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M. R. Cox "Mike" (Dubai)
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House Of M: Avengers TPB (Graphic Novel Pb)
House Of M: Avengers TPB (Graphic Novel Pb)
by Christos N. Gage
Edition: Paperback

4.0 out of 5 stars Alt future nostalgia, 15 Nov 2013
Having enjoyed both "Luke Cage - Powerman!" and "Shaft" back in the 70's (yes, I really am that old) it's a huge pleasure to return to that scene as re-imagined in the alternative future of The House of M. Forget The Avengers of the movie or the other comic books. These Avengers are a bunch of 2nd and 3rd rate characters only we nerds have ever heard of. But what a blast to see how Gage and Perkins play around with them, giving some meaning to the name of the group, bringing other Marvel characters in and out on unexpected tangents. Well-worth 10 quid!


The Stranger's Child
The Stranger's Child
by Alan Hollinghurst
Edition: Paperback
Price: 3.86

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brideshead Revisited - again and again, 14 Sep 2012
This review is from: The Stranger's Child (Paperback)
I can understand why many readers have struggled with this novel - The publication reviews are too extravagant, the structure of the novel is unconventional and the language is precise and restrained. Yes, it's one of those novels which requires its readers to put some effort into the act of reading and if that's not your thing (which is fine, by the way) you won't enjoy this work. But for me personally, I loved it.

No plot spoilers here but if you want to know what the book's about, it's about changing English attitudes to class and homosexuality over around a hundred years. In a sense it's a "country house novel" but Brideshead gets revisited once every twenty years or so. There's no single character viewpoint and one of the novel's pleasures (or frustrations, depending on your PoV) is working out at the beginning of each section who is speaking and what their relationship is to the characters and events previously established. There's no single plot strand or resolution because the central theme is the changing nature of memory and the tension between remembering and living ie creating new memories. "The Stranger's Child" represents metaphorically and literally the descendant who comes after us, caring for and knowing nothing of our own lives.

And the language can at times be quite beautiful. I've been marveling for days over the following which sums up a character, an age, a life in a few lines. "On a plate with a doily were five biscuits... he was touched for a moment by a sense of the inseparable poverty and consistency of English life, as crystallized in the Peek Frean assortment box." Echoes of T S Eliot, "I have measured out my life in coffee spoons".


Supergods: Our World in the Age of the Superhero
Supergods: Our World in the Age of the Superhero
by Grant Morrison
Edition: Paperback
Price: 6.99

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars SuperSelfPromotion!!, 31 Aug 2012
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I bought this book in the mistaken belief it would be a history of the comic book industry; its genesis, relevance and future. Sadly not. What I bought turned out to be a thorough history of DC Comics with only cursory examination of other publishers, bulked up with hagi-autobiography about how great Grant Morrison is. Apparently he's written the best comics, made the most money and done more champagne, charlie and cuties than us. There's one page out of four hundred about Gaiman's "Sandman" and dozens about Morrison's "Flex Mentallo". Sorry, who? If you're a Grant Morrison fan, as Grant Morrison clearly is, then this may be the book for you. But for the rest of us, that thoughtful analysis of the comic book industry remains to be written...
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Oct 16, 2012 5:02 AM BST


Nineteen Seventy Four (Red Riding Quartet)
Nineteen Seventy Four (Red Riding Quartet)
by David Peace
Edition: Paperback
Price: 6.29

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars M1 to nowhere. 90mph. If I drive fast, maybe they won't notice I don't know where I'm going., 28 April 2012
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To be fair, this novel has a distinctive tone of voice - first person, regional and terse - which is a difficult thing to achieve in fiction.

And if you like your crime noir, the author has painted it all black - the weather, the actors, the plot.

But the more I read, the less I enjoyed. There is so little characterisation that everyone blurs together into a haze of thin archetypes. The journalists are all, guess what, hard-drinking and jaded. The policemen all, who would have thought it, violent and stupid. The businessmen, here's a surprise, wealthy and corrupt. The longer the story went on, the less I could tell anyone apart, and the less I cared about them.

Then there's the question of the plot. What links the various strands of gypsy assault, mutilated schoolgirls and a missing rugby star together? Nothing much. They are all investigated by the same journalist who is regularly beaten up for his troubles by the same people. In tried and true noir tradition, our hero doesn't actually find anything out, but has everything given to him by informants, double-crossers and blackmailers. And even then it doesn't make a great deal of sense.

Except to say it's grim up north.


The King of Elfland's Daughter (Del Rey Impact)
The King of Elfland's Daughter (Del Rey Impact)
by Baron Edward John Moreton Drax Plunkett Dunsany
Edition: Paperback
Price: 8.97

3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars There's a reason this book was out of print for so long..., 19 Mar 2012
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'Charming', 'whimsical' and 'poetic' are some of the adjectives that can be used to describe this work; 'gripping', 'moving' and 'satisfying' are not. I don't doubt "The King etc" has a place in the development of fantasy but that place is a footnote. Or rather, it proves that Dunsany is not the exception to Gaiman's rule, that the British aristocracy are usually poor writers. There's a lot of cod-medieval description, not much plot, and then it all peters out. If you like the thought of Morris Dancers and Baldric singing "Hey nonny nonny" you may enjoy it. On the other hand, like Blackadder, you may want to give that man a whipping.


Norwegian Wood [DVD]
Norwegian Wood [DVD]
Dvd ~ Rinko Kikuchi
Price: 7.09

4 of 7 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Norwegian veneer, 14 Jan 2012
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This review is from: Norwegian Wood [DVD] (DVD)
Murakami's most accessible novel is given the downbeat arthouse treatment turning what could have been a cinematic treat into a series of cliches.

If there are only seven source stories within literature, "Norwegian Wood" is the "torn between two lovers" dilemma. For this to work onscreen there has to be a contrast between the two lovers, else where is the dilemma? Director Tran eschews opposition in favour of the same subdued colour palette and acting performance regardless of which pair of lovers are tearing at the protagonist. Flip a coin to pick a girl as there's precious little else to distinguish them.

Then there's the backdrop of 60's Tokyo - buoyant youth trying to break through post-war conformity in imitation of the West. Or rather, there isn't, as Tran ignores most sense of place in favour of more dreamy, dreary landscape paintings. Yes, there is a beauty to the scenes in a way, but a series of still lifes isn't cinema.

A word about Jonny Greenwood's score - deafening doom-laded strings at the sad bits and noodly jazz guitar elsewhere. Oh dear. Does make you long for Lennon's voice which, inevitably, doesn't appear until over the closing credits.

So, it all adds up to a bit of a disappointment. "Norwegian Wood" as a novel has all the potential to make one of the screen's great "boy meets girls" encounters. But this version isn't it and may have spolied anyone else's chance of having a crack for some time to come. Zannen deshita.
Comment Comments (6) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jan 16, 2012 5:31 PM GMT


Doctor Who -- The Complete Series 5 [DVD]
Doctor Who -- The Complete Series 5 [DVD]
Dvd ~ Matthew Smith
Price: 21.16

4 of 9 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Regenerate, please, not repeat, 2 Sep 2011
Regeneration is the key to 'Dr Who' - both the character and the series. The elderly and querulous William Hartnell begat the cosmic hobo Patrick Troughton begat the action hero dandy Jon Pertwee. Hartnell gave children some cleverly-disguised lectures, Troughton fought terrifying monsters in space, and Pertwee ran around on earth with UNIT. Each series built on the other. But as the power to re-imagine ran out so did the show, until the light of RTD shone and 'Dr Who' was re-born for a modern audience. Moving on from RTD was always going to be difficult, but Moffat seemed to be the man for the job based on his contributing episodes. Except, now it seems that he wasn't, as his 'Who' is not re-booted so much as re-hashed lite. Let's examine the evidence:

- Tennant ran everywhere and gabbled, as does Smith, but in a more fey and less convincing manner. Both times Smith threw out his chest and boasted to the assembled alien hordes that he was the Mighty Doctor who had bested them in the past, it was difficult not to laugh. A bit like watching a Yorkie challenge a Doberman.

- The Doctor, Rose and Mickey had a serious romantic triangle going, as do the Doctor, Amy and Rory. Except there's no chemistry between any of the latter and Rory is the archetype of that modern cliche, the neutered male, always less competent than his girlfriend, and floundering in her wake.

- Doctor goes back in time and meets a creative genius who is grappling with monsters cf Dickens and Shakespeare. Vincent added nothing to this familiar scenario.

- One Alien butchering a spaceship is terrifying. One hundred Aliens being attacked on their home planet less so. Ditto Weeping Angels.

- The final story arc concerns the end and rebirth of the Universe a la 'Bad Wolf'. Been there. Done that.

- Lazy use of the sonic screwdriver for everything. Please take it off the Doctor for an episode. Or a series.

- Unbreakable Pandorica prison put together by all the Doctor's greatest enemies finally opened by... young Amy Pond putting her hand on it?! I'm always happy to suspend a bit of disbelief for a script that tries hard, but come on.

So, there you have it. You can't re-heat the souffle. There's no point taking what was done before and doing it less well. Moffat needs to give the series a proper re-boot, to give the Doctor some balls, to get rid of Pond & Tadpole, and create his own legacy. Please.


The Children's Book
The Children's Book
by A. S. Byatt
Edition: Paperback
Price: 5.59

2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A lengthy Edwardian ramble into the sunset, 30 Aug 2011
This review is from: The Children's Book (Paperback)
So imagine setting off one pleasant summer morning for a ramble with an oddball assortment of acquaintances, into the morning light with interesting conversation, not stopping for lunch and the anecdotes beoming more tiresome, no break for tea and some of these people are getting quite annoying, or have new ones joined and old ones disappeared, can't we break for dinner, and now it's getting dark and cold, no end in sight, we've left the North Downs, slogged through marsh and the bleak sea is looming, but we trudge on talking into its cold waters and the current tugging...


XX
XX
Price: 6.32

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A chilled out version of New Order crossed with the Cocteau Twins, 25 Jun 2011
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This review is from: XX (Audio CD)
But better.

Not to disgust purists, I heard this wonderful unidentifiable music in the background while I was trying to find the wife something in a hip Berlin clothes store. I didn't buy any rags but did ask the black-clad sales staff what was playing - "The XX". I then vainly tried to buy the CD in Berlin and failed. So Amazon'd it when I got home.

It's great!


The Cairo Diary
The Cairo Diary
by Maxime Chattam
Edition: Paperback

2.0 out of 5 stars Cheap thriller without the thrills, 24 Jun 2011
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This review is from: The Cairo Diary (Paperback)
I'm all for a rattling page-turner and don't mind sacrificing some plausibility for a galloping plot but come on - how did this get published, let alone a place on a recent 'Top Ten Thrillers' list? The characters have no personality, the plot has no coherence and the 'Cairo Diary' isn't even a diary, being written in the third person instead of the first.

If, as the blurb claims, Chattam is 'one of the best contemporary thriller authors', God help the Frogs...


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