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Old 06-21-2010, 12:03 PM   #1
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Discussion: The Thirty-Nine Steps by John Buchan (spoilers)

So... how did you all find this book?
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Old 06-21-2010, 12:50 PM   #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by pilotbob View Post
So... how did you all find this book?
Well, somebody provided a link making it easy to find.
(Sorry, I couldn't help myself)

I thought the book was good but not great. It was a quick, short read. I guess I was thinking it was going to be better than it was because it was labeled a "classic thriller".
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Old 06-21-2010, 01:07 PM   #3
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The reason it's such a familiar story to a modern reader is simply that it's been so much copied. When it was written, it was a new kind of story, which is why it's regarded as a classic.
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Old 06-21-2010, 01:36 PM   #4
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It was a quick read. i was unimpressed with the story. The good thing is that I finished it quickly and went on to read Shutter Island.


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Old 06-21-2010, 02:26 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by edbro View Post
Well, somebody provided a link making it easy to find.
(Sorry, I couldn't help myself)
Hey... I knew it was a softball. I wanted to see who would be the first to take the bate.


Quote:
Originally Posted by edbro View Post
I thought the book was good but not great. It was a quick, short read. I guess I was thinking it was going to be better than it was because it was labeled a "classic thriller".
Same here. I was hoping for a page turner... and this was not that. To me it seemed a vague story about hide-n-seek without knowing who the seekers were or why they were playing the game.

BOb
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Old 06-21-2010, 02:36 PM   #6
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One thing struck me. 80% into the book, Buchan used the phrase "mean streets". I thought that that phrase had been coined by Raymond Chandler in his essay The Simple Art of Murder in the late 40s, but here we see it published in 1915!

I enjoyed the book very much, in that I looked forward each day to reading a chapter. I'll look forward to reading the next book in Harry's omnibus soon.
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Old 06-21-2010, 03:03 PM   #7
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Quote:
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I thought the book was good but not great. It was a quick, short read. I guess I was thinking it was going to be better than it was because it was labeled a "classic thriller".
I feel very similar about it. It has been some weeks that I finished reading it and in the meantime I can only recollect very little of the story - a clear sign that the book did not impress me much
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Old 06-21-2010, 03:20 PM   #8
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The reason it's such a familiar story to a modern reader is simply that it's been so much copied. When it was written, it was a new kind of story, which is why it's regarded as a classic.
I think this is a very good comment. But although excellent for its time, I think it doesn't stand up well to subsequent work.

I was a bit unhappy about the disguise aspects of it, especially the end scene, but willing to go along for the story. I did rather like the section with the road maintainer.

I'm afraid the sections of travel and pursuit across Scotland compared very unfavourably for me with the scenes in Kidnapped. I also found the idea of Hannay ending up at the one house he would not wish to be at very unlikely. Especially as this was clearly not a house suddenly rented for the purpose, but their house even before Hannay went to Scotland. (Else why the explosives?)

I was also disappointed by Hannay's decision to try to leave the train between stations. He was pretty inconspicuous until then!

But I must admit that I'd forgotten it was written so early. But it's still not one I plan on re-reading.
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Old 06-21-2010, 08:07 PM   #9
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Quote:
I thought the book was good but not great. It was a quick, short read. I guess I was thinking it was going to be better than it was because it was labeled a "classic thriller".
I totally agree with you: While it's a great masterpiece it's entertaining. One thing that puzzled me is that he had to do all the things to the end: as a roadman for example. He had to believe in what he was doing but I think that's stupid for you can believe in it the while you need it if not leave it cause you have to escape no to maintain a road or do a favor to the real roadman (the bad guys had already gone so you can continue your escape)
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Old 06-21-2010, 08:12 PM   #10
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I think the film is much better in the sense that it gets of the story all Buchan can't get.

Last edited by asterion; 06-21-2010 at 08:19 PM. Reason: repeated message
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Old 06-21-2010, 08:14 PM   #11
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Also the novel is just going around and hide. I liked it but it can't compare to [I]Uncommon Danger[I]by Eric Ambler, which has a similar approach. I really recommend it, it's really great.
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Old 06-21-2010, 11:55 PM   #12
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Well, somebody provided a link making it easy to find.
(Sorry, I couldn't help myself)

I thought the book was good but not great. It was a quick, short read. I guess I was thinking it was going to be better than it was because it was labeled a "classic thriller".
I think that just about sums up my feelings as well. I was not resentful of the time I spent reading the book, but it in no way made me want to read any other books by Buchan. It was interesting to read post-WW1 propaganda, but it's also only interesting up to a point.

To me, the book's biggest sin is that NOTHING goes wrong for the protagonist. All the "dangers" are fixed magically and conveniently. After about the 5th time that happened, I grew bored.
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Old 06-22-2010, 02:45 PM   #13
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I read several of Buchan's thrillers when I was a boy, growing up in the years immediately after WWII. I remember enjoying them, but 'The 39 Steps' was by no means my favourite. Try the South African novels, such as 'Prester John'. There is also a good one set mainly in Scotland, if I remember rightly, in which the hero is a retired grocer, who strikes up a friendship with a bunch of working-class boys from Glasgow while trying to rescue a Russian princess. It's called 'Huntingtower', and it's available on Gutenberg, and it's a good read. Or it was to a nine-year-old boy.
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Old 06-22-2010, 03:04 PM   #14
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I rather enjoyed the book. It wasn't the finest thing I've ever read, but it was short, and best of all, it provided a breather to catch up with some of my other reading.

Quote:
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The reason it's such a familiar story to a modern reader is simply that it's been so much copied. When it was written, it was a new kind of story, which is why it's regarded as a classic.
Exactly.

Last edited by WT Sharpe; 06-22-2010 at 03:10 PM.
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Old 06-22-2010, 09:53 PM   #15
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