Scoop Review of Books

More Beach Cricket Please

Book Review
The Infinite Game: How to live well together by Niki Harré (Auckland University Press, $29.99)
Reviewed by Alex Beattie

infinite-game-coverI have an obsessive tendency to organise books into niche categories like those you find on Netflix. On my shelves I have Bromance Novels, Baby Boomer Fiction, and Urban Nature Writing. Then there are the subtler distinctions. Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In and Carl Newport’s Deep Work fall into the Play the Game category, as both these books provide guidance on how to get ahead in life. The more enterprising Break the Game books – Oliver James’ Affluenza or Kate Raworth’s Doughnut Economics criticise the status quo and imagine a new paradigm. Niki Harré’s The Infinite Game: How to Live Well Together, definitively falls into the latter and more ambitious camp.

The Infinite Game is a pop psychology-cum-philosophy book about radically reshaping society. Not into a commune, religious rally, or anything that would keep Mike Hosking awake at night; but into something else entirely. The Infinite Game is an intellectually stimulating read that is ideal for book clubs or any budding conversationalist who wants to move beyond tired discussions about the New Zealand housing crisis or nation-wide transport woes.

Getting the win

This isn’t a book that ignores central Kiwi issues. Rather, The Infinite Game examines the philosophical underpinnings driving how we live and discuss topical issues such as public transport, housing, or conservation. Harré’s central point is that we tend to frame these issues in terms of winners and losers, which structures our society around finite games: buying a house, climbing the corporate ladder, or in general, getting the best deal. If you manage to win at those games, then great – you’re on the right side of the numbers. The problem however, is that most finite games are rigged, with more Kiwis losing and becoming ‘have-nots’.

Read more »

A Kiwi Whodunnit

Book Review
Search for a Kiwi Killer by Des Hunt (Torea Press, $18)
Reviewed by Nikki Slade Robinson

des-hunt-cover2We live in a region with kiwi, weka, forestry, hunting, pig dogs and pet dogs.

So does Tom, the main character in Des Hunt’s newest book Search for a Kiwi Killer. But the story is not set in our region (though it easily could be). It’s set in Kerikeri, Northland.

Tom’s first claim to fame is tackling a wild pig on the forecourt of the local petrol station.  When he and his dad release the pig back into the bush, Tom discovers a dead kiwi. Killed by a pig? Closer examination shows the kiwi had been the victim of a dog attack. There’s a dog somewhere out there, killing the kiwi.

Things get a little trickier when Tom finds an injured dog in the forest. Before long, he has bonded well and truly with this dog, now called Buffy. He also gets to know another local dog, Harvey, who belongs to the rather wealthy Mrs Hopwood. Either dog could be the kiwi killer. Tom doesn’t want to lose Buffy, and he knows Mrs Hopwood couldn’t bear to lose Harvey.

Tom also learns that someone in the area is using imported GPS tracking collars on dogs. Collars with batteries that are likely to explode, potentially injuring the dog; collars that interfere with the forestry radio communication network. Read more »

Colourful Mystery

Book Review
Who Stole the Rainbow? A Mystery Thriller by Vasanti Unka (Picture Puffin, $19.99)
Reviewed by Melinda Szymanik

stole_rainbow_cover_webSuch a clever idea, this vibrant picture book explores what makes a rainbow by disguising the answer in a thrilling investigation by Inspector Beagle, who interrogates the wind, the rain and the cloud to determine where the rainbow has disappeared to. We have interviews, and police files, but the Inspector is stuck, until the mystery is solved with a clever twist and a well-placed fold out page.

The text is clear and simple yet never dull, utilizing a number of language techniques such as internal rhyme, personification and onomatopoeia to keep things fun and interesting. There are also plenty of ‘investigation’ related words to add to the vocabulary, like ‘witnesses’ and ‘clues’, ‘culprits’ and ‘accomplices’. There is drama – “the rainbow was GONE!”, and a lovely understated humour, as seen in the illustration that shows Inspector Beagle lying in the grass as he “searched the crime scene” above him, and then, when he is standing in a flood of tears.


The art work is bold and confronting with fresh, vivid colours. This is entirely appropriate in a thriller about a missing rainbow, and young readers will be drawn in by the energy and personality in the illustrations.

I loved the effortless cool of Inspector Beagle, and children will enjoy spotting the mouse duo who spot the crime in the first place, and who can be seen popping up on every page. There’s a little engineering with a couple of fab fold out pages, and a handy brief science-based explanation as well as a code to scan for more information, at the end of the book. This is a terrific way to explain the rainbow phenomenon to a young audience while having a bit of fun and excitement along the way. 

Addictive and Intriguing: Another ‘Twilight’?

Book Review
Find Me, Immersed Book 1 by Francesca Riley (Amazon, e-book $3.44)
Reviewed by Rachel Stedman

find-me-coverWhen Skye Sebastian returns to the seaside village of her childhood and meets Hunter, a compelling, mysterious swimmer, she’s drawn into a dangerous riptide. Soon, she becomes obsessed with questions about this beautiful, enigmatic boy. But once she’s in too deep, can she ever go back?

Fans of Twilight will enjoy this fantastical adventure between two star-crossed lovers: Skye, who has a deep fear of the water, and Hunter, who seems to live within it. Just a warning, though – once you start reading Find Me, you’ll find it hard to stop. I couldn’t put the story down, because I was desperate to uncover the story of Skye’s mother’s disappearance. Plus, of course, I wanted to learn more about the mysteriously gorgeous Hunter! Although the story could be improved by tighter editing, Find Me will definitely appeal to girls who love stories of myth and magic with a modern twist. Suitable for ages 13+


For an excerpt, visit the author’s website.

Chaos of Life

Book Review / Poetry
by Vaughan Rapatahana (erbacce press, $17.50)
Reviewed by John Carstensen

ternion_full_webA love of language and languages pervades the poetry of ternion. Rapatahana has an impressive command of English but also an uneasy ambivalence for this language of colonisation which tramples on indigenous languages. In the ternion collection there is frequent and fluent use of te reo Maori, which is part of Rapatahana’s (preferred) identity. He prefers to identify with the colonised rather than the colonisers. There are also smatterings of Mandarin, Cantonese, Tagalog, Bahasa Melayu and Samoan, which are all part of his experience.

In reading ternion, as with all of Rapatahana’s poetry, certain questions arise. Why the eccentric typography? The eye and the mind are led across the topography of the page in a manner that enhances the semantics of the text, (and yet it is still best read aloud). And why the obscure lexis? The often unfamiliar vocabulary forces a focus onto precise meaning and nuances of meaning. I smile at the occasional bon mot, as when he feels atrabilious, on encountering American servicemen in the Philippines.  Interestingly also Rapatahana picks up the time honoured tradition of writing poetry about writing poetry, musing on the Muse and, to good effect metaphorically, as catching fish, and preparing a boil up.

In ternion there is no underlying big story, no ideology or philosophy, bar the implied nihilism, explicitly alluded to in Ray Brassier quotes (nihil unbound): “Philosophy is dead. Everything is dead….The world is not designed to be intelligible and is not ordinarily infused with meaning.” The world of ternion may not be infused with meaning but it is infused with attitude and mood, projected by the observer. Rain leers and skulks, grass sniggers, scrub whimpers, birds cast sarcastic glances.

In ternion the chaos of life is rendered into coherent images. There is life. There is death. There is the pathos of loss and grief. Pathos but never sentimentality. There is occasionally jarring cynicism but also there is love. Romantic and redemptive love. Death is increasingly present – “a skulking cur loitering just beyond every door.” In the last poem of the collection the poet appears, tellingly, and with a nod to T.S. Eliot, in the persona of a gerontion.

Finally and, as always, Derrida has the last word, “No one has final authority over the meaning of any text; not the experts, not the author.” But I can still rate it, okay? Five stars.