2022 Reading Challenge

There I was, casting around trying to find a reading challenge for this year, when up popped one of my favourite bloggers – Mayri, aka @bkfrgr – with a fantastic picture prompt book bingo challenge of her own devising. And so begins another series of semi-regular posts as I work my way through them. Read on to find out how I’ve done so far!

The nice thing about this challenge is that it’s very flexible. You can be as strict about the prompts as you like – maybe the book has to contain exactly what’s depicted as a key plot point or theme, or perhaps it has to be on the cover or in the title. I suspect I’ll be going for a mix of all of the above and more besides as things occur to me, but we’ll see.

The lovely original bingo card
The updated version, with my best attempt at replicating the “marker pen that’s running out of ink” look associated with bingo

First up, I am marking off the trophy prompt for reading an award-winner. Specifically, Alfred Bester’s The Demolished Man, which was the first ever winner of the Hugo Award back in 1953. I reviewed it for Vintage Sci-fi Month – I mean, they didn’t ask me to or anything, I just mag-locked myself to their hull as they were about to break atmosphere and started playing catch-up with the other reviewers who had already got things going – and really enjoyed reading it. Whilst certain aspects of it were a little dated, I was amazed at how prescient and influential Bester clearly was. It’s worth reading for those reasons alone, but there’s plenty of fun to be had with his larger than life characters and fast-paced cat and mouse sleuthing.

Secondly, I’m going to mark off the ringed planet – which I take to be Saturn – thanks to another Vintage Sci-fi Month read. Kurt Vonnegut’s 1959 classic The Sirens of Titan uses Saturn’s largest moon, the Titan of the title, as a key plot device. If that wasn’t enough to meet the prompt (and it totally is), Saturn itself features on the cover of my copy too. Double whammy. I loved The Sirens of Titan, which follows the luckiest man on Earth – Malachi Constant – as he attempts to outrun the destiny he’s burdened with by one Winston Niles Rumfoord, a man who knows everything that will ever happen thanks to flying his ship into a chrono-synclastic infundibulum. Absurd, frequently hilarious, satirical and poignant, The Sirens of Titan was even better than I hoped it would be. You can read my review here.

For my third and final prompt, I’m going to mark off the watch. As soon as I saw it I thought of time travel, but actually The Vanished Birds by Simon Jimenez fits the bill just as well and is a more pleasingly outside the box choice. Time itself is a major theme of The Vanished Birds, which begins with one of the most memorable opening chapters I think I’ve ever read, as a young boy grows to a man meeting the same woman for one night every fifteen years. For her though, only eight months have passed since they last met. If you think this is the setup for one of those books that’s just going to put you through the emotional wringer, well, you’re not far off. Things are complicated by the arrival of a mysterious child who might have the power to revolutionise space travel, but to get into all of that would require a review or something (good job I’ve got one on the way).

That’s all for this month. I’m enjoying the laid back nature of this challenge; it’s also quite nice looking back at what I’ve read over the course of the month and realising that a book does meet a prompt after all. It makes it more like actual bingo (I think – it’s been a long time since that maths lesson where we had to work out if we had the answer to the sum or equation on our bingo card). Thanks for reading, and see you soon!

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