Monday, 28 February 2011

A Great Deliverance

This is the first book in the Inspector Lynley series.  I got into the series after discovering that the TV series which mum and I had been watching on DVD was actually based on a book.  After a few that were great, and one that really wasn't great, I gave up on the series for a while, but I've returned to reading the ones they have in my current local library (I was starting to run out of ideas...).  And actually, this first one is brilliant.

The conflict between Havers and Lynley is well, and sympathetically, set out.  It also opens out a lot of the personal relationships that are mentioned briefly in later books, which helped explain a lot.  And the case itself is fascinating--and frightening in many respects.

The atmosphere is great, and I love the two main characters (especially Barbara Havers, she's fantastic :) ).  I thoroughly recommend this to any crime lovers.  A great novel, and it sheds a whole new light on the later books.


It's ages since I last read a Redwall book, but I felt like being nostalgic yesterday and so when I went to the library I picked this one up.  As one of the more recent ones, it's one I haven't read as often as some of the earlier ones (all the ones before Rakkety Tam I've probably read at least 6/7 times, and Taggerung and Outcast of Redwall I reckon I've read somewhere between 15 and 20 times...), I couldn't really remember what happens.  I worried as I determined on this course that I would discover that Redwall just isn't as great as I remember it being, and that I would lose a piece of childhood nostalgia by realising it wasn't actually that great.  But it was still great.

There's something uplifting about a good vs evil book, where you know that good will win but you don't know how yet--or whether those who are 'goodies' will all survive.  With the Redwall series being about the inhabitants of a place, rather than a specific character Brian Jacques had (he sadly died a few weeks ago) the freedom to kill off characters without jeopardising the future of the series.  Unlike books set around a single character/characters (like the Dirk Pitt books, for example), you can't be sure that the main characters will survive.  Which has led, I might add, to a good deal of sobbing on my part.  Especially in Martin the Warrior.

Riddles, feasts, fighting, and a wonderful cast of characters, including a brilliant hare, plus a whole host of mice, squirrels, and a new Gousim tribe, plus the Gonfellin tribe, makes this a brilliantly woven tale.  I thoroughly enjoyed it--couldn't put it down.  And that's despite having read it before :)  It's inspired me to go read the rest of the Redwall books, and I can't wait to get my hands on the most recent one (just come out in paperback, so I think amazon is called for as they seem impossible to find in most bookshops).  It might be a children's series, but it's uplifting and exciting in equal measures.


I really enjoyed this.  It's a black and white, silent movie from 1927, and they recently found a few more bits of it and added them in (the new bits were lower quality in terms of the actual film, but added a lot to the story).  I was surprised at how complex the plot was and the fact that it was comprehensible, and that despite the fact that there weren't all that many dialogue screens.

I suppose it's strictly speaking dystopian science fiction, and it's really good.  The graphics still look good, and it was apparently the most expensive silent film ever made.  There are some brilliant bits with the machinery, and it's intriguing to see one of the ways the future was envisaged in 1927.

Some bits were unintentionally amusing.  There was a lot of clutching at hearts, and hugging, but most of it was excellent.  I can well understand why Empire film magazine rated it 12th of 100 best films of world cinema last year.  Well worth a watch.  The soundtrack is also really good, and it gives a totally different viewing experience to a 'normal' film with words.


Well, it wasn't a total waste of time.  The characters were, for the most part, really good.  There just wasn't much substance.  It had a lot of potential, but it felt like they'd cut a bunch of scenes out, realised they'd cut too much, and then decided to simply stretch the ones they had left.  Not much really happens.  And some bits are decidedly random--the beginning and the ending, mostly.  By the fourth time the car went round the race track, everyone was giggling, and I was waiting for a car crash so that the main character could break his arm in an exciting way.  But nothing happened.  He eventually stopped driving round in circles, randomly got out the car, and then the scene faded.  (He broke his arm falling down stairs instead).  Also, at the end, he's driving off into the distance, stops for no apparent reason, and gets off to walk into the sunset.  Hmm.

Like I said though, the characters were good, and there were one or two gems in there.  They were just few and far between.  It's a relaxing film though, doesn't take much effort or energy to watch, and was a pretty good film for me to watch whilst knackered.  Although perhaps I should have saved my 4 film ticket for another one (Nowhere Boy this week, and The Tourist next week, both of which look very interesting).

If somebody sticks it on in front of your nose, and you're feeling not particularly energetic, it's a reasonable film.  But don't go getting all excited about it.

Sunday, 13 February 2011

Blue Gold

I recently traded in pretty much all my Clive Cussler books, but up til now had only read the Dirk Pitt ones and one of the Oregon files (was not that impressed with the Oregon files ones, the Dirk Pitt ones were good but I figured I probably wouldn't re-read them).  Blue Gold was one that I picked up in Cambridge last term, didn't get round to reading, and so left here to enjoy when I got back.  And I did enjoy it.  I was quite surprised, in fact.

Blue Gold is one of the Kurt Austin books, set in the same world as the Dirk Pitt ones (indeed, in the other Kurt Austin book I've now read, Pitt makes a passing appearance).  It's an adventure story, based loosely around the ocean, and it's certainly an entertaining enough way of passing the time.  The character description sometimes felt a bit forced (particularly the bit about the jazz)--reminded me of my English Lit teachers rule of 'show, don't tell' when it comes to characters.  But other than that, there was a reasonable amount of action, there was a reasonable plot, the science was, well, maybe a little exaggerated, but potentially plausible.  Also, very amused by the giant woman.

In short, Blue Gold is pretty much what you'd expect from a Clive Cussler book.  There's action, beautiful women, a hero and his sidekick...  The Kurt Austin books could, in fact, almost be Dirk Pitt ones, save for a few little details about the two main characters.  So if you're a fan, and you've run out of Dirk Pitt books (although to be fair, there are twenty-odd of them, so you'd have to be an obsessive reader like me for that to happen quickly...) these are just as good.

Final Theory

It says on the book something along the lines of 'The Da Vinci Code, but with science'.  Actually, I've never read the Da Vinci Code, so I can't tell you how accurate that is, but from what I know of it I dare say it's pretty close to the mark.  It's a science based thriller, it seemed pretty plausible to me, but I'll hold my hands up now and admit that while I have at least a passing interest in science I'm no expert.  And the science was explained well enough that it's reasonably comprehensible.

The basic premise?  Einstein came up with a unified theory of everything (this sort of idea also features in a book by Tom Grace, I believe it's the one called Quantum), which could prove even more dangerous to humanity than the nuclear bomb.  An interesting enough main character, who's actually a professor of the history of science (is that the right way of putting it?) and a pretty good cast of supporting characters, including the 'bad guy'.

At any rate, I enjoyed it enough to have a look for other books by that author.  Unfortunately, there aren't any.  Ah, actually, take that back.  I've just looked on Fantastic Fiction, and there is!  And it follows on in the same series.  Bonus :)  I shall certainly be keeping my eye out for that at the library (I have to be seriously strict on myself in terms of actually buying books now I'm afraid.  All my bookcases at home are crammed to bursting, and I have maybe a dozen books here in Cambridge as well, so how they're gonna fit when I go back is beyond me...  And I seem to have a thing for still ending up with more books!  Ah well.  I'll be keeping an eye out at the library, as I said.)

Final Theory is worth a read.  It's maybe not the greatest thriller of the year, but it's certainly a solid book that's by no stretch of the imagination a waste of time to read.

Tuesday, 1 February 2011

Despicable Me

I decided to be cultured this term, and watch more films.  Despicable Me perhaps doesn't fit the bill of 'high' culture, but it was certainly enjoyable.  A superhero movie with a difference, Despicable Me is, strictly speaking I suppose, a supervillain movie.

Gru is a supervillain who's never quite made it to the big time.  He and his army of minions have managed to steal the Statue of Liberty... The small one from Las Vegas.  With a new villain on the scene, Gru is determined to regain some prestiege, and so hatches an audacious plot to steal the moon.  Dogged every step of the way by his tenacious rival, he finds himself adopting three young girls who turn his life inside out, and make him question what's really the most important part of his life.

Brilliantly hilarious (I especially love the Bank of Evil...  Formerly Lehman Brothers), with a heart-warming ending, this is definitely a film to watch.  It might be animated, it might have a plot that borders on the utterly ridiculous at times with shrink rays, sharks, and squid guns, but it's a great film.