Thursday, 11 February 2016

Review: The Rosie Project

The Rosie Project The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

The Rosie Project is a "romantic comedy" (I guess) about a genetics professor trying to find a life partner. He's clearly somewhere on the autistic spectrum and reading the story from his (quite) unfeeling point of view is interesting, though it didn't always work.

I wasn't very impressed with this book; for me, it couldn't deliver what it (and the critics) promised. Here are some of my main qualms with The Rosie Project:

Right at the beginning, Don's supposedly best friend Gene has asked him to deliver a lecture that he was supposed to give himself. Fine.
The lecture is on a topic Don knows nothing about (Asperger's syndrome). Ok, weird, but he's very intelligent, so he can probably cope (at least he didn't complain).
Gene also neglects to mention what kind of lecture is required or whom it's for. This leads to a near-catastrophe when Don launches into a genetics (because that's what he's a professor of) focussed lecture on Asperger's in front of parents with kids affected by this illness. Why would Gene, as a friend, not warn Don who would be his audience? And why would an always deliberate, plan-based individual like Don not ask for this information in advance?
The same question, about Gene being a friend, also applies to Don's shock when he learns that these lectures never start on time. A warning would have been nice...

The time it takes to test the first blood sample against Rosie's cheek swap was way too quick. Even considering that he prepared the blood sample before the written part of their conversation occurs, even with that "very quick" new equipment... It looks like only a few minutes, and that's just not possible.
And, by the way, for someone who is so much into science and has lots of high quality science discussions, Don is incredibly reluctant to mention anything scientific in his account of these events. Neither about how the equipment works, nor what he actually does or what his group/institute is working on. We only have that information about Gene.

Upon their first arrival at the lab, Don takes two beers for himself and Rosie from the lab fridge. Later, he even goes from his office to the lab to get one from that fridge. I don't know about Australia, but in Germany you don't usually keep beer in a lab fridge. We have social rooms and kitchens for that, and knowing what's also in a lab fridge really makes you think twice about keeping food or drink in there. Plus, it's of course absolutely forbidden. And, seriously, in the same room with that new, high-tech and probably expensive machine?? Why would they place it in a former tea-room, anyway?

The book is written in first person, from Don's point of view. There's a ball scene which starts with him not being able to apply the theoretic dancing skills he learned in ten days to actual music and a live partner. He blames this on having not trained with actual music. Soon after that disaster, he dances with someone else - perfectly. A few pages on, he admits that he could have done better, but failed on purpose because he didn't like his partner. What kind of first person POV is that??

Last but not least, Don changes his appearance and his behaviour for a woman who doesn't quite match with him (she's a smoker, for God's sake!). He gives up almost everything that kept him grounded, turns his whole life around (at age 40) - for whom? The woman he apparently (for the more emotional reader) fell in love with on first sight, with no rationality behind it. It's so dumb it made me realise I shouldn't read any "romantic comedy" any more.
Also, imagine the gender roles were switched - feminists would be all over this!

Overall, The Rosie Project neither entertained me nor did it make me laugh (although I did recognise some scenes that were supposedly funny, just not for me). The only light in all this mess was the preview of the next book, where Don apparently starts regretting how he changed - at least partly. I'm not sure I should dare to read that, though...

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Monday, 1 February 2016

Review: Moon Over Soho

Moon Over Soho Moon Over Soho by Ben Aaronovitch
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

"Moon Over Soho" took up the story that Rivers of London left us with: more men who got their penises bitten of by a woman's vagina. In addition, PC Peter Grant has to deal with a number of jazzmen who apparently died of natural causes, but maybe not... Then there's of course the recoveries of his superior, DCI Thomas Nightingale, who got shot in the chest and can't be bothered to take time off to recover, and of PC Lesley May, whose face fell of at the end of their last big case.
The rivers, i.e. the Thames family, also get their chance to participate, although that felt a bit forced. And there's more of the science aspects of magic, which I liked very much. After all, it was Isaac Newton who started all this, and that Peter and Dr. Walid try to figure out some of the basics is awesome.

All in all, the book was again a great read. A bit more creepy this time, while not feeling much more dark - somehow, Peter's voice won't let that happen.
Two style things irritated me while reading: as in the last book, there were sometimes - from my point of view - small words missing, like "the" or "in". I noticed this in "Rivers of London" as well and am still not sure if that is on purpose or not. The other thing started in "Moon Over Soho" and is one of my pet peeves: forgetting that there's a singular for that plural word the author invented. In this case, it's "vestigium" as singular for "vestigia" - Ben Aaronovitch/Peter Grant almost always uses "vestigia" here, with apparent disregard to how many there are. Why would any author do that??

Below follows a minor spoiler, so consider not reading on.

There are certain clich├ęs that are always followed (in this case in crime novels and shows), when you're trained to expect foul play. Examples would be that old partner that suddenly turns up and assists in an investigation, or a new relationship of one of the main characters which seems to get a little too much attention. That person who turned up out of the blue is normally one of the bad guys messing with the main character(s), usually on purpose. I saw it coming here, and needed some time to adjust to the fact it was not (really) the case. Great!

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