Best reads: David Pike

2007-11-28 00:00

Dan Simmon’s The Terror, based on historical events of the 19th century and on Innuit mythology, and set in the Arctic, is one of the biggest, most enthralling, most informative novels I have read in years. Simmons cranks up the tension at all times — his descriptions of nature, of terrible violence, of physical and emotional suffering and of incredible endurance, are totally spellbinding.

J.M. Coetzee’s Diary of a Bad Year: this is more or less fiction but highly charged with autobiographical material, with philosophical, social, political, artistic reflection, and with something close to wry romance, all structured into roughly three parallel and sometimes intertwining threads of narrative to provide an intensely challenging and satisfying read.

Cormac McCarthy is probably more admired by literati than by general readers; but his No Country for Old Men is yet another stunner from this master-writer: bleak, pared to the bone, shot through with extreme and truly terrifying violence, peopled by colourful and often enigmatic characters, stark but vivid description, and a laconic narrator who slowly reveals himself to be blessedly decent, stable and kindly (and so more or less doomed in McCarthy’s shock-riven universe.) Not comforting but an absolute page-turner.

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