Author: CaptainFez

Curmudgeon.

Book review: Deadman Wonderland, Vol. 3

Deadman Wonderland, Vol. 2.Deadman Wonderland, Vol. 3 by Jinsei Kataoka and Kazuma Kondou.
My rating: 4 of 5 stars.

I guess this volume is where the story decided to kick itself up a notch. Yes, we’re still in a prison masquerading as the world’s goriest version of It’s A Knockout!, but there’s some deeply mysterious shit going on. Rebels are introduced! There’s another big fight! Backstories are unveiled!

The scriptures look different in real life than on paper, I guess.

Oh, and that. Which, I’m sure, will be explained properly later.
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Book review: Salvation on Sand Mountain

Salvation on Sand Mountain: Snake Handling and Redemption in Southern Appalachia.Salvation on Sand Mountain: Snake Handling and Redemption in Southern Appalachia by Dennis Covington.
My rating: 5 of 5 stars.

Ever since I’d first heard of its existence, I’ve wanted to read Salvation on Sand Mountain. This is, of course, largely because Younger Me was pretty obsessed with the outré nature of its subject – churches whose adherents practised snake handling – which I admit is a pretty rubbernecking approach to something.

Yeah, no reason why I’d be like HOLY SHIT, CHECK THIS OUT at all. (Picture: Jim Neel.)

I finally – some 20-something years later – managed to read the book and discovered that while there was plenty of snaketacular narrative to go around, the book is more rewarding that my youthful self, labelling of it as churchy hicks with scales could ever have imagined. (more…)

Book review: Deadman Wonderland, Vol. 2

Deadman Wonderland, Vol. 2.Deadman Wonderland, Vol. 2 by Jinsei Kataoka and Kazuma Kondou.
My rating: 3 of 5 stars.

This review’s going to be pretty short. I mean, I could recap a bunch of what I said when I looked at the first volume, but let’s not do that, eh? It’s pretty safe to say that as we’re only on the second of thirteen total books that there’ll be a bit of confusion on the reader’s part.

I AM DROOT.

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Book review: The Acolyte

The Acolyte.The Acolyte by Thea Astley.
My rating: 5 of 5 stars.

Shockingly, I’d never read any Thea Astley until I read The Acolyte. I felt guilty about having not done so, sure, but it wasn’t until I was at a loose end and needed a book quickly that a hasty grab from a bag of books rescued from the last-days sale of a cavernous bookstore brought it to my attention.

And boy, am I glad that chance brought me in contact with the story of Paul Vesper, the titular acolyte of blind (and fictional) composer and pianist Jack Holberg. Because it makes me feel a lot better about my own creative inertia, frankly. (more…)

Book review: Deadman Wonderland, Vol. 1

Deadman Wonderland, Vol. 1.Deadman Wonderland, Vol. 1 by Jinsei Kataoka and Kazuma Kondou.
My rating: 4 of 5 stars.

I kind of know what happens here.

I mean, I’ve come to read this manga after I’ve seen the anime. So I know more or less how the story goes.

But I’m interested to see what else there is on offer, knowing that adaptation can sometimes squeeze the life out of a property. I guess I was interested in seeing what more is hidden here. Because let me tell you, if you have no idea about this series, it’s a trip, involving inhuman murder, shady government research, weird blood-based powers, a fatal version of It’s a Knockout! and a fairly major character who may or may not be real.

Corpse Disposal Unit is an EXCELLENT band name.

Oh, and it all takes place in a devastated Tokyo, after an earthquake obliterated 70 per cent of the city. In a prison that also doubles as an amusement part, where death row prisoners die if they don’t get a ration of special candy. (more…)

Book review: The 007 Diaries: Filming Live and Let Die

The 007 Diaries: Filming Live and Let Die.The 007 Diaries: Filming Live and Let Die by Roger Moore.
My rating: 5 of 5 stars.

Roger Moore was my first James Bond.

That’s not quite right. Ian Fleming was, as I had heard of James Bond and decided it was worth checking out some of his books from the library when I was woefully under the target age for them. But I remember discovering a whole series of movies through my parents (and a troop of babysitters). And being the ‘80s at this point, Moore was the go-to.

Of Moore’s tenure, two films still are sentimental favourites with me: The Spy Who Loved Me (which the actor considered his favourite outing), and Live and Let Die, his first time in the double-digits. (more…)

Book review: Crime and Punishment

Crime and Punishment.Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky (tr. Oliver Ready).
My rating: 4 of 5 stars.

When I first read Crime and Punishment in my late teens, I was surprised at how accessible I found the text. I’d been led to believe that Russian literature was, to a word, turgid and overblown – not to mention depressing. Imagine my surprise when I found that the straitened world of Raskolnikov was intriguing and compelling. It was a revelation, and opened me up to a lot of literature I’d not previously considered.

This time around, I was surprised at how much more lively the text appears when viewed through the lens of a more recent translation. And how much deeper the book appears – and how differently I viewed parts of it – after an extra 20 years of life. (more…)

Destiny and servitude but with joysticks

Since I last talked about games here I’ve entered something of a slump, as far as the whole pew pew thing goes. I’ve played a couple of ’em in that time, and there’s been some really enjoyable aspects to all of them. But the overwhelming feeling has been one of meh: that there’s something that I’m missing, and I’m stuffed if I can tell what it is.

Conveyed well, with better hair.

Is it me? Or is it the games that are wrong? Well, let’s see.

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Book review: Death: A Graveside Companion

Death: A Graveside Companion.Death: A Graveside Companion edited by Joanna Ebenstein.
My rating: 4 of 5 stars.

You know, there’s nothing like a graphic investigation into the imagery of death to provide a kind of mortal “oh, is that the time?” feeling in the reader. This is, undoubtedly, the role of the Ebenstein-edited tome on funerary fetishism and the culture of the crypt: to examine how humanity has dealt with its ceaseless tramp towards death through creativity. It’s certainly the way I felt while flicking through its Grim Reaper-filled pages: tempus fugit. Death is coming, but hell, people have made some strange stuff to herald its coming. (Little trees of hair, anyone?)

SPADE THAT MOTHERFUCKER, BONESY.

Aside from this, the book reiterated that skulls are cool.
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Book review: Klotsvog

Klotsvog.Klotsvog by Margarita Khemlin (tr. Lisa Hayden).
My rating: 4 of 5 stars.

I guess if one was looking for a literary bummer with which to pass the time, Klotsvog would fit the bill. It’s a story, written by a Ukraine-born Muscovite, about an indefatigably solipsistic woman who sheds partners and children like Kleenex.

“You, Mayechka, are made from a different dough. Like matzo. Unleavened and hard.”

There’s more to it than that – her awfulness, her awareness of social standing and her denial of her Jewish roots are clear commentaries on Stalinist purges and on the difficulty of life both during and after the second world war. But foremost is the portrait of Maya Abramovna Klotsvog: a woman who believes she is smarter and better than everyone else, but who also, apparently, doesn’t give a fuck who she irritates in the pursuit of her desires. (more…)