Book review: The Blaze of Obscurity

The Blaze of Obscurity by Clive James.
My rating: 4 of 5 stars.

Well, here we are. This is the final volume in Clive James’s Unreliable Memoirs series. It’s the fifth book wherein the éminence grise (or should that be éminence chauve?) describes his continued ascent through the land of the crystal bucket. With The Blaze of Obscurity, the Australian writer moves from being about the box to being mostly on it. It’s where shows began to be prefaced with his name, not just his image.

From now on, in this book, I will try to leave my name out of the title of the shows, thus to circumvent the twin fears of wasting space and sounding more than necessarily like a self-glorifying pantaloon.

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Book review: Shiver

Shiver by Junji Ito.
My rating: 5 of 5 stars.

If you’ve read any Junji Ito before, you’ll be pretty aware of the sort of things you’re going to get in Shiver, a collection of his best work, gathered together and presented with brief commentary from the creepmaster himself.

Hey, they’re playing my song!

If you’ve not read any Ito before, you might well want a stiff drink or a change of undies. ‘Cause shit’s going to get weird.

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Book review: Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood and the Prison of Belief

Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood and the Prison of Belief.Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood and the Prison of Belief by Lawrence Wright.
My rating: 5 of 5 stars.

Having recently read Bare-Faced Messiah, the landmark biography of L. Ron Hubbard, I was already aware of how much dickbaggery was behind Scientology.

What I was unprepared for was how much dickbaggery persists in Scientology. That’s where Lawrence Wright’s book excels: highlighting exactly how fucked up the current organisation is. And how much of that is down to one guy.
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Book review: Bare-Faced Messiah

Bare-Faced Messiah.Bare-Faced Messiah by Russell Miller.
My rating: 5 of 5 stars.

I know, you know how dodgy L. Ron Hubbard was. He’s the progenitor of both Scientology and the cinematic dreadlock abortion that was Battlefield Earth.

But do you really know how shitty he was?

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Book review: The Physics of Sorrow

The Physics of Sorrow.The Physics of Sorrow by Georgi Gospodinov (tr. Angela Rodel).
My rating: 4 of 5 stars.

Until now, I’d never read a Bulgarian novel. I mean, knowingly. I’ve a couple of Canetti on my shelf, awaiting cracking, but until I checked out Wikipedia’s list of Bulgarian writers, I didn’t even know he was Bulgarian.

Nothing against Bulgaria, mind. It just hadn’t occurred to me. I know, I’m probably missing out on a lot.
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Book review: The Cook

The Cook.The Cook by Harry Kressing.
My rating: 5 of 5 stars.

I imagine this novel to take place in some kind of weird Mad Men universe. It’s that drinks-before-dinner, hired-help-run-the-show kind of world where there’s precise demarcation between what’s meant to happen and those it’s meant to happen to. Think of it like Upstairs, Downstairs only with Betty Draper and you’re probably about right.

Naturally, this clockwork world goes to shit the moment the titular character shows up.
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Book review: Water Shall Refuse Them

Water Shall Refuse Them.Water Shall Refuse Them by Lucie McKnight Hardy.
My rating: 4 of 5 stars.

Heading to a drought-stricken Wales in 1976 seems like a shitty holiday idea. It’s even shittier when you’re a 16-year-old girl accompanied by your family – a needy toddler, a sculptor father and a grieving, wasting mother – and eaten up by a dedication to something called The Creed.

You can tell things aren’t going to go well, and that’s before the village turns out to be, uh, none too friendly to outsiders.
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Book review: Game Changers

Game Changers.Game Changers by Dan Golding and Leena van Deventer.
My rating: 4 of 5 stars.

This is a neat read from two writer-academics who’ve built careers in the gaming sphere. They’re passionate about what the form can be, and have both had buckets of shit tipped on them for daring to disagree with Gamergaters or – in van Deventer’s case – for daring to be a woman online.

It’s a tag-team affair, with both authors taking a shot at a selection of topics revolving around representation in gaming, and the entrenched mindset of producers and consumers alike. It’s written from a position of deep love for games, and a respect for gamers as something other than the basement-dwelling – and fallacious – stereotype. And it’s most importantly a work that realises that games are something that can bring us closer together while allowing voices other than those of cisgender white men to have a say.
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Book review: Burnt Island

Burnt Island.Burnt Island by Alice Thompson.
My rating: 5 of 5 stars.

I’d read the blurb for this book – writer applies for a fellowship on a Scottish island and mysteries ensue – and noted the price (three bucks on Kindle!) and took the plunge. I mean, I’ve spent more on bad coffee, let alone good spookiness.

Imagination is a terrible thing, Max. It perverts reality. You can lose yourself in it. Not realise what’s really happening to you.

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