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‘Ello, ‘ello, what ‘ave we ‘ere?

Rivers of LondonRivers of London cover image

Aaronovich, Ben

Gollancz, London

ISBN: 978 0575097568

NOTE:  This book is also known by another title, Midnight Riot.  I don’t know why for sure, but I have a feeling it’s something to do with the market outside the UK.  But more on that later…

SO many apostrophes in that title!  You get what I’m going for there though, right cublings?  It’s all a bit Saauf Lundun, innit.  Oh alright, I’ll stop embarrassing myself now, and get back on topic.  This book, or at least the copy that I read, has a quote from Diana Gabaldon on it’s cover which reads “What would happen if Harry Potter grew up and joined the Fuzz.”  Now, I’m no Potterphile, but if I’m not mistaken, not only did Harry Potter want to grow up and join “the fuzz” (or at least the magical version thereof), but that quote is going to put off a lot of people who probably would really enjoy this book.  It’s funny, irreverent, and has enough serious subtext (on race, the nature of authority, and other good pondering subjects like that) to keep you engaged with the story long after you finish reading it.

Getting back to the Potter thing, Rowling takes the approach that magic is something you’re born with, and has to be developed if it’s going to be usable for the witch or wizard from an early age, right?  Aaronovitch’s main character, Peter Grant, doesn’t discover that he’s capable of magic until he’s coming to the end of his probationary period as a police constable as a part of the London Metropolitan Police.   Peter explains to his superior officer in the Police equivalent of the exit interview that he wants to join the CID and become a detective; but when the superior asks him why he doesn’t want to join one of the specialist units, Peter “suddenly had a horrible thought.  What if they were thinking of sending me to Trident?  That was the Operational Command Unit charged with tackling gun crime within the black community…[and]…always on the lookout for black officers to do hideously dangerous undercover work, and being mixed race meant that I qualified.” (p12)  There are two things that interest me about this little two sentence nugget – firstly, that use of jargon.  This book is full of it.  That’s not something that I mind personally; in fact it bought back childhood memories of watching The Bill as a kid; “Get ‘im daaun to CID!”, etcetra, etcetra.  The acronyms are only elongated once (thank goodness – nothing makes me more irritated that authors who feel the need to explain themselves again and again), so if you were someone who got obsessed about these things, it might be a bit annoying, but I just rolled right over them.

The second interesting thing about that sentence is the reference to race.  When I was thinking about it afterward, I can’t actually remember ever having read a book with a mixed-race character as it’s lead.  Which is weird, don’t you think?  Maybe it’s just my bad memory, but it still interests me.  There is a part later on in the book where a very senior police officer (who, to be fair, is under the influence of a rather malicious revanant) tells Peter that ‘back in his day’, Peter would be unwelcome to say the least in the Met; “A locker full of excrement would have been a warm-up.  Odds are, a few of your relief would have taken you to one side and explained, in a rough but friendly manner, just how unwanted you were.” (p322)  It’s always lurking as a subtext in the back of the story, and that is one of the things that made me enjoy it so much.  I really believe that some of the most effective ways of getting people to think about these issues is to make us laugh about them first.  Laugh, then think really, really hard. Read the rest of this entry

The Light at the End of the Tunnel

Metro 2033Metro 2033: Dmitry Glukhovsky

Glukhovsky, Dmitry (translated by Natasha Randall)

Gollancz, 2009 (originally published 2007)

ISBN: 978 0575086241

I gotta say, I’m lovin’ the sheer Russian-ness of this book.  You remember when I was trying to read that Solzhenitsyn book The Cancer Ward, and it kept defeating me?  Well, this was something else entirely.  Seriously cublings, it’s so good!  Admittedly, it’s taken me a while to read it, but that’s more me than it is the book.  There’s a lot of stuff going down in Mama Wolf’s world at the moment, but instead of boring you with that, I’ll suffice to say that this book has been a nice little break from reality.

Just a note here – I decided not to make this review into a Word vs. Image challenge, even though this is kind of a special circumstance.  As far as I’m aware, Metro 2033 hasn’t been made into a movie, but it has been made into a game; the game came out a few years ago now, but I still remember watching my Lad play it (I don’t possess the manual dexterity or nerves of steel for FPS-type games – hacking madly with a sword from a distance is about my limit).  It was certainly true to the books claustrophobic, terrifying feel; beasties leaping out at you from all angles.  If you’re keen to read about the novel as a game, you can do so here.

Getting back to the ‘break from reality’ thing, I think that that’s mainly because it’s so bleak.  I’d really challenge anyone with a skerrick of imagination to think that they’d had a bad day after reading about daily life in the Moscow subways after the Nuclear Apocalypse as Glukhovsky imagines it.  You feel tired just thinking about it.  And as much as I love pork and mushrooms, I think that I’d be weeping after a few months of only eating that – let alone years.   Read the rest of this entry

A Sea of Hatred

GrotesqueGrotesque cover image

Kirino, Natsuo (translated by Rebecca Copeland)

Vintage, 2003

ISBN: 978 0 099 52083

I’d like to think I’m a pretty patient individual.  I’m okay with working slowly toward things, as long as I feel like the rewards are either incrementally increasing as I go through my task, or that the eventual reward is going to be worth the effort.  This book has taken me a stonkingly long time to finish, nearly six months for 467 pages.  That’s pretty shabby by anyone’s standards.

I mean, you can tell that a book called Grotesque is going to be pretty much up my alley, right?  Pretty promising, lots of references to murder and prostitution and stuff like that.  But the going got tough when I realised that the characters were all pretty much entirely obtuse, which I think is why I had such a hard time getting into it.  I mean, don’t get me wrong, the obtuseness is actually part of the characters, self-indulgent little trollops they are too, but for the most part it was like being talked at by a fourteen year old girl who is yet to realise that the Earth doesn’t actually revolve around her.

This may be made worse by the fact that it’s told in the first person for the first half.  Usually I really like this, when you’ve got two characters squaring off with each other about which version of the truth is the correct one.  This one is a little weird though, because you’ve got two sisters telling you their stories.  One sister, the elder, is embittered, angry – but it’s not a good rage-y kind of anger, more like it comes off as being slightly pathetic.  She’s always moaning on about how horrid (and yet, beautiful) her younger sister Yuriko is, which I have to say, gets a little tedious.  Yuriko is the other voice; she’s just as pathetic, but has this kind of veneer of intractability and stubbornness.  Yuriko is determined to use her sexuality in this really twisted way, which seemingly why she becomes a prostitute in the first place – she sees it as the only way that she can have power over men.

So far, so boring right?

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You’re scaring yourself, child.

Needful ThingsNeedful Things cover image

King, Stephen

Hodder and Stoughton, 1991

ISBN: 0 450 57458 X

Hey cublings – after quite the hiatus, I’m back to the blogging, and badderer than ever.  Suffice to say, I thought I’d start gentle and then work my way up (or down, as the case may be) to the other stuff that I’ve been reading over the past… oooh.  That long, huh?

Needful Things is a weird one.  It’s part of Steven King’s Castle Rock oevre, that famously infamous township in Maine which is an amalgam of Rockwellian imagery, Orwellian politicing, and Lovecraftian beasties lurking just below the surface.  In true King style, most of the beasties are lurking in human form, but Needful Things has a few notable exceptions to  this rule.

Being part of the Castle Rock group there are certain recurrances that pop up – actually that’s not even just true of the Castle Rock novels, but of King’s work in general.  I’d like to think that I’ve read enough of his stuff by now (a fact that this blog will attest to) to see the seams on the monster suit.  Alan Pangbourne is referenced in other places, and also references in his turn, events in Cujo and in The Dark Half as well.  Alan Pangborne is such a godamn likeable character, its always one of those moments which makes the teeny writer inside of me shrivel up and die a little bit inside, just marvelling at the creation.  But I digress – it’s not just Alan who is showing up like a bad penny; Leland Gaunt has more than a passing resemblance to that bad-guy-to-beat-all-bad-guys Randall Flagg from The Stand and Eyes of the Dragon, and ol’ Buster Keaton also resembles “Big” Jim Rennie from Under the Dome.  Those are just the ones I can think of off the top of my head, as well – there have got to be more out there.

Brian Rusk is the first character who sets foot in the new store in town, Needful Things (“Funny name for a store” one of the characters remarks – suspicious name for a store, says I); he’s a young lad with a slight speech impediment, a little-kid crush on his speech therapy teacher, and an avid collector of baseball cards.  Baseball is one of those things that keeps cropping up in King’s work, much like the little towns in Maine.  He’s written a whole book on baseball – I haven’t read it, given that I have little understanding and less interest in the sport, but I hear it’s pretty good.

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Of Godzilla, saline and other perversions

Crooked Little Vein'Crooked Little Vein' by Warren Ellis

Ellis, Warren

Harper Perennial

ISBN 978 0 06 125205 1

This book is just kind of beautiful.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s no classic of literature or anything, it’s not even really culty enough to be a cult classic.  But that’s almost part of the charm.  I mean, I only had an inkling that it might be good because of Ellis’ comic writing, and the fact that I read his blog and he had been banging on about his second novel, Gun Machine, for a while there.  Now, I know that being asked back to do another one is no guarantee of quality when it comes to writing… sometimes just the opposite.  But after reading this one, I can see why they asked him back.

It’s pretty compelling.  Okay, yes, I know, I have a weakness for the gross out, and there are bits in this book which are terminal gross out.  Weirdly, it’s been compared to the Chuck Palahniuk story Guts, but I can’t really see it.  I mean, Guts is almost medical-porn in its level of detail, and while there is a little of that in here, the whole motivation feels entirely different.  It’s almost like, Ellis is faking a world-weariness through the character of Michael McGill that is just a thin veneer over something romantically, comically unpleasant. Read the rest of this entry

A Regular Robert Deadford

Christine

King, Stephen

Hodder and Staughton, 1983

ISBN: 0450 056740

Welcome to 2012, cublings!  Hopefully you are all recovered from any time spent with relations over Christmas and New Year (or any other holiday you might have had forced upon you), and your new years resolutions are listed on your fridge getting frantically ignored.  I thought that I’d kick off the book club this year by writing about one of my old favourites, Christine, by Stephen King.

I know that my taste runs to the schlocky end of the spectrum.  I’ve embraced that.  So, it stands to reason that I should like this book.  I mean, you can tell from the first lines on the blurby bit on the back of this book that it’s going to be a treat for the low brow, it goes something like ‘Christine was burrowing into his brain, his subconcience…’  Brilliant, right? I mean, it sounds like the by-line to a Hammer horror or something about brain-parasites or body snatchers.  Maybe it’s somehow significant that it is dedicated to George Romero, the director of many brilliant (and Godawful) horror films, not the least the movie Creepshow.  Before you ask, no, I’ve never seen the film version of Christine, I’m a bit loathe to, but as usual, willing to take a well placed hint if anyone out there thinks it’s a bit special (or a bit septic, I’m open to either option – having watched The Pillow Book recently, I need something that will blot some of the amount of times I have now seen Ewan McGregor’s…er…zones… out of my head.)

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My Mama Says I’m a Winner

… and it turns out I am.

That’s right, bitches!  I’m totally a novelist!  Not a published novelist, maybe, or a very good one (hey, it’s in the first draft, let’s not get too hasty).  But it does mean that I can finally, finally display one of these suckers.  Hells yeah!  So I’m celebrating by getting a bit drunk tonight, toasting my own brilliance.  Or something.

Basically what that all means for you cublings, is that now I’m more full than ever of my own self-importance, which should make blogging at least 253% more awesome.  I did say at the start of November that I was going away for the month, and although that didn’t really happen, it was a slight hiatus.  So now I’m back, and badderer than ever.  Literally.  Because you have no comprehesion how bad my spelling has got after having to punch out just under two thousand words per day, going hell-for-leather all the way.

Anyway, hope y’all have had a fun November, lucky for me it’s been galeforce winds and stuff like that where I live lately, so not really ‘going outside’ kind of weather.  Just the kind of weather you want for novelling.  Now summer can commence!

A Parrot among Crows

Let the Right One In

Lindquist, John Ajvide

Thomas Dunne Books/St. Martin’s Press, 2007

ISBN: 978 0 312 35529 6

Pre-movie

You may know this movie as ‘Let Me In’, but it’s the Swedish version (the original version, I should add), which has been sitting in the pile of ‘to be watched’ DVD’s for a good long time.  We’re terrible at that kind of thing, the Lad and I – we have probably about seven movies sitting in the pile next to the TV at the moment.  I prefer to look at it as ‘seasoning’ them, but I don’t know what I’m seasoning them for exactly… still, to get back on topic, I didn’t even know this was a book until I found it by accident while looking through horror stuff at the Book Depository.  Since I knew it was a movie already I tried desperately not to get the edition with the movie poster as it’s cover (God, I hate that.  I mean, it was a book before it was a movie, right?  So why would you need a whole new cover for it? Are people that lazy that they don’t recognise a movie is taken from a book unless it has a dirty great movie poster on it?  Okay… climbing down off my hobby horse now.  I promise.), but I failed and settled for the movie poster version.

So, I don’t know, I may have jinxed myself out of liking this movie by being determined to read the book first.  I guess I just didn’t want to be seeing the actors from the movie in my head – particularly Håken post-acid-face.  There were a couple of really beautiful scenes in this book, so I could see why whoever it was wanted to make a movie about it; particularly the scene with Oskar and the school group on the ice when the body is discovered, and the scene in the church with Tommy and the saltpetre in the baptismal font.  But tone is always the thing, don’t you think?  I mean, when you’re reading a book, the thing that either leaves me cold or makes me keep reading is the tone, the feeling around the edges of the events.  Ugh, you know, that’s a phrase that I use a lot, ‘feeling around the edges’, but it’s the only real way that I can think of to describe that sort of thing.  It’s like an emotion that’s not directly described, it’s just there, and in Let the Right One In, it’s a feeling of desolation, of loneliness and the desire for a connection, almost at whatever cost.

Okay, okay, so it’s also a vampire book.  What is it with ladies and the fanged ones, eh?  I have to say that I am no exception to the craze of vampires, though I like to think that I was kind of riding the wave before they became cool.  Hopeless justification, but hey.  And just to get this out in the open, yes, I have read Twilight, and I seem to be powerless to resist Sookie and the Bon Temps gang, but mostly that’s just romance dressed up in horror drag – sort of like those cute zombie cheerleader outfits you see around now we’re approaching Hallowe’en.  This is not that.  Not at all.

I don’t feel like I can comment too much on the writing style of this book because of the translation issue. Just so you know,  this version was translated by Ebba Segerberg in 2007. I mean, how can you say that something is well written when all you have to go on is the translated version?  It’s enough to me that the story was compelling, and thought provoking, which isn’t something you can say about a lot of books that come under the Fanged Canon.  It’s a pretty intricate plot, with a lot of seemingly unconnected characters who are swirled up in several violent events.  So I’m slightly concerned about how that plot is going to suffer being told in only115 minutes.  We’ll see though.

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