Friday, March 18, 2016

Friday's Forgotten Books, Friday, March 18, 2016

BRAZZAVILLE BEACH, William Boyd (reviewed by Nigel Bird)

Brazzaville Beach is a tremendous novel.
Right from the beginning it has the feel of something rather unusual and for me there was a definite double-take moment when I realized I’d found my place.
It’s centred around 2 main aspects of Hope Clearwater’s life, her time with her husband in the UK and her time without in Africa.
The drive of the plot centres around Hope’s work observing chimpanzees in the world’s leading scientific project on the subject of the animals. She’s cottoned on to the fact that strange things are happening within her community of chimps that have taken themselves away from the main group. The chimps from the north are sending patrols into the southern territories and this is the cause for a lot of interest. Unfortunately for her, the more she finds out, the more she realises that her discoveries are contrary to the theories of her eminent bosses and it seems that they’ll go to any length to suppress her findings.
Weaving in and out of this African scene is her background and her relationship with her very driven husband who is a gifted mathematician. He’s obsessed by seeing things in different ways and interprets things with numbers and visual patterns. It’s a background that helps to explain Hope’s current situation and thinking, while providing a hugely interesting story in itself.
There’s plenty of what I’ve come to expect from William Boyd in here:
It’s quite addictive, which is often the case for me when reading his books.
There’s the wonderful detail in the characters and settings, and he’s a bit like Hope’s husband in the way he can present what is commonplace in new ways that make it a pleasure to get to know people and place.
There are the asides that show a tremendous knowledge in a vast range of areas (or at least they seem to) that are interesting in themselves, but are also very relevant and helpful as part of a gentle analysis.
There’s the African setting, clearly understood and alive with the exotic.
I loved it. I feel like I’ve had a good workout and a huge amount of entertainment.
The sad thing is, I was reading a signed, hard-back, 1990 first edition and it’s borrowed from a friend. I’d so like to keep it on my shelves and have considered a few ways of explaining its loss (the cat ate it and the like), but it never worked on my teachers and I don’t suppose my conscience could take it these days.
A super story that you should check out.

Sergio Angelini, POST MORTEM, Kate London
Mark Baker, MRS. POLIFAX AND THE LION KILLER, Dorothy Gilman
Joe Barone, LONG SON, Peter Bowen
Les Blatt, MISSING OR MURDERED, Robin Forsythe
Elgin Bleeker, DOG EAT DOG, Edward Bunker
Brian Busby, DO EVIL IN RETURN, Margaret Millar
Bill Crider, WONDROUS BEGINNINGS, Steven H. Silver and Martin Greenberg
Scott Cupp, THE CAVES OF KARST, Lee Hoffman
Martin Edwards, THE HOUSE THAT KILLS, Noel Vindry
Rich Horton, THE GAMES OF NETH, Margaret St. Clair, THE EARTH GODS ARE COMING, Kenneth Bulmer
Jerry House, THE PRIMAL URGE, Brian Aldiss
Nick Jones, LET THE TIGER DIE, Manning Cole
George Kelley, THE HUMAN CHORD, THE CENTAUR, Algernon Blackwood
Rob Kitchin, A LIFE IN SECRETS, Sarah Helm
B.V. Lawson, I START COUNTING, Audrey Erskine Lindop
Steve Lewis/Barry Gardner, BOOKED FOR A HANGING, Bill Crider
J.F. Norris, THE MUMMY, Riccardo Stephens
Mathew Paust, THE HOMICIDAL SAINT, Axle Brand
Reactions to Reading, SATELLITE PEOPLE Hans Olav Lahlum
James Reasoner, DON OF THE BLACK SERAPE, Walt Coburn
Richard Robinson, CARNAL HOURS, Max Allan Collins
Kerrie Smith, A FATAL ERROR, Michael Ridpath
Kevin Tipple, ANTLER DUST, Mark Stevens
TracyK, A RED DEATH, Walter Mosley
A.J. Wright, Alabama Book Covers


Todd Mason said...

Thanks! Though my magazines under review are PLANET STORIES and ASTOUNDING SCIENCE FICTION, two 1949 issues. AMAZING not involved this go-round!

pattinase (abbott) said...

This is what comes from trying to remember titles.

Charles Gramlich said...

I'll have to have a look at Brazzaville beach.

Todd Mason said...

The Boyd does sound interesting...primatology borderline sf is almost always engaging, though T.C. Boyle managed to punt his overpraised bit of typical preciousness in a similar mode some decades back, the first bad story I read by him and I believe his first collection's title story, "Descent of Man"...

The Lee Hoffman novel Scott Cupp does this week is THE CAVES OF KARST (not a typo that will be readily apparent!). Hoffman wrote some brilliant westerns, and her fanzines were pretty legendary...