Profile for Mostly Harmless > Reviews

Personal Profile

Content by Mostly Harmless
Top Reviewer Ranking: 29,014
Helpful Votes: 275

Learn more about Your Profile.

Reviews Written by
Mostly Harmless (London)

Show:  
Page: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10
pixel
City By The Sea [DVD] [2002]
City By The Sea [DVD] [2002]
Dvd ~ Robert De Niro
Offered by gowingsstoreltd
Price: £2.75

3.0 out of 5 stars Fathers and sons, 6 April 2014
This review is from: City By The Sea [DVD] [2002] (DVD)
City by the Sea is an odd film. It is a film that isn't quite sure if it wants to be a gritty detective story or a family drama, and doesn't quite succeed as either. New York detective Vincent LaMarca (de Niro) has turned his back on his home town of Long Beach, and with his junkie son (Franco), but he is drawn back by a murder investigation in which his son is the prime suspect. It is not a vintage de Niro performance, and in some scenes he is out acted by Franco. Frances McDormand makes some brief appearances but has little opportunity to shine.


Standing in Another Man's Grave (Inspector Rebus 18)
Standing in Another Man's Grave (Inspector Rebus 18)
by Ian Rankin
Edition: Paperback

2.0 out of 5 stars Rebus rebooted, 12 April 2013
He's back. Brooding, bitter, angry and still coming to terms with being a retired police detective. The most famous ex-cop in Edinburgh has found refuge in a cold case unit, hoping he might use a breakthrough in a long forgotten murder to lever his way back into the police force. Then a young woman disappears on the A9, and amid the media storm, Rebus begins to suspect that the solution to the mystery is to be found in one of his cold cases.

Rankin can write - the prologue of Standing in Another Man's Grave is a skilful exercise in subtly and mood, full of dark motifs and ironic observations. If this was maintained throughout the book, I would be Rankin's biggest fan, but much of the middle of the story feels like it was written on a treadmill. There is an abundance of police procedure and case management, which might reflect some of the realities of police work, but felt bland, although the book has the trademark darkness for which Rankin is famous. Rebus is a good character, full of resentment and cynicism, even if he never steps far away from the stereotype of an alcoholic maverick detective unable to sustain meaningful relationships.

I most enjoyed the scenes between Rebus and Malcolm Fox, the internal investigator with an unexplained grudge against the former detective. There is a great sense of animosity between these best of enemies. I would have enjoyed the book more if this relationship was allowed to develop further, although presumably this will be picked up in future instalments.

You may guess that I am not really a Rebus fan. I read The Black Book many years ago. It was enjoyable enough, but I was not bitten by the bug. Rebus has changed over the past two decades, but I do not think I have. Still, hardcore fans will no doubt enjoy this resurrection.


Once You Break a Knuckle: Stories
Once You Break a Knuckle: Stories
by D. W. Wilson
Edition: Paperback
Price: £5.99

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars It will always break, 12 April 2013
Wilson's stories are set in far reaches of British Columbia, in the remote town of Invermere, a world of dead-end jobs, broken families, and brutal winters. The twelve stories cover three generations, using recurring characters but changing perspectives. They plot the relationship between fathers and sons, and men and their lovers.

It is a tough, unsophisticated world, populated by everyday men, good and bad, brave and cowardly. They are interested in firearms, cars and women. They strive to redeem themselves and realise their limited ambitions, while struggling against the reality of their lives.

Great writing opens up a world, makes its characters real, and leaves you feeling as if you have known them all their lives. I enjoyed this book more than anything else I have read in the last twelve months.


Women in Love
Women in Love
Price: £0.00

5.0 out of 5 stars "What was it, after all, that a woman wanted?", 12 April 2013
This review is from: Women in Love (Kindle Edition)
"Its blasts your soul's eyes", he said, "and leaves you sightless. Yet you want to be sightless, you want to be blasted, you don't want it any different." Many people have written about love, but few people have written so authentically as D H Lawrence. The plot of Women in Love is very simple - two men and two sisters befriend each other and ultimately fall in love - but the depth and sophistication of the tale is extraordinary. It is a beautifully written book. Ursula and Gudrun Brangwen want freedom and fulfilment, but not at any price. Before they can love, artistic Rupert Birkin and wealthy Gerard Crich must struggle against their arrogance and pride, and the price of love is high. It is difficult to believe that Women in Love was banned under obscenity laws - the brief 'intimate moments' are only alluded to without any direct descriptions, and Lawrence leaves the reader to decide whether the sentiment between Rupert and Gerard is platonic or sexual. As pornography, the book is a dismal failure, but it succeeds as one of the greatest novels of the twentieth century.

Many people consider Ulysses to be the greatest novel of the last one hundred years. Personally, I think Women in Love is a better book, and Lawrence as good a writer as any of his contemporaries.


Once You Break a Knuckle: Stories
Once You Break a Knuckle: Stories
by D. W. Wilson
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £12.58

17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars It will always break, 12 April 2013
Wilson's stories are set in far reaches of British Columbia, in the remote town of Invermere, a world of dead-end jobs, broken families, and brutal winters. The twelve stories cover three generations, using recurring characters but changing perspectives. They plot the relationship between fathers and sons, and of men and their loves.

It is a tough, unsophisticated world, populated by everyday men, good and bad, brave and cowardly. They are interested in firearms, alcohol, cars and women. They strive to redeem themselves and realise their limited ambitions, while struggling against the reality of their lives.

Great writing opens up a world, makes its characters real, and leaves you feeling as if you have known them all their lives. I enjoyed this book more than anything else I have read in the last twelve months.


Kraken
Kraken
by China Mieville
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.29

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars (Don't) release the Kraken!, 12 April 2013
This review is from: Kraken (Paperback)
Welcome to London. Its all happening, init?

The Natural History museum's latest exhibit is the remains of a mysterious giant squid. For curator Billy Harrow, the squid is just another specimen to be documented and studied. For London's secret occult community, it means war. Everyone is up in arms. Occult gangsters, unionised familiars, secret Kraken congregations, Londonmancers, pyrotechnics, mystic rigorists, and spell casting cops. Its about to go down, because someone is planning to steal the Kraken.

I was really looking forward to reading a book by China Mieville. I love science fiction and fantasy, and given all those Arthur C Clarke Awards on Mieville's mantelpiece, I regretted ignoring him for so long. The book begins with three pages of praise from professional reviewers, so I had high expectations. I was sure this book was going to be really good.

It was not what I expected.

In a sentence, I would describe Kraken as low budget Terry Pratchett, minus the charm and humour.

Why did I dislike the book? Boring ping pong dialogue. Flat characters. Unconvincing narrative twists. Cardboard protagonists that didn't feel like real people. Everything is clichéd, and even when Mieville is trying to achieve a surprising twist, I found them predictable. The book is a checklist of Cuthulu tropes, yet without the rich, creeping horror of Lovecraft's classic stories

Honestly, Mieville was pretty brave to choose the contemporary London setting. A novel set in a magic world hidden in plain sight within modern London sounds quite similar to Neil Gaiman's Neverwhere. Kraken is a far inferior book.

I don't feel good about giving this book one star, but I just didn't enjoy it at all. I wanted to like it, but honestly, I could not recommend it.


Foundation: 1/3 (The Foundation Series)
Foundation: 1/3 (The Foundation Series)
by Isaac Asimov
Edition: Paperback
Price: £5.59

3.0 out of 5 stars A brief psychohistory of everything, 21 Mar 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Foundation is a collection of short stories telling a big story, the collapse of entire galactic empire, and the creation of its successor by a small sects of scientists devoted to predicting the future. It is a book of big ideas: the feasibility of knowing the future, the relationship between science and religion, the evolution of ideas, the struggle between the individual and the state, and the role of technology in promoting war and peace.

The only thing small about this book is the book itself.

Foundation is undoubtedly a classic of science fiction, trail blazing a path for many imitators, and formulating ideas that influenced a generation of science fiction writers. It deserves to be a longer book, and I found its brevity dissatisfying and the characters somewhat shallow. I guess that means I should read volume two. Given its size, if you are interested in science fiction, you don't have much excuse for ignoring this book.


The Handmaid's Tale (Contemporary Classics)
The Handmaid's Tale (Contemporary Classics)
by Margaret Atwood
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.29

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Offred's Tale, 5 Feb 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Sinister, terrifying, and strangely compulsive, The Handmaid's Tale is a dystopian science fiction story set in a future North America. The state of Gilead is an authoritarian theocracy in which all aspects of life are tightly controlled, and women are forced to be home-makers and breeders. An environmental crisis has left most women barren, and the few that can still bear children have been designated as a precious national resource, to be allocated to the country's leaders to provide children for their wives, in accordance with the Biblical precedence of Rachel. The narrator of the story is the handmaid Offred, a woman who has been brainwashed in a re-education centre, but who still remembers the old America, and lives in hope that she may one day be reunited with her confiscated daughter.

The Handmaid's Tale is a powerful story, brilliantly conveyed in the first person perspective and in the present tense, constantly unsettling and entirely convincing, and as desperate as 1984 or Brave New World.

It is a brutally effective polemic on conservative values, as devastating and precise as a cruise missile. People can debate whether it goes too far, and I thought that the appendix was unnecessary, but no-one could deny the book's literary significance. Offred's terror and desperation is completely convincing. As she goes about her daily tasks in fear of being arbitrarily denounced or disappeared, her feeling of helplessness is complete.


Blackbirds: (Angry Robot): 1
Blackbirds: (Angry Robot): 1
by Chuck Wendig
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.39

3.0 out of 5 stars Death, foreseen, 15 Jan 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Blackbirds is a modern horror story of clairvoyants, drug dealers and con artists, set in a world of interstate highways, motels and gas stations. Its protagonist, Miriam Black, is a trailer park drifter cursed with a mysterious superpower: she can foresee the death of others, but is unable to do anything to save them. When she is rescued from trouble by a kindly stranger, she realises that he will be murdered in thirty days, and that she will be present at his death.

Blackbirds is a satisfyingly violent and darkly humorous tale, as bloody as anything made by Quentin Tarantino, and it is skillfully written. It bursts with brash language and panache and feigns of hand and oddball metaphors and one Hitchcockesque dream sequences in which Miriam is attacked by ravens and blackbirds (I didn`t quite understand that - blackbirds are seed eaters, right?). Wendig is a good writer: he can write in the present tense without being annoying, and I love his metaphors. This is a world where a character will eat like a boa constrictor swallowing a neighbours cat, and where a cut on the cheek will nibble like a hungry worm on an apple.

I did not find the plot entirely convincing. Blackbirds is packed with moments of outrageous and shocking drama, but the narrative sometimes feels staged. Still, it is exciting and I really couldn't guess where the plot was heading.


Netherland
Netherland
by Joseph O'Neill
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.19

2.0 out of 5 stars Cricket and marriage counselling, 13 Dec 2012
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Netherland (Paperback)
Joseph O'Neill struck gold when Barack Obama got sick of briefing papers, and choose O'Neill's fourth book for some light reading. Five years after its publication, does it stand the test of time?

Netherland seemed to me to be a modern day retelling of The Great Gatsby, in which Chuck Ramkissoon, a mysterious and charismatic protagonist, wanders in and out of the life of lonely narrator Hans van den Broek, extolling the virtues of capitalism, America, and cricket. Like The Great Gatsby, this is a New York story. Hans, an equity analyst with a curious amount of spare time, is lost in a fragmenting marriage and a new city. He seeks comfort in Chuck's friendship, but Chuck's story is a more complicated and darker than it first seems.

Netherland is not a bad book, but it didn't really excite me as much as I hoped it might. Like Ernest Hemingway, O'Neill focuses on the incidental events of life, but unlike Hemingway, this seems to mask a lack of substance in characters and relationships. There are also some awkward sentences which I think Hemingway would blush at. Consider `The visiting team suddenly appeared, hanging around in the ominous aura that always surrounds opponents before a match,' or `it occurred to me one day that spring had arrived.'

Netherland is a series of good anecdotes, but is it a novel? It was longlisted for the Booker prize, but didn't make the shortlist. I think that was about right.


Page: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10