Lean on Pete

When I woke up that morning, it was still pretty early.

I didn’t know there was a book before the film. Now I know the story, I’m … going to skip the film. There are amounts of pain/trauma you don’t want to go through twice. See also: The Green Mile.

Lean on Pete is a horse, but it’s Charley’s story, and it’s a collection of miseries. Charley and his little-good father move through the USA to wherever work is, his mother is mostly unknown and there’s never enough money, furniture or food.

Because his father disappears from time to time, and it’s the summer holiday anyway, Charley (15 years old) goes looking for a job. He finds one in taking care of race horses, with a dodgy fellow, because those seem to be the only kind in his life.

The story is hailed for being Americana, humane, a slice of life and so on, but for a large amount of time it is just sadness upon badness upon abuse. Don’t mistake this book to be something for horse fans, either.

The only reason I’d call this a summer read because in winter there isn’t even nice weather outside to distract you from the shit luck Charley has, again and again. Yes, all of it is nicely written, but just consider the sacrifice of happiness.

Lean on Pete, Willy Vlautin, Faber and Faber 2010

The Abyss Surrounds Us

Any other morning, I’d dive into Durga’s observation bay without hesitation, but this is the day before my life begins.

Scifi pirate lesbians with mutant turtles! In the ocean(s)! Honestly, if that’s not up your alley, I don’t know what else to say to sell you on this (again, short) story.

In a world where huge, mutated sea creatures defend all kind of ships, Cass Leung’s maiden voyage as a trainer of one, goes completely belly up. Yes, because of the previously mentioned pirates.

Emily Skrutskie creates a steampunk-ish, Guillermo del Toro-ish (I’m thinking Pacific Rim) world that’s honestly ripe for the taking by any television-bobo’s, it’s such a complete package. Entertaining, different, diverse characters, fun, action, romance, bam bam boom.

Is there going to be a sequel? Could well be. Is it necessary? Not exactly, if you’re looking for a very quick read (again, just 200 pages in the e-reader), you’re more than fine with this one. After that, pay it forward into the direction of the Hollywood hotshots you know.

The Abyss Surrounds Us, Emily Skrutskie, Flux 2016

De bijen

De oude boomgaard lag ingeklemd.

Dit was stukken vreemder dan ik had verwacht, alleen al omdat ik verkeerd had herinnerd dat dit non-fictie was/zou zijn. Gelukkig was het een positieve verrassing.

In De bijen zit de lezer in een huif. De hoofdpersoon is een bij, iedereen is een bij, behalve de spinnen en wespen en andere nare vijanden. Elke bij kent haar plek, maar met Flora 717 gaat het mis en blijft het misgaan. Flora 717 vraagt zich namelijk dingen af, heeft geheimen, en verandert van functie(s).

Zo bloeit het verhaal op als een sprookje met een rauw, donker randje dat dreigt de boel te besmetten. Of de lezer hier iets van leert? In hoeverre het biologisch correct is? Wie het weet, mag het zeggen. Maar vermakelijk, spannend en gruwelijk is het.

De bijen, Laline Paull, De Bezige Bij 2014

The Drop

107 min.

Fox Searchlight Pictures
Fox Searchlight Pictures

Mafia film zonder mafia? Is de persoon die we volgen wel de good guy? Is er een urgentie, een angst, een dreiging die we moeten voelen (behalve die over de gezondheid van de puppy)?

Zelfs het geweld in het verhaal van Bob, een werknemer in een ‘drop café’ (illegale geldopslag) is in kleine, bedompte uitbarstingen. Het café wordt beroofd en wie is idioot genoeg om dat te doen? Voeg een mishandelde puppy toe voor wat zachtheid, één die succesvoller is dan de half-relatie die Bob heeft met een opgegroeid probleemmeisje die niet uit haar slachtoffer rol komt.

The Drop vult niet netjes alle vragen in, maar blijft achter als droesem van een luidere, bralleriger film. Bijna hallucinerend over mensen die misschien wel helemaal niet goed, maar ook niet slecht zijn.

The Drop, Fox Searchlight Pictures 2014

We Are All Made Of Glue

The first time I met Wonder Boy, he pissed on me.

Marina Lewycka has a way with making the extraordinary human and vice versa. An old exotic woman with a fairy tale house turns out to be just someone living through all the things (war, lost love, age) life throws at her. A doormat housewife becomes a crusader for elderly rights. And none of this happens with any characters turning into caricatures.

The friendship between Georgie (doormat) ans mrs Shapiro (old woman) is the axis of this story. Through reduced prices, estate agents, a witch of a social worker and a handyman who swaps b’s with p’s and vice versa the reader gets a slice of life served up.

And throughout the entire story Lewycka balances a thin line. Just when there’s the risk of frustrations, anger or confusion (the character does what?), she swoops in and makes the characters (likeable) humans again.

Right now it feels like I could pick any of Lewycka’s books and be pleasantly surprised again. Which is never a bad feeling to have.

We Are All Made Of Glue, Marina Lewycka, Fig Tree 2009

Micro

West of Pearl Harbor, he drove along the Farrington Highway past fields of sugar cane, dark green in the moonlight.

A book written by the guy from Jurassic Park. Richard Preston picked the story up after the passing away of Michael Crichton. I never before read anything by Crichton, so on that account I can’t judge if this story is better or worse than his previous work.

Incredibly dodgy company gathers incredibly smart students to work for them. One of them – with a connection to the company because his brother works there – discovers possibly dodgy things pretty fast.
Things turn into a complete horror after that even faster.

Crichton and Preston go all out on (gross) details. They create an amazing yet terrifying image of nature, but to me the very detailed deaths and murders could have been cut back just a little. Some of them left more of an impression than the story there were part of.

But in the end it’s a successful (sci-fi) thriller in a way that it leaves a bad taste in your mouth. Yes, there are people that will do everything for money. Yes, one day there will be technology that could be used for very bad things. I just hope I won’t be around when it happens.

Micro, Michael Crichton & Richard Preston, HarperCollins 2011

Various Pets Alive And Dead

The whole world is deranged, though most people haven’t noticed it yet.

This was very entertaining. Marcus and Doro are people of the seventies, people of The Change with capitals T C. Their children ..not so much. Serge hides from his parents that he is a very successful (until the economical crisis of 2008 hits) banker, Clara is trying very hard to break free from being over-controlling and always in charge (it’s who she was in the commune, after all) while Oolie-Anna desperately wants to break free from her mother.

Various Pets Alive And Dead shows how permanent the marks left behind by your childhood are. Not just in case of the children, but for Marcus and Doro as well. Capitalism is evil, jealousy is ugly; yet she still wants to keep her own allotment and doesn’t want to hear about her husband’s free loving back in the day.

The book starts with everybody quite happy, but it quickly unravels. Kewycka manages to write down the ordinary in an absurd yet believable way. Every character is a real human being and yes, you may enjoy some schadenfreunde, but in the end you’ll be rooting for their happy ending. If Kewycka makes that happen ..that’s for the reader to discover.

Various Pets Alive And Dead, Marina Kewycka, Fig Tree 2012