Arkham Asylum — Grant Morrison and Dave McKean
I was so disappointed by this. I can’t remember whose recommendation I ordered it on, but when it arrived and I flicked through it, I immediately thought it had the most artistic art of any comic I’d seen: every page looks like the fruit of a long creative process and has a distinctive character
But the actual story is terribly limp and clichéd. It honestly reads like nothing more than an homage to Alan Moore, hitting all the classic points but without ever quite understanding why. It amounts to two stories told in parallel: one set in the past, about the founder of Arkham Asylum, and the other in the present, featuring Batman punching some lunatics. There’s a twist, but it’s the kind that leaves you saying “Oh, OK”.
Looks amazing, not really worth reading. Continue reading
Mrs. McGinty’s Dead — Agatha Christie
More Poirot, and more of Christie’s Mary-Sue character Ariadne Oliver. This one is rather good, with a gradual homing in on the solution rather than the usual sudden reveal.
Oliver is good for some comic relief, too. One of the better Christies, but perhaps not one for new readers to jump on with since you’ll need to be already familiar with Poirot to properly enjoy his discomfort in the dismal guest-house.
The Timewaster Letters — Robin Cooper
The original to which Return of … was the sequel. Robin Cooper writes childishly earnest letters to a variety of organisation proposing ill-considered ideas, offering terrible poems, and making trivial complaints. The book includes his letters and the replies from his targets — sometimes deadpan, sometimes completely taken in, occasionally contemptuous. It’s laugh-out-loud hilarious, especially as some repeating themes start to warm up (the ill-conceived mascot character of Parmaynu the table-tennis bat, for example), and Cooper’s idiosyncratic diction starts to feel familiar.
You Had Me At Hello — Mhairi McFarlane
I can’t remember now what made me read this, as it’s in a genre that I never bother with in the usual run of things: a romantic comedy, or I guess you could call it chick-lit, somewhat in the vein of Bridget Jones. I’m glad I did, though: it’s very well put together, with characters that seem like real people rather than archetypes or stereotypes, and I found myself feeling genuine sympathy for the narrator. The actual writing is much better than you usually find in this kind of book, and it all hangs together really well …
Deep Space Accountant — Mjke Wood
This was a BookBub freebie, which I picked up because it was free and I found the conceit amusing.
I’m glad I did. It’s much better than it needed to be, offering some amusing characters, a genuinely nasty conspiracy and rather an exciting finale. As I write, the Kindle edition costs 99p. It’s not great literature, but it’s well worth picking up. Put it this way: I’d buy the sequel if it was also 99p, but I’m not going to pay £2.99 for it. Continue reading
Zeno and the Tortoise: How to Think Like a Philosopher — Nicholas Fearn
I’ve been keeping this book in the bathroom and reading it in short segments as circumstances dictate. You know what I’m saying. It’s a fascinating overview of the history of philosophy, told in 25 short chapters. Each is about a single philosopher (Wittgenstein alone gets two), and consists of a brief biographical sketch and an outline of his key ideas.
(I say “his” ideas, because every single philosopher discussed in the book is male. For much of the history of thought, that was the reality, and it’s right that the book reflects that. But it does seem odd that in the later chapters, influential female philosophers like Simone de Beauvoir and Elizabeth Anscombe are overlooked in favour of the likes of Jacques Derrida and even Richard Dawkins.)
The Enemy — Desmond Bagley
Bagley wrote about a dozen novels, all thrillers, and most of them excellent. They were written in the 70s and 80s, so they have dated in some respects — not least where then-cutting-edge technology is involved, but if you can overlook that they remain gripping and enjoyable.
The Enemy, alongside Running Blind and The Freedom Trap, is among the best of his books. (On the other hand, his last two novels, published posthumously, are the worst, and best avoided except for completion’s sake.)