Dissecting Easter Eggs

Books Over Easter, Audible UK ran a “find the Easter Egg” game on their website as a way to get their customers to give some new books a try. It wasn’t a very complicated game. All Audible did was to pepper the various pages of the website with egg icons, each corresponding to the free download of the first chapter of a newly released book. Audible users were tasked with hunting them all down, spurred on by the prospect that anyone collecting the complete set would have their name entered into a draw to win a Kindle Fire or somesuch. Not very imaginative, but it worked with me because I must have found the vast majority, if maybe not every last one.

It really wasn’t the prospect of a Kindle Fire which motivated me, I can promise you. My reasoning was that I have tried some Audible free first chapters in the past and came across one or two which were more than promising, so I was tempted by the real possibility of discovering some books I would enjoy reading and might not otherwise have thought to try.

I found 19 eggs in this particular clutch, covering a variety of genres. And I’ve decided to review the lot. All of them, in this very post. Don’t panic – my reviews only occasionally run to a complete sentence. And bear in mind that I have only read (listened to) the first chapter in each case, although that does range from about 2 hours down to a mere 43 seconds! Typically, the free first chapters are from 10 to 20 minutes in duration.

So let’s get cracking with those eggs:

  • Downhill All the Way by Edward Enfield: A comedy book about cycling around France. Very English humour, wittily and imaginatively written. Going on the wishlist.
  • Infinite Sky by C.J. Flood: Sentimental nonsense. I didn’t finish the first chapter, free or not.
  • The Examined Life by Stephen Grosz: The interesting real life but anonymised cases of a psychoanalyst. Threatens to be fascinating if a bit grim. I’ll ponder on this one.
  • The Horologicon by Mark Forsyth: Attempts to be The Meaning of Liff applied to real old and/or obscure words. I hoped it might shed some real light on the origin and etymology of the words in our language and how English had developed from Anglo-Saxon days. Instead it was a complete a let-down. Not funny, just fell flat.
  • Human Remains by Elizabeth Haynes: Police procedural based on the activities of a gory serial killer. Well written and engaging. Not the sort of thing I normally read but enough promise to survive through to the “maybe” pile.
  • Irresistible Persuasion by Geoff Burch: A self-help business book, majoring on the importance of proper goal setting. Entertaining and well written but not actually likely to teach me anything I didn’t know.
  • A Brief History of Britain 1066-1485 by Nicholas Vincent: This is the book with the 2 hour first chapter, so probably not that brief. It was all scene-setting, explaining why 11th century Britain was not as unified a kingdom as may have been claimed. Started off okay but I gave up when the focus turned to farming methods and the road system.
  • The Zombie Survival Guide by Max Brooks: Zombies sell. No idea why – they do nothing for me at all. I gave it a couple of minutes, that was plenty. Does not count as credible SF or Fantasy.
  • Heartbreak Hotel by Deborah Moggach: Just not my thing.
  • Doughnut by Tom Holt: This was the totally daft story about the nuclear physicist who caused an accident that killed lots of people, lost his job and now works in an abbatoir, oh .. and he has an invisible arm. This is patently trying to appeal to Hitchhiker’s Guide fans, but is different enough and quite engaging. Will read it. Does not count as SF.
  • Wool by Hugh Howey. Now this is SF. And quite promising: post-apocalyptic on some unknown planet, where the humans shelter in an underground silo and go out on the surface to die when they’ve had enough of it. I didn’t know it at the time I read the free chapter, but Howey is a “poster child” successful self-published author. A day or two later, Wool was mentioned on the Sword & Laser show because it has been recognised by the mainstream hence, presumably, why it has been picked up by Audible. The Wool Omnibus is the next S&L book-pick but I’ve had enough of trying to keep up with Tom and Veronica for a bit so will leave Wool, at least for now.
  • The Kane Chronicles: The Red Pyramid by Rick Riordan: This is a fast-paced Egyptological mystery romp for kids, and it would seem a very good one. I am tempted to read it. This despite my disdain for Riordan’s Percy Jackson series. He made money by leveraging the Harry Potter popularity wave, creating  an unashamed rip-off.
  • The Restaurant at the End of the Universe by Douglas Adams: Reddit.
  • The Universe Versus Alex Woods by Gavin Extence: Mildly zany young adult story. From the off it creates a mysterious situation, intended to suck the reader in. Well, I dunno. Maybe.
  • The Elephant to Hollywood by Michael Caine: Another smug Michael Caine autobiography. Naaaaah.
  • Maggot Moon by Sally Garner: This is the one where you only get 43 seconds of first chapter. Maybe it’s wonderful, but there’s not much to go on. Maybe if the author had known about the first free chapter idea she might have started with a slightly longer one.
  • The Antidote: Happiness for People Who Can’t Stand Positive Thinking by Oliver Burkeman: Another self-help book, this time attempting to extol the benefits of not trying to be positive minded or, for that matter, happy. Attempt at attention by differentiation. Oh, come on! No, no and thrice no!
  • The Magician’s Apprentice by Trudi Canavan: I skipped this, but only because I had already resolved to start with Canavan’s Black Magician series.
  • The Child’s Child by Barbara Vine: Not for me, sorry.

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