Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The Unit by Ninni Holmqvist

Maybe because it's winter and that's a naturally dreary time of a year, but I enjoy a good dystopic novel every once in awhile. The Unit filled that hole quite nicely. Set in the near future, Dorrit, a 50 year old woman with no family or children, enters the Second Reserve Bank Unit. The unit is a government established program for elderly "dispensibles," or those without families, to donate their vital organs and participate in clinical trials and pharmaceutical experiments. Though it's a terrifying place, the unit is set up to be quite comfortable to its residents - plenty of free food, accessible health care, expensive clothing and spacious apartments. When Dorrit falls in love with another resident, she begins to question the whole notion of the Unit...and that's when things start to get a little bleak. There are bright spots throughout the novel, but overall, as the genre dictates, the book is kind of depressing.

A Walk in the Woods:rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail by Bill Bryson

It's a simple premise -what would happen if you attempted to hike the entire Appalachian Trail with nothing more than the stuff you could keep on your back? Memoirist Bill Bryson decided to try such a feat and A Walk in the Woods was created. As Bryson and his trusty friend Katz struggle to make their way across the Northeast, they encounter lots of random people, animals and hidden towns along the way which make for amusing anecdotes. Bryson also spends a fair portion of the book discussing the history of the Trail itself and the National Park Service.

This book was chosen for the February Adult Book Club - it'll be interesting to see what everyone has to say about it (and if they have hiking stories to add themselves!)

Monday, January 4, 2010

The Maze Runner by James Dashner

I received a recommendation for this book through a friend (now Young Adult librarian) from college. She described it as a mix of the book Hunger Games (see previous review here) and the film Cube, which is a really trippy sci-fi film from the late 90s. Her description was actually pretty spot on, though I'd probably throw in some references to Golding's Lord of the Flies as well.

The Maze Runner is the first in Dashner's trilogy and is centered on Thomas, a young man who wakes up one day to find his memory has been erased. He has been transported to a new strange place, called the Glade, which is basically a huge field/meadow in the center of a large and complicated maze. The area is populated solely by teenage boys. Every night the doors surrounding the Glade are shut and the walls of the maze move into a new pattern. Daytime runners try to tease out the puzzle, but must return to the Glade before the doors close or else awful creatures will hunt them down and kill them. Thomas' arrival sparks controversy with the boys as they struggle to find their way out.

Seriously, this book was pretty awesome - lots of suspense and action. Though the writing is nothing great, the characters are all fairly multi-dimensional and Thomas is a hero that you genuinely want to root for. All in all, a fast and enjoyable read.

A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole

This is the first selection for the Adult Book Club's Winter Session. I chose it because with all this yucky cold weather, we could use something fun and zany. The fact that it's set in New Orleans merely adds to this madcap adventure about the life and times of Ignatius Reilly. Ignatius is a fat, flatulent, opinionated scholar (he frequently cites Boethius) who lives with his frazzled mother who is desperate to get her son out of the house and out of her hair. Lots of weird things happen throughout this book and everything comes together quite nicely at the end. I'll be curious to see what everyone thinks at the next Book Club meeting.