Books read in November
Which contains more than you might expect, given that November was NaNoWriMo.
The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson
This is a story featuring Jack the Ripper, set in modern-day London with smartphones and internet and CCTV-cameras. How could the perpetrator of such public murders get away with it in our world of shared intelligence and constant vigilance?
The Name of the Star is a paranormal, YA book, the first in a series called The Shades of London.
I’m not the biggest fan of paranormal fiction. In fact had I known it was paranormal when I bought the book I might have thought twice. However, I felt this book handled the paranormalness better than most. Happenings and rules in this fictitious world might be outside normality, but they are still solidly explained, which shrunk my main gripe with paranormal fiction: strange plots can often be explained away too easily by just blaming it on the ghosts or the bloodsuckers or whatever.
Kids go missing and turn up in strange places and the tension is high? Oh wait, nevermind, it’s those werewolves across the street. It’s their fault. That kind of plot can cause a horrible anticlimax after all the tension build-up. The Name of the Star for the most part avoided this by having reason and logic still back up the paranormality.
Oh, funny side story, as the book retells the Jack the Ripper murders it uses the historical dates. The last murder was committed on the 9th of November (I didn’t know this, I found it out by reading the book). What day did I read this book? The 9th of November. Total coincidence. I had been in too much pain from yet another sinusitis flare-up to move from my bed, let alone write, so I just read for hours straight. (By the way, the next person who tells me sinusitis is just stuffy nose and it’s not painful I’m going to verbally slap. It is extremely painful and if you didn’t know this you’ve never had it which means you have no right to patronise me.) I would have finished the same day I started, but I fell asleep from the medication. So I finished the last bit on 10 November.
I was wavering between giving it 3 or 4 stars out of five, but eventually decided to round up:
⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
The Truth Is a Cave in the Black Mountains by Neil Gaiman
Why Neil Gaiman in November? Because Neil Gaiman is the only writer who makes me want to write and, believe me, I needed the motivation. After I’ve read one of his stories, I just want to write. I don’t want to write the kind of stories he does, but I want to write mine. I don’t know what Mr Gaiman does to my brain, but it’s like magic.
So I was very glad to rediscover this longish short story (I read it in just under an hour and I’m a fast reader). I read it before when it was just released and then I could never find it again. After a while I started to wonder if I’d dreamt it. That’s the kind of ethereal story this is. But of course I hadn’t dreamt it. I could never have dreamt a story this good. Then I stumbled on it again while doing my work (not kidding).
Neil Gaiman does not let you in on his characters’ secrets. You have to discover them as the characters themselves reveal the secrets, just like getting to know real people. The Truth Is a Cave in the Black Mountains seems at times like half dream and half legend. It is unreal and disturbing and you are never quite sure what kind of characters you are following or why and what their motivations are.
The best thing about this story? You can read it right here, for free (and completely legally, it was released online rather than in a more traditional format).
⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
Actually, I read several Gaiman short stories in November:
A Study in Emerald – I consider myself a slight Sherlock Holmes expert, having read all sixty of the Conan Doyle stories before reaching my mid-teens, when everyone else my age was reading Harry Potter, and studying them. Well, this Holmesian short story could have fooled me in writing style. Neil Gaiman is just that good. (Also, the page layout is gorgeous.) Read it here.
Down to a Sunless Sea – disturbing, short, poetic and haunting. That’s all I have to say. Read it here.