For anyone who has seen and read the Song of Ice and Fire series (better known as Game of Thrones) this is an interesting read. Personally I started reading the books after watching series 4 of the show and I found it useful, not limiting, that I could image a tangible representation of each character.

101 Books

This Slate article has been making the rounds recently, and it’s something we’ve talked about briefly here on 101 Books before.

That being, how do you imagine the characters in the novels you read?

Do you have a good sense of what they look like? Can you see them clearly in your head? Or is it more of a vague, kinda, sorta image that comes every time you read their name?

If you pick up on specific details the author writes, then you’ll have a decent sense of the character—but do most of us actually formulate images based on what’s written—or just how we want to imagine the character in our heads?

Specifically, for those of you who have read and watched The Lord of the Rings, how do you imagine those characters—and how did you imagine them BEFORE the movies were released?

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The Map

Posted: August 22, 2014 in Uncategorized
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Story 8.5

Writing 7.5

Characters 9

Readability 8.5

“She lay pressed against the sheets, contemplating her options – terror was not something Olivia felt – at least not for years, and all she could think was, who or what could have been so stupid as to break into her room and rifle through her luggage? Some impoverished local looking for money or perhaps a passport? Someone who believed he was dealing with a poor befuddled middle-aged Englishwoman. What an idiot, and a dull joy stirred in her loins, the anticipation of the sadist, of the silent predator.”

Olivia, a mystical woman with dark secrets, pursues August Winthrop across Europe, shadowing him as he unlocks the clues of a great mystery. August, T.S. Learner’s protagonist, has inherited an old chronicle that contains secrets leading to a hidden treasure – but it isn’t easy. Throughout August’s journey he is pursued by a core of deadly organisations headed by even deadlier individuals. But what price is August willing to pay? And what could this treasure possibly be?

T.S. Learner’s “The Map” is a very intriguing mystery novel that combines incredibly likeable characters with a sense of intrigue that propels you further into the story with a hunger to unravel what’s the chronicle is leading August towards. 

One of my favourite parts about this book is how authentic it feels despite being a work of fiction. A big factor in this book’s authenticity is the way Learner blends myth and religion with history to create a totally believable sense of being. She consistently juxtaposes the mystical properties of chronicle and its religious weight against August’s firm sense realism set in the context of post World War Two leading into the start of the Cold War. 

“Digging carefully, he scraped away at the surrounding gravel and pulled free a miniature statuette of an angel, wings unfurled, a primitive almost demoniac depiction. The whitish clay it had been modelled from looked familiar. August realised with a shock where he knew it from – it was made of the same material as the statuette that has been thrust into the mouth of Copp’s corpse. Bone, human bone.”

The map is an exciting book. It keeps you on the edge of your seat as you await what happens to characters which grow on your the more you read. It feels genuine, the emotions is crafted with particular care for realism. in this book nothing is taken from granted, and yet luck plays a very interesting role. 

This book is 500 pages and I knocked it over in less than a week – it’s the kind of book you get lost among. 


Science Fiction

Story 8

Writing 7

Characters 6.5

Readability 7.5

“She smiled and let go of my arm. Some piece of clockwork had completed its cycle. My calling Hazel ‘Mom’ had shut it off, and now Hazel was rewinding it for the next Hoosier to come along. 

Hazel’s obsession with Hoosiers around the world was a text-book example of a false karass, of a seeming team which was meaningless in terms of the ways God gets things done, a text-book example of what Bokonon calls granfallon.”

For anyone who isn’t familiar with Kurt Vonnegut’s writing style, Cat’s Cradle will probably seem like a bizarre story – it could probably be better thought of as a collection of thoughts made fiction.

To really understand Cat’s Cradle you need to first understand its context. Written in 1963, it is an allegory to the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962 – a tale about the end of the world.

The story begins at the start of Jonah’s (our protagonist – in the loosest sense possible) journey to document the events the day Hiroshima and Nagasaki were bombed by nuclear warheads. His investigations lead him to a remote research facility where he is told about Ice 9 – a chemical substance with the potential to destroy the world.

This book explores human nature in a detached manner that hits at the surreal. The characters aren’t really people and as you read you will find it hard to empathise with Vonnegut’s characters. Instead, they are constructions of ideas; belief and desire given a persona within the pages of this book. At times it can be frustrating and yet at others quite funny.

“Hello,” he said to me sleepily

“Hello,” I said. “I like your painting.”

“You see what it is?”

“I suppose it means something different to everyone who sees it.”

“It’s a cat’s cradle.”

“Aha,” I said. “Very good. The scratches are string. Right?”

“One of the oldest games there is, cat’s cradle. Even the Eskimos know it.”

“You don’t say.”

“For maybe a hundred thousand years or more, grownups have been waving tangles of string in their children’s faces.”


At only 206 pages long, the book boasts 127 chapters. It jumps from moment to moment unapologetically, which gives the book an energy and liveliness far greater than the plot itself creates. Truly reading this book is like trying to solve a riddle you don’t quite understand – the story takes many turns, each well concealed, so much so it feels that the story doesn’t quite know which way it’s going to go next.

This book is different. Appearing to be simple it’s actually quite complex. Within the short 200 pages it has a lot to say; about science, religions, morality and humanity – how dangerous is Ice 9, and what is the religions of Bokonon?

Definitely worth a read.


Romance, drama 

Writing 8

Story 6.5

Characters 9

Readability 8


“Tess knew that she must break down. Neither a religious sense of a certain moral validity in the previous union nor a conscientious wish for candour could hold out against it much longer. She loved him so passionately, and he was so godlike in her eyes; and being, though untrained, instinctively refined, her nature cried out for his tutelary guidance.”

Thomas Hardy’s Tess of the D’Urbervilles is a coming of age story that pits white against black in an ominously grey world.

Set during the turn of the 19th Century among rural England, we’re first introduced to Hardy’s heroine, Tess, shortly after we find out that – far from being common folk as they have always believed they were – the D’Urberville family are in fact descendants from an ancient line of nobility. Only time can tell if such knowledge will help or hinder Tess and her family.

This book is complex, be it religion, philosophy, love or nature, Hardy never glosses over something, instead he explores deep within. In regards to the way he vividly describes each environment, this level of detail can, at times, become tedious – I found that sometimes my eyes glossed over 5 or so lines of mountainous detail without actually processing much of it. And yet we can forgive Hardy because of the industrialisation and centralisation that is occurring throughout Europe at the time of his writing. In fact he entwines personal struggle with environment interestingly.

Being a young man of the 21st Century, I was quite surprised by how engrossing I found this book. Although its moral lesson are very much set within its own context, (that being 1891) Hardy explores aspects of human nature with truthfulness that is, at times, disarming and yet at other times, hilarious. This book will make you cry, it’ll make you laugh and it will most likely make you slam it shut from frustration more than once – and yet it won’t be long before you’ve opened it again and become lost in Tess’ world. 


Science Fiction, short story

Writing 8

Story 7.5

Characters 6

Readability 9

“The word ‘intellectual’, of course, became the swearword it deserved to be. You always dread the unfamiliar. Surely you remember the boy in your own school class who was exceptionally ‘bright’, did most of the reciting and answering while the others sat like so many leaden idiots, hating him. And wasn’t it this bright boy you selected for beatings and tortures after hours? Of course it was. We must all be alike. Not everyone born free and equal, as the Constitutions says, but everyone made equal. Each man the image of every other; then all are happy, for there are no mountains to make the cower, to judge themselves against. So! A book is a loaded gun in the house next door. Burn it. Take the shot from the weapon. Breach man’s mind.”

Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 creates a dystopic world enshrined in communism, where firemen burn rather than soothe. Engorged by mass media, society has become lost, along with personality and humanity. A good portion of  Montag’s (Bradbury’s protagonist) time is spent figuring out why he’s so unhappy, nay, what unhappy even feels like.

At times, the book feels devoid of love. its inhabitants suffer terrible fate, make poor decisions and administer injustice without much thought – and yet it is the daft verging on banal treatment of conscience which creates tension and propels you to read further. Incredulous, we are made to swallow devastation as entree whilst gorging ourselves on Montag’s (and his alone) inner conflict.

But that’s not to say that there isn’t light in Fahrenheit 451, but victory is scare, hope; scarcer still. On finishing the book you might feel unsatisfied but that’s the genius of it. This book makes you think, reflect – feel.

This story is not a roller coaster, rather, it’s the slow wave that gradually overcomes you.

“It was a pleasure to burn. It was a special pleasure to see things eaten, to see things blackened and changed. With the brass nozzle in his fists, with this great python spitting its venomous kerosene upon the world, the blood pounding in his head, and his hands were the the hands of some amazing conductor playing all the symphonies of blazing and burning to bring down the tatters and charcoal ruins of history.”