The Magee Book Blog is a place for Magee students and teachers to share their reading with each other. Students and staff are invited to make submissions. Just send them to Mr McLennan for posting.
Steelheart, by Brandon
Anderson. Reviewed by Mr. McLennan, Jan 15, 2016
This is Book I of The Reckoners series. The
premise of the series is that a strange sun-like object in the sky has somehow
been giving ordinary human beings super-hero traits. The trouble is that the Epics, as these
transformed people are called, become super-villains rather than super-heros, and the stronger their powers, the
nastier they seem to be. When David’s
father is killed by Steelheart, David commits himself to defeating him. He joins the Reckoners, which is a secret
organization that fights the Epics. The
book is a fun read, full of action and suspense. The super-villains have corny action-comics
names and abilities, and the good guys need to be resourceful to defeat
them. The end of Steelheart left me wanting to read the sequel, Firefight.
The Wee Free Men,
by Terry Pratchett. Reviewed by Mr. McLennan, Jan 15, 2016.
is one of my go-to authors when I want to read something fun and easy. His Discworld series has about 42 titles, so if you try him and like him, there’s plenty to read. The Wee
Free Men is the first installment of the Tiffany Aching series (a sub-set of Discworld), the only
series written specifically for younger readers, and a good access point for
Pratchett. Tiffany is a ten-year-old girl who learns to everyone’s surprise
that she’s a witch. Pratchett’s witches are down-to-earth practical
problem-solvers. That might make them
sound dull, but they’re anything but. Witches don’t take any guff from anyone. With the help of the Mac Nac Feegle (the "wee free men" of the title) who
are Pitcsies (not pixies) six inches tall, covered in tattoos and who love
nothing better that drinkin’ an' fightin’ an' stealin’, Tiffany’s common sense
and courage save the world (of course) from a supernatural incursion. Subsequent books in the series are A Hat Full of Sky, The Wintersmith, and I Shall
Wear Midnight. Pratchett is very funny, but also perceptive and humane—the absurdities in his books pointing to absurdities in life. He's one of
Winger, by Andrew Smith. Reviewed by Mr. McLennan, Jan 15, 2016.
Ryan Dean West is only fourteen years old,
but he’s a senior at a posh private boarding school. Because he's younger, he feels like he's treated as less-than by many of the older kids, and he's always trying to prove himself. He ends up in the dorm for miscreants and
misfits, and rooms with the biggest jerk on the rugby team. The friendships (and the animosities) in this
book are intense, and Ryan Dean makes quite a few mistakes, but he learns some
gritty lessons about love and hate from them. The ending is sad.
Variant, by Robison Wells. Reviewed by Mr. McLennan, Jan 15, 2016.
I read this book after I had read James Dashner’s
Maze Runner. I know many people have enjoyed Maze Runner, but I didn’t like it. I didn’t see the point of the huge maze
thing. If you want to test people’s
resourcefulness, a giant moving maze seems like an absurdly expensive and
inefficient way to do it. Reading Variant feels a little like reading Maze Runner—you’re not quite sure why
certain things are happening, or exactly where the threat is coming from. Unlike MR
though, Variant makes sense
eventually. The protagonist, Benson, has won a scholarship to a special boarding school. At first it seems like it’ll just be a story
of personality conflicts in a boarding school, but eventually we learn that the
problem is much bigger than that. The ending is quite thrilling, and changes the situation in an interesting way, presenting an entirely new problem. If you
read this you’ll probably want to read the sequel, Feedback.
Lexicon, by Max Barry. Reviewed by Mr. McLennan, Jan
I picked up this novel at Kidsbooks in
their adult-novels-of-interest-to-teens sections, so unlike most of the titles
here, it isn’t specifically a YA title. It was a Time magazine top 10 fiction
book of the year for 2014, and received accolades from many reputable
publications. It reads like a sort of dystopic spy thriller. The premise is that words have power. Not just aesthetic power, but the power to
control people. Everyone has a special
word that gives others control over them, and certain people have special
sensitivity to knowing and using power words. The protagonist is Emily, a street kid who ends up on a quest for the
one word that rules them all (ha!—see what I did there?). There’s rather a lot
of blood and violence in this book, but it’s a taut, thrilling read.
Everything I Never Told You, by Celeste Ng. Reviewed by Mr. McLennan, Jan 15, 2016.
This family drama has received plenty of critical
praise. Like in The Lovely Bones, we learn that a teenaged girl has died, and we trace
the process of grief and blame among the family members, gradually learning how
and why she died. The family dynamic is
complex and the family members have varied motivations and emotions, and
differing versions of family history. It’s set in a very white college town in the American mid-west. The father in the family is Chinese, while
the mother is white, so the novel also deals with questions of race and
When Everything Feels Like the Movies, by Raziel Reid. Reviewed by Mr. McLennan, Jan 15, 2016.
This relatively short novel was winner of
the Governor General’s Medal in 2015, and was selected by the CBC for Canada
Reads. It’s a very gritty novel—references
to sex and drugs and violence are quite explicit. It’s the story of a gay teenager in a conservative
small town on the Canadian prairies. He’s
an outcast who copes with persecution with flamboyantly gay behavior, treating the negative attention that this garners by imagining himself a movie
star, and his persecutors his fans. The reader follows his destructive and
self-defeating behavior with horrified feelings of sympathy. While not a book
for everyone, it’s genuinely moving and very sad.
City of Thieves, by David
Reviewed by Mr. McLennan, Jan 15 2016.
Benioff is a screenwriter for Game of Thrones. His novel City
of Thieves perhaps reflects his cinematic sensibility. It would make a great movie. The novel is based—we don’t know how closely—on
the experiences of Benioff’s grandfather during the Nazi siege of Leningrad
during the Second World War. A teenager imprisoned for violating curfew, the
elder Benioff meets the charismatic and irrepressively optimistic Kolya, who’s been jailed for desertion. Expecting to be executed in the morning, they
are instead taken to the all-powerful Colonel in charge of policing the
city. His daughter is getting married
and his wife believes it would be bad luck not to have a wedding cake. The pair of prisoners is sent on a seemingly
impossible life-and-death quest for a dozen eggs for the cake. What follows is both a "buddy" story and a "road trip" story, but it's also a war story set amidst the desperate privations of the seige. The novel is by turns charmingly humourous,
and then brutally violent. Not for the
faint of heart, it’s still one of my favourite novels. This is not written as a YA novel.)
Don’t Turn Around, by Michelle Gagnon. Reviewed
by Mr. Mclennan, Jan 15, 2016
A tough and resourceful street kid wakes up on some kind of operating table
in a strange warehouse-like building. After a bold and resourceful escape, she ends up connecting with a teenage boy, who is an
intelligent and principled computer geek from a wealthy, privileged family. They
are connected by the website that the boy runs which exposes corporate
malfeasances. Together they uncover a sinister conspiracy that seems to reach
to the highest levels of government. Sequels are Don’t Look Now and
Don’t Let Go. This action-packed novel is addictive reading; if you read the first
one you’ll want to read the series.
All the Light We Cannot See,
By Anthony Doerr. Reviewed
by Mr. McLennan, Jan 18, 2016.
written novel won the Pulitzer Prize, among other awards. Set mostly in Germany
and France, mostly during the Second World War, it follows Werner, an
essentially gentle boy (and then young man) with a special genius for radio,
and Marie-Laure, a French girl who is connected to Werner by radio
transmissions of her great-uncle. One of
the things I like about this novel is the way it presents aesthetic
appreciation and scientific wonder as more-or-less the same thing. It might
sound like a corny cliché, but the characters search for beauty and meaning and
morality amidst the chaos of war.
Ready Player One,
By Ernest Cline. Reviewed
by Mr. McLennan, Jan 18, 2016.
economy has fallen apart, largely because of an extreme energy shortage and
environmental collapse. Fortunately (I
guess), there’s OASIS—the Ontologically
Anthropocentric Sensory Immersive Simulation—which is a computer simulated
alternative reality, or sort of a global video game. The creator of the game, who’s a billionaire
many times over has died, and has stipulated in his will that his entire
fortune will go to whoever can find the Easter Egg—an item hidden in the
game. The novel takes a while to get
moving—there’s quite a bit of explaining needed at the beginning because the
world of the novel is complex. Once it
gets going though, it’s a great adventure story. The lines between the simulation and reality
blur in an interesting way. Much of the
search for the Easter Egg is based on 1980s pop culture, which might lose some
younger readers. Also, the novel doesn’t do much to address the dystopic idea
that for many people in the world, the artificial reality is more real and more
important than their actual lives. Still, it's a fun read.
by Walter Jury and Sarah Fine. Reviewed by Mr. McLennan, Jan 18, 2016.
This book has
some fun-to-read action sequences, but it’s also full of huge plot holes. The premise of the book is that aliens live
among us, and have done so for 400 years. Most of them don’t even know they are aliens, and, looking and behaving exacty like human beings, they are completely
integrated into human societies. When
they interbreed with humans though, the progeny are 100% alien, so the human
species is in danger of disappearing. Tate learns that he is a member of one of
fifty families world-wide that somehow know that they are purely human. The “scan” of the title relates to a scanner
developed by Tate’s father that can identify who’s alien and who’s human, but
he’s just invented it. There was previously no apparent way for anyone to know
who’s an alien and who’s human, which puts the entire premise for the plot into
question. And the notion of species purity sounds a lot like an extreme form of
racism. And why keeping things "pure" matters
is not really explained, since almost no one--not even most of the aliens themselves--is even aware that the aliens are there. There’s a sequel called Burn. Maybe it all makes
The Fifth Wave,
By Rick Yancey. Reviewed
by Mr. McLennan, Jan 18, 2016.
Aliens need a new
planet. They’ve chosen Earth, but they
need to cleanse it of human life first. They’ve attacked in four waves so far, inducing natural disasters and a
plague. There are few survivors. Now
it’s the Fifth Wave, in which apparent human beings are somehow possessed by an
alien presence, forming beings which are simultaneously human and alien. Like in Scan, our protagonists can’t tell who to
trust because everyone looks human, but in The Fifth Wave, the aliens are nasty, having exterminated most of the human species. The action is desperate; the
human race seems doomed. It’s written
from three different points of view, and the reader needs to be patient
initially for the shape of the plot to become apparent, but then it becomes a
page-turner with a bit of romance, lots of action and plenty of plot twists. The second book on the series is The
Infinite Sea, and a third is in the works.
Now is the Time for Running,
by Michael Williams. Reviewed by Mr. McLennan, Jan 18, 2016.
Deo is a
Zimbabwean boy forced by violence to leave his home village and escape to South
Africa as a refugee. After a difficult
journey, and facing xenophobic feelings in South Africa, he ends up
representing his country in the Street Soccer World Cup on a team with other
refugees. The novel realistically
presents some of the difficult political and social realities facing Africa,
and also presents a note of hope in the redemptive power of sport.
by Becca Fitzpatrick. Reviewed
by Mr. McLennan, Jan. 18, 2016.
You might want to
take this review with an especially large grain of salt, because I am clearly
not the intended audience for this book. I liked the cover a lot. And the
idea seemed interesting—something about fallen angels on earth. Having read Milton’s Paradise Lost, I know that fallen angels can be interesting, so I
had high hopes for Hush, Hush. Unfortunately though, it’s mostly a silly
romance (take salt here). Our
protagonist, Nora, thinks Patch, a guy in her bio class seems kind of
dangerous. But he’s so hot. But kind of dangerous. But so hot. Etcetera.
Yes he’s the angel. Goodreads gives it more than 4/5, so there are people who like
it. They’re probably not middle-aged
male English teachers though.
By Susan Cain. Reviewed by Mr. McLennan, Jan 18, 2016.
In this work of
non-fiction Cain examines the idea of introversion, arguing that for the last
hundred years or so, extraversion has been favoured in Western society. The favoured status of extraversion, she
says, arose with increasing urbanization and anonymity early in the 20th
century and she cites Dale Carnegie’s How to
Win Friends and Influence People as marking a beginning of the cult of
personality. She shows that the
introverted personality style confers advantages in many contexts, and claims
that favouring extraversion has had costs for individuals and for society. She relates her experience at Harvard Business
School, and shows that extaversion is the ideal there. HBS graduates go on to hold many of the most
influential positions in American business. She suggests that 2000 Wall Street crash was a result of extravert risk
taking. Introvert Warren Buffett was
largely unaffected by the crash. Her point is that both extraverted personalities and introverted ones have their strengths and weaknesses, and as a society we've largely undervalued introversion. This
widely read book has positively influenced attitudes toward introversion. It’s readable and engaging and is a good
introduction to popular non-fiction.
The Black Swan,
By Nassim Nicholas Taleb.
Reviewed by Mr. McLennan, Jan. 18, 2016.
Not to be
confused with the story of the Swan Lake
dancer, this is a challenging but engaging work of non-fiction mainly about probability and
prediction. The Black Swan is
sub-titled “the impact of the highly improbable.” A “black swan event” is one that was almost
entirely unexpected and which had a profound effect, like the First World War, or the Internet, or the financial crash of 2000. The central thesis might be that people
expect the future to be much like the present because we can’t predict what we
can’t predict. But we can,Taleb says,
predict that something unpredictable may happen in fragile systems that don’t
obey normal distribution curves. For example, if we had a stadium full of
people and we plotted their heights on a graph, we would predictably get a
normal distribution. If we plotted their net worths we might also get a normal
distribution, unless Bill Gates were there. Gates' presence would skew the normal curve so much
as to make it meaningless. We get complacent about things as they are because we assume that the way things are is normal, but often they're not normal at all. They're just usual. The subject perhaps sounds dry, but Taleb presents
it with an acerbically dry wit and lively intellect. In a way, the book is about clear thinking, and the limits of what we can claim as knowledge, and what we can predict. The author has strong beliefs and doesn’t worry about offending anyone with what he says. He has an especially low regard for political pundits, economists (except Daniel Kahneman), investment managers, and the French (except Michel de Montaigne). The Black Swan is a book that can change how you see
The Eyre Affair,
by Jasper Fforde. Reviewed
by Mr. McLennan, Jan 18, 2016.
Thursday Next is
a literary detective—she works for the branch of Spec Ops responsible for
maintaining the continuity of narratives. She has a pet dodo. There are
Neanderthals. She goes into books to
make sure the characters behave. It’s
sort of James Bond meets Monte Python meets Charlotte Bronte meets Douglas
Adams. In a bookstore. This is a great book for book nerds, filled with plays
on words and plays on books. Subsequent books in the series include Lost in a Good Book, Something Rotten, The Well of Lost Plots, and One
of Our Thursdays is Missing.
Strangers to Ourselves,
by Timothy D. Wilson.
Reviewed by Mr. Mclennan, Jan. 18, 2016.
In this work of non-fiction, Wilson examines how modern psychological research has led to a reconception of the unconscious part of our mind as an “adaptive unconscious,” or "cognitive unconscious," showing the extent to which our
thoughts and actions run on a kind of autopilot. It’s humbling to see how little conscious,
rational control we have over what we do and think. This is a challenging but
Reading Like a Writer,
by Francine Prose.
Reviewed by Mr. McLennan, Jan 18, 2016.
I haven’t read
any of Prose’s novels, though she has a terrific name for a novelist. I enjoyed
Reading Like a Writer though, partly
because Prose’s prose (I had to do it) is so elegantly readable. She considers writing at the level of words,
then of sentences, then paragraphs. Then
she examines narration, characters, and dialogue. She looks at details and gesture. The book is like a long love letter to books
and reading. I recommend it for avid
readers and aspiring writers.
by Stephen King. Reviewed
by Mr. McLennan, Jan 18, 2016.
I keep meaning to
read a Stephen King novel, but haven’t yet gotten around to it. Maybe I’m scared of being scared. I enjoyed On Writing though. It’s a sort of writer’s
autobiography. King writes about how he got started with writing, and how he
gets and develops ideas. He says he starts by speculating “What if. . .?” He says he doesn’t know what his characters
are going to do until they do it—he doesn’t plot out his books at all. About
halfway through writing this book, King was hit by a truck while he was walking
along a highway. It nearly killed him, and it changed his perspective on life and work. The latter part of the book is largely a consideration of these
changes. There’s some good simple advice about writing in this book (e.g., omit adverbs),
and an interesting look into the mind of one of America’s most successful and
The Golden Compass,
by Phillip Pullman. Reviewed by Mr. McLennan, Jan 19, 2016.
I’d been meaning
to read this for a while because I’d heard good things about it. When I
finally picked it up I found the first few chapters heavy going. It seemed
slow. I think it might have felt that
way because I’ve been reading a lot of YA fiction lately, and much of it starts
with intense action to hook a reader. Another reason that it seemed slow might be that the protagonist is
quite a young child, and her concerns, at least initially, seem childish. Sometimes though, a
bit of patience with a book leads to a rewarding read. So it was for me with The Golden Compass. I like the way that
the world of this novel is parallel to ours, but different. It’s set partly at
Oxford University, and partly in London, and partly elsewhere, but none of the
places are exactly the places in our world. And the characters too are like us
but unlike us. The people have companion daemons, which are a sort of external manifestation of their soul, taking the form of an companion animal that is both seperate from the person, but also is the person. I found it an appealing idea. It's also an idea that becomes integral to the plot. Lyra, the
protagonist, is a character of the feisty ten-year-old girl type, who shows
surprising courage in the face of awful danger, and whose fate is tied to the
fate of the world. The characters around her are not always what they appear to
be, leading to interesting plot twists. Also, the quality of the writing itself
is several cuts above much of the YA fiction I’ve been reading. Plus, there are panzerbjoern--giant talking armoured polar bear warriors. How can you go wrong with that?
Once I got going with this book, it was hard to put down. I’ve got the next
book in the series, The Subtle Knife,
on hold at VPL.
There Will Be Lies,
by Nick Lake. Reviewed by Isabella Wong, Jan 21, 2016.
In a world where
reality is muddled with fantasy, the novel There
Will Be Lies, by Nick Lake, certainly lives up to its title. The life of
deaf 17-year-old Shelby Cooper revolves around baseball games, ice-cream-for-dinner nights, and her way over-protective
mother. Then she gets hit by a car. Just
like that, everything she knows about herself and her life is turned into a
sugar-coating that obscures the dark reality, and her mother, her loving mother
who is always right turns into a complete stranger. “There will be two lies. And then there will
be the truth.” In a quest to avoid losing her identity completely Shelby gets
lost between real life and a dream, confused about who she can trust. Along the
way, she learns of her true identity, a shocking revelation nothing in the
world could have prepared her for.
by Kathi Appelt. Reviewed
by Isabella Wong, Jan. 21, 2016.
astonishing, and heart-warming,The
Underneath, by Kathi Appelt is a book that grasps the reader from the very
first chapter. The Underneath is two separate
stories that are 1000 years apart, both highlighting the power of friendship,
set in an ordinary yet magical forest. It begins when an abandoned mother
calico cat, about to have kittens, is entranced by a sad song sung by Ranger,
the chained up dog. Upon meeting each other, they bond in an extraordinary
friendship. A thousand years back, a
moccasin snake known as Grandmother is betrayed by her daughter Night Song, and
is trapped inside a jar. Both dark, yet calm and peaceful, the two stories are
beautifully woven together into a world of friendship, bitterness, betrayal,
The Subtle Knife,
by Phillip Pullman. Reviewed by Mr. McLennan, Jan 26, 2016.
I read the first
book of the His Dark Materials
series, The Golden Compass,
recently. The Subtle Knife is the second book. I’d heard that the series was an atheistic
response to C.S. Lewis’ Narnia
series, but I didn’t see much evidence of that in the first book, except that
“dark materials” is an allusion to John Milton’s epic poem Paradise Lost, which is a retelling of the story of Satan’s fall
from grace, and the subsequent seduction to disobedience of Eve and Adam. While I wasn't really aware of any religious content in The Golden Compass, The Subtle Knife addresses the subject quite directly. While it seems to me to be anything but
atheistic, it does challenge the Christian version of God and of angels, and
the nature of knowledge and even the nature of reality. Like The
Golden Compass, this book has an intense, engaging plot, and characters who,
despite their imperfections and despite our uncertainty about their goals,
we want to see succeed. I’m looking
forward to The Amber Spyglass, the
final installment of the series to see how Pullman resolves both the plot and
We Were Liars,
by E. Lockhart. Reviewed
by Mr. McLennan, February 9, 2016.
We Were Liars was one of the hot books from 2015, receiving a lot
of glowing reviews which I think it deserves. It’s the story of a seventeen-year-old girl, Cadence, whose wealthy New
England family gathers every summer on their private island. The summer she was fifteen, she was found half-dressed and unconscious in the water, but she doesn't remember how she got there. She struggles to remember. The book is partly a
mystery, but mostly it’s an examination of the various dysfunctions of the extended
family. I found We Were Liars to be a
gripping read, mostly because I was constantly speculating about what had
happened to Cadence. I was pretty sure that I knew. I was wrong. The ending is
. . . well . . . read it. Then we can talk about the ending. Lockhart also wrote The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks, which also got
great reviews, and which I’ll probably read as well. She also wrote several books with “Boyfriend”
in the title. I’m not tempted to read
those because teen romances aren’t particularly my thing, but having said that,
I liked her depiction of both the teen characters and adult characters in Liars. Lockhart has a spare, evocative,
lyrical style that leaves the reader’s imagination room to work. Maybe you should read one of the “boyfriend”
books and send a review to the Magee Book Blog.
The Lord of the Rings,
by J.R.R. Tolkien. Reviewed by Mr. McLennan, February 11, 2016.
I first read this
when I was about ten years old, but I don’t remember much about the experience.
I reread it when I was in high school and was home sick for a week. Rereading
more than forty years later, I’ve been surprised to find that I remember
certain scenes from my earlier reading and that I can remember how I pictured
the scenes at the time even as the pictures I formed in the present reading
were different. I also had in mind scenes from the films, making the reading of
this book a multi-layered experience.
The Lord of the Rings is of course a classic of high fantasy. It’s
conscious of having an epic scope and consequently it doesn’t rush to the
ending. The first half in particular asks some patience of the reader as it
presents some genealogies, mythologies, geography, and ancient histories that
are important to the plot and part of what makes The Lord of the Rings a masterpiece of imaginative literature, but
which don’t immediately move the plot forward. The latter part of the book—say,
after the death of Boromir—moves more quickly or at least more steadily. I found that despite knowing the ending, I
was completely wrapped up in the agony and bleak hope of Frodo and Sam as they
made their march to Mount Doom, and in the desperate courage of the Aragorn and
his army as they faced the gates of Mordor.
in The Lord of the Rings tends to be
formal, and the dialogue even ceremonial at times, reflecting the epic tone.
Some of it is also beautifully poetic, such as Gimli’s description of the caves
at Helm’s deep, and at other times it is simple and frank, especially in the
thoughts and dialogue of the hobbits. There are a lot of invented languages too,
such as Elf language and Orc language, which are also poetic—the Elf language sounding
melifluous and musical, while that of the Orcs is harsh and grating. In the names and place-names of Men,
especially the Riders of Rohan, one hears echoes of the Germanic languages that
Tolkien had studied. He was an Oxford professor of Anglo-Saxon and Medieval
The Lord of the Rings has been on my list of books to someday reread, but I
think I’d resisted because its over 1200 pages of tiny type seemed a little
daunting. I found it a rewarding read though, both for the way it was the same
as when I read it before, and for the ways it was different.
Reality Boy, by A.S. King. Reviewed by Mr. McLennan, May 4, 2016.
Gerald’s highly dysfunctional family was featured
on a reality TV show when he was a young child. Reality
Boy encounters the protagonist as a seventeen-year-old trying to shed the
infamy he gained as a messed up child everyone knows from his television past. Though readers might not particularly identify
with Gerald, we can understand his anger as he tries to make his world make
sense, and struggles to find a path for his life that’s not based on the lies
and manipulation and prejudices that he grew up with. Some YA novels present
teen characters that are really just different kinds of stereotypes. Reality Boy avoids this. It’s a YA novel
that doesn’t read like a YA novel. Recommended.
Good Omens, by Neil Gaiman
and Terry Pratchett. Reviewed by Mr. McLennan, May 12, 2016.
Omens was written soon after Pratchett had received
attention for The Colour of Magic,
the first book of his 42-volume Discworld series. Pratchett and Gaiman met when
Gaimam interviewed the other author about the initial success of his first
book. They collaborated on Good Omens
before either had established the reputations that they enjoy today. The book
has apparently become a bit of a cult classic, and I understand that there are
plans to film it as a mini-series. (I
can see Benedict Cumberbatch as Aziraphale.)
It’s the story of the apocalypse as
foretold by “the Nyce and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch,” and
involves the actions of Aziriphale, the guardian angel of the Earth, and his
demonic counterpart and friend, Crowley, both of whom have gotten used to each
other and Earth and its inhabitants. Neither is keen on seeing the End. It’s a
comic novel in the vein of Douglas Adams—irreverent and even absurd at times,
but also giving a light-hearted consideration to some serious philosophical