Goodreads Review

Book review: The Cipher

The Cipher.The Cipher by Kathe Koja.
My rating: 4 of 5 stars.

So it’s only taken me about thirty years to read any Koja, and Current Me is somewhat annoyed at Past Me. I’ve no idea how I missed this novel on its first publication, as it certainly scratches the itch for the bizarre that Past Me would have been Well Into, what with all the human transformation and grimy locale and vaguely religious groupings shrouded in pisstaking and gore.

“When Life Gives You Lemons, Make Lemonade.” Well, life had given me shit, and I was making a compost heap. Or more succinctly, life had given me a Funhole, and I was making a grave.

Past Me is an idiot, plainly, especially given the number of awards The Cipher has won. (The Locus Award for Best First Novel and the Bram Stoker Award for Best First Horror Novel seem to be a fairly good indicator of quality, let’s face it.)
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Book review: Universal Harvester

Universal Harvester.Universal Harvester by John Darnielle
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

You know, there’s a lot to be said for the pre-Internet era. You know, the time before streaming services, when people had to rent videotapes, and what was known was limited by hard-copy research, or – more often than not – relied on hearsay and rumour, at least as far as local history was concerned.

John Darnielle’s second novel is a little bit of a love story to the period, while also managing to be a ghost story, a thriller, a tribute to the boredom and joy of a life lived small, as well as a meditation on movement by spirit. It’s a consideration of how history is made, and how those same records can be viewed differently in the light of a little information.
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Book review: How to Do Nothing: Resisting the Attention Economy

How to Do Nothing: Resisting the Attention Economy.How to Do Nothing: Resisting the Attention Economy by Jenny Odell.
My rating: 4 of 5 stars.

I hadn’t really expected to be reading a book about disconnecting myself in the middle of a global pandemic, but here we are.

I’d had a copy of Jenny Odell’s polemic against the attention economy – broadly speaking, the society which inculcates in us the idea that our time, metered, is worth money and is wasted unless it is being used “productively” – for a while, but it took a moment of enforced quietude to make me read it.

I’m glad I did. (more…)

Book review: The Odyssey

The OdysseyThe Odyssey by Homer and Emily Wilson.
My rating: 5 of 5 stars.

Giving Homer’s Odyssey five stars would seem a foregone conclusion, right? I mean, it’s the second-oldest extant work of Western literature (homeboy Homer also created the first) and it’s pretty much the definition of an epic tale. It gave James Joyce the basis for Ulysses (though there’s much less wanking in this version) and is something about which more people know a little, even if they don’t know its exact provenance. Angry cyclops? Sirens? A decades-long return, hamstrung by gods being utter dickheads? C’mon.

Crew: “Fuck you, Odysseus, we want to hear SirenFM too.”

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Book review: The Walking Dead Compendium 4

The Walking Dead Compendium 4.The Walking Dead Compendium 4 by Robert Kirkman.
My rating: 5 of 5 stars.

So this is where it all ends. The final instalment in the saga of The Walking Dead, in which a bunch of favourites will die, and the world will go on.

Probably not, man.

Or will it?
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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: 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 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.
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