What is there to say about the Harry Potter phenomenon?
JK Rowling certainly struck a chord when she presented Harry to the world. Perhaps it was theWhat is there to say about the Harry Potter phenomenon?
JK Rowling certainly struck a chord when she presented Harry to the world. Perhaps it was the familiarity of the concept, since it merges several staples of children's literature: the apprentice wizard, the boarding school, the wise old mentor, the battle between good and evil....
There's little that is new here, but the story, though episodic, rattles along at a good pace and the main characters are a likeable bunch.
But who am I to criticise? The world loves Harry Potter and if it gets kids and adults reading that can only be a good thing....more
I'll say from the outset that The Princess Bride is one of my favourite films. But I'd never read the book and I admit that I approached it with someI'll say from the outset that The Princess Bride is one of my favourite films. But I'd never read the book and I admit that I approached it with some trepidation. Would it be as good? Both book and screenplay were, after all, written by the same man.
As it turns out the answer is yes. And no. Let me explain.
The basic story remains the same. Westley, Buttercup, Inigo and Fezzik are all here and they do all the things they do in the film and even say the same things. Large chunks of dialogue were lifted wholesale. This is a good thing. And let's face it, it's a rollicking good tale. Mr Goldman knows how to write.
But there are differences that ultimately have made me knock one star off the rating. The framing story where Goldman tells of his father reading him this book as a child, and of Goldman trying to get his own son interested in the story, which fails, leading to his abridgement of the book, is far more knowing and arch than in the film. No kindly Peter Falk grandfather figure here. The whole abridgement thing gets in the way to be honest and appears tricksy, interrupting the story when he should just tell the tale and let it all flow.
It's a good book. But Goldman showed his skill as a screenwriter when he adapted it for the screen, jettisoning the bits that don't work and streamlining the story without losing the charm of it.
So, it's a bit of a curate's egg. It's a great read, a wonderful tale of adventure, somewhat hamstrung by its framing device. I'm glad I read it, but I think I still prefer the film....more
Set in the far future of Earth (or Urth as it is known in these books), this is the tale of Severian, of the Guild of Torturers and his travels acrossSet in the far future of Earth (or Urth as it is known in these books), this is the tale of Severian, of the Guild of Torturers and his travels across a world changed out of all recognition from the one we know.
This is no ordinary fantasy tale. Episodic in nature, with a large cast of characters (many of whom disappear only to reappear much later on in the tale) the story unfolds at a stately pace and is told as if written by Severian himself.
Cast out from the Guild that has been his home since he was a small boy for falling in love with one of the prisoners, Severian is told to travel to the distant city of Thrax, there to take up the post of Carnifex, dispatching 'justice' to those poor unfortunate souls who come before him and his sword, Terminus Est. But the journey is no easy one. Indeed, he has only just reached the gates of the vast city of Nessus, home of the Guild, as book one draws to a close.
Book two takes up the tale some time later and we follow Severian to the House Absolute, home of the Autarch, and beyond to the very edge of the Northern Mountains.
Wolfe's imagination is wondrous to behold and his descriptions of the city of Nessus and the House Absolute are strange and unsettling, conjuring up a world both in decay and stasis. It is known that Mankind has fallen from the peaks of the past, when he traversed the stars, and now lives beneath the baleful glare of the red sun of this dying earth.
Severian seems bound to a destiny over which he has no control. Each adventure brings him a step closer to that destiny, the outcome of which is stated quite early on, so we know the conclusion of the tale in advnace. The pleasure comes in how the story unfolds and the course of events that will bring him to that destiny.
If you prefer swashbuckling, elves and broad strokes of the pen, then maybe this isn't the book for you. If however you enjoy a tale well told of memory and truth and the nature of power, then give this a go. I'll certainly be reading the next volume....more
Not so much a retelling of the Arthurian legends, more a new translation and abridgement. Ackroyd has taken Malory's text and retold it in the modernNot so much a retelling of the Arthurian legends, more a new translation and abridgement. Ackroyd has taken Malory's text and retold it in the modern idiom, along the way removing much of the contradictions and superfluous descriptions of battles that clog up the original text. However by doing so he has lost some of the poetry of the language. To be honest the first part of the book is a bit of a slog and it is only when the Quest for the Grail begins that things take off we are carried along to the inevitable doomed conclusion to the story. Much of it reads like notes for a fuller retelling of the legends, or a simplified version for 'young adults'. This is not to detract from Ackroyd's achievement; he is to be applauded for keeping the legends alive and if people go on to tackle Malory's original text that can only be a good thing. Personally I prefer my Arthurian reading to be a bit fuller and I'd recommend Marion Zimmer Bradley's Mists of Avalaon (but not the sequel/prequels) and T.H. White's The Once and Future King to those who seek a reinterpretation of these classic doomed romances....more
Banks usually splits his novels between contemporary fiction and science fiction, but here he publishes what is obviously a science fiction story undeBanks usually splits his novels between contemporary fiction and science fiction, but here he publishes what is obviously a science fiction story under his 'contemporary' nom de plume. I'm unsure of the reasons for this, but it is certainly his most enjoyable novel in quite some time, certainly an improvement on The Steep Approach to Garbadale, which was just The Crow Road reheated.
The story, told from the point of view of several characters, but mainly that of a man called Temudjin Oh, is about an organisation called The Concern, which intervenes in the affairs of alternate realities for supposedly benign reasons. They do this using the talents of 'Transitionaries', people who can flit between realities with the aid of a drug called Septus. With me so far? Good.
But the head of the Concern's central council, Madame d'Ortolan, has her own agenda, and Oh finds himself a hunted man. A renegade called Mrs Mulverhill comes to his aid and he finds himself caught in a power struggle for control of The Concern. It's an ambitious storyline and thankfully free, for the most part, of Banks's recent penchant for making his character's mouthpieces for his political rhetoric.
Banks is no stranger to mixing genres, his earlier novels such as Walking on Glass and The Bridge featured fantasy elements, but here the whole story is fantastical.
However I do have reservations. The structure is fragmented to say the least and the start of the book is very confusing. You're not sure what the hell is going on and it takes perseverance to get a grip on the story. As ever Banks' can tell a good tale but what I'd really like is for him to return to the form of Espedair Street or The Crow Road - brilliantly told contemporary fiction. However, well worth reading....more