‘The Windup Girl,’ by Paolo Bacigalupi

Novel, 2009 Science-fiction dystopia, with some great ideas and scenes set around the precarious management and incipient crash of ecosystems and food chains, but one whose cast of characters, intrigues, adventures and interventions immediately dazzle, then quickly confuse the reader. This may be a book suited to the hardwired genre reader adept to retaining a good deal of information about myriad characters and situations, but … Continue reading ‘The Windup Girl,’ by Paolo Bacigalupi

"White is for Witching", by Helen Oyeyemi

Novel, 2009 A novel which pulls on a load of shapes and guises, from coming of age, to a twins’ psychodrama, to haunted house thriller. This is a book in which too much goes on without much seeming to actually happen. The result is a confusing hodge-podge, which may be an intentional device reflecting the struggles of Miranda, the main protagonist. There’s some really outstanding … Continue reading "White is for Witching", by Helen Oyeyemi

"A Girl Made of Dust", by Nathalie Abi-Ezzi

Novel, 2009 Powerful depiction, from an eight year old girl’s point of view, living under the exploding skies of 1980s Lebanon, just outside Beirut. The use of a child’s point of view strips the grown up rhetoric of politics, so that what’s left is visceral stuff on the one hand, and some wonder, hurt and disappointment at the domestic world of adulthood. The book has … Continue reading "A Girl Made of Dust", by Nathalie Abi-Ezzi

"Book of Clouds" by Chloe Aridjis

Novel, 2009 Story of a Mexican transcriber and her time spent and work in Berlin. This is a really skillful piece of writing, full of ideas and packing a dramatic and emotional punch when they’re needed. History and drama hang heavily around Berlin which is beautifully presented and shown to contain a number of self-absorbed, damaged characters, possibly including the narrator herself. Some great scenes, … Continue reading "Book of Clouds" by Chloe Aridjis

"The Informant", directed by Steven Soderbergh

Movie, 2009 A thriller about a whistle blower with a number of twists and turns, as a seemingly principled employee brings a torch of justice to bear on his employers. As a whole, this film will either engage its viewers or not, and while the acting, pace and much of the other component parts of the movie are satisfying, there’s a lack of urgency n … Continue reading "The Informant", directed by Steven Soderbergh

"A Serious Man", directed by Coen Brothers

Movie, 2009 A film which looks good, has some funny moments, but which doesn’t quite snap and engage the viewer perhaps as much as it might have done. The plot revolves around a seriously unravelling, but very typical and “comfortable” middle-class family and touches on a number of domestic crises, many of which involve mental health issues. In doing so, there aren’t, however, any real … Continue reading "A Serious Man", directed by Coen Brothers

"Watchmen", directed Zack Snyder

Movie, 2009 Clever but disjointed alternative history film, which probably needs some previous knowledge of the characters to appreciate exactly what’s going on. This is a super hero film where the superheroes are anything but, and are being picked off by forces unknown. This pathos and the lack of over-CGI’d sequences and crashing soundtrack work in the film’s favour, although the muttered dialogue (especially from … Continue reading "Watchmen", directed Zack Snyder

"Chalcot Crescent", by Fay Weldon

Novel, 2009 A novel set in a crumbling London not so far in the future, in which political and counter political oppressions are played out against the backdrop of entangled family relationships. While the evocations of a ghoulish capital are strong, the complex inter-relationships and the hugely unreliable narrator make it difficult to follow what’s going on and how characters related to each other. This … Continue reading "Chalcot Crescent", by Fay Weldon