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Before His Time by Darren Craske

22 Jan

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When we last left the Station Guard and his talking Rat companion, they were eager to head for Switzerland in order to find the other humans that remained on Earth.

After a massive intergalactic catastrophe, all of Earth’s humans are gone. All except for the population of Switzerland, which somehow avoided the peril that befell the rest of Earth and the Station Guard.

With only the foul-mouthed talking Rat for company, the Station Guard is eager to embrace those human’s that remain. After a brief stop at Marks and Spencer to get some winter outer gear (and the blowing up of a shark), the Station Guard and the talking Rat are catapulted through thought and space to Switzerland by Astrid, an articulated python.

Except that there’s a problem. A Very Big Problem. If the Station Guard and the Rat act, they could prevent the whole catastrophe from happening in the first place. If they don’t act, they risk getting lost in history itself. However, they must be careful. For anything they do will have an effect on what will become of the Earth and the fate of humanity hangs in the balance. Add to that the fact that their lives are in grave danger and you’ve got the makings of a blockbuster adventure!

I’ve never appreciated how hard it is to write a review for a sequel without giving anything away or anything away from the first novel in a series. Why the hesitancy in giving anything away? Well, I said it before and I’ll say it again: This book is so good that it deserves to be discovered on its own and dived into.  However, if my plot summary seems especially meager this time around, that’s because I’m trying to be conscious of those who don’t like spoilers or those who haven’t read the first book.

I absolutely loved Above His Station. It was one of my very favourite books of 2012. I wondered if the sequel, Before His Time, would live up to the first book and figured it would. I needn’t have worried. Before His Time is Darren Craske at his most wonderful and inventive best.

Filled with laugh out loud humour, fantastic characters, a lightning quick plot with hair turns and twists aplenty and more meta references than you can shake a stick at, Before His Time is a comedic masterpiece on par with The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy.

The great thing is that, if you haven’t read Above His Station, Craske gives readers a hilarious take on “The Story So Far” that had me laughing out loud before the novel even really began.  Once the introduction chapter is over, we’re thrown headlong into one of the best novels I have ever read, period. The plot goes places I never envisioned and I have rarely had such a good time.

With pop culture references that cover everything from Back to the Future , Jerry Lewis, Star Wars all the way to Eddie Murphy in The Nutty Professor, Craske is a writer with his finger on the vein of hilarity. What’s skillful about Craske’s writing is how seamlessly he works the humour in. It comes naturally to his writing and never feels forced. Make no mistake however: this is a madcap adventure that will either have you laughing out loud or holding your sides as you laugh internally. It should probably come with a warning for people who don’t like laughing in public places. However, if you don’t mind laughing yourself silly with the occasional person staring your way, than full speed ahead, I say!

We’re only a hop, skip and a jump into 2013 and Craske has already topped himself again. Before His Time is a skillfully written comedic novel that touches on everything from time travel to history and back again. And I couldn’t have been more thrilled to have taken the ride.

Now would be a very good time for a chocolate digestive biscuit…or two. Oh, and mind the trees. They like to sing on occasion…

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11/22/63 by Stephen King

8 Jul

 

 

 

 

I was truly surprised by King’s new novel. And I didn’t have high hopes for it.

After finishing (and greatly disliking) Under the Dome, I debated whether I was done with King. After reading the disappointing Mile 81, I was sure I was done with King. But decided to give him one more change.

Boy am I ever glad I did!

Jake Epping, an English teacher from 2011, is given the chance to go back in time. His friend Al Templeton has a supply closet in his diner that also happens to be a rabbit hole to September of 1958. Al is dying and leaves Jake with an important task: go back in time and stop the assassination of JFK.

This is easy feat. Because the past is obdurate; it moves against Jake and doesn’t want to be changed. But there are also other distractions.

One is: Did Oswald do the deed alone? Jake must determine this before he acts. The second? A woman named Sadie who Jake falls in love with. Will he risk everything, even the love of his past life, to save another?

At 850 pages, my meagre summary of the plot doesn’t come close to covering everything that happens in 11/22/63. But that’s okay. No plot summary would come close because there is so much life in this novel. The parts where Jake is living through the fifties and sixties really come to life in King’s writing and the stories contained within are ones that are at once timeless and essential.

It’s a novel that you want to live in. Rarely have I been so affected by a novel. It really wasn’t about the assassination, but about the characters and that is where King really shines. He made an 850 page novel seem like it was 300 pages; that is how good the writing is.

There are no supernatural elements to the novel, but that isn’t a downside. King has tried something different by writing what could be loosely described as historical romantic fiction. The good thing is that he succeeds on every level.

I loved this book so much that I didn’t want it to end. When I did finish it, I was left breathless, teary eyed and wanting more. That is the mark of a great book and this is Stephen King’s best work to date, hands down.