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Decipher
Decipher
by Stel Pavlou
Edition: Paperback

10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A reminder......, 13 Jan. 2003
This review is from: Decipher (Paperback)
I'm not one to start criticising other contributors who feel that they must write something about a book on these web pages - I know that I wouldn't like it done to me. However, this well-researched and throrughly entertaining book exposes itself to self-professing 'experts' who have chosen to slate the book due to 'wild-inaccuracies', and/or scientific plausability. I believe that it is unfair to judge 'Decipher' in this way, and remind others, that it is a sci-fi novel who's function is to allow the reader to suspend belief and be entertained.
In this respect, 'Decipher' succeeds brilliantly. Attempting to offer believable possibilities about many of the world's greatest mysteries, such as the Pyramids, Atlantis, Ley lines etc. and marry them all together in the form of an apocalyptic race for time is quite a task, particularly if you consider that this is Pavlou's first novel.
I must admit that from time to time, I di find that the flow of storyline stopped while the author explained a theory in great depth, that sometimes would have only little relevance to the story's proceedings. Also, apart from the central three of four characters, most of the other participants to the story were stereotypical at best. However, they did not overly distract from the book's main focus...to describe a dramatic race to not only solve an ancient conundrum, but to overcome political adversary in the name of preventing a global catastrophe. Think 'Armageddon' coupled with Athur C.Clarke and throw in a touch of Tom Clancy for good measure.
Decipher is a great book for those who like intelligent answers to ancient riddles. Just don't get picky with the scientific explanations, OK?


Four
Four
Offered by best_value_entertainment
Price: £3.81

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A great introduction to Blues Traveler for jaded musos!, 11 Jan. 2003
This review is from: Four (Audio CD)
Blues Traveler are one of those bands that deserve a lot more recognition than they get. Aside from having lived the true rock'n'Roll lifestyle with all the ups and downs of a touring band, they also boast some of the most admired rock/blues musicians in America, yet in the UK, few people will have heard of them.
Musically, 'Four' is very radio-friendly and accessable to just about anybody. The first thing that strikes you is the searingly fast harmonica playing. However, one thing that the band do not do is provide a background for showy 200mph harmonica trills. Each band member has a skill for the improvisational in his own right, and each bandmember gets a share of the spotlight.
Blues Travelers' speciality is getting a feeling of total improvisation on their albums. In a band as tight and as musically talented as this, every song has got an energy that is lacking from most commercial pop/rock outfits. Listening to them play on a CD is like being there live. Finally, the songs are mostly upbeat, with some great lyrics (belted out with a lot of fire and passion), and songs that will get you tapping your feet.
Four features Blues Traveler's biggest hit to date, 'Runaround' which is a great into to the band. The tunes aren't as bluesy and raw as their previous albums, and the song lengths are fairly short (bearing in mind that most Blues Traveler songs are anything from 5 minutes to 20 minutes long!). These criticisms, however, are only in comparison to their other albums, and there is still a lot of music for your money here, blues, rock, folk, funk etc...Every song has got a mixture of at least two of these genres, and is still fantastic to listen to.
Four is designed to introduce music lovers who are disenchanted with image-driven, choreographed and preened music, and would prefer something more spontaneous and energetic. If you want to hear Blues Traveler at their best, however, I would recommend 'Save his Soul', 'Live from the Fall' and their first album, also called 'Blues Traveler'


Memento [2000] [DVD]
Memento [2000] [DVD]
Dvd ~ Guy Pearce
Offered by A ENTERTAINMENT
Price: £3.14

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A highly original viewing expeience, 10 Jan. 2003
This review is from: Memento [2000] [DVD] (DVD)
Memento is one of those few films that comes along very rarely. There is no hype to introduce it, and the storyline is difficult to describe to anyone that you recommend it to. However, once the initial disorientation that the viewer experiences settles into a recognisable pattern, the rewards are great, and the storyline truly stands out.
One of the finest points of the film is the way that the timeframe of the storyline is 'spliced', so that the viewer knows as much of the storyline as the lead character (played expertly by Guy Pearce) - as the film progresses, the preceeding events are revealed that show more of what's going on. Every scene seems to have a twist to it, and the intrigue is heaped on in spades.
The tricky thing about most films of this type are the endings. Amazingly, the ending to Memento succeeds in wrapping up most of the loose ends with a sensible and credible ending, that doesn't fall into the formulaic 'happily-ever-after' or 'ambiguous cop-out'. It may disappoint on first view, but (like the whole film in general) makes complete sense with a repeated view.
All in all, well worth the money for the DVD!


Might & Magic IX
Might & Magic IX

31 of 31 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Not bad for your first RPG game, however......., 8 July 2002
This review is from: Might & Magic IX (Video Game)
To anybody who has never played any of the M&M series, this game is a comprehensive and fairly easy intro to the RPG genre. To any more experienced players, this game has 'Cop Out' written all over it.
The first thing you notice is the cut-down character class system, allowing for a possible 8 classes. While the graphics may be an improvement on previous M&M games, the engine is clunky and unsophisticated. The game retains an element of it's non-linear gameplay, but rather than explore huge vistas, you reach your destination across largely uneventful paths. The play area lacks atmosphere, especially in the towns, which are usually a bunch of empty rooms, not worth exploring, and 10-20 NPCs, half of whom have nothing interesting to say. The magic system is poor also. Spells appear anywhere in your spellbook, and there is little way of telling if your character is missing a spell that they are capable of learning, but that doesn't matter,because it seems that tere are fewer spells anyway. The Alchemy system of mixing potions is gone, as well as the guilds, backpack grids (along with weight and size considerations) and the 'people's opinion' system.
(draws breath)
The skill development system is screwed as well. There is no item that you cannot Identify at master level, so you don't need an ID Item grandmaster. The ID monster skill doesn't seem to work. The spells seldom work efficiently, even at top levels, and there is no info on how the spell improves when it is right-clicked.It is too easy to get your hands on decent weapons, so you never need a shop to actually BUY stuff.You can SELL any itemin a shop (e.g you can sell armour to a magic shop and weapons to a Library). You still keep your gold and items when you die,so you never need to worry about using banks, or resurrecting characters. The map system makes life too easy as well. Instead of the layout of a dungeon or city being revealed to you as you explore, the map just shows everything. Dungeons are smaller, and not as atmospheric as before, and on occasion, completed quests do not disappear from your questbook.
There are a few innvations to M&M9 - you can pass items as well as money from bank to bank if you install an 'orb of linking' the trouble is that by the time you install them, your characters will be utilising the best stuff, and you probably won't have anything worth keeping in a bank). The Inventory system has been given an overhaul. You can carry a very large amount of stuff that can be instantly sorted by clicking on the appropriate button armour/weapons/jewels etc. - the benefit of this is that there is less time traipsing back and forth from dungeons to villages to sell newly acquired items, but to the RPG purist, this takes all the fun out of preparation for a new quest.
The bottom line is that M&M9 is a largely reduced and unorganised incarnation of the series, but with fancier graphics. I don't know about anyone else, but I'd gladly sacrifice the all new (and not very much improved) LITHtech engine for some good old M&M6-style gameplay.


Emma Who Saved My Life
Emma Who Saved My Life
by Wilton Barnhardt
Edition: Paperback

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The only book to memory that made me laugh out loud!, 13 May 2002
This review is from: Emma Who Saved My Life (Paperback)
...Emma who saved my Life centres on a naive young hopeful actor (Gil Freeman) moving into New York in the early '70s, and discovering that the love of his life, Emma Gennaro, has decided to become celibate. Along the way, they encounter all kinds of characters and situations that make you cringe, cry or laugh so hard that the neighbours will probably ask you to keep the noise down (as mine did).
The scene that still sticks to mind is in the first chapeter with Gil attending his first loft party, hosted by an outrageous, extravagant host who nobody seems to actually like. I challenge anyone to read the chapter without bursting out laughing!
It will definitely appeal to any Woody Allen fan, or anyone who has ever seen what kind of madness can actually occur in the life of a typical New Yorker. It's sad to see that it didn't get the recognition it deserved, and that other books without half the wit and energy of this one are touted as the 'funniest book ever written'. Bridget Jones fans, cop a load of THIS!


Kid A
Kid A
Offered by DVD Overstocks
Price: £5.70

3 of 9 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars What Happened??, 13 May 2002
This review is from: Kid A (Audio CD)
I was a big fan of Radiohead's first three albums. The non-conformist attitude to commercial music, coupled with a sense of melancholy and anger helped to develop a band structure that was both unsusal and yet still acessable. In other words, there was something for everyone.
However, this collection of Avant-Garde electro-synth freakiness is not the band that I remember. It's as if they wanted to destroy their fanbase and still sell albums all based on the huge success of OK Computer. If that's what they set out to do, they have succeeded.
I honestly tried to like the album, but the only song that stood out with any distinction was the 'National Anthem' - a solid bassline and drumtrack that is accompanied by a distorted Thom Yorke...
I appreciate that the band are into progressive experimentation, but this is to the same sort of extent that Stockhausen used on his ludicrous piano 'compositions' - If this album were art, it would probably win the Turner prize.
Either that or I have missed the joke.


Captain Corelli's Mandolin
Captain Corelli's Mandolin
by Louis De Bernières
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

1 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Definitely worthy of a second look, 21 Mar. 2002
Captain Corelli's Mandolin is a very rewarding and entertaining book. It does evoke images of life a picture-postcard village on a Greek island very well, and the book ticks along with the same, unrushed pace for the most part, that compliments both the landscapes and the characters.
The characters themselves are endearing, and remarkably portrayed, but for the most part, don't develop over the course of the book. The plot is minimal, concentrating on singular events that occur during the Italian occupation, and highlighting the tensions, reactions and emotions of the characters.
The changes of prose and writing perspective from each chapter initially put me off, but somehow, it still worked, and by the time all the major characters were in place, I soon began to miss it. It also did feel that subconsiously at times, I would need to undertake a crash-course in two languages to progress. Several of the passages seem to drop in a Greek or Italian word for no apparent reason. This can confound, or irritate. There are clues as to what the meanings of the words may be, but it is a fairly pointless practice, and I feel that the writer was showing off.
All in all though, a very pleasant book. There is a very wry humour throuought, and despite being a bit 'sleepy', it is a rewarding and entertaining way to pass a few hours.


Straight On Till Morning
Straight On Till Morning
Offered by best_value_entertainment
Price: £6.75

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Dissillusioned with music? Need something new? LOOK HERE!!!!, 20 Mar. 2002
Blues Traveler are not a band to be easily pidgeonholed, and I guess that fans of the band are all the more grateful for that. Their foundations lay in the 'Blues/Rock' genre, but given the passion and virtuosity that comes across in even the simplest '3 chord trick' arrangement, veering into jazz, funk, and the ubiquitous power-ballad or two, there is no doubt that this album, as with any other Blues Traveler album, will give the listener plenty of variety.
Straight On 'Til The Morning is the follow-up from the album that truly established the band in the commercial sense, and despite the odd bit of 'cheese' (e.g Canadian Rose - a fairly weak US single that failed to showcase what the band were really capable of), for the uninitiated, there are a few well polished tracks.
The Album starts off with 'Carolina Blues' - a raw slice of 12 bar blues that gives only a merest hint of the rest of the album. It's fairly formulaic, but it's a foot-tapper!
'Felicia', along with 'Last Night I dreamed','Most Precarious',and 'The Gunslinger' provide the catchy, radio-friendly elements, that have become a trademark of Blues Traveler's 'pop' side, the power-ballad 'Yours', is a feast of emotion and packs a mean punch, while 'Battle of Someone', 'Business as Usual','Psycho Joe' and 'Justify the Thrill' provide something for the hardcore fans, with tongues still placed firmly in cheeks.
The true highlight of the Album, and without doubt, probably the 'bluesiest' sond that the band have ever recorded in a studio, is the epic 'Make my Way', which meanders and builds up to gospel proportions.
On the whole, Straight on Til the Morning is a truly great album - It isn't Blues Traveler's best, however. For anyone who has never heard John Popper play harmonica, this album will amaze, but the novelty does wear off. So too, do the instantly accessable 'pop' songs (except for Felicia', which remains a personal favourite. On the other hand, the band's musical meanderings into improvisation improve upon repeated listenings, and this does give the album some logevity.
Lyrically astute, with a fine collection of 'toe-tappers', novelties, and riffs, this is definitely one album for anyone who wishes that there was more to music than Britney, 'Drum'n'Bass', or Grunge.


Blues Traveler
Blues Traveler
Offered by Todays Great Deal
Price: £4.70

12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Warning! Please consult your doctor before listening!, 27 Feb. 2002
This review is from: Blues Traveler (Audio CD)
Unfortunately, there's not enough of this music around. I have been a fan of this band for a decade, and this, in my mind, is their finest.
The band opens with a catchy, radio-friendly song (which would establish their future 'signature') - while the second and third showcase their musical talents to the full. Popper's intense vocal and instrumental contributions are complemented by an enregetic backup from Kinchla, Hill, and the late, great Bobby Sheehan, and each song fizzes with life - even the ballads.
Throuought, the music diversifies from the power-ballads and blues, to jazz, funk, rock and grass-roots, each played with an energy and passion that comes across with the music. Some songs, on first hearing, will leave you literally breathless.
The true gem, however, is the finale - two songs rolled into one, that switch into eachother, forming a 12 minute 'set'. Lyrically astute, vocally diverse, and musically, as tight as any improvisational band will allow, 'Alone' still comes across to me as one of the most powerful and emotionally-charged songs ever recorded.
If you are pregnant, musically limited to Britney Spears clones, or are of a nervous disposition, I would like to still remind you that Amazon.co.uk probably still stock some Westlife CDs - If, however, you're starved of something musically liberating, you could do a lot worse...!


Imajica
Imajica
by Clive Barker
Edition: Paperback
Price: £12.73

11 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Why are you reading this?..Go and read IMAJICA instead, 26 Feb. 2002
This review is from: Imajica (Paperback)
How can I sum up the book? how about 'Oh God! This is good!', will that do?
This is one of the most intense books I have ever read, and I am an avid reader. I first read it when it first came out 10 years ago, and I loved it back then. One decade and a couple of hundered books later, this still stands out, even amongst his other books.
The plot is that of the eponymous 'hero's journey' (i.e a 'Normal' human is set on a journey, discovers himself, finds and loses love, and confronts his nemesis, having evolved into a 'Hero', winning back his love) - a classic template, but in Barker's hands, it is moulded into something else entirely.
As with his other books, Barker has one foot planted on Earth (The tale begins in London). This give it a sense of possibility denied by 'Middle Earth'. With great speed, the reader is taken to other places, to behold an epic event on a scale beyond global.
Most of the fun, of cours is reaching that event, and the reader is accompanied by creatures that can only have come from the most fertile of imaginations, and philosophical insights into love, sex, death and guilt.
That's enough gushing. If you have been bothered to read this, you've either already read the book, or you never intend to. Do yourself a favour. Get this book NOW!


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