1. THE DAY OF THE TRIFFIDS by John Wyndham - Any avid reader of science fiction and fantasy should know this book. Triffids are giant plants that can walk and are carnivorous as well. But humans have been growing them in increasing numbers for the various products that can be extracted from them. One evening, an incredible event has occurred. A meteor shower of epic proportions. However, our hero in this story was just about to get the bandage removed from his eyes. He had been blind for the past two weeks or so. But things are not right in the hospital. It turns out that all the people who watched the evening night skies have all become blind over night. Our hero is one of the few people who still has his sight though (not being able to see the previous evenings show). And as people become clumsy, they are slowly and deliberately being fed upon by the triffids. Very exciting story. I think movies like "Night of the Comet" and "28 Days Later" owe a bit of their inspiration to this story. First published in 1951. Its still exciting reading today. I should have listened to my friend back when he recommended it.
2. THE KRAKEN WAKES by John Wyndham - A fireballs are seen from Earth but nobody really worries about it. It's just another unusual event that happened in space. However, a lot of these fireballs have been falling into the deepest parts of our ocean. And afterwards, passenger ships and tankers mysteriously disappear in deep waters. Long before global warming became part of our everyday lexicon, Wyndam has come up with another cautionary tale of what might happen to Earth if our polar caps melt and if we're attacked by some new and unknown creatures from the deep. Fun stuff. This was published in 1953 and was released as "Out of the Deeps" in the U.S.
3. THE MIDWICH CUCKOOS by John Wyndham - Most of you are probably familiar with this story even if you've never read it. It was adapted for the silver screen and become the movie "Village of the Damned" which also spawned the sequel "Children of the Damned". First published in 1957. In the small English village of Midwich, the entire town has been become unconscious. However, when the town folks wake and find there is nothing wrong with themselves, this even becomes known as the "Day Out". It isn't until nine months later that the villagers have discovered a new mystery. All the women in the town of Midwich are pregnant!! And once the kids are born, they all have blond hair and golden eyes - and also seem to have the power to make the villagers to what they want. Another excellent story. Of course I will not tell you these stories turn out. If I've perked your interest even a bit, that would be a good thing. It might make you want to go to your local book store to buy these books.
4. THE CHRYSALIDS by John Wyndham - Probably my favorite of all the Wyndham books. First published in 1955 and released "Re-Birth" in the States. Once again, another cautionary tale. It's a few thousand years in the future after some apocalyptic event. It seems the only places left inhabitable by normal people are living in Labrador. The people here live a humble life. They believe the people in the past were punished by "God" who sent "Tribulation" to teach them a lesson. And the people believe that to keep themselves from having another "Tribulation" they need to live a simple life, a perfect life (just imagine them living life like in the Taliban-led Afghanistan). And if a thing isn't considered pure, such a a cat without a tail, or a person with some form of deformity, they are considered blasphemies, even plants and vegetables that are considered perfect are called "deviations" and must be destroyed or sent to the "Fringes". Our hero David learns early that he has telepathic abilities, yet his father is a strict religious man who would as soon destroy his own son who would be considered a blasphemy. His younger sister also has the power and is by far a long stronger than anybody has experienced yet. But when their secret is found out, they must flee the city and brave the wilds of "Fringes" and fight for their survival. Very, very exciting reading.
5. TROUBLE WITH LICHEN by John Wyndham - A woman biochemist finds that the property of a particular lichen, indeed has an ingredient to retard the aging process. Her superior at work as also been working independently on the properties of this particular lichen. He has used himself and his family as guinea pigs and find that they will be able to live for 200 to 300 years. However, the woman biochemist quits her job and opens a spa for women and treats her patients with the extract from the plant. Her boss thinks she's doing it for profit, but her actual aim is to treat influential and powerful women so that if the secret is discovered, men in power will not be able to keep it solely for themselves.
6. THE YEAR OF EATING DANGEROUSLY: A GLOBAL ADVENTURE IN CULINARY EXTREMES by Tom Parker-Bowles - And now back to my favorite subject - food! But when Parker-Bowles says eating dangerously, he doesn't mean trying to score a kebab in Iraq or Afghanistan. No, what he's really referring to is the Western concept of what we might consider extreme or dangerous. Being a Brit, he starts his adventure close to home in a place called Glouscester hunting for elvers. Elvers are a type of eel in case you didn't know (I didn't!). He next goes to Albuquerque, New Mexico for the annual Fiery Foods Festival. Then it's off to China for a variety of foods we probably wouldn't have the nerve to eat or drink - spirits with snake bile, offal (the nice term for liver, kidneys, spleens, hearts, intestines, and whatnot). I've been reading another book about the food of China and came upon a phrase that sums up their cuisine - "if it moves, it's a potential ingredient.". Then, it's off to Nashville, Tennessee to be a judge in a barbecue competition (I would love to go to one of these). Next stop - Tokyo, Japan for some fugu or puffer fish (which I know I won't have to explain to you). Then it's off to Korea to try something called posintang, which is the controversial dish made with dog meat. (The author could only stomach a bite or two as his European and American prejudices were too strong to ignore). He also tried some snack food at an outdoor food stall that happened to be the pupae of some critter. Then a trip to Laos, where he tries a bit of ant egg soup (which you should all be familiar with if you read last month's Page Turners). Next, it's off to Spain to go in search of parcevas (gooseneck barnacles). Well hey, I can remember my mother eating goeyducks so I guess barnacles could be delicious as well. And then its off to Sicily with his Hollywood image of the Mafia. The only place in his list of destinations that he thought might be dangerous. And just for a bit of trivia, my short list of dangerous foods I have eaten - puffer fish (the sashimi was delicious but the fried puffer had too many bones), kangaroo (at a Ghanaian restaurant that was so spicy you couldn't tell what kind of meat you were eating), torisasami (it's a dish made with raw chicken - don't knock until you try it and I didn't suffer from salmonella poisoning!). Camel jerky at a Greek restaurant, alligator and ostrich at the Bite of Seattle, basashi (raw horse meat, also a delicacy in Japan and was served at a ryokan I stayed at). But no bugs or insects for me. Oh, wait a minute, I have tried inago which is a kind of grasshopper. Bon Appetit!
7. THE MAN WHO ATE THE WORLD: IN SEARCH OF THE PERFECT DINNER by Jay Rayner - And now, from one extreme to the other. Rayner is a food writer for the London Observer and has an affinity for the finer things in life. This book is about his travels around the world and eating exclusively at Michelin three star restaurants. He dines with and at some of the world known chef's restaurants - Mario Battali, Wolfgang Puck, Alain Ducasse, Gordon Ramsay, Guy Savoy, Joel Robuchon, Pierre Gagnaire to name a few. We're talking about dinners that can cost up to $500 per person. His travels take him to Las Vegas, Moscow, Tokyo, Dubai, London, and of course New York and Paris. He is also in the envious position of having most of his meals paid for his place of employ. He also decides to pull a Morgan Spurlock (but only for a week and only for dinner). A lot of these three star restaurants serve what's called a tasting menu where you might be served up to sixteen separate dishes. But reading this book, it still doesn't inspire me to seek out places like El Bulli in Spain to spend a fortune on dinner. I'd prefer to have some yakitori at a local dive for eat some cheap grub in the outdoor foodstalls of Southeast Asia.
8. TOKYO ROCK CATWALK: VISUAL KEI BANDS BIG IN JAPAN by Cocoro Books - Well, I don't know about big. If the publisher really wanted to sell more books, they should have included pictures of X Japan, Malice Mizer, EZO, Pierrot, and Dir en Grey. As it is, the bands featured in this book aren't major and I doubt that they're big in Japan as the title suggests. But it makes for a great companion volume to Cocoro Books "J-Rock Groupies". If your a visual kei band maniac and you're familiar with these bands, Suicide Ali, Seed, Kurogane, Julia, or Tokami, then this is a must-have book for you.
9. FRINDLE by Andrew Clements - And I also like to relax by reading a children's book or two. The story here is about a fourth grader who tries to talk his teacher out of giving students homework but his plan backfires as his new teacher assigns him an extra bit of homework on the origin of words. To get at his teacher, he starts referring to a pen as a "frindle" and gets his classmates to use it as well. Soon, it's a war between the teacher forbidding the use of the word, and the students flagrant use of it. Fun story. Only at the end, does the student realize that his teacher had been purposefully playing the devil's advocate. I may have to read some more of Clements books just for fun.
And so concludes this month's choices. As I mentioned earlier, I'm currently reading about the exploits of another foodie who spends a lot of time in China and becomes the first foreigner and woman to study at a Sichuan Culinary Institute. And I think I may even indulge myself in reading Candace Bushnell's "Sex and the City" - although I have no desire to watch the drama or the movie.