee back home. But by this time Dracula is already on his way to England, where he will wreak havoc amongst the people of London and once again confront the young solicitor.

Although Polidori’s Vampyre is the original Vampire novel it is no wonder why Dracula is regarded as the inspiration and birth of all things blood sucking. Dracula is an absolutely stunning novel, and despite being written over 100 years ago, is incredibly scary even by today’s standards.

The writing style of letters and journal entries gives the book an incredible level of realism, whilst the gradual build up to the Count’s disturbing secret makes it thoroughly absorbing. Even though I knew the story before reading it, like with many classics, at the end of every chapter I still couldn’t wait to find out what happened next!

The way in which Dracula’s movements and mannerisms are described paints a picture of pure evil, and I must say I can’t think of another character that is so captivating and revolting at the same time.

An obvious but excellent choice for the 1001 Books to Read Before you Die list and a must read for all horror fans.

p.s. after reading the book my wife made me watch the film “Bram Stoker’s Dracula” which I must say was one of the worst film adaptations I have ever seen! Whoever thought Keanu Reeves would make a good Jonathan Harker should be shot!

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The Great Gatsby – F Scott Fitzgerald

Regarded as one of the great American novels, The Great Gatsby is a commentary on the glitz and glamour of the 1920s and the underlying sleaze and shallowness of the Jazz Age. It is also a love story and a tale of one man’s rags to riches.

Through the narration of Nick Carraway, we are taken into the rich, colourful excess of the Long Island party scene of the 1920s, where we encounter Nick’s cousin Daisy, her macho millionaire husband and the one and only Jay Gatsby, a man shrouded in hushed rumour and dark mystery.

What annoys me most about this book is that I actually enjoyed it. I was sure this was going to be another Catcher in the Rye where nothing really happens and it is simply an insight into one period of time in America. And, in fact, for large parts of the book this is exactly what it is, a commentary on house parties, hotel room excess and the flippant cares of the wealthy.

However, although ignorant, frustrating and downright annoying, the characters in The Great Gatsby and incredibly absorbing, and although the actual story of a great man’s attempt to recapture a lost love takes an age to get going and then ends incredibly abruptly, it is still brilliant and highly charged with raw emotion.

As a pure story the plot is simple and bland, but it is the characters placed within these happenings that makes this book what it is. If nothing else, The Great Gatsby gives us The Great Gatsby and it is worth reading simply for him.

This is definitely a novel that splits people’s opinions, and as you can tell it split mine several times!

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2001 A Space Odyssey – Arthur C Clarke

No 2001 A Space Odyssey is not just a film by Stanley Kubrick it is in fact a novel by Arthur C Clarke, who incidentally helped write the screen play for the film at the same time he was still writing the book…unusual. Anyway, this is not a film review or a rant about books being better than movie adaptations so on with the book review!

Written a year before man had even graced the moon with his presence, 2001 A Space Odyssey
is a story of exploration into the unknown depths of space and a look into mans place in the universe.

A 4 million year old monolith is discovered on the moon, and so great are the implications of this eerie object that, for the first time, men out sent out to the far reaches of the solar system. However, before they can reach their destination thing start to go horribly wrong.

On reflection, I found 2001 A Space Odyssey to be an odd read. I was completely absorbed within it and loved every page, character and idea but still ended up slightly disappointed. I felt as if what I was reading were 2 truly remarkable sci-fi novels, that didn’t belong together; 1 about the true origins of evolution and insignificance of man in a vast, mind boggling universe, and another thrilling tale about a computer so advanced it has developed almost real consciousness and become evil!

As much as both elements of the book were fascinating, original and beautifully written, I wish they had been separate novels, with more time, space and detail given to each. Don’t get me wrong, this is a fantastic book and, in my opinion, most definitely worthy of its spot in the 1,001 Books to Read Before You Die, I just feel that perhaps each stunning idea could have been expanded into a much longer and more detailed novel, as together they just left me wanting to know a lot more.

However, I am sure there are many of you who completely disagree, so feel free to leave me a comment and tell me why I am wrong.

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Crime and Punishment – Fyodor Dostoevsky

I have come to find that the mention of Crime and Punishment tends to conjure up many negative ideas in the minds of those who have not read it. Although the majority of people revere it as is a classic piece of literature and respect Dostoevsky, they still tend to see it as a book that is long, dull and incredibly difficult to read.

However, I assure you that these ideas are unfounded misconceptions. Firstly, Crime and Punishment is quite a light weight novel at around 300 pages. Secondly, the modern translations are very good and the language, style and dialect are all easy to follow. And finally, although the novel was written in 1865, it is incredibly enthralling.

Ok, the story may not be an orgy of fast paced chases, thrilling gun fights or huge explosions, but from the very first page it is filled with murder, theft and deceit. From the moment it begins the reader is plunged head first into the disturbed mind of Raskolnikov, a former student who has convinced himself that he is capable of, and even worthy of, murder.

Although poor, unemployed and without great heritage, Raskolnikov believes himself to be a great man and even Napoleon like in intelligence and stature. He has therefore convinced himself that he can kill without remorse or even punishment.

Suddenly, the murder is committed and Raskolnikov is away with the old woman’s money and no feeling of guilt. However, before long there is a police officer sniffing around and a growing voice in Raskolnikov that is tearing at his soul with feelings of remorse and regret.

The novel is not just a great story of cat and mouse between a failed genius and a brilliant officer, but also a chilling insight into a disturbed mind, capable of so much yet lost in sea of paranoia, anguish and ultimately, guilt.

Gritty, real and incredibly dark, Crime and Punishment is one of Dostoevsky’s greatest novels and true literary masterpiece.

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