Richard Stark – The Hunter

The Hunter (Parker, #1)The Hunter by Richard Stark

Parker, a criminal seeking revenge after his wife and associate betrayed them during a job, embarks on fast-paced killing and no-nonsense killing spree trying to recover what he concludes is rightfully his.

Stephen King’s “The Dark Half” led me to discover the ultra-violence that is the Parker series written by Richard Stark, a.k.a. Donald Westlake. With never a dull moment, the novel is absolutely brilliant in its simplicity, straightforwardness and driving pace. It reads like a charm and can easily be finished after a single afternoon sitting.

If you find yourself wondering how a brutal, mean-machine of a protagonist can possibly be appealing, The Hunter will put to rest any doubts.

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George R. R. Martin – A Game of Thrones

A Game of Thrones (A Song of Ice and Fire, #1)A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin

Not only is A Game of Thrones one of the better novels of the past 10 years, but it also happens to be the first in an absolutely addictive series.

Based loosely on the British War of the Roses, A Game of Thrones tells a tale of warring houses, a murdered king, and the family that fights to restore order in the mythical kingdom of Westeros. Narrated over the shoulder of a handful of main characters, we’re given insight into the back stories of major players along with the tangled past of Westeros. It quickly becomes evident that not everything is as it seems and that everyone, big and small, has a part to play in the overall plot. By the end of the novel, what could have easily been straightforward story becomes something more, something special.

While fantasy is a sorely overused genre, Martin breaks free from the usual conventions and doesn’t bombard us with elves, parlour magic or any of that silliness. Instead, he focuses his tale on humans and how the decisions they make are more powerful and have longer lasting consequences than any spell could ever have.

As a note, the novel starts off slow, almost agonizingly so, but once you cross that hump (somewhere between pages 100 and 200) you’ll likely be hooked on Martin’s prose, characters and overarching stories.

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Camping for Adults

Isn’t it a little bit interesting, if perhaps not outright strange with a hint of absurd, how “camping” means something completely different to adults than it does to kids. When you’re young, camping is kind of like your average family outing except instead of revolving around Pirate-themed mini-golf, you just hang out in the woods with your folks and maybe your dog and once in a while go swimming down by the beach. All your food is cooked over the fire, by your parents, served to you on thin white plates. Water is mysteriously, and plentifully, provided by a large blue cooler than dad keeps in the truck, though for some reason you’re never thirsty. On the first and last days of the trip, all the tents, gear, pic-nic and supplies magically pack and unpack themselves and you never have to worry a drip.

Then you become am adult and everything changes.

When adults talk about camping they aren’t talking about the wild, colourful and fun example listed above that fills in the blanks for the childhood camping experience and related memories. When adults talk about camping they are talking about something radically different that in reality actually has very little to do with camping and quite a bit in common with voluntary alcohol poisoning. After all, what does one expect to happen when the only thing on the agenda for three days  is to make fire, stare at fire, and finish off an entire bottle of Gin. I suppose hot dogs fit in there somewhere too, but depending in the state of fire and Gin, they often times fall into a tertiary role.

In this way, I guess that camping actually has quite a bit in common with a backyard barbecue. On the surface they both involve lawn chairs, copious amounts of drinking, cooking meat over a grill and paper plates, but its not often at a barbecue that you happen to catch one of your neighbours walk by wearing nothing but a beer-belly and a snake tattoo, or hear strangers blast Metallica louder than God or see and entire family down the lane pack everything they own, screaming kids including, into their RV like it was a clown car. Backyard barbecues operate off of a certain understanding of a noise limit.  In the forest, there is no such thing. Outdoor voices what?

Now, I’ve heard people talk about camping as a way to escape from the city and reconnect with nature and trees and wildlife and all that, but that’s a damnright lie. Camping is essentially a way for well-to-do, white, suburbanite families and groups of friends to pack up, go to the woods, and slowly destroy said woods. Camping generates trash, lots of it. Everything is disposal, and there’s only so much Styrofoam those fires will lick up before everyone has trouble breathing and their burgers taste like draino.

Ever really see what a camp site looks like after three days? How big are those garbage bags? Wonder what forty cars driving back and forth from the beach smells like?