The King of Torts / John Grisham

The King of Torts by John GrishamA below average legal thriller. It starts out very slow, meanders a bit and doesn’t get any more interesting towards the end. I felt little empathy for the characters, primarily because they were underdeveloped and the protagonist, Clay Carter, did not come across as likable. Clay just seemed to be an aimless drifter who happened to be in the right place at the right time. Other characters in the book were equally, if not more, insipid. The story itself is not well told unless you’re interested in reading repeated descriptions of the toys of the ultra-rich – even this is mostly yawn inducing.

Verdict: Give it a miss.

Jennifer Government / Max Barry

Jennifer Government by Max Barry
Jennifer Government by Max Barry

This was not a book I specifically picked. I found it laying around at home a couple of months ago; I guess my brother had bought it. I’d been feeling a bit burnt out with work and needed a change; any change. And when I found the book, I picked up and leafed through it. At first glance it seemed to be a run of the mill future science fiction novel and I was starting to feel a tad skeptical. But I dove in anyway and I was hooked within the first 30 pages.

Wikipedia summarizes the setting accurately: “The novel is set in a dystopian alternate reality in which most nations (now controlled by the United States) are dominated by for-profit corporate entities while the government’s political power is extremely limited.” In that world, a person’s last name is that of his/her employer and people, effectively, seem to be slaves to their employers. I’d recommend reading the Wikipedia entry in its entirety if you’re the kind of person that like all the details before diving into a book.

Things kick off with the forced murder of teenagers to promote a new Nike product. Involved in the murder are the NRA and the (privatized) police. The protagonist, Jennifer, who is a government agent, starts investigating the death and things begin to slowly but surely unravel for the masterminds behind the murder. The story involves a number of characters, I think eight or ten and I found it a little tedious to keep track of the interconnects between them and auxiliary arcs. There’s a small bit of romance towards the end. Unlike the one between Neo and Trinity in The Matrix, this one isn’t jarring nor does not feel forced.

Verdict: Recommended

My Life as a Traitor / Zarah Ghahramani

My Life as a Traitor / Zarah Ghahramani

Touching. If I had to pick one word to describe this book, that would be it. Zarah Ghahramani tells the story of her incarceration at Evin Prison in Iran on a multitude of false charges – most of which wouldn’t even warrent attention in the pre-Bush America (yes, I think he’s a bit dictatorial). What makes this book more interesting than most others in similar vein, is that there’s not much in the way of whining – Zarah knows she’s there on mostly trumped up charges. She’s scared, even terrified. The games, both physical and psychological, that the interrogators play with her result in her mind swinging between the extremes of confessing to “crimes” she did not commit and dreams of torturing and killing her captors. Her descriptions of the vacillations are vivid, raw and have left me feeling impotent rage at the injustice heaped on her and millions like her. Books like this induce a strong sense of shame in me for belonging to human kind. What is it that would lead someone to visit the kind of torture on a fellow being? Money? Power? What? Emotional and thought provoking, raw and naked. The one thing I’m disappointed in, is that the story stops with Zarah’s release. What happened to Zarah after her release from Evin Prison? Was her theory on who got her out correct or mere conjecture? What was her recovery like from the trauma? How did she get out of Iran? How is her life now in Australia? I really wish Zarah had filled in these details.

Verdict: Highly recommended.