Book review: Perfume

I’m getting to this one a little bit late, and I probably wouldn’t have read it all if someone at my writer’s group hadn’t talked about it. Well I’m glad he did because what a little gem this turned out to be.

Perfume has the strangest premise I’ve come across in years: it’s set in the 18th Century and tells the story of one Jean-Baptiste Grenouille. Borne and raised in poverty, he would’ve probably died an anonymous, crippled pauper, if not for a number of rather unusual traits: he has a sense of smell that goes beyond comic-book superhuman, a raw, untrained intelligence to match, and sociopathic streak that allows him to kill without the slightest twinge to his conscience. You’ve probably already gathered that you’re not going to like him very much, though when you read his reasoning behind it, you might just think there’s a perverse kind of purity in what he’s attempting to do, even while being quite appalled. Continue reading “Book review: Perfume”

Predator’s Gold by Philip Reeve

I don’t usually crack straight on with a sequel straight after reading Book 1, but the whole Mortal Engines thing intrigued me. The whole setup was so well-done, so painstakingly executed that I wanted to see, from a purely technical viewpoint, if the author could maintain that level of commitment through to the sequel. In many cases, a second book comes across as a little bit tired – not so here. If anything, Predator’s Gold was even better than Mortal Engines.

61DiWWb-hRL.jpgThe writing was a lot more confident, and the characterisation, I felt, was  much deeper. Tom (our main protagonist) hadn’t really changed that much in the two years since we’d seen him, while Hester, his partner, has hardened (and I didn’t think that was possible) further into the kind of selfish and embittered survivor he needs to keep him alive. That’s the thing about Tom: he’s an almost passive observer to things going on around him, so  he sometimes seems to fade into the background, especially if he’s in a room with far more interesting people. Th rest of the characters are gloriously over the top: they’re either shockingly evil, in a Christmas pantomine sort of a way (YA fiction, remember?) or laugh-out-loud comical.

Like Mortal Engines, there are two really stand-out points with this novel. First off, the settings. The whole idea is magnificient. This notion that towns have evolved into almost living things that prey across the landscape of a ruined planet, lying in wait to devour smaller, unsuspecting towns is simply brilliant.

And secondly, we have the quality of the prose: tight, easy-flowing, not a single word goes to waste. Reeve has actually done something that is enormously tricky to pull off; he’s written the book in an omniscient viewpoint, dipping out of the characters heads, sometimes within the same paragraph. He’s made it work, and I can’t say I’ve read many authors that have managed to get that right.

Ten out of ten.