A round-up of the books that I read last month:-
(1) Candy by Luke Davies
Contemporary / Romance: "Candy is a compelling journey into the heart of addiction, its claustrophobia and momentum. It is also an unforgettable love story."
Candy tells the story of two young adults, Dan and Candy, who fall madly in love during a hot and balmy summer. They're both bohemian arty types who see the world differently from everyone else, yearn for escapism and see each other as soulmates. The only problem is that Dan is also hooked on heroin and soon Candy becomes an addict as well. Their bittersweet love affair with chasing the dragon starts off innocently enough, but soon becomes ugly when the highs become lows and everything seems to turn to black around them.
Davies' prose is beautifully poetic and has a fine hazy, dreamlike quality to it when the times are good, and he contrasts this perfectly with graphic details of depravity and misery when the drug starts taking over their lives. He allows the reader to have just enough empathy for this lovesick couple to keep you interested, but he doesn't sugarcoat the reality of what it is to be a heroin addict, perhaps because the book is based on his own experience of being one during the '80s. It's a fast-paced, engrossing read with a realistic ending, that I feel will appeal to anyone yearning for their own hedonistic escapism from reality. If you like the sound of this, be sure to check out the film adaptation that stars the late Heath Ledger and Abbie Cornish. [4/5]
(2) We'll Always Have Paris by Ray BradburyFantasy / Short Stories: "Follow a space shuttle crew as they voyage sixty million miles from home, discover what happens when a writer 'with the future's eye' believes his friend to be writing stories aboard a UFO, and listen in on a couple talking themselves backwards through time to the moment when they first held hands."
A truly imaginative collection of very short stories that Bradbury himself describes as 'short bursts or explosions onto paper'. Colourful characters, some great fantasy based tales and a couple that have sociopolitical themes (which I always enjoy), but for the most part, this book represents a sheer love and passion for the written word. Wonderful stuff. Personal favourites of mine were, 'Massinello Pietro', 'Ma Perkins Comes To Stay', 'Un-pillow Talk', 'A Literary Encounter' and 'America'. [4/5]
(3) Collapse: How Societies Choose To Fail Or Succeed by Jared Diamond
Non-Fiction / Environment / Politics: "Bringing together new evidence from a startling range of sources and piecing together the myriad influences, from climate to culture, that make societies self-destruct, Jared Diamond's Collapse also shows how - unlike our ancestors - we can benefit from our knowledge of the past and learn to be survivors."
Collapse is a mighty beast of a book that I've been tackling on/off for the past two months as my main non-fiction read. Written by the acclaimed scientist Jared Diamond, back in 2005, it gives us much food for thought by explaining how previous civilisations collapsed and comparing those causes to the current problems we're being forced to deal with today. The book is set out in three main parts; Past Societies, Modern Societies, and Practical Lessons.
'Past Societies' details case studies of Easter Island, the Pitcairn and Henderson Islands, the Anasazi, the Maya, and the Vikings - Diamond does a fantastic job of condensing all of the essential information into accessible chapters on each of these and examining the many causes of why they disappeared. It soon becomes apparent that there are several interlinked reasons, and Diamond's main emphasis is based on the environmental aspects mixed with the responses of how that society tried to resolve their problems (or in some cases, didn't try or weren't able to).
'Modern Societies' looks at what has happened in countries such as Rwanda, Haiti, the Dominican Republic, China and Australia in recent years, and makes fact-based predictions on what will happen if these modern societies don't act fast enough in resolving their own problems. Diamond also looks at the pressing issues of globalisation and explains plainly how the collapse of a country like Haiti will have ramifications for the rest of the world so that no environmental or political problem can be singular anymore. Everything is interlinked in so many ways.
'Practical Lessons' provides further examination into why some societies make disastrous decisions and why others make the right choices and manage to overcome their issues. There's a particularly good chapter in this section where Diamond explains how some big businesses make every attempt to safeguard the environment they're working in, whilst others don't, and the reasons often go beyond just good PR.
With a book of this nature, it can be wholly depressing to read, especially for someone who has studied Environmental Science or is environmentally aware of the damage that we are doing to the planet. Even though the future looks bleak, there is still some room for hope before it's all too late, but only if people demand it and fight for it. One of the main questions we shall have to answer in the First World is, are we are willing to reduce our standard of living so that others in the Third World can have a better and more equal life? The planet cannot simply sustain everyone in the Third World living at First World standards, something will have to give, sooner or later. Even if we manage to control our population growth, it is our human impact (consuming resources and then the waste that ensues) which will be a deal breaker for whether life as we know it, will continue to exist or not. Sobering stuff. [5/5]