Monday, February 01, 2010
7. The Book Stops Here by Ian Ransom
I got this from my parents the xmas before last and finally cracked it open. [Why am I reading so much in January, you may well be asking. It's a combo of my usual January surge combined with our friggin' wireless router being on the fritz. You want to read 50 books in a year? Lose your internet connection and it's a cinch.] It's the story of a young man from London who has ended up in Northern Ireland working in a mobile library who gets involved in adventures. A neat premise (and this is the third in a series) but at least judging by this book, it seems to be more about the his own inner turmoil and the wacky people around him than any real misadventures.
In The Book Stops Here, he and his gruff, Irish partner Ted head back down to England to go to a mobile librarian's convention to look at getting a new van. Ted who has cared for the funky old van does not want to give it up and has never left Northern Ireland. Israel, the protagonist has an opportunity to visit his family and his girlfriend, whom it's quite clear to the reader is no longer really his girlfriend.
This sort of un-formed, loser male in his mid to late 20's seems to be the rage in England these days. The protagonist of this book seemed like the Simon Pegg character in Spaced (a series you should check out) or Shaun of the Dead, except way worse. At least the Simon Pegg characters are more or less happy with their lot except they can't get the girl. Israel just complains and seems bummed out and incapable of really doing anything. After a while, it gets a bit tiring. The only real development he made was to finally realize that his girlfriend had broken up with him. It was kind of depressing.
There is also a lot of quick back and forth dialogue with various colourful characters that most of the time (the new age hippy caravaners being one exception) didn't come off as funny to me. Maybe if you understand the regional distinctions better, but even then it was all very broad (like the seedy bar owner cousin who turns out to be gay) and not in aid of anything so you are kind of reading these long back and forths with lots of interruptions wondering what the point of it all is.
Not a terrible read and I did learn a little bit about the Northern Ireland character(at least that they consider themselves very distinct from Ireland proper) and the world of mobile libraries in Britain. I admit to being vaguely curious about the first two in the series, but I'll need to be convinced that the protagonist is at least somewhat effective before I'll pick them up. Too much competition out there.