The Graveyard Book – Neil Gaiman. I grew up on The Jungle Book and I really liked the nods Gaiman gave to Kipling’s story in the structure of this book, the echoes of Mowgli’s childhood in that of Nobody, though this is not a retelling. It’s an independent story of a boy brought up by ghosts in a graveyard, and it charmed me. I found myself annoyed that the story didn’t go further or deeper, but although it was the sort of annoyance that reflects well on the book I really wish this could have been a much larger story – a book that starts and ends in the same place but covers much more ground, just like The Jungle Book does, where Mowgli’s story is only part of a much larger world full of stories, some of which link and others of which do not. Gaiman can do this – he does in Neverwhere and American Gods – and it can be done in (so-called) childrens’ books too. I just bought a copy of T. H. White’s The Sword in the Stone for my nephews, The Hobbit spins off into a bigger world all over the place, even little books like The Book of Three (leaving aside the series) have the feel of being a much bigger story than they are. So I was disappointed that The Graveyard Book was just a little book on its own. It was a very good little book on its own, but knowing what Gaiman and the genre are capable of I am feeling a bit sad for what it might have been.
Size Twelve is not Fat – Meg Cabot. An ex teen pop star working as a deputy dorm supervisor in a college in New York investigates a series of student murders. This was very, very, very light read: fast paced and enjoyable, with Cabot’s breezy first-person style in full evidence, but in retrospect a bit cloying, like something too sweet eaten too quickly. I’m saving the sequel till I’ve recovered. (Aside: My favourite Cabot is still All American Girl – mostly for the horse shampoo).
Fables 9: Sons of Empire – Willingham et al. The art and story both picked up from volume 8. I really like how at times you can see threads that are going to be woven into a larger pattern, or suddenly realise that a consistently minor character is about to become (or always has been) very important. A nice mix of dark and light and mystery in this volume.
Cryptonomicon – Neal Stephenson. The Hacker Revolution crossed with The Hunt for the Red October meets Little Brother crossed with Between Silk and Cyanide (and I strongly recommend all four of those books to you). With helpful diagrams on the effect sexual activity has on the mathematical ability of cryptographers. Although unrecommendable to mothers, etc, for many passages associated with the last comment (although I read extracts to her), this was an odd, entertaining, elaborate, glittering monster of a book, and I tore through it. It covers codes and the development of computers, programming, hacking, the fall of Singapore, the Kokoda trail, earthquakes, insurance, data havens, data cables, Brisbane during WWII, the role of a glockenspiel player during an air strike, the practicalities of burying treasure and dealing with it once you dig it up, the correct way to eat cereal, how to repair a pipe organ and the idiosyncracies of small fictional British islands.