Month: April 2015

Book review: Neuromancer

Neuromancer.Neuromancer by William Gibson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I’ve had this book since 1989. I’d heard it was cool and, impressionable 13-year-old that I was, I snaffled a copy and was immediately confused by it. I couldn’t get into it, didn’t know what to make of it. I couldn’t go on, and it sat on the shelf since then, occasionally daring me to give it a go, but mostly biding its time.

Here we are, some 16 years later and I’ve finally finished. And my first thought on reaching its conclusion is that if I can ever jack in and meet some representation of 13-year-old me, I’m gonna smack him in the head.

It’s difficult to write about the experience of reading this novel as it’s so hard to separate it from everything that came afterwards. (more…)

Book review: Dark Entries

Dark Entries.Dark Entries by Robert Aickman
My rating:
4 of 5 stars

Robert Aickman worked in what he described as “strange stories”. It’s an oddly reductive description, inherently self-deprecating, and about as English as you’d expect from a man whose other great enthusiasm was the restoration of the inland canal system. But to think the stories are somehow lesser than more grandiose weird tales would be to underestimate their power. (more…)

Book review: Uzumaki (volume 3)

Uzumaki (volume 3)Uzumaki (volume 3) by Junji Ito
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This, the final volume of Junji Ito’s coiling narrative, is perhaps the most consistent, storywise. It’s just a shame it’s also the least satisfying.

The previous two collections shocked, either from the gore or the nerve-jangling weirdness. This one shocks to a certain extent, but it also rides over into silliness territory. That whole whirlwind gang thread? The bullying children? Oh, come on. (more…)

Book review: Climbers: A Novel

Climbers: A Novel.Climbers: A Novel by M. John Harrison
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

If you were a climber and were expecting this to be some kind of literary version of The Eiger Sanction, then you’d probably be disappointed. But then, I don’t think M. John Harrison would care too much, given that many of the readers of this book were probably expecting it to be a sci-fi masterpiece, rather than some kind of Mike Leigh nightmare.

Out of print until recently (it was reissued in 2004) this 1989 novel is less about climbing and its community and more about growth – or the lack of it. (more…)

Book review: The Sea

The Sea.The Sea by John Banville
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Banville’s Booker-winner is a novel which, like the tide, reveals itself by degrees. At once a recollection and a meditation, it’s a journal-styled examination of life after the loss of a partner.

Not a lot goes on in the novel in a narrative sense, but a lot is revealed about its focal character. Following his wife’s death, Max Morden revisits the location of childhood holidays – a seaside town not out of place in a Morrissey Every Day Is Like Sunday (more…)

Book review: Uzumaki (volume 2)

Uzumaki (volume 2).Uzumaki (volume 2) by Junji Ito
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The second volume of Ito’s spiral-obsessed work is wilder, less controlled than the first. It’s not as tightly wound or slow-burning as the first collection, relying instead on gross-outs and increasingly frenetic artwork to communicate the smalltown weirdness within.

There’s an overall story – that Kurôzu-cho is in the thrall of a spiral-natured curse – but it’s really only loosely addressed in this collection of relatively unrelated tales. We see what’s going on mostly from the viewpoint of the already-seen-some-shit Kirie, (more…)

Book review: Uzumaki (volume 1)

Uzumaki (volume 1).Uzumaki (volume 1) by Junji Ito
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I’d heard about Ito’s manga a long time before I saw any of it. But from what I’d read – once you bypass the “hey, Japan is crazy weird, right?” stuff, I knew it was for me. Finally reading has confirmed this: Uzumaki is a small-town world of strange fixations, a la Twin Peaks, except it’s the spirals that aren’t what they seem, not the owls. (more…)

Book review: Restoration

Restoration.Restoration by Rose Tremain
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A Booker Prize contender, Restoration follows the journey of Robert Merivel, a medical student-cum-lord who is made useful to Charles II of England – first for his spaniel-saving qualities, and then for his buffoonery and willingness to provide extramarital cover.

The world of court is recreated extremely well. (more…)

Book review: Blackeyes

Blackeyes.Blackeyes by Dennis Potter
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Later made into a successful four-part series for the BBC (directed by its author, the first episode of which may be found here), Blackeyes is Dennis Potter’s examination of the valuation the world puts on female beauty, and the process of writing. (Or the role of the author, more correctly.)

The story is pretty simple – Kingsley, a past-it author, finds a new audience through Sugar Bush, a novel created by borrowing from Jessica, his niece. The story of the model – professional name Blackeyes – and the way her Sugar Bush life affects that of its inspiration is where most of the story’s tension originates.

In some regards, it’s Potter-does-Potter, really – there’s The Enduring Mystery Of Women, rooting and bits of improbable nudity. (more…)

Exploring The Old City

Today marked my first completion of a game on my newly-built Steambox.

(Catch-up: Steam is a very successful online games marketplace/management tool which I’ve successfully used to enable a virtual hoarding proclivity while simultaneously ameliorating my physical collection, so win-win I suppose. Anyway, the company is in the process of creating PCs for the lounge-room – called Steamboxes – and I recently built one of my own which, miraculously, didn’t catch fire. It’s named after Stephenson’s Rocket.)

The game I completed was Leviathan: The Old City, which has copped a lot of stick for being nothing more than a walking simulator. (more…)