Thursday, 5 March 2020
At Childhood's end tells a huge story, bridging time and space, how could Dorothy's story do any less? Ace's journey from a mad eyed, and frequently annoying, teen side kick, to a mature real world heroine was a long and winding road that she was lucky to survive. Her yellow brick road through the canyons of time did not lead to an emerald city but not so very far from the Gherkin...so to speak. In the end, which is no where in sight, her life has been a series of stops and goes, hard endings and new beginnings.This is the doctor's companion with the longest and most complicated histories, ranging across all mediums The Doctor has existed in. Television, books and comic strips, audio adventures on tape and Dd and now onto Bluray. always running, dodging death at every turn, leaping over cancellation and onto the launch of a medium into which some of The Doctor's greatest tales were told: Big Finish. riding the coat tails of the greatest fictional character of them all. Which is not to diminish her own character arc in any way, her own fictional life being more than the shadowplay thrown by the brightest star.
At Childhood's end shows a great understanding of the character and history of Ace and the unsettling nature of the Seventh's Doctors Machievellen relationship with her. He was a master, a grand master, so to speak, of fifth dimensional chess and tended to treat everyone as a pawn in a very dangerous and seemingly never ending game. Especially those he cared for. As if this was the price he paid for having the temerity to have "friends." That little umbrella twirling trickster could be cruel.. Ace took as much of it as she could before being pushed too far, amidst a heap of centaur corpses. Not being a creature of infinite regeneration there was only so much she could take. She ran far away and started a new life for herself. One in which she could assert some control of her own life. But the past has a way of catching up with her and the past and present eventually collide with a boom,
Hats off to Sophie Aldred, for although the bulk of the story is set up and seen through the prism of Ace she does not neglect the other characters in her story. Even injecting the character of present telly incarnation Yaz with some much needed character development. Yaz finds herself in much the same place as Rose did with Sarah-Jane in School Renion as old companion meets new. Micky Smith would have a right laugh at this pairs expense. Ryan still carries on as though he were in an episode of Hollyoaks that happens to have aliens in it. The Ratts are very Ogron like, foot soldiers for a more maelevolent intelligence.
Oh Sarah-Jane, felt such a twinge of missing an old friend as I typed that...
This book is a very enjoyable read, full of subtle classic Doctor Who references. I particularly liked the location of Deavesham Village, the epitome of quaint English villages that hide extraterrestrial secrets. Arthur Dent might have lived here, John Steed might have had a cottage there, Bernard Quatermass could have retired there. None of them did, of course. but allow me that. Yet the book is self contained enough to function in its own right. A fast, engaging read by an actress who has added another arrow to her quiver.. One that belongs to Sophie Aldred and not Lady Peinforte...ahem.
Wednesday, 19 February 2020
Go on, Cheer yourself up and treat yourself. You are going to encounter some bright new friends, reconnect with some older ones you may not have seen for a while and have a few laughs along the way.
Not a blast of nostalgia but a trove of new fun memories.
Heres my pic fromm an old sketchbook of the legendary Ricky Wilson, who left the stage far too early but will never be forgotten by anyone who loves great guitar playing and unforgettable songs. For years I have heard the B52s described as one of the worlds greatest party bands and there is absolutely no denying the truth of that but I have always felt they were just one of the greatest bands. Whatever the alchemy is that makes a great band these men and women had it and in all likelihood still do.
Here is an example. I remembered reading a Legion Of Superheroes story. Way, way back in the day. Seventies Belfast to be exact. It was a story that involved some one attempting to join the legion and going through an audition process. I remembered a masked figure attempting to impress a gallery of Legionnaires that he had what it takes to become one of their team, that he had what it took to be a hero. I even remembered he had very tight red form fitting trunks that alone would have guaranteed him a seat at the table if he had been asking me to join my gang. His bum had been tangoed.
Yet he did not get in, could not meet the exacting criteria for becoming a member of the Legion. The Legion puts great stead in singularity. Having a set of abilities or powers that bring uniqueness to the table. Each member possessed of a set of skills that serves to also identify them them, ie; Element Lad, Karate Kid, Lightning Lad,Shadow Lass, cosmic boy, etc. his special power, though considerable, could not be demonstrated and then put away again for later use. I remember thinking "Would not want to be judged by them, I have nothing special going for me." Its a common enough thing among boys of the age I was then.
Anyway, by the end of the story he had proved them wrong. Not only demonstrated he had heroic qualities in spades but also demonstrated a most singular power. Tragically singular in the most important respect. I remembered reading this story but not where. I knew it was a back up story, or at the very least was inside another title. For the longest time I thought it was most likely in one of the legendary 100 pagers of that period. So many archival DC stories I would not have otherwise read had it not been for them and a bunch of them remain high up on my long list of best read comics ever.
The comic recently came my way again and I thought "Ah, there you are! The Superboy story was entitled The Rock N' Roll Riddle. How did I forget that? I thought to myself. A good enough yarn in its own right but it was the back up Legion Of Superheroes story with its themes of heroic self-sacrifice that really echoed through the corridors of my memory house...
And off course the mighty buns of steel our hero displayed in the title panel of the story.
"The One-Shot Hero."
Wednesday, 29 January 2020
The three novels are just so beautifully written. With vast ideas playing out with the charm of P G Wodehouse combined with the unrestrained imagination of Douglas Adams. Exciting, funny and insightful. Written so skillfully I did indeed sigh at his ability to translate into novel story form everything I liked about a television series I loved. I read and reread a few times over the years until the incidents in the books became so familiar to me they felt as though they were playing out in my mind theater. Then Big Finish stepped up bringing all their considerable resources to bear on that same material translating the stories into the best Doctor Who tales never transmitted.
The restored Shada sits comfortably on a shelf close to them and thanks to Gareth Roberts we have been gifted an idea which became a book which became an audio adventure which combined became a joy.
The Well Mannered War ends with what for me was one of the most breathless and exciting moments ever to flow from the Big Finish canon. The past catches up with The Doctor, Romanna and K9 and almost breaking the fourth wall in a stunning moment of theatricality our heroes take a leap into the impossible and the improbable to show the spirit of The doctor is indomitable...
Some people would probably think this is damaging a perfectly fine copy of a perfectly formed book but its just a bit of fun. And anyway, I own my books they do not own me.
Tuesday, 28 January 2020
Whatever, just wished to share a vision that perhaps might come in under everyone's radar.
The kind of thing she was attuned to.
I have gone a lifetime without reading Brave New World but have always been familiar with the details of the book, how much of it was viewed as cultural prescience and how the author was celebrated and even championed as a visionary. Between Huxley and Orwell it is difficult to say who was credited as the most visionary. Well, not exactly true, Orwell has always been referenced through out my life and the wider culture than few other writers. Not really a joyous thing really given how dystopian both men's visions were.yet, that is the rich vein that runs through the undergallery, the deep core, of speculative writing. It is a rich vein of world building but who would want to live there? And I have no doubt that many would believe we are already there...
Originally published in 1932, this must have seemed beyond the heights of decadence to most readers of the era. Some of the ideas still have the power to unsettle. Not even the ideas which are perhaps bullet pointed with that very intention, though it is difficult for me to interpret which of the concepts contained within were intended as such. Some of the peripheral events in it, so casually dropped into the narrative, a chiaroscuro morality at play, cringe inducing for the reader, as though the monstrous propositions are not too upsetting as the details are scathing. But they are there, lurking on the fringes of the central narrative. Its a sort of retro science shaowplay, using light and distance to obscure horrors, imbedding them as the normal state of play in this future dystopia, but again I stress, they are there. No amount of Soma, the wonder drug of the novel which enables the general population to float lazily in their pathetically grateful somnambulate existence would be enough to blind me to the daily horrors of this Brave New World.
I would like to believe so, would like to hope so.
It should perhaps be noted here Prospero's response to his daughters statement.
"Tis New To Thee..."
Sophie Hannah is a very successful writer in the field of psychological thrillers and has also comfortably adapted to the Agatha Christie narrative sleight of hand, and her use of tropes to cloak the mystery paths she leads us, the reader, down. Agatha Christie elevated this form of character red herring to an art form, perhaps even adapting it as her literary modus operandi, certainly her tools of the trade.
In this novel Poirot is reunited with Inspector Edward Catchpole of Scotland Yard whom we met in that first book. This time their meeting takes place at a luxurious mansion in the country , at the home of a very rich children's mystery writer, who is most reminiscent of another real world writer; Enid Blyton. One of the only other British writers who could equal Agatha Christie in terms of quantity of books sold. Sounds a bit more meta than it comes across in the novel. The stage is set; an isolated group of smarmy swarthy suspicious wealthy people are gathered for a celebration that ends with a corpse. It is how the hoi poloi used to spend all their evenings in the country, with food, drink and a brutal murder. And this is a pretty brutal murder with a head so badly beaten only the lower jaw is recognisable as being that of one of the guests. And so the game is afoot...
Like the first book I would suggest to the reader; listen properly. Which is to say give those little grey cells a bit of exercise. There are a few interesting twists and turns despite it being something of a fast read. I found myself looking forward to the moments Edward Cathpole and Hercule Poirot got together to share insights and notes. Only two books in and I have really warmed to Edward Catchpole. He is written as a good detective who has the potential to become a great detective.
Catchpole of Scotland Yard.
Works for me.
Wednesday, 15 January 2020
I had read one of the pieces contained within this book before; The Wanderer In Unknown Realms.John Connolly actually gave me a copy of this story himself, in a lovely wee ltd edition which is quite a treasure for me. I was lucky enough to spend some time in his company, with an old friend John Mc Mahon and John's other chum the writer Jeffrey Deaver. Actually very pleasant company despite the dark territory our conversations wandered through. There sometimes exists an inverse ratio between the talent of an artist and his social ease but in John Connolly one such talent mirrors the other. Affable, gregarious and as good a listener as a talker. Equally at home in a fancy resturant or in front of a camp fire, its an Irish storyteller tradition, I suppose. Talking for ones supper.
The story is expanded upon, part of a longer narrative.; The Fractured Atlas-Five Fragments. The terrible history of a terrible book. Anyone who comes into contact with this evil book finds themselves on the receiving end of a gruesome fate. Innocence is no buffer for the horrors that follow, with truly bad things happening to good people.
There are thirteen tales in all here. There are stories exploring arcane realms, pushing aside the thin veil that seperates us from them. The dark wilds are always closer than we could ever be comfortable with.
The Caxton Private Lending Library And Book Depository is a stand out tale for me, and the sequel, also contained in this volume. It felt to me as though MR James and Robert Aickman had collaborated on a modern tale for a Pan or a Fontana anthology , wanting to give something back to the genres that sustained them. Also the personal notes on his inspirations and creative insights which come at the tali end of the book; I Live Here. I found it pretty gripping stuff, almost conversational but hugely informative.
This is a wonderful anthology. Go on, make room for it on a book shelf near you.
Sunday, 12 January 2020
PJ Holden who illustrated two of the issues continues with this wee daft yarn.
He did a lovely job of the story within the story and I do enjoy the playful homeiness he brings to the page. Its not a superhero yarn and no one gets punched in the face, although some one does get swatted.
There is so much to like in this film. Its a nightmare to be sure, a pleasing terror in truth. Like a terrible dream you feel trapped in, awaiting exhausted and sweaty from that dream to fall deeper into another. The opening sequence in the boneyard proves itself a dream sequence and the soaring melancholy of the soundtrack draws you into a world where i was sure Geppetto sat behind a passing gable walk chiseling a son from wood, praying for the touch of the blue Fairy. Some of the haunting qualities of that soundtrack will stay with you long after you have seen the film, possibly even married to the singular vision of its director.
Bram stokers estate would not give permission to film his novel so FW Murnau, a German film maker, not wishing to abandon the project, was forced to adapt the original text as best he could, introducing Max Schrek as the Count , producing a silent expressionist nightmare that has dazzled and inspired generations. This is a vision from an other century that transcends the ages which over the years has risen above the muddled creative beginnings to become something of a defining artistic triumph in its own right. That Werner Herzog wanted to remain faithful to that original vision is not surprising to me, yet he introduces a few tweaks of his own and makes much of his freedom to wrap it in as haunting a sound-scape as the original possessed such visual flair but had to remain silent.
Its sad, haunting and timeless. A testament to all involved, in death as much as in life.
Thursday, 9 January 2020
Tuesday, 7 January 2020
Sunday, 5 January 2020
"Are you bloody singing Christmas songs in the middle of July?" one of them once asked me. It is because Prokofiev' music touches people on that level, well I believe so anyway. Something other, something magical, something better. I was a big Bowie enthusiast growing up and it took me forver to find this album. I found it hanging on a peg on a stall in a hilltop market in Armagh, which was basically a table covered in illegal bootleg movies (Dreadful, they all looked like they were recorded on cellotape by a cameraman experiencing the horrors of drink.) and batteries. I was astonished to see it swaying gently in the hilltop breeze. Staring at it I felt like William Blake seeing angels dancing in the branches of summer tree leaves.
I still treasure it.
Much like the occasional Blakean vision.
Saturday, 4 January 2020
The Leper House is one of those tales charting the journey of a mourner and his ghostly encounters on a lonely road, a man lost in time as much as in space, as he accepts aid from some very odd ladies causing him to become unmoored in so many ways, when he and we learn that just to feel something does not make it real..
And finally there is The Scratch. This story deals with the attempts made by a young soldier returning from war who tries to find solace in solitude and the impact this has on those about him who try to aid his recovery. I was reminded of Sherlock Holmes warning about the broad swathes of green and pleasant land and the secrets it hides.sad and haunting and yet quite modern in tone, The Scratch finds its mar.
Fireside Gothic hints at the best place to experience such tales but any location would be suitable for three such spooky tales and it does not require a definite seat to indulge. Comfy chair tales would have been just as appropriate, or even empty sofa in a coffee house. Its all about what is on the page and between the covers than the location of ones backside.
Thursday, 2 January 2020
...to be found at any distributor of the outre..
Charlie parker is surely America's smartest and wittiest private investigator, although the events which shaped his character are truly horrific. For me, Charlie parker embodies the spirit of a fictional Anrew Vachs, a real life champion of lost children. Another who sees every child born as another chance to get things right.
The tragic events that drive, and haunt, Charlie Parker are pretty harrowing and his creator does not shy from articulating in almost poetic prose those horrors. Not perhaps for the faint hearted but beautifully rewarding.
It is a familiar tale off course; Over the course of one night Scrooge is visited by four ghosts. The ghost of his former partner Jacob Marley, the ghosts of Christmas past, present and Christmas yet to come. Scrooge gets to revisit the early points of his life where he chose to take a different path from the one that would have best enriched his heart and soul, the two unquantifiable repositories of of the better angels of our natures. He also gets a glimpse of the here and now, of the world that lies just one step away from the closed cold circle he inhabits. Most scary though is the view of his path to a lonely gaping grave the unspeaking ghost of what may be gives him. All in all, it proves sufficient to make a man change his ways and Scrooge achieves the near impossible for him; Happiness.