Ocean travel without a boat

Journal of Peter Greenwell

Tag: noughts (page 1 of 2)

Ramsey Campbell – Nazareth Hill

Nazareth HillNazareth Hill by Ramsey Campbell
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Not one of Campbell’s better efforts. It starts out a bewildering mess, being introduced to a dozen or so characters who subsequently have zero or almost to do with the story. Halfway through the novel, it picks up and boy, does it ever. It’s page-turning stuff, but why did a reader have to wade through a bunch of inconsequential padding first?

Trimmed of about a third the volume, and the meaningless first few chapters excised, this book would’ve been a five star effort, like The Hungry Moon was – which didn’t tangle itself with pointless plot threads and insignificant characters.

Oh well. To quote a platitude, you take the good with the bad. You get lavish servings of both with this book.

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Jack Vance – Lurulu

LuruluLurulu by Jack Vance
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I’m not mean enough to give Vance’s last published book one star though there are plenty of reasons to do so. As with Ports of Call, this book dispenses with any kind of plot and character development and instead we get a colourful travelogue, with a cohort of nameless ciphers who go traipsing about one planet after the other and not a whole lot happens, apart from an early episode of vengeance.

My pet peeve with Vance is all over this book too – everything and everyone is a miser. It’s all about the freaking money. One half of the universe is trying to rip off the other half who are trying to haggle their way out of paying retail. Seriously, Vance has been at this unwelcome shenanigan for much of his fantasy and SF writing career and it overstayed its welcome about thirty books ago.

Yes, I’m being captious. Vance was ninety or thereabouts when this book was released. Few people will live as long as he did let alone write legible fiction then. On its own merits, that aspect is to be commended. But also on its own aspects, this book is an ipso facto stinker. Not the most ideal way to bow out, Jack, but the sheer fact you even got this book out is something I’ll raise a glass to. Vale Jack.

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Bud E Weyser – Tintin in Thailand

Tintin in ThailandTintin in Thailand by Bud E. Weyser
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Story-wise, it’s atrociously amateur and a jumbled mess. The artwork doesn’t hold a candle to Hergé’s excellent ligne-claire style either and in places it’s almost indecipherable. Some of the satire is heavy-handed but it does poke fun at not only the Tintin franchise but the sacrosanct attitude of Hergé’s literary executors and successors, and it just goes to show that nothing is sacred.

A definite curiosity, but be warned that many will find it offensive (and many have).

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David Haden – The Time Machine: a sequel

The Time Machine: a sequelThe Time Machine: a sequel by David Haden
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Short and fairly sweet. This author approximates Wells’ voice adequately, though he also pays homage to the 2002 Guy Pearce film with an all-knowing virtual librarian. He also integrates the so-called “lost chapter”, The Grey Man, into the story.

With this all said, I was acutely aware reading this novella that this was not Wells’ work. It’s not where he would’ve taken the story had he been of a mind to craft a sequel, at least I don’t think so anyway. He was less interested in the fate of Weena than he was in the fate of humanity, but quite naturally, these sequels by other hands have all made the attempt to rescue her from the fire with varying success.

Does this sequel by another hand succeed? Well, read it for yourself. For a dollar on Amazon you can’t go wrong, just don’t expect anything stunning or extraordinary in any area.

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Ed Greenwood – Hand of Fire

Hand Of Fire (Forgotten Realms: Shandril's Saga, #3)Hand Of Fire by Ed Greenwood
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

Wow…I struggled to finish this. It’s just that bad. Which is a shame as you don’t want your Forgotten Realms books to be bad – you want them to kick ass (even if it’s all popcorn). But when the milieu’s creator writes an execrably bad book, then what can you say?

Basically the protagonist and her whiny husband nuke, obliterate, annihilate, incinerate, deep fry, fricassee, broil, roast, scorch, blast and excoriate every one of the legion of over-confident bad guys that contend with her. Just endless waves of them. It’s like the literary version of Serious Sam 3.

That’s it. That’s what happens in this concluding tome. There’s zero character development at all, no suspense, and the marvellous world the author created barely gets a mention. Every dangerous encounter is swept aside by Shandril’s super-powers or the timely arrival of her equally faceless Harper allies.

Oh, Shandril dies at the end but she’ll come back as a ghost to keep a watch on Narm, who gets sent off to find himself another wife. Narm…urgh, through the course of these three poorly written adventures, he’s the common denominator that weighs them down. What a nobody! His single purpose is to provide a pillow and a shoulder for Shandril to cry on after she’s finished vaporising the opposition for the day. He’s an ineffectual and annoying cipher.

Summary: a godawful book. On to fresh woods and pastures, etc.

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The Church – After Everything Now This

Well OK, with this record, The Church have released what is effectively their most blah piece of work. Repeated listens haven’t revealed the undercurrents and nuances that normally pervade any good Church record. It’s a consistently reflective and calm effort that swoons by without ever taking hold. Songs like The Awful Ache and Chromium mix things up a bit but not to the point where it offers the record refreshing variety, because quite simply, variety doesn’t exist here.

After Everything Now This is record number twelve and comes three years after their covers LP Box of Birds and, more tellingly, a year before one of their better outings in the excellent Forget Yourself. Maybe the memo went out to start mixing the formula again after this record. Yet, this isn’t to say After Everything Now This is a bad album – it’s not. It’s full of the usual suspect Church ingredients but rather than sugar, it’s been replaced by saccharine here. Or stevia. I’d like to think it was stevia actually.

But this record is for completionists only, of which I am one. A new fan of The Church eagerly delving into their wonderful discography should skip this one for the nonce. There are better records from this band to begin a grand adventure in neo-psychedelic ecstasy.

after everything now this

New music in January

As with the review I did in December, “new” means new to my ears, not the dictionary definition. With that established, let us move on…

First up was Queen of the Stone Age‘s …Like Clockwork. I’m not a fan of bluesy hard rock and this record didn’t grab me in any way or shape on first listen and that dissuaded me enough from a second listen. It’s a bit like the Them Crooked Vultures record I listened to in the previous review (same lead singer) and though I’m absolutely sure this kind of music has its fans and adherents, I’m not one of them. Anyhow, Led Zeppelin did this sort of thing better, let’s face it.

We come to St Etienne‘s Sound of Water. I’m still struggling to recount what it is I exactly heard on this record. At times it reminded me of Missing Persons running headlong into Madonna but in the main, the music kind of just drifted by. Not something I’d want to listen to again. Not my cup of chai – the beeps and bleeps were all wrong.

sound of water

Lastly, we have Sarah Blasko and her What the Sea Wants, the Sea Will Have recordThis one kind of drifted by as well with nothing I recall standing out. Alternative rock/singer-songwriter or something like that is what the press and fans label this kind of music.

So, three records of material that isn’t my bailiwick, That happens.

Also gave a whirl to Peter Gabriel‘s third self-titled record (“Melt”), Nazareth‘s greatest hits, Midnight Oil‘s 10,9,8,7,6,5,4,3,2,1 and The Clash‘s London Calling. Apart from the Nazareth record, I’ve listened to the others before, wholly or partially. I’m still not sold on London Calling being the epic work the world says it is. Maybe I didn’t get the memo.

Anyhow, that’s that for January.

New music in December

New music as far as my ears are concerned. Of everything mini-reviewed here, only The Church‘s Further/Deeper is new.

First off the rank: In Rolling Waves by The Naked and Famous. My only previous exposure to this New Zealand band was through a TV commercial for Strongbow Cider, which used their song Young Blood.

It’s a curious album, reminding me of nothing really. It’s enjoyable with its strange hooks and rhythms but it’s not something I’d be in a rush to listen to again.

Next was Them Crooked Vultures‘ self-titled effort. As you’d expect from a group that features Led Zeppelin’s bassist John Paul Jones, it’s bluesy hard rock, and not particularly distinguished hard rock at that. You’re better off just listening to Zep themselves. Competent record in the main, but it’s not my cup of java.

Then I came to My Chemical Romance‘s Three Cheers For Sweet Revenge. Pretty much what I expected. Thirteen songs of fairly full-tilt melodic pop/punk. It’s all good fun, but it’s nothing different from dozens of things that have come before, and this band doesn’t do it in any way special or noteworthy.

Next up is Metric‘s Synthetica. I like it – it’s synthpop/neo-new wave updated to 2010s sensibilities and production techniques. Half Blondie, half The Cars with a few barbs along the way. Even the now late Lou Reed turns up on one track. The lead singer occasionally sounds like Chrissie Amphlett, same kind of nasal voice.

metric synthetica

Richard Morgan – Broken Angels

Broken Angels (Takeshi Kovacs, #2)Broken Angels by Richard K. Morgan
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

In an interview with an Australian SF magazine, Richard Morgan stated that he dislikes two or three star reviews of his stuff. Sorry about that, but this book is a three star affair. It’s involving and interesting enough to where you want to keep reading but it’s a muddle in places and the author gets carried away with his plethora of ideas.

No, it’s not as good as the book before it, and you can put that down to a loss of focus. The book’s reach exceeds its grasp.

And Kovacs isn’t as interesting this time around as he was in Altered Carbon. A touch of the old cardboard has crept in.

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Richard Morgan – Altered Carbon

Altered Carbon (Takeshi Kovacs, #1)Altered Carbon by Richard K. Morgan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

4 and a half stars actually. C’mon Goodreads, give us the ability to vote half-stars.

Anyhow, I liked everything about this book save how long it was. I felt it could’ve been tightened a bit by about 60-70 pages. So yes, it did drag a little, especially some of the sections where Kovacs and Ortega are alone. But apart from that, everything else contained within this book was A+. It’s uncommonly complex, labyrinthinely plotted, well characterised and it’s briskly paced (apart from what I said above). I’m impressed, so off to the sequel I go.

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