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andrew_spence65@hotmail.com (London UK)

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The Book Of The Heathen
The Book Of The Heathen
by Robert Edric
Edition: Paperback
Price: 6.66

7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Trial in the Heart of Darkness, 26 Mar 2002
Intriguing. The Heart of Darkness meets The Trial. Isolated in the heart of the Belgian Congo a group of Europeans eke out an existance for the unnamed company, trading commodities up and down the ever rain swelled river. Subject to unknown conspiracies interlinked with a vague murder charge things begin to fall about. The decline of the trading station throughout the book echoes the growing moral ambiguity, uncertainty and sense of vague but rising menace. The conspiracy is off just off screen, one is always interpreting the shadows of events and trying to slot them together. It has the unnerving nonspecifity of Kafka's Trial, whilst at the same time evoking the moral decay created by strangeness and the distance from civilization.
A dark novel, with the central charcter mostly passive as lives and commerce break apart around him. The book is slow paced, treacle like at times, and can be infuriating at the lack of revelation. Occasionally one just wants the answer, just want a character to say it rather than imply it. The denouement shied away from the blackest of all revelations and was I think the weaker for it. However, overall a satisfying, disturbing dark read.


The Summons
The Summons
by John Grisham
Edition: Hardcover

11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A listless Grisham should take a break, 26 Mar 2002
This review is from: The Summons (Hardcover)
Lazy, tired writing. The central characters lack of a life, of friends, his pale watercolour existence, reflects it seems to me, Grisham's state of mind. "Must churn out another book," appears to be his modus operandi in writing this. It is listless, the professor's reactions seem odd for a man of his intelligence, trawling up and down the country obsessively dragging the money around with him is patently odd. Would he really be petrified of the taxes on the money, given the resultant number would still be huge? Ultimately he had to declare it to his brother anyway so why all the contrived fuss? Grisham's novels typically have to bend to the unlikely improbable human reaction to move the plot on; this story took it to a new extreme.
But, it was readable, even at low ebb Grisham can still get the reader turning pages. Unfortunately at the end of this one only shrugs ones shoulders and moves on. Where's the pace, the energy of the early books I wonder. Is Grisham written out and should he take a sabbatical himself. I think there are clues in the novel; the professor is on the edge of a sabbatical, there is a book that he needs to write but it's only a chore to him. I suspect Grisham is right there with him. Take a break John, and come back refreshed and stronger


Dead Famous
Dead Famous
by Ben Elton
Edition: Hardcover

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The me, me, me generation, 26 Mar 2002
This review is from: Dead Famous (Hardcover)
In exposing and satirising the stunning inanity of big brother, full marks. In showing the world that the emperor truly has no clothes, and that feeling is no substitute for thought, full marks. In realising that the money and the fame is an inbuilt receipe for murder full marks. In execution, quality of writing, structure, average marks.
Elton has hit at what appears to be from many of the other reviews a very well defended target. He questions why watching a bunch of charmless, fame seeking, vain, neurotic nonentities, chat inanely is remotely interesting. He also has a knock at the growing falseness of TV expressed emotion, peole saying they love each other after minimal exposure. The language of youth culture and the extent to which it is just noise, designed to compensate for thought is cleverly derided. The distinction of false on screen emotion, is shown for what it is; as showing ones feelings towards each other grows the reality is a growth in underlying selfishness, the me, me, me generation.
I was in complete agreement with Elton's sentiments. However, on the downside the book felt rushed. I have a suspicion that Elton might have felt he was in a race to be the first to get the satire of this inane TV format out first. If he'd ben more patient perhaps the jumping around structure of the book could have been cleaned up, the chapters lengthened, and the characters fleshed out. The book although good fun does touch upon important issues, especially the desire to treasure the televisual, fame, selfishness,and falsehood over the genuine, thoughtful and true. Four stars for the idea, fun and thoughts; could have been five though.


Chasm City (GOLLANCZ S.F.)
Chasm City (GOLLANCZ S.F.)
by Alastair Reynolds
Edition: Paperback

4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars More drive less ping pong, 11 Mar 2002
This book needed editing. The overall quality of writing and occassionally dialogue was good. But the constant ping pong of Tanner's movements between characters and places on chasm city had the feel of "and then this happens, and then this happens", a childish forced story line. In parts I felt the author was writing under pressure from the publishers to get the book out, strange lapses in the quality of the writing are usually explained by over rapid rewrites. OK main problem, why did Sky Haussman become a psycopath? Why did he cease to be a psycopath? He was in the dark.........once, not enough. Meanwhile, what's going on with the giant maggots? I guess the author thought he would just throw it in.
So why three stars? The writing is good mostly taut and interesting, the imagination is frequently good. You keep reading, always a good sign. But the unexplained character changes, the frequent mini deus ex machina episodes, the pointless space maggot episode and the lack of a clear narrative motivator let it down for me. The publisher should edit harder, but give the author longer.


Memories of Ice (The Malazan Book of the Fallen)
Memories of Ice (The Malazan Book of the Fallen)
by Steven Erikson
Edition: Paperback

12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars High Energy writing of the highest order, 6 Mar 2002
A fabulous work, loaded with gods, violence, vengence, war, intrigue and surprisingly humour. Welcome back to the waking nightmare that is the world of the Malazan Empire. Wading through layers of deceit and intrigue, we find the Malazan army trudging South ostensibly to fight the Pannion Seer, a crazed religous zealot. But (and there is always a but) beneath this lies the machinations of a crippled god, along side it lies the hopes of other gods, weaved through it is the desire for absolution of entities long dead powered by an ancient curse. Along the way we meet new characters, Lady Envy been especially good, accompanied by the supreme Seguleh warriors (much to their disgust). Remarkably Erikson holds it all together, and even through such a maelstrom of events makes you care about the central characters, from major players like Whiskeyjack, right down to the common soldiers of the Bridge Burners.
In typical Erikson style the story comes together beautifully and violently at the end. I won't give the plot away, but it left me surprised and shocked; high energy writing of the highest order. The only fault I can find is that sometimes Erikson's passages can be a tad too opaque, who said what to whom and why is not always as clear as it could be. In other words sometimes teh sign posts could be a little larger. Five stars.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Sep 17, 2013 2:30 PM BST


American Gods
American Gods
by Neil Gaiman
Edition: Hardcover

1 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Stephen King meets Clive Barker in a tale of decrepit gods, 6 Mar 2002
This review is from: American Gods (Hardcover)
A man named shadow is drawn into the realm of declining and forgotten gods. The concept that gods exist from belief has been used several times before. It's still sufficiently intriguing to be interesting. Shadow is a quiet man, a reclusive ex criminal whose life is shattered on leaving jail. Picked up by an omniscient man named Wednesday he criss crosses middle America in a bleak landscape, haunted by bleak possibilities and a sense of fatalism and a strange kind of honour. The whole book though reasonably well executed with two strong central characters feels depressing, if it's a twilight it's a twilight we feel perhaps too much. The greyness of the novel sinks down in time onto the reader leaving a feeling of depression. The plot climax is well constructed but lacks energy, a true sense of empathy never really develops for the characters, and one is really left with an abiding impression of mid winter. However, that any novel can generate a sense or feeling to take away, such that one is left thinking about the story is a sign for me of positive impact. Therefore American Gods gets 4 rather than 3 stars. Its lifted up by the quality of the writing, the interest in the just in your peripheral vision world that is gradually unveiled; Gaiman as demonstrated in Neverwhere is a master at this. For those who don't know Gaiman's work, then they should imagine what a cross between Stephen King and Clive Barker would bring.


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