Profile for Neil Sellen > Reviews

Personal Profile

Content by Neil Sellen
Top Reviewer Ranking: 3,029,470
Helpful Votes: 142

Learn more about Your Profile.

Reviews Written by
Neil Sellen
(REAL NAME)   

Show:  
Page: 1
pixel
Fur And Gold
Fur And Gold
Offered by Dirty Deals UK
Price: 5.00

13 of 57 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Hidden shallows.., 28 Aug 2007
This review is from: Fur And Gold (Audio CD)
I approached this cd with a stack of optimism and goodwill towards the artist but feel I've been oversold.

Good clapping-work on a couple of the tracks; a welcome addition of a theramin here and there and some nice (but eminently unmemorable) tunes ensured that this got a second play before judgement was cast. It won't get a third one. The reason? The lyrics.

Oh dear, oh dear.

I'm given to understand, from an article in the Grauniad that these are deep, meaningful and haunting. Referencing Jung, containing dream-like sequencing, they are clear evidence of the seriousness with which we should approach this artist.

Pah!

The tunes are nice; the lyrics naive, shallow and rather embarrassing.
Comment Comments (4) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Apr 21, 2009 7:33 PM BST


Cryptonomicon
Cryptonomicon
by Neal Stephenson
Edition: Paperback
Price: 6.99

2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars It's all a bit of a puzzle...., 16 Aug 2007
This review is from: Cryptonomicon (Paperback)
Aptly, this book contains a hidden code....Somewhere inside this epic novel is the bones of the book he should have written.

Stephenson's ambitious scope and erudition dazzles but it also deceives. He has produced a book based on big ideas, what-if history, the developement of big world themes and hip-geekery, which many of us clearly enjoyed (76 reviews and counting......). But I have to confess that, apart from the entertaining history lesson in cryptography, most of the plotting, narrative and characterisation seemed a bit flat and methodical. As if he knew that there was a topic he wanted to address in more detail but he had a contractual brief to fulfil....So instead, he blinded us with a pyrotechnic display that almost screams "screenplay" at us. Look behind the whizzbangs and what can you see?

I wonder if he might have wanted to pursue a more character-driven study of high-functioning geeks and their interactions and impacts with and on the "real world". Rather like Mark Haddon's "Curious Incident" and autism, it tries to give an authentic voice to those sociopaths who seem to feel more comfortable with numbers than with people. It certainly seems to be more perceptive, human and empathetically written when he is dealing with the Randy/Lawrence "inner worlds" and their interactions with and transgressions of societal norms. Unfortunately these passages, although excellent, are rather few and far between. So we are forced to review the book he wrote, not the one he should have written. Taken as a whole, it seems less successful, perhaps more half-hearted when Stephenson is tracing his secondary characters, pushing the plot along, or just plain showing off.

Overlong? Mechanical? Digressive? Contrived? Infuriating? Yes

Enjoyable? Oh yes.

It's all a bit of a puzzle, isn't it?


The Odyssey (Everyman's Library Classics)
The Odyssey (Everyman's Library Classics)
by Homer
Edition: Hardcover
Price: 8.79

16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Read this twice!, 8 Mar 2007
The first time, read it for the tale.

The tale of the wandering of Odysseus and the trials, tribulations and adventures that befall him as he attempts to return to his rocky Ithaca and Penelope of the shapely ankles. It's a rollicking read. You'll be reminded of snippets of Sindbad, Aladdin, Watership Down, Captain Corelli's bloody Mandolin and so many other later works that involve a "homecoming". But this was the first.

The first time these stories about men, gods and monsters were all pulled together into a pretty coherent narrative. Most of the sub-tales such as Odysseus' trip into Hell, his encounter with monsters such as Polyphemus the Cyclops and the Harpies; with Proteus, the Sirens and the witch Circe were all probably part of a repetoire of tales delivered by the local poet/entertainer long before someone called Homer grabbed the posthumous glory by having them ascribed to him.

Homecomings are still a pretty popular genre in film, television and print. There must be something in the plot device which touches an unconscious part of us. It's a bit feelgood; it's a bit dreadful. It engages us all. Is Odyseus going to get home? What will happen to his wife and son? What would I do?

So, read it first for the story. And surprise yourself at how well you recognise the motivations and actions of characters placed in these situations over 2700 years ago. We haven't changed much, have we?

Then read it again.

This time, read it for the world of Odysseus. For what it tells you about the way we lived in a pre-literate, feudal society where any kind of progress was hard-won and very easily lost. Read it for the similes and metaphors Homer uses to describe things and events to an audience to make them come alive and be real to them. What do they tell you about the world back then? What do they tell you about the experiences of the audience and how would they feel, contrasting their life with that of this epic tale?

Read it for the insight into man's relationship with the gods. How did the ancient audience perceive them? Were they beings to be feared and propitiated? Wasn't that what kings were, too? Was there something more in the relationship between Odysseus and Athene? Something a little more human? Hmmmm.

Every page has something new to tell us about this now lost world. Look carefully and you can see stuff about the role of women in Homeric society; there's stuff about the etiquette and meaning of gift-giving in there. There's even stuff about how economics worked all those years ago. In fact, if you look closely enough (and stare at a few vase paintings as well) you can make an entire academic career out of this book.

But that would be missing the point.

Read it (at least) twice. It's got to be the best seven quid you'll ever spend.


Cooking With Fernet Branca
Cooking With Fernet Branca
by James Hamilton-Paterson
Edition: Paperback
Price: 6.29

7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Lanchester-lite, 29 Jan 2007
Approach this book with low expectations and you'll be pleasantly surprised. Anything more and you risk disappointment. This is a pleasing diversion for the airport runway and railway carriage. You may even be able to squeeze out a couple of LOLs or maybe a LMAO. I managed the former.

I couldn't help thinking that Hamilton-Paterson has used "A Debt to Pleasure" as his template for this work and in particular for our hero, his narrator. In Gerald Samper we have a sort of non-psychopathic Tarquin Winot as our guide to life. On the whole he does this well enough. He's funny but he's not mad. Just eccentric. And perhaps, a little too contrived.

If you enjoyed this book but feel the need for slightly more nourishment, get John Lanchester's A Debt to Pleasure and see how it should be done.


Miss Smilla's Feeling for Snow
Miss Smilla's Feeling for Snow
by Peter Hoeg
Edition: Paperback
Price: 6.29

20 of 40 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars That sinking feeling...., 17 Jan 2007
That this is now one of the most reviewed books on Amazon must tell you something.

This book will make an impression on you. You will have an opinion about it. In some strange way it will make you want to share your opinion with others. It must have mystical powers. It's clearly a deeply spiritual book. Isn't it?

I started this book with the best of intentions. It was a long established seller; it came with a good review from a friend whose critical faculties I respect and it drew me in with its well realised opening chapters. A different world, one I wanted to know more about. A mysterious heroine and a classic thriller plot. I was going to enjoy this.

But, rather like sitting in a warm bath with the plug out, I started to feel a mounting discomfort. There are just too many coincidences, too many deux ex machinae and too much coyness with the first person narrative. I began to feel cold and exposed. I wanted to get out. I had to force myself to stay with it. To see it through just in case it got better. It didn't.

By the time we reach the final third, on board ship, we are firmly in Alistair MacClean territory. Think "Fear is the Key", all scampering along corridors and hiding in holds, fending off psychos and matelots. Except it wouldn't be fair to compare this to Mr MacClean. He at least, could maintain dramatic tension and engage the reader. Mr Hoeg (or possibly his translator) seemed to me to be quite wilful in their refusal to develop any pace or engage us emotionally in the plot or characters.

By the time the bath had quite emptied I felt really very cold. I had lost all interest in why the boy died and had none at all in that cypher Smilla. It doesn't work as a character driven novel; it doesn't work as a thriller. It just flatters to deceive.

Like my bath, cold and empty.

So, to sum up. Buy this and be the 46th person to review it on Amazon. It'll be the best thing about the whole experience.

By the way.... has anyone else noticed that the title has a strong metrical resemblance to a line from Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody"?

Bismillah! we will not let you go!"

I wonder it it means something
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: May 13, 2008 12:56 PM BST


The Odyssey (Penguin Classics)
The Odyssey (Penguin Classics)
by Homer
Edition: Paperback
Price: 5.59

71 of 75 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Read this twice...., 16 Jan 2007
The first time, read it for the tale.

The tale of the wandering of Odysseus and the trials, tribulations and adventures that befall him as he attempts to return to his rocky Ithaca and Penelope of the shapely ankles. It's a rollicking read. You'll be reminded of snippets of Sindbad, Aladdin, Watership Down, Captain Corelli's bloody Mandolin and so many other later works that involve a "homecoming". But this was the first.

The first time these stories about men, gods and monsters were all pulled together into a pretty coherent narrative. Most of the sub-tales such as Odysseus' trip into Hell, his encounter with monsters such as Polyphemus the Cyclops and the Harpies; with Proteus, the Sirens and the witch Circe were all probably part of a repetoire of tales delivered by the local poet/entertainer long before someone called Homer grabbed the posthumous glory by having them ascribed to him.

Homecomings are still a pretty popular genre in film, television and print. There must be something in the plot device which touches an unconscious part of us. It's a bit feelgood; it's a bit dreadful. It engages us all. Is Odyseus going to get home? What will happen to his wife and son? What would I do?

So, read it first for the story. And surprise yourself at how well you recognise the motivations and actions of characters placed in these situations over 2700 years ago. We haven't changed much, have we?

Then read it again.

This time, read it for the world of Odysseus. For what it tells you about the way we lived in a pre-literate, feudal society where any kind of progress was hard-won and very easily lost. Read it for the similes and metaphors Homer uses to describe things and events to an audience to make them come alive and be real to them. What do they tell you about the world back then? What do they tell you about the experiences of the audience and how would they feel, contrasting their life with that of this epic tale?

Read it for the insight into man's relationship with the gods. How did the ancient audience perceive them? Were they beings to be feared and propitiated? Wasn't that what kings were, too? Was there something more in the relationship between Odysseus and Athene? Something a little more human? Hmmmm.

Every page has something new to tell us about this now lost world. Look carefully and you can see stuff about the role of women in Homeric society; there's stuff about the etiquette and meaning of gift-giving in there. There's even stuff about how economics worked all those years ago. In fact, if you look closely enough (and stare at a few vase paintings as well) you can make an entire academic career out of this book.

But that would be missing the point.

Read it (at least) twice. It's got to be the best fiver you'll ever spend.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Sep 5, 2011 11:01 AM BST


The Debt To Pleasure
The Debt To Pleasure
by John Lanchester
Edition: Paperback
Price: 6.29

13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Well now..... This is pleasant., 30 Nov 2004
This review is from: The Debt To Pleasure (Paperback)
After reading this book, on recoommendation from a friend, my first reaction was to feel cheated. Cheated that I'd wasted years before finding Kevin, I mean Tarquin and delighting in his rich inner world.
This book is all the things others describe, blatant demonstration of esoteric learning, recipe book, travelogue, cod-philosophy, whodunnit surveillance manual and descent into madness. It is also brilliantly, quote-out-loud funny.
Paucity of plot and plausibility of characterisation? Forget that and just indulge yourself by rolling Tarquin's rich aphorisms around your tongue. Let them rest, melting slowly across your senses and wash over you. Exquisite. Now read the next paragraph....Stop. Repeat at will.
Everyone will have their favourites ("..the lettuce appeared to have been torn apart by wild dogs..."), find yours.
Perhaps the greatest joy of this book for me was to make the double-take commonplace... No, wait, he didn't just say that, did he?....My particular favourite today is the description of how he meticulously pierces a hole in his copy of Le Monde, for the purposes of covert surveillance, using a heated compass. He then, in an aside, applies his (no doubt, beautifully manicured, slender, etc..) finger to the hole to make it big enough to see through. Brilliant. And quite, quite mad.
By the end of the journey, we are in a very disturbed place. Lanchester's skill has been in getting us here without losing our interest or, strangely, our engagement with our hero. Although we leave Tarquin at the front door waving to the newlyweds, we know that he will carry on, living life and deciding others' fates on his terms. Quite bonkers. And the best bit? After a particularly flamboyant demonstration of quite how florid his psychosis has become, Tarquin sits calmly in the stunned silence of his companions...."Well now...This is pleasant..."
Enjoy.


Page: 1