Books

What do you read, my lord?

Book review: The True Adventures of the Rolling Stones

The True Adventures of the Rolling Stones.The True Adventures of the Rolling Stones by Stanley Booth.
My rating: 5 of 5 stars.

The Stones are now a band that it’s impossible to view independently. They’re like a Mount Rushmore in dick-sticking jeans, or a Statue of Liberty with a drug problem: something that defies description.

Fact: you can smell this photo.

And yet, Stanley Booth’s book made me feel like I was closer to understanding the blokes in [an iteration of] the band than any number of tell-all interviews or coy promotional bullshit. (more…)

Book review: Swedish Mysteries

Swedish Mysteries; Or, Hero of the Mines.Swedish Mysteries; Or, Hero of the Mines by Anna Maria MacKenzie.
My rating: 2 of 5 stars.

I’m a fan of gothic literature. Chuck me some Radcliffe, and I’m happy for hours. Dripping caves and fusty castles are my thing. Wicked religious orders and Machiavellian familial fuckery? I’m all ears.

You’d think, then, that I’d be all over MacKenzie’s based-in-fact-but-not-really novel about Gustav Eriksson, a man possessed of a shitload of derring-do and a will to power that saw him take on Christian II (of Denmark, Norway and Sweden, because one country’s obviously not enough) and win.

You can set your chronograph to that fringe.

You’d also be wrong. This one’s a bit of a stinker, and as much as I wanted to like it, I just couldn’t. (more…)

Book review: The Walking Dead Compendium 3

The Walking Dead Compendium 3.The Walking Dead Compendium 3 by Robert Kirkman.
My rating: 5 of 5 stars.

Another volume of blood, guts and inter-community negotiation.

Quite the statesman.

Yep, it’s time for another tranche of The Walking Dead.

This compendium gathers together issues 97 – 144 of the comic series, and for the first time the stakes seem a lot higher, at least to me. There’s a sense of community throughout this volume, a feeling that there’s a world beyond just surviving. It also takes place at a period long enough after the outbreak of whatever it was that caused the dead to walk, so you know that anyone who’s bad at this point is going to be really fucking bad. (more…)

Book review: The Ritual

The Ritual.The Ritual by Adam Nevill.
My rating: 5 of 5 stars.

I saw the film adaptation of this novel before I read it, so I was slightly wrongfooted coming into it. I wasn’t, for example, prepared for how metal as fuck the original is.

Yes, it’s still a story about middle-aged guys having a failed bromance in forests so offputting they should be marked HERE BE DRAGONS on the topo map they’re using to get around. But the film adaptation – which was just fine, and plenty creepy on its own – lacks a certain corpsepaint madness that makes the novel so appealing.
(more…)

Book review: The Aosawa Murders

The Aosawa Murders.The Aosawa Murders by Riku Onda (tr. Alison Watts).
My rating: 4 of 5 stars.

Parties are great. Parties celebrating the auspicious birthdays of elders are also great. What’s not great is when the party is spoiled by cyanide, resulting in the deaths of most people at the party, in vomit-tinged terror.

That’s one way to break up a celebration. (more…)

Book review: Pale Fire

Pale Fire.Pale Fire by Vladimir Nabokov.
My rating: 5 of 5 stars.

I’d reached my 40s and hadn’t read any Nabokov. None. This in itself is a fairly large stain against the whole literature-at-uni education trajectory, but it’s especially galling given that now I have read some, and it turns out that the work is ridiculously good.

Like, so much better than I could’ve hoped. To think that there’s people out there who suspect that Infinite Jest takes textual explanation and sidetracking to its ultimate end. (I was one of them until today, let’s face it, even though a Russian whipped Wallace at that game 34 years earlier.)

Get in, loser. We’re gonna fuck with narrative structure.

(more…)

Book review: Gilded Needles

Gilded Needles.Gilded Needles by Michael McDowell.
My rating: 5 of 5 stars.

A while ago, I read my first Michael McDowell novel, and was pleasantly surprised. The plaudits heaped upon the (now deceased) novelist (and Beetlejuice scriptwriter) were truthful, and his strain of subdued horror enchanted me.

So it’s interesting that the second title I’ve read features none of the author’s  signature supernatural forces at all. The evil and machination within Gilded Needles are all resolutely human, and are knotted around a basic drive: for revenge. (more…)

Book review: The Walking Dead Compendium 2

The Walking Dead Compendium 2.The Walking Dead Compendium 2 by Robert Kirkman.
My rating: 5 of 5 stars.

Time to break up the novels with another chunk of rotting flesh. This, the second compendium of Walking Dead survivalist gore, gathers issues 49 to 96 of the series. And let’s just say that the stories within are, well, weirder than the first.

I’ve had worse driving lessons. 

How weird? Well, there’s more serious injury, a bit of cannibalism, accidental deaths (as opposed to on-purpose walker offing), intentionally painful murders, sniper-blown fingers, overrun compounds, threesome suggestions, killer kids and ghost phones.

I mean, it’s not as if reanimated corpses are novel any more, right? (more…)

Book review: Acute Misfortune: The Life and Death of Adam Cullen

Acute Misfortune: The Life and Death of Adam Cullen.Acute Misfortune: The Life and Death of Adam Cullen by Erik Jensen.
My rating: 4 of 5 stars.

I’d known who Adam Cullen was from the papers rather than his art, at least initially. He was the eminently quotable prick who had issues with his mum, and was a bit of a lair, given to creating sculptures out of random shit, and artwork that was distinguished from that of a truculent kid by dint of the violence bubbling underneath it.

Actor, artist and arsehole.

I’d seen his Archibald winners (and non-starters), but hearing him constantly referred to as an enfant terrible or similar made me a bit leery of learning more. And then he died, and at least some of the obits made me think there might be a bit more to the story. (more…)

Book review: The Dead Mountaineer’s Inn

The Dead Mountaineer's Inn.The Dead Mountaineer’s Inn by Boris and Arkady Strugatsky.
My rating: 4 of 5 stars.

I’d been meaning to read a bit more Soviet-era fiction, particularly science fiction. And any exploration of that area is likely to involve the brothers Strugatsky: writers known for some excellently grim work with a coating of political commentary. (Roadside Picnic, filmed as Stalker is a supreme bummer, for starters.)

So it’s a bit of a surprise that my first Strugatsky novel turned out to be a detective story, free – mostly – of politicking, which features a collection of oddballs and a super-sentient dog.
(more…)