Thursday, September 28, 2006

Blind Traveler Down a Dark River

I started reading Robert Bennett’s “Blind Traveler Down a Dark River” without any pre-conceived notions. I didn’t look at the blurb, the preface or other reviews. With a paper book, I probably would have read the back cover first, but this was an e-book, so I just plunged in.

I read the first chapter about the CEO of a company that was trying to combine the best qualities of steel and plastic. So far, so good. I mean, why not? A very sensible idea and I’m surprised it hasn’t been done yet.

The guy had his problems: a drinking domineering wife and a trade union that wouldn’t quit. I liked him from the start and I was sad to realize he was not to be the main character, when around came a visually-impaired man whose story this actually is (and who’s responsible for the title of the book).

That’s when my grip on reality started to loosen. I’ve worked with GPS, I’ve even driven a car with a navigation system, but do the blind really use GPS to find their way around? And those driver-less buses, maybe they indeed exist overseas?

The writing was so believable and so unlike the conventional Science Fiction style, that it took several GPS experts, together with the book’s blurb, to convince me that this was, indeed, a futuristic setting and the year was 2021.

The premise of the book is simple: imagine a blind man who’s dependent on all this futuristic technology. Imagine the technology going haywire. Imagine him witness a murder… without actually being present at the scene.

A great premise. A very good book.

(The Blind Traveller is available in paperback.)

Friday, September 22, 2006

Do you remember your first birthday cake?

I do. I was turning 4 and it was the first time my parents deemed it necessary for me to have a party. The party consisted of three friends from kindergarten invited on the day (two of whom showed up), one parent (my father was away) and one birthday cake (bought from the most expensive baker in town).

In that time and place (we’re talking the seventies and commie Poland), the idea of a birthday cake was a cylinder of three layers of sponge interlaced with creamy icing, with a few turrets of cream on top as decoration. Did I mention that the choice as far as the shape went was a cylinder, or a cylinder, or a cylinder? Nobody thought of baking me a Mickey Mouse cake or a Gingerbread Man one. A cylinder it was. But it was a chocolate cylinder and I was happy...

... At least until I tasted it. The icing was spiked with brandy, the sponge was soaked in brandy, and the large 4 calligraphed in brandy cream on top gave it all an ironic twist.

Which is probably why I spend a fortune nowadays on my children’s birthday cakes. Every birthday will usually see 3 cakes: one for Kindy, one for home, and one for the extravagant birthday party. We’ve had a Buzzy Bee, a Fairy, a Mermaid, a Barbie, a Duckie, a Computer, a Lolly Cake and an Aeroplane. Some of them I’m surprised to have baked at home (one can do wonders with a set of hired baking tins), others I order from the most heavenly confectioner in Auckland: http://fleursfantasycakes.co.nz/. The cakes taste as good as they look, and she doesn't even put any brandy into them.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Prison Break 2

I never thought I’d be saying this, but Prison Break 2 is every bit as good as Season 1. (The rest of this entry may contain spoilers if you’re still busy with Season 1, so feel suitably warned.)

What I loved about Season 1 were the inside-the-prison scenes (as opposed to the lawyers trying to do their thing outside). What I loved even more, was the fact that The Pretty had such a meticulously thought-out plan, which covered scenarios A., B and C for almost every situation imaginable. And so, when the grand finale came, I wondered how a. they were going to justify the title, and b. how they could possibly maintain my interest now that the action would shift focus away from the prison and the tattoo.

But I worried needlessly. The tattoo is back in action, now more than ever as it’s being analysed by the experts, there is definitely a plan, and there is a prison break in the brewing. The writers haven’t lost their knack for pacing, and even though it’s formulaic in the extreme (take the hero, put him in deep trouble, pile on more trouble, see what else can go wrong and make it do so, repeat for all the lesser characters the reader/viewer cares about), it seems to work wonders.

The only thing I would prefer to watch right now instead of the next episode of Prison Break 2, is the first episode of Lost 3.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Feint of Art

By Hailey Lind (that's apparently a pseudonym of two sisters who write together)

I loved this murder mystery! It's quirky, upbeat, fast-paced and fun to read.

The heroine, Annie Kincaid, is unusual too: an interior decorator who's trying to make everybody forget her brief past as an art forger. Her grandfather would love to see her return to her wayward youth, and fate seems to be shoving her firmly in that direction when a fake painting is discovered in her local museum.

To top it all, she gets commissioned to find some original drawings (also replaced by fakes), and the new landlord is threatening to double her rent. Before you know it, Annie is in the middle of the action, with two unsuitable suitors to choose from and The Hulk panting for her blood.

The puns in "Feint of Art" remind me of Tamar Myers' work (that includes the title), but they are not nearly so OTT.

Quite by coincidence, this awaited me in my inbox this morning:
“Shooting Gallery, second in the Art Lover’s Mystery Series starring Annie Kincaid -- ex-art forger extraordinaire-- is due for release October 3 (A Signet Mystery, $6.99).”

I can’t wait. I just have to know with whom Annie’s going to get lucky.