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Reviews Written by
David Brookes (Sheffield, UK)

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Red Dust
Red Dust
by Ma Jian
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.19

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Red Dust, 26 Feb. 2013
This review is from: Red Dust (Paperback)
A short brutal account of China post-Mao. Another reviewer moaned about how negative the main character is, but this isn't surprising. If you're looking for a fun happy read then don't pick up a story about a wandering artist trapped in Communist China. It IS very bleak but that doesn't work against it.

If you're at all interested in what life is like in modern (19880-90s) China, then this is well worth it. The narrative, if this were a novel, wouldn't be considered tight, but then real life isn't a scripted plot and this won't bother you.

7 / 10

David Brookes
Author of 'Half Discovered Wings'


Dead City
Dead City
by Joe McKinney
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
Price: £5.38

4.0 out of 5 stars Dead City, 26 Feb. 2013
This review is from: Dead City (Mass Market Paperback)
A really enjoyable zombie story. It's not mind-blowingly original but the characters are really well developed. It turns out the writer used to be a cop so it's no surprise that the cop character is well drawn and knows everything about the job. It makes this much more realistic.

It's quite drawn and serious which I think works in its favour.

8 / 10

David Brookes
Author of 'Half Discovered Wings'


Eaters Of The Dead
Eaters Of The Dead
by Michael Crichton
Edition: Paperback
Price: £5.99

3.0 out of 5 stars Eaters of the Dead, 26 Feb. 2013
This review is from: Eaters Of The Dead (Paperback)
This is a really interesting book by a great sci-fi writer. As usual Crichton writes like he's really having fun, and for the most part this is an enjoyable ride.

It's not flawless. It's pretty obvious that the opening is Crichton paraphrasing an existing work and then going into his own story, because the style actually changes after those few paragraphs. It was disappointingly jarring and actually quite amateur, unfortunately.

My other gripe is that this turns in a retelling of Beowulf. It's generally acknowledged that we're already meant to know this before we start reading, but I didn't, and it annoyed me. Is ANY of this "true" Crichton? It reads more like a writing student's experiment that a novel from a master.

The good news is that there's a terrific spin on this and it all feels quite genuine. It makes Beowulf believable even though it's full of monsters and dragons. How? That would be telling!

Worth a read but not one of my favourites from Crichton.

7 / 10

David Brookes
Author of 'Half Discovered Wings'


The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle
The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle
by Haruki Murakami
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.19

4.0 out of 5 stars The wind-up bird chronicle, 26 Feb. 2013
One of Murakami's better novels. It's a huge sprawling tangle of stories, but it ties up by the end in a satisfactory way.

Not as good as Kafka on the Shore, better than Hard Boiled Wonderland. Similar dreamlike events in Murakami's brilliant understated narrative.

The long stories that interject the main narrative are important thematically, but only incidental in terms of relevance. They were well received by me though, even if they are occasionally too long and therefore intrusive.

Recommended.

7.5 / 10

David Brookes
Author of 'Half Discovered Wings'


The Man Who Died (Dodo Press)
The Man Who Died (Dodo Press)
by D. H. Lawrence
Edition: Paperback
Price: £5.99

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Man Who Died, 26 Feb. 2013
Although highly symbolic (which normally bothers me a little) this short novel is also a direct tale of loss, love and life. I found the main character's struggle moving and genuine and related to him in many ways (although I'm not saying I'm like Christ!).

It IS rather strange but as an allegory that's fine. The conflicts with traditional doctrine are interesting and I'll probably read this again some time.

Worth a read.

7 / 10

David Brookes
Author of 'Half Discovered Wings'


No Surrender: My Thirty Year War (Bluejacket Books)
No Surrender: My Thirty Year War (Bluejacket Books)
by Hiroo Onoda
Edition: Paperback
Price: £12.77

4.0 out of 5 stars No Surrender, 30 Nov. 2012
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This is an amazing story. It covers the man's early life and indoctrination by the military (if you want to call it that), instilling in him the crazy devotion that sees him struggling in the Phillipines for 30 years.

Although the events in the book aren't all that exciting (mainly it's a 30 year survival story, not a 30 year war) his blind dedication is the most interesting elemtent, and as such this is a fascinating insight into the mind of someone who convinces himself thoroughly that he isn't wasting his life.

You could consider this incredibly stupid or true devotion - it's probably a bit of both.

Well worth a read.

7.5 / 10

David Brookes
Author of 'Half Discovered Wings'


What Young India Wants
What Young India Wants
by Bhagat
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.86

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars What Young India Wants, 30 Nov. 2012
This review is from: What Young India Wants (Paperback)
This is a pretty readable series of essays on modern India, addressing many of the problems that face the country, such as political corruption and flaws in the voting system.

At first I was irritated that the writer just points out the problems, and then just asks some open-ended questions as if this is an answer in itself. Gradually though we see some of the proposed solutions to these problems, but it's so extremely basic and idealistic that a reader doesn't take much from it. It reads more like a bad editorial column than a series of essays (and I think may have been just that, once upon a time).

There are some interesting solutions in here though, so it's worth a read if you're interested in modern India. No proposed answers to the dreadful littering, flooding, scamming and general disorganization of the country though. The writer definately has an agenda, but that's a given with this kind of book.

Forget about the terrible, terrible allegorical short stories at the back, they aren't worth your time and are truly patronizing and simply agonizing to read.

5 / 10

David Brookes
Author of 'Half Discovered Wings'


Dragonflight (The Dragon Books)
Dragonflight (The Dragon Books)
by Anne McCaffrey
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.39

1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Dragonflight, 29 Nov. 2012
I picked this up after hearing so much about the author's famous dragon fiction over the years.

Although I read the book quickly and quite enjoyed it, it's really trash fiction that has little merit to it.

The writing is plain. The author has a good trick about naming things we have no way of knowing about, and explaining it later, but this doesn't make it much more compelling. I wanted a bit more literacy from this, but got a lot of what makes genre fiction viewed as substandard.

Annoyingly for a female writer, all we get is a bunch of lame masculine fantasy stereotypes running the show. Although our female protagonist is a strong character and very smart and wilful, she's also devious and displays an unpleasant, even misogynist side of female mentality. She uses her body and plays malicious games to get what she wants, which I personally didn't like much. The other characters are fairly naff Tolkien-esque tropes.

What I did like were the original aspects of the story: the "dragons" are different and have different abilities (as an aside, the "twist" that saves the day is neither surprising nor interesting), and the enemy in the book is a cool idea that beats the usual goblins or evil warlords.

You'll see the ending coming from a mile away. I'm not too interesting in reading the other books in the series, and will go back to "Temeraire", which is not only much better literature, but also more exciting, interesting, and original.

6 / 10 (sixth point for readability)

David Brookes
Author of 'Half Discovered Wings'.


Mr Norris Changes Trains
Mr Norris Changes Trains
by Christopher Isherwood
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.19

4.0 out of 5 stars Mr Norris Changes Trains, 29 Nov. 2012
I didn't read this edition, but a much older copy I found in my grandfather's stash.

This has a great 'old English' feel to it, which I liked. The writing isn't stuffy at all and has some brilliant humour in it. The writer's greatest flair is describing a character to you in just a couple of lines, and you feel like that's all you'll ever need.

Mr Norris is the star of the show, a kind of character you shouldn't like but do. It's his way of speaking and mannerisms that will draw you in, and the various events that take place around him that keep you interested. Although not a great deal happens between the covers, I wasn't much disappointed.

Some great characters writter by a great author, and a brilliant rendering of pre-WW2 Berlin, which is a world I knew nothing about until I read this book. I'll probably pick up more of his books.

David Brookes
Author of 'Half Discovered Wings'.


The Mermaid and the Drunks
The Mermaid and the Drunks
by Ben Richards
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.31

3.0 out of 5 stars The Mermaid and the Drunks, 29 Nov. 2012
I picked this up in The Shipyard bookshop & cafe in Sheffield. The premise sounded great, but the summing up of the characters in the blurb is basically the gist of them in the whole - there's not much development really, even though they're extremely well described.

The story is so-so, taking second place to the great worldbuilding that Richards does. I really felt like I knew Chile from this book, but have to say that I wanted more of a plot to go with it.

A major problem is that from the first place, I got a very strong sense that Richards had been to Chile for a couple of weeks and was basically just writing about his own experiences, weaving a loose story out of it. He desperately wants the book to reflect how much research he's evidently done, but a good writer does weeks of research but only shows the relevant bits - not cram in a load of historical anecdotes for the sake of it.

It sounds like I'm slamming the book, which deserves a fair 3 1/2 stars, and isn't bad at all. Give it a read if you like the sound of the synopsis here on Amazon.

6.5 / 10

David Brookes
Author of 'Half Discovered Wings'.


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