The Exorcist (A book review)

Rating 4/5

The ExorcistIt’s seems every decade has had it Satanic panic, the 1960’s had it’s Manson murders, Rosemary’s baby, The First Church of Satan and the old Barbara Steel films. The 1970’s saw the rise of poltergeist mostly in the way of Enfield poltergeist, Damien of The Omen fame and of course William Peter Blatty’s The Exorcist; often quoted by British film critic Mark Kermode as the greatest film ever made. The 1980’s saw the true Satanic Panic, cults on every street corner, any heavy metal album played backwards would enter you in to a pact with Old Nick to sell your very soul, except the records of christian heavy metal band Stryper for obvious reasons. The 1990’s again saw music being responsible with such acts as Marilyn Manson being held up as the poster boy for all that was unwholesome at the time.

Blatty’s Exorcist is for me the corner stone of all possession stories if you have read A Head full of Ghost. you will notice it is an uplift to Blatty’s 1970’s blue print. The story centers around Regan the daughter of a well heeled Hollywood actress, who happens to be working on her next project in Washington at the local Jesuit college.

It starts off slow, there are the usual bangs and knocking one would associate with a haunting. Stuff goes missing and appears in placing, there is an Ouija board too. Regan starts to become ill and traditional medicine has now answers so it’s to psychology and aliments of the mind becoming the reason of the illness. Enter priest Father Karras who happens to be both of the cloth and a physiologist, who is struggling with his own faith.

The story is a slow boil and is both a horror story and a physiological thriller, I am not sure by reading it, is Blatty  pro or against the Catholic church. it never crosses the line in to praise or scorn. Blatty’s style and prose is not straight forward either paragraphs switch between characters who may not even be in the same room.

“He walked up the stairs”

“While he was walking up the stairs across town she was boarding a bus”

It is an interesting style and does take some getting use to it maybe a detraction for some readers but after a while one gets to enjoy it. The real gem of the story is the brilliantly realized Kinderman , LT of detectives across between Columbo and Phillip Marlowe. A character that needs seeking out and devoured in the best sense.

Faith, loss, a mothers love are recurring themes through out the book Regan’s mother knows what happens to at least one person does she do the right thing?

It may be a little dated at times, but it works will and you can understand why the film always pops up in them 101 horror movies to see before you die lists. it is a slow boil but a lot of the best horror is. Read that then read A Head full Of Ghost the fitting homage to Blatty.

Grifter’s Game (Lawrence Block)

Rating 4/5

Grifter’s Game previously published as Mona cements my love of the noir genre, indeed Grifter's Gamethree out the last four books I have read have all fallen in to noir, if you look at my good reads profile (Markdini) you may notice a string noir novels to be read. So not only is The Hard Case Crime books a must for me there are a must for fans of detective fiction from the 1940’s up to the present day. I will go one further and name the out the last four book I have read including Grifter’s Game have all be from the Hard Case Crime label the moving tale of loss and the only Stephen King book I have enjoyed Joyland, The story of ex porn star come femme-fatale Angel Dare in Money Shot which is a solid modern tale of mobsters, the porn industry and money.

Exploring the femme-fatale theme Block’s Grifter’s game follows likable con man Joe Marlin, who hops from hotel to hotel stealing and grifting his way through life. Until he “borrows” the wrong mans suitcases. What’s more there is dame who is to Joe but will Joe do what is needed to keep Mona?

Block is a master of his genre Grifter’s Game is example of noir from the 60’s that holds well now. Joe Marlin develops through out the book and when the ending comes although you may not agree with Marlin you can understand how he got there. Block’s character development and story arc is tight the book weighs in at a mere 200 pages. Block writes with a rhythm akin to Elroy, in fact Block is somewhat darker than Elroy in places.

At he heart of Grifter’s Game is how far would a man go for love? And how far would someone go to be free? Despite it’s brevity Grifter’s game incorporates more in to it’s pages than most stories double the length can muster, a true testament to Block’s writing.

My Life As A White Trash Zombie

Rating 3/5

 

I’ve made references to the zombie zeitgeist in my review of The Girl With All The Gifts, sMy Life as a White Trash Zombie by Diana Rowlando I wont cover the old ground in this review but the zombie genre isn’t going anywhere just yet.

Diana Rowland’s 1st in the White Trash Zombie series, My Life As A White Trash Zombie. Takes the zombie trope and presents it from the zombie’s perspective. The best use of this I have seen is the film, Wasting Away, low budget B movie comedy horror at it’s best.

Rowland’s White Trash Zombie, Angel Crawford is down on her luck, recently woken up in hospital, with no memory how she got there, a hunger for brains and a mysterious note with instructions on how to embark on a new job at the Coroner’s office. Angel is turning her life around with a job, a deadbeat father  and dropout boyfriend in tow. But someone is on the decapitation, killing the residents of Angel’s small tow

Angel’s assent in to a normal life albeit as a zombie comes across as rather slapdash in someways it reads as an addict trying to recover only to be replaced with another addiction. It is a vehicle that assists in  driving the story but sometimes it becomes over stated short of stating: “Braaaaaaaaiiiiiiins” on every page, Rowland makes sure the reader knows Angel is a zombie, she reminds us every page.

The white trash element of the story seems tacked on and Angel never really comes across as white trash in the true definition of the label. A high school dropout who purports not to be smart as an impressive vocabulary of someone who isn’t that well read with an ability to reason and apply logic that would  make most chess grand masters blush. This element could have been fleshed out (pardon the pun) . Living in a shack with beer cans in the garden doesn’t really explore the white trash condition. And as this is a key selling point of the story, the reader is somewhat sold short on this narrative, maybe I like my stereotypes too much.

The story unfolds as you would imagine and the plot is the standard murder mystery that is often found in the urban fantasy market, “someone is killing our kind” but it is good enough to keep the story on track, there is a bit of background on Angel and her life at home that helps build Angel in to sympathetic character.  Angel could have been a lot more sassy along the lines of Anita Blake but Rowland was clever in the writing of Angel and allows the reader to line their sympathy with her.

My Life As A White Trash Zombie paves the way for the series it makes some mistakes along the way and Angel isn’t a fully developed character, but if you are a fan of urban fantasy there would be no shame in giving this a read.

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.

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.