Recommendations can be pretty great

While the whole pandemic thing has being going on I’ve been using my down time to watch a shit load of films and TV and to hammer through some computer games. I’ve also done a solid amount of reading, mostly comics and graphic novels but I’ve also been gradually working my way through a number of books I’ve had on my kindle for ages. This has mainly been the usual sorts of science fiction and fantasy books I’d normally read with a few autobiography type things sprinkled in, all very much in my comfort zone.

I had two recommendations of books from friends that I’d never even heard of before, I did no search on them at all as I trust these friends pretty much implicitly and I’ve known them both long enough that they know me pretty well at this point. I thought I’d talk about the two books a little just because they were very pleasant surprises, I’m going to avoid plot spoilers as much as possible but there are some book elements I’m going to discuss which may ruin what to expect versus going in with literally no knowledge whatsoever.

Daisy Jones and the Six – This is the one I was referring to before then I said that going in blind adds a layer of extra fun to the story on offer here. It’s the tale of a fictional band in the seventies and the fictional element is the part that I didn’t know going in. I thought they were a genuine band, such is how shite my music knowledge is. It was only after a conversation with my mum where she’d never heard of them that I realised this, and it speaks for the way it’s written that I found it entirely believable and it references real acts enough to help with the illusion.

I found it a bit jarring initially and it took me a little time to get into it as it’s written as a transcript of various interviews, once I got my head round it though I really enjoyed the way the story is structured as it feels more unique and incredibly personal. The characters are all very human too, they have glaring flaws and quirks that really bring them to life in a really unique way, there’s conflict between band members that you’d expect from a group of people living in a bubble with each other and there are bonds that form and it all feels very believable.

Once I got over my initial reservations about the writing style I basically devoured the story, I think I read it all in about 2 days in all and it’s an incredibly easy read. The only really complaint I have is with the ending of the book, it feels a little bit like a soap opera but it’s actually balanced out somewhat by a really nice reveal which winds up being quite sweet. I was genuinely really glad I gave this a go, I think it’ll wind up being one I read again in the future, I’d definitely recommend it to other people that’s for sure.

What’s also interesting is that apparently Amazon are going to be making a TVs series based on the book. I’m interested to see how they adapt it as I think there’s potential for some really interesting story telling there. They could mirror the interview format of the book as voice overs to flashbacks or I guess the more likely thing will be just to have it play out as being set in the actual time and keeping things relatively linear. Regardless it’ll be interesting to see how characters appear compared to how I imagined them in my head.

The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet – As a science fiction book this is definitely much more my thing but it’s not one I’d have really considered when picking out a book as it wasn’t one I was familiar with and had I been the blurb on the back of the book isn’t something that would have made me randomly pick it up. Frankly I’d have been missing out had I not checked it as the author, Becky Chambers, has written a book that’s just an utter delight, it was honestly one of the most pleasantly surprising reads I’ve experienced.

The thing that makes it so unusual right of the bat is that it doesn’t have any big plot as such, it essentially just follows the crew of the Wayfarer as they go about their lives on the ship. It’s a really easy read because it just kind of ambles along with no real sense of urgency but there will be things that happen which will inject moments of tension at points and it works very well, but it’s the easy going approach to the story being told that makes it so good for me, it’s the perfect book to chill out and unwind with.

For me there are 2 things that really shine with the book though, the attention to detail is excellent to extent of seemingly throw away lines which add context to things happening which aren’t necessary as such but really help pull you into the world. The absolute best thing is the characters though, they’re absolutely amazing, the relationships between the crew are well realised and there’s a definite sense of a family bond there which leads to a really nice sense of the bonds everyone has or establishes over the course of the book.

There’s also some surprisingly emotional moments which happen as a result of the effort put into establishing these characters and their connections to each other, definitely wasn’t expecting it but it was just one more pleasant surprise. There are further books in this series which I’ll definitely be reading but I’m actually a little apprehensive as they seem to follow different characters. I have no doubts these new characters will be equally well written but I’d also like to be able to see what happens with the characters from this book as I was definitely fully invested in them and their lives by the end of the book.

I’m incredibly lucky I’ve got friends that know me well enough to know things that I may like that I may not have been aware of myself, or things that that they think I’d like that are out of my comfort zone. Either way it boils down to the same result, me getting to read a new story which I may or may not like, but one that I’ll appreciate regardless and then get to discuss with said friends which is equally fascinating, especially if there are different feelings towards the book.

It’s one of the best things about recommending things, I recommended the Discworld books that featured Sam Vimes to the friend that recommended Daisy Jones to me. They weren’t for her and I enjoyed listening to what she didn’t necessarily enjoy, and I suspect some of that was my fault as I went for books later in the series where a lot of character progression had already happened but it was still interesting to hear another perspective from someone I respect. Enjoying the same things and being able to discuss that is great but I enjoy the discussions where there’s divergent views just as much.

Ultimately I’m going to continue to try recommendations from people that have opinions on things that I trust, some things may wind up being things I don’t like but I figure the fact that there’s always a pretty high chance that I will end up liking whatever it is makes it worth the chance. And when all said and done if I don’t like whatever it is then it’s just going to lead to some fun discussions which is great fun in itself.

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