Chris tears himself away from a computer screen for more than two seconds…

What with all the travelling and work recently, I haven’t actually looked at much on the Net, it has to be said. What I have been doing is reacquainting myself with treeware – although slightly disturbingly the two books I have recently been reading are both concerned with high-school massacres, or rather their aftermath.

The first that I read, Vernon God Little by DBC Pierre (which won this year’s Booker Prize), was a bit of a disappointment. Quite frankly I can’t see what all the fuss is about, yes the character is interesting, in a sort of modern Holden Caulfield way, but he lacks the really acidic insights into life that makes the Catcher in the Rye so great. The plot is thin, the ‘twists’ predictable, and the “wrap it up nicely and put a bow on it” ending is just plain irritating. There are good bits, the extreme, to the point of sick, parody of the voyeurism and rapacious greed of modern American life, and some of the characters are amusingly dark and twisted (but none apart from the protagonist are really fleshed out). I’m not convinced, and I’m especially not convinced as to why it got the Booker.

The second book, Hey Nostradamus! by Douglas Coupland is much better. The quality of the writing is superb and kept me hooked all the way through, the four principle principal characters are complex and left me asking questions about religion and faith and love that I hadn’t really thought of before. There isn’t much plot, to be honest, (though the detailing of the massacre is done in a much more convincing and chilling way than in VGL), but the characters are much deeper and the subjects touched much more serious, and the ending is suitably open and fitting. Full marks to Coupland, and I’m now keen to go off and read some more of his (the only other work of his I’ve read is the seminal geek tale Microserfs, which I also recommend).