Three Abandoned Books

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The Swarm: A Novel of the Deep Translated from the German by Sally-Ann Spencer

The Swarm by Frank Schätzing

Five words from the blurb: sea, killed, mankind, science, ecological

I’ve been wanting to read this for a long time, but at nearly 900 pages it intimidated me. German Literature Month inspired me to put aside my fears and I dived in. I was reminded of the wonderful Michael Crichton books I used to read and was immediately gripped by the compelling plot.

The book is set in the near future at a time when the world is being battered by a series of natural disasters. People keep dying at sea and the number of unexplained deaths is increasing every day. Groups of experts gather to research the situation, but as the condition escalates it becomes increasingly hard for them to understand what is happening.

The writing was very good and there were lots of powerful warnings about the damage mankind is doing to the planet.

Understanding the planet was no longer enough for most people; they were trying to change it. In the Disneyland of botched science, human intervention was forever being justified in new and disturbing ways.

I initially loved this book – the science was well researched and the scenes were tense, exciting and full of foreboding. As the book progressed I found that this wasn’t enough and I began to lose interest. There was no central character to engage with and, although the science was technically accurate, I couldn’t believe the events would ever occur. Instead of becoming increasingly scary I found the action increasingly ridiculous. I abandoned the book after 250 pages.

The Dogs Of War

The Dogs of War by Frederick Forsyth

Five words from the blurb: African, secret,  mercenaries, tycoon,  government

I was inspired to read this book after attending a wonderful talk from the author a few weeks ago. Unfortunately it quickly became obvious that his thrillers aren’t for me – I have no interest in precious metals and became bored by the detailed information on military operations.

The Dogs of War is set in a fictional West African country where a valuable amount of precious metal has been found. A band of mercenaries set out to take control of this resource and gain power of the country.

Unfortunately the characters were flat and so I didn’t care what happened.

‘G’bye, Patrick,’ he said. ‘I’m afraid it’s over now. Take the Landrover and dump it. Bury the guns and mark the spot. Leave your uniform and go for bush. Understand?’
The lieutenant, who a year ago had been a recruit with the rank of private and had been promoted for his ability to fight rather than eat with a knife and fork, nodded somberly, taking in the instructions.

The book felt dated and lacked the emotional depth I like to see in a book. I abandoned it after about 60 pages.

The Sweetness of Life: A Kovacs and Horn Investigation Translated from the German by Jamie Bulloch

Winner of the 2009 European Literature Prize

The Sweetness of Life by Paulus Hochgatterer

Five words from the blurb: grandfather, victim, silent, child, psychological

I spotted this book in my library and thought it would be perfect for German Literature Month. Unfortunately it failed to engage me, but I suspect the quality of the writing will be enough to entertain most people.

It was cold. A narrow bank of fog was sitting on the hill behind the buildings. Kovacs had also forgotten his gloves. I forget the camera because Demski’s not here, he thought, and I forget my gloves because I don’t have a wife any more. He bent down. There was something in the snow, driven into the broad tyre tracks which were all over the place. A small, dark, brown stone, that was all. He put it into his pocket.

The book begins with a six-year-old girl discovering the body of her grandfather in the snow outside their home. The girl goes into shock and refuses to talk, hampering efforts to work out who committed the crime.

This was a well written piece of crime fiction, but too many characters were introduced and I struggled to differentiate between them. Each chapter was narrated by a different person and so I found it impossible to connect with anyone. It may well all come together in the end, but I’m afraid I didn’t care enough about the story to want to persevere. I abandoned the book after 80 pages.


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15 Comments

  1. Jackie's Dad says:

    The Dogs of War is bound to be dated. It was written in 1974 and all action books/movies are soon outdated with new technology. I recommend you try The Afghan, Forsyths latest book, which is one of my favourite reads of recent years

    1. Jackie says:

      Dad, OK. I’ll try The Afghan – just for you :-)

  2. Jenners says:

    Sounds like The Swarm could have worked if it was half the length.

    1. Jackie says:

      Jenners, I think The Swarm might have worked well if it had been about 300 pages long. A plot has to be very compelling to justify 900 pages and this one stretched things far too thin.

  3. Caroline says:

    I’ve read Der Schwarm and although I hate chunky books I even finished it. It’s not even my kind of book but for some reason I found it interesting and liked the ending as well. I thought it was a soothing kind of boring (there is also an annoying kind of boring) and it worked.
    I haven’t read the other two and the third …I don’t think I would be too keen on it.
    Just read Andrea Maria Schenkel’s The Bunker which was enough 1st person POV jumping for a while.
    Too bad both books for GLM were blah for you. I’ll still add the link.

    1. Jackie says:

      Caroline, “A soothing kind of boring”?! I don’t think that is something I’d ever enjoy! I can see that I might have enjoyed it more at a younger age. Perhaps when I read all my Crichtons? Don’t worry about adding links for GLM or the fact I abandoned these two – I’m sure I’ll find some more amazing GLM books soon.

  4. The Swarm is a book that sounds just up my alley… except if you got bored with it, I suspect I would too.

    A pity the Forsyth book didn’t work for you. I have ever read anything by him but a good presentation by an author can be very inspiring to read his books – I went to a meeting last week where 6 authors presented their (5) books and immediately I wanted to read them all. :-)

    1. Jackie says:

      Judith, I also went to hear 6 authors read from their books this week and wanted to read them all. Authors are always so passionate about their books, but I do need to try to remember that doesn’t mean I’ll love them as much. Need to concentrate on recommendations from unbiased sources in future :-)

      1. True, Jackie! On the other hand, maybe it helps having heard the author speak and having some background information on the book. So, you might enjoy a book better because of it. But of course, there’s a limit!

  5. I’ve been having a hard time with certain reads lately, but for me I think it’s just a bad time for certain books –moody reader and a lot on my plate right now as well.

    Hope all is going well Jackie.

    1. Jackie says:

      Diane, Don’t worry – I didn’t read these all in a row – I tend to save them up so I can put them all in one post. I’m now going through a good stage – have read 2 amazing books in a row! Hope it continues and hope things get easier for you too.

  6. stujallen says:

    I often wondered how writers like forsyth have faired over time ,my dad read lot of his books and craig thomas ,jack higgins I do wonder how they seem now the cold war is over ,all the best stu

    1. Jackie says:

      Stu, This one dated badly, but my Dad recommends The Afghan. Will let you know how I get on.

  7. I’ve heard of none of these, and even though our taste is often quite different, I don’t think I’ll be adding any of these to my towering TBR pile either. Sorry none of these worked for you!

  8. Ellie says:

    Hochgatterer’s books are so depressing. I struggled through 2 of them for some reason, I won’t be making that mkistake again!

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