Sunday 27 June 2021

The Inheritors - Hannelore Cayre (2020)


Rating: Admirable

The Inheritors is a curious novel by a French author who made waves with The Godmother, a crime novel published in 2019. The Inheritors is a kind of crime novel, with most of a family being knocked off by the main protagonist, Blanche de Rigny, but these murders are more like blows against capitalism, avarice and generational wealth. The novel features two timelines, one set in 1870, featuring Auguste de Rigny, a foppish member of a filthy rich family who rails against inequality, yet can't completely let go of the benefits that wealth brings; one benefit being able to buy a man to fill his place in the army at the onset of the Franco-Prussian war. The other timeline, featuring Blanche, is set in contemporary times in Paris, and Blanch, being disabled and disaffected, also rails against inequality. When Blanche discovers her familial connections with the still very wealthy de Rigny family the plotting begins. 

The Inheritors is a short, reasonably well written novel, however is doesn't quite catch fire. For a short novel it quite often gets bogged down in detail, like Blanche's detailed explanations of her family and the 'mission' she undertakes (to strike at the heart of greed and do something useful and moral with all that money). The above detail about the novel does not count as a spoiler, due to the fact that it is all spelt out on the back-cover burb. That's part of the problem, you know what's going to happen, the interest lies in how it happens, but unfortunately I was quite often bored and the main thrust of the narrative didn't get going until about half way through. More engaging were the nineteenth century chapters, with fine depictions of life in Paris at that time and the entertainment of Auguste's rather pathetic life. Even so, neither Auguste or Blanche, or any of the minor characters for that matter, engage you enough to make you care about their struggles or motivations. Essentially this novel is an economic revenge fantasy, which is interesting when you consider that the French have actually been good at making such a thing a reality over the centuries. 

Sunday 20 June 2021

Tiger Tiger (AKA The Stars My Destination) - Alfred Bester (1956)


Rating: Mediocre

I picked up a copy of this novel, a 1967 edition, from a second hand bookstore in an old house situated on the main drag of a small country town in Tasmania a few years ago. Then a while later I coincidently read online that it contained one of the best 'escape from an impossible situation' scenes in literature. Now that I've read Tiger Tiger I have to say that I don't necessarily agree, it wasn't that spectacular. I chose the novel as a potentially great holiday read, and at first it lived up to that need. Tiger Tiger is certainly a rollicking read, with some impressive pacing and the main protagonist, Gully Foyle, is a wild character bent on revenge. The novel is set in the twenty fourth century, a time when, inexplicably, the ability to teleport (they call it jaunting), has transformed human society. Basically humans can travel by thought (an influence on The Church song of the same name?), which certainly opens up some fascinating narrative possibilities.

What ultimately let's Tiger Tiger down is that the novel's over the top nature becomes wearying around two thirds of the way through. It's like listening to two Queen albums at once. The prose is too florid, the twists and turns too frequent and the whole idea of humans being able to teleport by the power of thought alone becomes increasingly ridiculous. I don't necessarily need literary fiction to be particularly realistic, let alone science fiction, but it really started to grate after a while. Tiger Tiger does have quite a spectacular ending, which really sticks it to 'the man', but by that stage I think I had eye strain from rolling my eyes too much. Ultimately Tiger Tiger doesn't come across as a parody of the 1920s - 1940s era of pulp science fiction, or even as a homage, but as an attempt to emulate its style, perhaps in order to appeal to the teenagers of the 1950's, who after all would have still been science fiction's main market. The sometimes unfortunate depictions of female characters bear this out. I'll mark this one down as an entertaining enough holiday read that stands as a period piece for the curious.