High-Rise by JG Ballard

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I don’t want to give the impression that I’m just reading all the Hiddleston-related stuff but I kind of am. I read The Night Manager because the first episode of the series intrigued me but I read High-Rise because I didn’t know whether or not I wanted to watch the film.

I don’t.

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American Gods by Neil Gaiman

This is the first real post on my shiny new book blog, the others having been imported untidily from my travel & adventure blog, I Am A Polar Bear. So yay?

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In the corner of the world I live in, people really like Neil Gaiman and it feels like such a cliche to add my voice to that. But the first book I read in 2016 was his American Gods and then, idiot that I am, I thought I’d go and read more about it. I soon learnt that there are in fact plenty of people who are not fans so I’ll write about it after all.

American Gods is a huge doorstopper of a book and I own the Author’s Preferred version, which has 12,000 extra words sprinkled throughout it. I’m not generally a huge fan of enormous books like that. By the time I’m halfway through, I’ve forgotten the beginning and I’m starting to wish the book would just finish already. But American Gods works as a big book. That might – or might not – be because no one, not even the author, really knows what it’s meant to be. It’s a bit fantasy, a bit scifi, a bit horror, a bit thriller, a bit murder mystery, a bit road trip, a bit coming-of-age story and that’s borne out by the fact that it’s won the Hugo, Nebula and Bram Stoker awards, which are literary awards for three different genres.

It’s a big book and a big twisting story that wanders across the USA, it has some horrible moments (one that I spend two-thirds of the book dreading and then hastily skip over when it finally arrives), it’s magic and mystery and belief and murder and fantasy and truth… and I love it. I don’t know what exactly appeals to me so much but I’ll go back to this book pretty regularly. I like some of Gaiman’s other books but none of them have my heart the way this one does, except Good Omens, which is quite the literary gateway drug.

Dracula by Bram Stoker

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First things first, it’s impossible to read Bram Stoker’s Dracula for the first time in 2014 and have anything like the same experience as when it was first published in 1897. This book is nearly 120 years old and in that time, it has permeated our collective consciousness to the point that almost everything about it has become cliched. People who write about vampires these days deliberately avoid the old Dracula mythology or they subvert it or they hang a lamp on it.

Which isn’t to say that the book has become in any way farcical, only things that seemed bewildering then, like the wreath of garlic flowers around Lucy’s neck, seem perfectly logical now. Nor is it to say that Stoker invented vampires or the myths surrounding them, only that this book popularised them.

Onwards, with spoilers. I thought you couldn’t spoil a 120-year-old book that has become more myth than literature but it turns out that although everyone knows Dracula, Transylvania, garlic, mirrors, bats, Mina Harker and Van Helsing, I for one had no idea how the actual story went.

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