Goodreads review: Slaughterhouse-Five

Slaughterhouse-Five Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The little free library by my local train station had this novel just sitting there when I went past on a regular stroll so I thought why not? and brought it home. I hoovered it up in a couple of hours and it’ll be going back tomorrow or the day after.

You see, I’d like to keep it, but I’m certain with the tottering pile of books I’ve yet to even start, I probably won’t come around to it again very quickly. And when I want to read it again, I’ll buy it again and not feel bad about it. And you know, in the space between here and there, this one copy could provide an intro to Vonnegut to a bunch of others. (more…)

Goodreads review: Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow

Tomorrow and Tomorrow and TomorrowTomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow by M. Barnard Eldershaw
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I can’t say that I’ve ever been too aware of Australian sci-fi, which is more my failing than that of the genre. But I’d heard Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow spoken of in reverential tones, a kind of feminist, socialist meditation on war, peace and politics, conveyed through an historical novel told within a science-fiction framework. And I must admit, I was intrigued.

Then I read that Patrick White thought the book was pretty good, and that made me even more interested, as I couldn’t really recall stories of him liking anything, so I figured it must be good.

And it is, with caveats. (more…)

Goodreads review: Pu Pu Hot Pot

Pu Pu Hot PotPu Pu Hot Pot by Ben Brusey
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Given the length of this book, this’ll be a short review. There’s a real chance that if I rabbit on to my usual length, I’ll end up with something wiht a higher word-count than the thing I’m reviewing.

(Though it’d also probably be more enjoyable. BOOM!) (more…)

Opera Australia’s My Fair Lady

I spent some of last night watching a dress rehearsal of the new production of Lerner and Loewe’s My Fair Lady, as performed by Opera Australia, and thought I’d cobble together some thoughts.

The musical, based on Shaw’s Pygmalion, tells the story of Henry Higgins, a self-involved phoneticist who enters a bet with a military colleague to turn a Cockney flower girl, Eliza Doolittle, into someone with the carriage – and diction – of a princess. All of which is carried out to a soundtrack you’ll know, even if you think you don’t(more…)

Jetpack outta Hell

Just a quick entry, as I’m aware I’ve not written about anything for a while. I wanted to just assure people that I’m a) alive and b) not a fan of the terrible God of War clone that is Dante’s Inferno. You can probably glean all you need to know from that terrible trailer above.

The upshot of the game is that Dante’s Inferno is the be-ringed skeleton upon which a dire knockoff game was hung. I think I scored this free on the PSN one month, so I hadn’t had much investment in it anyway, but upon playing a couple of hours of it – ecccch. It’s derivative, features a psychopathic lead who has stitched his garment into his skin, and is trying to get his girlfriend back from the clutches of Hell because he boned someone while on the Crusades, once.

Well, something like that. (more…)

On Firewatch

Despite the best efforts of my video card and Windows 10 to stop me, I recently completed Campo Santo’s Firewatch, an adventure game. It’s become the favourite thing I’ve played in the past year, I think, partially for its design, but also for the way it’s unafraid to put story first, mechanics second.

The game takes place in Wyoming’s Shoshone National Forest, a wilderness of almost 10,000 square kilometres. It’s 1989, the year after the calamitous Yellowstone fires, and you play the part of Henry, a bearded, chubby dude (voiced by Rich Sommer, Mad Men‘s Harry Crane) who takes a summer job as a fire watcher to place some distance between himself and his life’s problems.

(I don’t want to explain the problems too much – there’s a surprising amount of determining your own variant of the story in its opening minutes, and they’re certainly emotional.) (more…)

Goodreads review: Dogs and Demons: The Fall of Modern Japan

Dogs and Demons: The Fall of Modern JapanDogs and Demons: The Fall of Modern Japan by Alex Kerr
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is the second of Alex Kerr’s books on Japan that I’ve read, and it certainly doesn’t hold back. It’s critical – rightly so, in many cases – of the ornate, backhander-rich culture that permeates government and industry, of the blinkered educational aims of the country, of the done-with-mirrors, waiting-for-collapse economic system, the addiction to government works and needless halls that bankrupt cities and swell construction coffers, the lack of regulation and the wholesale disregard for culture, simplicity and the landscape which outsiders associate with Japan.

The man’s distaste and fear couldn’t be better conveyed if each chapter were entitled SHIT’S FUCKED in 72-point type, followed by pages of onomatopoeic screams.

And yet part of me – as a big ole gaijin myself – wonders how much of the writing is the result of the foreign lens being brought to bear, with the baggage that brings. (more…)

The Priest of the Invisible

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As part of an attempt to become more organised (and to eke more out of my hours) I’ve recently begun scheduling things I’d like to do. It’s not quite as cold as it sounds, and it affords me the ability to ensure I do things I like, but which often suffer in the throes of a Wikipedia hole or a TV Tropes vortex.

One of the things on my list is to read a poem a day. Every day. One poem. This is to counter the fact that though I like poetry, and though I spent four years at university reading books – some of which were made up of poems! – I still feel myself to be a low-watt bulb when it comes to poetry. It’s something I like, and have liked for a long time, but something I feel kind of stupid around, like I’ve turned up to a fancy restaurant in tracksuit pants. (more…)

The Brian Jonestown Massacre: … And This Is Our Music (2003)

The Brian Jonestown Massacre: ...And This Is Our Music (2003)

This is an older review of mine, presented here for archival purposes. The writing is undoubtedly different to the present, and the review style may differ between publications. Enjoy, if that’s the right word.

First things first. …And This Is Our Music is an album created by people who’ll probably want to kick in the heads of reviewers everywhere. Scope out the liner-notes and you’ll see that self-serving critics make a list of people officially put on notice that they’re “Officially uninvited to our party!!!” – replete with three exclamation marks.

That’s not very hippie, is it? In fact, it probably qualifies as a freak-out, baby. But that’s fine, because the music recorded here overtakes any attitude-based party exclusions that The Brian Jonestown Massacre (Anton Newcombe, boss man and chief sonic wrangler) could hurl. (Of course, the fact that elsewhere in the same notes – couched in a track-by-track commentary, revealing musical inspirations, drug information and touching rave-ups of guest vocalists – lies a thoroughly shameless attempt to pick up BJM-fancying ladies weighs a little in their favour, too.) (more…)

Goodreads review: Vernon God Little

Vernon God LittleVernon God Little by D.B.C. Pierre
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

So hey, here’s a novel that’s about school shootings, the presumption of innocence, the weird pull of adulthood and sex, the prison system, Mexico, reality TV, hucksters and the corrosive effect of media-driven groupthink on the execution of justice and, well, executions, and whether God really exists. Sounds pretty weighty, right?

Well, if you’re talking about D.B.C. Pierre’s debut (and award winning) novel Vernon God Little, then the answer is sorta. It is indeed about all those things, all Big Topics and worthy of some navel-gazing time. But it’s more importantly a portrait of what it is to be a teenager that knows he’s living in the arsehole of the world, and is wise enough to have a fairly accurate sense of just how dumb he is. (more…)