Perhaps this should have been two books, one of the 60s/70s, and one of the 80s; as it stands there is too much in here, the scope is too big, so we rPerhaps this should have been two books, one of the 60s/70s, and one of the 80s; as it stands there is too much in here, the scope is too big, so we rush through important events in a handful of pages. The Vietnam War is covered in one short chapter, where every single war atrocity happens right before the eyes of one of the characters. Compare this to the story of a Beatles-like rock band, which is explained in detail, despite being far less interesting. Perhaps the rise of pop culture is something the author was very keen to cover, but it comes at the expense of major political events.
As with Fall of Giants, so much happens that characters are forced to go places seemingly at random in order to be there when a major event occurs. It’s forced, rushed, and leaves no space for characterisation - not even the traditional ‘villain’ that Follett is generally very good at writing.
This series has, unfortunately, declined in quality. It was ambitious to cover the 20th century history of the West, and that ambition was not fulfilled here - largely, I think, by trying to cover 75 years in three books....more
Post-modern true crime? Awareness of writing ‘a true crime book’ is shot through this book from Australian satirist John Safran, probably the last perPost-modern true crime? Awareness of writing ‘a true crime book’ is shot through this book from Australian satirist John Safran, probably the last person to film the victim of a murder. The victim is a white supremacist, the killer a young black man, the setting Mississippi where racial integration never really happened. The narrative seems obvious, but some digging turns up interesting twists that turn the story inside out.
This is a well-written book, with humour and honesty driving the story of an investigation by an amateur who tries to unravel the different strands of the investigation.
(view spoiler)[ In the end, all he discovers are hints and suggestions of a different story, but without any ‘smoking gun’. There are no revelations, no miscarriage of justice, just threads that are to be pulled at. (hide spoiler)]
I read the book in a few days, was gripped by it. But don’t read it expecting a ‘typical’ true crime book, rather a book written by someone very aware of what ‘typical’ true crime books expect.
I really enjoyed this. Telling the story of Vincent van Gogh’s time spent in the South of France, when he created his most famous and loved works of aI really enjoyed this. Telling the story of Vincent van Gogh’s time spent in the South of France, when he created his most famous and loved works of art and suffered the first attacks of mental illness - and hinting, although not making explicit, at the connection between the two. The book covers his single-minded idealism of art, and the consequences that brings to his frustrated friendship with the more materialistic Gauguin. All the time, he has the patient and unconditional love of his brother.
Barbara Stok’s simple art and understated script tell this story perfectly. Rather than trying to replicate van Gogh’s style, she sets the mood of the people and places of Provence, giving you some idea of what he felt as he was creating the artworks of this prolific period of his life.
This made me understand the motivation behind van Gogh’s paintings and the way his ‘madness’ affected him, in a way that’s entertaining, sympathetic, and full of life....more
Let’s get this out of the way: the writing style will put some off. Written in a ‘shadow language’ of Old English with modern grammar and some artistiLet’s get this out of the way: the writing style will put some off. Written in a ‘shadow language’ of Old English with modern grammar and some artistic license, the first 30 or so pages are very dense and slightly baffling. If, however, you persevere, you begin to follow the rhythm of the words and the vocabulary becomes normal to you, so by halfway through the book you almost forget about it. Almost.
Beyond that, the *real* problem with the book, I found, is that the protagonist is highly unlikeable. Proud, boastful, superior, unpleasant, cowardly… this is not a traditional hero’s tale.
But there is a wonderful sense of mood, of place, of time. The book rewards in many ways, even if it doesn’t please. It illuminates a mostly-forgotten period of English history, and has many allegorical parallels with today.
I recommend you read the notes on pronunciation first, and keep the glossary conveniently bookmarked for the first 30 pages; then immerse yourself in the language and you’ll find it was really worth the struggle....more
Sorry to say that I didn’t enjoy this. Selfmadehero’s books are generally excellent, but this let me down. For a start, I couldn’t see the promised saSorry to say that I didn’t enjoy this. Selfmadehero’s books are generally excellent, but this let me down. For a start, I couldn’t see the promised satire; I mean, it uses Disney characters, but I couldn’t see to what satirical end. Perhaps I didn’t get it. But no matter, perhaps I could enjoy the ‘Die Hard in Disneyland’ action.
Unfortunately not. An unsympathetic lead surrounded by stock characters made it hard to root for anyone. I found the art scratchy and unclear, and often made it hard to follow the action. By the end I wasn’t really sure what had happened or what I was supposed to think of it all.
A rare mis-step from an otherwise impressive publisher. Lovely cover, though....more
The bad news is, to get the most out of this book, you’re going to have to read thirty years worth of Jaime Hernandez’ Locas stories. The good news isThe bad news is, to get the most out of this book, you’re going to have to read thirty years worth of Jaime Hernandez’ Locas stories. The good news is, those five collected volumes form one of the greatest bodies of work in comics history.
We’ve seen Maggie grow from a young punk to a slightly isolated middle-aged landlady. We know her well, because Jaime Hernandez has taken such great care and attention in writing her. We’ve followed her life, loves and losses. And because of that, the final section of the book becomes one of the greatest moments of drama in the history of the series.
Jaime Hernandez is simply one of the great artists working in any medium, and this allows him to create heartbreaking works of staggering genius using only simple black and white lines.
A very interesting read; the author interviewed Savile on many occasions before his death - and before the scale of his crimes was known (although theA very interesting read; the author interviewed Savile on many occasions before his death - and before the scale of his crimes was known (although there were always rumours). The book covers Savile’s life, the timeline of the story of the TV expose, and the testimony of many victims and witnesses of his attacks.
What becomes clear is that many people were aware of what Savile was doing for many years, although whether through complicity, corruption (to the very highest levels), or fascination with celebrity, nobody told. When victims did approach people in authority, they were ignored.
This book isn’t just hastily cobbled together, it’s obviously been in progress for some time, although because the investigation is still ongoing there are frustrating ommissions and occasional repetition as the book is rewritten to accommodate new evidence. And Savile himself is an expert at manipulation and obfuscation, so some stories will, unfortunately, never be told; hints of corruption and murder will likely never be resolved one way or another.
It’s well written (I read almost the whole thing in a single long-distance flight), and while it isn‘t a classic true crime book, it’s more than a cheap cash-in and goes a long way in showing how crimes of this magnitude were hidden for so long: really, they weren’t; we just chose to look the other way. ...more
Stephen King still has a knack for dialogue and characterisation, but his days of being scary have gone; this is fantasy with a horror tinge, really nStephen King still has a knack for dialogue and characterisation, but his days of being scary have gone; this is fantasy with a horror tinge, really no more horrific than the Twilight books he mocks. It’s interesting to find out what happened to Danny after The Shining, but that’s over in the first 10% of this book, and from then on we have late-period King, well-written but never particularly excellent. The main problem is that the book is free of peril; with perhaps one exception, the main characters are always in control, which makes the story somewhat less thrilling than it could be. It’s an enjoyable page turner, but I doubt I’ll ever go back to it....more
Having read so many good reviews of this, I was quite looking forward to reading it. About a fifth of the way in, I just wanted it to end. It is, at tHaving read so many good reviews of this, I was quite looking forward to reading it. About a fifth of the way in, I just wanted it to end. It is, at times, hilariously badly written. I started highlighting awful sentences until that became too time-consuming.
“a vicious wind howling out of the steppes, hot, carrying with it the smell of Asia and the stench of betrayal” - oh really, what does that smell like?
“I may not be on top of anyone’s list for male lead in Deep Throat II, but I didn’t have anything to be ashamed of” - Deep Throat? That was forty years ago!
“Despite all her years of relentless sex, [the phone call] was to the only real man in her life – her father.”
The worst problem - among many - is that the author keeps telling us how amazing his main character is, without ever really showing us. He’s the world’s best killer, detective, forensic scientist… one supporting character says of him:
”There was one thing: he was clever – I mean, outstandingly clever – at what he did. I remember wondering if all FBI agents were that good.”
But the central mystery of the book is solved through absolute coincidence. By pure chance he’s working on two unrelated cases which happen to coincide. All through the book he gets lucky breaks, make guesses with no logic behind them but always turn out right… really, the one bit of actual detective work he does involves a bit of science that’s absolutely ridiculous.
The main character just seems like a bit of an unlikeable dick. He’s super-rich, arrogant, has an unpleasant streak of misogyny running through him, and apparently has a voracious appetite for drugs (which again, we’re only told about, never shown).
He’s even, apparently, an expert on playing bass.
“‘You’re a good bass player,’ I told him, ‘maybe one of the best I’ve heard – and I know what I’m talking about’”
This, along with his self-decribed ‘dark streak’ makes him seem like a super-agent dreamed up by a 17-year-old boy.
The one thing you can say about the book is that it keeps the pages turning, but that’s all done through the James Patterson Technique - short chapters, with a cliffhanger in almost every one. It also uses the cheap trick of hiding information from the reader although we’re supposed to be present with the narrator at all times.
“I opened the plastic bag, took out the device I had purchased and headed towards them.” - What device? Why didn’t you tell us when you bought it?
The narration is often confused, talking in the third person then suddenly breaking into first, as you realise that it’s the narrator somehow telling us the private thoughts of other characters.
If you’ve read this far, you can probably guess that I can’t recommend this book at all. A grand waste of my time....more