Yann Martel | Vintage Canada
4 / 5
YANN MARTEL, THE author of Life of Pi, released another book in 2012 that was a polar opposite of his previous novel. 101 Letters to a Prime Minister is a non-fiction work that features the 101 letters Martel sent to Prime Minister Stephen Harper over a four-year period, beginning in 2007. Calling his series of letters the world’s most exclusive book club, which includes only him and Harper, Martel sent the prime minister a book and accompanying letter every two weeks for four years. This book is a compilation of those letters.
Although not exactly a thrilling summer read or an engrossing thousand-page novel, 101 Letters is still super enjoyable. It becomes tedious at times, but there are many things that make this book great. Martel’s book list is extensive, to say the least, but also has a wide scope, including non-fiction works and graphic novels, Canadian and Japanese authors, and 1,000-year-old manuscripts and recent publications. The concept of the book club and the letters is this: as Canadian citizens, we should know what our country’s leader is reading, and consequently what he is filling his mind with. Martel therefore took it upon himself to make recommendations to Harper.
This book won’t necessarily pull you in, but it’s an interesting experiment that’s even a little mind-boggling. After all, the letters span four years, over which Martel does make political commentary on a number of issues. He also frequently and openly expresses his frustration over Harper’s lack of response to his letters. If nothing else, 101 Letters will at least give you an awesome reading list.
—Spencer Van Dyk
Warren Ellis | Mulholland Books
3.5 / 5
WARREN ELLIS HAS proven himself to be a writing machine. Since the late ‘80s, he has written for virtually every major comic publisher, resulting in acclaimed works such as Transmetropolitan and Planetary. Ellis made his prose debut with his 2007 novel Crooked Little Vein, a demented piece of work that showcases his trademarks: science fiction, heavy violence, and general raunchiness. Six years and one lost novel later (thanks to a crashed hard drive), Ellis has finally released his follow-up in the form of a police procedural titled Gun Machine.
The novel follows detective John Tallow, who discovers an apartment in New York City filled wall-to-wall with guns, all of which turn out to be murder weapons from unsolved homicides dating back 20 years.
Right off the bat, it’s apparent that the publishing hiatus has benefitted the author’s skills in prose, as the occasional clunky text that bogged down Crooked Little Vein is nowhere to be found. In Gun Machine, Ellis’s descriptions are inventive and manage to truly captivate the reader. The novel’s only faults lie in some of its occasionally lazy plotting. Several events in the storyline would not have occurred if Tallow had not run into key characters by pure coincidence. Considering the size of New York City, it seems a little unbelievable.
Readers should be aware that Ellis’s penchant for heavy violence is on full display here. But if you can stomach some explicit descriptions, you’ll discover an entertaining and short read that may serve as a perfect distraction from school work.