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Mostly Harmless (London)

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How I Escaped My Certain Fate
How I Escaped My Certain Fate
by Stewart Lee
Edition: Paperback
Price: 5.73

3.0 out of 5 stars Inside the mind of the stand-up comic, 24 Nov 2012
This curious book is a mixture of transcripts from the three stand-up show's that Lee performed between 2005 and 2008, coupled with autobiographical chapters in which he seeks to explain how events in his life inspired the material. The material is hilarious, but the written word hardly does justice to the live act, and if you have seen the three shows, you might feel short changed as you are effectively buying half a book. Whether you find that book interesting depends on how interested you are in process by which comedy is written. I found it unusual and fascinating, although Lee is so ironic that I am never sure how much to believe.

Right Ho, Jeeves: (Jeeves & Wooster)
Right Ho, Jeeves: (Jeeves & Wooster)
by P.G. Wodehouse
Edition: Paperback
Price: 6.02

4.0 out of 5 stars Jeeves saves the day, 24 Nov 2012
Inept Bertie Wooster and his genius valet return for more adventures. Romantic train-crashes and bad-tempered aunts are included.

This book may not be the best of the series, but when you are talking about the greatest comedy double-act of all time, does that matter?

Venus In Copper: (Falco 3)
Venus In Copper: (Falco 3)
by Lindsey Davis
Edition: Paperback
Price: 5.59

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A dangerous redhead, 24 Nov 2012
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
In the third instalment of Lindsey Davis' light hearted Roman mysteries, private informer Didius Falco is hired to investigate a suspicious widow with a string of dead husbands. As usual, his biggest problem is his aristocratic girlfriend Helena Justina. This time, she may have left him for good.

Marlow, Morse, Wallander: the protagonist of the traditional detective story is lonely and loveless, and any romantic possibilities are stubbed out so that everything is reset for the next novel. By giving Falco a permanent girlfriend, Lindsey Davis turned her books are a curious hybrid; part-mystery, part-romance. Maintaining romantic chemistry over three novels is ambitious, and Davis is not completely successful.

But this is a cheeky and cheerful detective story, with a couple of surprises.

Price: 0.99

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars The woman by the tree, 24 Nov 2012
This review is from: Shrine (Kindle Edition)
Something is not right in Sussex, and its not just morris dancing.

Alice Pagett has been mute for most of her childhood, but suddenly she can talk, and she keeps speaking of a beautiful woman beside the ancient oak tree that stand outside the village's Catholic church. Then the young girl begins to cure people of their illnesses.

Has frustrated local journalist Gerry Fenn stumbled upon a miracle from God, or is there a more sinister explanation?

James Herbert writes small-town horror stories that bear a resemblance to Steven King, even if they are not as good. The frights come from the idea that this could be happening in your town. The Shrine is enjoyable enough, but probably no better than dozens of other similar books, and if you have seen the films The Exorcist or The Omen, you may be able to guess what is going on.

A strange anomaly ruined the story for me: St Joseph's is a Catholic church, but surely any seventeenth-century church in England would be Anglican?

The Snows Of Kilimanjaro And Other Stories
The Snows Of Kilimanjaro And Other Stories
by Ernest Hemingway
Edition: Paperback
Price: 4.79

4.0 out of 5 stars Vintage Hemingway, 20 Nov 2012
Memories of boyhood, the regrets of old men, men at war, men and women: this famous collection of eighteen stories covers familiar Hemingway themes. There are many great stories in this slim collection: The Battler, The End of Something, Out of Season, Big Two-Hearted River, and of course the collection's eponym.

Strong and intense, like black coffee, and best savoured slowly. Yes, he had limitations, but when it came to capturing a moment of poignancy, he was as good as anyone.

For all his quirks, Hemingway was an exceptional writer. Sometimes he hit, sometimes he missed. In The Snows of Kilimanjaro, he hits pretty much every time.

One Shot: (Jack Reacher 9)
One Shot: (Jack Reacher 9)
by Lee Child
Edition: Paperback
Price: 5.59

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars "Get Jack Reacher", 8 Oct 2012
After a senseless massacre in an anonymous town in Indiana, the evidence points overwhelmingly to a Gulf War veteran with a shady past. Within twenty-four hours he had been apprehended, remanded, and judged guilty by the whole of Indiana. "Get Jack Reacher," the accused man tells his defence attorney, before being subjected to a prison attack that leaves him in a coma. Surely the evidence against the man is so conclusive that even Jack Reacher cannot help?

I received a free copy of this book with a newspaper. The back cover read: "Jack Reacher. Men want to be him. Women want to be with him." This synopsis was so underwhelming that One Shot sat unread on my bookshelf for a number of years. When I eventually read it, I admit it was not as bad as I feared. It is a fun and frisky thriller, with a quick plot, and a degree of humour. Uber-macho former military policeman Reacher is not particularly subtle. He punches his way around the town, leaving in his wake a trail of injured bad guys and breathless females. Like a Swiss Army Knife, or MacGyver, or MacGyver with a Swiss Army Knife, Reacher is basically unstoppable, although he does make stops for a series of unlikely bimbo-stereotypes (sexy defence attorney, sexy newsreader, sexy army general - the last providing an opportunity for the not-so classic line: "I got screwed by plenty of two-stars. To think I screwed one myself would be fun.")

But One Shot is fun. Not amazing, not original, it makes no sense, but it is fun. The writing style seems influenced by Raymond Chandler (not as good, obviously). Reacher may not be subtle, but he is indestructible, and the best sniper in the army, and an expert in close combat, and the military police's best investigator, and unbelievably good in bed. With a skill set like that, the outcome of the story is predictable, but you probably don't read Jack Reacher novels for suspense.

My Cousin Vinny [1992] [DVD]
My Cousin Vinny [1992] [DVD]
Dvd ~ Joe Pesci
Price: 4.20

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "What exactly is a yout?", 1 Oct 2012
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: My Cousin Vinny [1992] [DVD] (DVD)
While travelling through rural Arizona, two innocent undergraduates find themselves implicated in a murder, and being penniless New Yorkers, are forced to turn to their optimistic but hopeless cousin to defend them. Is Arizona ready for Vincent Gambini?

Is this the funniest movie of the 1990s? Maybe. Joe Pesci, Marisa Tomei, Fred Gwynne and Austin Pendleton give performances that would stand out in any movie. Side by side, they are amazing.

If William Shakespeare was able to watch this movie, he would recognise all the essential characteristics of ancient comedy. The characters are of low status, and have exaggerated personalities, and cannot recognise their own ridiculousness. The story structure is based on a reversal of fortune, with each character making an unlikely journey from an unhappy state to a happy state. The film observes the three unities, being set in one location, on one day, and with a single, unified story.

Well, okay, its not set on one day, but two out of three isn't bad.

Don't worry if you don't like Shakespeare - you will still find this film hilarious. I challenge anyone to dislike it.

Consider Phlebas: A Culture Novel (The Culture)
Consider Phlebas: A Culture Novel (The Culture)
by Iain M. Banks
Edition: Paperback
Price: 8.18

4.0 out of 5 stars Consider Reading, 30 Sep 2012
Consider Phlebas was Iain Bank's first science fiction novel, which introduced the world to 'the Culture'.

A quarter of a century after its publication, this is a book that still feels fresh and convincing.

Obstentatiously, Consider Phlebas is a story set during a future war between two galactic civilisations - the warlike Iridians and the sophisticated but mysterious Culture - and the narrative concerns an Iridian spy sent to kidnap a Culture artificial intelligence that is hiding on a forbidden planet.

The background is largely irrelevant; this is the story of a traveller moving through a series of fantastic worlds, each more extraordinary and perilous than the last. I think Banks is at his best when he dropping his characters into dramatic situations. He has a real talent for creating tense, uneasy, and damn-right terrifying scenes, and then directing the action in the opposite direction to whatever is expected. Consider Phlebas has some fantastically imaginative scenarios. A prisoner slowly drowning in his captors urine. An initiation test for a new space recruit which involves murdering one of the existing crew. A lethal game of high stakes poker on a planet that is about to be demolished. It is thrilling and unsettling.

Banks is not so successful in arranging the scenes into a strong narrative. I kept wondering if he pieced together Consider Phlebas from a collection of short stories. It would explain why the overall narrative doesn't really makes sense. Horza, the protagonist, has the ability to alter his DNA, and assume other people's identities, so Banks doesn't need to worry much about continuity or character development. The chapters feel like short stories (in a good way), and each ends in a sudden twist. With a little editing, the order of most of the chapters could be rearranged, without damaging the story.

The characters are probably the weakest aspect of the novel. Horza tries to explain several times why he was risking his life to help his Iridian masters, but I didn't really buy it. His personality is a blank canvas, onto which the reader has to project something.

Banks also has a penchant for neologism, which you will either love or hate.

Do these weaknesses matter? Not really. I enjoyed reading Consider Phlebas. It is a bold and imaginative science fiction story that should satisfy anyone that wants to be transported into the world of the fantastic.

Brighter Than the Blues
Brighter Than the Blues
Price: 7.99

5.0 out of 5 stars "A light I can see now whenever I choose", 20 Sep 2012
Every time I play this album I like it more.

The third album from the wandering singer/songwriter feels less New York, more American. The synthesizers and beat machines have gone, and the sound is confident and consistent. The combination of McRae's voice and Matt Castelein's guitar works well and the songwriting is amazing. There are no weak siblings on this album; each of the eleven songs is rich and resonant. The highlights for me were Brighter than the Blues, Alone, and Keeper of the Light, but seriously, they are all good.

If you like Gillian Welch, give this a try. Great music for a reflective evening chillout.

Spec Ops: The Line - Including Fubar pack (PC DVD)
Spec Ops: The Line - Including Fubar pack (PC DVD)
Offered by PNA247
Price: 8.50

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "The only villain around here is you", 16 Aug 2012
= Fun:4.0 out of 5 stars 
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Six months ago Dubai was engulfed by a giant sandstorm. Your patrol enters the city to look for survivors...

One thing everyone should be able to agree about Spec Ops: the Line. It is violent. As you battle through post-apocalypse Dubai, amidst ruined skyscrapers and trashed supercars, you are left with no illusions as to what happens when a phosphorous shell explodes in a crowded area, or when you smash your rifle butt into the skull of an injured soldier.

The Line feels like the evil twin of Medal of Honour or Call of Duty. It is emotionally traumatising, and it asks a lot of questions of the player, and demands that you live with the consequences of your decisions.

The single player campaign blew my mind. The story is amazing, and it has been really well planned, switching between long, tense episodes, sudden violence, an awful, stomach-turning dilemmas. The dialogue is better than other games I gave played, and it provides an credible feeling of peril and tension. Rather than tell the story through cut-scenes, most of the drama is in the in-game dialogue, and your decisions determine what you hear. The gameplay is smooth, the movement mechanics are well developed, and the firearms feel real. You can sprint, slide into cover, vault over barriers, switch from one side of the door to another, and then use a zip line to descend levels. Like I said, smooth. You have the ability to direct your two squad members, which provides a nice choice of tactical approaches. The game looks amazing. Dubai looks real and there are many ways you can interact with your surroundings. There are four levels of difficulty, and my only criticism is that the solo game doesn't last longer.

The multiplayer? Hmm...enjoyable but not amazing.

There are 4 multiplayer games, fought in a 8v8 format on 6 different battle areas. Multi-player is quite hard work. The third person perspective means that it is possible to see over cover while concealed behind it, and as the weapons have are realistic and 'one shot kill', the emphasis on cover favours stealth/stalking tactics.

The multiplayer battlefields are realistic and asymmetric, and most have a 'sweet spot' which provides an inherent advantage to whichever side occupies it first. The game relies on random spawning locations to ensure neither side has an inherent advantage. This will not be to everyone's taste, as there is a possibility of spawning directly in front of an enemy and being killed immediately. The random spawning locations can also be frustrating to players that are sweeping across the battlefield, as you can never be 100% sure that the areas behind are clear of enemy players.

There is not much weapon variety in multiplayer mode, partly because you cannot customise weapons, and partly because the realistic weapon characteristics mean that assault rifles are normally the best choice (shotguns are useless, sub-machine guns are okay indoors, but if you respawn outside you will be in trouble).

There are effectively 90 character progression levels (at level 45 you can 're-enlist', and gain access to the superior perks). This means that experienced players are significantly better, i.e. not just better at playing the game, but near impossible for lower level players to kill. Some players will like this. Personally, I find it frustrating to get killed 20 times by re-enlisted level 25 players, whose superior stalking and concealment perks enable them to take sniping shots in sandstorms, while the noobs are left hoping for a few flukey respawn kills. If you are not already playing this game, levelling up might take a long time. The problem would not be so bad if the multiplayer option was better at matching players of similar levels in the same game. Maybe there are not enough people playing (finding opponents can be slow outside peak gaming hours).

Overall, 5/5 for the amazing solo campaign, but 3/5 for multiplayer.

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