Archive for the ‘Books’ Category

Prophecy by David Seltzer

Posted: October 19, 2017 in Books, Uncategorized

Prophecy

Prophecy by David Seltzer

A B-Movie in a book. Mutant bears chomping on campers, crazy arse beavers going mad in a cabin, and all wrapped in an ecological message about papermills polluting the environment. What’s not to love?

If anyone’s seen the film they’ll know it’s a guilty pleasure, especially the bear-monster which, in the long shots, looks like a tall actor with a big, wobbly head on. Fantastic stuff. It’s one of Stephen King’s favourite films, mainly because it IS so cheesy.

Saying that, the book’s not half bad, either, and just as cheesy. I read this before the film came out WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAY back in the seventies, because I was far too young to see X rated films about unconvincing bear-monsters munching on people, and the British censors, being what they are back in the yesteryear, obviously missed the thigh-slapping hilarity of the pic. Back in those days – pre-video (Jesus, I am old!) – the only way to experience horror films was to read the novelisations, which is why my book-cases were bulging with the buggers. This was one of my favourites.

So, how does it fare after the decades have passed. Compared to some novelisations it chugs along pretty well, and the writing’s not half bad, but then David Seltzer is a pretty good screenwriter, and since he’s adapting his own screenplay he can get into the nitty gritty of the story and characters. Yes, we get some pretty cheesy dialogue about the environment, and a lot of ‘man has just shagged the arse off the planet’ style asides, but overall it clips along at a nice pace, creates a groovy sense of atmos, and there’s worse ways to spend a couple of hours.

For those on a nostalgia kick then this could be right up your alley (ooer, fnarr). It’s from the era when horror stories had a slow build – with a couple of squishy bits to keep the audience from falling asleep – before everything goes crazy apeshit bonkers.

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The Son by Philipp Meyer

Posted: October 17, 2017 in Books, Uncategorized

the sonThe Son by Philipp Meyer

A sprawling book, taking in three generations of a family in the South. It has the blank, bloodthirsty reach of a Cormac McCarthy with the Texan contemplation of a Larry McMurtry. Not original, but soaking in atmosphere.

The writing is straight forward. No nonsense. There are passages of passion, but everything is hung on the expanse of the scenery and the contemplation of life. It’s hefty, but without the extemporisation which stop-started Hallberg’s City On Fire, but also lacking the egotistical verbiage which made Mailer so readable.

Strip away the blood, guts and intrigue and we have an Arthur Haley here – intrigue within the family; subterfuge and lies, all tied up in a soap-opera context. This is not to put the book down, because it’s incredibly well written, and manages to layer everything, no matter what, in a steady eye of disassociation to the subject at hand.

In the way that McCarthy writes pulp gussied up to be a Pulitzer, Meyer writes family dramas under the pretext of The Big American Novel, and it works. There are no revelations here beyond the standard ‘life is cruel and unthinking’, but it’s wrapped up in some beautiful passages despite the distancing style. I never felt involved in the characters, but did feel pulled into the story, and the slow dehumanisation and, for some, re-humanization of the characters.

The structure flits around between characters and decades, and the slow unravelling of each story strand leads to The Message. For anyone who’s read Americana before there will be no Eureka moment about the human condition, but it’s a deeply involving story nonetheless, and makes me want to search out American Rust, but only after steeping myself in something with passion first.

Highly recommended.

 

galactica

Battlestar Galactica by Robert Thurston (and Glen A. Larson)

Let’s be straight here – we’re not talking about the remake with CGI effects and lots of serious looking people being grumpy about things. We’re talking the original seventies Galactica, complete with poxy looking robo-hounds and actors sporting luxuriantly coiffured hair, and effects which get repeated on a loop because the budget’s gone down the U-bend.

Obviously, the novelisation doesn’t say much about the luxuriant barnets, but it does feature some of the greatest ‘I’m a bluddy villain, me!’ characterisation I’ve come across in many awhile. Take a gander at this bit of cogitation from lead Cylon villain, Imperious Leader:

‘He envisioned the deaths he would cause, the cities he would demolish, the worlds he would reduce to rubble – and saw that from the human viewpoint all of this necessary warfare was evil!’

Sounds like Donald Trump.

Anyway, as you’d expect from a novelisation, there’s a lot of padding, so in place of plot-related dialogue or action we get a lot of ruminations on the meaning of leadership (mainly from Galactica’s top cheese, Adama) and some painfully dire joshing about from the ship’s resident roguish scamp, Starbuck. All bloody awful, of course, but good fun if you’re into your pulp.

Because Thurston’s not too groovy with writing space battles – which took up a good quarter of Galactica’s running time – we get a lot of repeated paragraphs about ‘spaceships pinwheeling through the galaxy in their unique fashion’ whenever the dastardly Cylons turn up to have a go at Galactica’s arse again. For space opera fans out there, you’d have to wait until Han Solo at World’s End (which I remember as being great when I first read it, but then I was 10 at the time), for something with a bit more pizzazz to any space action scenes. If there’s one thing that used to bug me as a nipper about speculative fiction it was the lack of decently realised action scenes. Which is why I moved onto horror pretty sharpish, because when James Herbert is writing about a giant rat gnawing on a tramp’s clackers, he leaves nothing to the imagination, unlike the space battles in most science fiction, which tended to skip over the details.

I used to love the TV series when I were a kid, but experience tells me it would suck the mighty balls these days, as nostalgia can be an unfair and dishonest maiden. The book, made up of the first 3 episodes of the TV series, is a tad on the ropy side, but if you’re looking to relive a bit of old whimsy for them Golden Years then you can’t do worse than nabbing this little beauty. And it’s only 1p on Amazon, so Bob’s your strange aunt.

jeevs and mort

The Jeeves Omnibus Volume 2 by P G Wodehouse

I avoided P G Wodehouse for years, mainly because I thought it was a load of old toff nonsense written for richies and ankle deep in a privileged lifestyle which would mean nothing to me. Being a lazy git one night, I stumbled across the old Jeeves and Wooster TV series with Hugh Laurie and Stephen Fry, which I ended up watching due to the remote being halfway across the room and myself being in the condition of not being arsed to reach for it.

As it turned out, I bloody loved the TV series, and on a day trip to some mid-size town in Suffolk (perfect Wodehouse territory) the Missus nabbed me a collected volume of the J & W tales, and thus my red hot passionate love affair with Wodehouse started.

The added bonus of seeing the TV series is now I can’t imagine or hear Jeeves and Wooster without seeing Fry and Laurie, which you’d think might be a bad thing, but luckily each of the characters are perfectly suited to the actors playing them and this gives the dialogue (all first person from Wooster’s perspective, bar one short story at the end from Jeeve’s eye) an extra depth.

All the besht facking mates of Wodehouse’s work keep banging on about his dialogue as one of the main pleasures of reading J & W, and they’re totally bluddy right! We get dollops of crackling asides, heaps of dry wit from Jeeves, a lot of blustering foolishness from Wooster, and it’s all so wonderfully marvellous. I’ll be sipping sherry before an open fire whilst the butler toasts me crumpets soon (ooer, Madame).

As for the stories, they mainly involve Wooster or one of his amusingly named chums (Tuppy, Gussy, Stilton Cheesewright, et al) getting hitched against/with their consent before everything goes a bit pear shaped and Jeeves steps in to solve everything with a wry gesture or a well-placed bon mot. Which is about it. But that doesn’t matter, because the writing’s so damn good, and everything chippies along in such a bonny fashion, it positively splendiferous. Which is a phrase I thought I’d never use in a book review.

Which just goes to show that I should never judge a book by my own sense of class distinction. Jeeves and Wooster may be about dotty toffs and their privileged lifestyles, but it’s incredible engaging, and monumentally entertaining.

bernie

Our Revolution by Bernie Saunders

This is a book of two halves. In one half we get a well-argued look at the current US establishment and what can be done to fix it. In the other half we get Bernie Saunders banging on about how great he is, how he’s passed the bestest laws when he was governor EVER, and how he won loads and loads and loads of votes but somehow didn’t win over Hilary, despite how massively popular and great he is.

Luckily this section takes up less than half the book, and gets lumped in at the start. It’s meant to be a history of his campaign, but he never goes into any detail, throws a bunch of stats into our stupid, gawping faces, and overall it feels like it’s been knocked together by a ghost writer.

The second half is where the meat and bones are, and he’s got some damn good ideas about how to address the imbalance in living standards in America. It mainly involves taxing the shit out of the rich, but he backs this up by telling us how much the jammy bastards get away with where tax is concerned and how he’d go about making the sods pay. He also promotes the ripping apart of media oligarchs like Rupert Murdoch’s empire, and how he’ll close all the loopholes in the financial system so conglomerates can’t get away with avoiding coughing up their share of tax into the vaults. There’s a lot of good stuff about promoting equality and education, and overall it would make a pretty damn good list of ethics with which to govern with. It’s just unfortunate some spam headed dick spanner with tiny hands is in the House instead.

There’s a few sour points when he mentions Hilary and the bad-news campaign against him, but overall it’s a fair and even second half, and just a pity it’s let down so badly but an incredibly cak first half. Yes, we know you’re great and skill and groovy, Mr. Saunders, but stop coming across like a total knob by banging on about it.

The Vorrh by Brian Catling

Posted: September 28, 2017 in Books, Uncategorized

Vorrh

The Vorrh by Brian Catling

By Jove, this is a classy piece of writing. Part fantasy, part science fiction, and all mental, it’s one of those books written with a flourish that makes you glad to be literate.

The Vorrh is about a forest, and yet not about a forest. It’s about the way the forest affects people, and what happens to them once they’ve been in the Vorrh. It’s also about Eadweard Muybridge, the bloke who invented the Zoopraxiscope, and about a living cycloptic marionette with a taste for rumpy-pumpy, and a race of anthropophagi with no heads and one eye in the middle of their chests. There’s a train in it as well. Plus, some rather boisterous characters flipping between filial devotion and obsessive mania. Quite frankly, it’s ruddy marvellous, and coming straight after The Gone Away World it’s rather cheered me up as far as my literary meanderings are concerned.

After the double-barrelled shite of All Out War about Brexit written entirely from a Tory arse-lickers perspective (it’s meant to be factual, but it’s more a love letter to the right-wing) and the hideousness that was A Little Life, I was getting a tad jaded that anything new and interesting could gird my oyster. There’s been a couple of decent books, sure, but most of them have been mere fripperies with half thought out ideas and not enough bollocks or literary interest to keep me nailed to the page. I had to resort to digging up wistful nostalgia like The Island to give me the book-edged boost to my scholarly wanderings, but then the double knacker-punch of these two works of imagination have put me right on track again.

Anyway, enough of this poncy meanderings. The Vorrh’s got the lot – fleshed out characters, believably nutty scenes, philosophical musings which don’t come out of a Christmas cracker – as well as a turn of phrase groovy enough to make Alan Moore shit his caks, so it’s good job the Bearded One likes the book as he slaps a quote on the cover. No matter how intertwined the narrative gets, you always feel like you’re slap-bang in the middle of the atmosphere, and genuinely surprises on occasions. The plot, despite being mad, somehow seems to make perfect sense within the context of the story. There’s nothing shoe-horned in here as in The Trees, with the beardy-weirdy moments a mere add-on to a pretty mundane plot – everything which happens ends up happening for a reason, and all the more psychedelic elements all coalesce to make a big, meaty whole. A fantastic piece of work.

Another one of those books I can’t recommend enough.

One more point – no matter how strange the story gets, it always seems to… make sense, somehow. It all seems normal, and yet, if you read it, there’s no possible way any of it could seem logical or right. Genius.

Introduction to Film by Alex Cox

Posted: September 27, 2017 in Books, Uncategorized

Alex Cox

Introduction to Film by Alex Cox

Anyone who remembers ‘Moviedrome’ on Beeb Two back in the yesteryear when they used to screen good films on BBC 2 will remember the mellifluous tones of Alex Cox’s introductions. Well, this is the book version. Taken from a course he ran, Cox takes you through a whole bunch of classics and not-so-well-known films in what is, at first, a very basic introduction into the world of film.

It starts out as a look at the mechanics of film making, and then morphs into a history of world cinema. And it’s bloody fantastic. It’s one of those books, for an avid movie-goer like myself (as I like to think) which introduces me to directors and films I’d never heard of.

Cox has always had a fascination with Latin American films, and his introduction is one of those works, for a film fan, which really made me want to search out the subjects under observation. Yes, he covers the usual suspects, like 2001 and Citizen Kane, but he also delves deep into the works of Jorg Fons and Luis Estrada, who I’ve never even ruddy heard of!

What Cox does is what so many books about film fail to do – open the world of cinema up. He’s eternally optimistic about low-budget and little-known films, and endlessly sarcastic about the big budget fodder which litter the Cineplexes. If you’re into film, and you really want to discover something different, then you can’t go wrong with this bugger.

Best thing about it – the book is littered with cues to seek out scenes or even entire films which Cox is talking about to illustrate his points. From a technical perspective, if you know your cinema, then this will add nothing to your understanding, but if you’re into discovering something new in areas of cinema from other countries, then this should be right up your alley.

I want a sequel. I want a sequel which talks about African cinema and works from the Middle East, and experimental cinema outside of Greenaway. I want a sequel which travels a more in-depth and global look at movie history, with plenty of examples to go with it. Cox is a fan, and I want more of what he’s got to give.