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Child 44
Child 44
by Tom Rob Smith
Edition: Paperback

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Bit uncomfortable with this, 5 Aug. 2010
This review is from: Child 44 (Paperback)
It's a very odd thing, this book. Written by a thirtysomething British author, it describes in great detail the privations and hardships of Stalin's Russia. Now, I know that it's the purpose of fiction to imagine, and the job of writers to invent. But bolting an (admittedly well-written) airport thriller/police procedural to one of the darkest chapters of human history does seem... well, somewhat distateful. Especially when you consider that the nightmare of Stalin's terrors is still in living memory, and there are plenty of excellent genuine first-hand accounts available.

Eventually with Child 44, you realise that all you're reading is imagined action sequences over some thorough research. It's not a bad book by any means - it is very well paced and the characters are much better drawn than is usual for this sort of thing, but... I couldn't shake the feeling that this book was at best irresponsible, and, at worst, a cynical exercise in cultural tourism.


District 9 [DVD] [2009]
District 9 [DVD] [2009]
Dvd ~ Sharlto Copley
Offered by SweetBuzzards
Price: £3.45

2 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Prawn Slippy, 4 Aug. 2010
This review is from: District 9 [DVD] [2009] (DVD)
I think a lot of people who might have enjoyed this gave it a miss, expecting to be hit over the head with an obvious apartheid metaphor for two hours. Which is not what District 9 is at all, at all. Though it certainly contains political themes and astute comment on how governments deal with "the alien", these elements are not allowed at any point to interfere with the giddy pace of this very accomplished thrill-ride. And whilst some sci-fi old hat is revisited here (the body suit from Aliens, the enormous ship from Independence Day) the film contains so much else that is original, and brought off with so much panache, that it's best just to let it carry you along. And Sharlto Copley is excellent.


Leviathan
Leviathan
by Paul Auster
Edition: Paperback

5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Genuinely baffled, 1 Aug. 2010
This review is from: Leviathan (Paperback)
I picked up this book on the strength of Paul Auster's reputation as a writer. I was genuinely baffled to discover how trite, unengaging, and, in places, badly written it was. Some awful lines in particular will never leave me - "a dense Eden of tingling pubes" might just be the worst sentence ever committed to paper, and the book is peppered with many such awful howlers. It reads like a first novel, and an actively bad one at that. I think the plan was to use a Unabomber-style archetype to explore the complexities of modern day America, a pompous project that ultimately does nothing and goes nowhere.

I made myself finish the damn thing on the condition that I could throw it across the room when I had done so. If I were reviewing the book solely on its qualities as a projectile, I would give it an unhesitating A+.


The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch (S.F. MASTERWORKS)
The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch (S.F. MASTERWORKS)
by Philip K. Dick
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.19

10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Eldritch by name, 31 July 2010
One of the finest of Dick's 1960s works, "Palmer Eldritch" is a book brimful of superb ideas. Some are bitingly satirical (future colonists will relieve the excruciating boredom of their lives by entering the ideal world of Ken and Barbie analogue Perky Pat, making dolls and doll accessories the most prized items in the solar system). Some are sad (humans undergo a cosmetic process to accelerate their evolution, but sometimes the process goes awry). And some are just plain terrifying, particularly those ideas surrounding the evil messiah Palmer Eldritch, who returns from Proxima Centauri with a divine sacrament that just might grant eternal life.

Unlikely ever to be filmed, (though John Lennon and Timothy Leary reputedly tried to secure the rights), and unlikely to appeal to hardcore sci-fi fans on account of its playful treatment of religious themes, "Stigmata" is nonetheless a brilliant, thoughtful novel about the slippery nature of reality and the untrustworthiness of those who claim to be experts on the subject. The fact that it's so often overlooked is understandable, but for those who can be bothered it will more than reward your patience.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Aug 15, 2012 6:03 AM BST


The King in Yellow and Other Horror (Dover Mystery, Detective, & Other Fiction)
The King in Yellow and Other Horror (Dover Mystery, Detective, & Other Fiction)
by Robert W Chambers
Edition: Paperback
Price: £14.30

3.0 out of 5 stars Not what it purports to be, 27 July 2010
Unusually for the diligent and fastidious Dover, this is not a reprint of the 1895 classic - rather, it's the first five stories from that anthology and some others besides. The King In Yellow stories really are remarkable, and though the best of them are printed here it would have been nice to have at least read the others from the original volume, and made our own minds up as to whether they deserved inclusion or not. The rest of the book is more short stories by Chambers, from various sources, all of which are pleasant, whimsical and deeply inessential.


Every Man and Woman Is A Star
Every Man and Woman Is A Star
Price: £12.07

5.0 out of 5 stars "I had to dance", 27 July 2010
A warm, gorgeous hug of a thing. Despite the odd Americanism, this is an album rooted very firmly in Englishness and the English countryside - the perfect chill-out music to revive clubbers after the halcyonic outdoor raves of 1992/1993. It's weathered the years remarkably well, and while it won't change your life it'll make you feel happy and in touch with the best parts of humanity. Lovely.


Fortean Times: It Happened To Me vol.1 MagBook
Fortean Times: It Happened To Me vol.1 MagBook
by David Sutton
Edition: Paperback

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Strange fun, 30 Jun. 2010
Good books on the paranormal are rarer than verified bits of the Roswell spaceship. Fortunately, this volume hits exactly the right tone, being a collection of first-hand accounts of weirdness (taken from the eponymous Fortean Times column). The first-hand perspective serves the accounts very well indeed, placing them in the correct realm of "inexplicable things that have happened to certain individuals", rather than presenting them, as most paranormal tomes do, as "indisputable proof of something-or-other", which they are not. They're simply strange, funny, sad, disquieting or downright terrifying stories, the best of which you will remember long after reading.


The Cave
The Cave
by Tim Krabbé
Edition: Paperback
Price: £10.81

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Remarkable by any standards, 3 Aug. 2009
This review is from: The Cave (Paperback)
Egon is a geologist, a meek, unassuming man coming to terms with a loveless marriage. As the novel opens, he is in Thailand, carrying thousands of dollars worth of heroin to an unknown contact. To understand how and why he is in this situation, we must journey back twenty years - to a far-off summer camp, when the young Egon met another boy his own age - the charismatic, utterly amoral Axel Van De Graaf - possessed of a terrible willpower that corrupts and poisons all who encounter it.

Krabbe's masterpiece - an unflinching examination of the damage human beings do to each other both by chance and design, a meditation on mortality and the one chance that is our lives, and a terrible portrayal of the human character in the twentieth century, free of both morality and God. An amazing, unforgettable book, and one of the best uses of an omniscient narrator there is. The book's obscurity seems to stand in inverse proportion to its power: start reading it and I guarantee you'll do nothing else until you reach the book's quietly shattering climax, and the secret of the cave.


Sherlock Holmes: A Study in Scarlet (Sherlock Complete Set 1)
Sherlock Holmes: A Study in Scarlet (Sherlock Complete Set 1)
by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Edition: Paperback

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic editions, 3 Aug. 2009
Well done to Headline Review for reprinting all the Sherlock Holmes stories in this superb series of volumes. Everything about them has been put together with care - from the beautiful jacket designs to the typeset (they've all been re-set in Bembo, making them a pleasure to read). Many editions - even the Penguin ones - are put together rather haphazardly, so the diligence applied to this set is a breath of fresh air.

Some might insist that the stories require footnotes, but Sherlockian minutiae is so well-served on the internet I'd argue that this isn't the case. (If you don't know what a Gasogene is, nor why you can't summon a snake with sound, you have only to Google it).

I'd only read a couple of the books before this, in an unwieldy anthology the size of a modest vicarage. Now, thanks to these, I've read them all. Thoroughly recommended.


Final Draft International Version 7.0
Final Draft International Version 7.0

12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Final Straw, 10 Sept. 2008
Hey kids! Are you writing a script? Maybe it's a drama. Maybe it's a comedy. Maybe it's a corporate training video. Well don't worry - whatever it is, Final Draft will be able to screw it up for you. That's right - Final Draft!!! Not only is it fiddly to use, annoyingly un-intuitive and has some obstinate ideas about formatting, it's also prone to crashing or simply not saving your work every so often! And that's not all! Final Draft is also prohibitively expensive! Words cannot describe the disappointment when you first register it, only to discover it's not as good as Word!!! To use FD is to take a trip down memory lane, to a simpler, more bug-ridden time when computers were the poor cousin of electric typewriters, a novelty item that was OK to use if you wanted to play Jet Set Willy or fail to catch the Yorkshire Ripper, but not really a serious proposition if you wanted to write a screenplay.

And of course, because of pressure from various "writers", who think that software equals creativity, and can't be bothered typing out a character's name more than twice, FD is now the industry standard, meaning that reviews are superfluous and you have to buy it. Have fun!!!!!


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