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Reviews Written by
Gerald T. Walford "Literal wayfarer" (Bristol, UK)
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Roma (Rome 1)
Roma (Rome 1)
by Steven Saylor
Edition: Paperback

4.0 out of 5 stars Eleven shots of Rome, 4 Aug. 2009
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This review is from: Roma (Rome 1) (Paperback)
This is a great concept novel, of tremendous scope and its very ambitious. Via a series of character-driven narratives and clever plots, we see Rome sprout from a wilderness to a world-dominating empire. Saylor is a good story-teller and even while, throughout the book, ever more titanic figures from history set the political landscapes he never fails to mention littler, everyday people, and their troubles that act as conduits between us and a past both bizarrely foreign and oddly recognisable. Its fascinating seeing how, generally speaking, history and people repeat themselves although never quite the same way twice. I do feel a need to go on and read Livy now!


Mordred, Bastard Son (Mordred Trilogy)
Mordred, Bastard Son (Mordred Trilogy)
by Douglas Clegg
Edition: Hardcover

3.0 out of 5 stars Smoke and mirrors......, 23 May 2009
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There were so many reasons why I wanted to read this novel- and not principally because of the legendary material which has been rehashed and rehearsed so many times as to now stagger on the verge of meaninglessness. I loved the tales of Arthur as a child (R.L.Green's classic was a bedside staple for years!)but as a gay adult much of the traditional material is literally fantastically irrelevant, so I wanted to see how A- Arthurian myth could be made relevant to a post-modern world of metro-sexuality and elective identities and B- how on earth can one possibly rescue Mordred of all people from the bile of successive narrators and C- have Launcelot fall in love with him! What about Guinevere whose affair with Lancelot traditionally brought down Arthur's round table of chivalry? Douglas Clegg deserves respect for the book's sheer gall and innovativeness.
Its actually rather anti-climatic when one actually comes to reading this however!
Clegg is clearly a lushly imaginative writer but he doesn't convince or really engage. The story is related in sound-bite paragraphs and end stagey cliff-hangers. Mordred's voice seems distant and theoretical- he doesn't actually seem to be immediately where he's supposedly talking about and this distances the reader from much of the potential drama. There is something rather vague and miasmic about the whole plot in fact. Merlin's description of magic sems wooley and conflated rather than mysterious and profound. The twist with Morgause seems boggy and, well, made up. The end fight scene relies on a very clunky resolution- no spoilers!- and ends as it continued: vaguely. What is Mordred ultimately in quest of? A split cup which some call the Holy Grail (yawn...) which he can do something, somehow with, that will make everything better. And when was Guinevere ever Roman? Any why does she not matter one minute then matter critically the next? I did however love the end scene with the oncoming storm, both as a tableau and a portentious hook.
So while this is certainly not a bad book, and filled in two evenings, it lacks that human and realistic touches with the characters who never stray out of the abstract, and the plot is all smoke and mirrors. Clever, certainly, but ultimately unconvincing and unsatisfying.
I might buy the second installment second-hand.


Moomin: The Complete Tove Jansson Comic Strip Book: Bk. 2
Moomin: The Complete Tove Jansson Comic Strip Book: Bk. 2
by Tove Jansson
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £12.08

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Moominmania!, 15 May 2009
This was bought for me for my (30th!) birthday as I'd always loved them as a kid. I was a bit weary at first of approaching anything by Tove Jannson as an adult in case it was never the same but needn't have worried- this collection of comic-strip tales are wonderful! I devoured it in two evenings and am impressed at how well they work, both as children's narratives but also shrewd insights into the way people can and do behave done in Jannson's wonderfully simple, wry, whimsical way. The illustrations are gorgeous! they provide not only a little view back into 1953-1960 when they were originally published but also a wonderful mindset. A few of them I'd love to have blown up into posters- especially the very last frame: 'It isn't easy. Life I mean.' says Moominpapa, and the Snork Maiden replies: 'Perhaps it isn't...but it is full of variety.' Brilliant stuff!


Last Seen in Massilia (Roma sub Rosa)
Last Seen in Massilia (Roma sub Rosa)
by Steven Saylor
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Into Massilia...., 4 April 2009
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Having read all of Steven Saylors Roma Sub Rosa series so far my thoughts are that with this novel Saylor at last breaks from capable into brilliant storyteller. The plot is densely woven and vivid, so I can can very easily forgive the occasional straining of belief- they are always required by the plot and never get in the way. First we are brought to Massilia- a city state which has fascinating parralells to the later Republics of Venice and Florence. A mysterious and forgotten world which now springs strongly visualised and engagingly to life. What is the meaning of the Sacred stone, and the scapegoat? What are the ways of this proud, brilliant, and ultimately doomed city? Among these, Gordianus tries to discover the fate of his adopted son Meto, more frustrated than helped by 'fellow' Romans and obtuse Massilians. I read this book over two night shifts, and am already halfway through the next one. Just really powerful, absorbing story-telling. Its been some time since any book has pulled me in so much!


Dissolution (The Shardlake Series)
Dissolution (The Shardlake Series)
by C. J. Sansom
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Monks and mayhem on the south coast...., 19 Nov. 2008
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Plenty of people have compared this book to Eco's Name of the Rose, which is a little unfair (rather in the way every single fantasy book is somehow related back to JRRTolkien)as that sets some pretty big boots to fill! The parallells are sometimes very strong- no spoilers- but this is a very different book, and for me lacks the intensity, originality and dazzling plot of the former. But enough about Eco! This is a well written and capable story, the characters are simply sketched and develop with the plot. Everything is carefully set up and Sansom is someone who knows his stuff. It reads just like what its meant to be: a report by a careful and officious clerk, though I think it looses dramatic potential for it at times. The ending is rather too neat and predictable, and I find the lead characters agnosticism and postmodernism rather garishly anachronistic. It ticks all the boxes, but won't upset any apple-carts. Perfect for a winters reading by ther fire.....


A Sultan in Palermo (Islam Quintet 4)
A Sultan in Palermo (Islam Quintet 4)
by Tariq Ali
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars One for the summer nights!, 23 Mar. 2008
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This book is beautiful to read: the prose is simple and light, articulate and cadenced. This combined with the half-familiar, half-strange historical and geographical material it treats, the characters who are fallible, partial, wistful, thoughtful, sharp or humerous, and the lack of a trite plot make this a very profound as well as a stylish read. It falls just short of five stars because it can at times (too me at least) lack a robust approach, there isn't quite enough grit, quite so vividly realised as it could be. Certainly the protagonist is a very serene character, but you also feel some of this is Tariq Ali himself, the academic and intellectual, wise but a little removed and dispassionate despite his melancholy turns and bed-side prowess (the protagonist that is!). This book will enchant and sway you, but somehow it does not blow you away.


The Folding Star: Historical Fiction (Winner of the James Tait Black Memorial Prize 1994)
The Folding Star: Historical Fiction (Winner of the James Tait Black Memorial Prize 1994)
by Alan Hollinghurst
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.99

8 of 13 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Keep looking!, 10 Mar. 2008
After reading The Line of Beauty, I thought I'd read more by this author, and I did. This one is not his best by a long shot. Overly long, uninspired, insipid, meandering, self-referential, its hard to care about what happens to the narrator or anyone else for that matter and in fact, half way through I gave up trying! Perhaps the aim was to produce a slower, more cadenced and lyrical piece than either the Line of Beauty or The Spell, but this really was interminable! Do yourself a favour and read either of the others- they're sharp, intelligent, shrewd and engaging, but whatever it was the author got out of producing this very little of it carries over to the reader!


The Book of Lost Things Illustrated Edition
The Book of Lost Things Illustrated Edition
by John Connolly
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Something fresh and freaky!, 10 Mar. 2008
Its hard to put this book in a nutshell. The naive language and stock turns seem at first to lull you into thinking this is some kind of cosy reading- it is not! Few stories have actually shocked and freaked me out quite so much by its mythic resonance and psychological insight. We, very much like the unfortunate hero, find ourselves in a world part familiar, part nightmare in which we struggle to accept and understand the events as they come to light, helped on the way by some quite incredible gore! The bit with the all-consuming monster is gross!!!!!! There are odd shafts of humour- the dwarves for instance- which only serve to throw you even more. Classical stories get shaken up and become startlingly post-modern. This really is uncompromising reading into the human psyche, you are allowed very few certainties and no hint is given as to what might happen next. It is indeed, as others have said, a fairy story for adults, and for our times. It is not a book easy to forget once read. Why the four stars then? The book is at times just too unremitingly bleak, and all the material at the end- the fairy tales themselves that fed into the story, are just surpluss to requirements, this book can stand by itself. I have read somewhere that there is talk of turning this book into a film, and though it would indeed suit that medium, read it now before it gets all tidied and perfected and edited into a two and a half hours tin!


Beowulf - 1 Disc Edition [2007] [DVD]
Beowulf - 1 Disc Edition [2007] [DVD]
Dvd ~ Ray Winstone
Offered by Discs4all
Price: £2.50

2 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Bearskin anyone?, 24 Dec. 2007
This was never going to be an easy act to pull off: hoary anglo-saxon material for this day and age? But this is definitely a cohesive and intelligent filling out of the old poem. It can certainly be gory and but then holds back on full nudity (except Angelina Jolie and lets face it, nothing we ain't seen before there) which seems silly but oh well.... On the whole a bit of wooly, cosy viewing for adults over winter, entertaining and actually brave. Remember the original poem would have been a composite of retellings and as far as I can see this film is continuing that tradition.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Dec 9, 2009 10:21 AM GMT


300 [2007] [DVD]
300 [2007] [DVD]
Dvd ~ Gerard Butler
Offered by ReNew Entertainment
Price: £2.74

10 of 32 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Surely some mistake????, 7 Dec. 2007
This review is from: 300 [2007] [DVD] (DVD)
This film is rather fun, and as a gay man I rather liked the scenery, but it does eviscerate any actual historical context and half way through goes all Lord-of-the-rings type fantasy. The story would have gained stature from more naturalistic storytelling, even if the visuals suit the pseudo-mythological subject. As it is this is very much a bastardised, shrunken version that need not detain anyone older than say fourteen....
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jul 22, 2011 4:03 PM BST


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