Archive for the ‘Books’ Category

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Black House by Stephen King and Peter Straub

Warning – spoilers

A flawed book, mainly because every facking scene is extemporised to the max.

We all know Straub and King like a bit of extemporisation. If there’s a scene to be had, no matter how insignificant, you know the bastards will be chomping at the bit to have the main characters reminisce about the old times, or go through every permutation of what could happen next before we actually get to the point, and Black House takes the piss in this matter. There’s a scene, which could have been a nice 20 page ‘town goes a bit mad’ where a crime scene is discovered and a mob turns up. Instead, we get 100 pages of endless exposition and background detail, all very well written, but drawn out to such an extent that I found myself exasperated with it.

The story is a sequel to The Talisman, except instead of a journey we get a small village in the US where The Fisherman is going around knocking off kids. Intertwined within this narrative is yet more nods to The Dark Tower series. Which would be good, except you would have needed to have read the series to get the gist of what the fuck was going on in the last 200 pages, which constantly references the books.

Still, if you can stick through the first 700 pages of this monster, which does contain some very nice scenes, even if they veer on the side of cliché, the last 100 pages offers the goods. At least for a bit. And for anyone who has read The Talisman, they’ll know what to expect at the end, which is sort of pissed away with an off-hand shrug of the literary shoulders. Where there should be fireworks and peril we get a sort of ‘meh’ and a disappointed pout of an ending.

Saying that, if you’re into your King and Straub, it does contain some gems. It also contains one of the most hilarious (unintentional) scenes I’ve read in awhile, where one of the supporting characters is killed, and we cut back to the main character on his way to see his recently-murdered friend, all the while thinking about what a great time it’s going to be, and how much fun they’re going to have, and how his best mate makes life worth living – and this goes on for pages. It’s the literary equivalent of ‘It’s my last week on the force until retirement’ scene. I think the expectation was to make the reader think ‘oh no, he’s looking forward to seeing his great mate but his great mate is dead! Nooooo!!!’, buy ends up over-egging the recipe so much it slews into parody.

Recommended if you don’t mind the slog.

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Biohell by Andy Remic

Posted: December 12, 2017 in Books, Uncategorized

 

Biohell

Grrrr…

 

Biohell by Andy Remic

If I was twelve years old I’d love this book. Lots of big guns and hairy chinned, grizzled space veterans swapping quips while they blow the living shit out of zombies and mutants and bad guys who say evil things and cackle in their underground lair (or underwater lair, in this case). And what’s more, NO BLUDDY WIMMIN TO SPOIL IT! Yeah, that’s right – just lots of blokes being tough.

But I’m not twelve, and this is cak, although readable cak, and it doesn’t try to be anything else. Well, saying that, we do get a few scenes of grizzled war bastards saying things like, “Jesus Christ, I ‘ate killing people,” just to show they take no joy in the endless slaughter. And I lied – there ARE women in it. But the sort of women dreamed up men who don’t quite understand what women are. We get the comic relief of a huge, Russian woman forever trying to get a reluctant main character’s keks off (comedy matriarch cliché). We get a manipulative tax officer who’s a big barrel of sex (sexy librarian cliché) before she turns into a giant mutant zombie creature. And we a steely-eyed warrior woman who majors in kicking arse, but in a sexy way, whilst being sexy (sexy war – ah, you know).

Biohell is the second in the Bastard Squad series (sorry, ‘Combat K’ series), and everything about the book is broad, from the comedy, to the mawkishness (a group of twee kiddiewinks turn up who are meant to be a street gang of toughened hoodlum-urchins – it’s like something Dickins coughed up from his arse), to the violence, which spirals between the descriptive (well done), to the broad (a load of shite), and by broad, I’m talking about the ‘and then they killed loads of zombies in a blood orgy because I can’t be arsed to think up anything more imaginative’.

It sounds like I hated it, but I rather enjoyed its endless stream of awkward manliness, as though it’s a Shandy Rambo down the pub trying to prove he’s hard after a few cheeky Vimtos. And it seems strangely obsessed with arses.

It’s badly written, but then so is Guy N Smith, and he’s a hoot. I you want a bit of no-holds-barred blammo-blammo action with paper-thin characters and some godawful chummy dialogue, then definitely go for this. Otherwise, this is bollocks. But grizzled, manly bollocks that reads Andy McNabb and likes tits.

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Capital in the Twenty First Century by Thomas Piketty

Data. Capital is over-flowing with the bastard. If you love data, spreadsheets, and lots of graphs, then this is the book for you. And there’s some stuff about economics as well.

The problem with a lot of books studying the economy, and better yet how to fix failing economic systems, is their paucity if data. For instance, Karl Marx based his manifesto after visiting one factory, and didn’t bother spreading his net wider for more facts to back up his ideology. Milton Friedman cherry picked his figures to present the idea of a capitalist democracy which favoured the rich to supplement the poor through spreading their wealth altruistically (which we all know never happened). Data, argues Piketty, should be the start and end of your argument, and what’s more, you should gather as much of the bastard as you possibly can.

Which he does. Lots of it. And one of the concerns he mentions, especially in regards judging the history of economics over the last few hundred years, is that there’s bugger all data out there to work on half the time, especially when it comes to the super-rich hiding all their cash in off-shore accounts, free from any scrutiny from the tax-man. Therefore – little data to work from and therefore, not enough data to make any real judgements about economic future plans.

However, Piketty does what he can with the information available, makes a few sweeping gestures where he lacks the data, gets into the nitty-gritty financially where he does have the data, and comes to the conclusion that the rich should cough up the moolah they owe (that’s individuals as well as corporations) because the sods would have enough left to live a life of luxury when taxed at a reasonable rate. It shouldn’t be the poor buggers on the lower rung getting battered into a financial grave whilst Lord Toffington and his company, Paup-Crusher, get away with nudging their huge, great wadges of moolah under the carpet when the taxman comes knocking.

It takes about 700 pages to prove this conclusion, and he does this through meticulous research, and that’s why Capital kicks arse. All his arguments are backed up with facts, unlike your ‘trickle-down economics’ arseholes, which base their arguments on greed.

Highly recommended.

 

post truth

Post Truth – How Bullshit Conquered the World by James Ball

A good book, and a book that made me look at the world I thought I already knew from a fresh perspective. Ostensibly about the spread of bullshit and lies throughout the media, and especially social media, propagated by the rise of Trump and Brexit – with faults on both sides accounted for in this work – it made me understand and realise my own prejudices surrounding the issues when looking at the way news is portrayed.

We all know the media lies to some extent, and in the case of Breitbart and the Mail/Express/Sun and The Canary, how facts are not driven into and instead a perspective is pushed forwards to support whatever the argument under question is. What Ball does is take a spotlight to these issues, and it’s made me view the news, from whatever source, with more circumspection, rather than just believing the ideology which backs up my beliefs.

It smacks a little of being cobbled together to take advantage of a current trend -a factor which Ball readily admits – and the fact that he works for Buzzfeed (as well as other news sources) doesn’t exactly back up the idea of neutrality, but his credentials aren’t the point in question. It’s the argument that you has to step back and take a fresh breath whenever you see a piece of news which mirrors perceived opinions. He makes a good dig at picking out lies from both the right and the left which support prejudices, and how believing those reports without digging into the factors behind it can lead to a dereliction of understanding, and the dogma of ones gullibility to one’s own political and social leanings.

There’s a bigger work here. Post Truth just scrapes the surface, but it gave me the benefit of reminding myself not to believe something just because my chosen news source tells me it’s so. Trump is still full of bullshit and the Brexit lies were a pile of wank, but the bullshit and wank is part and parcel of both sides doing the arguing, and it’s good to be reminded of your own fallibility and – to some respects – unquestioning faith in the source.

Definitely recommended.

amityville horror

The Amityville Horror by Jay Anson

The Amityville Bollocks, more like! I first read this WAY back in the seventies when it first came out in paperback, and it scared the living piss out of me. Walls that bled green goop! TERROR! Ghost pigs which had a propensity for hanging outside windows! HORROR! Priests getting migraines! SACRILAGE! But then again, I were a nipper, and everything supernatural scared the shit out of me.

Reading it now, it’s a comedy masterpiece. Everything is put down to the devil. Blown gasket? Definitely the devil. George Lutz, the bloke who buys the house, gets pissed and turns into a right knob. That’s DEFINITELY the devil, so all blokes who get wankered and a bit mardy can now blame Satan. Considering the world as it is now, The Amityville Horror seems quite twee and cosy. It also helps when Jay Anson ends most of the chapters with an exclamation mark, just to let you know something awful has happened, even if it’s some spoddy lion statue that seems to boff around the house of its own free will, but nobody actually sees it moving.

It’s all a load of old tadger’s wadge, obviously, since it’s all been massively discredited, even before the film came out, but it’s all so gloriously cheesy and shite it makes it even more readable. A brilliant, classic piece of ‘real-life’ haunting that brought a skip-load of chuckles to my world.

Definitely, utterly, completely recommended.

Time of Lies by Douglas Board

Posted: November 9, 2017 in Books, Uncategorized

front cover

Time of Lies by Douglas Board

A political satire which doesn’t know if it’s arse or elbow. The problem with satires if they have to take on a voice, and then sustain that voice throughout the narrative. Doesn’t matter if it’s a political, social, or some other kind of satire. Without that sustained voice then the satire starts to crumble at the edges, as with Time of Lies.

It’s principally a satire on Brexit, but the main problem is half of the stuff it’s satirising seems small beans in the big picture. ‘Oh, look, a keen Brexiteer wants to nuke mainland Europe – somehow, that seems normal when you listen to some of the shite Farage gibbers’. It just doesn’t congeal into a convincing story, because half of the satire is limp lettuce when compared to reality, and the UK – which is the principal staple of the blunted barbs in this work – is such small fry when compared to the crazy ape bonkers nuttiness of Trump and his gibbering space-loons.

It doesn’t help when the main characters seem interchangeable, and also when the ostensible hero is such a patronising, middle-class cockend. Two brothers, both alike in cleche’d-ness (get me, with my ripping off of the start to Romeo and Juliet), are separated from contact after some utterly mimsy disagreement at a party. One of them, Bob – a football hooligan who seems well too trained in the Machiavellian arts and far too pompous and ‘gor blimey’ twee sort-of-way to be real – has started his own UKIP, and his sickeningly pathetic, feckless, pointless waste of my reading time brother – Zack – has become a shiftless twat.

There’s some bollocks when Bob gets elected and some blah blah blah where people who all sounds the same give speeches which all sound the same, which are meant to be excoriating critiques of the right-wing agenda in modern politics but end up as the sort of bollocks people who can’t write think is ‘satirical’. It’s all wrapped up in a plot as bland as shite, which seems to involve photographing people naked. There’s also a strange obsession with domestic drones, which gives the impression they’re going to be a major plot-point but never are, and it’s all let down by a real non-commitment to having any real bite. It just sort of whinges through 250 pages and then fucks off with a smug look on its face.

It doesn’t help when the back of the book has a sea of great political satirical media floating in it (1984, Dr. Strangelove, If, A Very British Coup) which, I assume, the publishers trying to compare this load of old toss too.

It also doesn’t help that I write a political satire on this very blog (when I can be arsed), which mainly involves calling Farage and Trump a bunch of bum-faced knobends and then comparing them to wanking tramps. It might not be subtle, but it’s about a billion times more biting than this cak.

Not recommended. Or recommended if you think Mac in The Daily Mail is cutting edge.

Civil War by Trevor Royle

Posted: November 2, 2017 in Books, Uncategorized

civil war

Civil War by Trevor Royle

Blimey! This is a monster of a book. It’s over 800 pages, which may mean nothing to you large book readers, but this is densely packed with more facts about history than you can shake a bag of history facts at. And to make it that much better, Royle still finds time to sneak in a few titbits of trivia in between The Big Facts, like how the Covenanters managed to find time for a quick game of footie on their way home after a mighty battle.

Every ruddy page is packed with information. I travel 4 s a day for my job at Sortitaht Towers, and this book was so crammed full of facts it took me a full 5 days to get through the facker. I had to slip in a quick dose of James Herbert just to release my brain from the never-ending deluge of factual facts.

Civil War tells the tale of the Civil War which collapsed upon England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales, and more importantly, about how the protestants wanted to rid the world of Catholicism. It’s about how families were ripped apart, and how ideologies divided several nations, and goes to show how little has actually changed over the past few centuries.

It also goes to great lengths to shatter a few myths about the Wars of the Three Kingdoms. Cromwell wasn’t the stuffed shirt he was believed to be, Charles One wasn’t the gibbering idiot that history tells us, and all nations were equally responsible for kicking each other’s arses in as hideously as nasty way as possible, with moments of chivalry in-between. It’s an incredibly interesting book, and stuffed to the gills with information, and to anyone with an interest in history I would thoroughly recommend it.

The real topper comes at the end, where Royle lays out how history is not just written by the winners, but by the people on the edge of history, with facts to back his argument up. It’s a refreshing look at history, written with passion and verve, and worth anyone’s time, whether they’re into the legacies which formed us or not.