Three Short Book Reviews – History, Loudmouths and More History

Three books that have passed over my desk recently and I have passed my eyes over recently… with varying results.

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People, People, People : A Brief History of New Zealand by Stevan Eldred-Grigg, Bateman Publishing, RRP $24.99, ISBN 9781869538132, Available now.

A short and well-produced history of New Zealand, the best part of People, People, People is by far the excellent selection of illustrations, paintings, and photos. The text is aimed at younger students or international students but I’m not sure how well the book will fare in that sector, considering the fairly obvious political bias at work (not surprising with Eldred-Grigg – you get what you get).

Does what it says on the cover and does it well.

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The Two of Me by John Dybvig, Hurricane Press, RRP $29.99, ISBN 9780986468445, Available now.

Both publisher and author clearly know the public’s opinion of the subject of The Two of Me, billing it very much as a “don’t make your mind up before you read” book. Which is fair enough, The Two of Me has a lot going for it – it’s pacy, it’s lively, it’s easy to read – but the story doesn’t really bear out the premise – that John Dybvig has changed as much as he says he has. Centred around a health scare the “inspiring story” really is not actually that inspiring at all. Man has health scare, determines to take better care of his health and he does. Man decides he is alone in the world, determines to meet someone and coincidentally does shortly thereafter. Man determines not to act like so much of an a*sehole. Man fails. This isn’t overcoming great obstacles, people.

At one point Dybvig tells an editor “I don’t need to know anything to have an opinion.” Yes, indeed. General sports autobiography type readers will probably enjoy.

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The Spanish Helmet by Greg Scowen, Whare Rama Books, Available on Kindle and Kindle Apps for US$0.99, Paperback RRP US$16.99, ISBN 9781463558482, Available now.

A conspiracy thriller with a New Zealand twist, The Spanish Helmet centres on Matthew Cameron, archaeologist and historian, who travels to NZ to investigate findings that point to an alternative history of New Zealand, in particular that the Spanish were in NZ before the Dutch and that Celts had travelled to NZ before the Maori arrived.

Sigh.

The story itself is reasonably well-written and for people who don’t want to think too hard (so most of your conspiracy thriller types then) it’ll be a fun and quick read.

But for me there was way too many moments of clunk to enjoy reading. My favourite happens right at the beginning when Dr Cameron is convincing his fellow academic to cover for him while he travels to NZ to “investigate”.

“Anyway, Warren believes that New Zealand was settled by someone other than the Maori,” Matt said, “his particular studies follow the theory that the Celts discovered New Zealand some thousands of years ago. He’s struggled to find evidence to support his theory and believes the government is out to stop him, but now he thinks he has something and wants me to go and look.”

“Sounds great.”

That’s academic inquiry, that is!

The idea that academics have a vested interest in stopping New Zealanders from knowing the “true story” of New Zealand habitation is more than a little laughable. Not quite as laughable as the shady secret-police style organisations in The Spanish Helmet who are busily tailing said academics, but still.

The Spanish Helmet isn’t going to re-write New Zealand history any more than The Da Vinci Code rewrote Christian history. Let’s just hope that Tom Hanks doesn’t get hold of it.

4 responses

  1. Thanks for the review!

    I particularly like that you say this:

    “The story itself is reasonably well-written and for people who don’t want to think too hard (so most of your conspiracy thriller types then) it’ll be a fun and quick read.”

    Exactly what I was aiming for. While this is an often-discussed topic and such a ‘secret-police’ organisation does exist in NZ (though not with the name I gave them) the book is meant first and foremost to be a fun and easy read. It is airport-shop/supermarket fiction.

    As an aside, you can pick up The Spanish Helmet on Kindle and Kindle Apps for just $0.99 USD. It beats the price in the shops by a long way.

    Enjoy.

  2. I’ll have to take a closer look at Greg’s book.

    Bookiemonster has a copy of my own NZ conspiracy thriller ‘Milkshake’ which hopefully might earn a review soon?

    Equally far fetched but, like Greg, told with a believable conviction (I’m told)

    The sequel, ‘The Destiny Stone’ is nearly fully drafted and, like ‘The Spanish Helmet’ draws on myth and legend to suggest the Celts arrived in NZ(not before but) not too long after the Maori people. But these Celts came for a reason…

    • Milkshake sounds very interesting Matt, I just grabbed a copy from Amazon US for Kindle. I hope to get to read again someday soon and you will be at the top of my list.

      Please let me know as soon as The Destiny Stone is available. I think you can now make friend contacts on Amazon and of course you can find me on Goodreads. It would be good to keep in touch.

      Naturally, when I have read Milkshake, I will review it on both main Amazon sites.

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