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The Guest
The Guest
by Sok-Yong Hwang
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.86

4.0 out of 5 stars Opens western eyes on a forgotton war, 24 Jun. 2010
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This review is from: The Guest (Paperback)
Alomst two decades before the vietnam war reached its height in 1968, the korean war was another idealogical cold war struggle with the americans deeply embroiled and a proud nation divided and ravaged.
"The Guest" is a remarkably eloquent novel dealing with a series of massacres by christians and communists in the north during the confused fighting at the very beginning of the war, when the americans drove the communist north koreans almost back to the chinese border.
North Korea was a christian stronghold up to 1950, the city of Pyongyang a centre of korean christian belief, between the end of world war two (1945) and the start of the korean war (1950), the christians ,usually middle class,faced the growing reality of a communist world, land redistribtution and a loss of their traditional lifestyle.
Sok-Yong does not take sides as this novel weaves from ghost narratives to the modern day, he looks at the two differing worldviews of the communists and the christians, the massacres that followed and then tries to see a way past the bloody deeds of 1950.
A remarkable figure in his homeland as a conciliatory player in North and South Korean relations to this day,Sok-Yong opens western eyes to the wobegone wartime days of the past.


A Dragon Apparent: Travels in Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam
A Dragon Apparent: Travels in Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam
by Norman Lewis
Edition: Paperback
Price: £12.08

9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Indochina....before the Americans came, 15 May 2010
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The Vietnam War...everyone knows the tales, the films,the images,the defeat and the eventual humiliation of the americans...but barely a decade earlier the French colonial forces suffered a similar fate...history repeats itself....and my mind shifts to Afghanistan..!.

" A Dragon Apparent" is about Lewis's travels in Indochina (Vietnam,Cambodia and Laos) in the early 1950's during the protracted war between the Viet Minh and French colonial forces. Within a few years of Lewis visiting the area, the French would be defeated at Dien Bien Phu and forced to leave Indochina.

The war is always looming in the background of this highly readable and intelligent travel narrative, as Lewis moves from region to region the French are barricaded in and dont dare to venture out at night. He visits the tribes of the Central Highlands(devastated by the americans a decade later), where the locals are press-ganged into working on plantations and Viet Minh irregulars harass the supply routes. The tribes he visited have long since been divided or damaged by the Vietnam War, it is fascinating to read about these lost worlds, where the french colonials try to educate their subjects while exploiting their manpower.

There is a sadness at the heart of this book, Lewis is an upbeat and chipper writer but he must have felt that the war was starting to change Indochina, indeed the whole region would be devastated within 15 years. He mixes with the French soldiers, the locals and colonials, observing events and absorbing the culture.

I didnt expect such a detailed account of a mainly forgotten era and war. Eland have a huge catalogue of historical travel literature and i recommend checking them out


Heaven Is Waiting
Heaven Is Waiting
Price: £10.66

4.0 out of 5 stars Timeless gothic mood music, 15 May 2010
This review is from: Heaven Is Waiting (Audio CD)
Wow...what a find....the latest gothic gem..hidden by the passing of the 1980's!!!

The first thing to grab me is was the flickering,twitching synthesizers,breaking up the genre of goth into a curious hybrid. In places this could almost be made in 2010, sure some of the samples are dated but the mixing and beats are proto-industrial. However, time to come out of the clouds, most of this LP is solid goth gloom,miminal guitars cutting through loping basslines and heavy,pounding drumming.

The title track is the best on the album,with a drifting melody and menacing synths bubbling against the beat. Like so many from the Goth movement, these Barnsley lads have been forgotten but if you like goth and are in the mood for something a little different to the herd....check out this album...


Granta 110: Sex (Granta: The Magazine of New Writing)
Granta 110: Sex (Granta: The Magazine of New Writing)
by John Freeman
Edition: Paperback
Price: £12.99

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A mixed bag, 15 May 2010
Not quite as groundbreaking as i expected, a quality literary quarterly dedicting its 110th issue to writing about sex. I am slightly biased in that i find most erotic literature somewhat leaves me cold, as if the writer has cooked up their own fantasies as a piece of work.
In some ways this is a very interesting mixture of fiction,memoir and reportage, three stories have homosexual themes although there are no lesbian works in the volume.
Articles on phone-sex,monasteries,spa towns are the highlights and obviously this volume will be appreciated more by those with liberal attitudes.
I would recommend this for the variety of writing and the stylish mix of genres fiction mixed with photo essays and cartoons,maintaining Granta as the best quarterly of its kind.


Fields Of The Nephilim
Fields Of The Nephilim
Price: £12.64

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars classic gothic rock....that will stand the test of time, 7 April 2010
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This review is from: Fields Of The Nephilim (Audio CD)
There is something beyond the doom laden baritone vocals and garbled lyrics on this classic album , what is it i wonder,well its the sound of a talented young band at the peak of its powers.
Dual guitars slice through the sometimes limited vocals and create walls of sound and atmosphere, there is a whole lotta english melancholy at the heart of this brilliant album.
Singles "Moonchild" and "The Watchman" are examples of what this band could do if the wanted to creep into the charts but its the longer,more experimental pieces that hold the attention, the slow building "Endemoniada" and the lively "Love Under Will".
So much gothic rock from the mid-80's has either been forgotten,neglected or lampooned but this LP shows where gothic rock could go, the 'Fields never made it much further than this but this stands alongside the Sisters of Mercy and above The Mission as a goth classic.


Scum of the Earth
Scum of the Earth
by Arthur Koestler
Edition: Paperback
Price: £12.08

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Despair in France........1940, 3 Oct. 2009
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This review is from: Scum of the Earth (Paperback)
The feeling of being hunted....the germans closing in.....few autobiographical accounts seem as devoid of hope as this classic account of novelist Koestlers attempts to flee the occupying Germans in the summer of 1940.

At the outset,he is another emigrem,supposedly safe in France from the fascist hordes on all three sides but then the Germans are coming, flight to Spain is out of the question, the Italians are expected in Provence where he is staying, so he sets off for Paris...

From then on its amazing stories of the appalling treatment of France's refugee class even before surrender to the Germans. Koestler waits for days to be spoken to, sleeping in a barn ,waiting with hundreds of other anti-facists,.

Then the incarcerations begin, the tone becomes heavier, the germans start to over-run France, the allies are in tatters and Koestler is on the run again, remembering Spain where he saw the Fascists win a few years before.

Well worth reading as another viewpoint on the disasters of 1940...


Death in Breslau: An Eberhard Mock Investigation
Death in Breslau: An Eberhard Mock Investigation
by Marek Krajewski
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Gripping Silesian noir,.,..., 3 Oct. 2009
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Gripping....a simple word for this novel that i just cannot stop reading, i am not a fan of crime fiction, the genre that has created a whole heap of nothing but this Polish thriller is above and beyond some of the formulaic tripe of our times.

The regional german city of Breslau is the setting, in 1933, as the Nazi's start to take control of every aspect of urban life. (Breslau is now the large poliash city of Wrocslaw). Heavy summer heat,depravity and the endless twists and turns of patronage, from Nazi thugs to aristocratic perverts, makes this a dizzy and desperate tale of the times.

The actual crime fiction elememts are fairly standard but its the wonderful feel of the novel that draws you in, be warned though, this isnt a jolly read, the perversions and violence are nilhistic and unsettling.

Not quite similar to Mankell with his questioning,intellectual mastery but a thinking persons novel of stifling summer heart and suspense.


Fine Fascination
Fine Fascination
Offered by Renegade Sports Group Limited
Price: £2.24

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Life as they know it....., 12 April 2009
This review is from: Fine Fascination (Audio CD)
Sweeping tunes,big piano and yelping lyrics, it could be the Waterboys but its not, its a very interesting indie classic from Red Light Company.
The melodies of "Arts and Crafts" are irresitible,. the feel good flannel of "Meccano" burns a little sun through the wintry clouds and "Scheme Eugene" awakens the heart to something else.
No new ground is trodden here and we are not dealing with the big questions of life,the universe etc but something in the vibrant feelings transmitted by this album have enlivened my springtime and i recommend a little of the RLC experience....buy it now.


The Hidden Force (Quartet Encounters)
The Hidden Force (Quartet Encounters)
by Louis Couperus
Edition: Paperback

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A glimpse into a forgotten colonial experience..., 12 April 2009
The British Empire has been covered from all angles in literature, the tales of Kipling,the travels of livingstone and burton,the soldiering that defined the empire and a whole wealth of novels in the dying days from 1900-1945 but what do we know about another great empire...the dutch...very little indeed.

Well this novel by Louis Couperus is a dutch classic,written in 1900,set in the vast archipeligo of the Dutch East Indies (now Indonesia), fifty odd years before it fell apart.

Couperus writes well of the colonial boredom and shadowy fear of the natives, the heat and the lifestyle, very subtly the local story mirrors the national one as the dutch are starting to lose their hold on these vast territories. Well written,witty and consistenly dark this is thought provoking tale of the OTHER empires.


The Hive
The Hive
by Camilo José Cela
Edition: Library Binding

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A city of wintry decay....., 17 Feb. 2009
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This review is from: The Hive (Library Binding)
An atmospheric novel that tickled my nose and innards with its winter city streets,gloom and tension. I am not familiar with Madrid as a visitor but it seemed so darkly a part of my world, this large central metropolis of a country so recently torn apart by violence,fraternal violence. Then ghost of a the stocky dictator Franco hovers in every scene but so very,very at the edge of the stage.
Whilst Sartre told a similar tale in "The Reprieve", Cela makes this a somewhat bleaker tribute to the lost citizens of the spanish capital,with the nation settling into uneasy peace,as the world war rages to the north. The city life that we all know is here,the masses of people,the trolleycars,the underground,the cafe's,the pensions,the garrets etc. There is no implicit message in the text, in my opinion, Cela coats every scene with an uneasy knowledge that something is wrong but this never breaks into a moment, it simmers and then fades.
The last 15 pages summon images of the city awakening, the vast suburbs,the spanish names,beautiful and also hinting of decay, a dusty country,lost and losing so much since 1898, faded glory.... One of the main characters has maybe been marked by the police for arrest but we are not sure,nothing is spelt out. All along the weather matches the moods, it is night for 75% of this novel, a wonderful fragment of genius,a very rare view into a country that was almost broken by the iron heel, a casual,sometimes random,meandering and lazy heel.......there is so little spanish literature between 1940-1975..to me...Francos's hidden legacy.


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