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July 4, 2003

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The Ripple Effect of Life

Liars and Saints
Maile Meloy
Scribner; April 2003

Set in California, Liars and Saints follows four generations of the Catholic Santerre family from World War II to the present, as they navigate a succession of life-altering events-- through the submerged emotion of the fifties, the recklessness and excess of the sixties and seventies, and the reckoning of the eighties and nineties. In a family driven by jealousy and propriety as much as by love, an unspoken tradition of deceit is passed from generation to generation, and fiercely protected secrets gradually drive the Santerres apart. When tragedy shatters their precarious domestic lives, it takes astonishing courage and compassion to bring them back together.
Opening with a wedding and ending with a funeral, Maile Meloy puts together everything imaginable in between, and manages to maintain a cool, elegant prose style throughout.

The Bug
Ellen Ullman
Doubleday; March 2003

Ethan Levin, programmer at a database start-up in the mid 1980s, has a serious bug to find, one that freezes the whole programme. However, the elusive bug cannot be reliably reproduced; it seems to rear its ugly head only during high-stakes demonstrations for venture capitalists and prospective clients. As the bug continues to elude Levin and Roberta, the software tester, the idea that it has a life of its own seems less and less a joke, and more believable.
While this novel can be enjoyed for its humour, there is undoubtedly deeper meaning behind the individual trials of Levin and Roberta. Ullman's poetic and philosophical inclination shine through a story that is, on the surface, about technology. However, readers may gain a closer understanding of the way people interact with technology, the way small things can have huge ripple effects that profoundly affect people's lives, the way life itself reveals its meaning.

The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen
Alan Moore & Kevin O'Neill
DC Comics; October 2002

In the waning days of the Victorian era, a cast of five agents is instructed to save England. Each agent had been a respected member of society, but for various reasons (divorce, drug addiction) they have all dropped out of public favour. Whom they work for is uncertain; the group's leader, Miss Murray, believes that it is the famed detective Sherlock Holmes, back from the dead. Against an atmosphere that is both exciting and repressive, Moore and O'Neill have superimposed a drama that is inventive and full of suspense.
Acclaimed comics authors Moore and O'Neill have combined their love of 19th-century adventure literature with an imaginative mastery of its 20th-century corollary. This delightful work features a grand collection of signature 19th-century fictional adventurers, covertly brought together to defend the empire.


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