The Great Gatsby – F Scott Fitzgerald

The Great Gatsby

Title: The Great Gatsby

Author: F. Scott Fitzgerald

Publication Date: 1979

Review Score: 7/10

Regarded as one of the great American novels, The Great Gatsby is a commentary on the glitz and glamour of the 1920s and the underlying sleaze and shallowness of the Jazz Age. It is also a love story and a tale of one man’s rags to riches.

Through the narration of Nick Carraway, we are taken into the rich, colourful excess of the Long Island party scene of the 1920s, where we encounter Nick’s cousin Daisy, her macho millionaire husband and the one and only Jay Gatsby, a man shrouded in hushed rumour and dark mystery.

What annoys me most about this book is that I actually enjoyed it. I was sure this was going to be another Catcher in the Rye where nothing really happens and it is simply an insight into one period of time in America. And, in fact, for large parts of the book this is exactly what it is, a commentary on house parties, hotel room excess and the flippant cares of the wealthy.

However, although ignorant, frustrating and at times downright annoying, the characters in The Great Gatsby and incredibly absorbing, and although the actual story of a great man’s attempt to recapture a lost love takes an age to get going and then ends incredibly abruptly, it is still brilliant and highly charged with raw emotion.

As a pure story the plot is simple and bland, but it is the characters placed within these happenings that makes this book what it is. If nothing else, The Great Gatsby gives us Jay Gatsby and it is worth reading simply for him.

This is definitely a novel that splits people’s opinions, and as you can tell it split mine several

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The Long Walk – Stephen King

The Long WalkTitle: The Long Walk

Author: Stephen King (Richard Bachman)

Publication Date: 1979

Review Score: 7.5/10

Set in an alternative dystopian present, The Long Walk is a grueling annual walking contest in which 100 boys compete to win anything their heart desires…but there can be only one winner. The rules are simple, just keep walking at a pace of 4 miles an hour, don’t interfere with your fellow walkers, no outside help and don’t try and leave the walk. Slow down too much or break a rule, you get a warning, three warning are you buy your ticket.

So the question is, how far would you walk to stay alive?

One of the four books published by Stephen King under the pseudonym Richard Bachman, it plays with similar ideas to one of the others, The Running Man, in that it takes reality game shows to a point where death is not just possible but it seen as the highest level of entertainment.

I think what’s so captivating about this idea is that it doesn’t feel as if it’s a million miles away from what is actually possible in modern society. No we don’t have people dying on TV, but give people the chance to win money and they will put themselves through hell. It makes you wonder, if this was real would there be 100 people out there willing to participate?

The story itself centers around a Walker named Garraty, who entered the competition against the wishes of his mother and girlfriend. He is joined by a group of characters who all appear to be on the walk for different reasons, and although some soon become close companions, it’s hard to remain friends when you’re all needing the other’s around you die.

I must say this was a truly gripping book, I struggled to put it down and blitzed through it much quicker than normal. The idea behind it is brilliant and as always with King the way he unravels the story keeps you on the edge of your seat. All the way through I was thinking that this was definitely going to be my first 10/10 on The Book Reviewer but then I hit the last 2 pages.

I don’t want to give anything away about the end, as I would recommend this book to anyone, but similarly to the the TV show Lost, it’s all about the journey, the end falls flat, is too abrupt and doesn’t do justice to the amazing story that precedes it.

I would definitely read it again, just for the journey, as that alone is fantastic but I won’t soon forget the disappointment I was left with at the end.

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Candide – Voltaire

Candide by Voltaire

Title: Candide

Author: Voltaire

Publication Date: 1759

Review Score: 8/10

Despite being over 250 years old, Candide by Voltaire wrestles with an idea that is still as pertinent now as it’s ever been; “why do bad things happen to good people?”

After becoming somewhat dissolution by the devastating loss of life in the Seven Year’s War and the 1755 Lisbon earthquake, Voltaire wrote the novel exploring the ideas of misery, pain and suffering befalling people who are essentially good.

The novel follows a young orphan named Candide who is taken into the care of a rich Baron and brought up in a noble household in which his tutor has instilled in him the mantra; “all is for the best!” However, when Candide falls in love with the Baron’s daughter he is cast out of the house to make his own way in life.

So, with his love lost and nothing to his name he sets out across the world to make his fortune and hopefully one day be with the Baron’s daughter once again. But during his search for fortune Candide is continually struck by misfortune, hardship and disaster that fully tests his instilled belief that “all is for the best!”

What Voltaire has done with this novel is create not only a fantastic adventure story that holds its own against the likes of Robinson Crusoe, Gulliver’s Travels and Nostromo but also plunges the depths of philosophy and beautifully analysis mans believe in God, people and good things.

At times, the story is rather gruesome and not for the faint hearted but this simply ads to the power of the underlining ideas and realism of the tale.

How Voltaire packs all this into just 100 short pages I don’t know, but he does wonderfully and this is definitely a must read for any lover of philosophy, adventure tales or truly intelligent literature.

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The Black Cloud – Fred Hoyle

The Black Cloud - Fred HoyleTitle: The Black Cloud

Author: Fred Hoyle

Publication Date: 1959

Review Score: 9/10

Similarly to the last book I reviewed (The Day of the Triffids), The Black Cloud is a 1950’s Sci-Fi classic which takes humanity to the brink of extinction and wrestles with ideas of intelligence much greater than ours in the universe.

The story follows a group of astronomers and scientists who discover the existence of a black cloud that is coming straight towards earth and threatening to block out the suns rays, potentially destroying all life on the planet.

The group lead by the enigmatic and somewhat maverick Professor Kingsly are in a race against time to try and understand the cloud’s behaviour and the devastating implications for the human race that may come to follow, but the cloud doesn’t seem to play by the rules of science and suggests a greater intelligence may be at work…

When I first read the description of this book I instantly thought ‘cheesy Sci-Fi’ but once again, as so often happens with this type of classic, I was completely wrong! From start to finish the book had me gripped and kept me guessing right to the end.

Sometimes with this type of Sci-Fi I find that the author has spent so much energy developing the complexities of the story that the characters themselves get left behind and are merely there as a vessel to tell the idea, but with The Black Cloud I found the characters as entertaining as the plot itself, especially the satirical genius of Professor Kingsly.

The idea behind the book is brilliant, the writing style is engaging and and the characters are well developed, everything you want for a great book really. The only reason I haven’t been able to give this a 10/10 is purely down to the fact I just wanted more!

The whole story focuses on the small group of scientists and only occasionally alludes to how the rest of humanity is coping with what is happening and I just wanted more, I wanted to know what was happening in the real world, how the country coped, what the media made of it all.

It’s a relatively short novel and I think there was ample room to add in a lot more detail, but then again they do say ‘always leave them wanting more’ and it definitely doesn’t take away from the fact that this was an excellent book.

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The Day of the Triffids – John Wyndham

Title: The Day of the Triffids

Author: John Wyndham

Publication Date: 1951

Review Score: 8/10

The Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham is a 1950s Sci-Fi novel in which the human race is brought to its knees and the brink of extension.

In typical end of the world fashion, the story begins with our main protagonist; Bill Masen, waking up blindfolded in hospital and surrounded by complete silence, with no one responding to his calls for help.

After taking off his bandages to find he has not been blinded by his latest sting in the lab, he ironically discovers that everyone else in the hospital has been blinded by a dazzling meteor shower that he, fortunately, was unable to watch the night before.

Outside it’s the same story, it appears the entire population of London and most likely the entire world have been blinded and now droves of people helplessly wander the streets looking for food, water and salvation.

With only a handful of people around the world able to see, civilization has descended into chaos and is now completely vulnerable to the Triffids; large, venomous plants that walk freely and feed on human flesh.

Although this book sounds like a ridiculously lame 2am horror film on channel 5, it is actually incredibly exciting, eerie and rooted in the not so ludicrous idea of biological warfare.

Given that it was written over 60 years ago it may seem a little dated and trivial to anyone who reads modern Sci-Fi novels, but that is exactly what I love about it! You not only get the thrilling story that has so blatantly inspired much of modern sci-fi but you get to enjoy it alongside the fast paced, sharp and witty vernacular of the 1950s.

The characters are classic, brilliantly portrayed and appear to have just stepped off the set of an Alfred Hitchcock film whilst the tale they are thrown into in is futuristic, apocalyptic and worthy of any Sci-Fi nuts appreciation.

All in all, The Day of the Triffids is an absolutely fabulous book that backs up the notion that you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, or in this case by the ridiculous sounding blurb on the back of it!

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Raymond Chandler – The Big Sleep

Title: The Big Sleep

Author: Raymond Chandler

Publication Date: 1939

Review Score: 7/10

So, here we are, the first book review for our new site “The Book Reviewer” and we’re starting with a classic; The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler. This is a fast paced, sharp and gritty tale that is completely absorbing from start to finish!

Set in 1930s LA, the story centres around the clever, cocky and charismatic Philip Marlowe, a Private Eye from California who has a way of talking himself in to trouble and fortunately enough street smarts to get himself back out of it.

Hired by the ageing, crippled, wheelchair bound but exceedingly rich General Sternwood, Marlowe is asked to make a case of blackmail disappear. However, what first appears to be a simple squeeze turns into a fully fledged case of deceit, crime, gambling and murder.

Already having his work cut out for him, with new suspects and corpses turning up around every corner, Marlowe also has to deal with the General’s 2 wild, care free and erratic daughters, who seem to get in more pinches than Marlowe himself.

Fast talking, quick witted and charming as you like, Marlowe is one of the finest characters I have ever come across in a novel and Chandler’s depiction of him and the 1930s underbelly of LA is absolutely stunning.

It is no wonder that The Big Sleep is still entertaining new readers today, the novel was written over 70 years ago but still packs as much punch and excitement as any modern day thriller. I would say this is a must read for any crime fan, thriller nut or just any lover of good literature.

Whether you share my love of The Big Sleep or think it is completely rubbish, why not leave a comment below with your thoughts?

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