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Journal of Peter Greenwell

Tag: eighties (page 1 of 5)

Richard Awlinson – Waterdeep

Waterdeep (Forgotten Realms: Avatar #3)Waterdeep by Troy Denning
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

As good as the book before it in nearly every way. That’s to say we have x amount of pages of escapist popcorn-level fantasy that’s pretty much devoid of things like character building, literary flair and so on. Of course, you don’t read Forgotten Realms novels for these reasons – well, one hopes you don’t. Still, this is an enjoyable romp and wraps up a mostly serviceable trilogy about ordinary people becoming gods and goddesses in a magic-bedevilled world. So, this is the end for the “raven-haired mage”, the “hawk-nosed thief” and the “green-eyed warrior.” All wrapped up.

Well, it should wrap things up but there’s two additional books in this series. *Sigh* isn’t there always?

Whatever. It’s all good fun.

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Richard Awlinson – Tantras

Tantras (Forgotten Relalms: Avatar #2)Tantras by Scott Ciencin
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Superior effort in nearly every way to its predecessor. It isn’t boring, which of course is a huge plus, and it’s almost a criminal offence for a D&D book to be tedious to read. Regardless of their value as literature, they should be popcorn page-turners.

Well, Tantras thankfully is. It’s competently written though it has all the faults of this particular niche of fantasy fiction – that’s to say minimal characterisation, few grey moral areas. overly tight plotting and character motivations that occasionally border on the nonsensical. Bad guys are bad guys because the plot says so, not from any logical reason or story progression.

But, as I keep saying in these D&D reviews: it’s all good fun. This time around, it actually was good fun. Here’s hoping the next instalment is just as fluid,.

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Modern Fantasy: The 100 Best Novels – David Pringle

This is in regards to a well-favoured book that came out in 1988, that listed the best 100 novels in the fantasy genre since 1946. The author’s idea of what fantasy is mightn’t coincide with the popular view and for sure, some of the included works would raise a few eyebrows. Pynchon’s The Crying of Lot 49 and Fowles’ The Magus wouldn’t ordinarily appear in your average list of great fantasy books. Neither of those two are what you’d classify as light, entertaining reading.

Sporadically over the years, I’ve tried to read all of these books and as of the writing of this post, I’m woefully short of even halfway. I’m at twenty-three, and of those, I couldn’t even finish a few of them – like The Third Policeman and Glory Road. I found them unreadable.

But a number of the author’s choices are among the best things I’ve ever read – Lord of the Rings, Lord Foul’s Bane, Titus Groan, Eyes of the Overworld, etc. The Lord of the Rings make most best-of lists, and Titus Groan and the other Gormenghast books occasionally do too. And, a little while ago, I was actually quite chuffed when Rupert Murdoch’s news.com.au included The Dying Earth as one of its 100 Must Read Books.
the dying earth

So, the point of this post? I suppose I’d better get to it. I will endeavour to read all of these in this list. I own a few of the unread ones, and most that I’ve seen can be had cheap off Ebay periodically. Failing that, there is the e-book route (Amazon, et al).

Stay tuned.

Tracy Hickman and Margaret Weis – Dragons of Winter Night

Dragons of Winter Night (Dragonlance: Chronicles, #2)Dragons of Winter Night by Margaret Weis
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Not as good as the first one. It lacked a certain something, and the way the narrative jumped around wasn’t ideal either. I found it a little harder in this instalment to care about the characters too – the authors obviously want you to care – but for mine, there wasn’t enough given reasons to care. They’re not as cardboard-y or as stock as in some other D&D novels out there, but because of the frequently discursive narrative, there’s not enough time to build up a rapport.

And dare I say it, but of all the D&D worlds, I have a preference for the Forgotten Realms. Ed Greenwood may have his faults as a writer of fiction, but the world he created is a compellingly deep place. Krynn? Not so much – not yet, I suppose. Over the length of two books, it hasn’t really taken on more lustre than you’d expect from imaginary places on a drawn map.

In Krynn’s defence, I’m only two books in. With a few more tomes under my belt, maybe this initial shallow impression will deepen. I just hope there aren’t too many more blah instalments like this one.

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Tracy Hickman and Margaret Weis – Dragons of Autumn Twilight

Dragons of Autumn Twilight  (Dragonlance: Chronicles, #1)Dragons of Autumn Twilight by Margaret Weis
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Alrighty then, this was a fun and painless read. Of course, it was completely non-challenging as far as literature goes, but that’s not the point, and rarely is the point for this kind of work. This is entertainment, and entertain it did, which is why I’ve awarded it four stars rather than three. Naturally, it was extremely derivative of another fantasy story a few people may have heard of, and the characterisations were sourced from central casting.

Despite this, it was written with verve and an obvious love for the land, times and culture of the world the book is set in. In saying so, there was a certain amount of grey room syndrome here, as playing the Dragonlance modules beforehand may have been a given. From the narrative, it’s clear the reader was meant to have some familiarity with Raistlin, Sturm, et al, before delving into this book, despite being the first in the series.

All in all, I liked this story, for all its “me-tooism” and stock characters and situations. It flowed well, and it rarely sagged or got bogged down. Sure, I’ll read the rest of them.

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Kate Novak – Azure Bonds

I’ll preface this review by saying that Curse of the Azure bonds is the only Gold Box game in the Forgotten Realms series I haven’t played. I own it, so I should rectify that…

Azure Bonds (Forgotten Realms: Finder's Stone, #1)Azure Bonds by Kate Novak
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Great fun and it’s one of the better D&D books I’ve read. The ending was vaguely familiar to me and I was wondering if I’d read this book before, maybe when it was released. It’s hard to say, as I don’t generally forget books that I’ve read. Either way, it’s fast-moving and entertaining and doesn’t suffer the saccharine and soppy moments the Ed Greenwood books do. And despite characterisation not being the strong point of these D&D stories, there was something obliquely appealing about the characters of Alias and Olive Ruskettle.

Very good. Bring on the sequels.

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Sad Lovers and Giants – Epic Garden Music

This English band flew under nearly everyone’s radar, which of course is an abysmal shame. This debut record of theirs, which I’ve only discovered in the last year, is a delightful surprise to an old post-punk/new wave fan such as myself. First, a word on the track listing. The original LP which appeared in 1981 contained eight songs and began with Echoplay.

The re-release, which I’ve been listening to almost religiously on Spotify, has seven more tracks, which are affixed to the beginning, and this is the version that Allmusic.com has reviewed here. And what seven glorious tracks they are. It begins with the transcendent Imagination which is frankly, one of the best things I’ve heard. Chiming keyboards, a steady beat, accusatory yet wistful lyrics sung in a clear tenor. Imagination was re-recorded for their next record and that version is slightly different, just a little less driving.

Of our starting new seven, When I See You and Things We Never Did are just brilliant, especially the latter with its saxophone. Colourless Dream and Lost in a Moment aren’t that far behind either.

Echoplay, Clocktower Lodge and Clint are shatteringly brilliant tracks, notably the last with its piping keyboards and the album closer Far From the Sea ends things on a vibrantly eerie note.

Really, this is post-punk at its most playful and melodic. There’s doom and gloom here, mostly in the lyrics, but it’s wrapped in such sparkling music, it hands it to you gently, velvet gloved.

A wonderful record.

epic garden music

The Church – Heyday

I’ve been threatening to review this record since I (re)started this blog. Now that you know that, let me get on with things. If one includes the fix-up of Remote Luxury then this is album five for The Church, and what we have here is the stupendous culmination of a musical form that had been taking place since The Blurred Crusade.

Practically every song on this record is a new definition of jangle-rock from the opening mysticism of Myrrh to the concluding restrained thunder of Roman. In between one can find masterpieces such as Columbus, which rates amongst the best thing this band has done, the alluring Tristesse, the furious Tantalized and the epitome of psych/jangle in Disenchanted. The mystic vibe gets a further look in with the instrumental Happy Hunting Ground. The cassette/CD version contained The View sung by Willson-Piper, and Peter Koppes gets an outing on As You Will. Both of these extras add to the album’s lustre, which was already transcendent.

Yes, this is one of those rara avis varieties of record where there isn’t a weak track. Fans and critics cite their next record Starfish as their best, but song for song, this leaves it for dead. Yet, the critics went ooh aah over this record too.

Was it their best thing to date? Or for all time? For mine, it’s up there with Seance in the best thing they’ve ever done category. I feel it’s a better album than Starfish as the songs are better collectively and individually. Starfish was too spare in places for my liking and contains a song or two that aren’t quite there. Heyday, it coruscates and vibrates the whole record through. Close to perfection really.

heyday cover

The Cure – Seventeen Seconds

Welcome to album number two for The Cure. After the short and sharp post-punk of Three Imaginary Boys, this record is quite a dynamic leap in the dismally grand direction the band is renowned for. Seventeen Seconds is the first of what many fans consider a great trilogy (the Dark Trilogy) of goth records. This LP is more reflective than goth, and the theme seems to be quiet moments alone rather than threnodies to gloom and eschatology. If threnodies are your thing, then their next album Faith fits that bill nicely.

Fittingly for a reflective record, the first track is called A Reflection, an oddly unsettling instrumental piece that leads into the slightly churning Play For Today, which was released as a single. The instrumentation is pleasingly sparse with nothing truly blurring or obscuring anything else. Despite the simple arrangements, there’s plenty of atmosphere and mystery with each track, especially on the patently weird Three and the approaching sinister At Night.

The strangest it gets on the record is the standout single A Forest, which doesn’t so much sound like being in a forest than it does being stranded on some stark, alien landscape. Somewhat fittingly, I was reading Jack Vance‘s Planet of Adventure foursome when I first heard this song, specifically the bit in The Dirdir where Adam Reith and his companions are being hunted in the Carabas. So I’ve always equated the song, magnificent as it is, with a faraway strange place.

A quiet, moody record for quiet, moody times.

seventeen seconds lp cover

Icehouse – Man of Colours

Of course, this record was Icehouse‘s commercial peak, the one that spawned megahits like Electric Blue and Crazy. Oddly, these two songs are among the lesser tracks on the record.

On Man of Colours, Iva Davies manages to sound like Once Upon a Time era Simple Minds while still hanging on to his David Bowie kink. He definitely was not shy about wearing his influences openly. Anyhow, the record is full of big 80s synths and drums and if anything is a definitive product of its time, this would be it. If you were wondering what that “new wave” thang is you keep hearing about, check this album out – it’s a key indicator.

For all intents and purposes, it’s a sequel to Measure for Measure. As I said in the review for that record, Man of Colours is pretty much more of the same, though in its defence, it is a tad rockier. It is also a better record, with marginally less filler. The album highlight would be the dreamy The Kingdom, which seems like a sequel to Measure for Measure‘s Angel Street, and Davies is probably singing about the same woman here. The same woman caught in the same blah limbo, anyway. Perhaps she’s the Hey Little Girl from Primitive Man, too.

Other choice cuts include the charging Nothing Too Serious and Anybody’s War. The title track could be Icehouse’s most atmospheric outing, reminding me a bit of the first album‘s tack-on instrumental Paradise Lost. Other grand tracks include the single My Obsession and the hazy record closer Sunrise.

Icehouse reached the recording artist apex with this record, taking Australia and parts of the world by storm. They would never again scale such heights. The following album Code Blue is a bland and just there record that died in the charts and Big Wheel which followed later…well, nobody’s ever heard of it.

Davies has sporadically kept the Icehouse name alive, releasing an album of covers, music for an opera and other bits and pieces but for mine, he effectively brought the band’s thing to a logical end with Man of Colours.

man of colours

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