Wednesday, October 22, 2008

In a bookshop near you

There are many steps in the creation and distribution of a book. And another significant step in the process is to see it on a shelf in a bookshop, available for almost anyone to wander in and purchase a copy.

So here it is in a bookshop near you. Just how near will depend significantly upon where in the world you are reading this. But as comedian Steven Wright put it, "Everywhere is walking distance if you have the time."

And, of course, like many bookshop experiences, you might have to look for it—kind of like an extra-literary "Where's Wally?"

Sunday, October 19, 2008

On location: Brisbane, Qld

It is a few years now since I lived permanently in Brisbane but recently I had the opportunity to spend a few days in the city. It’s interesting to see how a place has changed—and how it hasn't—while one has been away.

But there is an extra interest when visiting a city that is the location for one’s novel. Having spent time as a keen observer of the city and its people, I was reminded of what an interesting place the city and its inner suburbs are. In the Spring sunshine, the Brisbane River winds its way around the city, giving the central business district a unique sense of space and confinement.

But perhaps the most remarkable experience came on the Saturday afternoon. Staying with family in an inner suburb, we headed out to walk to a nearby park. It was warm afternoon with a near-cloudless, Queensland blue, Spring sky.

A couple of blocks away from their home, I looked up and noticed a skywriting plane beginning to do its thing. It caught my attention and more so as I realised it’s first letter was a G. (See chapter “one” of Nemesis Train for the significance.)

I contemplated running back for a camera but realised by the time I did the moment would have been lost, so I just continued to watch the sky. It ended up spelling out the name of an upcoming music festival. But, for just a few moments, the book came to life in an unexpected way while wandering the streets of Brisbane.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Review: A puzzle, but the pieces fit

by Melody Tan

Nemesis Train could simply have been a notebook filled with the journey of the author’s ponderings and explorations of various people’s lives. But what makes it a compelling read is the fact that the reader not only joins the ride as a mere commuter, but becomes a participant in a very real way as well.

This is not a book in the old-fashioned sense of the word, as chapters often appear unstructured and the flow of the book will take most readers by surprise. However, like Italo Calvino’s If on a Winter’s Night a Traveller, readers of Nemesis Train will find themselves unwittingly and inexplicably drawn into a story that makes them want to find out more, if only to discover how all the characters fit into the story.

Nemesis Train provokes thought and, more often, encourages the reader to ask questions rather than provides any real answers. Brown chooses to dwell deep in the thought processes of the characters, paying a lot of attention to their state of mind and what spurs them to do what they do.

Brown has a real talent in seeing details that may have been missed by most writers, and certainly by people going about their normal everyday life. Because he takes the time to pause and study the surroundings, he succeeds in painting a clear and real picture in the mind’s eye. The reader is drawn into the world that Brown has created and becomes a part of the book. The interesting, and sometimes quirky descriptions are also often unique and unexpected.

There is often an overarching sense of loss and loneliness present in the book, a sense that life may be a waste of time without any real meaning. However, there are also rare glimpses of wry humour and, through the character Jed Hill, the reader sees hope.

A book that makes a strong statement against war and the detrimental impact it has on war veterans and perhaps the world in general, it also offers grace and understanding to all those involved. But perhaps, it also offers these gifts to everybody, encouraging patience and kindness to those we come in contact with.

And what makes Nemesis Train a rare treasure is the fact that the surprise ending not only helps everything fall into place for the reader, it makes you want to go back to the platform and board the train all over again with your newfound piece of puzzle.