And the Mountains Echoed, by Khaled Hosseini

Unlike his other novels, affamed for their heartbreaking and tellingly brutal tales, And the Mountains Echoed forges a story of another kind of sadness.

Staying true to his customary theme of Afghanistan, Hosseini begins his novel following the lives of two twins, bound inseparable in their first years but subject like so many to the inescapable whims of poverty and survival.

It is from their stories that a series of other interlinking narratives unfold, following the tales of characters spanning the world over, each with some part of their life ever relating them back to Afghanistan.

Interestingly, this means that a significant portion of the novel features a wealthier, Western living, not the usual hardships of Taliban rule and oppresiveness so featured in his other novels. And the Mountains Echoed approaches the violence and oppresiveness Afghanistan experienced from a much more detached nature. Rather than delve directly into such hardship, it instead remains poised at its very edge looking in, much as the many thousands of luckier and more privileged souls do throughout their lives.

Hosseini’s message, told in his encapsulating prose, is one of family and home. That no matter how far you may go, how different a life you may forge, the past is ever a part of you which you cannot simply shed. We all have a calling to our birthplace and home, it is up to us whether we answer it, or forever shut it away.

Length: 463 (Bloomsbury)

Overall Rating: 3.5 stars

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Mr Mercedes, by Stephen King

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The master of horror becomes the master of thriller. Mr Mercedes is a highly energetic novel, bearing all the hallmarks of a classic detective tale.


Set in an American city, Mr Mercedes follows the story of recently retired detective Bill Hodges. After an impressive career, Hodges is soon lured from his newly innate retired life of junk food and daytime TV by the resurgence of a past terror, the classic “perp that got away”. As mysteries are uncovered and tragedies begin to pile one upon the other, it soon becomes clear that no one can ever truly quit the chase.

Though the novel bears little creative ingenuity, a simple psychopath-pitted-against-justice novel, King’s engaging writing style certainly keeps the reader hooked. The prominence of modern technology also adds a new dimension to the classic crime mystery, with the old school detective persistently thrown off the scent by the ingenuity of technologically fueled madness.

Overall an entertaining and easy read, good for the summer, but readers looking for more intrigue had better revert back to the disturbing horrors the author was made famous for. Despite this, with its fair share of action, romance, comedy and tragedy, Mr Mercedes is a strong debut thriller from the world famous King.

Length: 432 (Hodder paperbacks)
Overall Rating: 3 stars

Imperium, by Robert Harris

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Politics, corruption, power – Imperium.

Imperium is told from the perspective of a highly able and literate slave, Tiro, following the story of his master Marcius Tullius Cicero, a great orator, lawyer and above all politician. The pair bear witness to the classic strive to ultimate power within the great Roman Republic, highlighting the dark deals, bribery and sheer ingenuity required to make it to the top. This is certainly in likeness to a Roman ‘House of Cards’, bearing the same dramatic trials and tribulations which make for highly compelling drama.

In the final decades of the Republic, Harris tracks this demise through a detailed narrative of its orcastrators. Legendary historical figures such as Pompey the Great and Julius Caesar are characterised in their glorious nature, but also in what was likely their true selves: ambitious, dangerous and entirely unstoppable.

Harris has an absorbing writing style, placing his reader in the heart of Roman life. Great events remembered throughout history are delved into more deeply, unearthing the corruption and strifes necessary for their accomplishment.

With a wealth of historical knowledge, and the use of Cicero’s own recorded speeches and letters, Harris captures real historical fact within the compelling compound of literature. Imperium is a thrilling narrative, which will have you following the exhilarating political manoeuvres from over two thousand years ago as attentively as if they were occuring today.

Length: 403 (BCA)

Overall Rating: 5 stars

Carrie, by Stephen King

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​From the skilled hands of its world famous author, Carrie spins a dark tale of youthful cruelty and sorrowful revenge. Bearing a simple yet effective premise for a horror novel, known now by many from its multiple film interpretations, this is a short and entertaining classic.

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Carrie centres around its namesake, a teenage girl who after a lifetime of bullying and trauma is brought to her limits in the run up to her senior prom. As the novel progresses, the supernatural gradually becomes all too frightening and real, and a terrifying retribution soon unfolds upon a small town in Maine America.

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Whilst a little cliché at times, the same can largely be said of all teenagers. King soon moves beyond the realms of youthful stereotype however, drawing upon much darker themes. Carrie engages the brutally honest inner emotions of its characters, offering their raw, primitive thoughts throughout. The effect of this is an intrinsically human perspective on a savage, wounded time for a young damaged girl.

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The general style of the novel is rather different to a typical horror novel. It is certainly interesting to consistently remind the reader of the novel’s end for example, a typical cardinal sin in most narratives. By frequenting numerous article segments and scientific considerations concerning the ‘Carrie phenomena’ throughout however, King adds a sense of impeding and inescapable doom. In this way, the slightest actions are therefore emphasised with a constant sense of inevitable consequence.

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Carrie is the classic tale of youthful hardship and woes, escalated beyond proportion by a horrorful nature that seeks retribution for all the sorry young wronged.

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Length: 242 (BCA)

Overall Rating: 3.5 stars

The Time Traveller, by H. G. Wells

A short yet delightful classic, written with all the civility expected of a victorian gentlemen, The Time Machine is science fiction at one of its earliest beginnings. Though the novel could certainly have been longer, there are still enough philosophical thoughts and strange imaginings to provide an enjoyable few hours of entertainment.

 

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TransAtlantic, by Colum McCann

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Human nature transcends time, ever offering violence upon the innocent, cruelty bred from war. Following a number of timelines and characters, Transatlantic explores the strifes of humanity, which echo on throughout history.

McCann’s subtle links and recurring themes underlying his plot certainly make for an interesting read. As the novel progresses, what at first appear seemingly unrelated stories become delicately intertwined, passing down through generations. TransAtlantic delves through history, shedding light on the unchanging nature of life for all our past ancestors, from violence to love, and hope to woe. Under the backdrop of an ever aggrieved Ireland and the fragile promise of America, McCann skillfully relates the hardships of humanity from a variety of characters, whose lives merge into one another’s in the slightest of ways.  

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The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, by Haruki Murakami 

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Recently unemployed, Toru Okada spends his time cooking, ironing shirts and napping. For a protagonist, he is rather quiet. However, when the sudden disappearance of his cat coincides with a plethora of peculiar phone calls, his life takes a serious turn for the strange.

From the ordinary to the fantastical, the known to the unknown, Murakami spins an odd yet compelling tale. The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle is a story laced with thought provoking philosophies and mysterious imaginings. With a cacophony of characters, each bearing their own absorbing tales, some truly violent and unsettling, but all imbued with the strange nature that Murakami is famous for, there is ever a new surprise waiting to be revealed.

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