Out of the three books I brought along for the trip to Sydney, I would recommend Ice Blue and Howl’s Moving Castle. [Edited]: Read Killing Time only if you have time to kill.
[Edited] Well, Anne Stuart shows why she is a master at romantic suspense works with Ice Blue, the explosive and infinitely more thrilling follow-up to Cold as Ice. I was already very intrigued by Takashi in that novel, so there was no way that I’m going to leave Ice Blue on the shelf. This time round, she paired off museum curator Summer Hawthorne with the inscrutable and cool-as-cucumber secret agent man Takashi.
The villain, Shirosama, is a misguided spiritual leader whose Armageddon beliefs and ‘benevolent’ way of assisting the lost to find their path is horribly reflective of some of the methods practiced by modern day terrorists. That’s why the committee’s objective of thwarting and stopping him found resonance and strong support in me.
This is one of those rare books where both hero and heroine get the thumbs-up from me. Summer is intelligent in an academic way, but not really street-smart where thugs and criminals are concerned, so it was kind of funny to see Taka losing a bit of cool and becoming a little incredulous at her naïve attitude towards the danger she’s in, yet amusingly protective and territorial around her. The tension was superbly built with the subtle battle between the couple, the internal emotional struggle inside both leads and resentment both had towards each at the unintentional dependence their situation and the ensuing drama enforces upon them. The exciting plot, excellent character and engaging relationship development are reasons why I won’t be surprised if this book gets multiple award nominations.
Pick it up and read it soon, if not for the reasons above, then definitely for that scene on the flight to Tokyo. I can only say that it’s inspired, and I read it on the flight back home. For the lowdown on the story, read the summary here.
The print version of Howl’s Moving Castle is quite unlike the anime version. There’s no war to serve as the political background, but the humour and wit in this gem of a book kept me glued to its pages. There were several plot twists in the original tale that was over simplified in the anime, so I really appreciated the extra little details.
Howl is still every bit the drama queen in the book, but Sophie was a lot funnier in the anime. She’s also less conflicted in the movie. But you have to read the book to understand Sophie’s dilemma and anguish, and the emotional struggle she went through, as well as the growth in affection between Howl and Sophie, which was very much romanticized in the anime.
Diana Wynne Jones is a wonderful story-teller who infused this well-loved tale with her shimmering optimism, dry sense of humour and an abundance of magic and serendipity. I can certainly understand why Miyazaki couldn’t resist turning this into an animated movie. It has that capacity to inspire hope and wonder.
By contrast, reading Killing Time was simply just that — a way of killing time on the flight to Sydney for me. It didn’t stir as much interest in me. Mind you, I’m not averse to time-travel plots, in fact I love what some authors have done with that story arc. It’s just that apart from the FBI background and the crimes perpetrated by the criminal from the future, and the two lead characters, Knox and Nikita, racing to beat him at his game, there were very few surprises.
What would have been more interesting would be for Nikita to have travel to a time period just before the villain arrives and to have things go horribly wrong from then on. As it is, the plot was so-so while the two lead characters were well developed enough to be worth reading. I shan’t waste space here … if you didn’t read this book, you didn’t miss much.