The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick

Format: Hardcover
Rating:  5 Stars
Reviewer: Laurel

I had seen the movie Hugo some years back, not realising it was based on a book. When I discovered the book and saw some images of the pictures that form part of the story, I knew it was one I could read together with my daughter.

We thoroughly enjoyed the adventure with Hugo, learning about the train station he lived in, the mechanical man he works to fix, and its relationship with the old man who runs the toy booth. It was also interesting to have this fictitious account of Georges Melies and go away and learn about the real Georges Melies.

Selznick’s art is magnificent, and together with the prose makes this book an absolute pleasure to read. Rarely have I seen such absolutely gorgeous pencil drawings. Worth every penny.

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The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

Format: Paperback
Rating:  4 Stars
Reviewer: Laurel

I picked the book up (not for the first time, I should add) after watching the movie with our 6yo daughter. She had loved the movie – particularly Marvin, the depressed robot – and asked to have the book read to her.

We loved reading it. It was described as being “like a crazy dream”, and indeed, when the impossibility drive is in action, it certainly is very much like that. Completely wacky and unpredictable, it’s an excellent, entertaining and thought-provoking read. Very much enjoyed in this household.

Pebble in the Sky by Isaac Asimov

Format: Paperback
Rating:  5 Stars
Reviewer: Laurel

I clearly wasn’t paying attention when I picked up this book to read, as I hadn’t realised it was a GE tale. So I was delighted to discover I was in a corner of the Foundation empire, albeit a very distant, small corner. Nonetheless, this book, while focussed on Earth, retains the vastness of the GE, and so it was perfect for me.

Joseph Schwartz, in the 20th century, picks up his foot and puts it down in GE 827. Disoriented and confused, he finds himself at a farmstead among people who speak a language incomprehensible to him – as his is to them. Soon he finds himself the subject of a scientific experiment, the Synapsifier, purported to make people very, VERY clever.

Meanwhile, Bel Arvardan, an archaeologist from Sirius, arrives on Earth, intent on proving once and for all that it is the planet origin of the human race. He has his suspicions, but proof would be appreciated.

It doesn’t take any kind of degree to realise that, in Joseph Schwartz, Arvardan has the proof he’s searching for, but more problematic is the Society of Ancients, the rulers of Earth and their hide-bound prejudices – not to mention their intent on wiping out the rest of the Galactic Empire with some nasty bug they’ve developed – and other obstacles that stand in the way of Arvardan even knowing of Schwartz’s existence.

I always love a good story from Asimov, and this is no exception. I didn’t see the resolution coming, and to that I doff my proverbial cap to this master of deception and storytelling.

The Sleeper and the Spindle by Neil Gaiman

Format: Hardcover
Rating:  5 Stars
Reviewer: Laurel

Three dwarves discover a sleeping princess and return to their queen. She sets out to save the princess on the eve of her wedding.

This is a clever mashup of Sleeping Beauty and another fairytale I won’t mention (spoilers, you see…), with excellent illustrations from Chris Riddell. I enjoyed the twists and the connections, and the story definitely left me thinking. My knee-jerk rating was four stars, but being a Neil Gaiman book, I’ll be musing over this story awhile, and that rates five stars.

What I do know is this: don’t go into any Gaiman book with expectations (I didn’t in this case, but he still surprised me) because whatever they are, he WILL defy them.

A very, very good book.

The Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham

Format: Paperback
Rating:  4 Stars
Reviewer: Laurel

I’ve known of this book for many years, and though people have recommended me, I just never got around to reading it – until now.

Bill Masen, a biologist who works with triffids, is in hospital, recovering from an accident with a triffid. On the day he is due to have bandages removed from his eyes and find out if his sight has survived the attack, he awakens to silence. Certainly, the whole world is different to how it was when he went to sleep the night before. Discovering that he is one of the fortunate ones to have not been blinded when green lights appeared in the night sky, he soon ventures out into the new world.

This story is of how Bill acclimatises to the new world, the people he meets and how he survives. It is also a story of the menace of the triffids.

I really enjoyed this tale. Although it may appear gentle and somewhat primitive relative to more contemporary post-apocalyptic tales, the menace of the triffids is especially chilling, and Masen’s assessment of life is, I felt, quite spot on. I really appreciated how Wyndham really got into Masen’s head and asked (and perhaps answered) genuine questions about how life would be following an apocalypse.

A very good read. Why did it take me so long to pick it up?