books

Goodreads review: Queen Victoria’s Bomb

Queen Victoria's BombQueen Victoria’s Bomb by Ronald William Clark
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This book’s commonly touted as one of the precursors of the steampunk movement. It dates from 1967 and though I’d been keen to read it, I hadn’t found a copy. Having an interest in steampunk – the literature, not the habit of sticking cogs onto anything and wearing goggles down the shops – I figured that a three-ish buck version on Kindle was a safe enough bet. (more…)

Goodreads review: Outcast, Vol. 2: A Vast And Unending Ruin

Outcast, Vol. 2: A Vast And Unending RuinOutcast, Vol. 2: A Vast And Unending Ruin by Robert Kirkman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This will be a short review, largely because there’s not a lot to go on. You could probably read my review of the first volume and apply it to this one and you’d be fairly well set. The art remains affectingly retro, cinematic and draughtsman-like, and the pacing – while languid – is tight. So, second verse same as the first?

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Goodreads review: The King of Fools

The King of FoolsThe King of Fools by Frédéric Dard
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A short review for a short work? Why not.

Frédéric Dard was a prodigious creator, a Frenchman who was a prolific creator of crime novels, often taking elements of his own life to fuel his works. (The kidnapping of his daughter ended up in a book, and he said his biggest regret about dying was that he wouldn’t be able to write about it.) He wrote under a number of pseudonyms (Cornel Milk, anyone?) though this is the first time I’ve encountered his work. (more…)

Goodreads review: The Secret History of Twin Peaks

The Secret History of Twin PeaksThe Secret History of Twin Peaks by Mark Frost
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

So, the new season of Twin Peaks is upon us, unfolding darkly. It’s as good a time as any to dive into Mark Frost’s remarkably produced tome, which offers a little in the way of backstory before we spool up for whatever he and Lynch have planned for the sleepy burg and its inhabitants.

The first thing to note is that this isn’t a novel per se. It’s billed as that, though it presents a collection of documents: a dossier. This should be unsurprising if you’re familiar with other tie-in works: both The Secret Diary of Laura Palmer and Dale Cooper: My Life, My Tapes (the latter written by Frost) were fictional but presented in the manner of documents – a teenager’s diary and a fastidious man’s audio transcriptions. And yes, it may appear slightly gimmicky, but there’s so much effort put into maintaining the idea that one can’t help but go along with it. (more…)

Goodreads review: The Commandant

The CommandantThe Commandant by Jessica Anderson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Jessica Anderson is someone who I’ve always meant to read more of but hadn’t managed to. Tirra Lirra By The River was loosely covered in my Eng Lit degree, and didn’t make much of an impression (probably because of my youthful inattention, frankly) but The Commandant, it turns out, is exceptional.

It’s one of the titles reissued in Text Publishing’s yellow-covered series of classics, and from the introduction I can see how the work might have been considered a bodice-ripper when it came out. Though – the off-screen appearance of shagging, if any, aside – it’s a disservice to call it such. It’s a meditation on early Australian history, as well as a forerunner of other such historical fiction as Peter Carey’s Oscar and Lucinda. It sits well with Patrick White’s Voss inasmuch as it takes history for its basis, and then adds to it, using invention as the magnifying glass for fact. (more…)

Goodreads review: Junji Ito’s Cat Diary: Yon & Mu

Junji Ito's Cat Diary: Yon & MuJunji Ito’s Cat Diary: Yon & Mu by Junji Ito
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

If there’s anything the manga-reading public can agree on, it’s that Junji Ito is one fucked-up dude. He’s a writer of horror manga, and is probably most famous for Uzumaki, a spiral-obsessed mind-fuck of popped eyeballs and extreme scoliosis. (I reviewed its three volumes here, here and here, if you’re still unsure about his oddity.)

His work is normally known for extreme violence and inventive ick and squick, so when I found out he’d written a series about cats – yep, cats – I figured I had to give it a go. (more…)

Goodreads review: Post Everything: Outsider Rock and Roll

Post Everything: Outsider Rock and RollPost Everything: Outsider Rock and Roll by Luke Haines
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

You know, there’s a lot of room in my life for books in which the creator of one of the best Britpop-umbrella bands details the life-and-death of his next project, writes a music featuring a Lord Lucan cameo, filches cash from a label even as they are dumping him, is told how to make decent scrambled eggs (low heat, folks, low heat) by a perhaps-imagined drug-addict cat, and receives album advice from dead rappers.

(Even though he’d hate the fucking Britpop bit.)

This is that book. (more…)

Goodreads review: The Book: On the Taboo Against Knowing Who You Are

The Book: On the Taboo Against Knowing Who You AreThe Book: On the Taboo Against Knowing Who You Are by Alan W. Watts
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Alan Watts died in 1974, but he seems to be much more popular today than ever he was while alive. This book, The Book, was written on a Sausalito houseboat, and has been on my to-read list since I heard about it on a discussion forum years ago. I feel it might have been of more import to me had I read it when I was younger – it’s certainly a counterpoint to the “you’re all special!” mindset imparted by school – but I still found it quietly reassuring today.

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Goodreads review: Revival

Revival Revival by Stephen King
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

So, I’m back on the King train. I’d fallen off it when I was in my early 20s – I feel his readership is probably most vehement about keeping up in its teens, as I was – and it had been years. I read From A Buick 8 some time ago and really enjoyed it. Since then, though, there’s been thirteen-odd books – four (including one out later this year) since the time Revival was written.

It’s hard to keep up, is what I’m saying. Also, I’m not sure I’d pick Revival as the book to jump back in on. (more…)

Goodreads review: The Complete Phonogram

The Complete PhonogramThe Complete Phonogram by Kieron Gillen
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Oi. Do you like Britpop? Did you like Britpop? Are you familiar with the psychogeographical pitches resonating through the shitholes of Camden? Did you have a dog in the Blur/Oasis fight? Were you mad for it? Did you think Luke Haines was more arch (and better, let’s face it) than Brett Anderson?

Oh, and do you like magic(k)?

If the answer to any of those was affirmative, you’re gonna love this book. And I mean love. (more…)