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Mark Slattery (London, UK)
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Innocence
Innocence
by Dean Koontz
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

3.0 out of 5 stars It has his excellent standard of literature, 9 Jan. 2016
This review is from: Innocence (Paperback)
I have read a lot of Dean Koontz's novels (proportionately and literally - he's written getting on for a hundred). I'm a fan. But not an uncritical one; I think all fans owe a debt of honesty as well as loyalty. My assessment of this story is that it holds many of the elements you'd expect from Dean's work. It has his excellent standard of literature; I detected new words and phrases that mean to me he's been searching for fresh ways to say familiar things. And his two lead characters are captivating and intriguing. You never know where this story is leading until close to the end, and the end comes as a surprise. If DK has one aspect to his novels that I find sometimes lets him down, it is his endings. He's a very positive man, and there's a lot of redemption. I'm not so sure about this one. You'll have to read it to see. But ultimately, I felt he'd inserted a real curve into the plot to finish this off. No sign of it coming earlier (at least, I didn't pick it up beyond the very faintest hint). He's learned to keep his supernatural elements to an almost subliminal level, but in a way, that enhances the religosity a few of them have. That doesn't sit as well with me as it does with others perhaps. Still a captivating and skilful novel, and very readable. I can see it might divide opinions on the ending.


Recomposed by Max Richter: Vivaldi, The Four Seasons
Recomposed by Max Richter: Vivaldi, The Four Seasons
Price: £18.72

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars it's a good word. And its a novel, 1 Oct. 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Wooo. So, it's strange to start with, right? Buildings get re-modelled. Films get re-made. And music gets covered, or versionalised if one can put it that way - but re-composed? Well, it's a good word. And its a novel, but very valid idea. He didn't re-write this, he re-imagined it through his own musical ears, and yes, ears don't often imagine things but here they made an exception. Thankfully, there are few better ears to re-imagine things through than those of Max Richter. Even if you don't like the recomposion of the Four Season, it's hard to fault his skill. And there are times when he leaves less, and achives more, than the original. I can guess there may be some to whom the very excercise is anathema. But Richter's piece is extraordinary in its beauty and would stand alone if it were not inextricably linked to the original. To my ears, its works well for the majority of the time and made me re-listen to the orginal and yes appreciate it no less. Not a bad outcome?


Haunted
Haunted
by James Herbert
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.83

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The start of a neat idea from James Herbert, 30 Aug. 2012
This review is from: Haunted (Paperback)
By chance I read this novel last week, as Ash, the third novel featuring the lead character in this book, is comming out about now after a long wait.
Haunted is a fairly short read, and - coming to it years after it was written - the plot does not feel that original to me, but may well have been at the time. But that doesn't matter very much, because it is well written, conscise, and engaging, so it still reads well.
I don't like giving away endings or too much details during a review, but this is about a supernatural investigator who has his scepticism severely challenged. There's quite a nice backstory to him, although by comparison to Herbert's other novels, less than is usual for his key protagonists. Maybe he had it in mind when he wrote this one that the character and the idea has repeatability and he wished to keep back a little of Ash's history for the future.
Herbert is very good at moving events on slowly but definitely, he doesn't steamroller you with so much information you get lost in the plot. He likes to let the flavour develop and once you latch onto his style, its very comfortable reading his writing. Its both intelligent and consistent, and the horror or drama elements he doesn't overplay so that they retain a nice psychological edge and don't descend into gore or what I've heard called 'schlock'.
You'll probably wind up wanting to know more about David Ash at the end of this, and wanting a bit more information about the ending itself. I don't know if the next Ash novel (the Ghosts of Sleath, sitting on my shelf patiently) provides the latter, but its sure to provide more about him. The organisation Ash works for also has a lot of potential for development.
I'm giving this three stars because it is a little bit too truncated, and reads like part one of a bigger novel to me, and I know Herbert has another two stars he can add to this within his considerable gifts and reach. But I recommend it, and like it.


The Ashes Series 2010/2011 The Official Highlights 5DVD [DVD]
The Ashes Series 2010/2011 The Official Highlights 5DVD [DVD]
Offered by ST Commercial
Price: £16.99

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Watch out if you go to HMV for this DVD, 31 Jan. 2012
My DVD, for Xmas, of this great series, contains two disk 4s and no disk 5 - HMV refused to replace it because, as a gift, the buyer had not retained their receipt.

So - beware in case there was an automated failure on the packing line and check your copy if you don't buy via Amazon.

The first four disks are superb viewing.


Mayhem in Manhattan a Spider Man Novel
Mayhem in Manhattan a Spider Man Novel
by Marv Wolfman
Edition: Paperback

3.0 out of 5 stars Competent but dated and a little unambitious, 7 Mar. 2011
Hold on to your hats, web-slingers...

Yes, the conventional comic tone is the prevailing vernacular for the novel, the first ever full length (well, under 200 pages) adult (ie not aimed at 10-16 year old boys) prose novel in the Marvel Universe.

It's not bad. It does not push itself to be greatly revelatory or develop Spider-man's human or psychological character - in fact, it has less personal elements than the comics often did. But it is Len Wein and Marv Wolfman, so you'd expect it to have authenticity of voice, and sound like a comic being written. The captions almost draw themselves in your head as you go along. That, sadly, is where it suffers from being the first of its type because inevitably, Marvel wanted to make it easy for its readers to adapt fropm captions to full-length stories without pictures, and the proximity in tone and content to the core product is a conservative means of trying to make the novel popular with a cross-over audience. Ironically, that's not the way Stan Lee (who scrips the intro) changed and led the comics market back in the early 1960s. A bit more depth might have been good, but I speak with the benefit of 32 years of hindsight so who the hell cares?

So, clatteringly quick to read, a reasonably intelligent plot, with a high quality bad guy, and some old favourite supporting characters, and a nice insight into the origins of more than 100 subsequent prose novels from Marvel. But its more for the completist OCD collector like me than the reader who wishes to be challenged.


City of Night (Dean Koontz's Frankenstein, Book 2)
City of Night (Dean Koontz's Frankenstein, Book 2)
by Dean Koontz
Edition: Paperback

4.0 out of 5 stars He maintains the standard...gripping as ever, 27 Feb. 2011
Koontz does not often write series of novels. Odd Thomas is his only exception, tho he has written at least one other character that has recurred (Christopher Snow) after about 100 books. But with Frankenstein two, City of the Dead, you sense he's conceived all these books (fifth one written and due out soon as I write) in the bathtub together. Because, the man is still flying high with the storyline and prose from the first novel and my feeling is, he just had to decide where to bring the guillotine down on where to divide them.

OK, time to be brutal, good as this is, with continuity and tone all preserved beautifully, it is not as good as the first book. That may be the fate of "episodic" writing, this definitely feels like series two of the TV series, with some characters returning (some didn't live to make it this far from book one) and a few new ones who also have to battle to make book three - and boy, does Koontz set that up well. But its a slower burn than book one, though the simmer is first class.

Real progression here, and you do warm to all the key characters, and I like Koontz's intelligence re-imagining and updating of the Frankenstein story. As fiction goes, its a clever and adroit adapting of the story into modern settings and times, with the relevant scientific context and yet the same disturbing questions being asked in a fresh way. The only weakness, narritively, is that don't know Victor himself as well as I feel we should. That, however, is not the sort of oversight a novelist as accomplished as Dean Koontz will overlook for long. No doubt books three and four will have corrected it.

Highly recommended, but definitely read them in sequence or you'll ruin all the surprises!


Mary Shelley's Frankenstein [DVD] [1994]
Mary Shelley's Frankenstein [DVD] [1994]
Dvd ~ Robert De Niro
Offered by DVDBayFBA
Price: £3.73

0 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Miscast and missing a beat but it does try, 17 Feb. 2011
I had high hopes for this based on the quality of the cast. But for all the excellent performers, this movie simply does not work either as a treatise in making you care about the characters emotionally, or in terms of suspense. And that is down to casting, scripting and direction.

The casting is at best curious. No-one can deny Kenneth Branagh is a fine performer and important auteur. He is not, however, a convincing Victor Frankenstein, and certainly not if he wishes to call this Mary Shelley's Frankenstein. He lacks the mania and edginess that a man so divided by genius and madness needs, and of course, the accent. He is unto the Swiss accent as Sean Connery is unto the Russian. De Niro, a superlative actor, is wasted as a smaller version of the creature, tho I admired his face make-up and his portrayal is convincing, it is simply his stature that is not. There must be something to be said for using authentic actors such as Tarrantino does in Inglorious Basterds for example.

There are some nice touches. Richard Briers, whom I suspect Branagh carries around with him from Shakespearian adventures, is well cast, and Helena Bonham Carter looks the part. John Cleese is better than you might expect and well made up. The ending is well conceived. But the middle of the movie fails to excite any genuine excitement or suspense, and you simply lose interest about how the plot develops. The start and end involve Americans playing British explorers (ouch again)which, although true to the novel, also clunks.

It's hard to know why it failed to stir more interest in me, given the money and the actors involved. I just have a feeling that for all his talents, Brannagh was the wrong man for the part and didn't generate the oomph the direction needed either. It is a bold effort however, to try to be so faithful to the book.


Prodigal Son (Dean Koontz's Frankenstein, Book 1)
Prodigal Son (Dean Koontz's Frankenstein, Book 1)
by Dean Koontz
Edition: Paperback

5.0 out of 5 stars A genuine horror from the man who is mis-labelled a horror writer, 12 Feb. 2011
Dean Koontz does not like being labelled as a horror writer. Yet that is where you will find his books, certainly in the UK. The reason, I'd suppose, is that he is not actually a horror writer. He is a writer who occupiers the characters' minds and emotions. This is what creates suspense. His supernatural elements are usually minimal and he rests his slowly evolving plots around a mystery, a dash of the super natural and a heavy element of personal suspense and involvement. Characters develop during a Koontz, they learn about themselves for better or worse.

Well, now meet Frankenstein. A rareity. We think we know the story (but how many have read the original by Mary Shelley?). So we believe we know where to begin. And that helps, and Koontz takes full advantage of the fact his audience are primed for horror, by creating one that works on every level. It is a political and social horror, and a physical horror as well as the psychological horror one expects from him. And it moves quickly, while setting up very solidly a whole succession of sequels. You can see numerous ways for it all to unfold but you are in the hands of a great storyteller and you can relax, you'll get more than you bargained for.

This book takes the fundamentals of the story we believe we know, and gives them an exceptionally intelligent re-imagining within the context of modern society and science. Its a brilliant updating that Mary Shelley would have been very proud of, I think, and written with great skill and panache. For those who like a little bloodshed, there is gore. For those who like suspense, you'll be treated, and for those who like good writing, its a given.

An enormously promising start when one considers that book five of this series is already written!


The Gropes
The Gropes
by Tom Sharpe
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing, but reminiscent, 24 Jan. 2011
This review is from: The Gropes (Paperback)
I have every book bar one by Tom Sharpe, whom I greatly like. In recent years his powers have faded a little and you feel him straining to achieve the effortless chaos of his earlier comedy. This has shades of Sharpe past but also, some of the failings of the latter books.

Without spoiling it for you, here is a quick assessment. It has a lightning fast ancestral history at the start giving you an idea what to expect later. Then it stacks the deck of cards carefully in terms of character background and plotlines, so you can see the house of cards that will be brought down. This is all fine...and there are definite overtones of Wilt in two of the characters at least.

It becomes quite authentic Sharpe when then house of cards starts to collapse (as it always does), some of the old comic skills are still there. But where it lacks Sharpe's old master touch is in the drawing together of the threads to tie a bloody great knot at the end. Instead he lets many threads hang and wraps it up as fast as it starts, just when he'd appeared to reach the middle of the novel. There was a lot more value to be extracted. Its more a question of what's missing than what is not.

It's a taster of Sharpe, not a main course. He is still a distinct voice, Tom Sharpe, and still bleakly funny and absurd. But it is a faint echo of the man who powered through the first half of his literary output smashing every eggshell on the planet. That's a shame, but I still enjoyed this. I just wanted it to be as good as they used to be. 3 stars might just be on the generous side.


The Mask
The Mask
by Dean Koontz
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An effective, tightly-written chiller, 17 Jan. 2011
This review is from: The Mask (Paperback)
This gets off to a fast start and maintains its velocity. It's a spooky story, intruiging and unnerving, character-driven as always and unfurling a mystery that threatens to engulf every character. As usual it has touches of the supernatural but these are never allowed to become unbelievable, and you enter the fiction convinced of the tension the characters are exposed to.

This is a single-strand novel as with many of Koontz's earlier books and feels like a natural fit for a movie. He has not been well served by the adaptations of his books, poor guy, while the man he is compared to, Stephen King (I like King but Koontz is a much better writer) is leaving a trail of magical movie adaptations. How's that for dumb luck?

The prose is confident and smacks of a man hitting his stride effortlessly after just becoming a million-seller (the Funhouse, 1980). He writes for three generations of women in this book, and handles the teenager, young woman, and retiree with great skill. Plus there is a very interesting cat! It is a clever ending too. If you don't know Koontz's work, and want to start with a shorter, self-contained book, this is ideal. If you do know his work, and have not got around to this, its stronger than many of his early works and the ending is especially neat.

If you want to start or continue your relationship with Koontz at a higher level of ambition, try Watchers or the Bad Place. Both will turn your fingers white.


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