Read in 2007
List of the books I’ve read in 2008
- December 2007—The subtle knife from Philip Pullman.
The second book of the “His dark materials” trilogy introduces a new character, Will, who lives in a different world than Lyra, and both heroes start moving from world to world through openings in their fabric.
Like the first book, this one grips you and doesn’t let go. A good amount of the end of year holidays was spent reading, and it was very pleasant.
- December 2007—The golden compass from Philip Pullman.
The first book of the “His dark materials” trilogy, a fantasy novel about a little girl, Lyra, thrown into a maelstrom of adventure, religion, airships and armored bears.
Once you get into the universe, the story is gripping and the characters attracting, so I went through this book really fast and enjoyed it.
- December 2007—Sillage 8: Nature humaine from Morvan and Buchet.
In this episode, Nävis goes out from depression to finally make contact with other humans, who seem really nice on first impression.
A quick read, with nice graphics, but the story is a little short and simple.
- December 2007—Un homme est mort from Kris and Étienne Davodeau.
A graphic novel about the strikes that happened in Brest in the 1950s while the city was being rebuilt (after its almost complete destruction during the war), and how a demonstrator was shot by the police.
Very interesting book, I learnt a lot about social and local history, and about documentary filmmaking. The graphic novel is followed by a documentation with detailed info about all this.
- December 2007—de Gaulle à la plage from Jean-Yves Ferri.
The pre-release-comic fairy has been kind enough to let me read this comic which will be available at the end of the week. It features the Général de Gaulle during his retreat from politics, enjoying beach holidays in Brittany.
This makes for a very funny reading, with the slightly uptight and bitter général discovering beach culture, meeting Churchill, and almost falling in love. Of course his wife Yvonne is not too far away, and the faithful Lebornec is providing intendancy. There’s also the German shepherd dog he has rescued from Hitler’s bunker. And a submarine.
- November 2007—The light ages from Ian R. MacLeod.
A steampunk uchronia, set in England in the 18th century. The driving force under the industrial revolution is aether, and the story follows a child born in an industrial town in Yorkshire who will discover the dark side of aether.
Lots of interesting things about industry, energy, depletion of ressources, social unrest. The idea that each age ends after exactly 100 years is a little bit millenarian, but the ending puts it all in perspective. Aether is a little bit too magic, but it might be to give the idea that any sufficiently advanced technology looks like magic.
- November 2007—The iron hand of Mars from Lindsey Davis.
Another story about Roman detective Marcus Didius Falco. This time the emperor entrusts him with a mission in dangerous and rebellious Germania.
Carrying a big iron hand as a present from the emperor to the legion, he must discover where the commander of this legion has vanished, and possibly talk with a very hostile German priestess about the disappearance of another roman warrior, all of this while a fussy barber travels along with him. Oh, and maybe woo the lovely Helena if he has any time. As always, lots of suspense and roman history details.
- November 2007—The life of the world to come from Kage Baker.
The next story of Dr. Zeuss Company, this time we finally learn about the mysterious man who met the botanist Mendoza and died several times through time.
This story is among the very best of the series, finally putting together the pieces of the puzzle about Alec Checkerfield, and his pirate sidekick software. The pace is quick, the characters funny, the ending announces more weirdness in the next book.
- October 2007—La hache, le koto et le chrysanthème (犬神家の一族) from Seishi Yokomizo.
A Japanese tycoon dies and leaves a will intent on creating hatred between his descendants. Murders ensue and the detective Kindaichi Kosuke must discover the secrets of the family.
An good story, with terrible family relationships, nice Japanese atmosphere with the seasons echoing the developments of the plot, and cultural details and references that make the book even more interesting.
- October 2007—Le génie des alpages 6: Hi-yo c’est l’écho from F’murr.
More crazy stories of sheep, sheepdogs and shepherds.
Totally delirious, a giant eagle resting its elbows on mountain tops comments on the herd, and there’s a weresheep. Frightening. Very funny nonsense.
- September 2007—Impasse des deux palais (Palace walk) from Naguib Mahfouz.
A novel about a very strict father in Cairo at the end of the 1910s, when the Egyptians raised against the British occupation of the country.
The characters, especially the father and his wife, are not likeable, but at the end of the book, I feel I want to read more. I was not sure of that in the middle, and was quite mad at the characters, but I’d like to know how Egypt and the family evolve after that first story.
- September 2007—L’année dernière from Bernard Chapuis.
A short narrative destined to someone almost totally cut from the world by a handicap, telling the story of events ending after his accident.
Well, this book is vain and pretentious, not my kind of book at all. So empty that I ended up checking how it was written, and I didn’t like that either.
- September 2007—La grammaire est une chanson douce (Grammar Is a Sweet, Gentle Song: A Novel) from Erik Orsenna.
A short novel about words and grammar, illustrated by water colours.
The book wants to be poetic, but it didn’t work with me, I didn’t get into the story, and the words with an existence of their own didn’t convince me.
- September 2007—Un ciel radieux (晴れゆく空) from Taniguchi, Jirō.
The forty-something driver of a van falls asleep, looses control and smashes into a motorbike driven by a teenager. The man dies, the teenager lives. But the man has so many regrets he clings to conscience inside the young man’s head.
A weird story, but if you suspend disbelief, the human and family issues are, as always with Taniguchi, treated delicately and deeply, with very beautiful drawings.
- September 2007—The tale of Murasaki from Liza Dalby.
A novel, but in the form of the diary of Lady Murasaki Shikibu, the 10th century author of the Japanese masterpiece The tale of Genji.
Very interesting insight on the imperial court life during the Heian period, the rhythm is slowing towards the end, but it made me want to read The tale of Genji.
- August 2007—The Calcutta Chromosome from Amitav Ghosh.
A novel about an investigation, in a close future and during the Victorian era, about the scientific discoveries linked with malaria in India.
The characters and the way their stories are entwined are interesting, especially the mix of flashback and present narration. The main plot is pretty unreal but all the details about India make up for it.
- August 2007—Onmyôji 1 : Le serpent bondissant from Okano Reiko & Yumemakura Baku.
A manga based on a historical figure, a magic master at the court of the Heian era, called Abe-no-Seimei.
The graphics are very beautiful, especially the faces and clothes, and phantasmagoria adds itself to lots of interesting historical information about the period to make this book a very pleasant read.
- August 2007—L’homme aux cercles bleus from Fred Vargas.
A police chief Adamsberg enquiry, where he is intrigued by blue chalk circles appearing in Paris, even if the objects they frame seen harmless.
The plot starts slowly, then accelerates and puts larger than life characters on the stage. As it is a crime novel, you know the circles are not pure “urban art”, but its interesting to see a reference to these kind of interventions.
- August 2007—Encountering Terra Australis: The Australian Voyages Of Nicolas Baudin And Matthew Flinders from Jean Fornasiero, Peter Monteath and John West-Sooby.
Neither Englishman Matthew Flinders nor Frenchman Nicolas Baudin are famous in France, but they both left Europe for a race to discover the Australian continent at the beginning of the 19th century.
A very interesting comparison, informations on the history and colonial politics of that time, and extracts from both captain’s logs allowing to see how their discovered and envisioned this land and its inhabitants. Additionally, lots of superb illustrations from the scientists, who were very important members of these expeditions.
- July 2007—Le nouveau guide des voyages en cargo from Hugo Verlomme.
A practical guide about freighter passenger travel, many freighters have passenger cabins available for those who are not time-challenged.
Full of precious information, references and trip ideas, from a few days or weeks around Europe, to months spent around the world.
- July 2007—Anansi Boys from Neil Gaiman.
The story of Fat Charlie Nancy, who left the United States for the United Kingdom to put a safe distance between him and his embarrassing father. His dull life might become much more interesting after his father dies.
Very funny and witty book about the gradual intrusion of the impossible and irrational in a daily life, culminating in a caribbean fireworks of improbable. Thoroughly enjoyable!
- June 2007—The plot against America from Philip Roth.
An uchronia where Charles A. Lindbergh is elected against Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1940 in the U.S.A., and negotiates a non-agression pact with nazi Germany.
The historical context of the book allows to discover a period of the history of the United States. But the last third of the book is disorganised, advancing very fast along the flow of History to then get back to follow the stories of the characters, and loses much of its interest.
- June 2007—Le voyage de Haviland Tuf (Tuf voyaging) from George R.R. Martin.
A space opera where a fat and insignificant merchant called Haviland Tuf conveys a team to recover a 30 km long spaceship, abandoned by a previous civilisation, with cloning and ecology-control capacities.
A great book with a message, Tuf might not be perfect, but is certainly engaging, as his cat companions are. The different parts of the book make for varied types of storytelling, and I do feel the advice to S’uthlamians can be passed on to us Earthlings.
- June 2007—The darkest road from Guy Gavriel Kay.
The last book of the Fionavar tapestry trilogy, the final battle of all the forces of Light against Dark.
As with the previous books, only more, all the usual suspects of fantasy are thrown in, elves, dragons, evil kids, and old wizards. The heroes imported from our times blend more and more in the fantasy universe. Most of the trilogy is enjoyable but there are a few things I don’t like, like the use of torture on a woman as a major plot drive.
- May 2007—Fifty degrees below from Kim Stanley Robinson.
The second book of a climate change trilogy, centered again on the National Science Foundation, which attempts to make the government understand that the change is real, and to find ways of stopping or mitigating it.
After the flooding of Washington, the effects of the Gulf Stream current start diminishing, plunging the north of the United-States and Europe in an arctic winter. With a little espionage, social anthropology, a good measure of politics, and engaging characters, I read this book fast, and want to read the last book.
- May 2007—The last continent from Terry Pratchett.
This time a new continent gets the Discworld treatment, a very dry new continent, with bounding, weird animals with “pockets”. Happiness.
It really is my favourite discworld novel, maybe because I like Australia and its language. I really wonder how translators can deal with that, but in English it’s perfect, nullus anxietas!
- April 2007—The graveyard game from Kage Baker.
The Dr. Zeus series goes on, Mendoza has been “retired” after her last misadventure, Joseph and Lewis spend several decades looking for her, uncovering the secrets of the Company as they get deeper in the mystery.
I love the fact that this book is a suspense, yet spans decades, the notion of time is really well handled. The story accelerates and gripped me, so I really want to read the next book, which is out of print… arghhhhh!
- April 2007—L’apnée-glisse en monopalme from Francis Fèvre.
A book which will not capture the attention of those who don’t freedive or finswim (with bi or monofin)… but a very good read for the others.
I like the “quiet” view on apnea, underlining the knowledge of oneself and a progress respectful of one’s limitations, and the interesting and funny stories and testimonies. (all language teachers should know that their lesson is perfect turf for apnea training and get basic knowledge about student blackout resuscitation)
- April 2007—The bone is pointed from Arthur Upfield.
An investigation of the half-caste aboriginal detective Napoleon Bonaparte, where he must discover the reasons for the disappearance of a man whom nobody really liked.
The book describes the life in remote Australian cattle stations in the 50s, and delves into the fact that Bonaparte is mixed-blood, caught between two cultures, where the previous books I read didn’t.
- April 2007—La nef des fous 6: les chemins énigmatiques from Turf.
The 6th book of the series, Clément Ixvédeusi discovers new passages in his castle, the great coordinator’s memory has been erased, the princess Chlorente and Arthur are exploring the outside world.
As in the other books, the graphics are very nice, the framing inventive and the various parallel stories unfold in distinctive colour spaces, blue, orange, red, green, or white with red spots, of course.
- February 2007—The state of the art from Iain M. Banks.
A collection of short stories, including a Culture novella which gives its title to the book.
Among the short stories, I liked the sad mood of Descendant; Cleaning up is classic human stupidity exposed, quite funny; Piece is very powerful while only spanning 9 pages. The state of the art is also a very good read, about the discovery of Earth by the Culture.
- February 2007—Les paradis piégés from Richard Canal.
David has always lived in the sheltered family domain. But as he reaches fifteen, he is able to start exploring the virtualities, generated universes based on movies, tales or reality. There’s a battle going on there and his explorations might become dangerous.
An interesting book about reality and virtuality. The part about sheltered life and the last third of the book are also quite relevant, but I don’t want to add spoilers.
- January 2007—Stardust from Neil Gaiman.
The small English village of Wall is a very normal victorian village, a little away from everything, but above all… it is flanked by a wall that separates it from Faerie, magical country. And there’s a well guarded gap in the wall.
Tristran Thorn decides to woo a girl by offering her to bring back a fallen star, fetching the star from the other side of the wall. The star is in fact a girl, and the adventure starts, full of suspense. Very nice book, I think I’ll go see the movie when it’s released.
- January 2007—Les soldats de Salamine (Soldiers of Salamis: A Novel) from Javier Cercas.
A journalist tells how he felt like writing a book about a spanish fascist poet and the way this poet escaped a firing squad during the spanish civil war.
The structure is interesting, with first the “why and how I investigated” part, then the “book itself”, then the follow-up of the enquiry with the meeting with another character. The content is also very interesting, to remember or discover this war and this period.
List of the books I’ve read in 2006