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Murray "Murray Ewing" (West Sussex, UK)

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Tales of the Cthulhu Mythos
Tales of the Cthulhu Mythos
by H. P. Lovecraft
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.99

16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Variable, 12 Oct. 2004
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I bought this book as a sort of nostalgia trip, having read a lot of Mythos fiction a while back, I wanted to revisit it, see how it held up. The result was that the few really good stories in this volume - those by Lovecraft, Campbell, Colin Wilson, CAS - really stood out. These guys knew how to write, and you can tell that HPL and Ramsey Campbell write their horror fiction from a real conviction and deep sense of the meaning behind it. The others, though, were poor. Some better than others - August Derleth can do dialogue better than Belknap Long can write just about anything, but neither can write atmospherically, and they throw around crude horror elements like a five year old throwing around primary colour paint. I expected Robert Bloch to be better, and though he can write, he can't write Mythos with the delicacy and conviction of HPL. The Joanna Russ wasn't really a mythos tale, so disappointed by being something other than what was expected. The Stephen King was his usual "slumming it" in hack-and-slash horror effort, with no surprises. The Robert E Howard was good, but pulpy - but at least you expect that.
Really good mythos fiction is quite thin on the ground. When it's good, it's great, and this book is worth buying for those few great pieces in it, if you don't already have them. The rest merely serve to accentuate the good stuff by being so poor.


Knights of the Temple (PS2)
Knights of the Temple (PS2)

6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Distinctly average, 12 Oct. 2004
Okay, it has that more-ish quality all hack-and-slay games have, but beyond that it lacks real depth and playability. There seem to be some important storytelling elements missing - maybe they went overbudget or something, so had to skimp on the movie sequences - but you suddenly go from one level (in a lost city) to the depths of hell, with no explanation; then, just as suddenly, you decide to come back to this world - how? Not said.
Several times I got stuck in a wall, and once I fell through the floor and couldn't get out. Had to restart the level. Other than that, the graphics are good, the fighting good, the camera irritating (you can't rotate it around your character, so you can't see round corners, and a couple of times I ended up having to go through whole fights off screen!)
Oh well, I bought it cheap. It provided a few moments of distraction, but will be forgotten.


Rubicon: The Triumph and Tragedy of the Roman Republic
Rubicon: The Triumph and Tragedy of the Roman Republic
by Tom Holland
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.44

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Paradox of Rome, 20 Sept. 2004
This is a gripping, well-told account of the clash between ancient Rome's political idealism (as embodied by its status as a republic, in which all citizens were, in theory, supposedly equal) and human nature (wherein some citizens are just more ambitious and politically able than others). In a time-span covering the start of the Republic (with the death of Tarquin in 509BC) to its generally accepted fall with the constitutionally-sanctioned dictatorship of Augustus (ending 14AD), but focusing particularly on the two men who seized power in between (Sulla and Caesar), Tom Holland's book explores the paradox at the heart of Roman society that makes it so interesting from a dramatic, and most often tragic, point of view.
And the paradox is this: Rome, a supposed society of equals, nevertheless venerated and rewarded individual achievement; and so, those citizens who had the political and military savvy to rise to power did so to constant applause on their way up - but, at some point when their rise did not look like slowing down, and the officially-approved top (the consulship) had been reached, Rome would set the gladiatorial lions loose and do everything they could to tear their former heroes apart. Which meant that Roman citizens such as Caesar and Pompey who had the ambition and ability to gain power were virtually forced into making an attempt at dictatorship - for it was only absolute power that could save them from a previously enraptured citizenry.
Which is not to say that the likes of Caesar and Sulla were exactly blameless. Rome's incredible military might was unstoppable, and mortals being mortals, those in charge of it were wont to let power and ambition go to their heads - particularly if they encountered the intoxicating scent of the East, where power traditionally went hand-in-hand not only with tyrannical kingship but godhood.
Tom Holland's book, then, is a veritable well of tragedies, of the fall and rise of both the ethical and the depraved. It is clearly reasoned, and excitingly told. It can get a bit confusing in the middle when there are about eight major figures, all of whose names begin with C, tugging at the delicate ties of loyalty and plot that bind the politically ambitious (however temporarily) together. But a few notes scribbled on the back page helped me through that section.
What is most incredible about this, and any history, is that people actually lived these dramatic lives - and that we may, with only a few twists and turns of destiny, end up living similar ones ourselves.


The Dark Domain (Dedalus European Classics)
The Dark Domain (Dedalus European Classics)
by Stefan Grabiński
Edition: Paperback

20 of 21 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Connoisseur's Delight, 18 Aug. 2004
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Far from just being a "Polish Poe", Grabinski occupies a space of his own somewhere between the European Decadents and more modern weird writers like Kafka and Aickman. His writing makes a knowing use of horror tropes, and his stories often move through several quick twists in succession, being closer to surrealism or nightmare than traditional horror.
In the best story in the volume, "The Glance", Grabinski refines the fear of the unknown into its purest form, as the protagonist tries to banish all doors, corners and mirrors from his life so as never to be surprised by anything unpleasant, then ends up being just as fearful of the terrible solipsism a totally predictable life engenders. The bizarre "Szamota's Mistress" is more sexually (and psychologically) explicit than anything that could have been published in England at the time; but it is the ideas behind Grabinski's stories that I really like - the debate on how we perceive time in "Saturnin Sektor", and the many ideas sparked off by trains: the train as symbol of freedom from the self-constraints and fears of everyday life in "The Compartment", the train as embodiment of abstract, pure motion in "The Motion Demon", the train as unrestrained madness in "The Wandering Train".
Grabinski is an original, taking an intelligent approach to the psychologically charged weirdness that comes from his own inner dark domain, and showing insight rare in the genre considering the age in which he wrote.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Apr 14, 2010 3:55 PM BST


Basic Mixing Techniques
Basic Mixing Techniques
by Paul White
Edition: Paperback
Price: £5.99

16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A good introduction to the subject, 16 Aug. 2004
Never having read anything on mixing, I was intrigued into buying this book to see what hints and tips I could pick up. As an introduction it's excellent, offering practical advice including down-and-dirty guideline figures for which frequencies to think about boosting for vocals, how best to go about mixing, what equipment is ideal (as well as what will just do, if you're on a budget) and so on. It is aimed at both home recording enthusiasts and those with more professional studios to play with (I mean, of course, work with!)
The sections are: Planning, Mixing Tools, Recording Vocals, Balancing, Mix Automation. One word of warning: of the book's 189 pages, a good third are taken up with an extensive glossary which is repeated in the other books of this series - and it didn't include the one term I wanted to look up! But still, as stated, as an introduction to the subject it fits the bill, and is well-enough priced to meet the needs of the curious home-recorder wanting to make their efforts sound that little bit more professional.


Zardoz [DVD]
Zardoz [DVD]
Dvd ~ Sean Connery
Offered by Discs4all
Price: £3.48

12 of 15 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars And here I introduce the concept of Zardoz, 25 July 2004
This review is from: Zardoz [DVD] (DVD)
Coming from the same mythic archetype as Logan's Run, Zardoz will (as John Boorman admits in the commentary) fail as a film if the viewer can't forgive it's low(ish) budget. Much of his commentary is given over to how he achieved certain effects in the days before digital, plus a few interesting comments on what makes Sean Connery star-material. Unfortunately, too much of the commentary is taken up with Boorman saying things like "And here I introduce the concept of immortality". Not a great insight into the film, and no other extras worth speaking of. The film itself is saved from psychedelic hell by having (as Boorman again admits) perhaps too many ideas packed into it. Interesting, though not exactly life-changing; and more intellectually than emotionally pleasing. Sort of 60s written SF made into a 70s film when 00s technology was really required. Hey, but with Charlotte Rampling in it!


Winter Pollen: Occasional Prose
Winter Pollen: Occasional Prose
by Ted Hughes
Edition: Paperback

15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Unique insights, 25 July 2004
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Hughes' occasional prose reveals his strong interest in getting to the heart of the poetic vision that inspired or drove the likes of Coleridge (a 92-page study of whose works, "The Snake and the Oak", is collected in this volume) and T S Eliot. Also included are book reviews, revealing Hughes' erudition and fascination with mythology and shamanism, as well as an in-depth examination of rhythm in poetry, selections from his writings for school-children, commentaries on other poets and writers (including two on Shakespeare, which cover the same area as his hard-to-acquire "Shakespeare and the Goddess of Complete Being"). Winter Pollen certainly left me wanting to hear more of Hughes' unique insights into the creative/visionary spirit.


Dreaming To Some Purpose: The Autobiography of Colin Wilson
Dreaming To Some Purpose: The Autobiography of Colin Wilson
by Colin Wilson
Edition: Hardcover

21 of 22 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Eternal Optimist versus Life Itself, 5 July 2004
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There is a sense in which Colin Wilson has only ever written one book, many times over and in many different guises, putting forward the same central message whether discussing UFOs, serial killers, literature, sex, psychology, and all the rest of that huge list of subjects he's covered in his long career. Wilson admits this himself, in one interview classifying himself as a Hedgehog in Isaiah Berlin's 'Fox and Hedgehog' terminology (where a Hedgehog knows one thing and knows it very well, whereas a Fox knows many things superficially).
So Wilson's autobiography is all about his ideas, but as seen through the events of his own life which, really, is the most logical context in which to present them. Regarding Wilson's work in general, I sometimes find this constant harping on about one thing can give me a sort of mental indigestion because, when it comes down to it, Wilson's real 'message' is not best communicated by his theories about 'Faculty X' (an unfortunately 50s B-movie term), the 'St Neot Margin', the 'pen technique' for focussing consciousness, and so on - all of which are covered in this (and almost every other) Wilson volume, often by what I find to be an unsatisfactory use of illustrating metaphors - but his essential optimism and fascination with the subjects he covers, something which makes his writing extremely lively and moreish - I knew, buying this book, I was setting myself up for a week of compulsive reading. So really, if you like Wilson's work, you'll know what to expect and find it here in bucketloads, and if you don't know Wilson's work but are intrigued, this will be a good introduction.
A slight quibble is that the book could have been better edited: the very first page has an incomplete sentence, and there are a few other missing words and proof-reading errors throughout, though not enough to detract from the pleasure of reading; also, Wilson repeats a few of his anecdotes more than once, but this is by far the only evidence of his turning into a doddery old man. That said, one of the more revelatory parts of the book was its look into the life of a jobbing professional writer, and Wilson's incredible work ethic and constant output are more than enough of an excuse for a rough edge or two in this otherwise excellent book.
As to the life lived: Wilson's strong self-belief and sorely-tried optimism pushed him up from dreary and potentially mind-numbing beginnings, through years of virtual homelessness, to achieve his dream of becoming a writer only to find it was not, at first, all he expected, and from there went on to achieve a more liveable balance. On the way there are plenty of interesting anecdotes about literary personalities including Henry Miller, A N Wilson, the other 'Angry Young Men', and so on. Full of interest, and well worth a read.


Welcome to the Future [2CD + DVD]
Welcome to the Future [2CD + DVD]
Offered by music_by_mail_uk
Price: £19.98

10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Worth it for the DVD alone, 10 April 2004
Beautifully packaged in a sturdy box with Rodney Matthews artwork, the two audio CDs of this three-disc set will be nothing new to most Hawkwind fans, including as they do extracts from Atomhenge 76, plus some of the Weird Tapes series. But the 49-minute Dave Brock interview, which packs in a lot of the band's history, is certainly worth the price of the entire package. Completists don't need to be told to buy it, but if you're teetering - go for it!


The Philosophers' Secret Fire: A History of the Human Imagination
The Philosophers' Secret Fire: A History of the Human Imagination
by Patrick Harpur
Edition: Paperback

7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Full of ideas, and well worth a reread, 17 May 2003
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The ingenious idea at the heart of this book is that the more we seek to deny that we live in a universe suffused with weirdness and the imaginal, the more we bind ourselves to that weirdness. Harpur argues that each advance in science is often a mirrored-but-identical version of something imaginal we have tried to deny, and that the further we delve into the mysteries of the universe, the more we come across an almost magical reality. We deny the faerie or daimonic realm only to find that the quantum world obeys the same rules and fulfils the same function. Full of ideas, and well worth a reread.


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