book review

Book review: Pu Pu Hot Pot

Pu Pu Hot PotPu Pu Hot Pot by Ben Brusey
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Given the length of this book, this’ll be a short review. There’s a real chance that if I rabbit on to my usual length, I’ll end up with something wiht a higher word-count than the thing I’m reviewing.

(Though it’d also probably be more enjoyable. BOOM!) (more…)

Book review: Dogs and Demons: The Fall of Modern Japan

Dogs and Demons: The Fall of Modern JapanDogs and Demons: The Fall of Modern Japan by Alex Kerr
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is the second of Alex Kerr’s books on Japan that I’ve read, and it certainly doesn’t hold back. It’s critical – rightly so, in many cases – of the ornate, backhander-rich culture that permeates government and industry, of the blinkered educational aims of the country, of the done-with-mirrors, waiting-for-collapse economic system, the addiction to government works and needless halls that bankrupt cities and swell construction coffers, the lack of regulation and the wholesale disregard for culture, simplicity and the landscape which outsiders associate with Japan.

The man’s distaste and fear couldn’t be better conveyed if each chapter were entitled SHIT’S FUCKED in 72-point type, followed by pages of onomatopoeic screams.

And yet part of me – as a big ole gaijin myself – wonders how much of the writing is the result of the foreign lens being brought to bear, with the baggage that brings. (more…)

Book review: Preacher, Volume 3: Proud Americans

Preacher, Volume 3: Proud AmericansPreacher, Volume 3: Proud Americans by Garth Ennis
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Preacher re-read rolls on. Proud Americans gathers issues 18 to 26 of the series and while it contains just as much blow-shit-up-while-making-knob-jokes stuff as the previous trades, it’s also one which deepens character and explores history, too. Spoilers ahead, most likely.

We begin as Jesse is en route to Paris, where he encounters Space, a Vietnam vet who has stories to share of John Custer. The previous collection’s story of Angelville told of the meeting of Jesse’s mother and father, but this one offers some insight into what sort of a man he was – traits which have rubbed off onto the son, in an exchange begun by an anti-Commie lighter. (more…)

Book review: My Life As A Fake

My Life As A FakeMy Life As A Fake by Peter Carey
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Take a 1940s literary hoax, Frankenstein, Rilke, Ezra Pound, literary journal editorship and the memsahib culture of Malaysia in the middle of last century and whip it all up with ulcerated legs and modish, society-shocking femmes fatales and you’ve pretty much got this entry in Carey’s oeuvre. My Life as a Fake is shorter than a lot of his other work – I think it’s probably on par with something like The Tax Inspector for length – but it packs a pretty hefty punch. (more…)

Book review: Strange Weather in Tokyo

Strange Weather in Tokyo Strange Weather in Tokyo by Hiromi Kawakami
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Hiromi Kawakami has, in Strange Weather in Tokyo, written a fairly plot-free novel that charts the deepening friendship between Tsukiko, a late-30s woman, and Sensei, her teacher from years ago. They meet in a local bar – food and drink is key to the novel, bonding agents made of sake and mushrooms – and what follows is the story of pendulums going in and out of sync. (more…)

Book review: Aunts Up the Cross

Aunts Up the CrossAunts Up the Cross by Robin Dalton
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This slim work is a collection of reminiscences of Robin Dalton’s childhood in a now-vanished Kings Cross. It’s brief, but reads entertainingly well, a collision of multiculturalism and religion with crime, the theatre and a distinct feeling of familial uniqueness. There’s spinster aunts, simple neighbours and a passing parade in a house which feels more like a cabaret than a homestead – but it’s never stuck in a self-congratulatory gear.

It seems fairly standard with reviews of this work to mention that it’s singular in its opening. The vehicular death of a great aunt is the subject, and while this in itself is a reasonably dramatic thing to start with, it’s also worth quoting in its entirety as it highlights Dalton’s precise prose.

My great-Aunt Juliet was knocked over and killed by a bus when she was eighty-five. The bus was travelling very slowly in the right direction and could hardly have been missed by anyone except Aunt Juliet, who must have been travelling fairly fast in the wrong direction.

(more…)

Book review: Hebridean Sharker

Hebridean SharkerHebridean Sharker by Tex Geddes
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Tex Geddes is very well-spoken. At least, his written voice is well-spoken. I suppose that I’d somehow expected him to write in a kind of Irvine Welsh-style rendition of accent, partially because his story is a deeply Scottish one – cold beauty and rough elemental life – and partially because he was, as far as I can ascertain, a mad old bastard. As you’d expect from a man who spent a lot of time shark-fishing, game-stalking, and convincing the British government that as the Laird of Soay, he needed a postal service goddamnit.

This link will take you to a write-up of his life on wikipedia, but I think it’s important to highlight the fact that he died while returning home from a bagpiping competition. (more…)

Book review: The Turning Tide

The Turning TideThe Turning Tide by Brooke Magnanti

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Brooke Magnanti has written a number of books as the more salaciously autobiographical (and until recently, private) Belle de Jour. The Turning Tide is the first fiction work published under her own name (The Sex Myth, a non-fiction work, was released in 2012.)

If you’re familiar with the author’s earlier work, this outing without an alter ego will surprise: it’s a thriller which begins with the discovery of a body in a bag on the remote Scottish coast, and ends somewhere completely different. Along the way you’ll run into philosophic thugs, new and old media, headbanger mortuary attendants and a distinctly Cicely, Alaska-if-it-were-in-the-Hebrides oddness.

(You can find out if there’s shagging in it for yourself, mind.) (more…)

Book review: My Lovely Ghost KANA, Volume 3

My Lovely Ghost KANA, Volume 3.My Lovely Ghost KANA, Volume 3 by Yutaka Tanaka
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This review is brief, as there’s not really all that much I can add to my previous two reviews of this manga. This, the third volume, brings to a close the supernatural romance’s run, and leaves us with little more knowledge than when we began.

The problem with My Lovely Ghost KANA is that there’s not much of an overarching story. Guy meets ghostgirl, they drink beer and shag, and the background of neither is explained very well. (more…)

Book review: Idoru

Idoru.Idoru by William Gibson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The second in Gibson’s Bridge trilogy is much more enjoyable than the first. Well, scratch that – it’s enjoyable in a different way. I found it entertaining as one of its characters is demonstrably based on Australian standover man and garrulous toecutter Mark Brandon “Chopper” Read, which immediately gave me a cultural ‘in’ on the work. But also of importance, for me, was its focus on pop fame, and the construction of identity.

As ever, Gibson is a thriller author concealed in tech. He’s adventure by stealth, (more…)