Friday, January 30, 2009

Yesterday I finished Mortal Engines by Philip Reeve.

Mortal Engines is a YA book set in a far future dystopia where cities have become huge mobile machines, travelling around looking for other cities to steal resources from, a process referred to as Municipal Darwinism. When the book starts, new cities to devour have become scarce and the leaders of London have hatched a dastardly plan to use Old Tech to conquer the last holdout non-roaming cities, called the Anti-Traction League.

The story is fun, if very off the wall, but the writing has some issues, particularly with point of view. Generally it follows one character at a time, but at time the author seems to forget where it is and will give us the inner thoughts/feelings of a character in the same scene before returning to it's proper place.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Over the weekend, I finished The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher by Kate Summerscale, a non fiction book about a child's murder in 19th century England.

The murder was investigated by one of the first group of police labelled detectives - the first group to be allowed to move around in plain clothes and assigned to investigating important cases. In particular, it was Jonathan Whicher, the squad's most capable detective, that was sent. The case had scandalized the community and the evidence was ambiguous. Suspicion had fallen on the members of the family, but which one was the real murder?

The book does a good job of setting up the background of the death, and what happened subsequently when Whicher accused one family member but was unsuccessful in proving his case in court. It wasn't until years later that a confession proved who was right, and who was wrong.

The book also does a good job of showing how the detective story was developing in parallel to the actual detectives, and how this case influenced the new genre and mainly specific stories.