The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

Don’t panic.

4/5 stars.
Paperback, 193 pages.
Read from June 29, 2017 to June 30, 2017.

October 12, 1979 – that is when this book was first published. Meaning it is almost 40 years old. I had no idea. I can see now why this book is such a timeless classic regardless of its genre.

Author Dent is your normal, everyday bloke. One day his friend, Ford Prefect, demands that he leave his home (at the most inopportune time) to have a pint with him. Ford’s urgency is created by the fact that he is actually an alien that has been trapped on Earth for the last 15 years and has been waiting for a coming UFO to hitchhike on. That, and Earth is about to be destroyed. As Ford considers Author a friend he saves him by bringing him along. Arthur soon finds himself from the pub to travelling in space, learning that his friend is an alien and that Earth has been destroyed in a matter of minutes.

Ford has been travelling to different planets trying to work on and update the popular compendium, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy before he became trapped on Earth for 15 years. His return back into space was nearly statistically impossible and on a ship that is not welcoming to hitchhikers. Good thing Ford knows a thing or two about getting around from all the work he has been doing. However, he ends up putting both him and Arthur in a sticky situation.

Even those that don’t like science-fiction would enjoy this book. It is so insanely imaginative, especially when you think about when it was published. It was long before the smartphones or before computers were a household item and even before the creation of the internet. It is easy to see how this book inspired so many other stories and movies after it.  It made the science-fiction genre accessible and readable to everyone. It’s hilarious too! Think Guardians of the Galaxy meets Shaun of the Dead type of humour.

“You know,” said Arthur, “it’s at times like this, when I’m trapped in a Vogon airlock with a man from Betelgeuse, and about to die of asphyxiation in deep space that I really wish I’d listened to what my mother told me when I was young.”

“Why, what did she tell you?”

“I don’t know, I didn’t listen.”

The writing style is light and easy and the story is a nice humorous take on the speculations of our universe. While I do not feel inclined to read the rest of the books in the series (admittedly I am not usually one for series) the book was an enjoyable escape and I appreciated the witty antics of the characters.

This book is classic that is definitely worth adding to your bucket list if you have not already read and loved it. Even if you don’t enjoy science-fiction, this book is still a worthwhile read.

 

Manhatten Beach by Jennifer Egan

Covering a wide range of content, Egan delivers a remarkable story with a sophisticated writing style.

3/5 stars.
ebook, 448 pages.
September 8, 2017 to September 17, 2017.

As a first-time reader of Jennifer Egan, I am grateful to Netgalley and the publisher for giving me a perfect opportunity to finally read her. Covering a wide range of content, Egan delivers a remarkable story with a sophisticated writing style.

Following the end of the Great Depression in Brooklyn, Anna is twelve years old when her father Eddie, takes her on a business venture to the wealthy home of Dexter Styles. After making a strong impression with her tomboy antics, Styles agrees to hire her father. It was then that Eddie decided to stop taking his Anna on business ventures. At home, Anna’s mother is in constant care of her younger sister, Lydia, an invalid who is bed and chair bound. Eddie’s decision to work for Styles was driven by his need to provide for his disabled child but also motivated as a way to put distance between them. Eddie loves Lydia but also sees her as his own failing. Anna is independent and strong after years of helping her mother and sister and she does not take the news well when her father informs her that she can longer come to work with him. A few years later, when Anna is only fourteen, Eddie disappears and never returns.

Jump forward to the beginning of WWII and Anna is working in the Navy docks, along with many other women to help manage the war efforts. She is headstrong and one of the few women who are unmarried. She dreams of being a diver, a position not yet open to women, and is determined to find a way to get there. One evening when her friend takes her out to one of the clubs in town that many of the soliders visits, Anna spots Dexter Styles across the bar and discovers that he is the owner. Driven by a need to know more about the disappearance of her father all those years ago, she introduces herself under a fake name. The introduction unfolds a dark story that brings up dirty secrets, desires, deceit and danger.

The history, both the setting, the working women during the war, and with Anna, her family and her diving, are what drew me into this book. Sadly, I had to draw back as the story became unfocused and convoluted with other the intertwining stories and histories. It was not that these parts of the story were not interesting or engaging is that I felt shuffled around far too often while reading this book and the ending felt messy and disjointed. For a book that had such a strong start, the ending left me with a sigh of discontent.

It is clear that this book was meticulously well researched and that a lot of effort was placed into the historical content and overall, the writing style is sophisticated and engaging but it missed the mark on the rhythm of the story.

This book has not put me off Jennifer Egan in the slightest, it actually has driven me to take a look and consider reading her highly acclaimed and award-winning novel,  A Visit From The Goon Squad. It is apparent that Egan has talent and that a novel following such a highly prized book prior is always hard to achieve.

If you have read A Visit From The Good Squad and are hoping for something of the same calibre, this book may not be what you are hoping for. However, the rich historical content is definitely worth picking this book up for. The book is due to be published on October 3, 2017.

Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman

“Of course it was Loki. It’s always Loki.”

“Odin blew some of the mead out of his behind, a splattery wet fart of foul-smelling mead right in Suttung’s face, blinding the giant and throwing him off Odin’s trail. No one, then or now, wanted to drink the mead that came out of Odin’s ass. But whenever you hear bad poets declaiming their bad poetry, filled with foolish similes and ugly rhymes, you will know which of the meads they have tasted.”

4/5 stars.
Hardcover, 297 pages.
Read from June 23, 2017 to June 29, 2017.

Short and easy read. Check!
By Neil Gaiman. Check!
About Norse Gods. Check!
Full mischief and debauchery. Check!

I could add a few more reasons as to why I wanted to pick up this book but I think those are great place start. Full of Gaiman’s charm, this novel recreates the stories of the Norse gods that is appropriate for nearly any audience.

Starting with the Norse version of Genesis, the creation of the world and the gods themselves, each chapter is a short story in and of itself. Odin is the highest ranking and wisest god, while his son Thor is strong but not the most tactful god. Loki, who is always mischievous and beguiling, causes more trouble than he is worth and yet somehow the rest of the gods keep him around. I suppose he is the best at manipulating after all. There are many other masterful gods, giants and even dwarfs mentioned in the stories.

Did you know that the names of the seven days of the week have a Norse influence? They also have a Roman influence but here is basic break down:

Sunday comes from Old English “Sunnandæg,” which is derived from a Germanic interpretation of the Latin dies solis, “sun’s day.” Germanic and Norse mythology personify the sun as a goddess named Sunna or Sól.

Monday likewise comes from Old English “Mōnandæg,” named after Máni, the Norse personification of the moon (and Sól’s brother).

Tuesday comes from Old English “Tīwesdæg,” after Tiw, or Tyr, a one-handed Norse god of dueling. He is equated with Mars, the Roman war god.

Wednesday is “Wōden’s day.” Wōden, or Odin, was the ruler of the Norse gods’ realm and associated with wisdom, magic, victory and death. The Romans connected Wōden to Mercury because they were both guides of souls after death. “Wednesday” comes from Old English “Wōdnesdæg.”

Thursday, “Thor’s day,” gets its English name after the hammer-wielding Norse god of thunder, strength and protection. The Roman god Jupiter, as well as being the king of gods, was the god of the sky and thunder. “Thursday” comes from Old English “Þūnresdæg.”

Friday is named after the wife of Odin. Some scholars say her name was Frigg; others say it was Freya; other scholars say Frigg and Freya were two separate goddesses. Whatever her name, she was often associated with Venus, the Roman goddess of love, beauty and fertility. “Friday” comes from Old English “Frīgedæg.”

As for Saturday, Germanic and Norse traditions didn’t assign any of their gods to this day of the week. They retained the Roman name instead. The English word “Saturday” comes from the Anglo-Saxon word “Sæturnesdæg,” which translates to “Saturn’s day.”” – Live Science

For those like American Gods, (spoilers) you can see where Gaiman came up with some names for his characters. This is the third book that Gaiman has written about gods and Norse gods in particular (American Gods, Anansi Boys).

Many of the stories in this book are very humorous while also offering some sort of moral or philosophical piece of advice to walk away with as well. The quote I have already mentioned above, about drinking Mead that came out of Odin’s ass, actually made me snort out loud on the bus. I may have received some funny looks.

Trickery, violence, mead and trying to get women to marry are the main themes in this book; accompanied with relatable, silly and inspiring gods at the centrepiece. Gaiman has managed to keep the content about the gods while interweaving an engaging and exciting story. You really can’t go wrong! If you like Norse mythology, gods, fart jokes, Thor, Loki or just a really easy story then you will appreciate this novel.