Fight Club A book review

Rating 4.5/5

Product Details

Back in 1996 I was 14, back then the internet was mainly a pink and green slap in the face to good design. In fact if you wanted to use the internet you had to make a phone call. Mobile phones were the size of house bricks. Porn came in magazine form and late night TV on obscure Sky TV channels, grunge had come and was now dying. And if you was in the know you could find VHS tapes of obscure wrestling promotions not the WWE or WCW but crazy Japanese stuff where they used fire, water melons and a whole host of other objects that happened to be laying around. There was rumors of something called Cage fighting making it’s way around the playground.

“In UFC you can use a chain saw. My cousin has a video of it”

“In UFC it is so brutal that the ref has a gun and if you win your match you have to fight a polar bear” way back then who know what was going on in the promised land of the USA? And anyway my heart was still broken over Pamela Anderson marrying Tommy Lee the year before. But more importantly no one had heard the first rule of fight club.

Fight Club is not my first brush with Chuck Palahniuk, a couple of years ago I had read haunted and I can recall very little of it, someone cutting their hair off and an escapade with a doll. I had also made it halfway through the movie, fell asleep and didn’t bother finishing. I finished the book in two days.

The story of fight club is an echo of millions around the world an average Joe who hates their job who is looking to escape from both the 9-5 and insomnia. He meets Tyler Durdan who encourages our unarmed average Joe to emancipate him self from drudgery of work, find the little sparks in life, form fight club where other average Joe can meet and punch it out. Fight club grows. Stuff happens.

Chuck writes with pinpoint accuracy summing up his view on the 9-5, why we should leave it become the captain of our own ship. If you read past the story the book almost becomes one of the greatest self help books ever wrote, move aside How to win friends and influence people. Palahniuk has left an indelible stain on culture.

Every white collar chap, wanting to make Debbie from marketing laughs will use the famous line from the book but he wont use it verbatim no he will had his own twist “First rule of first quarter fiscal reporting club is, you don’t talk about…”

In Palahniuk’s 2005 afterword to the novel he has the line misquoted to him; to which he replies “I wrote that” to the stunned tour guide who uttered the line.

I am sure most who quote the work quote the film version, but they miss so much by not reading the book, it’s a great shame that people will quote the lines, change their names to Tyler but not engage with the source material.

Fight club hits the nail on the head, it has comedy , romance and horror that is never over stated it just works. The ultimate self help book for the down trodden.

Advertisements

The Moving Target

Rating 3.5/5

Detective noir has always interested me ; from my first taste by reading James Ellroy’s The Black Dahlia, the total immersion that was in playing Rock star games L.A Noire or watching the Monroe’s first screen outing in The Asphalt Jungle and Jessica Alba’s performance in The killer inside me. You can forget your Law and Orders where although flawed the good guys always come out whiter than white and are never in any peril. True detective fiction for me was gum shoes from the 1930 to the 1950’s , well the genre has a whole. I like my detectives as I like my eggs hard boiled (Not sure if that has ever been used before so I am claiming it).

After my bold claims above it turns out I haven’t read any Ross MacDonald and I knew nothing about his ex cop come private dick Lew Archer. Archer embodies the genre as much as Spade and Marlow. MacDonald writes with the rhythm and pace that has become synonymous with noir.

And with his embodiment of both character and style MacDonald give us Archer’s first case. Moving target. Moving Target see our detective Archer on the case of the missing oil tycoon Ralph Sampson. Archer has his suspects Mrs Sampson, Ralph’s Daughter Maranda Sampson, Alan Tagget Sampson’s personal pilot and Maranda’s love interest and there is a fading movie star and psychic who could also be involved. There is even a cult leader who lives on a mountain.

All the tropes are there Archer encounters heavies, men with secrets, thugs and where would a hard boiled detective be without the femme_fatale? Archer encounters enough of them.

This isn’t your down-town L.A story Archer moves around suburban L.A visiting dive bars and seedy hotels. MacDonald keeps his detective away from the hustle and bustle of the bright lights, proving that suburban L.A can be just as dangerous,

Archer is a likeable character and MacDonald is not scared to have his Character knocked out, shot at or worse.

The story may be formulaic but MacDonald and Archer keeps the reader gripped enough through the story. With enough twist and changes in direction to keep the story fresh with out being confusing , but at the end of it and the dust settles it is a kidnapping story and they can only turn out a few ways.

With the above said it is a worth wile read. Archer has the right balance of forthrightness , flaws and sarcasm to be enjoyable.

The Name Of The Wind

It’s Fantasy Jim, But Not as we know it

 

Rating 3.5/5

 

I confess I haven’t read a lot of fantasy in fact you can cant my Fantasy read list on both your hands and still have a finger left over (minds out the gutter); The Hobbit, Lord of the rings , A Song Of Ice And fire up to a feast of Crows for you out there that only watches TV that’s Game Of Thrones.

Now I did enjoy The Hobbit , the bag-master doing his thing with a ring (minds out the gutter). Lord Of The Rings had an enjoyable first book and the third book was ok, the second book….

On the other hand A Game Of Thrones ,I George R.R Martins rich and diverse world, with flawed characters on both sides. Kept me going

So my third foray in to the lands of dragons, magic and knights was Patrick Rothuss’ The Name Of The Wind. The first book in the King killer chronicles. If you have been on book tube there is high praise for Rothuss’s tome Apparently this took over a decade to write and it does come in as a weighty tome. Racking up over 672 pages the second book in the series is even weightier at 1008 pages, a lot of story for or maybe there is a lot of filler?

The Name Of The Wind follows our hero Kvothe sitting down in his pub, telling his story to the chronicler. Essentialy autobiography set in a land far away, Kvothe tells a story of loss, love and over coming adversity a true hero of our times.

Rothuss is clever with his prose, he creates a complex world. Explaing aspects of the monetary systems, how the passage of time is marked, a creation myth, a magic system, a political system. He even explains how the loan sharks work.

The problem is not the systems and world building it is that Kvothe is perfect in every way and he lets you know. Plays the lute like a cross between Hendrix and Eddie Van Halen , he can perform magic (know in the world as symphony) like a cross between Houdini and Derren Brown, he is a master Actor and scholar, chemist, seamstress, jockey you name it can do it. Except get the girl.

“I was playing my lute and a string broke so I changed from minor to major and every one applauded”

But Kvothe has a problem with the opposite sex ,even when the ladies are practically asking to have their bodices ripped open and ravaged. Kvothe does nothing. The he pines for the love he has just lost. A bit like the middle of The Vampire Lestat where Lestat keeps harping on about Louis.

And that’s the plot, Guy who is brilliant at everything except picking up women, talks about how he was down on his luck but that was ok because he was clever, how he went to university and broke all the rules but people liked him and he was clever so out smarted everyone. Some people didn’t like him but he got his own back. Rinse and repeat.

672 pages of “Look how great I am!” As a plot device, it never puts Kvothe in any danger. So the reader will know that any peril that Kvothe is put in he will so be ok.

Considering how boring this sounds and grating, Rothuss manges to write the world and keep it enjoyable. Like an old friend who tells you how great they are but deep down you know they are good person and would help you out if you was on hard times.

The protagonist is annoying, the world is vast. Yet the read was a fun journey. Maybe it was the hope that Kvothe would gets his comeuppance.

If you enjoy the genre then this has all the tropes and clichés that you will find comfort in.
After all my complaining regarding Kvothe, I am invested in his story, I want to know what happens next. Most of all I want to Know if he stops being so smug.

Ready Player One (It’s the 80s!)

Ready Player One cover.jpgThere is a certain nostalgia for the 80’s. That for some strange reason a generation wants to cling on to. For me the most purest for of music was invented in the 80’s hair metal, The Crue, Ratt, warrant and Guns and roses they may argue that they wasn’t hair mental but they grew up on the Sun set strip. So shout “I want my MTV” turn Kick start my heart up to 11. And get ready to say “Oh boy” like doctor Sam Beckett stepping in to the body of Elvis while he is flying Airwolf because Earnest Cline takes back to a time when cubes were Rubicked.

Well actually he takes us to the future 2044 where nostalgia is the in thing. Cline’s Ready Player one is a love letter to VHS, movies of the 80s and the games we use to play down at the arcade with a side dose of pop culture . The future is not bright in Cline’s world and we meet our hero Wade living in the stacks, motor homes stacked up on each other hence the name. With not a lot to do Wade spends most of his time in a VR world called oasis. Then James Halliday dies the Steve Jobs of 2044. But he has left an easter egg in the Oasis by completing levels if you will and if you can find it then you will run the Oasis and become rich beyond your wildest dreams.

Cline hooks Wade up with a bunch of hapless heroes and the game is set. The book drew me in I wanted Wade to carry out his tribulations and quest. I wanted Wade to score the perfect score on Pac-man I booed the evil villains who lived on some sort of space station in the game. But then it all fell apart for me.

Cline has chops in creating his world but it just a long drawn out “Do you remember the 80s?”Cline does give the world some weight, the stacks , the endless MMPOG. I was in. I had my coin on top of the arcade machine to buy in. I was even getting philosophical this is how people will form friendships and fall in love. Forget tinder I know of one world of war craft wedding. Then it happens Wade meets a girl, well an avatar and that when it all fell apart for me.

I know that shakespeare once said their was only 7 stories. But it becomes a paint by numbers fantasy , hero on a quest, hero meets girl, girl is not just a princess to be plucked like a toad stool (keeping with the video game theme) girl runs away, hero becomes annoying, pines for girl and the bad guys are evil.

Instead of Frodo finding the ring he plays arcade games instead.

Here is the interesting thing I blistered through the book afterwards I was in awe. Then I sat down and digested what I had read it was 5 stars but then the star faded and become 3 stars. It is enjoyable but I am not sure if Cline pulls off the cyber-punk fantasy cross over. If you like reading about some one playing down the arcade and can move past the somewhat bolted on love affair. Cline has some great ideas; the stacks, the Oasis, the parody of the Steve Jobs. But like all love letters to bygone people and bygone eras in hindsight they don’t always come across as they should.

Station Eleven A Book Review

                                                                         Station Eleven Cover.jpg

Emily St John Mandel’s post apocalyptic Sci-fi novel Station 11 starts off in a theater in Toronto staging King Lear. Arthur Leander is dying on stage, not in scathing review in the press sense of dying but, the phone me an ambulance way.

And so begins Mandel’s tale. A story of loss, belonging and survival. Because after Arthur dies who happens to be a big a deal in Hollywood even after 3 marriages and scandal, the Georgia flu arrives wiping-out most the population.

Told using a contemporary time-line and an after the collapse time-line Mandel uses both to tell the story from the point of view from Arthur’s perspective and the perspective of Kirsten w a member of a travailing acting troop. Bringing Shakespeare to the small encampments and towns that have sprung up after the Flu pandemic.

Mandel excels in crafting a spider-web of characters that all have been affected by Arthur in one way of another. Each character arcs from before the flu until after each suffering trials and tribulations. Everything is included for a reason and nothing feels superfluous in Mandel’s world.

Each sentence and word seems to be on the page for a reason, and not a case of a writer struggling to add filler. Mandel seems to create a vast yet tight book at the same time. But she does leave one stone unturned , one question that the reader will ponder on long after the book has finished

The characters muster all the emotions the reader should feel , the reader will root for the protagonist , hate the villain and in the end enjoy the end, even if it has that one question. Mandel while not over burdening the reader with description gives you just enough to imagine a world of broken roads, empty fuel stations and power stations that no longer turn.

On the strength of station 11 I went out and brought Mandel’s other books.

A Head full of Ghost. The Exorcist meets the 2010s

Paul Tremblay in A head full of ghost adds a contemporary twist in the possession story. The exorcist for the i-phone generation.

Something is not right in the Barrett’s home 14 year old Marjory maybe descending in to madness, Mr Barrett has found religion and Mrs Barrett is trying to hold it all together while young Merry is trying to make sense of it all. All set against the backdrop of Pa Barrett losing his well paid Job. In a way it’s a normal story of middle class family trying to make ends meet. But something more sinister is afoot and the family maybe able to make a quick buck with the magic of TV. Years after the events Merry sits down to tell her story to a journalist.

Tremblay writes a fast paced story, jumping between time zones using present day Merry and 8 year old Merry along with numerous blog posts critic each episode of the TV show.

Each character is well fault out and develops nicely through the story allowing the reader to be engaged with the cast and at times building sympathy, revolution and sometimes hate. There is enough in there to keep the reader gripped.

What allows the book to be as good as it is, Tremblay builds his world with gusto and creates a totally believable scenario. You believe that Barrett has found religion and that how he believes the TV show “The possession” is the best way forward. You believe that the TV production crew would behave like that, Tremblay catches the slew of TV ghost hunting shows and manages to put it on the page.

But at the end I was angry with Tremblay at the end, I wont mention the ending but it will make you think and you may even feel cheated. The Journey to get cheated is well crafted and as they say it is better to travel than to arrive.

The Girl With All The Gifts

A Book Review 

The Horror director Joe Dante (Gremlins) once said if you wanted gauge a measure of decade then look at the Horror films they made at time, or words to that effect. Zombies are every where at the moment , TV , books , video games and even Lego had some Zombies.

M.R Carey embraces the zombie Zeitgeist. In his novel The Girl with all the gifts. Although they aren’t not called zombies no they are called hungries. And they are stalking the home counties like a an accountant that can no longer afford London.

Carey has taken the zombie in popular culture and melded something rather special from it. One part walking dead (I am not a fan of), one part Romero’s Day of the dead and one part the last of us (one of the most emotionally charged video games made – also with a zombie premiss). With a touch of 28 days later.

Carey’s main theme centres around the arcing story between teacher Helen Justineau and Melanie the aforementioned Girl with all the gifts. From student and teacher on a post collapsed military base but Melanie isn’t a normal child. Sub-plotted with Melanie’s relationship with Sargent Parks and Dr Caldwell. There are others but for me the relationship between these three are the stand out for me.

The story becomes classic Zombie/post apocalyptic fair. A military trying to hold to what they know, relationships between a group of people who would normally avoid each other down the local pub, A Dr needing to know more and the typical gang of outcast and survivalist know as junkers (think Mad Max beyond the thunder dome).

Carey uses the normal plot device of moving his characters from one safe location to another, along the lines of the walking dead and he could have easily fallen in to that territory, but manages to keep the pacing to the point where the reader wants the gang to move on and finally reach that safe place.

Although a number of the familiar plot devices and stereotypes are there which in hindsight could have made this another Zombie story. Carey manages to use these to his advantage both giving the reader a safe narrative and unfamiliar paths. Carey also writes his characters that the reader wants to route for them and are willing to forgive them for anything. Even when one admits to the murdering of a child.

The book excels in not only turning a familiar story around but it also explores relationships, love and the desire to survive when the chips are down.

The book resonated with me, but then that maybe I live near one of the areas mentioned in the story. I am looking forward to Carey’s next work.