Monkeyshines

Book Battle 5: Bibliomania

Just in time for Christmas, the return of a Monkeyshines “favourite” that precisely no-one has asked to see make a return! Yes, it’s a rather random, rather pointless, book battle, where the books (rather than the books’ characters) struggle against my tortuous metaphors and each other, and the rounds are decided using a list of adjectives from my random word generator. This time it’s a tag-team face-off between the books I’ve read since War and Peace.
In the red corner: Dune Messiah and Children of Dune by Frank Herbert;
and in the blue corner: The Finkler Question by Howard Jacobson, and Cosmopolis by Don DeLillo.

Round 1: Whispering
The Finkler Question and Dune Messiah are first up, circling each other in the ring; The Finkler Question throws itself against the ropes, to return with momentum at its opponent. But the whispering sands of Dune Messiah solidify into an arm, which catches the lumbering Jewish novel in the neck. Verdict: Dune Messiah and Children of Dune.

Round 2: Homely
The Finkler Question‘s prone form struggles to its corner while Dune Messiah showboats, and manages to tag Cosmopolis, which tries to catch its cocky rival unawares. The roar of the crowd tips off Dune Messiah, however, and it hops over the scything move from Cosmopolis. The novels, both far from homely, grapple in an unseemly manner before the referee breaks them apart. Verdict: Draw.

Round 3: Adventurous
Out of nowhere Cosmopolis defies its weight disadvantage, and slams Dune Messiah into a corner post, before springing backwards in readiness for the finishing blow… But, wait, Children of Dune is stood on the post behind Cosmopolis, and launches itself across the ring! Cosmopolis senses the attack coming and sidesteps neatly, leaving a knee trailing to catch Children of Dune in the midsection. The adventurous prose and the scope of the imagination in DeLillo’s modern novel have KO’d the more conventional sense of adventure in the Dune novels; it’s a good job the pedestrian The Finkler Question wasn’t in the ring for this round, though. Verdict: The Finkler Question and Cosmopolis.

Round 4: Icy
Well, the decent story of Frank Herbert’s sequels couldn’t match the superior prose of their opponents, particularly Cosmopolis, and this bout is over after the third round. That’s quite a… WHAT?! Utopia by Lincoln Child has cracked a chair across the noggin of The Finkler Question, and it’s out cold! And The Atrocity Archives by Charles Stross has hurdled the ropes to take on Cosmopolis; the sci-fi genre isn’t going to let the Dune books take a pounding without fighting back. The bleak, icy humour of The Atrocity Archives, bolstered by freezing winds from a portal to a dying universe, throws Cosmopolis to the canvas! Verdict: Utopia and The Atrocity Archives.

Round 5: Zealous
Utopia has been bundled to the ground, still outside the ring, by the judges of the Booker prize. Cosmopolis is up off the floor, and is looking to vanquish the remaining interloper. The fervour of The Atrocity Archives allows it to get Cosmopolis in a headlock; but the latter has plenty of fight left, and enough zeal to flip over, sending The Atrocity Archives flying into a tangled mess in the ropes. Verdict: Cosmopolis.

The winner: Cosmopolis. Being here, at a battle like this, we’re all winners. But the standout novel, from a pretty decent selection, is the rather strange, entirely absorbing, contribution from Don DeLillo.


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