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The Eight
The Eight
by Katherine Neville
Edition: Mass Market Paperback

20 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Before Dan Brown even knew about DaVinci....., 2 April 2005
This review is from: The Eight (Mass Market Paperback)
....there was already a novel of epic proportions, that had been published, read, appreciated by many, then lost to charity shops and bargain discount bookshops around the world. The book surpassed Brown's scope and dull narrative, while matching the exciting plot page for page.
"The Eight" is one part Dan Brown, one part "Alice through the looking glass", one part spy thriller, and one part Wilbur Smith, combining all these elements in an enticing and exciting tale of a legendary chessboard that has changed the face of history, and of the tale of the woman who is suddenly thrown into a deadly global game of chess against her will, and who must reassemble the chessboard to discover its secret. Along the way, as the tale of the fabulous chessboard is revealed, historical charactes such as Charlemagne and Catherine the Great are convincingly brought in. Of the more modern story of the heroine, Catherine Velis, the plot is filled with spies, assassins, powermongers, murderers, and people who will stop at nothing to own the chessboard for themselves.
The novel is breathlessly paced and well-researched, filled with larger-than-life characters who all play a part in the game, whether as pawns or major pieces. The tale is also filled with mysteries, puzzles and esoteric conundrums, some linked to historical characters, others to give the reader something to dwell on. Admittedly at times, I got the feeling that the point of reality was stretched just a little too far, but at the end of the day, it's a novel.
If you enjoyed the yarns of Dan Brown, have even the slightest interest in the game of chess, or just enjoy a well-researched and well-written novel, this novel should do more than just entertain you.

Dr Mukti and Other Tales of Woe
Dr Mukti and Other Tales of Woe
by Will Self
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Exquisitely deranged, 6 Mar. 2005
I sincerely hope that Will Self doesn't become one of those "urban chic" autors, niched into a corner where only pseudo-intellectuals, beatniks and non-conformist liberals will bother to seek out, while the rest of the UK just remember him as the 'gaunt weird one' who filled Mark Lamarr's seat on "Shooting Stars".
Will Self is indeed a fine writer of high calibre, with a rich extensive vocabulary, and prose that can paint vivid pictures of the pomp and squalor of the urban environment and human condition all in the breadth of a single paragraph. Simultaneously reverential and scatalogical regardless of his subject matter.
Dr. Mukti and other tales of woe offer a collection of humorous and disturbing tales, simultaneously eccentric and eclectic as well as vulgar, yet always beautifully crafted (as is the prose). "Dr. Mukti" serves up a wide variety of subjects, in bite-size chunks, with a rich and dark sense of humour and a twisted but yet lucid and very real perception through the eyes of his characters.
An excellent introduction to a very verbose and far-reaching author who does not flinch at anything, but who, at times can be also a little confusing, but certainly a recommended read to anyone who would like something a little more cerebral in their novels. Newcomers to Mr. Self will be stunned that the guy who outweirded Vic and Bob can display such savage intelligence, and readers well-versed in Self's books will appreciate the return of such characters as Dr. Zack Busner. and more ascerbic observations on every aspect of human mentality.
Miss out on Will Self, and you're missing out on something very unique amongst the bookshelves.

Ju-On [DVD] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC]
Ju-On [DVD] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC]
Dvd ~ Megumi Okina
Price: £6.66

6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Watch this before seeing the US remake, "The Grudge", 26 Feb. 2005
The reason for the title is not that "The Grudge" is bad by any means, in fact, it is a very coherent and effective Hollywood "Remake" (I use the words very carefully, because the Grudge has a fairly linear plot, while Ju-On uses several temporal devices and switches of Points of view in a completely different, but not unrelated story.) The reason why I recommend this first is that Ju-On seems to be a Prequel of sorts, and overall, the story makes a little more sense.
Ju-On centres on one actress, a horror film actress who is asked to take part in a documentary surrounding a haunted house. It is also apparent that she is pregnant. Right at the beginning of the film, she is involved in a car crash and I assume the baby dies...It's very difficult to say any more than this.
The film itself is separated into chapters, each focusing on one or two particular characters of the film, and their experiences of the manifestations of the spirits of the house. It's a little like a book of short stories, each contributing to a larger story overall, some stories overlapping, some happen a little earlier and some happen a little later.
The scare factor of this film is high indeed. Comparisons will be drawn to "The Ring", particularly with the atmosphere, and the protagonist being a long haired female with her hair covering her face. However, the scares in Ju-on are far more effective in my opinion, and I loved "The Ring"!
I'm also pleased to see that the same house, same ghosts, and the same props throughout were used in both films. It meant that watching one film, then the other swiftly immersed the viewer into the atmosphere from the word 'go'!
Yes, I was confused, yes there were moments where I was wondering what had happened, who this character or that character was and what they were doing there, but when the film ended, it stayed with me for a few days - Always a sign of an effective and thoroughly well-done movie!!
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jun 26, 2008 2:07 PM BST

The Rule of Four
The Rule of Four
by Dustin Thomason
Edition: Hardcover

10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Intriguing premise, let down by overindulgence, 12 Dec. 2004
This review is from: The Rule of Four (Hardcover)
I'd have to echo the sentiments of the other reviewers here. "The Rule of Four" is spouted as a cerebral version of "The Davinci Code", with a writing style of "Dan Brown meets Umberto Eco"
The story is supposed to centre around a very real book - the Hypnerotomachia Pophirii, written by an anonymous author in several different languages, which is reputed to have hidden messages that reveal a centuries-old secret that many have been unable to crack. The book exists, and some of the authors' observations and knowledge of the book are well-informed and intriguing.
However, the Rule of Four, as a story chooses to largely focus away from this very interesting main plotline and the Hypnerotomachia becomes largely sidelined in the process. A wasted opportunity, in my opinion.
Instead, the bulk of the book concentrates on four Princetown Graduate students, and their ups and downs as their final theses are finished, and to add a little spice and interest, a murder is thrown in somewhere, but all in all, although the book is very well-written, and tied up nicely with a plausable ending, it is fairly dull.
The problem is that the authors do not develop anything well enough to make the reader actually care. There is very little mentioned about the Hypnerotomachia to begin with, and the murder (when it happens) is committed, then largely forgotten until the end. The bulk of the book consists of flashbacks involving other dull characters and seem to offer very little to the overall conclusion. Finally, I think I may have been the only other person annoyed with the fact that the narrator speaks in the present tense.
Despite this, when the Rule of Four does focus on the Hypnerotomachia and its history, it is very readable. Later on in the book, as the hypotheses start flowing, and the final conclusion of the reason for the book being written in the first place is fascinating, and very plausable.
OK, I wasn't expecting Dan Brown-esque rooftop chases across Italy, or explosive action-packed scenes involving car chases, cover-ups and double & triple crosses, but I would have liked a bit more in-depth on the subject of the Hypnerotomachia Pophirii instead of Princeton traditions, or the narrator's relationship with his late father and his girlfriend, who are generally side-characters, and not really very necessary to the general plot.

Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas (PS2)
Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas (PS2)
Offered by media-4-u
Price: £9.99

14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing!!!, 13 Nov. 2004
Hype?? Yes, the game is hyped, but it doesn't change the fact that this game is fantastic! It just means that more people will hate the game for the sake of it.
GTA San Andreas is the game that restores my faith in the current trend of games - Almost every other game on the PS2 seems to be a (very linear) FPS, driving game, sports sim or dance game, with the only improvements being eye candy, GTA SA stays varied, open, and every bit as addictive as...well....other GTA games.
The most amazing thing about GTA SA is the complete freedom to do almost anything. You can roam around 3 cities, as well as several backwater towns in the country and the desert - transportation courtesy of cars, bikes, boats, planes, choppers, trains, trucks, (even a jet-pack!) and, of course, on foot.
The game is almost completely non-linear, and players can spend weeks in just one city, achieving all the goals, including gang wars, grafitti scrawls, dating girlfriends, improving your looks as well as vehicle and weapon skills, and doing the vigilante missions without even touching all but the first few story missions - However, as more story missions are done, and more of the game is opened, the scale and depth of the game is staggering!
In comparison to Vice City, the geography is more interesting in GTA:SA. VC was mostly flat, but in SA, cross-country biking over hills and valleys is great! Missions are more complex and challenging, and new innovative features such as skill meters, parachutes, gyms, videogames, dating etc. add a lot of spice.
Downsides are the camera angles, which seem to switch randomly, so you can't see what's in front of you, and some slightly buggy texture rendering, but these are minor flaws in what is otherwise a game that is worth every penny!
In short, if you want a free-roaming game that has elements of shooters, sim games, RPGs, flight sims, strategy, gambling, dance, and even space invaders, whilst still being a self-contained (and huge) game in itself, you will find a lot happening in San Andreas!

Want to Play?
Want to Play?
by P. J. Tracy
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

11 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A very credible debut!!, 6 Sept. 2004
This review is from: Want to Play? (Paperback)
I picked this book up on a whim. I don't usually enjoy crime thrillers involving killers (I think there are far too many of them out nowadays), but this book was a very good read!
The first thing that impressed me were the characters. Every single one of them was very vivid, without demanding pages of descriptions to give you an idea of their appearance, likes, hates etc. In particular, the five members of the game that is referred to in the title really stood out!
The story centers around this group of five very different people, who, as a company, create a computer game based around catching a serial killer. (The reviewer who called this idea of a game "sicko" may have entirely missed the point, or has no experience of this generation of computer games, but I digress...)
The story mainly focuses on the efforts of Detective Magozzi in his pursuit of the killer. Admittedly, I would have liked to have seen a bit less of him. There were stages in the plot where further intrigues were being developed, and I would have liked to have seen what else was happening, rather than purely from Magozzi's point of view.
Another small criticism was the dialogue. While a lot of it was relevant to the plot, and all of it was very sharp and realistic, I was occasionally lost in it. The best way to describe it was like listening to an episode of "Hill St. Blues" but with no picture, and all the voices sounding the same. Sometimes, the dialogue would take a sharp turn where unnecessary (like two detectives talking about a case, chatting about their wives, sharing a joke, then back on the case, all with little explanation.
Anyhow, criticisms aside, the book successfully keeps you gripped, and the identity of the killer is a peach of a conclusion. Neither too obvious or too obscure, but the real treat is in how the author develops the back-story that finds all these suspects in the situation that they are in. Simply excellent!!!

Is There Love In Space?
Is There Love In Space?
Price: £5.42

8 of 11 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A bit weak in comparison to his other stuff...., 17 Aug. 2004
This review is from: Is There Love In Space? (Audio CD)
Don't get me wrong. I'm an ardent Satch fan. Ever since I first heard the goosebump-inducing intro to "Flying in a Blue Dream" many many years ago, I've spent several times listening to Joe S's eclectic mix of virtuoso rock guitar, and sublime musical landscaping, rewinding the tape to hear a certain phrase over and over with my own Ibanez (and my lower jaw) in my lap, thinking "How the hell did he do THAT?"
Satch's albums have been largely hit-and-miss on occasion, with at least something to keep you coming back, and unlike many other contemporary shredders, seeks to supply a well-written melody and musical structure to his tunes that is lacking in many other shred tunes by other guitarists, which invariably sound like aimless widdling over a generic backing track. Satch's skill, taste, technical prowess, and willingness to experiment and stretch the capabilities of his instrument beyond conventional technique is always astounding, no matter what he does. Even the techno-pop influenced "Engines of Creation" has some pretty smart playing, which is undeniably Satriani playing with a passion and fury.
"Is there Love in Space" continues this trend, and as expected, every song has some amazing playing going on. Notes flow and flurry during the incredibly quick legato runs, pitch-perfect dive bombs and whammy tricks punctuate great musical phrases, and the whole album is a testament to Satriani's ability for playing blistering lead guitar.
So why the three stars if he's that good?
In comparison with Satriani's other albums, ITLIS just didn't have the same 'repeated listenng' factor of some of his other albums. Satriani's best work happens not just when he's playing a lead solo, but when he's arranging the backing, with sonic swirls, eclectic rhythm work, and intriguing chord structures. Have a listen to the first few tracks of "Strange Beautiful Music", "Crystal Planets", or "Joe Satriani" for great examples of this. The music would work on its own without the solos. This is where ITLIS falls slightly short. The lead work is definitely there, but the tunes themselves all sound a bit samey, seem overlong, and in one or two cases, seem to be "widdle-for-widdle's sake". Of course, there are some distinct tracks that buck the trend, but in the long run, it just doesn't feel as dynamic and as powerful as Satriani's other albums.

Angels And Demons
Angels And Demons
by Dan Brown
Edition: Paperback

5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars When in Rome......, 8 Aug. 2004
This review is from: Angels And Demons (Paperback)
I have to admit, I think Dan Brown is certainly an author who enjoys his research, because so far, the two books that I have read of his, (The DaVinci Code, and Angels & Demons) both rely on what I can only imagine to be exhaustive research, coupled with a vivid imagination to create highly credible treasure-hunts using famous backdrops of secret societies and famous works of art.
I'll try to refrain from making too many (seemingly inevitable) references to the Davinci Code here, as I feel that to try to compare the two books against eachothers merits would be an injustice to eachother. Just to put it simply, however, of the two, I personally preferred this one. However, if you enjoyed the DaVinci Code, you certainly will enjoy this prequel.
The scenario finds Robert Langdon, professor of Symbology, trying to discover the secret lair of the Illuminati, and the whereabouts of a terrorist threat more deadly and powerful than any nuclear attack - all in 24 hours. To do this, he must follow a secret trail across Rome looking for clues in works of art (sound familiar?)
The only thing that bugs me about Dan Brown's otherwise entertaining books are the seemingly incessant (and blatantly obvious and tacky) needs to develop intrigue at the end of every chapter by writing hammy sentences, such as "Little did he know that what he was about to see would change his life" etc.
Also, the characters and set-pieces are a little 'flat', or formulaic. We have the Anti-Hero, a vivacious female sidekick (who, despite mourning the loss of her father, seems a little too ready to save the world, fall in love etc.), incompetent police, evil assassins, a mysterious 'head honcho', and of course, the obligatory unexpected (and ludicrous)twist.
However, these quibbles aside, the book is a belter of a read. It's the literary equivalent of Indiana Jones, and equally as frantically paced. I certainly would not be surprised to see one of Dan Brown's novels made into a Hollywood Blockbuster in the near future. His stories have all the right ingredients.
Certainly a good book to read on the beach, and while there is a wonderfully sound conspiracy theory (in the form of ancient secret societies), don't expect any literary prowess - just good fun!

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time
by Mark Haddon
Edition: Paperback
Price: £3.85

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A very neat idea, very well done!!, 8 Aug. 2004
TCIOTDITN is certainly different. Unlike the usual crafted prose to paint characters, we are given descriptions of clothes and shoe-holes. The style of writing is intentionally simple, but the ideas behind the book are certainly evident, and they work well.
In case you haven't heard of it, the book's main character is Christopher Boone - a 15 year old with Asperger's syndrome. This offers a unique perspective to the reader, that is not only different to run-of-the-mill novels, but encapsulates the main character and his "quirks".
The tale initially starts with the discovery of a dog that has been killed with a gardening fork, but develops into a slice-of-life view from Christopher's point of view, which includes what he thinks of the neighbours, school, colours, constellatinons, and other off-the-wall subjects.
While many might find the narrative a little awkward, due to the limitations that the author had of not actually being able to deepen characters by description - only by behaviour, we get a very distinct idea of how Chris sees things, and that is where the book really succeeds.
I did not find the level of swearing too OTT. If you are trying to do what Chris's character is doing and add every single detail, you do get a real slice of what it must be like to live in suburban Swindon. At one stage, Chris does say that this is not meant to be a funny book (as he doesn't know, or understand jokes), but you cannot help but smile at some of the observations that he makes, some of which are deeply profound scientific questions, mathematical paradoxes, and interesting facets of the everyday that people usually take for granted.
It is a very easy read, but not necessarily an unrewarding one. Although the actual mystery of the dead dog is solved mid-way, the events in Chris' life and the way that he reacts to them still makes for a very entertaining story, and ultimately, the book is certainly one that I would enjoy coming back to at a later date.

Truth Be Told
Truth Be Told

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A more controlled Blues Traveler effort...., 22 Jun. 2004
This review is from: Truth Be Told (Audio CD)
...and unfortunately, not ultimately as satisfying as their other albums. That doesn't make this a bad album by any stretch of the imagination.
For new arrivals to the band, "Truth Be Told" is a great starting place. It is an album full of catchy, melodic tunes, poigniant lyrics, fantastic playing, singing, and, of course John Popper's trademark blistering harmonica solos. Musically, this band is incredibly tight, but have a 'jam band' looseness about them that allow the lead lines complete freedom. There are tunes here that will stick in your head for days on end, and lyrical content of a deep, soulful poetic nature.
For the hardened BT fan, however, who knows that this band are at their rampant best when convention is thrown to the winds, there are no restrictions on the 4-minute-per-song studio albums, and the band are at it hell-for-leather, "Truth Be Told" will probably disappoint. Itis a much more controlled effort. There is energy there, and passion in almost every song, but not as much as in their earlier efforts, like their original debut, "Blues Traveler", or "Save his Soul".
One good thing, though, "Truth Be Told" does see a better implementation of Tad Kichla and keyboardist Ben Wilson, who were drafted in after the original bassist, Bobby Sheehan passed away. This is their second studio album with these two elements, and the band seem to be finding their feet again after their previous album "Bridge", which frequently had Wilson, Chan Kichla and John Popper competing for the lead spot, resulting in some messy songs. Here, Wilson's keyboards donate themselves much better to the tunes, rather than threatening to overpower them, and Tad Kichla, who knew that he had some very big boots to fill in Bobby Sheehan's absence, seems to be getting his groove.
Finally, I'd like to echo the previous reviewer and ask if Blues Traveler will ever come to the UK. The band exhaustively tour the US, and I'm pretty sure that they will get a great reception over here too!

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