Book review: Masters of Doom

Masters of Doom: How Two Guys Created an Empire and Transformed Pop Culture by David Kushner.
My rating: 4 of 5 stars.

During high school, I had a PC. I was a bit bummed by it (largely because it wasn’t an Amiga) but that didn’t last after, in my final years, Wolfenstein 3D came out. From id Software, the game saw you eventually kill mecha-Hitler in a Nazi castle. It was, arguably, the beginning of the wave of first-person shooter games that would come to dominate computers.

You know what I love about this game? The subtlety.

It was (in ’92) the product, largely, of two guys: John Carmack and John Romero. They already had made a bunch of money through the shareware distribution of earlier games, but the duo were on the cusp of history. Just around the corner was one of the most influential and hated-by-politicians games ever: Doom.

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Book review: Adventures in Amity

Adventures in Amity: Tales From The Jaws Ride by Dustin McNeill.
My rating: 3 of 5 stars.

I don’t know how long I can make this review. I mean, this is a book about an amusement park ride.

We’re gonna need a bigger topic of interest.

And there’s not really that much you can write about a ride, even one that features Jaws.

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Book review: Blood, Sweat and Pixels

Blood, Sweat and Pixels by Jason Schreier.
My rating: 4 of 5 stars.

Making games sounds fun, right? Like, you get to hang out in cool offices and make things that are fun to play that people love? Sounds great.

It’s not, and that’s not just because the gaming audience is equally likely to lob death threats into your inbox as praise: it’s because the way games are made is fundamentally fuuuuucked.

At least this guy can go home at night.
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Book review: Theatre of Fear & Horror

Theatre of Fear & Horror: The Grisly Spectacle of the Grand Guignol of Paris, 1897-1962 by Mel Gordon.
My rating: 3 of 5 stars.

The Grand Guignol was Paris’s smallest theatre, was named for a horrifying puppet, and was also a place where you could see various comedies interspersed with incredibly vivid, naturalistic horror.

And clowns. Always with the fucking clowns.

Couple of laughs and some throat-slitting? Sure, mon ami, sounds swell.

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Book review: The Outsiders

The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton.
My rating: 5 of 5 stars.

You know, there’s not a great deal of point to reviewing something like The Outsiders. It’s the sort of work that’s become such a cultural touchstone – who hadn’t heard “stay gold” before reading this? – that it’s impossible to rank it. The score won’t change anyone’s mind, nor will it change the book’s reputation.

Still, in the spirit of trying to review everything I read in order to give some shape to my post-read feelings, I’ll give it a go.

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Book review: 54

54 by Wu Ming.
My rating: 5 of 5 stars.

Last year I read Q, the medieval pastiche created by Luther Blissett, a guy who did exist but also – for authorial purposes – didn’t.

They’re a photogenic lot. Or are they?

This year, I moved a bit forward in time and read 54, set in 1954. It’s another creation by parts of Q‘s creative steering committee, except this time around they’re known as Wu Ming. Basically they’re a bunch of anonymous Bologna-based scribes who create playful pieces, which is just as well because their nom-de-plume is the Chinese phrase for anonymous.

How handy is that?

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Book review: The Plague

The Plague by Albert Camus.
My rating: 5 of 5 stars.

The Plague mightn’t have inspired a Cure song, but that doesn’t mean you should discount it. I mean, is it on the nose to be reading something with this title in 2020? It feels a little on the nose, but here I am, ploughing through Camus’s 1947 examination of the effects of bubonic plague on a city because frankly, there’s not much else to do in 2020 other than to try and avoid disease by any means necessary, as others seem hell-bent on playing chicken with it.

Camus: possibly anti-mask, but definitely pro-ciggie.

(Well. I suppose I could’ve come up with a radio adaptation and recorded it remotely but I guess I don’t have the funding or the spark of the BBC, so reading it was about all I can stretch to.)

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Book review: Nightmares

Nightmares: Three Great Suspense Novels by Ira Levin.
My rating: 5 of 5 stars.

Ira Levin. You know the guy: novelist, playwright and the man whose stories became adapted into a dozen or so films, from Sliver to The Boys From Brazil. A jobbing writer, whose tight planning is a thing of wonder.

Why yes, I do have an Edgar award as well as this father fetching pullover. And I wrote The Stepford Wives.

Nightmares is a collection of three of Levin’s novels in one book club-style hardback. It’s something that I came across in an op shop in a small town in the middle of the country, which is probably fitting because each of the stories are about people fitting in – or trying to fit in – to a community.

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Book review: American Kingpin

American Kingpin: The Epic Hunt for the Criminal Mastermind behind the Silk Road Drugs Empire by Nick Bilton.
My rating: 4 of 5 stars.

You like to read about drugs? And the internet? Murder-for-hire? Inter-agency squabblings?


You’re probably not all that interested in the last of these, but they provide a lot of the forward thrust of Nick Bilton’s American Kingpin, a book about the rise – and eventual downfall – of the man behind The Silk Road, an online emporium that taunted law enforcement for years.

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Book review: Mother, Brother, Lover: Selected Lyrics

Mother, Brother, Lover: Selected Lyrics by Jarvis Cocker.
My rating: 4 of 5 stars.

So Pulp, eh? Possibly – nah, probably – the best band to emerge from the Britpop years of hype and arse-smacking heroin chic.

The group – in existence since 1978, if you can believe it – weren’t typically sexy. I mean, there was an effort to evoke a certain PR sexiness from lyricist Jarvis Cocker’s gangly frame, but it wasn’t the body that made him sexy: it was the combination of his writing, and of sex itself.

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