By DRIES BRUNT
Video Games by Richard Stanton 8
Orient by Christopher Bollen 4
101 Detectives by Ivan Vladislavic 6
Anna Peters by Kathryn White 7
Tribe by Rahla Xenopoulos 8
One of a “Brief History Of…” series, Video Games tells the story of a fad that became a global entertainment industry. From laboratory to arcade game consoles to Playstations, from early monster-size computing machines to present-day elegant hand-held models, this story is about pioneers who saw and created a future that didn’t exist – an impressive line of exceptionally gifted engineers, technologists and entrepreneurs who pushed forward an idea to make it happen and changed the way we live. Richard Stanton has written a well-researched and impressively illustrated book, chronologically ordered, that opens readers’ minds to a magical world of make-believe that have become virtual reality in our homes. This future is on-going and is unlikely to lose momentum. Whether this is good or bad for societies to come is a question you have to answer for yourself. This book is a brilliant introduction to enable you to have an informed opinion about home entertainment.
Orient is the name of a small fishing village at the far end of Long Island, east of New York. Generations of families have established a closely-knit community there, but now developers show interest in moving in and are resented by the folk living there. Property value becomes an issue and a greed factor enters the equation. Further upheaval starts with two mysterious deaths, with more murder to follow. The plot is good but the story is long-winded, describing events and people in unnecessary detail. This shows a degree of word mastery but becomes a bit of a drag to read. Bollen could have told the story in a book half the size and would, by doing so, have achieved real reader satisfaction. Text padding seems to have become an irresistible attraction since writing became about tapping a keyboard. I am reminded of Joseph Conrad’s comment about novel writing “No fat, just blood and muscle”. Has this simple rule been forgotten?
Short stories need to be explicit, making clear the meaning, the morale, the message of a tale told. Or so I thought. This collection, 101 Detectives, takes a different tack. The reader is left with stories that need interpretation and contemplation. What, how and why are questions arising, needing reader participation to get the full benefit for the time spent reading and exploring what the writer wanted to pass on. Vladislavic is an accomplished writer with a flair for creating thought provoking plots that make you experience fantasy-filled situations and strange goings-on. Give it a try if you want to be entertained in that way.
A recipe book written in the style of a novel is something different, as is the love story in Anna Peters, which centres around cooking, baking and kitchen paraphernalia. This unusual mix makes for an unusual book. Are these exotic recipes credible, Anna? Have they really been oven-tested or are they part of fiction writing fun to create confusion in the culinary mind? Anna is a young woman experiencing crazy love affairs and looking for acceptance by her friends, which she finds partly by entertaining them and serving exotic dishes. The writing is exceptionally clever, stacked with humour, but behind it all lurks the sadness of a drug addicted lover. Is the cooking frenzy an escape from this traumatic relationship? Regardless, keep a copy on the kitchen table, and try the Craighall Cassoulet. This is a delightful, delicious book.
Six people – two South Africans and four Brits – become soulmates during a vacation in Ibiza and a rock festival at Glastonbury. Here, the tribe, as they call themselves, enjoyed the good life of beautiful people living a hedonistic life, fuelled by weed and booze. That was 12 years ago. One of them now suffers depression, is suicidal and seriously addicted to heroin. The others decide to help him to overcome his drug dependence and plan a visit to a game lodge owned by one of the group. That’s the foundation from which the story unfolds. The six now have partners and kids, which changes the original tribe set-up. Will the African bush heal; will the bond hold; will the friendship endure? These are the uncertainties that keep reader interest alive. Above all, this book is about friendship, the great bonding of people and the strain of keeping the bond intact. The story has an inclusive quality, making the reader feel part of the tribe – the conversation, their feelings of guilt, their emotions, the safari experience and the effort to make this healing process happen. This is a wonderful story.