Showing posts with label crime & punishment. Show all posts
Showing posts with label crime & punishment. Show all posts

Saturday, December 1, 2018

A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess

Rating: WARTY!

Again, what's with this nonsense with putting music on audiobooks? Did Anthony Burgess write music that he then sold along with this novel? No! So why does this audiobook publisher think it's required? I've seen this - or, more accurately - heard it, on many audiobooks and it's pointless and annoying. If the book was about music, then by all means blast away with examples of the music under discussion. I'd expect that as I'd expect an art book to include pictures of the art that was discussed.

Likewise, if it's a biography about a musician, or even a novel about one, and you, as the author, want to include some of that musician's music, then fine, but when it's about a dystopian future juvenile gang, what exactly is the rationale? The fact that one of the gang members likes classical music? He also likes violence and rape, so should that be included with the audiobook? I don't think so! If the main character in a novel is given to farting, should a little vial of fart smell be included? No thank you! If your main character loves to eat Spaghetti Bolognese, should a meal be included with the book? Good tuck with that! If the book was about Al Pacino's character in Scarface, should a machine gun be given away free with the book as a little friend for the reader? I hope not! Ditch the ridiculous music.

I saw the movie some time back and it was okay - nothing I felt a need to see again, but not a disaster. I never did get around to the book until now, and at last I know why! It was read decently by none other than Spider-Man, Tom Holland (not to be confused with the other English actor Tom Hollander!) who despite being in his twenties looks like he's the same age as the character he narrates, but the novel is really not very good, and notwithstanding its subject matter, is actually rather boring. Anthony Burgess himself has disowned it, and rightly so. It's nothing special. It's about this gang of four mid-teen ruffians, Alex, George, Pete, and Dim. It's tempting to think maybe the Pete and George names came from The Beatles, but this was written before they came to national prominence.

This gang likes to go out of an evening and beat-up those people they're not in the mood to bully or rob. They indulge liberally in robbery, burglary, home invasion, and rape. And they fight other gangs. When the leader, Alex, is caught, he is put into this experimental program aimed at 'reforming' violent offenders by forcing them to binge-watch violent video while being injected with nausea-inducing chemicals so that in a Pavlovian dog(fighter)'s fashion, they become nauseated whenever they even think about violence. It's an idea appropriated in a recent Doctor Who episode, Rosa where the so-called villain from Stormcage has been similarly treated so that he cannot harm others.

What got to me was the artificial lingo with which the story was Balkanized. It was too much. It wasn't unintelligible - in context, you got a good idea of what it meant even if it wasn't exactly clear. What bothered me was the endless use of it. Even if it had all been all in plain English it would still have been sickeningly repetitive to have kept on spouting these words over and over, so I have to congratulate Burgess in that he rendered me in the same nauseated state Alex endured, except mine was inculcated through the endless reuse of these words rather than from the violence, which was relatively mild by modern standards, although I imagine quite shocking for an early sixties story. A Clockwork Orange is the title of a typescript that appears in the novel, by the way!

I don't know why Russian was chosen - maybe Burgess spoke the language. It seems to me that the lingua franca of the future will be a mix of Chinese, English, and Spanish. The Russian words were used and repeated so often that it got in the way of telling the story and kicked me out of suspension of disbelief every time a word was reused ad nauseam. So I can't rate this positively.

An interesting piece of trivia is that Burgess organized his book in three parts of seven chapters each, but when it was published in the USA, the limp American publisher refused to publish the last chapter so American versions were printed without this and Burgess limply went along with it. Dictatorships are not just reserved for leaders of nations. Thankfully, Big Publishing™ no longer has the power it once had to make or kill a career.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

The Execution of Noa P. Singleton by Elizabeth L. Silver

Title: The Execution of Noa P. Singleton
Author: Elizabeth L. Silver
Publisher: Crown
Rating: worthy

DISCLOSURE: Unlike the majority of reviews in this blog, I've neither bought this book nor borrowed it from the library. This is a "galley" copy ebook, supplied by Net Galley. I'm not receiving (nor will I expect to receive or accept) remuneration of any kind for this review. Since this is a new novel, this review is shorter so as not to rob the writer of her story, but even so, it will probably still be more detailed than you'll typically find elsewhere!

I despise book trailers, but there's one here for this novel.

P64 "...the only bus in the evening once the those ornaments were no longer." This is a small error, but even with the extra 'the' removed, it's still a big awkward sentence!
P81-82 "From whom". I know it’s grammatically correct, but does anyone really actually say this any more, let alone someone of Noa's background and character?
P105 really odd conversation. " 'There is nothing I wouldn’t do for the people I love,' he paused. 'Nothing. You know that.' He didn’t reply, instead bouncing on his toes." I have no idea what to make of that!

This novel took a bit of getting into, but it became easier as I stuck with it. It’s yet another first person narrative, unfortunately. Noa Singleton (interesting name, both first and last - we get an explanation for the first) has been on death row in the City of Brotherly Love for ten years. It’s only a few months shy of her execution date when Marlene, the mother of one of her victims (there were evidently two) shows up to announce that she's had a change of heart and is now going to petition the governor for clemency on Noa's behalf. Consequently, Noa, who is extremely skeptical and reticent, starts talking to Oliver, the lawyer who works for Marlene, in an effort to uncover information which might help the petition. Noa also starts reminiscing about her life. I get a feeling that there is far more going on here than immediately meets the eye, but it’s only a suspicion - I have nothing with which to support it.

Noa was dropped as a child - not on her head, but literally dropped by her mother - who then concocted a bizarre story of home invasion to cover up her carelessness. She also failed to adequately care for Noa afterwards. Her arm was broken and the break was not diagnosed, but as she grew, things seemed to heal reasonably well. When she was in college, she had a miscarriage because of a disease condition in her womb, and she can not now bear children. She never finished college because of this.

Her father, an alcoholic petty criminal who has been absent from her life for 23 years, reintroduces himself and she begins working on a relationship with him. Despite being an alcoholic, he came into some money (not illegally!) and opened a bar. That's where they first meet. He has a scar on his top lip which is why he cannot, apparently, grow a mustache and this, believe it or not, is evidently why her mother ditched him. She has a mustache fetish!

OK, so I admit to being intrigued! Noa visits her father late one night at the bar, and is followed by a young guy. She tells this to her father and he beats the living daylights out of the guy; then he gives Noa a .357 magnum which at first she fights against, but when he slips it into her bag as she leaves, she lets it sit.

The story really starts to drop some coin into the dirty laundry machine when Marlene, the dead Sarah's mother, contacts Noa directly by phone. Marlene knows a heck of a lot about Noa and invites her to meet in a restaurant. This is where I started to become detached from this story, because from what I've so far read about Noa, I can’t find the credit to buy that she would come to heel as Marlene commands her to do.

Marlene's daughter Sarah, the same age as Noa, was dating Noa's father, and had been since before her father contacted her. Marlene knew that if she forbade her daughter from doing this, she wouldn’t listen and perhaps would rebel by doing it more dedicatedly. Marlene evidently cast around for a means to intervene without it looking like she was intervening, and she hit upon Noa. She offered her $10,000 to somehow break-up the relationship, and Noa accepts this. I simply couldn't buy that as something she would do given what we're told about her. I couldn’t buy that she would go to a meeting with someone she didn’t know, who was demanding that she meet, or that she would sit and put up with Marlene or what she effectively orders Noa to do.

I loved chapter fifteen where trials are compared with movies. That was a really interesting observation. Chapter 16 was a classic. Those two chapters turned around my distaste for Noa's behavior vis-à-vis Marlene the dictator. After this we start learning exactly what did happen between Noa P Singleton and Sarah Dixon and Marlene Dixon.

I rarely pay attention to the cover of a novel because the author generally has little or nothing to do with it, but this one was interesting because it features only the title and author's name, but the title is changed so instead of the actual title, it reads "The Execution of a Novel" - a change which is nowhere explained. When I lost heart with this novel at the point where Silver starts rambling on about the trial, I started to think that it had indeed been executed and the sentence was just! Indeed, for a while I thought I was going to rate it 'warty', but in the end I decided to chill out and give it a 'worthy'. Overall it wasn't bad, and while the ending made little sense to me given what came before it, I hope others might find something I missed. I was hoping for a lot better, however.