Friday, November 19, 2010

The Solitude of Prime Numbers – Paolo Giordano

Written in Italian in 2008, 271 pages.
Two kids in Italy go through a trauma that changes their lives forever. Each kid and his own trauma, there is no connection between them back then. They grow up scarred and lonely, each one of them tries to find solace by physically harming oneself. They meet in high school and drawn to each other, but their internal scars don’t let them get really close to each other and close the gap between them.
The boy is a genius. He escapes to the world of numbers and math. Everything he sees he interprets in terms of mathematics. He thinks of himself and the girl as these pairs of prime numbers that only one number separates between them, so close but can never really touch.
I liked the way math was combined into the story, and the analogies the boy uses. I could understand to his preference of a world where everything makes sense and can be explained with simple (or not so simple, but at least known and sensible) rules, unlike the mysterious world of human relationship.
But I didn’t like the story itself. The love story wasn’t convincing and I didn’t enjoy reading about it. After finishing the story I felt it is pointless and incomplete, like it just ended arbitrarily. I wouldn’t recommend this book.
One small thing that bothered me: the author is a mathematician, not a biologist, but still he could avoid a very common mistake: identical twins are identical in everything, including gender. There cannot be identical twins when one of them is a girl and the other is a boy. This is a very common mistake in books, because, I guess, a girl and a boy that look exactly the same has lots of potential for a story, but I would expect a scientist to avoid this kind of mistake.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Elantris – Brandon Sanderson

2005, 656 pages
Raoden is the prince of a kingdom called Arelon. He is going to be the king after his father, he is going to get married to a princess from a nearby kingdom, and it seems like everything goes well in his life, until one morning everything changes, and nothing will ever be the same for him.
Sarene the princess of Teod arrives to Arelon to get married. A political marriage, to create a bond between Teod and Arelon to help these two kingdoms to stand against the Derethi empire that swallowed the rest of the world except for these two last kingdoms. But she hopes the marriage will be more than that. An old maid of 25 years, exceptionally tall, smart and opinionate, she has no chance for marriage of love in her home land, and she is left with the option of helping her father the king in politics and maybe find her happiness away from home. But an unpleasant surprise awaits her at Arelon.
Hrathen arrives Arelon to save the people. If he converts their religion to the Derethi’s Shu-Dereth, they will not be killed when the Derethi empire invades to their land. He will do anything in his power to convert as many people as possible to the only true religion and save both their souls and their bodies.
And in the center of all is Elantris, the city that used to be the most beautiful city of all, its habitant half-gods, beautiful and full of magic that kept the satellite city and the whole Arelon flourishing. Until ten years ago it all changed and the blessing of Elantris turned into a curse for unknown reasons.
I enjoyed the book a lot. It is a fantasy book just as a fantasy book should be, full of action and romance, with charming characters that touch the reader and make him care for them. The beginning was very interesting, displaying the characters, the world and its rules. After that the book was a little slow, but from about the middle I could not put it down until the end. It was worth it to read the relatively slow part because it sets the background for the events at the second half of the book and makes the reader deeply involved in what’s going on and what is happening to the characters. Sanderson has a lot of imagination, he created a full and detailed world with its politics and religions and great characters, and built a plot with lots of surprises and interesting turns. I will definitely continue to his other works.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Pawn of Prophecy (Belgariad Book 1) – David Eddigs

Del Rey Books, 1982, 258 pages, US
Many years ago, a family of gods created the world. They divided between themselves the nations that worshipped them. But one of the gods became greedy, and almost ruined the world in a war between the gods over a magical object. The gods decided to abandon the world in body and leave a powerful sorcerer to watch the magical object and the royal family who keep it.
All this is ancient history, old tales, that Garion the boy hears but not necessarily believes. He lives in a farm with his aunt, the kitchen manager, and enjoys a peaceful life. Until one day a series of events cause drastic change in his life and he finds himself involved in strange adventures and old legends and prophecies.
I loved the book and enjoyed it a lot. It is funny and touching. I had to smile while hearing it (because I heard the audiobook). It is not too violent or harsh, safe for teens and older kids. I especially liked the character of Garion the boy. Unlike young main characters of other books, he didn’t feel like an adult that found himself inside a boy’s body. He behaves like a boy in a very convincing way. He can nag and annoy, complain sometimes, has to ask about anything, and sometimes just has to do the opposite of what he’s told, but it doesn’t make him any less charming and likeable. I am curious to see what happens to him and the rest of the characters in the next books of the series.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Runaway – Alice Munro

2004, 352 pages
Eight short stories by the Canadian writer, all take place in Canada, and tell the story of a woman.
The woman can be very young, very old, or in between. Sometimes and old woman goes back to some event in her past, long time ago.
Many times this single event changed their lives. The chance has a very important role in these events. If things had been a little bit different, in some small way, there could have been a completely different outcome. Sometimes only after many years the woman learns about the role of luck and chance in the events that changed or could have changed her life.
All the women are seeking something, some change, a relationship, a self fulfillment, or sometimes they seek the way out from the situation their prior choices got them into.
I enjoyed the book a lot. I usually don’t like short stories. It takes a while for me to get to know the characters and the setting of the story, to care enough for them to be interested in what is going on. But this book was written so beautifully. I got to know and to care for the characters in each story. I was happy the “meet” some of the characters again in the next stories, many years after the previous story. I felt the author captured the essence of the human nature, the hopes, the fears, the reasons for our actions. All the stories were very convincing and felt true, like those people could really exist and these events could really have happened.
Weather and scenery play a big role of the book and I enjoyed reading about the places, both the places I know and love in Western Canada, and the places I am less familiar with in Eastern Canada. I later read that Munro lived in both places. I could feel she writes from a deep knowledge of these locations.
I was happy to know a new author (for me of course) and love her writing. I am sure I will go on to more books she wrote.