It does not happen very often but I seem to be going back to Ken Follett again and again. I am probably finding it difficult to start a new author and Follett is still keeping me interested. “Eye of the Needle” is very typical world war II fiction story that seems very plausible and has all the elements of fast paced thriller. A German spy in England with whole might of MI5 behind him, Hitler waiting for most important information from the spy and Churchill waiting to make sure that information is not delivered. He almost succeeds in his mission but for the courage of lonely woman on storm island.
It is a story of ruthless German spy Henry Faber who has managed to evade MI5 for a long time and this time manages to get the most crucial information that could jeopardize final attack from allied forces. He is on the run with MI5 behind him and manages to reach “Storm Island” where Lucy lives with her crippled husband and son. Lucy is attracted to him but eventually realizes the truth and acts as hero in saving the war for England. In any such spy thriller chase, it is always lots of hard work for police forces but there is also a lot of coincidence and good luck that ends up working in their favor. Of course everybody likes a good ending.
I have not read this kind of thriller for some time and it reminds me of authors like Alistair Maclean, Frederick Forsyth and Tom Clancy. This is the first book of Follett I have read that is not steeped in history but is pure fictional thriller. It is quite enjoyable for a change but I think I like him more when I read historical fiction from Follett. Looks like a movie was also made based on this book and I should see that one. The book reminds me of Indian movie “Fanaa” as well.
Going back to the author Ken Follett in quick succession after recently finishing “World without end”. Normally I try not to return to same author unless it is a sequel but I guess the mood was not for any new author and “A dangerous fortune” seemed like a good bet. When I started reading, I realized that I had started this book few years ago but stopped when I came across a brutal description of game called “ratting” that involved gambling for the victory of dog versus rats in a closed cage till death. This time I skipped over that portion completely. Other than the ratting part, the book is a great thriller set in 19th century London.
The story is about a banking family and how they go from success to failure due to internal family intrigues and conspiracies. It is a story of good versus evil as most of the stories are. What makes it interesting is the backdrop of banking industry and lifestyle of London in that era. It was great to read about traffic jams in the horse carriage driven era. I liked the character of Maisie who goes from runaway poor child to richest wife in town and then back to finding her own calling.
I thought the book went into lots of details in the beginning but towards the end the author was trying to finish the story quickly. Coming back to the description of “ratting”, I wonder what prompted the author to get into gruesome details in a book that is more or less a pleasant reading.
This is the third book in the millennium series by the author Stieg Larsson. I wrote about the first book “The girl with the dragon tattoo” some time back but I am skipping the second book for review though I will write about it some other time. Here I want to write about “The girl who kicked the hornet’s nest”. This is where all the characters come in the foreground and final battle between Lisbeth Salander and her tormentors takes place.
She almost dies at the end of second book fighting with her father and step-brother but she recovers from bullet injury in her head. She is no longer wanted for murders of journalists but the secret police is still trying to institutionalize her or kill her so that their secrets can remain hidden. But with help from Mikael Blomkvist and many of her other supporters she fights back. It is the story where you see how the combined effort by multiple agencies come together to fight against secret police.
To me the best part was the courtroom drama where Lisbeth’s lawyer Annika Giannini argues for her. The way she counters each and every accusation against Lisbeth’s mental condition is great. Also, Lisbeth is finally ready to answer questions but makes sure that she is answering questions and not responding to opinions. The idea that Lisbeth should face the court in her attire was excellent and daring. I think I have read that part of the book few times and every time leaves me feeling exhilarated.
Towards the end Lisbeth decides to go and face her step-brother alone. That part was foolish in my opinion but Lisbeth is a private person and would not want anyone else to fight her battle. It is interesting that we can understand all the characters in the book easily but understanding Lisbeth is hard. But if you look closely, she is the least complex as a person. Perhaps, we are no longer used to people who are driven by simple things in life.
I somehow avoided reading this series of books and watching the movies for a long time. Not sure what prompted me but I reached out to reading this set of books recently. And as it happens more often than not, I was surprised by the book. The concept of the book is abhorrent to me. The whole idea of putting young children into arena to kill each other is as disgusting as it can be. It is like playing video game with characters and assuming them as characters. It is like animal fighting in arena but here you also play with the emotions of victims and their families as well. On top of that you make a TV spectacle of the whole event.
Even with that disgusting idea the book is written well and character of Peeta and Katniss are refreshing in the madness of the games. They are playing the games but are refusing to be played. They are fighting to survive but almost refuse to kill and definitely not take pleasure out of it. The combination is also great. Katniss is impulsive and brash with great survival instinct. Peeta is cultured and very patient and more importantly ready to die from the time of his selection for Katniss. It is his willingness to sacrifice that moves the story than the Katniss’s willingness to fight and win
What amazes me is the voyeuristic pleasure that citizens of Capitol derive from the whole charade. You are left wondering whether it is forced or could people be really that evil. How easy it is for people to go from being moral and sane to start enjoying the killings. It is not very different from what has happened in different parts of the world under dictatorships.
Overall, this book does invoke strong emotions. I wonder why the book with such gruesome killings involving young kids be considered a book for kids. I will write about the sequels and movies in coming days as well.
Another book by Dan Brown and another roller-coaster ride of facts mixed with fiction, history with technology, visits to historical sites to solve current issues of the world. It has become his signature style that is predictable but still enjoyable. “Inferno” is once again featuring Robert Langdon who has already featured in many of his earlier books including “The Davinci Code”. This time our hero is trying to save the world from genetic catastrophe.
The story this time unfolds in Florence with Robert waking up in hospital with no memory of last few days and being chased by a murderer. He is saved from murder by one of the Doctors tending to him and together they start running across Florence and then other countries trying to solve the mystery of biohazard cylinder found in his pocket with symbols of Dante’s Inferno. The story keeps on getting more and more complicated with each chapter with multiple layers of deception and drama till we figure out in the end that the world has been changed forever by a crazy scientist.
Of course there is interesting stuff that you learn about Florence, Istanbul and Venice where the story takes place. You learn about the advancements in genetic science that leaves you in awe and fear at the same time. You also learn about the shady world of power politics that creates deception and propaganda to suit their hidden agenda.
It is definitely difficult to put down the book once you start reading it. At the same time, it is difficult to fully appreciate the book. It is like addiction that forces you to read it through so that you find out what happens in the end but not necessarily completely enjoying the journey and that is where Dan Brown does not live up to the expectations of good literature.