Audible listener who's grateful for a long commute!
Neil Gaiman's "The Ocean at the End of the Lane" (2013) begins with a quote by Maurice Sendak, "I remember my own childhood vividly. I knew terrible things. But I knew I mustn't let adults know I knew. It would scare them." Sendak's quote is an apt warning.
"The Ocean at the End of the Lane" is about a child, but, as Gaiman has made clear, it is not a book for children. Gaiman takes the worst nightmares of childhood (I had forgotten them myself, but no more) and binds them together into a compelling story.
Remember stepping on something sharp and worrying for days or weeks that it would kill you? But not telling your parents . . . Agonizing about the possibility no one would come to your birthday party? Being locked in an attic? Clothes that come to life and grab you? Worrying that your father will truly get so mad at you he will actually try and kill you? The babysitter who is vicious to you but sweet to your parents? Those fears are all in "The Ocean at the End of the Lane," wrapped up in parental preoccupation, indifference, and bewilderment at the 7 year old boy who finds a savior in the remarkable Lettie Hempstock.
Lettie lives at the end of the lane, with her mother and grandmother, near a pond that is the ocean. The reason the pond is an ocean and the remarkable powers of the Hempstock women are, to some extent, reminiscent of Stephen Hawking's "A Brief History of Time" (1988).
The story is intriguing on many levels, and Gaiman is an excellent narrator. I only wish I'd been able to listen to this curled up in a blanket with a cup of hot tea, instead of in my car, stuck behind a Cooper Mini for an interminable amount of time.
The title of this review is from a trade Lettie makes to get the tokens she needs to save her 7 year old friend. The eerie magic stuck with me.
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I read mostly read/listen to nonfiction. Some of it is fun, like Amy Stewart’s 2013 “The Drunken Botanist.” Most of it is detailed, thought provoking, and sometimes difficult to understand – like Simon Baron-Cohen’s 2011 “The Science of Evil” or Marc J. Seiffer’s 2011 “Wizard”, which is a biography of Tesla.
When I need a break, I listen to light fiction – mostly murder mysteries. I thought I was just getting detective fiction with a future twist with Alex Hughes’ 2012, “Clean: A Mindspace Investigation Novel, Book 1”. Clean is set in a future Atlanta after a tech war reminiscent of James Cameron’s “Terminator” movies. Human telepaths save North America. After the war, ‘The Guild’ (of telepaths) enter into a treaty to govern and discipline themselves.
The hero/narrator was kicked out of ‘The Guild’ after developing a serious ”Satin” drug problem. “Satin” sounds a great deal like heroin, and ‘Satin’ could easily be ‘Satan’. Hughes’ spends a great deal of the novel talking about the pull of ‘Satin’ and the deadly temptation to return to the drug. The future has Narcotics Anonymous and the same 12-Step program we have today.
As a means of redeeming himself personally, the protagonist uses his telepathy to help the police with investigations. The techniques and training Hughes describes are imaginative, and not improbable.
I liked Daniel May’s Audible narration. It reminded me a bit of audio versions I’ve heard of Dashiell Hammett’s books. Hardboiled. I don’t know what May looks like, but I would have expected him to do this narration wearing a grey suit with a narrow tie, and a fedora.
With “Clean” I was expecting a bit of distracting book candy. What I got was a dystopian thinker and a real description of addiction. It was a little rough to follow in places, but I liked it well enough that I’ll get the next book in the series.
listened to Alex Hughes' "Clean: A Mindspace Investigation Novel, Book 1” (2012) last year. I was looking for a light, fun listen after a summer listening to serious non-fiction. "Clean" was on sale, and I didn't look too closely at the description. I thought I was getting a modern police procedural, but I stumbled into a Sci-Fi Investigator novel, melded with addiction fiction. It wasn't the book cotton candy I thought I was getting, but I enjoyed it.
"Addiction fiction" is the name of a genre I've read or listened to occasionally without knowing it was a category on its own. I read James Frey's supposedly-true "A Million Little Pieces" (2003) before the word was out that Frey's book was fiction. I was angry that my time had been wasted, but not so mad that I didn't read his 2008 "Bright Shining Morning." Stephen King's "Doctor Sleep," the 2013 sequel to King's 1977 "The Shining" is on the top 10 lists of addiction fiction.
King, Frey, and Alex Hughes all write with the agonized longing and exquisite need of addicts "in recovery." Well, that's the sanitized name for what it is. An addict who has given up his or her substance of choice is ever aware that the drug is always just outside the door waiting, sometimes patiently, sometimes pounding on the door to be let back in. It's a stalker waiting for that moment of unguarded vulnerability to take control of your life again. I feel that way about cigarettes, which remains (for a while longer, at least) a legal addiction.
"Sharp: A Mindspace Investigations Book #2" (2013) is an apt title for the need, and a counterpoint to police civilian technician Adam's mental state at the beginning. He's anything but sharp. His near top-rated telepathic abilities have disappeared, perhaps forever. He's reduced to close observation of body language to tell when someone's lying, and a telepath's reputation to scare criminals into confessions. Adam's wondering if he's lost what makes him who he is when two women from his past, lives ruined, reappear.
It's a good listen, but it doesn't fit easily into any one genre. It's definitely addiction fiction, but the drugs don't rise quite to the level of becoming a character in the novel. It's urban Sci-Fi and dystopian fantasy, set on top of a mystery following conventional mystery rules. There's enough in the plot for a reader/listener to solve the mystery eventually - bug enough false leads, blind turns and dead ends to make the solve fun. And the supporting characters - particularly Adam's love interest - Hughes is starling to give her dimensions that make her interesting, not the stock character she was in "Clean."
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