Short stories. Something I thought might fit in well whilst I was waiting on the workmen who were busy installing new windows in my flat. Not that I pShort stories. Something I thought might fit in well whilst I was waiting on the workmen who were busy installing new windows in my flat. Not that I particularly imagined I would finish all of them in that time, but it's difficult to say whether that was more down the workmen or the book. Certainly there is a good deal that is quite charming about these stories. The prose style of Kazuo Ishiguro has a deceptive simplicity and straightforwardness that tells much of its characters with the least amount of elaboration and it does so with a non-judgemental familiarity that imparts a certain warmth and charm to all of them. Perhaps this though is at least one of the reasons that these stories somehow failed to come entirely to life for me, they are perhaps too warm and too charming, lacking the bite of any real darkness even when dealing with the potential bitterness of lost loves and missed opportunities. Ironically perhaps for book subtitled 'Five Stories of Music and Nightfall' it seems to be missing much in the way of musical sensuality or the deeper darkness of night. Still, I don't imagine that subtitle of 'Five Stories of Subtle Disappointments and Faded Dreams' might have quite the same ring. It might have felt just a little romantic however. Not that these stories are entirely devoid of romance, and there is also much humour and certainly a number of scenes to bring a smile to the face of a reader, if not to completely absorb or particularly challenge if I did still go away with certain thoughts to think upon there was not so much that might be described as troubling. Perhaps were I in my forties rather than just nosing into my thirties as I am now, these stories of people seeking to recapture dreams and love and find the magic in the world again may perhaps have resonated more deeply with me although I suspect I might just be a relatively unusual subject for that sort of thing to begin with. In any case, nice as these were to read and a pleasant way to spend a few hours I didn't really find any particularly exquisite jewels that I expect to stay with me for too long. It was still a nice read, whilst it may not particularly have reached the greatest heights or depths there are certainly many worse things I could have been spending with....more
As it turns out, it's actually somewhat reassuring to discover that Eoin Colfer couldn't really quite match the wit and wide-eyed wonder of Douglas AdAs it turns out, it's actually somewhat reassuring to discover that Eoin Colfer couldn't really quite match the wit and wide-eyed wonder of Douglas Adams' original works. The humour and magic of the original Hitchhiker's Guide being so familiar, and the writing style so warm and charming, that the hilarity can almost seem effortless. It is then somewhat good to discover that it must actually require really quite a great deal of skill and intellect to put something that good together as it turn out to be rather more difficult to copy than might have first been imagined.
In fairness though, And Another Thing..., is by no means a terrible book. It plays around with all the familiar themes and treats the most cosmically important subjects with just kind of contemptuous silliness they deserve and manages to raise a few chuckles in the process of doing so. Amongst the relatively new genre of largely pointless sequels to the works of great writers, this is I think among the best of those I've read. Eoin Colfer is clearly a fan of the Guide and does do his best to treat the material with respect but it inevitably remains the case that no one can really write like Douglas Adams apart from Douglas Adams. Just like no one can really write Jane Austen, or any other author, and really shouldn't try. I did though find some charm in this story, if it didn't quite hit the same astronomical heights of its source material. It is neither cynical cash-in, nor some exercise in intellectual hubris, and as a nice attempt at giving the series the kind of ending that Adams himself was sadly unable it sort of works. It might not suffuse its characters with the same warmth nor the universe with quite the same wonder and wonkiness for it does it all too knowingly and with a little too blunt a stick. For all that though, I still found it nice to read in its own right, and when it comes down to it, what greater tribute to Douglas Adams might there be than proving just how much of a work of genius his original creation actually was by trying very hard, but not quite really reaching its level? On that score, it actually seem quite oddly appropriate really....more
As I believe I may have mentioned in an earlier review (if, perhaps irnonically of a later book) it's a bit of a curious business reading Pratchett thAs I believe I may have mentioned in an earlier review (if, perhaps irnonically of a later book) it's a bit of a curious business reading Pratchett these days. Back in the day, when I was somewhat smaller or maybe everyone else was a little taller, his books seemed the most remarkable of things. Not only all sorts of funny but also supremely engaging in their plots and the art of their storytelling as well. Now that I am somewhat older, if not particularly wiser, a good deal of the funny still remains but somehow the stories themselves don't quite hold so much to captivate and excite as they once did. I'm not entirely certain if it's me, and all that proper literature I've read in the meantime has somehow spoiled me, or the stories themselves that have changed. Either ways, this was indeed all kinds of fun and amusing to read but never really seemed to quite capture the old magic despite a few moments that occasionally threatened to prove exciting and unexpectedly twisty. By and large though the most unexpected thing about this tale is probably how unexpected everything turns out to be. Even the sudden arrival of a massive army of golems feels like it holds little of the peril or excitement that it could. I ponder perhaps that the Discworld and its characters have perhaps just become too familiar so that even the relatively recent creations of Moist von Lipwig and company seem somewhat formulaic. I do recall though that in the first Pratchett novel I read, Men at Arms, one of the main good guys was actually killed yet here there really seems little threat of any bad things happening to good people. This is perhaps even more surprising in a novel on the banking system, published at the height of the real world banking crisis. With the possible exception of Thud! these later works of Pratchett haven't quite inspired me as perhaps they once did my adolescent mind which somehow seems a little sad but everything changes I suppose does it not? Hm, ah well, I can't really complain too greatly I suppose. It's funny and it has moments of excitement if the mysteries may not be quite as mysterious as they might once have seemed nor the adventures quite so exciting there's still fun and enjoyments to be had in reading this. ...more
Well that was fun. All kinds of silly it must be said and, at certain points, decidedly infuriating too but by and large fairly undemandingly entertaiWell that was fun. All kinds of silly it must be said and, at certain points, decidedly infuriating too but by and large fairly undemandingly entertaining and sometimes you can't really ask for very much more. The mix of fantasy and noir is undoubtedly interesting and makes for some amusing moments as well as some quite exciting set-pieces. It's an enjoyable read if the writing is never quite good enough to really to make it that exceptionally captivating. It's a book of lots of good moments which makes for a pleasantly distracting story but it really wears its style rather too heavily for a book that just isn't quite subtle and clever enough in its writing to entirely pull it off. So, though the fantasy elements seemed all well thought out, low key when it needed to be and suitably exciting and perilous when it came to things like attacks of toad demons and giant scorpions some of it seemed yet just a bit too clumsy and the comedy moments of talking skulls and fairy folk just a bit too silly whilst employing the same contrived story device to escape from two or three impossible situations is just a little too mechanical and rather undermines the excitement and the peril.
Meanwhile, whilst I am in fairness far more familiar with the fantasy than the noir genre, I can't help but feel that there ought to be just a bit more mystery and intrigue involved than this story managed to conjure. Ok, a clumsy pun perhaps but then there wasn't anything much particularly subtle in the construction of the plot either with plot twists which I imagine must have been intended to seem surprising being never less than obvious and clearly telegraphed long before we seem to get there. Or is that how these detective stories are generally meant to be? I don't know, I can't really claim to read them but it doesn't really work for me. Maybe these stories are more about the deviously scheming people, if none of the characters involved ever seemed particularly cunning in their schemes nor exhibit any particularly hidden depths which I would have assumed the noir ought to be about. Perhaps it is also a trope of such writing for the central character to add a bunch of explanatory backstory after some confrontational event, and maybe were this exposition somewhat more subtle or told us anything we couldn't have already guessed from what had just happened, I might have found the style rather less irritating. As it was there could have been a good deal less tell and rather more show particular since it came from a narrative voice that never much seemed to threaten to edge above the cool monotone it sought to affect.
That being said though, it was all still largely enjoyable to read. The fight scenes were suitably fighty and the wry observations of our hero raised at least a smile if not one or two chuckles. It was reasonably well paced, culminating in a fairly dramatic final battle if it all rather felt to have been put together as a jigsaw with decidedly large and regularly shaped pieces. It's good, but it's not what you'd call subtle, and as such the story really remains at something of arms length with little real sense of surprise or engagement nor need or motivation to really think about anything that was going on except to sometimes question whether this carefully crafted world would really hold together like this with stock characters who live in a world where the existence of magic powers is well known and yet somehow still contrives to be strange and mysterious. Mayhap though to really enjoy the story it is best if we follow of the example of our unimaginative characters and try not to ask too many difficult questions ourselves. It would be a shame to spoil the fun especially as there is genuine fun to be had with this book. I can only wonder of course how things evolve as the series goes on so the and whether this fantasy serial can really justify its length with any degree of ingenuity like so many others don't. It's something for me to look into discovering at some point in the future anyways, but this was fun and there's great potential for it to be more, I just hope it does develop in rather more intelligent and complex ways than this first of the series encompasses....more
Funny the things you can end up reading sometimes. Still, you know how it goes, you happen to come upon this book on the shelf and think to yourself,Funny the things you can end up reading sometimes. Still, you know how it goes, you happen to come upon this book on the shelf and think to yourself, I've actually haven't read that yet, I should remedy this fact. Then you suddenly notice a good portion of the day has passed and the book is finished, though in this case the book is not so long and I still had some time left to sit and ponder, which was a useful thing really since though 'Androids' is not the longest story ever it is certainly filled with ideas. There is virtually no excess fat in this tale with virtually every passage giving some reflection on the nature of what it means to be human, or what constitutes reality, or religion and the trascendental nature of belief. In itself it is quite a masterful piece of writing though perhaps therein lies something of its main drawback too. The thing being that I rather like a bit of unhealthy fat in my stories. Whilst it's impressive to read a tale in which no line does not serve some purpose, and thus the world Dick creates is a fascinating study, it also leads to a distance between the reader and events. Life after all has long passages which serve absolutely no purpose and reading Dick feels more like observing some scientific study, if a deeply interesting one, than taking part in the characters' experiences of whom I find I don't care quite so much as perhaps I should. Or maybe I just lack empathy.
This is also something of a funny book to read, literally in some places as there are some surprising moments of real humour, but also due to two other reasons. One being that this is clearly a 1960s view of our future, and this is something made even more strange when you realise this is supposedly set in 1992! Even if later editions pushed that a little further ahead to 2021 it doesn't look like we are going to be making such great advances in artificial intelligence by then. The countercultural aversions to authority and distortions of reality give it a heady sixties and drug-fuelled, Philip K. Dick feel too. Unchanging as a great many of this book's ideas and interests are, it remains a highly outdated view of the future which makes it something of a strange read.
The other thing though of course is the inescapable comparison with Blade Runner. I was aware before reading it that the book and the film were only very loosely connected but the differences between this work of philosophical musings and the astonishing and stylish visual feast that Ridley Scott created out of it are huge and, unfair as it might be, still get in the way of the story somewhat. In the end, I feel the film actually turns out to be better at telling a story than the book manages to be, mildly heretical to think as that might seem. Whilst the film might have nothing of Deckard's real life and marriage (which perhaps ought to make Rick seem like a more fully fleshed character than the square-jawed Harrison Ford portrays in the film but strangely it doesn't quite work out like that) and it has nothing of religion and belief and so much that the book ponders, it is the film that yet seems to do the better job of drawing you into into its world and making you a part of these events.
Perhaps the comparison is unfair, since the film is so seminal and so ingrained upon my conscious already, but as fascinating and intriguing and, indeed, enjoyable to read as the book is, I'm just not drawn into it so much as a story as perhaps I should. So, yes, it's a remarkable piece of literary genius, a fabulous intellectual exercise, but it just doesn't hold that emotional connection for me that the really best books have been able and so, for all its wonders, it's just not quite so powerful and effective novel as it might have been as a result. Yet still something more than worth the time I spent reading it and still spend pondering its questions and ideas....more
I began this book with the striking endorsement ringing in my ears that PD James had entirely failed to capture any of the essence of Austen's classicI began this book with the striking endorsement ringing in my ears that PD James had entirely failed to capture any of the essence of Austen's classic and that this was an entirely pointless exercise in literature! Given the perversity of my nature, I then set out with a determination to find something to like about this story although sadly I fear that proved something of a difficult task. Indeed, this feels very unlike the world of Jane Austen, but then much as the peculiar opening apologia that introduces the book, the subject is precisely the thing that Jane Austen wanted to avoid putting into her stories. That being the case then, perhaps the one good thing I was able to take out of this book after a very great deal of digging is the historical perspective which clearly demonstrates precisely what was missing from the original Pride and Prejudice. Not only has Death Come to Pemberly, but also the Napoleonic Wars at least warrant a mention and servants have a real part to play. I wonder, curiously, whether this book perhaps might give a more accurate historical account of the time than the contemporary work, I don't doubt the author's research in this case, but on the other hand that really wasn't what Austen was about and so the question remains, quite what exactly is the point of this story?
It certainly possesses nothing like the genius of Austen in the drawing of its characters. Even the most familiar seem to be painted with the most unnecessarily broad and clumsy brushstrokes. Everyone meanwhile seems to speak and act in a way that is really strikingly modern and feels nothing like the period. Perhaps most aggravating of all is the terrible knowingness, the doctor who just happens to be some kind of proto-forensic scientist with wry comments from the narration. A narration that, incidentally, spends far too much time being the standard omniscient observer without any of the deftness and subtlety of Austen's writing. Then you have the none too elegant suggestion that perhaps one day America will become a country to equal the greatness of Britain. Oh dear, really? I don't doubt the historical accuracy, the view of the legal system, politics and society of the time but does is it have to be done with such big winks and awkward nudges to the reader? It really all just feels so exeptionally needless.
I do at the end find myself perhaps quietly wondering whether if you lost the pointless and failed connection to Austen, whether this might have worked by itself as a period Regency murder mystery? There are odd moments where the story gains some interest and engagement but so often it gets swamped in the unnecessary paraphenalia of making this a Pride and Prejudice sequel, something it could really have never possibly lived up to. Then again of course, were it not for the Austen connection then this book probably wouldn't have been written at all so the point is rather moot. As it is then, for all its small bits of interest, sadly it would seem that all that the downfalls prophesyed by the author herself in her introductory note would seem to have come to pass. I can only wonder quite why this project ever seemed like much of a good idea in the first place. If anything perhaps this teaches us it is never a good thing when any author, no matter their quality, tries to fit themselves into the shoes of another. Still, I suppose it was at least more interesting and entertaining than Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, so I suppose that's something!...more
I do find there is something of a peculiarity to reading Pratchett these days. It's tricky to tell whether it is me that has changed, or more to do wiI do find there is something of a peculiarity to reading Pratchett these days. It's tricky to tell whether it is me that has changed, or more to do with the author. Possibly though, in the case of Snuff, it's just the nature of the book on its own. The story still contains much of the usual trademark humour and parodies of the real world that tends to make the Discworld such a joyful place to visit. Certainly the book is an enjoyable read. Within the humour there also remains the same endeavour to make some serious points out of real world issues too and, in this case at least, the story doesn't quite manage to do these quite so successfully. It's still fun and entertaining to read but there are just some points about it, and I'm not sure quite whether it is just this story, a change in the author, or me having grown up a bit (though this last seems highly unlikely!) which make certain parts of this tale just that little bit infuriating.
What I used to find of previous Discworld novels was not just that they were hilarious but there were also real plots in there too, creating some real drama and tension and indeed cultural comment which elevated them above an beyond a simply amusing comic fantasy and fun, easy read. In Snuff however there are certain points where the plot just works out that bit too easily. In Samuel Vimes Pratchett has expertly crafted a character so perfectly suited to his role that he can sail through dangers unhindered where whilst in his early and lowlier days he might have been far more challenged and thus had a far more interesting story to tell. Some points are just far too easy. Equally I begin to find it just a little infuriating that when the story suggests it might be taking on an issue of serious real world importance it can verily easy resort to an easy magical solution or having the perfect person in the perfect position to sort things out. Vimes and Ventinari both being cases in point. It's just all works out too easily for me and I can't help but find it a little infuriating. As I say though, I'm not entirely sure if that's a change in me, the author, or just this story in particular.
Ah, I don't though wish to complain too much about this book though as for all its faults it still has Pratchett's wonderful humour and it's still a fun, enjoyable and entertaining read. It isn't the best book Pratchett has ever written but that is, in fairness, pretty stiff competition to have to live up to. This is still really fun to read and yet has its moments of excitement and given everything else, I thinks perhaps I can pretty much satisfied with that....more
It's difficult to conceive of any book that might not be improved wholesale by the addition of some freaky tentacle sex! Would not Mr. Darcy have rendIt's difficult to conceive of any book that might not be improved wholesale by the addition of some freaky tentacle sex! Would not Mr. Darcy have rendered that much more dashing with addition of certain extra wriggly appendages? Erm, well, for a book that endeavours to bring fairy folk into the real world this does a better job than many I have read although clearly it can't quite escape the silliness altogether. Perhaps I am being mildly unfair in my own conceptions of faerie, but talk of the Sidhe assisting in the fight against Hitler just leave giggling quietly to myself. Those aren't the only departures into the ridiculous either, still as I say, compared to many, this tale really does a better job than many of reconciling the inhuman, magical, sexual and horrific world of faerie with that of the modern day than a few other stories I could mention and have previously reviewed.
What I found really problematic about the book though was that it doesn't seem to know quite what it is trying to be, or at least it tries to do rather too much at once. Is it a magical detective story, political thriller, erotic drama, romance or twisted horror? It has a go at being all of these through the course of its pages and the shifts in tone are jarring and sometimes bewildering. It also leads to some strange inconsistencies in characterisation which are, at times, appropriate, at others not. Overall though, the feel is that this book is suffering rather from 'first in a series' syndrome whereby it seems to be trying to set up so many characters and themes at once it hasn't time to really settle on any one. This is a shame really because the moments when the story does get a chance to unfold it does actually manage to become somewhat engaging and interesting but then suddenly we find ourselves with another theme which just doesn't sit with what has gone before. It's not uncommon problem in fantasy, and whilst perhaps may show some promise for the books ahead, for me personally I just find it rather off-putting.
Even if it is part of a larger tale I want to read a book which can stand alone and be satisfying in its own right. To some extent this does have a go at being self-contained but the final chapter that races to tie up every loose end it can in a mad rush is just one thing that makes it ultimately unsatisfying. In fairness though, the book is not without its entertaining moments, its excitements and humour, adventure and magic, sex and horror. These are all just rather difficult to get much of a hold on so whilst I was sometimes engaged, I largely found myself not so much caring what befell even the central protagonist. I don't doubt it could get more interesting if I read more of the series but not having really connected with the first I'm not left in any great rush to. Still, it wasn't terrible and I had some fun amongst its pages so maybe in time I shall yet see what peculiarly shaped humanoids may be employed to add a little, umm, interest to sexual fantasy. Before that though, I have certain other books to read....more
If Alan Partridge had been a writer rather than a desperate presenter then instead of Monkey Tennis we might have ended up with this! Still, I enjoy tIf Alan Partridge had been a writer rather than a desperate presenter then instead of Monkey Tennis we might have ended up with this! Still, I enjoy the intricate and subtle crafting of Pride and Prejudice but I'm also a fan of the odd bit of ultra-violent zombie mayhem from time to time too so, conceivably, this ought to be the perfect comedy novel. Well, perhaps it could have been if even the slightest bit of effort had been put into its writing but leafing through its pages it's difficult to find any evidence it has been. When the most amusing thing about your story is the title then something is quite clearly very wrong and indeed, the title is really the only thing you need to know about this book, everything within its pages is either entirely predictable or otherwise utterly tedious that after the brief chuckle and wry smile at the title and the concept, actually reading the thing is really totally unnecessary.
There were certain odd moments I found myself vaguely amused and though briefly that their might be some little more depth to this and it might be trying to do something a little more interesting. These moments were quickly subdued however as these unfailingly turned out to be those passages where the words are Austen's, large parts of the story beingg purely copied and pasted from the original novel. For the large part the story essentially is Pride and Prejudice with occasionally some zombies turning up. There is, in fairness, one small attempt to actually try and do something a little more interesting and make the zombie plague actually earn its place in the story with the alterations to the Charlotte Lucas subplot, but any chance of anything actually creative being done with it is sadly snuffed out with utterly ridiculous, but sadly not particularly amusing, results. Indeed, not only does the story lack any kind of courage when it comes to pursuing any of its creative possibilities it doesn't even manage to be particularly funny. This is largely on account that none of the jokes, besides the odd brain-numbingly tedious sexual innuendo, are anything beyond what anyone could easily make up for themselves as they idly turned over the book in their hand before returning it to the shelf which is where it belongs.
Now I could quite easily be accused of pretentiousness or a lack of a sense humour in my criticism of this book but it really isn't the alteration of a literary classic that bothers me and a sense of humour may quite reasonably be an exceptionally subjective thing. The real and most egregious problem with this book is that there is nothing in it that suggests it is any more than a tedious marketing gimmick. There is clearly potential for either amusingly playful and silly or creatively interesting and perhaps even intelligently topical things to be done with introducing to the genteel world of Austen's insular upper middle-class Regency world to the terrifying horrors of the walking dead but this book never makes the effort to do so. I can forgive it for not hitting my own sense of humour, want can't be so easily forgiven is the lack of any sign of real creative imagination. Without any obvious depth of thought being put into the writing, as a reader I just feel like just another consumer as mindless as the zombies that George A. Romero used to actually make this kind of social comment! This however manages to be neither interesting nor entertaining, in short, nothing to give it any more substance than a cheap piece of marketing as thin as the pages on which it is printed.
There is nothing anyone needs to know about this book that is not all summed up in its title and, sadly, for that apparent lack of any kind of creative effort, it really can't be forgiven....more
A political thriller set in a world populated entirely by anthropomorphised cats? A feline noir so to speak. How could I resist?! The burning questionA political thriller set in a world populated entirely by anthropomorphised cats? A feline noir so to speak. How could I resist?! The burning question though is can such a curious conception actually come together and work as an actual story? The answer, it would seem is, err, no, not really, but it's hard not to admire the originality and the obvious degree of imaginative effort that has gone into conceptualising this complete world of cats.
Perhaps though it is just this excess of imagination that becomes this book's major problem. There is just too much going on for the mind to incorporate that what there is of story and character somehow gets a little lost. The detail is impressive and very funny at times, like cats giving up on boxing by becoming impossibly mesmerised by the bits of string dangling off the gloves. Trying though to consider a city whose mayor is a lion and can talk on a similar level to a cat is another. A problem of scale that is difficult to fit into my little head. In fact that was a problem that eventually turned me away from the sword-fighting animals of my childhood readings. As much I may have tried to resist the slow erosion of imagination by the pounding waves of reality, certain things just don't quite work for me anymore.
It has to be said though that beneath the imaginatively rendered layers of this feline world the story is yet a little difficult to get hold of itself. In fairness I'm not really a reader of the human political thriller, perhaps if I were the tropes of this world might have more resonance for me, but as it is beneath their cattish attributes there seems little particularly interesting about the behaviours and motivations of these beasts. There yet seem certain puzzling holes in their explanations too. Besides which the broad moral themes are laid on with an exceptional thickness. I fear that underneath the furry feline layers there isn't really quite so much of a story really to get out. As much as it is impossible not to admire the imagination of the creation and the conviction to follow through with the theme it is unfortunately rather confusing and beneath all the fur not really as satisfying as perhaps it might have been....more
Admittedly I approached reading this book with a certain amount of trepidation, having been recommended it so effusively by a certain particularly speAdmittedly I approached reading this book with a certain amount of trepidation, having been recommended it so effusively by a certain particularly special individual, I was somewhat nervous of not particularly liking it. My initial preconceptions did not exactly inspire confidence, a book credited to more than one writer born, not from the writer’s storytelling imagination but out of a commercial role-playing game. Actually though, I have to say I was pleasantly surprised by this book. It is far from being without its flaws but it was for all that still an enjoyable and entertaining read to which a good deal of effort and thought had obviously gone in to making it so. Hardly a chapter goes by without some sort of action or dramatic cliff-hanger to keep the pages turning and, for all it’s weaknesses, it remains entertaining story which is something that the perhaps more polished fantasies can forget, getting caught up in the intricacies of plot and the richness of their worlds, and for this it can be forgiven a great deal!
Not that this tale is exactly perfect, fantasy cliché abounds and certain passages just come across as quite laughably silly. I’m still trying to frame a picture in my mind of how precisely a unicorn would manage to smile, whilst battles with giant flesh-eating slugs may seem dramatic in role play but that doesn’t exactly translate particularly well to the page. Having said that there are moments of genuine humour and warmth that are quite charming and do work well, and others that don’t. It is just a little hit-and-miss in this regard and, for all its entertainments (intentional and otherwise) it just somehow lacks that essential sense of depth and texture to make it really completely immersive and engaging in the way some other fantasy worlds, crafted from the imagination of one single writer, may be. Indeed this be the inherent weakness that I had initially feared, it reads as it was created, like a recounting of the random encounters of a role play game rather than a carefully crafted, coherent tale. Entertaining and enjoyable yes, and even in some parts quite clever and imaginative but yet not quite all hanging together as completely immersive story.
Still it is clear that a good deal of effort has gone into trying to patch the tale together and there are some parts that do work well. The world itself is in parts quite well-imagined and one or two of the set-pieces show a certain degree of thought, if rarely threatening to do anything much original or groundbreaking. Characters too do not feel quite so fully formed. It is one thing role playing a character and playing out their thoughts and actions in your head but quite another to translate those to the page with depth and complexity to suggest tangibly believable drives and motivations. Overall then the depth and texture are sadly just slightly lacking from this book, as is anything much original or unexpected though certainly a good deal of fantasy tropes have been thrown into the mix and some degree of thought has been gone into in stitching it all together. The end result being something I am pleased, and even mildly relieved, to be able to say is a good deal more enjoyable than the initial prejudices of my innate pretentious snobbishness had me fearing! Certainly anyways, I do appreciate the recommendation and wouldn’t look too unfavourably on having a go at more of the series.
It may not be quite the most polished or richly immersive fantasy tale I have ever read, but it’s enjoyable and fun which, when it comes down to it, is really the most important thing for any story....more
I am not, I must confess, a big reader of the short story so Smoke & Mirrors was something of a change for me. The literary equivalent perhaps ofI am not, I must confess, a big reader of the short story so Smoke & Mirrors was something of a change for me. The literary equivalent perhaps of the way I tend to go about listening to music. That is putting my whole mp3 collection on random and sitting back and immersing myself in the result. So, given that I'm quite a fan of Neil Gaiman, much as I have chosen the music that has made it into my collection, it was all round and enjoyable experience, if still something of a mixed one. Such though I suppose is the nature of the short story and the broad range of tone and narrative structure amongst the tales within this book be impressive in itself.
That being said there were still some stories that didn't work for me quite so well as others. Whilst my favourite, 'Troll Bridge', seemed an exquisitely complete little gem, delightful and poignant with a twist at the end which, even if possibly just guessable, is wonderfully satisfying. Certain others did not catch me quite so much, or possibly I just wasn't in the mood for them at the time. These would be the tracks in my music library that if they are brought up on random play I might just skip past and leave for another day. The story of an author's search for a forgotten Hollywood icon seeming a bit rambling and unfocussed, and focus, for me at least, is what a short story really needs. A single, perfectly-cut jewel. The majority of these tales are just that but just one or two were, for me, a little rough around the edges.
That being so, Smoke & Mirrors be a highly enjoyable read and though I thinks I still remain more of a creature for the longer narrative (if not so much one for the music album these days) there be a great deal to intrigue, provoke and inspire among these page....more
It is impossible to shake the inescapable sense that this book must be labouring under some sort of Glamour. Certainly all is very stylish upon the suIt is impossible to shake the inescapable sense that this book must be labouring under some sort of Glamour. Certainly all is very stylish upon the surface, a great deal of artistry has gone into the cover, its map and it's imagery and yet none of this can hide the gaping empty void where the actual story should be. There are so many things that are bad about this book it's hard to choose where to start but I will begin by mentioning the general prose style and its habit of indulging in unnecessarily long sentences, with lots of commas and subclauses - of the kind that contain the most banal and obvious observations that are supposed to pass of insight - and at times render the story confusingly unreadable. Much like that.
I've not read James Herbert before, but I understand this book had been an effort to branch out from the more usual fare of horror and chills into something broader and deeper. Sadly though endless meandering sentences does no more equal deep insights than awkwardly written sex equals expressions of human desires whilst a man meeting a bunch of fairies and wondering a bit whether it could be real is no kind of investigation into the nature of belief. Perhaps ironically the only brief moment when I found the book did come to life was at one of the moments of straight horror featuring a bottomless jar of spiders. The rest of the time the tale remains resolutely lifeless, rendering almost comical its apparent pretensions to some deeper insights or truth.
Then there is the plot which, when it does happen to come along in the last quarter of the book is of such dreadfully contrived and melodramatic proportions as might come out of some bad soap-opera. There is also the characterisation, or perhaps that should be absence of characterisation. This point is most particularly egregious when it comes to the actions of the women. At no point is any attempt made to explain the origins of this book's female antagonist and scarce little mention of what lies behind the actions of any of the others. All this renders then a somewhat unpleasantly stereotypical characterisation of women, either devious and manipulative in the use of their sex or otherwise pure and innocent and beautiful when it suits this decidedly male fantasy for them to be. Were the male hero so very dense, yet occasionally inexplicably insightful, I might yet be somewhat more angry about it.
Yet the aspect of this book that threatens to invoke my wrath even more can be neatly summed up by the two points in the narrative when our ill-defined hero is actually compared to the figure of Jesus! The sheer breathtaking arrogance of this empty little book is truly awe inspiring. I'm an atheist and still it makes me angry, or would at least, were it not quite so laughable. I have wondered at times whether I have been too hard in my evaluation of an innocent and playful fantasy of witches and fairies and elves and then I remember no, you actually thought your hero worthy of comparison to Jesus! It's ridiclous, if not hilarious, not to mention pretentious, arrogant, tawdry, empty (not to mention the confusingly rambling prose), with a somewhat unpleasant air of female objectivity and overall just bad.
A most intriguing novel and highly challenging (generally in a good way) to the imagination. Despite the particularly conceptual nature of the tale itA most intriguing novel and highly challenging (generally in a good way) to the imagination. Despite the particularly conceptual nature of the tale it remains engaging and inspiring more or less throughout, mostly due to the highly skilled writing that brings us such a preternaturally insightful and charming narrator, with whom the suspension of disbelief becomes so much easier. Perhaps the greatest achievement of the book though is in crafting a story of so many different levels, on survival and the human spirit, the power of faith, of animals and man and even on the very craft of storytelling itself, and yet come out with a book that is, in the end, so essentially human at its core. ...more