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The Last Book You Read


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Erm ... I'm sure there used to be a thread called this, but it looks like it's gone.

Oh well. Time for a new one!

I've just finished Escape From Baghdad by Saad Z. Hossain and I really enjoyed it!

I heard about it, of all places, in the FT's books of the year and intrigued bought it as my holiday read.


The simplest description I can give it is Tarantino-esque.


It's set in Baghdad during the American Occupation and follows the lives of 4 main characters - Kinza, Dagr, Hamid and Hoffman.


Kinza and Dagr are our everyman characters - Kinza savvy and street wise and Dagr intellectual.


The invasion has destroyed everything they held dear. Careers, family, friends, homes, all destroyed and gone in the chaos the American's wrought.


They've become smugglers, wheeler dealers to all and every side, nihilistic and lost.


They've ended up with a kidnap victim - Hamid - who was a torturer for Saddam - who tells them about a bunker of gold in Mosul.


To try to escape the city - navigating their way though the feuding militias and factions - they turn to Hoffman, a US marine straight out of the Catch 22 tradition of the clueless yank with the perfect knack of landing on his feet.


It is a sparse, entertaining read, but then the story adds a fantastic element entering the mystic world of ancient Islam and the learning and wisdom that has passed through Baghdad over the centuries.


This conceit has resonances to Umberto Eco's Foucault's Pendulum but rather than Masons, Jesuits and Rosicrucians holding some deep secret here it is Druze, Ismaili, Shia, and Sunni mysteries being unveiled.


Eco is a hugely ponderous writer, while Hossain is modern and taut; as I said at the beginning the simplest description is Tarantino-esque.


It is a hugely bloody book and Kinza and Dagr basically find redemption in a nihilism which allows them to escape the horrors they have experienced.


But within that nihilism there is still a core of friendship and companionship which expands as the disparate band grows and enters into an amazing world full of the ancient mysteries of Baghdad.


A really good read.



Edited by Chinahand
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Yes, where did that earlier thread disappear to ..?


'The God Delusion' (again), Dawkins.


'The Selfish Gene', same author. This tome I've never stopped reading, Dawkins likes to update it regularly when new, pertinent research lends itself to confirming his ideas.


And here's a thing, a German publisher is reprinting 'Mein Kampf' because the copyright is up!

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Sadly I think Lonan3 deleted all the threads he created when he left.


I hope I'm wrong about that as there were many words, jokes, wisdom and laughs from many different people in those threads, but I suspect Lonan3 got so disheartened that he could have committed such an act of cyber vandalism. Shame.

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I'm currently reading Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll. Light hearted but entertaining reading for a few days before getting back to my normal sci fi fix. Prior to that I read Morlock Night by KW Jeter. Interesting read about time travel, King Arthur, Merlin and the sewers of London.

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The Road to to Little Dribbling by Bill Bryson.


I like his almost Australian irreverence and his scorn for pomposity. He is also a complete Anglophile which from being American results in a truly unique understanding of British culture and "Where we are now" which in Brysonesque means "What we have lost".


Cutting humour and very insightful. Laugh out loud reading - if you can identify yourself...


PS Little Dribbling is an ageist reference...


Edit - mis-remembered the title due to being happily merry after a three day shift caring for the mother-in-law. 2 x Abbot, 2 x King Goblin, 2 x Old Crafty Hen. The boy is sorted....

Edited by P.K.
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Another recent book was Paul O'Grady's, 'At My Mother's Knee ..... and Other Low Joints'. Hummed and harred over picking it up but I found it gently absorbing, full of dark humour with a certain sense of sadness; easy on the mental visualisation of a life once lived. Especially his early boyhood years and the influence of his Mother. An honest and open book and not quite what I expected, surprisingly.

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  • 2 years later...

Picked up 'The Ladybird book of The Zombie Apocalypse' yesterday from the kids section of a charity shop, figured me and the boy would read it together. Here is an excerpt.


Len has gathered a group of fellow survivors together. He would defend them with his life.
"We are like a family", says Len, proudly.
Len never talked to his real family much before the world ended,which made it easier to bludgeon his slavering mother to a pulp yesterday with a tent mallet.

Magnificent, although probably not really bedtime reading for a 7yr old :)

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  • 1 year later...

I read The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell over Xmas.

Found it quite brilliant.

It's pretty unusual.  It's a science fiction novel written in 1997 with the story starting in 2019 and ending in 2060.

It is very tautly written with the style initially reminding me of Hemingway.  It isn't space opera with majestic space battles, but a very intimate and human portrayal of what the consequences of a first contact might be.  What adds a fascinating twist to the story is that the main protagonists are Jesuit priests and so Catholic dogma, belief in a forgiving, intervening deity and the consequences of that for humanity and alien relations drive the plot forwards.

Jesuit experiences trying to convert amongst South and North American tribes, and the Martyrs it produced resonate through the book as a theology attempts to understand, interpret and communicate via huge cultural and social differences - think of the Mission, but with aliens!

I don't want to give too many spoilers but two narratives - one set in 2060 attempting to understand what went wrong, and the other set in 2019 setting the scene and moving the action forward into the future interweave very successfully.  It is stated right from the start the mission had failed and you are actually told many of the plot details, but the question of why it happened is missing and is filled in as the story develops.  It is a very interesting plot devise - and very Catholic; motivations matter!

The book carries it erudition very lightly and it's a real page turner, but always overlain with the theology which assumes a universal, loving God.

That presumption doesn't end well, but also, as always, even in despair and defeat it resurrects itself.

As a very practical minded atheist this didn't matter - the book is entirely free of supernatural woo, but at the human level, at the level of hope, despair, forgiveness and doubt it explains a part of humanity and by setting it within an alien science fiction and a rather dystopian 2019 it gives a surprising insight into the human condition.




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  • 3 months later...

I'm sat on my roof socially distanced and getting sunburnt reading Munich by Robert Harris. He's a bit hit and miss for me, Arkangel was amazing, The Ghost was crap, but this one, about the beginnings of the second world war is so far really fun.

Edited by TheTeapot
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