Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The Geographer's Library - Book Review

The Geographer's Library
by Jon Fasman
Penguin Press 2005

I thought this book would be an intellectual thriller, but it turned out not to be much of either. The most interesting part of the narrative are the short descriptions of the 15 objects that make up the geographer's library.

The geographer was a real person, Al-Idrisi, a Spanish-Muslim philosopher, cartographer, linguist, and scholar who served in the court of King Roger of Sicily in Palermo in the year 1154.

The word Library implies a collection of books. There are no books. Just a collection of mundane objects that seem to have some importance. An importance that is not made obvious until the very last chapter.

Those brief but vivid stand-alone chapters about the objects were very interesting and they kept me reading this book all the way through the other parts where nothing much happens.

I found it rather disconcerting to have to switch centuries every chapter from the present to the library back to the present day story and then drop back into another object again.

This meant the book did not read in a very smooth manner but jerked its way through the entire story to the very end. I have mentioned previously in this blog, how much I dislike sudden changes of time in books. Authors do need to be more careful with this style.

The present day story is about Paul, a recent college grad investigating the death of a professor at the college he just graduated from. While Paul is asking questions to gather information on the professors obituary, he has a series of vaguely threatening experiences, most of which go nowhere.

And the ending - where everything was all wrapped up in the last chapter like a parcel ready for delivery?? Well...the objects are used to become immortal. The professor whose obituary Paul was writing was supposedly immortal - if you can beleive that.

The trouble is that there is absolutely no mention of HOW the objects are used to become immortal. I would have liked to have known that. I would also have loved to have learnt more about the geographer himself - Al Idrisi.

While I did read the entire novel, it never caught my attention like the Thieves of Baghdad did.

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