Category Archives: Review
Hmmmmmm according the search facility and my tags I haven’t talked about Gary Numan here before. That seems a very strange oversight on my part considering the lengths I’ve gone to to talk about Abney Park. But then Numan’s music has been in my life for longer than AP and I’ve been working on that book project for the last few months, so I guess it makes some sense.
Even though Gary Numan started releasing music about 4 years before I was born, I wasn’t raised on that kind of music. I was raised on Queen, Alice Cooper, Meat Loaf and Jeff Wayne, rock music that’s very different to Numan’s original electronic style. I suspect that, by the time I became aware of music in general, he was on the downturn of that part of his career.
I remember the 1996 Carling advert that used Cars as the music, despite the fact that I was 13 at the time (and would never drink Carling) the advert stayed with me. But that was back in the day when you couldn’t just search the internet for an advert for a song (well technically you could but you know what I mean). Then I saw the BBC TV series I Love The ’70s/’80s/’90s , I think they talked about Gary Numan at the end of the ’70s series. Again I was impressed with the music but I was into Cradle of Filth and Nick Cave at the time and 70s/80s electronica didn’t fit with that. Though I did decide that Gemma Numan was my hero for marrying her teen idol (yes I was (am) one of those music fans).
Kim Stanley Robinson’s Years of Rice And Salt is a speculative history based on the concept that 99.99% of Europe’s population was lost during the Black Death. A series of short stories spanning several hundreds years are linked by the fact that all the characters are reincarnations of the same souls though out. So whilst world history progresses without Western culture, we also see the development of complex interpersonal relationships whilst the characters change age, sex, race and in one case species.
Because of the linking of characters this isn’t an easy read, rarely does the author actually tell you which characters are which, though clues are given in the first initials of names. It’s mostly left to the reader to work out by personality. The book also requires the reader to be willing to read about a variety of other cultures and to have a basic understand of history in order to understand the differences with reality. All the effort is more than rewarded with the scenes set in the various afterlifes, I could happy read those over and over.
Even Better 30 Day Song Challenge – Day 8 – Track For Dancing To Sleazily
Once again there was no contest for this one, it has to be Remains Of The Day by Kazuo Ishiguro.
This the single most boring and pointless book I’ve ever been forced to read. I no longer remember if it was on the GCSE or A-Level English Lit syllabus, but this book is the reason I chose not to study English to degree level and the reason I won’t read anything that has won the Booker Prize unless at least 10 people can give me decent reviews.
Not only is it deeply depressing, the subplot is actually significantly better than the main story. I get that the butler has a pointless and lonely life but did we really have to read 250+ pages of it, when we could have been reading about the tragic, misguided landowner and his suspicious dealings with the Nazis? I hate books that put too much stress on their metaphors to the detriment of the plot and this had that in spades. There’s one scene where the main character visits a lake and you’re basically clubbed around the head with clumsy meaningful descriptions for ten pages. It’s like the author wrote “look at me, I’m clever” on a shovel and hit you in the face with it. Actually that would have been infinity more enjoyable. The only good things about this book is that it ends. But not nearly soon enough.
Even Better Thirty Day Song Challenge – Day 5 – Track For Feeling Lovesick and Bad
As previously mentioned, I’m a huge Gary Numan fan. This has to be one of my favourite songs, certainly one of the most heartbreaking.
No contest for this question, there could only every be one answer- Terry Pratchett’s Discworld.
Currently checking in at 38 individual books (Snuff, book number 39, is due for release in October 2011) and 5 short stories, The Discworld series in really several different series all taking part in the same universe. With the Rincewind series we get traditional big bold sword and sorcery, whilst the Witches focuses more on superstition and a less showy form of magic. The City Watch are police procedurals with a twist and the Death/Susan series are about the ultimate outsiders trying to make sense of humanity. And that’s not including all the stand alone and mini series books.
There aren’t many of these books that I don’t adore, and whilst some of the early ones are weaker compared to the recent books, they all still have endearing qualities. If I had to pick one thing that makes Discworld great as a series is the fact that you don’t HAVE to read the books in order, and missing out the weaker books won’t really prevent you from enjoying the others. I hate to waste time and money slogging though unenjoyable books to get to the good stuff, and these are perfect for avoiding that. For example the first Discworld I read was Soul Music, book 16 of the overall series, and book 3 of the Death storyline, and it didn’t matter! Whilst the various characters grow and progress with the series, all the relevant bits are recapped in a way that is intrusive to a familiar reader but just informative enough to a newbie.
So if you like police books and murder mysteries then just start with the City Watch, if you prefer to focus on the human condition the go for the Death series. Or if you aren’t sure then choose one of the stand alone books like Moving Pictures, Pyramids, Small Gods or Monstrous Regiment. Actually I’d probably list those four amongst my favorites anyway. My all time favorite in the series is probably Fifth Elephant a political mystery focusing on rivalry between vampires and werewolves. The German version is shown above.
Even Better Thirty Day Song Challenge – Day 4 – Track for Feeling Lovesick and Good
One of the few songs both my partner and I agree on, that wouldn’tfreak you all out. Ahem.
Ok, for this one I’ve decided not to go with any of the books I’ve previously mentioned. Spring-Heeled Jack and Dreadnought would probably both qualify for this but I thought I’d pick something a little more obscure.
I previously knew Mark Gatiss as one of the stars of The League of Gentlemen, the BBC horrorcomedy series, as well as character actor from Doctor Who and a plethora of historical dramas. Somehow I never realised he was the writer behind some of the better Doctor Who episodes and books. The quality of his TV writing, and the depth of devotion he demonstrated in the excellent History of Horror documentary series, convinced me I had to read the Lucifer Box trilogy.
Covering the three great ages of detective fiction (Edwardian, Roaring ’20s and Post-WWII) the series follows the charming, handsome, witty and overtly bisexual Lucifer Box, portrait artist and secret agent, from his glory days to the twilight of his career via three excitingly camp adventures. Gatiss’ love for detective fiction is clear in every single page. Box is a James Bond for the modern age (but in the past), you won’t find any that “homosexuals can’t whistle” rubbish here, and Box doesn’t spend all his time chasing women, rather he chases anything that moves, male or female. Much more entertaining that way!
Even Better Thirty Day Song Challenge – Day 3 – Track For A Roadtrip
There’s something wonderfully sci-fi about driving past a power station at 3am on a deserted motorway with the Blade Runner soundtrack playing in the background.
A year ago, if you’d told me that Gyles Brandreth, the slightly camp custodian of Dictionary Corner and wear of a thousand terrible jumpers, had a written a series of excellent historical murder mysteries starring Oscar Wilde, I’d have laughed at you. In fact that’s exactly what happened, I did laugh… then I read the books and saw that it was true.
The Oscar Wilde Murder Mysteries do exactly what it says on the tin, but they do it very well. The tone and voice for Oscar and his companions are absolutely perfect, and Brandreth plays on the real life link between Oscar and Mycroft Holmes wonderfully. As a piece of speculative fiction the historical accuracy is excellent, and serves to make Oscar’s ultimate fate all the more poignant. If I had one complaint its that I always end up reading this book in Brandreth’s voice, and that just serves to make the descriptions of brothels etc that little bit more uncomfortable. I’d pay good money to hear Stephen Fry (who has played both Wilde and Holmes) perform the audio book for these though.
Even Better Thirty Day Song Challenge – Day 2 – Track For A Badass Action Sequence
Not the usual kind of choice for a fight scene, but i can see this working in a Victorian comedy zombie fight scene a la the Shaun of the Dead Don’t Stop Me Now sequence. I do wonder how my brain comes up with this stuff sometimes though.
For the next thirty days I’m going to attempt the Thirty Days Of Books meme. Just to stop this becoming an entirely book centric blog I’m also going to do the Even Better Thirty Day Song Challenge from Facebook.
Day 01 – A Book Series You Wished Would Just End Already
I’m not going to say Twilight. It’s ooooh so tempting to choose that one, but I’m going to have some integrity and not talk about anything I haven’t read. I’ve seen New Moon and that has guaranteed I won’t ever read the Twilight series :p
I nominate A Song Of Ice And Fire by George R.R. Martin. My partner got into these books whilst we were at university (2001-2004) and really enjoyed them. They were originally planned as a trilogy. But after reading the first three he found that the series had been expanded beyond the original limit AND the fourth book hadn’t come out yet. Whilst we only waited a year for it to be released, there had actually been a 5 year gap between the release of book 3 “A Storm Of Swords” in 2000 and book 4 “A Feast of Crows” in 2005. Book 5 still hasn’t been released, and I won’t believe the July 2011 release date until I see the book on the shelves. There are apparently 2 more books due before the series is finished. Onwards To Rantings
I bet you read that in Professor Farnsworth’s voice. If you didn’t, you need to watch more TV. If you’re still reading in his voice, you need to watch less TV. Nah, not really, no such thing as too much Futurama. Anyway, to business….
The new issue of Irregular Magazine is here!!! Hoorah! This issue, entitled BEASTS OF WAR, is packed full of RPG and wargaming articles, painting tutorials, gorgeous art and a plethora of reviews (one of which is by yours truly).
In terms of art, I recently completed an album cover and I’m now working on contributions for a steampunk RPG project. I can’t say much just yet, but I’ll be posting more when I can.
It’s exceedingly rare for me to buy an album as soon as it comes out. I have to be really devoted to a band to go to that kind of effort. Usually I stumble across albums a few years (or decades) after their release. I also have odd musical tastes. I love musicals and I adore concept albums. I like electro, goth and steampunk all at once. I enjoy classic metal and comedy covers.
Take that as a warning that some of the albums I review here might be a bit weird or not to your taste. I’m not going to apologise for that, as Tenacious D once said, “it only matters if it rocks”.
These are the albums I currently have on repeat. Surprisingly three of them I bought the day they were released, so I guess this also classes as my best-albums-of-2010 list too. Wind up the gramophone, music this way