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review 2018-03-15 21:44
Review: The Last Days of New Paris, by China Miéville
The Last Days of New Paris - China Miéville

It is 1950 in Nazi-occupied Paris. Clearly, we are in a reality alternate to our own.


If Germans were the only invading force, that would be bad enough. But Paris is also overrun with nightmare visions plucked from the imaginations of surrealist writers, painters, and sculptors who believed that art could conquer fascism. And there are infernal invaders too, strange demonic entities vomited up from the bowels of hell - it seems that they are allied with the Nazis, but only to a point. For the citizens trapped within the city limits, it is safest to avoid all three types of monster.


Our protagonist, Thibaut, is a member of La Main à Plume, a splinter group of Surrealists who stayed behind in Paris, while André Breton and many of the movement's leading lights fled to safety in America. Thibaut's group patrols the city streets, in wary coexistence with the manifested art, holding the Nazis just barely at bay.


After several of his friends are killed in a raid gone wrong, Thibaut teams up with an American woman, Sam, whose cover story (she says she is shooting photos of the strange manifestations in Paris for a book) seems a little thin, but whose cunning and street smarts are a valuable asset. Together, Thibaut and Sam seek the source of the surrealist manifs and the secret of the rumored German superweapon known as Fall Rot - desperate to turn the tide of their supernatural war before this new horror swallows art and humanity alike.




I went into this book fully expecting to not understand it. I had heard that it was essentially a love letter to the Surrealist art movement, and - aside from a vague mental image of Dalí's floppy clocks - I knew almost nothing about Surrealism. Given China Miéville's towering intellect and exhaustive knowledge about his many obsessions, I figured this book's insights and allusions would breeze right over my head.


Thankfully, I was only half right. Although I would have had no idea how to envision the manifs or interpret their significance from the novella's text alone, Miéville was kind enough to include an appendix of endnotes, giving philistine readers like myself the tools to track down images and background info on Paris's living oddities. There's a pretty decent compilation of them here.


So this rapidly became a very bumpy, stop-start reading experience, where I'd read a sentence, flip to the endnotes for a citation, spend 20 minutes falling down a google hole, and come sputtering back up for air having completely forgotten what was happening in the narrative. I read most of these chapters three times through or more, carefully knitting art and context to the characters' experiences. With many other authors, this would have exhausted me, taken me completely out of the story. I've never been particularly interested in art history, anyway.


But here, as usual, Miéville is a wizard. He never tells the reader why Surrealism is fascinating, and he never infodumps a bunch of names, titles, or doctrines. He just writes a gripping story that threads in hints of the movement's history and influence, and lets the reader do the rest on their own. This is my favorite way to learn - from watching somebody else love something, and being compelled to discover why they love it so much.


But I don't recommend The Last Days of New Paris just for this didactic aspect. If the thought of learning about Surrealism vaguely bores you (as it did me!), that's no reason to avoid this book. It's also a fast-paced urban fantasy, a fascinating alternate history of World War II, a gritty survivalist tale reminiscent of the best of the postapocalyptic genre. Its characters are believable, but have enough Miévillian weirdness to keep you guessing about their outlook and motives. Its horrors are beautiful and strange and terrifying. You could - maybe you should - plow through this in one satisfying sitting, and only tuck into the endnotes later.


It's an engrossing reading experience, either way.




Despite this novella's ultimate idealism, I'm too much of a cynic to believe that art will actually save the world. But I can't help agreeing with Miéville's avatar in the Afterword:

Perhaps some understanding of the nature of the manifs of New Paris, of the source and power of art and manifestation, may be of some help to us, in times to come.
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review 2018-03-14 15:47
Involved crime comic series - quite good
The last days of American crime #1 - Ric... The last days of American crime #1 - Rick Remender,Greg Tocchini

This is a review of the whole series.


The premise behind this comic collection is that the US government will activate a device which prevents its citizens committing crimes. In the weeks leading up to this, criminals of various persuasions are getting their last acts in. Our main character has his own plan but needs to involve other dubious characters. Double-crossing (and double-double crossing), murder and mayhem ensue.


The artwork is colourful but not always clear. If you’re offended by bloodshed, torture, sexual acts etc.., this is NOT for you. Good crime series - recommended


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text 2018-02-18 04:35
Now available on Kindle Unlimited
Mad Days of Me: The Complete Trilogy - Henry Martin

The complete trilogy in the Mad Days of Me series is now available on Kindle Unlimited in one, 809 page volume.

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review 2018-02-08 09:54
A Thousand Days in Venice
A Thousand Days In Venice: An Unexpected Romance - Marlena de Blasi

This was part of a box of books I was given by my neighbour, and as I'd previously read A Thousand Days in Tuscany, I was interested to read how de Blasi's story began.  When I first picked up A Thousand Days in Tuscany it was billed as 'romantic' but was not at all romantic (beyond the romance of living in Tuscany); it was far more about her and her husband's work on their land and home and I found it more interesting than I expected.  So when I saw this one touted as romantic as well, I took it with a grain of salt.


Turns out this one is all about the romance.  How she met her husband on a trip to Venice and had sold everything back home and married him within the year.  This might seem implausible to a lot of readers, but as I met MT, sold everything and moved to AU within 10 months, I'm not one of those people.  Our beginnings, however, weren't nearly as romantic; I suspect the setting had a lot to do with that.  Exotic (for me, anyway), but definitely not Venice-Italy-romantic.  (This might sound like a wistful complaint; it's not - I do not have a romantic bone in my body.)


So, generally, I did not enjoy this one as much.  I mean, I enjoyed the Venice bits, of course, but reading about her romance and her struggles to fit in to an entirely new culture, while getting to know her new husband were, even though they felt very realistic, not really my cuppa.  


Reading this did leave me with a very strong hankering for pasta though.  Three guesses what we had for dinner.  ;)

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review 2018-02-06 17:46
Clean Eating
Clean Eating: 365 Days of Clean Eating Recipes (Clean Eating, Clean Eating Cookbook, Clean Eating Recipes, Clean Eating Diet, Healthy Recipes, For Living Wellness and Weigh loss, Eat Clean Diet Book - Emma Katie

My kids were thinking about a bake-off that usually happens in March of a year at a local library. This year was canceled due to babies due dates and not enough people to help work the event. That is okay. I know that it will happen again next year. 


So we had started going through books that I had for recipes that involved baking and I found some good ones in the book and marked them for later trial and error. There were many things in the book that I know that I would not make as well. But that is okay as the book did have about 365 different recipes to make and try. 

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