lonemagpie: if only (by me)
So, I'm going to have to restart the year's "Recreational Reading" count from scratch, after the book I've been recreationally reading - The Black Count, by Paul Reiss - just got turned into a professional research for work thing, while I'm still reading it...
lonemagpie: guy from the cover of sanctuary (Default)
Finished A Walk Among The Tombstones by Lawrence Block. I love his Matt Scudder series (I have a thing for this type of detective stuff generally), but haven't read them in order. I see they made a movie of this one (which I haven't seen yet) with Liam Neeson in the role, and I can totally hear Neeson's voice narrating and speaking, so that's probably good casting. It was good, though with a somewhat abrupt ending that somehow didn't quite feel as climactic as it probably should have. So, loved it, of course, but I still think A Dance At The Slaughterhouse is my favourite of the ones I've read.
lonemagpie: guy from the cover of sanctuary (Default)
Oh, today I read JLA- The Hypothetical Woman, by Gail Simone and Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez. Pretty good trade paperback of the 6-issue mini. Really loved the handling of Bats, J'onn, and especially Wonder Woman. Great that it's the John Stewart GL in this too, as he's my favourite GL. I was left a bit puzzled to who and what the eponymous Sybil actually was, though - not sure if that was something introduced or explained in previous stories.
lonemagpie: guy from the cover of sanctuary (Default)
Read Elmore Leonard's Pagan Babies - about a guy returning from Africa who gets mixed up in a girl's revenge scam against her mob ex - which is a more recent one of his, and not bad, but it kind of petered out in a way I don't really expect from him. It was OK, though.

Not sure what's next - I did start the first few pages of a Buffy book, Night Of The Living Rerun, but it's so not doing it for me. I'll have to pick something else. Apart from the annual zip through A Christmas Carol, obviously.
lonemagpie: guy from the cover of sanctuary (Default)
Latest recreational read (i.e. not for working reasons) was Autonomy by Daniel Blythe´╗┐ - a nice spot of Dr Who fun for the anniversary. Not sure what to go for next...
lonemagpie: guy from the cover of sanctuary (Default)
Read Jeremy Dyson's The Haunted Book- a lovely pastiche of *several* types of ghost story collection, which is a fantastic read for those of us who are fans of both the nonfiction travelogue of haunted places type of book, and different eras of fictional anthology.

It also takes a somewhat meta tone, but this is less successful, as the very end meta part just somewhat jumps the shark, changing genre, and actually strangely holds back from going ahead with what it first starts to imply. It also, unfortunately comes over as frankly intrusive, with a bit too much of a blatant message.

Still, apart from that, it's great - the Tetherdown Lock story, and the two 1907-era stories are by far and away the best, and in fact would make great TV adaptations.
lonemagpie: guy from the cover of sanctuary (Default)
Andrew Martin's Ghoul Britannia was fun but lightweight - a brief ramble through the British love affair with ghost stories, and how they've changed over the years. TBH it felt more a collect set of blog posts or Fortean Times articles than a single book. Then there's a ghost story at the end, which is somewhat trumped by having had all Martin's points about the formula of the ghost story explained in the rest of the book, before he puts them all to use. As a result you notice more of the formula than feel the story.
lonemagpie: guy from the cover of sanctuary (Default)
John Vornholt's Buffy novel Coyote Moon was a quickie. I normally like his Trek books, but this was kind of skippy and off-balance, though he gets the dialogue dynamic OK. I think my dissatisfaction with it is because it's such an early one (only the second Buffy book) that neither author, editor, nor publishers seem quite sure what will fly yet - and this is exacerbated by reading it so long after the series developed and ended.

It's also odd that in the omnibus editions (I read it in Volume 1) they have this and the third book, then a longer one from about a decade later, while the very first book, Halloween Rain, is held over to Volume 2... (and the cover design is clearly aiming for the post-Twilight market)
lonemagpie: like it says (fuck it)
The Fall Of Cthulhu: The Fugue, by Michael Nelson & JJ Dzialowski- Again, plenty of promise, but ultimately unsatisfying. I don't mind updating the Mythos to the modern day, but the characters (except for Mr Arkham) were unengaging, the domestics between the lead character and his girlfriend were just cliched, and the plot developments were very obvious, but the biggest problem was with the art. At first it looked like it'd be good, with subtle colour tones providing depth- but it turned out that wasn't the case, and the panels tended to be just muddy.

While it's true that the Mythos tends to drive its characters mad, I doubt the confusing jumps and odd discordancies between script and art (e.g. references to a face on a knife handle, which don't seem to be there in the art) were deliberate for that purpose.

So, showed, promise at first, but ultimately disappointing.
lonemagpie: guy from the cover of sanctuary (Default)
Just read MD Lachlan's Wolfsangel. Not bad, but not great either - I doubt I'll go looking for the sequels unless they turn up for 50p in a charity shop.

It was entertaining enough, and - with the exception of POV shifts within paragraphs, which is a personal bugbear of mine - well written, but it never quite delivered on its promises. It all actually feels like a more low-key subplot or spinoff from a more epic whole, if you see what I mean. Rather than feeling like I've dipped into the wider world, however, I feel more like I've been cut off from the interesting stuff in that world. Characterisation constantly *almost* gets there, but then falls back on telling us something rather than revealing it through thoughts or actions or story...

I probably sound a lot more negative about it than I actually am, because it was entertaining, and I loved all the Viking stuff, but it just doesn't quite deliver on what it's clearly capable of delivering. It also feels like just backstory to a future epic, rather than an epic in its own right...

Ah well. Good, and if you like Norse stuff or the Vikings TV show you should get something out of it, but it so clearly could have been much... *more*.
lonemagpie: guy from the cover of sanctuary (Default)
Caught up with a few lately.

MR MERCEDES by Stephen King was mostly OK, a nice enough crime thriller rather than horror, but still somehow lacking. It was somewhat slow and padded, and we know King can do better than that from the modern pulps he's done for Hard Case Crime, but worst of all, every twist - especially the fridging - was spectacularly obvious and predictable. So, always nice to read his writing, but could be way better.

THE LOVECRAFT ANTHOLOGY VOL. 1 is a graphic novel from Selfmade Hero, edited by Dan Lockwood. Doing HPL in a visual medium is always an iffy prospect, because the creatures are supposed to be so freaky that they will drive viewers mad, and any actual visual representation of them is just too twee- I mean, just look at the chibi Cthulhu's you can get. This set of seven adaptations starts off making exactly that mistake, and using the typical Cthulhu design, put edited versions of the narrations. It soon improves, however, after two or three stories. The art is variable, and experimental might be a kind word to use, yet all fits their stories, so I can't complain: it all does the job it's meant to. The collection does improve as it goes on, with The Shadow Over Innsmouth and The Rats In The Walls doing the best job at conveying the Lovecraft feel.

ADVENTURES WITH THE WIFE IN SPACE by Neil (and occasionally Sue) Perryman is a fun read, covering the life of a Dr Who fan, and how one of the best Dr Who blogs came about. Thankfully it's not just a compilation of the blog, but a memoir. It's a bit weird reading a memoir written by someone who's neither a celebrity nor a world changer in some field like science or military campaigning or whatever, but it is funny, sometimes touching, sometimes wince-inducing in an all too understandable way (I doubt it really will convey to non-fans just how vicious some of fandom is, but it has its moments) and ultimately reassuring that real people are actually just good people. Definitely recommended, and - a bit like About A Boy or something - I can kind of see this becoming a 90 minute TV docudrama someday. Maybe for the 75th anniversary...
lonemagpie: guy from the cover of sanctuary (Default)
The Wit And Wisdom Of Gene Hunt was a short novelty thing for the LOLS. So short that I forgot to post it in the list of recreational reading. It's basically a collection of quotes from Gene Hunt in Life On Mars and Ashes To Ashes, which some pics and annotations by fictional writers Chris Skelton and Ray Carling (and actual writer Guy Adams). Full of totally un-PC one-liners, which come across as a lot more offensive when separated from context and performance, but also occasionally amusing.

It too a while longer to get through 1000 Years Of Annoying The French, by Stephen Clarke, because it's an awkward size to fit in a pocket, so I wasn't carrying it around and reading on journeys, but was more dipping into it in the bathroom. Anyway, it was a pretty good popular history romp through Anglo-French relations, from the Norman invasion onwards. Always readable and amusing, frequently surprising and fascinating, and still quite relevant (especially where, for example, it covers how a Sun headline in 1983 basically is responsible for the crap we're still seeing between Europhiles and Euro-sceptics today. Anyway I can recommend that.
lonemagpie: guy from the cover of sanctuary (Default)
So, Drive, by James Sallis.

Pretty good short and sharp bit of modern noir, I thought. Has its problems - the non-linear structure has some shakes (notably the first time the POV switches to someone other than Driver) - and the first half really feels like a set of loosely connected vignettes rather than a novel, but in the end it all pulls together very well. Definitely a worthy successor to the likes of James M Cain and his ilk.

Also, I never thought I'd see anybody really do car stunts well in a prose novel, but here's the gold standard set for the future...

I gather the movie Drive is based on this, so I'm more keen to check that out now...
lonemagpie: Craig icon (007)
Finished Solo, the new Bond book by William Boyd.

Oh dear.

It starts off pretty dull, with an aimless meander through Bond's 45th birthday. Now, longtime fans of the literary Bond will know that 45 is mandatory retirement age for 00s, so this has something to do with that, right? Wrong. It's never mentioned, it just happens to be his age this birthday, for no readily apparent reason (other, perhaps, than to make him the same age as Daniel Craig).

Boyd seems determined to do a pastiche of the *perception* of Fleming's style, rather than of his actual style, leading to endless recipes - and of dubious choices too. There's even a footnote repeating one recipe from the main text. That'd fit better which a Len Deighton pastiche, since at least Deighton was a cordon-bleu cook.

Oh, another word of warning - if you start a drinking game with this, taking a shot every time somebody lights up a cigarette, you'll be dead of alcohol poisoning about three chapters in. I mean, I know there's a lot less smoking in things now than in the 60s, but this goes well above and beyond the level seen in any actual book or movie from the days when it was seen as cool and/or healthy.

Plot-wise, Bond is sent to stop a war in Africa, shit goes down, and he decides to go rogue and hunt down the villains in Washington. OK... Bond going rogue is, frankly, not the unusual thing that Boyd seems to think (he does it in, like, half the fucking movies, and in at least a couple of the original novels).

Luckily things pick up in the Africa sections - all I know about war-torn Africa I learned from playing Far Cry 2, but this is some really good stuff. Bond doesn't come over as James Bond, but post-colonial Africa in the 60s definitely comes over as that, and there's some really atmospheric stuff. The action is believable and realistic too - though unfortunately Bond is required to be monumentally stupid in places. (drugging the guy and putting him in the boot, telling someone where to find him, instead of just killing the guy? Fuck off.)

Africa's the highlight of the book, and when the trail takes him to Washington, it's... OK. Though his vigilante garb is pure Charles Bronson in Death Wish, and, again, not James Bond. Felix doesn't feel like Felix either.

The twists behind the events are quite believable, though, again, more Deighton than Fleming - one can't help thinking Boyd would have made a better guest-star writer to resurrect Harry Palmer than Bond - but the ending... Well, there's a pretty daft ambiguous ending just when you expect a last minute showdown, and that sucks. Not because it's ambiguous but because it feels like stuff has been cut and hastily replaced at the insistence of the rights holders. I'll say more about that in a minute.

So far, out of the three big-name guest writers for Bond, Faulks's is still the best despite its many falws. Deaver's is a good twisty thriller, but not Bond. This one suffers from a) being more Palmer than Bond, and b) really feeling like there's been a lot of what in a movie we'd call studio interference - the ending that seems set up to lead into a final showdown or sequel hook, but then doesn't; especially the focus on Bond's 45th birthday, but then not addressing the retirement age issue. It really feels like Glidrose/IFP got cold feet and decided to demand some last-minute chickening-out in places.

Meh.

TBH the issue, I think, is one of them going "what literary golden boy can we get, who'll get us good press in the broadsheets?" rather than "who can we get who can do really good James Bond?" - obviously Deaver's a bit of an anomaly cos he made the mistake of having a story rather than being posh doyenne of the broadsheet literati.
lonemagpie: Vastra and Jenny (vastra)
So, I started to read Isabel Allende's "Zorro" but got derailed by severe translation failure in the English edition, when I hit page 39's sentence (about a painting) "it was one of the horrors commissioned by the square unit in Spain, which had become popular in California."

Er, the what? WTF is the square unit? I suspect, following a moment's Googling, that Allende is referring to the Tercio Espana, a post-Renaissance regiment of pikemen who were sometimes called The Spanish Square - perhaps this military unit commissioned paintings for the HQ and officers' mess?

Fuck knows, cos it's obviously something that would be clear to Spanish readers in the original Spanish, but the translator has neither amended the text to clarify, nor added a footnote to explain. The words square unit aren't even capitalised as the name of a regiment or the like would be, so who knows if that's what's meant. Either way it put me right out of the book - I'll have to find one in Spanish, I suppose.

So I started dipping into Warning Shadows: Home Alone With Classic Cinema, by (usually a music historian) Gary Giddins. This is basically a trawl through Hollywood from the 1900s to the 1960s - plus Blade Runner and Howl's Moving Castle - with about half a page each devoted to his thoughts on 200 or so classic movies.

Overall it's not much of a history or really an analysis - insofar as the word count demands brevity or everything - so it comes over as a collection of blog posts on the classics he's watched each week. Which is fun as far as it goes, but there are some disappointments.

It's very Hollywood-centric, and a lot of my favourites are barely mentioned. Basil Rathbone, for example, is mentioned only twice. There are only a couple of mentions of Conrad Veidt as well (described as "marvellously slimy" in the entry for A Woman's Face - which comes in a chapter on Joan Crawford - and Jaffar referred to as "His sword draped by his cloak suggesting a large tail" in the two pages devoted to Thief Of Bagdad. In fact Werner Krauss gets more wordage than Connie, in the brief spot on German Expressionism.

Still, collections of thoughts on movies watched are always going to be totally subjective, and with so many vintage films mentioned, there's always going to be something that makes you think "oh, I'll have to check that out," even if you're a longtime classics fan.
lonemagpie: b7 finale (b7)
Batman: Four Of A Kind collects the Year One stories for four villains, from the 1995 Annuals.

Alan Grant's Poison Ivy story has the best art, but a weak story. The art does very much sexualise Ivy, but works in context (like when she's actively trying to seduce Bats), and actually adheres to proper anatomy. Unfortunately her self-proclaimed backstory is the sort of astoundingly cliched "all men are lying hypocritical abusing bastards" that your average MRA type thinks is what feminism is about.

Chuck Dixon's Riddler story is the best story, with a good punchline, but has the worst art. It's a good read, though.

Doug Moench's Scarecrow story is pretty decent, with disappointing art, but really suffers from an unreadable italic font in most of the caption boxes.

Chuck Dixon's Man-Bat story is nice, and has nice enough art, but it's strange that it's included in a villains' backstory collection, as the Man-Bat is clearly *not* a villain, and does nothing evil in the story - he's just a victim. But Batman does beat the shit out of him and drug him, just in case.

Anyway, a reasonable collection overall, if variable, but nothing really standout.
lonemagpie: Bogie! (bogie)
Book Of Lies is a chase thriller by Brad Meltzer, who's TV show, Decoded, is usually fun, and that's why I gave the novel a go.

Overall it was OK, but predictable in all the twists, and the characters never leapt off the page.

The story's about the search for the truth behind the Biblical mark of Cain, and the weapon he supposedly used to kill Abel. Also it's about the origins of Superman. Meltzer definitely gets points for having a surprising yet fitting actual truth to what the Macguffin is, though it never quite follows through with the weapon part.

So, a bit laboured, but generally entertaining in a TV episode-ish way.
lonemagpie: robot maria (robot maria)
The Hunter by Richard Stark, who of course was really a psudonymous Donald E Westlake wasn't too bad. First of the Parker novels, and filmed as both Point Blank and Payback, it's short and snappy. Somewhat uncomfortable in places, given the amount of woman-punching that goes on in it, so I can't say I enjoyed it that much, but it's a notable step in the development of hardboiled crime, and the character of Parker certainly is memorable. If the series that it so nicely spawned is less misogynistic it'll be worth reading, but I suspect it's a product of its time...
lonemagpie: guy from the cover of sanctuary (Default)
Iron Man: Extremis by Warren Ellis and Adi Granov is the best of the three Marvel collections I'd read over the last few days. It really is a great jumping on point and intro to Iron Man, which relaunches the character for the modern age (so well that its flashback origin for him is used as the basis for the first Iron Man movie's origin act.)

The art is lovely, and the story very grounded in the real world - in sometimes uncomfortable ways. It's also very much a solid self-contained story. All in all, a fantastic entry for us casual readers or newbies, and I'd like to think longtime fans love it too.
lonemagpie: guy from the cover of sanctuary (Default)
As Marvel graphic novels go, that was better. Of course it's Noughties Marvel, so superior. Thor Reborn by J Michael Straczynski and Olivier Coipel was really nice. Great artwork, a script that gets the importance of mythology, and lovely quotable lines and sentiments.

It works well as a jumping-on point for the likes of myself who are less familiar with the series- there's only one bit that obviously hangs over from elsewhere (something about Tony Stark having done something with DNA samples) but it's not a big problem.

The highlight was probably the Medicines Sans Frontieres chapter in Africa, though at the same time this felt a little uncomfortable in the sense of "look, this is a blonde blue-eyed actual fucking Norse god solving Africa?!" thing, but thankfully this was then actually addressed by the characters in the story.

Good mix of humour and epicness, love what happens with Asgard and the town meeting... I like the female Loki too.

It didn't really have a proper ending, but, as a jumping-on point that doesn't matter, as the whole purpose is make me want to read on, and it certainly did that. I like this Thor...

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