Very entertaining book about a dystopian UK, 84K. Takes Snowcrash‘s Burbclaves, strips them of their nerdy irony and replaces it with despair. Adds a dose of propagandistic Orwellian Newspeak, to which the title also alludes (84k is the amount calculated to be the economic damage of the killing of a key character: pay it and you walk free, or end up in slave labour). Where public tasks have been outsourced to corporations who, feeding on each other, coalesce up until the point there is just one Corporation that is both all corporations and the government. Resulting in sociopathic public governance, where everyone who starts out in the wrong place or falls through the (wide) cracks ends up shredded by the system, and where each factory and workplace has its own killing field in the back yard. Enough never ending madness in short to make anybody scream…unless you look away like everyone else.

I really enjoyed Normal People: A Novel. It resembles in tone and setting the diary notes from my own time at university. The choices contemplated but not made, and resulting potential regrets. The self-centered observation of the world around you, and how that can result in misinterpreting or over-interpreting the actions and intentions of those around you. Those aspects definitely resonate with my depressive last few years at university, and made me emphatise with both protagonists. Online reviews frequently mention how flat most characters in this book remain. It is a surprising critique I think as we experience the story through the eyes of both main characters, both as I said self-absorbed, self-loathing and constantly on the verge of depression. Through such eyes it is impossible to see others or your connection to others in full colour, rich in dimensions and in splendid detail. You only see it from your own narrowed down perspective, and only with regard to your internal deliberations and doubts. It made the book feel more authentic to me, not less.

Mostly enjoyed Fall of Giants: Book One of the Century Trilogy for its detailed narration of societal shifts pre WWI, the lead-up to the war and the war itself. A good way to get a feel for how it came about. Especially as WWI for me never got much attention as the Netherlands remained neutral during it (the big 1914-1918 story we were taught concerns the up to 1 million Belgian refugees, and the POWs fleeing across the border / being repatriated through the Netherlands during the flue pandemic)

Many characters are more caricatures, and many dialogues meant to explain some strain of reasoning that influence how WW1 developed are rather simplistic.

Follett is one of those authors that has hit upon a well working template for his books, and then re-uses that time and again. Good amusement though.

Empire Falls was the first book I read by Russo years ago, and though nothing much happens in it, it made a big impression in how it recounts the deeply human things that make up our everyday lives. Since then I’ve read a few more, and not all of them succeeded in having that same effect. This one, That Old Cap Magic, did. Fun to read, diving into the mind and life of the protagonist, and kept me reading until finished.