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The Mythology of The Secret Societies
The Mythology of The Secret Societies
by J M Roberts
Edition: Paperback

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A scholarly examination of a fascinating and little understood aspect of modern European history, 16 Mar 2013
It's not uncommon for friendship groups to have "that guy", a person who stays up all night watching conspiracy theory videos on YouTube, bringing up the Illuminati and New World Order ever time a political matter is raised. A few years ago, I was "that guy". Then I took a step back and started analysing these theories which were causing me so much distress. I put down the pseudo-history books and stopped watching YouTube videos, instead picking up English translations of actual secret society documents and contemporary accounts, both in favour of these organisations and opposed to them. It didn't take me very long to fully grasp what I'd always assumed at the back of my mind anyway, that the paranoid conspiracy theories of YouTube and elsewhere come from decisively conservative, usually Christian, viewpoints. Furthermore, the more I read and calmly rationalised the situation, the more it became apparent that the charges labelled against these subversive secret societies just aren't really all that sinister. At least, if you're a left-wing republican (in the traditional sense of the word), who believes that religion should have absolutely no place within government, then you'll find little in the aims of the Illuminati, and other subversive secret societies, to object to. If, however, you are an ardent Catholic monarchist who supports fascism, like Nesta Webster (one of history's most influential conspiracy theorists, whom even Winston Churchill endorsed), then you'll quite understandably find much to be fearful about from what these organisations stood for.

This classic textbook by the acclaimed historian, J.M. Roberts, tackles these very issues. Rather than being a book about what the secret society members actually believed in, as the word "mythology" in the title might suggest (though it does deal with that too), it's focus is actually on the mythology that was built around these organisations, during the build up to the French Revolution right through to the Restoration. Roberts tackles fact and fiction, displaying how fear of the radical changes sweeping through Europe during this critical period, and a general anti-Enlightenment sentiment, lead to a paranoia over secret societies, the ramifications of which were still felt strongly in the European politics of the 20th century (the anti-Semitism of World War II, for instance, was fuelled largely by conspiracy theories). Roberts focuses mostly on the Freemasons, a secret society which was originally intent on staying out of politics, but which eventually became used as a vessel for genuinely subversive organisations such as the Illuminati, whom Roberts also deals with at length. Although the Illuminati didn't actually achieve any of their goals while they existed, their revolutionary principals and hierarchical and secretive structure were adopted by later political secret societies, in particular the Carbonari. Though these societies achieved little other than to scare the authorities and to lead contemporary conservative writers into wild speculation, the chain reaction they instigated can be traced right up to the First International and the eventual communist movement. One character we're introduced to in Roberts' history, for instance, is Philippe Buonarroti, a freemason and utopian revolutionary, whom the almost legendary Russian anarchist, Mikhail Bakunin called "the greatest conspirator of his age". The extent to which the revolutionary European secret societies influenced the later communist movements is only touched on here, but this subject in itself would make for an equally interesting follow up book.

Be warned that `The Mythology of the Secret Societies' is not light reading. It is, in fact, a 40 year old academic textbook, not written with the lay reader in mind. Roberts assumes that his reader already has a good understanding of the French Revolution and European politics from this age, and (in the edition I read, at least) his many foreign language quotes (mostly French) are never translated into English. The writing style is dry, and the book is incredibly factual. However, anybody who has an interest in secret societies absolutely must stop watching the paranoid YouTube videos and pick up this academic level-headed assessment instead. Of course, anybody who does believe that the nefarious hand of the Illuminati are behind all of society's evils would never actually bother to read a long challenging text like this, and may even accuse the author of being in league (wittingly or otherwise) with the conspirators. Ironically, however, most of the people who believe in this kind of thing these days are actually vehemently anti-government and often even left-wing in their politics, the kinds of people who are naturally against the monarchy and against the power that the Catholic church wields in the world; but they don't realise that the Illuminati actually stood for the very things they now stand for.


Astonishing X-Men By Whedon & Cassaday Ultimate Collection 2
Astonishing X-Men By Whedon & Cassaday Ultimate Collection 2
by Joss Whedon
Edition: Paperback
Price: 15.30

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars X-Men for people who don't normally read X-Men, 3 Mar 2013
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Okay, if you're reading this review, for the second half of Joss Whedon and John Cassaday's Astonishing X-Men, then you probably already know what this is all about already. I'd just like to add, for anyone who's coming to this for the first time, that although both books in this series form to create one big self-contained epic, the first issue in this volume (issue #13) was actually released almost a year after the last issue of the first book (#12). Quite a few radical changes had happened within the Marvel universe during this period (particularly in the X-Men world), and Whedon does a great job of referencing these changes and staying contemporary, without meandering away from his story. Both of the major changes are quickly referenced in the first chapter of this book. The first, when Wolverine tells his students that "A lot's happened, buncha students gone", refers to the after effects of House of M and the Childhood's End arc of `New X-Men'. The second reference is when Maria Hill shows up as Director of SHIELD instead of Nick Fury, due to the events of Secret War. This information is only worth considering if, like me, you like to read your Marvel comics within a greater tapestry of stories, so you can easily forget about these tiny references if you're reading this as a self-contained story!

Like the first volume, this book contains two interconnected story arcs which tie into the whole 25 issue run. The first arc, which deals with the fallout from Grant Morrison's New X-Men, was, in my opinion, the highlight of this run. However, I thought that the following arc, in which the X-Men are sent to space and have to "save the world", kind of lost sight of what made the preceding issues so special. Full of action from beginning to end, and guest stars galore, it's nothing like the grounded well characterised drama that came before. No doubt, it was Whedon's intention from the very start to focus on this completely different aspect of the X-Men at the end, but I think it was a little bit too overblown, what with all the pointless guest stars and everything (and there really wasn't any real point why they were there). That said, it is always quite cool to see a writer of Whedon's calibre depicting some of my favourite superheroes, even if only briefly.

Great book, over all, though. A good, satisfying conclusion to one of the best X-Men stories ever. Even the later `Astonishing X-Men' stories, by such otherwise great writers as Warren Ellis, won't come anywhere near the level of this.


God is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything
God is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything
by Christopher Hitchens
Edition: Paperback
Price: 6.99

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A rant of two halves, 27 Feb 2013
Two chapters into this book and I was already wondering why I'd bought it, and strongly considering giving up and returning it. However, compelled to continue, for no other reason than the fact that Christopher Hitchens is an entertaining and witty writer (though I can certainly see why some people might interpret him as "pompous" and "up himself"), I found myself no longer hating it by the halfway point. A cursory browse of the negative reviews on here shows that some religious types, and atheists alike, gave up reading this early on, as I came close to, because of the condescending tone of the book and lack of serious arguments. But this is a shame, because it does actually get better.

I only "discovered" Christopher Hitchens shortly after he died. I watched a few of his debates and interviews on YouTube, and read a handful of the many articles he wrote. Although there are definitely things I disagree with him about, including his smug militant atheism (I should point here that I'm an agnostic, though one who thinks it's very unlikely that, if there is a god, "he" is anything like deity described in the three major monotheistic holy books... but I don't actually "know"!), and it's for these reasons that I've avoided him for so long. Since coming around to the opinion that he's actually a brilliant thinker (you just don't have to agree with everything that "brilliant thinkers" think), I decided to read one of his books, and this seemed as good a starting point as any.

But, like I said, I was hugely disappointed at first. Instead of a well thought out argument, the book came across as nothing more than a rant against religion. Hitchens seemed to rest his case on the tired old atheist generalisations that, just because some stupid people believe that their religion stipulates stupid things, then the religion has to be stupid. He'd bring up example after example of the evil and idiotic things people have committed in the name of religion, rarely exploring the religion itself, and it seemed like this would be the case for the rest of the book. And the rest of the book does, indeed, have a lot of generalising and one-sidedness, but the chapters where he (finally) goes into the fundamental tenants of the religions themselves, and their controversial histories, can at times be illuminating.

But the fact of the matter is that this book won't convert anybody, and it is not a strong argument against faith. If they actually stop to think about it (instead of merely going through the motions, as most liberal Christians I know personally do), you'll find that your average young intelligent 21st century Christian (from my experience, at least) regards most of the Bible stories as mythology (divinely inspired, but mythology nonetheless), and is well aware of the bloody history of their religion and the controversy surrounding the biblical "canon"; yet they still choose to believe, and don't try to impose their thoughts onto anyone else. (Incidentally, I took part in an Alpha Course recently, where the Christian teacher instructing us actually quoted from Hitchens and recommended that we read both him and Dawkins to understand more about the world.) Hitchens is talking about fundamentalists and nutters, people who'll never be convinced of anything that isn't already part of their worldview. Meanwhile, the kind of atheists who read books like this love to flaunt their knowledge, and so they should really already know all about the main points Hitchens raises. And so, in theory at least, they shouldn't find anything especially insightful within these pages (and nor will your thoughtful Western liberal Christian). Rather, the militant atheists will read it, have their prejudices against religion reinforced by such a succinctly articulated rant, and pat each other on the back. (Muslims will actually agree with a lot of what this book says about Christianity and Judaism, though they certainly won't like what he has to say about their own religion. Buddhists and Hindus, meanwhile, shouldn't care either way, because Eastern religions are given such small space in here and not really explored very well at all, which is probably an indication of the author's ignorance of the subject.)

That said, I am absolutely no fan of organised religion and schools of thought that encourage literal interpretations of mythology, nor am I one of these soft-hearted agnostics who believe that religion doesn't lead to violence. In respect of highlighting the evils of religious institutions and literal interpretations of their mythology, this book does a good job. If it seems like my opinion on this book is contradictory and that I don't really know where I stand on it, that's because I really don't. This echoes my thoughts on spirituality and faith as a whole, and perhaps I had just hoped that a great contemporary thinker like Christopher Hitchens might help steer my thoughts in a more cohesive direction. He hasn't.


Astonishing X-Men By Whedon & Cassaday Ultimate Collection 1
Astonishing X-Men By Whedon & Cassaday Ultimate Collection 1
by Joss Whedon
Edition: Paperback
Price: 18.60

4.0 out of 5 stars The first half of a brilliant run, 26 Feb 2013
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Joss Whedon and John Cassaday's critically acclaimed `Astonishing X-Men' run was the spiritual successor to Grant Morrison's New X-Men, so (as Whedon alluded to in an email conversation reprinted at the back of this book) they were always going to have a mammoth task ahead of themselves. However, although this run makes several references to Morrison's stories, and uses mostly the same team from that period, Whedon and Cassady pretty much took this in their own direction. For one thing, this is far more accessible than Morrison's run, so it's pretty much the perfect jump-on point for X-Men newcomers (though I'd always recommend following this up from Morrison's run, if that's at all possible). Also, the whole tone of the book couldn't be more different than that of Morrison's. It's very much "grounded" compared to Morrison's far-out "space opera" drama, while a subtle humour is laced throughout (sometimes hilariously so). While Morrison's run will always be my favourite of the two (back in the days, you used to not be able to go a month without fans on the comic book message boards debating about which is best), re-reading this now, it's clear that Whedon & Cassaday's run is the consistently stronger of the two. Morrison's run was definitely quite a disjointed read, where a brilliant story arc might immediately precede a not so good one. And it also suffered from rotating artists of varying quality (from great to awful), which wouldn't have been so bad if they had changed per arc, but often changed per issue instead. Although it lead to severe delays, and much agitation from the fans at the time, Whedon's writing was always complimented with the brilliant pencils and inks of John Cassaday. Read it, if you haven't already done so. X-Men comics don't come much better than this.


New X-Men Omnibus (Marvel Omnibus)
New X-Men Omnibus (Marvel Omnibus)
by Grant Morrison
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 72.98

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars X-Men for people who don't want their intelligence insulted, 23 Feb 2013
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As a young child growing up in the early 1990s, there was nothing cooler than the X-Men. Under the stewardship of Jim Lee, the X-Men were cool, dynamic and sexy. But then, as the decade wore on and the Jim Lee era faded into memory, the X-Men lost their way. No longer on the cutting edge of comics, and loosing young fans like myself who were growing up, the focus of the creative teams became one of a distinct conservativism. It seemed that the priority for Marvel was to keep their top franchise in continued stasis, in an attempt to prolong the glorious Jim Lee/Chris Claremont eras of the past and, most importantly, to retain their hardcore fan base who are resilient to change.

By the early 2000s, this creative direction could no longer sustain itself. Marvel were barely dragging their heels out of bankruptcy and, compared to a decade earlier, superhero comics sales were miserable. The X-Men franchise, in particular, was a pathetic little imitation of what it once was, but this was very much a reflection of Marvel Comics as a whole. So, out of desperation, the editorial bigwigs did the only thing they could in a last-ditch effort to save their company... They opened the doors up to great creators, took a step back, and said "create". This relatively brief period of creative freedom, and distinct lack of editorial interference, produced some of the best works of Marvel's history (such as: Brian Bendis' Daredevil, J. Michael Straczynski's The Amazing Spider-Man and Mark Millar's The Ultimates), propelling Marvel into a new era. But nothing quite personifies this new direction (which the aforementioned fan boys, in their hatred of change, disparagingly referred to as "NuMarvel") quite as astutely as Grant Morrison's `New X-Men'.

I won't go into the details of where Morrison planned to take the series, as it's covered thoroughly in the rather enlightening "Morrison Manifesto" reprinted at the back of this omnibus. But I will say this, Morrison is a writer who really "gets" the X-Men and, as he did with `Doom Patrol' years earlier, this radical revitalisation actually takes the X-Men back to their roots, bringing out what they're all about in a way which is relevant to a contemporary world. And this idea of where the X-Men, and mutants in general, fit in a "contemporary world" is a theme that is played it amazingly well in this book.

One of the first things that Morrison does in here is to return the series to its Stan Lee/Jack Kirby roots as a book about "the world's strangest teenagers". He does this by making the Xavier Institute a school again, and putting the emphasis on the teenage students who inhabit it. But he doesn't suddenly come and make an in story pronouncement that "Xavier's is a school again!". Rather, he brings the concept back in as if it was never gone in the first place, but just sidelined by all the writers since Stan. Many of this runs' fans complain that everything Morrison did has since been retconned. While it's true that the tone of the series was reversed to become a "superhero" book again after he left, this argument couldn't be further from the truth, and the fact that the "school" angle has remained intact is testament to that. I could sit here and list all the other changes to the status quo made by Morrison that have remained, or had a significant impact on future X-Men stories, and you'd quickly see that this run has had the biggest effect on the franchise second only to Chris Claremont's epic run.

Though one retcon, in particular, which had many fans up in arms (including me, at the time), mostly for the haphazard way it was introduced a mere two or three months after Morrison left, has heightened the incorrect assumption that this run has been marginalised by Marvel. Upon re-reading this run for the first time in years, with the benefit of hindsight and a bit more of a deeper understanding of the characters, I no longer feel angry about this particular retcon (and, if you've read this run, you know what I'm talking about). It's true that Marvel could have put a little more thought into explaining, in the story, what exactly happened (at the time of writing, I believe that it still hasn't fully been explained), but the retcon itself, in my opinion at least, makes more sense than what Morrison did, which, frankly... was completely absurd.

And this brings me to the drawbacks of this otherwise incredible book. While it starts off as a great sci-fi action story which develops, in the middle, into a very human drama, it ends as an anti-climactic over-the-top action fest, and a typically-Morrison confusing one at that. This could maybe be blamed on the fact that Morrison left Marvel rather abruptly and didn't have time to finish it how he wanted to, but we'll never know. All that I know is that I found the last three story arcs to be underwhelming. The other problem is that the artwork is inconsistent. When it's good, it's very good, but when it's bad it's very bad indeed.

But would I recommend this book as a starting point for someone who's never read an X-Men comic before, a demographic which `New X-Men' was originally intended to cater towards? Yes and no. The problem is that X-Men continuity is a convoluted mess, so it's actually very difficult to recommend anything as a clean starting point. The spiritual successor to this run, Joss Whedon's great Astonishing X-Men, actually makes a far better attempt of being accessible to new readers than Morrison's does but, ideally, you'd want to read that after this. But, as much as I still love the stories, it's hard to recommend anything by Stan Lee or Chris Claremont to a total newcomer unless that reader appreciates old comics (the writing and art styles have dated a lot). So I guess if you don't mind being confused at times, then you probably can start with this, but the experience will be far richer to people who are already familiar with the characters.

To conclude, I can't give this `New X-Men' Omnibus a full five stars because, as a cohesive whole, it just doesn't stand up quite high enough. That said, this is still, without a doubt, the best X-Men since Chris Claremont was at his prime. Whether you read this as the integral part of X-Men lore that it is, or as a self-contained story with a beginning, middle and end, you shouldn't be disappointed. One of Grant Morrison's best.


Politics and the English Language
Politics and the English Language
by George Orwell
Edition: Paperback

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Anyone who cares about the English language should read this, 16 Feb 2013
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It's difficult for me to review `Politics and the English Language', because reading it has made me so much more aware of the pretentious follies of modern English writing that I'm scared to fall into the traps that Orwell discusses here. This pamphlet (and at 24 small pages, "pamphlet" is a more accurate noun to use than "book") reprints George Orwell's essay on writing. Less in depth than Strunk and White's classic style guide, but quicker to the point and, frankly, far more enjoyable, I think this is as good as you're going to get on the subject. While it was originally published in 1945, the vast majority of white Orwell writes is as relevant now as ever, if not more so, as ignorance is now the "order of the day" (a tired old term which Orwell, I'm sure, would have been none too pleased to have seen me use) in the mass media. Orwell sums up the situation surrounding the state of the English language thus:

"A man may take to drink because he feels himself to be a failure, and then fail all the more completely because he drinks. It is rather the same thing that is happening to the English language. It becomes ugly and inaccurate because our thoughts are foolish, but the slovenliness of our language makes it easier for us to have foolish thoughts."

He continues, "Modern English, especially written English, is full of bad habits which can spread by imitation and which can be avoided if one is willing to take the necessary trouble." The rest of the essay is Orwell's lesson to us about what we shouldn't do, more so than what we should do. He uses typical examples to illustrate how full of clichés and pretention English writing has become. The discerning reader who takes these matters to heart will find it difficult to read a newspaper article again without being critical of the language being used.

The political side of `Politics and the English Language' becomes apparent later on, as Orwell quickly discusses how politicians of all colours and affiliations use these clichés and formulas to fool the public. But this is not a "political text". Rather, it is an essay about the English language, and politics is but one aspect which permeates through it.

This edition of `Politics and the English Language' also contains a short review Orwell wrote of `Mein Kampf' in 1940. It's not so much a review of the book as much as it is a discussion on his thoughts of Adolf Hitler, which is probably all the better. A fascinating insight and I'm glad it was thrown in at the back.

A great read, over all. If only more people would read this, we could be a lot more proud of our newspapers and other supposedly "respectable" publications. But, now that it's finally in print again, and at only 99p and coming in at just over 20 pages, there isn't really any excuse for anyone who cares about English to not read this. Reminds me of why I got into linguistics in the first place.


X-Men: Eve Of Destruction TPB (X-Men (Marvel Paperback))
X-Men: Eve Of Destruction TPB (X-Men (Marvel Paperback))
by Salvador Larroca
Edition: Paperback

2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing, 12 Feb 2013
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This is a review for 'X-Men: Eve of Destruction'. Some of the other reviews on this page are for completely different X-Men trade paperbacks. For some reason, Amazon have merged the reviews for a number of different titles together.

It's always an interesting experience going back to a piece of some kind of entertainment (comic, book, cartoon, movie, etc.) you loved as a child/teenager, but which just doesn't hold up to your adult self. Case in point, `X-Men: Eve of Destruction', an X-Men "event" from the early 2000s which essentially closed up the `90s era X-Men (well, it was published slightly after the `90s had ended, but never mind that) and paved the way for the new generation ushered in by Grant Morrison and Joe Casey. After months of anticipation, my teenage-self found this pretty gripping reading and was blown away by the ending. Over a decade later, however, my adult self isn't quite so impressed...

`Eve of Destruction' isn't only historically significant for dropping the final curtain on an era of the X-Men that many of us grew up reading. It's also significant, story-wise, for finally giving us the inevitable "war" between humans and mutants which had been alluded to almost since the franchise began. Or rather, the war, perused by Magneto (now the legally recognised ruler of Genosha), is on the brink of beginning, and the X-Men are the only people who can stop it from actually happening.

However, recent events (not explained in here) have caused most of the X-Men to form a splinter team (who went on to star in the embarrassingly titled `X-Treme X-Men' series) who are nowhere to be found. While Cyclops, Wolverine and Polaris are in Genosha trying to help the human refugees, victims of Magneto's warpath, it's up to Phoenix to recruit brand new X-Men to help the cause. We're then quickly introduced to a distinctly dislikeable new cast of characters, in homage to `Giant Sized X-Men' #1, who unquestioningly follow Jean and become new X-Men, only to disappear never to be used again at the end. These new X-Men are expected to help Cyclops and Wolverine defeat Magneto without any training, and they don't really do anything anyway. In fact, the whole final battle with Magneto (and, at the time, this was hyped up to really be the "final" battle) is a bit of a joke, as the new team members don't actually do anything after all that lead in, and Cyclops & Wolverine just bumble around a bit waiting for things to conveniently fall conveniently into place. The ending just doesn't make any sense (without wanting to spoil too much, are we supposed to believe that that could happen, with absolutely no repercussions, while Magneto's soldiers and thousands of followers were there standing there watching?), and it was reversed two issues later anyway.

Preceding the main story, `Eve of Destruction' features two separate episodes. Firstly, we have a short prelude, taken from the ending of an earlier X-Men comic, which won't make much sense to anyone who hasn't read that. Then we have a self-contained story where Cyclops is reunited with his father after being presumed dead, but in reality having merged with Apocalypse. Cyclops' new carefree risk-taking attitude is a big theme in this whole book and is worth noting. This is because in superhero comics, where changes to the status-quo are usually always reversed, the changes in Cyclops' personality have actually remained intact, explored further by Grant Morrison, and have had dramatic ramifications in future stories which are still felt today. From a historical perspective, this is pretty significant. Mildly significant, too, is the fact that this story leads in somewhat into Grant Morrison's ground-breaking run, explaining why at the start of that run Magneto is on a wheelchair and unable to prevent the Sentinel attack.

For the sake of my teenage self, I wanted to like `Eve of Destruction' and to give it a positive review, but I just can't. The story feels rushed, things happen too conveniently, and it's ultimately underwhelming. It isn't terrible, and there's some slight historical significance in this story for X-Men continuity, but it's ultimately passable and just not very good.


The Iliad (Penguin Classics)
The Iliad (Penguin Classics)
by Homer
Edition: Paperback
Price: 6.99

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant epic poem, dull prose, 11 Feb 2013
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This is a review of the E.V. Rieu prose translation of `The Iliad', revised by D.C.H. Rieu, published by Penguin Classics.

I never thought that the day would come, but here I am, much to my dismay, writing a largely unfavourable review of one of mankind's greatest achievements, Homer's `The Iliad'. Before you chastise me and call me an uneducated cretin (and I don't blame you if that's exactly what you're thinking right now), please allow me a chance to emphasise just how much I wanted to love this, to give it a five star review, and to heap praise upon praise onto this monumental piece of work. However, try as I might, I'd be lying to myself if I did that to this particular translation.

E.V. Rieu's translation of `The Odyssey' was actually the very first Penguin Classics book and so, from a historical perspective, it should come as no surprise that that and his `Iliad' are considered "classics" in of themselves. But times have changed since Rieu first opened up these cornerstones of Western civilisation to the masses. Scholarly research has progressed, the English language has evolved, and so Rieu's son, D.C.H. Rieu, was charged with the task of revising his father's original translation for a modern audience. As far as a prose translation of `The Iliad' goes, then, you probably can't do much better than this.

However, this begs the question, why exactly would you want to read a prose translation of `The Iliad' anyway? It is, after all, supposed to be a poem, not prose. Buying this book a few years ago, but not reading it until very recently, I chose to read a prose version because, in my nave youth, I thought it would be easier and more accessible than a poetic equivalent. And, indeed, it probably is. But, at the expense of lively and flowing language, we now have "accessible", but extremely dull, prose. You're not supposed to read `The Iliad' like a normal book, but that's all you can really do with a prose translation like this. What we're then left with is one of the most tedious, repetitive stories you'll ever encounter in your life, and something that does a serious disservice to Homer. Okay, I haven't actually read the whole of a poetic translation of `The Iliad' to compare this to, but I have spent a lot of time, since I started this book, looking inside other editions, comparing the language, and being struck at how the words in some of the modern poetic versions jump of the page and come to life. That didn't happen here. One good point I can say about this translation, however, a very real saving grace, is that having now read this, I'll be in a better position to tackle a poetic translation by myself when I do inevitably rise to the challenge.

But it's still `The Iliad', a story which I love and always will, though certainly a story that isn't for everybody. And, if you absolutely must read a prose translation, Rieu and son have done about as much as they can for it. The language is modern and readable, it's definitely accessible, and the powerful moments in the story have been expressed wonderfully. But, looking through other translations, I can't help but feel that the prose form has destroyed the "epic" beauty that some other editions have, and has reduced this great work into something very dull indeed.


Hellblazer Volume 4: The Family Man TP
Hellblazer Volume 4: The Family Man TP
by Various
Edition: Paperback
Price: 10.49

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The best volume in the series so far, 10 Feb 2013
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The fourth volume of the chronological reprinting of the entire `Hellblazer' series is probably the best so far. As I've commented in my reviews for the previous books in the series, while the quality of the stories themselves have generally good, they were let down by and large from the quality of the actual writing. Jamie Delano's writing was very raw and overblown, as if he was still finding his feet as a writer, despite the fact that he'd actually been penning comics for some years before starting `Hellblazer' with Alan Moore's blessings. But his writing in this volume seems to have matured somewhat compared to what came before. There's less tedium, deus ex machina, and cringe-inducing narration, though we still have to endure the odd bout of pretension in some of his overly-descriptive caption boxes (though that last problem was very much a product of the time, something you just have to get used to when reading comics from the `80s and `90s).

But the highlight in this collection is not the rather good Jamie Delano story, `The Family Man' (the title of the book). Rather, we're treated to a great two-part story by Grant Morrison, one of the greatest writers in the medium from back when he was in his prime, and a terrific one-part story from the legendary partnership of Neil Gaiman and Dave McKean. However, the definite low point of this book is the prose story by Jamie Delano. Thankfully, it's quite short, and it doesn't disrupt the flow of the rest of the book as it's printed at the back.

This is largely a high quality book. As with the previous volumes in the series, you could quite happily jump on here without having read what came before, as it's mostly pretty self-contained (there are one or two fleeting references to some previous stories, but this is very minor). Contrasting how I felt when I finished vol. 3, and just wanted to hurry up and see Jamie Delano gone from the book, I'm now quite eager to see what he pulls out of his sleeve next.


Spider-Man: Soul of the Hunter
Spider-Man: Soul of the Hunter
by J. M. Dematteis
Edition: Paperback

3.0 out of 5 stars Unnecessary sequel, 25 Jan 2013
`Soul of the Hunter' is the forgotten, and long out of print, sequel to the all-time classic Spider-Man story, `Kraven's Last Hunt'. Written five years after that story, the same creative team returned to the characters and themes of their first collaboration in an effort to tie up some of the loose ends, and to dispel some of the more controversial aspects of that story. As the afterward to the original collection of `Kraven's Last Hunt' explains, although it was mostly critically acclaimed and a huge sales hit, the original story caused some controversy by, in the minds of some readers, glorifying suicide. DeMatteis felt that it was absolutely necessary to rectify this, and to show in no uncertain terms that the suicide in question was not "honourable", and that Kraven was a deeply insane individual. The fact that this story was pretty much immediately forgotten about should indicate that this intention, while noble, was totally unnecessary. Anybody who reads `Kraven's Last Hunt' with a clean set of eyes should be able to see what DeMatteis intention was all along. Although the five years between publication of this book and `Kraven's Last Hunt' were definitely kind to the creative team, all of whom had improved greatly in a technical sense in that space of time, this story is far from one of DeMatteis' strongest, and fails to come anywhere near close to the heights of the prequel. It's ultimately pretty pointless, but if you want to see the ramifications and fallout to one of the most harrowing ordeals of Spider-Man's life, then it's not bad for the cheap price this usually goes for.


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