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We apologise for not having posted in a while, but that doesn’t mean we’ve been lazing about. In fact, we’ve been hunting for ever new, ever more exciting books to bring to Romania. We’ve managed to come up with a selection of novels of different genres and written for varied target audiences; but have we selected well? Would you be interested in reading any of these books, and if so, which? We would really appreciate as much feedback as possible, so we’re listing them here, cover, blurb, publishers’ wesbsites and all.

 

The Invisible Bridge by Julie Orringer

Genre: historical fiction, literary fiction

Summary: Paris, 1937. Andras Lévi, an architecture student, has arrived from Budapest with a scholarship, a single suitcase, and a mysterious letter he has promised to deliver to Clara Morgenstern, a young widow living in the city. When Andras meets Clara he is drawn deeply into her extraordinary and secret life, just as Europe’s unfolding tragedy sends them both into a state of terrifying uncertainty.

From a remote Hungarian village to the grand opera houses of Budapest and Paris, from the despair of Carpathian winter to an unimaginable life in forced labour camps and beyond, The Invisible Bridge tells the story of a marriage tested by disaster and of a family, threatened with annihilation, bound by love and history.

Publisher: Penguin

RRP: £8.99

The Killing Moon by N.K. Jemisin (first volume in the Dreamblood sequence)

Genre: fantasy

Summary: In the ancient city-state of Gujaareh, peace is the only law. Upon its rooftops and amongst the shadows of its cobbled streets wait the Gatherers – the keepers of this peace. Priests of the dream-goddess, their duty is to harvest the magic of the sleeping mind and use it to heal, soothe . . . and kill those judged corrupt. But when a conspiracy blooms within Gujaareh’s great temple, Ehiru – the most famous of the city’s Gatherers – must question everything he knows. Someone, or something, is stalking its prey both in Gujaareh’s alleys and the realm of dreams. Ehiru must now protect the woman he was sent to kill – or watch the city be devoured by war and forbidden magic.

Publisher: Orbit – read a sample here

RRP: £7.99

Memoirs of a Master Forger by William Heaney

Genre: fantasy, steampunk

Summary: William Heaney is a fraud. A charming fraud, but a fraud nevertheless. He writes poetry so that a more attractive friend can pass it off as his own, he produces fake Jane Austen first editions so that he can fleece foolish and greedy book collectors. He can see demons. He drinks rather too much wine. This is his story. The story of a man who is living with regret. The story of a man who is prey to his own demon and who can see the demons of others: shadowy indistinct figures waiting, hunched, at people’s shoulders. Waiting for a mistake, for a moment of weakness. And meanwhile William is waiting. Waiting without knowing he is waiting. Waiting for love. But until then, perhaps just one more drink…

Publisher: Gollancz

RRP: £7.99

The Curious Case of the Clockwork Man by Mark Hodder

Genre: fantasy, steampunk

Summary: A clockwork man is abandoned in Trafalgar Square. A ghost displays a craving for diamonds. A lost aristocrat returns ten years after being lost at sea and instigates riots in London. The Rakes are indulging in seances. The Technologists are growing giant insects and transforming them into steam-driven vehicles. The British Empire’s capital is in chaos, and in the midst of it all, Sir Richard Francis Burton and his wayward assistant, Algernon Swinburne, are beginning to suspect that someone, somewhere, is up to no good! A clockwork man is abandoned in Trafalgar Square. A ghost displays a craving for diamonds. A lost aristocrat returns ten years after being lost at sea and instigates riots in London. The Rakes are indulging in seances. The Technologists are growing giant insects and transforming them into steam-driven vehicles. The British Empire’s capital is in chaos, and in the midst of it all, Sir Richard Francis Burton and his wayward assistant, Algernon Swinburne, are beginning to suspect that someone, somewhere, is up to no good!

Publisher: Snowbooks

RRP: £7.99

The Undrowned Child by Michelle Lovric

Genre: children & young adults’ fiction, fantasy

Summary: It’s the beginning of the 20th century; the age of scientific progress. But for Venice the future looks bleak. A conference of scientists assembles to address the problems, among whose delegates are the parents of eleven-year-old Teodora. Within days of her arrival, she is subsumed into the secret life of Venice: a world in which salty-tongued mermaids run subversive printing presses, ghosts good and bad patrol the streets and librarians turn fluidly into cats. A battle against forces determined to destroy the city once and for all quickly ensues. Only Teo, the undrowned child who survived a tragic accident as a baby, can go ‘between-the-linings’ to subvert evil and restore order.

Book Website

Read Book Review on The Guardian

Publisher: Orion – teachers’ notes available here

RRP: £6.99

The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Catherynne M. Valente

Genre: children & young adults’ fiction, fantasy

Summary: September is a twelve-year-old girl, Somewhat Grown and Somewhat Heartless, and she longs for adventure. So when a Green Wind and a Leopard of Little Breezes invite her to Fairyland – well, of course, she accepts (mightn’t you?). When she gets there, she finds a land crushed by the iron rule of a villainous Marquess – she soon discovers that she alone holds the key to restoring order. Having read enough books to know what a girl with a quest must do, September sets out to Fix Things. As September forges her way through Fairyland, with a book-loving dragon and a boy named Saturday by her side, she makes many friends and mistakes, losing her shadow, her shoes and her way. But she finds adventure, courage, a rather special Spoon, and a lot more besides…

Publisher: Corsair

RRP: £9.99

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

Genre: fantasy, mystery

Summary: The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not. Within the black-and-white striped canvas tents is an utterly unique experience full of breathtaking amazements. It is called Le Cirque des Rêves, and it is only open at night.

But behind the scenes, a fierce competition is underway—a duel between two young magicians, Celia and Marco, who have been trained since childhood expressly for this purpose by their mercurial instructors. Unbeknownst to them, this is a game in which only one can be left standing, and the circus is but the stage for a remarkable battle of imagination and will. Despite themselves, however, Celia and Marco tumble headfirst into love—a deep, magical love that makes the lights flicker and the room grow warm whenever they so much as brush hands.

True love or not, the game must play out, and the fates of everyone involved, from the cast of extraordinary circus per­formers to the patrons, hang in the balance, suspended as precariously as the daring acrobats overhead.

Publisher: Vintage Books

RRP: £7.99

These are all books that have met with extensive appreciation in the UK. But would you be willing to read any of them? And if so, which ones? Please do let us know either by leaving a comment to this blog post or by commenting on our facebook page.

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I remember everything.
Yes.
I remember everything perfectly.
During the war, the city was full of mirages and I was young. But, nowadays, everything is quite peaceful. Shadows fall only as and when they are expected. Because I am so old and famous, they have told me that I must write down all my memories of the Great War, since, after all, I remember everything. So I must gather together all that confusion of experience and arrange it in order, just as it happened, beginning at the beginning. I must unravel my life as if it were so much knitting and pick out from that tangle the single, original thread of my self, the self who was a young man who happened to become a hero and then grew old. First, let me introduce myself.
My name is Desiderio.

Angela Carter, The Infernal Desire Machines of Doctor Hoffman

A blog about books, we think, would be incomplete without at least a mention of Angela Carter (1940-1992), British author of mainly magical realist fiction and new fairy tales with a strong feminist streak. Throughout her life, Carter wrote nine novels and many works of short fiction as well as non-fiction. Unfortunately, her books were largely underappreciated, in spite of her being such a prolific writer and her holding a Creative Writing teaching position at the University of Sheffield. Initially, her writings were considered not very palatable due to Carter’s heavy use of ‘mutated’ literary tropes charged with strong feminist elements. In later years, however, and especially after her death (of cancer) in 1992, her novels and short stories started to become more and more appreciated and sought for, until Angela Carter reached the level of being one of the most famous and most studied women writers in the UK.

At a more global level, Carter is mostly known for her new fairy tales, modern takes on traditional stories (such as Cinderella, Snow White, The Beauty and the Beast etc.), rendering a modern gothic atmosphere and surprising twists of the original plots. Her best-known collection of short stories is, perhaps, The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories. But Angela Carter’s storyteller skill surfaces most forcefully in her magic realist novels, where her knowledge of literature and her ability to charm the reader with her narrative voice and atmosphere meet to form a story of indisputable and unbeatable quality. Of these, we have – with great difficulty – chosen The Infernal Desire Machines of Doctor Hoffman to present. Where does one start, when it comes to writing about one of Carter’s most acclaimed books? With the intricate plot, the bewitching characters, or the form and style?

Fine, let us try and begin with the plot. The Infernal Desire Machines of Doctor Hoffman is a picaresque novel set in an otherworldly place reminiscent in many ways of our own world. It tells the story of a young man by the name of Desiderio, caught in a strange war that suddenly erupts in the city where he lives: a war between hard-set reality and the elusive products of imagination, the hallucinatory offspring of Dr Hoffman’s generators of dreams. These ghostly apparitions greatly perturb the lives of the citizens, and whilst Desiderio is immune to their maddening properties, he soon becomes obsessed with a figure that appears nightly in his dreams: this is the form of Albertina, Dr Hoffman’s only daughter. Eventually, as the situation is growing worse and the hallucinations are gaining terrain, as a valued member of the Minister of Determination, Desiderio is sent out to find a way to eliminate the much feared and despised Dr Hoffman. Thus, the young Desiderio sets out on the journey of his life which is going to settle his own destiny and that of his besieged city. He will have mysterious and unsettling encounters with the master puppeteer of a curious peep show, an ambiguous Amerindian tribe which lives on boats and barges, a travelling funfair and many more such grotesque groups and individuals.

Altogether, the plot – written from the first-person perspective of Desiderio – is very complex and has many ramifications – all of them just as challenging and exciting. In addition to this, Angela Carter sure loves intertextuality – many of her characters hint at other characters from other (classic) stories, thus creating an intricate underlayer of literary commentary. For instance, the machiavellic Dr Hoffman is reminiscent of the ambiguous figure of Herr Drosselmeyer, the toymaker from The Nutcracker and the Mouse King by E.T.A. Hoffmann (who is also a partial namesake of Carter’s antihero).

The Infernal Desire Machines of Doctor Hoffman is told in an absorbing style, itself reminiscent of the narration of fairy tales or medieval tales of adventure. The story is infused throughout not only with subtle elements of feminism, but also with motifs of identity and more psychological issues of drawing the line between hidden desires and the limited potential of reality. On the whole, it is a suspenseful and challenging read, which is bound to keep the reader hooked for hours on end. Very much sociological, psychological and philosophical, as well as literary, this novel can make an exciting read, no matter which topics you are essentially interested in.

Have you read Angela Carter before? How much did you know about her before now? If this blog post has sparked your interest, at least a little bit, then you know you can find The Infernal Desire Machines of Doctor Hoffman at Nautilus. Other books by the same author available from Nautilus at the moment are: The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories, Love, The Passion of New Eve, The Sadeian Woman and Several Perceptions. Also available from Nautilus, for those of you with a special interest in fairy tales, The Fairy Tales of Charles Perrault, retold and commented from a new perspective by Angela Carter.

We await your feedback!

China Miéville is an English writer of (urban) fantasy/sci-fi/ steampunk and a professor of Creative Writing at the University of Warwick, UK. He is the one who coined the phrase ‘weird fiction’ in literary discourse, primarily to describe his own works, but also in relation to other writers who influenced him (H.P. Lovecraft, Algernon Blackwood,  Arthur Machen etc.). He claims that the term ‘weird fiction’ can be applied to all literary works which cannot easily fit into just one niche category (such as horror, sci-fi, or fantasy) but make use of many elements from many categories instead. Miéville has won several awards for several of his novels: he won the Arthur C. Clarke Award for sci-fi three times, the British Fantasy Award twice, the Locus Award for sci-fi and fantasy three times and the Hugo Award for sci-fi twice. This year, he has been shortlisted for the fourth time for the Arthur C. Clarke Award for his Kantian sci-fi novel, Embassytown. Miéville is also one of the most prolific niche authors of the last decade, with currently eight published novels (Perdido Street Station, The Scar, Iron Council, King Rat, Un Lun Dun, The City & the City, Kraken, Embassytown), one collection of short stories (Looking for Jake and Other Stories) and another novel announced for publication in May 2012 (Railsea).

Given that China Miéville is such a prolific author, and given that each of his novels is written in a different style using a different mix of elements, deciding which of his books to review proved quite a difficult task. But in the end, we turned our attention onto his next to latest book, Kraken: an Anatomy, which strays away from the dark steampunk setting of his Bas-Lag trilogy (Perdido Street Station, The Scar, Iron Council), as well as from the outlandish atmosphere of The City & the City. Kraken is an unusual mix of urban fantasy, crime fiction and Lovecraftian horror, focusing on the strange and improbable disappearance of a giant specimen of squid from the inner sanctum of the Darwin Centre of the British Museum of Natural History in modern-day London. The protagonist, Billy Harrow, curator at the Darwin Centre, is suddenly faced with the unbelievable reality of a hidden London after the disappearance of the specimen which he used to take special care of. Thus, Billy unwittingly stumbles into a city torn between religious sects which agree on nothing but a single fact: that not one, but several different apocalypses are about to erase  London off the face of the earth – unless the giant squid is found and brought back. Billy finds himself kidnapped, by turns, by the Church of Kraken Almighty – which claim Billy as their Messiah – by the fearsome Tattoo and his gang – a band of villains with gruesome powers who care for nothing but supremacy over London – and chased by the special brigade of the London police – the one which employs officers with ‘knacks’, special powers that allow them to bend bits and pieces in the structure of the universe and converse with ambiguous spirits from beyond.

As, day by day, London becomes more unstable, more dangerous, and less familiar, Billy eventually has to accept that something terrible might, indeed, be about to happen, and in order to stop it he must find out who and why has stolen the fifty foot squid reminiscent of the archaic threat of the kraken. In his improbable quest, he gets to ask the advice the of the Londonmancers – modern-day druids and prophets who can read the bric-a-brac of the city for signs – and to accept the bewildering help of the terrible and mysterious Angel of the Darwin Centre.

Miéville’s novel is thus a fascinating mixture of the realistic and the improbable, the gruesome and the miraculous – all carefully balanced for suspense and wittily sprinkled with a healthy dose of humour and irony here and there. Kraken is a compelling read, thrilling and surprising every step of the way. In his story, Miéville has taken all the traditional concepts – of witches, mythical beasts, warlocks and familiars – and has transformed them into something utterly new, 100% compatible with the setting of modern-day London, buzzing with life and enriched by technology.

Has any one of you read Kraken, or any other books by China Miéville before? What did you think? Did you enjoy his ‘weird fiction’? If you haven’t read anything by him before now, would be willing to try? As always, you can find China Miéville’s books at Nautilus, and we are looking forward to your feedback!

(And here is an interview where China Miéville talks about Kraken: )

For the aficionados of crime fiction set in the era of changes and mysteries that was the fifties, the ‘Flavia de Luce’ series by Canadian writer Alan Bradley should be just the thing. The series numbers four volumes at present (The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, The Weed that Strings the Hangman’s Bag, A Red Herring Without Mustard and I Am Half-Sick of Shadows) with a further two volumes scheduled for publication over the next couple of years (Seeds of Antiquity, The Nasty Light of Day). The books are set in the early 1950’s in the British countryside, and one element that sets them apart from other crime fiction is that the story is recounted from the point of view of their young protagonist, impromptu detective Flavia Sabina de Luce, an eleven year-old girl with an outstanding passion for chemistry.

Flavia is the youngest daughter of an old blue-blooded family, the de Luces, now on the edge of bankruptcy and whose last representatives are Flavia herself and her two older sisters – Daphne, thirteen years old and a bookworm, and Ophelia, seventeen years old, with a passion for mirrors and the piano. The three girls live in a state of almost ideal freedom, allowed to do whatever they please, in a household formed by just the three of them and their father, Colonel de Luce (an introvert and a philatelist), their butler Dogger (a veteran of the World War II, very discreet and knowledgeable, but sometimes plagued by his war traumas) and their cook, Mrs Mullet (a gullible and innocent old lady). The girls’ mother, Harriet, is said to have died in a skiing accident in the mountains, when Flavia was only a baby – but is that the truth of the matter?

Throughout the series, Flavia somehow always ends up as the first person to unwittingly stumble upon gruesomely murdered bodies – and a great many murders seem to occur in and around the sleepy village of Bishop’s Lacey. And besides feeling compulsively drawn to unravel the mysteries surrounding each case, Flavia has to also put up with the constant bullying of her two sisters, allied against her. The question that always bothers Flavia is: why are her sisters so bitterly set against her? And why is her father such a taciturn man, allowing his daughters to run loose, aware of little else beside his love for stamps?

But Flavia’s humour, innocence and, most of all, wit, eventually allow her to get to the bottom of each and every mystery that crosses her path. In The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, she has to find out what happened to the man who lies murdered in her family’s cucumber patch (of all places!). In The Weed that Strings the Hangman’s Bag, a travelling puppet show sets camp in the village graveyard, and all sorts of heavy questions lie behind the lifelike puppets of the master puppeteer. In A Red Herring Without Mustard, Flavia encounters the mysterious Gypsies and has to decide where her loyalties lie: with the old Gypsy woman who foretells ghouls and shadows in Flavia’s future, or with the villagers who accuse the woman of kidnapping and possibly even murder? Finally (for now, at least), in I Am Half-Sick of Shadows, Flavia has to investigate how and why a beautiful and popular actress was killed – right under Flavia’s nose, while shooting a film in the de Luce manor!

Alan Bradley definitely knows how to write a good mystery – his plots are intricate (but not confusing), and he presents the reader with a vast array of well-rounded, credible characters. His every page holds enough suspense to make the reader want to turn it and see what comes next. And he always has an ace up his sleeve…

Moreover, another good thing about the ‘Flavia de Luce’ series is that it needn’t necessarily be read as such. All the books are connected in some ways, but their plots are self-contained enough to allow being read independently. So each volume can be enjoyed as a satisfying mystery all by itself.

We heartily recommend these books to everyone who loves a good detective novel with a twist! (And we should probably also mention that the latest volume in the series, I Am Half-Sick of Shadows, has recently been shortlisted for the Arthur Ellis Award for the best Canadian crime and mystery fiction!)

If we have piqued you interest so far, you can listen to a couple of extracts from the first volume here, on the publisher’s website. You can of course find the books at Nautilus.

We’ll leave you with a few words about the author, from the first page of The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie:

Our first author of choice is Shirley Jackson (1916-1965), American writer of modern gothic and uncanny fiction. She wrote a total of six novels (of which the best known are The Haunting of Hill House and We Have Always Lived in the Castle) and dozens of short stories, all collected into four volumes. Her best, and most chilling short story, which was subsequently dramatised three times (in 1969, 1996 and 2007), is The Lottery, pièce de resistence of the 320 page collection from Penguin, The Lottery and Other Stories.

The Lottery caused a real stir when it was first published, in 1948, in The New Yorker. The editorial board of the magazine received hundreds and thousand of intrigued and indignant letters and phone calls after the story was published. The readers, at the time, were absolutely shocked by Jackson’s choice of subject, especially since the story was told so convincingly that they believed it to be true. The Lottery depicts a small rural town in North America, quiet and settled, seemingly ordinary on all levels. However, a gruesome, inhuman rite traditionally takes place in the town in summer, when the land is arid and the dry weather threatens the crops. That is the quasi-modern, quasi-pagan rite of ‘the lottery’ (and I’ll stop here, as I wouldn’t want to spoil the plot for you!).

In an essay Shirley Jackson herself wrote about  The Lottery in 1960, called Biography of a Story, the author surprisingly declares that the idea for such a twisted and shocking plot came to her naturally as she was performing some of the most trivial of routine activities:

The idea had come to me while I was pushing my daughter up the hill in her stroller – it was, as I say, a warm morning, and the hill was steep, and beside my daughter the stroller held the day’s groceries – and perhaps the effort of that last fifty yards up the hill put an edge to the story; at any rate, I had the idea fairly clearly in my mind when I put my daughter in her playpen and the frozen vegetables in the refrigerator, and, writing the story, I found that it went quickly and easily, moving from beginning to end without pause.

Jackson’s writing style is crisp and subtly atmospheric; she isn’t one to go for purple prose, yet relies on character and dialogue (or sometimes monologue) instead in order to create that unique mental space. All of her stories have a way of starting with the mundane, the ordinary, and soon after to twist into something uncanny and blood chilling. Some of her prose is refreshingly ironic in tone, but then again some is sober and self-assertive. Shirley Jackson is a confident and surprising writer and her fiction is definitely worth a try. Her perfect balance between a controlled style and unsettling plots is what makes her prose original and mesmerising, just like those ghost stories where you’re scared of turning the page and yet you feel the compulsion to find out what the horror actually is.

We hope you will give Shirley Jackson a try! If you won’t take our word about how amazing her writing is, then just go ahead and Google her; you’ll see. 😉 And if you do decide to get immersed in her stories of mystery and the macabre, then you can always find the collection here at Nautilus!

We, that is, the team here at Nautilus, have decided to update and improve our long-stagnant blog. First of all, we’ve decided to carry on posting in English from now on, because we want our blog to be accessible to as large a range of readers as possible, no matter their mother tongue. (However, you may all continue leaving comments either in English or in Romanian, as suits you best –  we will definitely read all feedback and reply as soon as we can!) All our older posts – in Romanian – will still be accessible via our archive. Rest assured, we aren’t deleting anything you may wish to refer to!

Secondly, you will have noticed we have switched to the WordPress platform – that is because we find it more flexible, easier to navigate and more interactive. We hope that will make your browsing experience a lot easier!

So what else have we been doing lately? Well, we’ve just been to the London Book Fair, where we had some very exciting chats about all the new releases with a range of amazing publishers! What we can say for now is – expect some succulent literary novelties to sink your teeth into very soon! 😉

At the Romanian literature stand at the London Book Fair. We were admiring the eye-catching and quirky installation and cheering on Romanian authors!

So what exactly should you expect to read on this blog? Reviews of books from various genres, news from the English-language writing world and occasionally maybe even a few hot literary debates for you to join in! Hope you are all looking forward to these things, as we certainly are!

In the meanwhile, if you want to stay up-to-date about what we have in store for you and which authors we heartily recommend, why don’t you like our Facebook page or follow us on Twitter if you haven’t done so already? And please do leave replies with your comments and suggestions about what you would like to see on our blog!

Love,
The Nautilus team

La prima vedere, Anthony Horrowitz este necunoscut in Romania. Cu toate acestea va putem garanta ca ati vazut pe micul ecran cel putin un serial al carui scenariu ii poarta semnatura. Horowitz este unul din scenaristii preferati de BBC si ITV. De la seriale pentru copii (Dramarama, Robin of Sherwood) la science fiction (Crime Traveller), Anthony Horowitz a aratat ca are un talent remarcabil in a crea serii de succes. Dar straluceste cu adevarat serialul politist, Agatha Christie’s Poirot, Foyle’s War, Murder Most Horrid si Midsomer Murders bucurandu-se de succes pretutindeni in lume.
Dar Anthony Horowitz nu s-a multumit numai cu statutul de scenarist, ci a scris si carti pentru adolescenti, acestora urmandu-le romanele pentru publicul matur. Ca si in televiziune, genurile abordate de autor sunt diverse: horror, fantasy si politist.
Seria care il propulseaza in randul marilor autori de literatura pentru adolescenti este insa cea care il are ca personaj central pe Alex Rider ; pana acum, au aparut sapte volume (Stormbreaker, Point Blanc, Skeleton Key, Eagle Strike, Scorpia, Ark Angel, Snakehead).
Alex Rider e un adolescent de paisprezece ani, ramas orfan, care afla ca unchiul sau care l-a crescut dupa moartea parintilor, moare intr-un accident de masina bizar. Investigand circumstantele mortii unchiului, Alex afla ca acesta lucra pentru MI6 (serviciul secret britanic). Cei de la MI6 sunt siliti sa il recruteze fortat pe tanarul Alex Rider si sa il trimita intr-o tabara de antrenament a Special Air Service – trupele de elita britanice, luptatori antitero si specialisti in operatiuni sub acoperire. Apoi Alex este activat ca spion, fiind imediat trimis in misiune sub acoperire. Incet, dar sigur, lista celor care vor sa il vada disparut pe Alex Rider se lungeste: de la reprezentanti ai servicilor secrete ruse la diversi miliardari insetati de putere, de la corporatii multinationale la carteluri criminale. Si desi Alex nu viseaza decat sa fie un adolescent obisnuit, este pus in situatia de a actiona impotriva tuturor acestor raufacatori, fie doar si pentru a-si salva pretioasa piele. Caci MI6 nu vrea sa piarda noul as in ale spionajului. In consecinta, serviciul britanic va scurge informatii inamicului, doar pentru a-l sili pe tanarul Alex sa reintre in joc. Astfel Alex se va confrunta cu un miliardar egiptean care vrea sa imprastie un virus mortal in scolile engleze (Stormbreaker), cu un doctor nebun care vrea sa reinstaureze apartheid-ul, dar la scala mondiala (Point Blanc), cu un general rus care vrea sa reinvie Uniunea Sovietica (Skeleton Key), cu un pop-star care vrea sa opreasca traficul international de droguri prin lansarea rachetelor nucleare americane asupra tarilor in care se afla marile carteluri de droguri (Eagle Strike), cu o organizatie criminala care antreneaza copii asasini (Scorpia si Snakehead), cu un miliardar care vrea sa distruga Washington-ul cu ajutorul unei statii spatiale (Ark Angel) si cu traficantii de imigranti ilegali (Snakehead).
Seria a fost asemuita de multi cu un James Bond pentru adolescenti datorita gadgeturilor ingenioase pe care Alex le poarta cu el. Dar asemanarile se opresc aici. Lumea spionajului prezentata de Horowitz este o lume a tradarilor, a jocurilor duble, a manipularii, o lume in care oamenii mor frecvent si in care nu este permisa nici cea mai mica greseala. Nu de putine ori, lui Horrowitz i s-a reprosat ca seria este mult prea intunecata si violenta, dar acest lucru a extins publicul autorului de la adolescenti la oameni maturi.
Romanele sunt pline de suspans, cu actiune trepidanta, si te indeamna sa pretuiesti valoarea vietii caci la fiecare colt pandeste moartea.
Succesul seriei a dus la ecranizarea primei carti, Stormbreaker, cu o distributie de zile mari: Ioan Grudfudd, Alicia Silverstone, Ewan McGregor, Mickey Rourke, Stephen Fry, Robbie Coltrane. In rolul tanarului Alex a fost ales un tanar necunoscut la acea vreme: Alex Petyfer, acesta intrand perfect in pielea personajului. In urma succesului acestui prim film, s-a anuntat un al doilea, dupa Point Blanc.
Anthony Horowitz a declarat ca seria Alex Rider va avea in total zece volume, vestea fiind primita cu bucurie de fanii din intreaga lume.
Ultima creatie a lui Arthur C. Clarke, terminata cu putin timp inainte de moartea sa, a beneficiat de colaborarea lui Frederik Pohl, un multiplu laureat al premiilor Hugo si Nebula, cat si detinator al unui titlu de Nebula Grand Master, titlu decernat pentru contributii importante la dezvoltarea genului stiintifico-fantastic.
Subiectul romanului The Last Theorem a fost ales de Clarke, eroii romanului fiind doi tineri din Sri Lanka, Rajit Subramanian si Gamini Bandara. Intre cei doi se va infiripa o prietenie care va duce la o scurta relatie de dragoste intrerupta de plecarea spre colegii diferite. Rajit e pasionat de matematica si astronomie. In scurt timp, ruptura dintre cei doi se adanceste, iar orientarea lor sexuala se schimba. Printr-o serie de imprejurari bizare, Rajit este capturat de pirati, salvat de autoritati si apoi incarcerat timp de doi ani, fiind confundat cu un terorist. In inchisoare, reuseste sa perfecteze Ultima Teorema a lui Fermat. Odata eliberat, devine celebru si se casatoreste cu Myra de Soyza, experta in inteligente artificiale.
In timp ce Rajit trece prin seria de evenimente ce au dus la recunoasterea sa internationala ca una din marile minti ale omenirii, o rasa de extraterestrii numiti ‘Marii Galactici’ observa testele nucleare desfasurate pe Pamant si trimit o flota uriasa sa anihileze planeta, considerand ca oamenii sunt prea agresivi si amenintatori pentru a fi lasati sa supravietuiasca. In acelasi timp Gamini, cu ajutorul unei organizatii numite Pax per Fidem (Pace prin Credinta) reuseste sa impiedice o criza internationala folosind o noua tehnologie non-letala. Curand, Rajit este atras de vechiul sau prieten in masinatiunile organizatiei, iar extraterestrii vor avea o surpriza in momentul in care vor ajunge la destinatie.
Cei doi autori, ambii trecuti de 87 de ani in momentul cand a fost scrisa aceasta carte, reusesc un adevarat tur de forta, Clarke recreand tara sa adoptiva, Sri Lanka, intr-o maniera vie. Experienta lui Pohl si Clarke in stiinta popularizata permite si celor mai putin familiarizati cu stiintele exacte si ingineria sa inteleaga mecanismele descrise in carte si functionarea lor. Daca Pohl este pasionatul de matematica, Clarke este cel care descrie tot ce tine de inginerie, fizica si mecanica. De altfel Clarke este unul din creatorii catorva concepte revolutionare, unele pe cale de a fi testate de diverse agentii spatiale, altele deja adoptate (liftul spatial, navele spatiale cu vele solare, satelitii geostationari). Aceleasi concepte apar si in cartea de fata, facand ca romanul sa intre in categoria hard-SF. Cu toate acestea, nu tehnologia are cel mai important rol, ci explorarea relatiilor interumane si a mentalitatii speciei, nu de putine ori textul avand o puternica incarcatura emotionala.
O carte demna de sfarsitul unei cariere prestigioase ca cea a lui Sir Arthur C. Clarke si probabil ultima carte pe care o vom vedea din partea lui Frederik Pohl, in varsta de 89 de ani. Un roman bine scris, care incununeaza la superlativ cariera a doi dintre cei mai iubiti autori de science-fiction. Din nefericire Arthur C. Clarke nu a mai apucat sa vada cartea publicata.
Andrew Pepper este putin cunoscut, desi este cel mai promitator tanar autor de romane politste din Marea Britanie. Seria creata de el, Pyke Mysteries, cuprinde deja doua volume: The Last Days of Newgate si The Revenge of Captain Paine, fiind deja in lucru un al treilea volum, The Virtue of Greed. Povestile sale sunt situate in Londra previctoriana (anii 1829-1835), iar personajul principal este Pyke, un detectiv ce aminteste mai degraba de Vidocq, decat de Sherlock Holmes. Initial criminal, metodele sale de investigare sunt mai degraba violente, aflarea adevarului fiind insotita in general de argumente mai mult sau mai putin contondente. Lumea lui Pyke este pe cale sa se schimbe atunci cand Robert Peel, supraveghetorul sau, ii va cere sa investigheze o decapitare. In curand Londra primei jumatati a secolului XIX prinde viata intr-o maniera brutala, pasii lui Pyke fiind purtati prin manufacturile din mahalalele sarace ale East End-ului si prin palatul reginei, prin saloanele de desen ale noilor imbogatiti si prin ulitele stropite de sange din spatele tavernelor. Adversarul cu care se confrunta Pyke nu are la inceput o fata. Stim doar ca e vorba despre oameni cu bani si putere, capabili sa foloseasca orice mijloace pentru a isi atinge scopul. Iar investigatia inceputa de Pyke va starni un adevarat cuib de viespi. Aparitia unei femei atragatoare din trecutul sau si numarul in crestere al asasinatelor vor face ca Pyke sa apeleze la toate resursele de care dispune ca sa isi protejeze familia si sa supravietuiasca.
Personajul creat de Andrew Pepper este un anti-erou, un om crescut pe strazile Londrei, care, pentru a supravietui, a incalcat legea folosind instinctiv forta chiar si atunci cand acest lucru poate fi evitat.
The Revenge of Captain Paine ne ofera o intriga politista bine inchegata, imprevizibila, presarata cu multa actiune si supans, dar si o descrierea reusita a Angliei in plina revolutie industriala.
Romanul lui Mary Gentle ar putea fi un roman istoric sau unul fantastic. Asta la prima vedere, pentru ca imediat realizezi ca este o carte despre un posibil ‘si daca istoria asa cum o stim s-ar fi schimbat ?’. Iar anul ales pentru schimbare este 1610.
In Franta, pe cale sa devina o mare putere, regele Henri IV nu este figura cea mai populara. Politicile si reformele sale ii creeaza dusmani, printre acestia numarandu-se si regina Maria de Medici. Asasinarea regelui il aduce in prim plan pe Valentin Rochefort, eroul romanului. Maria de Medici va incerca sa isi ascunda contributia la asasinarea regelui, iar acest lucru presupune eliminarea martorilor si a complicilor. Brusc, Valentin se trezeste fugar, pe cale de a fi ucis pentru ca stie prea multe. Deicizia sa de a parasi Parisul il va aduce fata in fata cu un mai vechi rival, Dariole, ce vrea sa il provoace la un duel. Insa Rochefort reuseste sa isi convinga inamicul sa mai aiba rabdare. Dariole i se alatura, ramanand ca duelul celor doi sa aiba loc dupa ce Valentin va scapa de urmaritori. Cei doi ajung pe plajele Normandiei si salveaza un diplomat japonez naufragiat.. Intarzierea face ca trimisii reginei sa ii ajunga din urma. Buni cunoscatori ai diplomatiei sabiilor, cei trei reusesc sa ii convinga pe urmaritori ca au facut o greseala. Apoi se imbarca pe o corabie spre Anglia, in port fiind asteptati de un anume Robert Fludd – fizician, astrolog, matematician. Misiunea incredintata celor trei este una aproape imposibila: asasinarea regelui Angliei, James I. Motivatia matematicianului este una simpla: a descoperit o metoda de calcul cu ajutorul careia poate prezice viitorul. Daca regele James I nu este asasinat, omenirea va disparea peste cinci secole. Dupa experienta cu Maria de Medici, Rochefort nu pare prea dornic sa participe la un nou regicid…
Diplomele de master in Istoria Secolului XVII si in Studii ale Razboiului, detinute de autoare, au contribuit din plin la realizarea decorurilor acestui roman. Astfel, Mary Gentle descrie un secol XVII asa cum a fost: crud, cu cateva regicide majore, multe asasinate si lupta pentru suprematie europeana dintre Franta, Anglia, Suedia, Spania si Imperiul Habsburgic. Jocurile de culise, primele semn de utilizare a unor servici de spionaj profesioniste sunt cateva aspecte majore ale anilor 1600. Un secol in care Tarile de Jos (Belgia si Olanda de mai tarziu), isi recapata independenta fata de Spania dupa un razboi de 80 de ani, un secol in care vedem Europa de Vest devastata de Razboiul de 30 de ani, cu o Anglie ce se indreapta spre razboiul civil, spre un Parlament autoritar controlat de Cromwell si apoi spre restauratia regala si cu o Japonie ce se pregateste de izolarea completa fata de straini, o politica ce va dura mai bine de 250 de ani. De asemenea, autoarea nu se fereste sa descrie explicit luptele, detaliind efectele armelor folosite in secolul XVII asupra combatantilor. Limbajul folosit uneori ii poate ofensa pe cei mai sensibili, iar scenele de sex sunt, cateodata, cam prea amanuntite. Personajele principale ale povestii nu prea inteleg anumite notiuni ca onoare, mila sau dragostea, dar in timp vor descoperi prietenia si loialitatea.
O carte bine documentata, bine scrisa si mai ales o lectura provocatoare…
P.S. Puteti gasi la noi si cartea ‘Cartomancy’ a aceleiasi autoare.

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