Wednesday, 30 November 2016

Camouflage by Joe Haldeman

Currently reading...

Monday, 21 November 2016

The Cats Of Seroster by Robert Westall

Awaiting review...

Sunday, 6 November 2016

Empire Of Booze by Henry Jeffreys


Awaiting review...

Tuesday, 1 November 2016

A Cigarette Paper's Thickness, by G.R. Buchaillard-Davies

Coming soon to a waste-paper
basket near you...
It's November, so you can bank on two things:
1) I will be sporting facial hair for no discernible reason
2) I will pretend to write a novel so I can feel better about myself

I do myself a disservice - I'm growing facial hair because I like it. 

Anyway, just so you know and are not *titter* disappointed at the lack of activity on this blog in the next thirty days, I shall be beavering away, re-reading my manuscript, removing most of the curse words and cutting down on the gratuitous verbosity in an attempt to craft a passable ebook, for self-publishing in the not-too-distant future. Indeed, I've already mocked up a cover design. What larks! Cart before the horse as always. 

Should you feel motivated to support my Kickstarter campaign, please note I haven't got one. Instead, please harass and harangue me at every opportunity so that I am suitably motivated, and if you do want to throw your cash around, then there are far more worthy causes than me and my hirsute face. This chap, for example:

https://www.gofundme.com/Matthew-Parsons

Thanks everyone.

Monday, 31 October 2016

The Memory, Sorrow and Thorn Trilogy, by Tad Williams

I mused recently, rashly and publicly about the derivative nature of most fantasy fiction opuses. Unfortunately, for me, I was guilty of a sweeping generalisation that left me open to a convincing challenge, which duly arrived courtesy of Deborah Beale on Twitter, or @MrsTad as she is known. She told me in not so many words that I was a buffoon and to go away and read Memory, Sorrow and Thorn by Mr Tad before making any further egregiously similar mistakes, tenderly qualifying her praise with the caveat that it's a slow starter. So, having being goaded into committing what amounted to two months of my reading time to this trilogy (or tetralogy if you wanted to buy the last volume in two constituent parts, Siege and Storm), I have come to the conclusion that I was right all along.

That is NOT to say that these three/four novels are diminished by the presence of archetypal characters, races, situations and events and which are to be found littered throughout such luminary fantasy works as Donaldson's The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever, Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire, Tolkien, and the pages of Campbell's oft-derided mapping of hero myths, The Hero With A Thousand Faces  - rash oaths, unwilling heroes, plains dwelling horse peoples, magical metal work, gruff, obstreperous northerners, elvish types, naughty elvish types who don't mind a bit of cold, and so forth - no, not at all! In fact, I was engrossed from the off. It little matters who copies from whom when the storytelling is as good, and more importantly across 2200 pages, as consistent as this! 

And that is the truly remarkable facet of this multi-faceted work. I am absolutely amazed at how consistent is every single character voice, from the reluctant hero Simon Snowlock (né Mooncalf), through gruff Duke Isgrimnur, modest troll Binabik, spiky and tenacious Princess Miriamele, to even the overly-egged pudding that is Rachel, Dragon of the Hayholt. I could pluck a sentence of dialogue at random from any page and, reading it aloud, could instantly identify the speaker, such is the strength and stability of characterisation. I can only read in envy and awe. Such prowess is surely the work of years of painstaking editing and amending.

And whilst, for sure, there are some slower sections, with much Hamlet-esque pacing and musing where I would perhaps have preferred more charging and killing, and some where you think, surely he'd be dead by now, or physically unable to pick up a sword, or leap across a chasm, or climb a ladder, or even sit up without support, let alone climb a million steps in the dark or walk hundreds of miles through the most severe cold and punishing weather imaginable, it's so easy to suspend disbelief, to allow some self-indulgent wallowing of tortured souls in their indecision and suffering, when the characters propel the reader from page to page, chapter to chapter and volume to volume relentlessly and without respite. Who has time to dwell on minor details when they are so damnably keen to find out what next, what next? 

So, on the record then, I stand by my own rash oath that fantasy is perhaps overly reliant on the tropes and authority of that which has gone before (indeed, Tad Williams reminded me himself that George RR stated publicly the effect that these books had on his own story arc), but for all that, it is an unjustly maligned genre wherein beaver away some of the most fantastic storytellers imaginable. If you have a few months at a loose end, pick this up and hunker down for some highly addictive adventuring.



Check out all these books and more on Tad Williams' Amazon author page.

Tuesday, 25 October 2016

The Dog Of The South by Charles Portis


We must purge our heads, and our
rancorous hearts too.
Charles Portis currently serves as my literary palette cleanser. Between long, meaty meals of literary or indeed any sort of fiction wherein my patience and stomach is tested to the max, a sweet, sharp bowl of Portis resets my flagging will ready for the next serving. His sorbet is a particular blend of surrealism and realism, all usually hung on a mythological hero quest.

Ray Midge is just one such 'hero', whose own personal quest might carelessly be derided as rather meaningless–he's out to find his car, and with it, his wife and her ex-husband with whom she's run off. Not that he particularly wants her back; he just loves his Torino. With only a box of silver cutlery and his credit card receipts he tracks the fugitives to Mexico, where he meets dyspeptic dipsomaniac Dr Reo Symes, owner of the eponymous and defunct bus The Dog Of The South, and who requires a ride to Belize to see his mother so he can talk her into bequeathing to him a plot of land in the middle of a river. Along the way he grudgingly at first shares his knowledge of the writings of John Selmer Dix M.A., a writer to eclipse all others (“Dix puts William Shakespeare in the shithouse.”), particularly the work With Wings as Eagles, a svelte manuscript which should inspire all travelling salespersons to greater heights of itinerant selling. Not an unusual trope in a Portis novel you may have noticed...

Things do not go well.

Of course, Midge gets his girl (although the car is a write-off), but, in a discomfortingly off-hand way, right at the very end, Midge reports that Norma runs off to Tennessee and he's not unhappy to see her go. The Doc, well, he disappears never to be seen again.

It's a typical novel, of the few that I've read, by Portis. The protagonist (and narrator) is earnest but ill-informed, and is quickly overtaken by events (events, dear boy, events*) until he is lost far more than that for which he went in search. However, the commonalities don't end there. The cast of characters drift in and out, some never to return, some to pop up unexpectedly like the bail bondsman Jack Wilkie. It's immediately funny, it's deeply funny, and it's reflectively funny; it's odd, and unsettling, and brilliant. Just the thing with which to put Tad Williams to bed.


*Thanks, Harold MacMillan

Thursday, 20 October 2016

The Résumé by Simon L. Read

You can debate my expanding waistline
but you do not question the résumé!
Firstly, I must disclose that I read this at the behest of someone who may or may not be the author. I assume he is, although it's not clear. It was made available for free in return for a review of equally ambiguous nature.

"The planet had become a giant sheet of framed paper, unquestionable."

So relates the unreliable narrative of Tedwin torX Jnr, detective and possessor or the titular résumé. It is one of many shallowly profound statements that ping around this surreal concept novel, a time-travelling parody of a police procedural and dated futuristic Dada-esque nonsense piece. The forward, by a fictitious film historian, places this as a novel written in 2016 that somehow influences a film of the same title released in 1994, the references to which seep into the public consciousness and become ubiquitous in the years that follow. The action kicks in straight away with the archetypal 'chief' chewing out our narrator before unloading a shotgun into his own face. From there it gets a little weird. Or more weird. Ted torX is on the trail of a serial murderer, all the while taking great care to keep his résumé updated, and all that stuff from the book blurb.

It's hard to know what to make of such absurdity, other than to recount, truthfully, an emotional reaction. With some evident humour and intelligence, as well as a frisson of sexual ambiguity, it was very enjoyable to read, and if you don't put too much effort into wondering what is anagram, what is obtuse reference, and what the fuck it all means, then it's a pleasing diversion, an afternoon's delight. This may not assist you with your decision-making, but it's only £2.99 so why not make up your own mind? If it makes a difference, this is currently the most helpful review on Amazon.
Enough said.