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Michael Tansini (Edinburgh)

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Beat The Devil'S Tattoo (Ltd Cd)_
Beat The Devil'S Tattoo (Ltd Cd)_

1 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars At last they find their voice!, 26 Mar. 2010
BRMC have always been decried as a band that are a sum of others' parts - most notably Kasabian, the Brian Jonestown Massacre, Spaceman 3, Bob Dylan, White Stripes, and, of course, The Jesus and Mary Chain. Their stock has suffered a bit in recent years - releasing a very strange album last year and losing their drummer top the list - but they retain a hardcore following and for good reason - for all their pastiche and swagger, they put on a spectacular live show and are capable of flashes of pure brilliance - anyone who has danced to the bass riff of Spread Your Love or just loved the harmonica on Ain't No Easy Way will agree with me. In this album, their sixth, they finally put all their elements into an album that is most definetly their own.

Beat the Devil's Tattoo has been announced as a return to Howl, their acoustic third album that won them as many plaudits as it did condemnation. Although that is true in parts - most notably Sweet Feeling and Long Way Down - there is still a heavy use of fuzz pedals, loops and all that shoegaze jazz. Their finest moments are when they coalesce all their elements - the drones and fuzzy shoegaze guitars, the rock n' roll heaviness and their unashamed vocals. Conscience Killer, with its pounding drums, snarling guitar and insistent vocals is a standout, as is River Styx with its groovily looping bass and a guitar that just stopped me in my tracks with its brilliance.

It's not perfect - the opener - Beat the Devil's Tattoo is a little forced, though when it gets going it gets going - and Evol, though brilliantly drummed reminded me too much of Awake of their first album, and Aya, though not bad is yet to fully grab me - but it is a triumph nonetheless. BRMC have always been a serious band but now they sound as though they're having fun while making music and that comes through with their sound. The finisher Half-State, a full 10 minutes long, is truely an experience. A brilliant album, possibly one of the best of 2010

The Widow and the King (Medieval Trilogy)
The Widow and the King (Medieval Trilogy)
by John Dickinson
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £12.99

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars This is how teenage fantasy should be written!, 4 Sept. 2005
Kudos to John Dickinson for writing a book which rivals his own father's works. Taking a risk by not making a straight sequel as is the wont of linear fantasy, this jumps to the previous protoganist's son. The opening is amazingly evocative, "A man came riding, hunting his son with his sword." It gets better and better from there, with brains in the political machinations of the lords of the lands, and brawn in the (thankfully not on every page) fight scenes. A star deducted for the fact it maybe runs about 50 pages too long but overall a supreme book, and one I would reccommend to any teenager.
Michael Tansini

Eldest (The Inheritance Cycle)
Eldest (The Inheritance Cycle)
by Christopher Paolini
Edition: Hardcover

26 of 34 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars And here's one I made earlier to show you NOT what to do..., 30 Aug. 2005
In my review of Eragon I stated that although deriative and with its fair share of flaws (notably with characterisation and dialogue) I expressed hope for the sequel. Although the writing is taking a turn for the better, unfortunately the plot, isn't.
The premise of the plot is fair enough. Eragon must journey to elven kingdom to hone his skills as a Dragon Rider and as a swordsmen, meeting with the king of the elves no less. Meanwhile his doughty companion Murtagh has been kidnapped, thus Arya the elf tries to save him from the evil king of the empire, Galbatorix (anyone else having problems remembering a few of these names?). As well, Eragon's cousin, Roran, is raising an army against the empire and his evil servants Ra'zac (say it from the back of your throat and people think you're puking up!).
The problem is, as with many novels, is the execution. The previous book was large but followed one journey and thus there wasn't much to concentrate on. Here with the many branching paths, he falls flat on his face trying to create too many things happening at once - it's bewildering, even for an experienced fantasy reader. Roran's passages are well done and concise but Eragon's are full of flowery florid phrases that sound as though he's lifted them from Tolkein and changed them round a bit. The book could have easily been trimmed by 200 pages and it would have been a leaner novel as a result.
Some more gripes. The dialogue is again poor. Example. When one major character lies dying it is conveyed in such a tedious manner I found myself drumming my fingers, such was the hammy attempt to draw sympathy. The character says, "I have last words. protect the Varden from the Empire." First off, when you're dying, you wouldn't bother to say I have last words. And when he finally falls off his perch someone runs in and asks if he has last words.
It's not all bad. It's a testamount to Paolini's ability that he can make me read a book this epic length, despite his attempt to conceal it. But the plot wasn't just linear and signposted; the next 'twist' could be seen from the Kuiper belt. The end attempts a dark bloody cliffhanger and almost succeeds was is it not for a dreadfully melodramatic 'Star Wars Luke-I am your father' moment (signposted in the LAST book for crying out loud). And also I have a sneaky suspicion a lot of things will be happily resolved in the finaly installment. Here's hoping I'm proved wrong. Two stars.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Feb 24, 2012 6:16 PM GMT

Alexander: The Virtues Of War
Alexander: The Virtues Of War
by Steven Pressfield
Edition: Hardcover

6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "A cavalry horse must be mad and its rider completely so", 14 Jan. 2005
Virtues of War is a great book for budding classicists and people who have read or heard little about Alexander the Great. For those of a more scholarly orientation, this book may be a bit too economical with the truth for your tastes.
A slightly jarring partys many things that of the narrative is that Alexander is in the first person. Hearing 'I' when Alexander recants his childhood is a shocking experience for the first time, though it eventually becomes normal. The problem is he says many things whcih weren't invented 2300 years ago. For example, the Sacred Band of Thebes are described as foot-knights, and the word 'unknightly' is used many times throughout the novel, when in fact such a concept had not been invented at that time.Pressfield acknowledges this, but it still will raise frowns fo clasicists.
When it comes to battles though, Pressfield is king. The battle against Thebes at Chaeroneas, against Persians, at the Granicus, Issus and Gaugemela and the Indians at the Hydrapses, no one can be as visceral in the combat as Pressfield. You really feel the shock of the cavalry charge, and can almost find yourself flinching such is the intensity. Also, the tactical approach is extremely well done, with an almost bird's eye view of the battlefield.
Alexander is an incredible person in this book. We see his character toughen harden, as his 'daimon' asserts more control over him. He is totally unpredictable, raging and calm but at his heart he is a simple soldier. However he never wants to give up and go home. he is possessed with a heart to forever search, to find out what is beyond the horizon. This in itself is not extrodainary but the way he inspires people is. His pre-battle speeches will freeze you cold.
Most frightening of all about him is his way of feeling every wound done to his soldier yet the ability to keep a cold and ruthless extent that he does not feel any remorse when he exterminates and enslaves a city. His friend and lover, Hephaeston keeps a tenable control over his sanity and it is thanks to him that Alexander does not slide into madness.
So overall, an excellent book, with intellect behind the armour and one that you will come back to again and again. The freedom of license taken deprives it of five stars, but this is still historical writing at its finest

by N. M. Browne
Edition: Paperback

8 of 17 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars I'm sorry, I tried, I tried..., 15 Oct. 2004
This review is from: Basilisk (Paperback)
And failed.
'the best author since Rosemary Sutcliff' says the blurb on the back of the book. Intrigued by this confidant assertion, I picked up the book, bought it and settled down to enjoy a good book.
Or so I wished.
For the ideas are there. The idea of a creater and destoyer god does seem to fit in well with Sumerian and Iranian myth. The characters at the start seem eminetely likeable and some of the descriptions do sound like Sutcliff.
But Browne made the worst error possible, and that is bad writing. It goes rapidly downhill from chapter two. The main character, living underground in a catacomb, trying to solve a murder, really annoyed me and after ploughing wearily through this book, I wanted to zip his mouth shut with duct tape. The plot didn't carry my attention, and while it was alright for a lazy Sunday afternoon read, if you're looking for quality fantasy faire, stick with Jonathon Stroud, Brian Jacques or Nancy Farmer with the excellent Sea of Trolls.
There are good scenes but they are the exception rather than the rule and overall Basilisk is a real wasted opportunity. It could have been great but it burned and crashed with its poor writing. What could have been...

The Darkness That Comes Before (The Prince of Nothing)
The Darkness That Comes Before (The Prince of Nothing)
by R. Scott Bakker
Edition: Paperback

23 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Like reading a very interesting ancient history textbook, 13 Oct. 2004
Tired of reading books that create a world in which nothing is explained? Tired of reading books that skimp out human culture and make each realm a carbon copy of the one before? You need a book that gives you interesting cultures, religions, and so forth without drowning in pedantic detail. You will like The Darkness that Comes Before.
It is not an easy ride. Those looking for skimpy light fare will hurry past this one. The first 100 or so pages are thick in details and names that the mind shudders to remember them all. Some names seem unpronounceable, others full of dots accents and circumflexes to the point of drowning.
But soon the mind remembers each one. Some things are only mentioned- hinted at, but the interest on each one does not die away.
And the villains! Trust me, you will never look at a Trolloc in the same way. The same childish, cardboard cut-outs of the real thing. These villains exude such an aura of palpable menace that you would scream if you could but your larynx has already distatched itself from your throat and hidden itself under the sofa.
The prose is brilliant as well. IT is written with such a great use of vocabulary and metaphors that your mind reels, like when you took your first sip of wine, and entrance into another world full of vivid descriptions.
The plot flows well, with interesting events popping up. It flows well, political intrigue is better than most, you can gradually fell the escalating fundamentalist religous antagonism building up in Sumna and the tension in the Emperor's court.
So overall the Darkness that Comes Before is a great worthy of your time if you want to be immersed in a rich evocative fantasy that will be lauded for decades after its release

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