Sunday, 28 November 2010

Reviewlette - Brightonomicon by Robert Rankin

I picked The Brightonomicon up at the library after reading "The English Spike Milligan" on the back cover. I'm pretty sure I've read just about everything Spike wrote and even went to see him live where he beat seven bells out of his plastic 'frustration dummy' with a baseball bat if his jokes didn't get a big enough laugh.

This is my first Robert Rankin and, probably, my last.

Our hero, an amnesiac teenager, is saved from drowning by one Hugo Rune, a large, bald geezer who claims to have known Jesus and reinvented the Ocarina. They use symbols found in the Brighton A-Z to help find a missing device which can tune in to the past.

It's amusing, even funny, at times, but I found the relentless punning and fragmented plot a little tedious and had to force myself to finish it.

Mr Rankin has a huge fan base so I urge you to read at least one of his books if you haven't already. Just don't start with this one.  If you do read a Rankin, please let me know what you think.

Friday, 26 November 2010

Reviewlette - Tripoint by C J Cherryh

Tripoint by C J Cherryh.

Another book from my 'Dear Lord, I really must read that one of these years' shelf.

It's a space opera. And by that I mean it has people in spaceships whizzing about through hyper-space in a far flung future. Spaceships aside, it's more about how parents can really screw up their kids by using them as a free sherpa for all their personal baggage.

It's a good read, excellent characters and very entertaining. I really enjoy her style and liked ninety-five percent of the plot. Though I think it's probably wise to read Downbelow Station first as I had a feeling there were things I should have known already.

I found the end disappointing as one main character - a prime motivator from whom grown men flee in terror - suddenly seems to say, 'Oh, alright then. Fair enough. I'll stop trying to destroy you all now. Toodles.' I'm paraphrasing but read it, please. See if you agree.

Thursday, 25 November 2010

Reviewlette - Teranesia by Greg Egan

Teranesia by Greg Egan

This book was sent to me by a mystery philanthropist in South Africa. (Actually, I have a pretty good idea who sent it.) It took almost three months to get here. Three months. Roll on quantatronic matter transfer machines I say.

This is lifted from the cover:
As a young boy, Prabir Suresh lives with his parents and sister on an otherwise uninhabited island in a remote part of the Indonesian peninsula. Prabir names it Teranesia, populating it with imaginary creatures even stranger than the evolutionarily puzzling butterflies that his parents are studying. Civil war strikes, orphaning Prabir and his sister. Eighteen years later, rumours of bizarre new species of plants and animals being discovered in the peninsula that was their childhood home draw Prabir's sister back to the island - Prabir cannot bear for her to have gone out alone and he follows, persuading a pharmaceutical researcher to take him along as a guide.

I'm undecided about this one. It was entertaining but - and this may be down to my appalling memory of whatever happened at the beginning - the protagonist somehow developed an intimate understanding of genetics by the end of the book. It is well written but there are times when I don't believe the cause and effect, such-and-such happened to this character so he reacts by doing whatever. I didn't quite buy it sometimes. And there's a scene with a snake which didn't seem to move the plot along or enlighten me at all.

The author seems to know a shed-load about genetics. Do you ever watch House? The TV show? Part of the pleasure for watching House, for me, is the bewildering language the doctors use when trying to figure out whatever is wrong with the patient. "He may have Fibro-hairy-mitosis, so start him on ten CC's of Streptro-fusion-olive-duplo-matt, stat." There's a bit of that in this book too - though about genetics and DNA strands and RNA re-combatant yadda-blah. Not too much. Just enough to make you me feel stupid.

All-in-all a pretty good read but erring on the side of 'meh'. I'd be interested in what you think.

I have another Greg Egan, Distress, which has been entertaining dust-bunnies on my shelf for several years. I'll read that shortly as the guy seems to have a lot of fans.

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Reviewlette - Dead Famous by Ben Elton

Another book from my 'got years ago and really must read it' shelf.

A parody of the Big Brother TV show: a contestant is murdered in front of millions of viewers - but who did the dastardly deed? It's up to Inspector Stanley Spencer Coleridge - a throw back to polite, seemingly naive policemen of the 1950's - to find out.

A fast moving and, in places, very funny whodunnit. Liberal sprinkling of the c-word will put off some but, on the whole, it's a good read. Thought provoking and entertaining, and I'm pretty sure there are a few TV executives who'll recognise some individuals here.

If you like a good whodunnit and aren't easily offended by strong language you'll enjoy it.

Dead Famous by Ben Elton.

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

POD is BAD Business

An interesting blog post from Bill Housley about how book shops are not stocking POD titles and why.

Thursday, 11 November 2010


The Thee Word Wednesday words are: gesture, immediate, treasure and they brought back a memory or two - I have no idea why - which I shall share.

Paul made a gesture behind Sarah meaning I should talk to her. He and Janet giggled and went outside to canoodle among the crickets.

We were left alone with a table tennis table between us. Sarah tipped her pretty face forward to hide her grey eyes under a blonde fringe.

Somehow, we spoke to each other through our shyness. Then we went outside and sat together on a wide swing under a starry sky. And we talked. And I knew what happiness was and that I should treasure these moments because even at nineteen, I knew nothing lasted.

From a caravan somewhere, Elton John came over a radio singing, "Daniel my brother, you are older than me .." and I told Sarah about a dusty, red, Angolan airstrip and hanging from the back of a Hercules transport plane, my arms extended, Dave holding my legs. I'm shouting, no, screaming for Colin to, "Run faster. Jump! For fuck's sake jump!" We'd been through basic together – fought in the bush back to back. Brothers in arms. Colin's eyes were dark brown – I see them now as they changed from panicked to dead - I see them now. A hole ripped out of his chest and something clanged into the ramp beside me. Colin took two steps as a corpse then collapsed like a rag doll into the red dust whipped into the flames of hell by the thunderous props of my saviour plane.

Any time I hear that song, Daniel, I'm immediately back in 1973, Hartbeespoort Dam, South Africa, sitting with Sarah. Crying and falling in love.

A new ball game

(kw:Space warp strip cartoon)

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Disgrace - J M Coetzee

English Professor David Lurie is forced to leave his position at the University in Cape Town. He moves away from the city and in with his daughter, settling in to a simple life until something happens which further demolishes his world.

The story is, simultaneously, one of salvation and disintegration.

It is beautifully written. I was completely enthralled and transported, and read the work in a single session.

All I can do is urge you to read it. It's a master-class. Totally brilliant.

The Butt - Will Self

I didn't finish The Butt by Will Self . This is rare for me.

Set in an imaginary country: after carelessly disposing of his last cigarette butt, Tom Bridzinski's world is turned upside down.

It is cleverly written. Some great prose. Will Self's equine face emerged from the pages to read it to me. His voice was strong, but sneering, then relentless. Far worse is that I didn't care. I didn't give a fig about this made up world with its made up island,  vomiting clichés about all that's bad aprés colonialism.

Some words that popped into my head as I read: xenophobic, self indulgent, yawn-fest. A peculiarly English, middle class view of the world.

Read it. Tell me what I missed.

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

A Princess of Mars - Edgar Rice Burroughs

If you're thinking of reading the Penguin Classics version of this book then please, peruse John Seelye's introduction after you've read the story. It's probably just me but some of it - his lengthy, disjointed, often pointless, ramblings - annoyed the bejeebers out of me. Though, to be fair, some of the information about ERB's pre-writing days was interesting.

The book: Confederate officer Captain John Carter, a gentleman of Virginia, fresh from the civil war, finds himself naked and, luckily for the title, on Mars.

He has some heroic adventures where he falls in love with a beautiful princess, slays some nasty Martian monsters, brokers peace between warring nations and finds he has the jumping ability of an Earthly flea.

Although it was written around 1912, the language - apart from reintroducing me to the word 'unloosened' bringing back student memories of arguing the word should actually mean 'tighten' - was not a problem. Mr Burroughs writing simply stays out of the way. He tells a tale, paints pictures and transported this reader beautifully. The writing was sweet, flowing, easy ... a great way to chill and let Earthly machinations dissolve away for a few hours. I barely remember reading Tarzan all those years ago but I do understand now why he, Edgar that is, became such a popular writer. In a word: accessible. Some modern writers could learn a thing or two.

If you like a good yarn and don't want anything too 'heavy' to wile away a couple of hours then this comes highly recommended. And, if you care to share your thoughts with me, I'd love to hear them.

I've just started The Butt by Will Self. The reviews on Amazon are a little shy of generous but so far - I'm two chapters in - so good.

Monday, 1 November 2010

Soup deja vu

(kw: Space warp strip cartoon)

This is a scheduled post cunningly set up days ago. Right now, I'm in Scotland - probably striding over majestic hills wondering which will give up the ghost first: my legs or my lungs. Happy Halloween everyone.
See you in a few ...