Skip to main content

The Radleys by Matt Haig

No werewolves in sight...
To review this book, another long-held and seldom contemplated work brought to the forefront of the consciousness by the persistent presence of the author on some micro-blogging site or other, without first making clear a disclaimer for said review would be unjust, and I'm just the sort of chap to be completely unjust, just for the sake of it. And also for the cheap laughs. Therefore, before continuing, I must state the following:

1.    This book has teenage vampires in it
2.    It is also ostensibly a book for teenagers
3.    The author of this book writes other books for teenagers
4.    I made a mistake in reading this book

Number 4 could well do with a quick explanation. I regret nothing, except that I appear to have wilfully disregarded the majority of publicity that I had read both about the book and the author, and was at first surprised by numbers 1 to 3, and then disappointed that I hadn't remembered that I already knew all this.

And yet I persevered! I don’t just give up because my brain malfunctioned, oh no! And what I found on continuing to read was a slick, televisual teenage novel about things like growing up feeling different, fitting in, power without responsibility, and love, lots of foamy, churning, eye-watering teenage love. And vampires.

So, the premise is that vampires (no sparkly-skinned, mouth-open, wooden acting nonsense here no siree bob) are real, live alongside humans in places like Manchester, and are gently policed by a sinister shadow society that makes sure blood is available for the thirsty and murderous rampages are a thing of the past, in close collaboration with the Unnamed Predator Unit of the Greater Manchester Police. However, the eponymous family of vampires (sorry, unavoidable spoiler here but after two pages I’m pretty sure it would have become obvious even to a thirteen year old) has a naughty uncle called Will who carries on regardless. When the thirst hits the daughter and she [CENSORED FOR YOUNGER READERS] Pete “Vampire Papa” Radley calls on him to come sort it out. Cue all sorts of family discord and complications.

There’s lots going on, and in an adult novel I think could have been developed more fully into something deeper, darker and naughtier. However, not having read a novel for a teenage audience since I was about 10 (Lord of the Rings doesn’t count - I don’t think a teenager would sit still long enough to get clear of the terrifyingly dull first 100 pages these days so it can rest easy in the adult beardy weirdo genre*) it was still surprisingly deep, dark and naughty. I certainly won’t be recommending it to my 2 year old anytime soon. Nonetheless, it lacked sophistication, from my jaded world-weary point of view, and plot twists were clearly signposted for a younger audience, rendering it less satisfying. But then I can’t remember being a teenager (those years are nebulous and mystifying – certainly a possible side-effect of heavy drinking towards the end there) so perhaps I would have lapped it up.

To give credit where it’s due, it’s a good, flowing read, and conjures images to mind almost like it was written for television. Thankfully it also steers clear of the turgid tripe of those other vampire novels (I blame Anne Rice) and is pretty well believable. But whether verisimilitude is a sought-after quality in fantasy horror for teens is another matter. You may decide for yourself.


*I probably do beardy weirdoes a disservice, for would that I was able to grow a beard I too would probably sport one and thus become a weirdo myself. However, I don’t so they are fair game.

Comments

How's about that then?

Selected Holiday Reading - The In-Betweeners Abroad

I always try to travel light, a goal, something with which those among you with bookish leanings will empathise, that is challenging for someone intending to do as much reading as they can whilst ignoring as much culture and scenery as is possible. So huzzah and indeed hurrah for the generic e-book reader and its market competitors. Ten years ago I would likely have suffered a paroxysm of disgust for any apologist of the hated technology. Now, it seems, I must take one everywhere I go for more than one night.



The trip to which I am coming, an August sojourn by ferry to Santander and then by VW through Calabria, the Basque country, and north through Aquitaine, Poitou-Charente, Pays de la Loire and Bretagne, was a chance to get some serious reading under the belt. Twelve days of driving, drinking, books and beaches. The only 'real' books that made the trip were The Vagabond's Breakfast, of which more anon, and All The Days And Nights which, as I was on a deadline, I quickly …

The One from the Other by Philip Kerr

Philip Kerr is an author I have been reluctant to attempt to review for some time. His Berlin Noir trilogy cost me some hours of sleeplessness and in the end I decided to skip a review and just be happy to have read it and therefore move it from the pile of unread novels, via the edge of my desk where the “to review” pile occasionally falls over on to the typewriter and spills my pen pot across the floor and thus causes significant risks when stumbling blindly about the room at night too drunk to remember where my bed is or having just been jolted awake by the boy shrieking from the next room and running asleep into walls and doors, to the back half of my giant Ikea bookcase where novels that have been read and have caused my self-esteem to shatter on the diamond-hard edges of someone else’s talent currently reside, gathering dust and moisture until hitting the mildew tipping point and becoming physically dangerous in their own right. This awesome crew consists mainly of Will Self, Jo…

Augustus Carp, Esq., By Himself: Being the Autobiography of a Really Good Man, by Henry Howarth Bashford

So it goes that, for one reason or other, I was asked recently* to recommend a list of classic British comic novels that one might take on holibobs, to be read at the pool, on the beach, or in this case at a sprawling, crumbling ancestral seat in the heart of Ireland during a month-long fishing expedition.
Unfortunately, every suggestion I made was knocked back, either for reasons of personal (bad) taste or because it had already been read. I thought long and hard** and serendipitously, most likely due to having read this post from the most excellent Neglected Booksblog, but equally likely due to a ringing endorsement from Anthony Burgess at some point or other, I came upon Augustus Carp Esq, a book I noticed I had on my e-reader, although how and why it was there is anybody’s guess.
Penned by a notable English physician, one which any blog of note would not neglect to mention once was physician to a contemporaneous English King (George the something?), it is ill-in-keeping with any of …

The Quiddity of Will Self by Sam Mills

It’s hard to say, when asked as I was recently at a meeting of local writers (who you can follow on Twitter if you wish), who might be my favourite author. If you look at my book shelves, you might see groupings of books by modern authors such as (WARNING - gratuitous alphabetical roll-call):
Paul Auster, John Barth, Richard Brautigan, Thomas Bernhard, Jim Bob, T.C. Boyle, Karel Čapek, Jonathan Carroll, Stephen Donaldson, Glen Duncan, Tibor Fischer, Peter Høeg, Michel Houellebeq, Bohumil Hrabal, Ismail Kadare, Andrey Kurkov, John D McDonald, Harry Mullisch, Haruki Murakami, Cees Nooteboom, Victor Pelevin, Thomas Pynchon, Jon Ronson, and Kurt Vonnegut (my usual go-to favourite when I don’t have the energy to explain).
In addition, you might just spot every book ever published by one William Woodard "Will" Self (minus Sore Sites which mysteriously vanished while moving house a few years back). Whilst a fan, and also willing to admit experiencing an embarrassing and sometimes di…