Thursday, February 26, 2009

Quick Book Reviews

Yes, sometimes I read books without word balloons. Here's a quick look at some recent reads.

Double Indemnity by James M. Cain. You've seen the movie, now read the book! It won't take you very long, as it is 120 pages of taut storytelling with very crisp dialogue. I wouldn't put Cain up there with Hammet and Chandler, but he's not that far behind. Although first published as a serial - it doesn't have those awkward stops and starts from which many serialized books suffer. It's the cynicism that permeates this book that makes it so engaging. Who knew insurance could be so fascinating?

Ripley's Game by Patricia Highsmith. Tom Ripley is a wonderful literary character. He's that charming sociopath that we root for and hate ourselves for it later. The is a far more slowly paced story that the first two Ripley adventures - perhaps in keeping with his comfortable middle age existence. The slow build up to the denouement actually allows the reader to forgive Highsmith for some of the gaps in believability (I thought Trevanny was a little too easily convinced to take on his 'project'). Although part of a series, it can truly be enjoyed as a standalone piece.

The Sirens of Titan by Kurt Vonnegut. This is early Vonnegut and it shows.While his signature characters are all present, the plot meanders and it lacks the warmth that he'd bring to his later work. The our is still there, but it's less subtle and quite cold at times. He tackles too many themes at once here, and while he certainly gives the reader a taste of what will inhabit his later works, it just doesn't add up here. It's a good read, but only after you've finished with his true classics.

The Art of Ray Harryhausen by Tony Dalton and Ray Harryhausen is an absolute must have for any fan of the Harryhausen films. It's a beautifully designed coffee table book with plenty of never before seen documents that show just how much work Harryhausen put into each and everyone one of his projects. I particularly enjoyed the discussions of the various artists that he found inspiring and I'm in awe of the man's drawings and sketches. The photographs of the monster models in varying states of decay were interesting, but a little sad. These things should be in a museum somewhere. I was quite surprised to discover just how many great projects never too flight. So many missed opportunities. Highly recommended

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