Saturday, 9 July 2011

Two picked out of a bookshop at random...

The White Tiger by Arvind Adiga

Set in India, this is the story of the 'rags to riches' journey of Balram, AKA 'The White Tiger'. A poor, low caste Indian born into poverty in rural India's “darkness”. This is a first person narrative as Balram is telling his life story by email to the Chinese president who is due to visit India. A strange concept but it works.

This novel is about the two different sides of India, the one where the rich dwell and that where the poor try to eke out an existence. The author highlights the stark contrasts of these two worlds, a tiny percentage enjoy fabulous wealth while a massive majority struggle to survive. Arvind Adiga educates the western reader about the real India that the tourist doesn't see and he does so with a smile on his face and a laugh on his tongue. A place where the dice is stacked against the poor man and the wealthy maintain this status quo through corruption. For this reason some have compared White Tiger to 'Bonfire of the Vanities' by Tom Wolfe but I found Adia's novel much more entertaining, in short it's much funnier.

Against this backdrop flows an intriguing story. We learn very early what type of character Balram is but unlike Wolfe's protagonists we can't help liking our scheming servant hero. 'White Tiger' is very easy to read and an enjoyable tale but it has few real surprises and flags a little towards the end.

This book educates and entertains and gets a thumbs up from me.

I am Number Four by Pittacus Lore

I don't read much science fiction and to be absolutely honest I didn't realise what I was buying when I picked this book up. “John Smith” is the latest pseudonym of a teenage alien living on earth. “John” is being hunted by aliens from yet another planet who are determined to kill him, sounds a bit like the “Terminator” films.

The author “Pittacus Lore”, we are pretentiously told “Is a Lorien elder entrusted with the story of the Lorien nine...”. Of course he is....The book is told in the first person and annoyingly it's constantly in the present tense. I'm guessing the usual audience for this type of book would not find this as annoying as I did.

Reading the above back it sounds a dreadful premise and something I would hate. it? To be honest I got hooked up in the story pretty quickly. The teenage school yard stuff immediately intriguing and as the adventure hots up it really has you turning the pages quickly. The story is entertaining enough but predictable and I never really cared about any of the characters. Towards the end it became obvious that there would be a sequel or two, I think I've unwittingly stumbled into some kind of 'Twilight' style teenage franchise?? All in all it was entertaining but unfulfilling.

OK but I don't think I'll bother with the sequel(s)

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