The month of June was fairly sparse in terms of reading time, so it’s a very short roundup this time.
However, from non-fiction to sci-fi, I did cover quite a diverse range of books…
No One is Too Small to Make a Difference, Greta Thunberg
For some reason, Greta is a divisive figure.
Break it all down and she’s simply a passionate young woman with a strong, single-minded desire to protect the environment.
As for her book; it’s less a book and more a collection of speeches. From addressing the European Parliament to House of Commons, No One is Too Small to Make a Difference is a manifesto of Greta’s ideas.
On one hand, it can be quite repetitive. Many of the speeches are similar. Because of this, I don’t think that No One is Too Small to Make a Difference benefits from being read. I’d recommend listening to the audiobook version if you have the option to.
On the other hand, of course they’re similar – you can’t be an activist and have a vague, confusing message that changes every other week.
And that’s the real brilliance of No One is Too Small to Make a Difference. You cannot possibly come away from this book without understanding Greta’s environmental argument.
As she says – if you don’t want to be lectured by a teenager, then don’t listen to her. Just listen to the science.
A Monster Calls, Patrick Ness
A Monster Calls is a strange creature of a book. It’s simultaneously dark, funny, breathtakingly tragic, and yet therapeutic.
I suppose it’s a book that examines grief and mortality through the lens of a novel. And I really like that – even if it left me feeling rather numb.
At times reminiscent of Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, at others the BFG, A Monster Calls manages to carve out its own identity thanks to the author’s ability to communicate real, intense emotions through its protagonist Conor O’Malley.
Conor is disturbed. Not just by the monster that haunts him at 00:07 every night. But by the bullying he experiences on a daily basis at school, the unconventional family setup, and his mother’s deteriorating medical condition.
Ness captures perfectly the crippling anxiety of school, the resentment of a distant father, and the stubborn, unwillingness of a child to face reality. It’s a marvellous book that reaches deep into your soul.
In fact, I still feel quite unsettled by A Monster Calls (that’s an very positive endorsement, by the way).
Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, Philip K. Dick
This was my first experience of Dick.
With this inevitable joke is out of the way, let’s talk Blade Runner. Or as the novel is named, ‘Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?’.
I’m not sure about this one. I liked it, but I didn’t love it.
Dick has a tendency to overwrite. His sentences are unnecessarily long, whilst saying very little. I seem to remember it taking him a couple of pages to describe Rick Deckard’s decision-process on whether to buy a goat or not.
It isn’t all bad though.
In fact, the setting is awesome. It’s an uncompromisingly grim future where much of humanity has left earth, whilst the few who remain live out their lives in drab, corrupt cities – using ‘mood organs’ to artificially regulate their state of mind.
The plot is okay. At times it threatens to be interesting, building towards a dramatic confrontation between Deckard and his replicant prey, only for the novel to end on a somewhat anticlimactic note.
Whilst I felt quite indifferent towards Blade Runner (the movie adaptation), it at least had the iconic confrontation between ‘Replicant’ Roy Batty and Detective Rick Deckard.
And there are some great philosophical ideas at play in Ridley Scott’s movie, which I can appreciate. They’re present in the novel, but it does feel like a rare case of the book being inferior to its big screen adaptation.
That being said, I did enjoy my first foray into the works of Philip K. Dick. Just not as much as I hoped to.
Central City, Indy Perro
This brings me on to my final book of the month – Central City is a debut novel by writer and ‘recovering academic’, Indy Perro.
A crime fiction novel, Central City follows Detectives Bayonne and McKenna as they investigate a spate of similar murders. Meanwhile, ex-con Kane Kulpa tries to move on from his past.
My feelings about the novel are not dissimilar to ‘Do Androids Dream…?’ actually; with the small caveat that I think Indy Perro is probably a more talented writer than Philip K. Dick.
Central City itself is well-realised. It’s a living, breathing place, mapped meticulously by its protagonists. There’s a lot of tension brewing between the Irish, Italian, and Korean gangs, sometimes spilling over, and as a reader, you quickly understand that places like Waite Park are to be avoided!
I also really enjoyed the characters. Bayonne and McKenna form a sort of ‘buddy cop’ style relationship, with the former an experienced detective (not unlike Colombo!) and the latter a fresh-faced recruit. We’ve seen this before, but it works and I enjoyed it a lot.
On the other hand, the plot is meandering and disinteresting. For an already short book, it needs more to drive it forward. There aren’t really any twists I didn’t see coming, and it’s just not that thrilling.
Regardless, for a debut novel, it’s not a bad effort. Perro has some great groundwork if he wishes to revisit Central City in the future, which I hope he does.
What have you read this month? Leave your recommendations in the comments below!