Friday, 15 May 2015

The Cause by Roderick Vincent / Mimi And Toutou Go Forth by Giles Foden / The Right Way To Do Wrong by Harry Houdini

Three new book reviews on today's post, but before we get to looking at
what I have read, here is a quick CIWF campaign that I hope you will join me in supporting. Filling in brief details will allow CIWF to send a message to the Agriculture Minister on your behalf.

"A European reference document to define ‘best available techniques’ for the intensive pig industry is being negotiated. A threat looms: fully slatted flooring for pigs risks being recognised within this document as the ‘best available technique’, despite it being the worst system for the animals. Pigs are curious and intelligent animals that use their snouts to explore and root around. This decision will result in Europe’s pigs living in a completely barren environment without a single activity to occupy their time. How can fully slatted floors be the ‘best available technique’? We have just weeks to prevent this huge backward-step for pig welfare in Europe – please, act now."

Now, on with the books!

The Cause (The Minutemen Series, #1)The Cause by Roderick Vincent
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Having been contacted via my Goodreads profile, I received a free copy of The Cause from its author in return for my honest review.

The Cause is a dystopian thriller set in a near-future America in which the Government has become a totalitarian version of its original democratic incarnation - a bit like Britain could be if Cameron follows through on all his election promises!

I like the way Vincent describes this futuristic setting. There is a real air of menace in all situations and it was easy to understand why this group of revolutionaries had set themselves so completely apart from their country. The Cause is a violent book, particularly in its first jungle setting where future troops are being conditioned. I was baffled by a couple of the set pieces which didn't seem to really gel with the main narrative. However, I think The Cause is yet another example of a novel written as the first of a series rather than a work in its own right so these will probably pan out eventually.

I will need a computer guru to step in at this point and comment on the accuracy of the technical information. I blithely went along with it all and the overall story can be followed without a degree in coding talk (fortunately!) There is generally a good pace maintained and the third section, where the plan is put into action, is suitably explosive and exciting. I could have done without so much of the 'way of the warrior' theorising, but that's perhaps due to my female perspective? Women in The Cause are peripheral and sterotyped with the vast majority of the characters being male. Only the central characters are explored deeply with our protagonist, Isse Corvus, being the most rounded. I did like Vincent's portrayal of Isse and this, for me, was the real strength of the novel and what kept me reading.

Buy the paperback from Waterstones.

Mimi and Toutou's Big Adventure: The Bizarre Battle of Lake TanganyikaMimi and Toutou's Big Adventure: The Bizarre Battle of Lake Tanganyika by Giles Foden
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Reading this account of British First World War adventure and 'heroics', I am amazed that we ever won anything at all! Foden describes the mad expedition from inception to completion and introduces its leader, Spicer-Simson, an eccentric of the truly English variety. I would have liked to read more description of the land through which the expedition passed as I found it difficult to picture sometimes due to the lack of detail. Foden has obviously researched extensively although contradictions in the stories told by the participants after the fact must have made establishing the truth quite a task.
A little dry throughout, the storytelling does really come alive in the last chapter, when Foden himself travels to Lake Tanganyika on the trail of Mimi and Toutou. I think this book would be an interesting read for anyone interested in this period of African and European history, or in truly optimistic engineering feats.

The Right Way to Do Wrong: A Unique Selection of Writings by History's Greatest Escape ArtistThe Right Way to Do Wrong: A Unique Selection of Writings by History's Greatest Escape Artist by Harry Houdini
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Originally published in 1906, The Right Way To Do Wrong is a collection of anecdotes written up by the legendary Harry Houdini to warn the general public about the antics of thieves and con men. I got a copy via the Forgotten Books daily email. The book does not go into any great detail and many of the scams would now be trounced by the advances of technology. Others are still with us though and Houdini describes forerunners of the Nigerian email scam as well as opportunistic crimes.

His tone throughout is very dated and patronising with items such as the diagram of a criminal's typical hand shape being obviously laughable. Houdini does understand the titillation expected by the majority of his readers though. His frequent moral protestations are very much tongue in cheek. This book is an interesting glimpse into social attitudes of the time as much as its prevalent crime.

Buy the paperback from Waterstones.

View all my reviews on Goodreads

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