Category Archives: What I’ve been reading lately

What I’ve been reading lately, part 26

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 then 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 …

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What I’ve been reading lately, part 25

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

What I’ve been reading lately, part 24

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.)

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What I’ve been reading lately, part 23

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.)
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What I’ve been reading lately, part 22

Saga of the Swamp Thing — Alan Moore, Stephen Bissette and John Toteben

I re-read this as part of my Alan Moore phase — following on from his Watchmen and Complete Future Shocks, and Andrew Rilstone’s Who Sent The Sentinels?, last time. It’s a fascinating read, having more in common with Neil Gaiman’s Sandman comics than with Moore’s usual work, with its dependence on supernatural themes and general feeling of being more horror than fantasy.

Swamp Thing had been a moderately successful DC Comics character from 1972 and 1976. Continue reading

What I’ve been reading lately, part 21

Who Sent the Sentinels? — Andrew Rilstone

A short but brilliant analysis of Alan Moore and David Gibbon’s classic graphic novel Watchmen (see below). Rilstone peers at the original comics and the 2009 movie from many different angles, supplementing his observations and insights on these works with more general thoughts about comics derived from reading golden-age DC and silver-age Marvel.

What emerges is a profound but fragmented view on the whole Watchmen phenomenon, arrived at not by following a single careful train of thought but by the gradual accumulation of understanding from multiple perspectives and the progressive accretion of a synthetic view.

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What I’ve been reading lately, part 20

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire — J. K. Rowling

By this point, Rowling has hit her stride — which is both good and bad. Having sold millions of copies of her first three books, she had evidently outgrown the commercial need for editing … but not the artistic need. As a result of Rowling’s power by this stage of her career, Goblet of Fire is flabby where Prisoner of Azkaban was taut. If you recount the plot beats in each, the two stories turn out to be about the same length — as testified by the running times of the movie adaptations, 141 and 157 minutes repectively. Yet the book’s 636 pages take literally twice as long to tell that story as the 317 pages of Prisoner.

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How does this happen? Events are stretched out. The writing becomes indisciplined, indulgent. Minor school events that in earlier books would have been skimmed over in a half a page are drawn out into multi-page scenes with each aspect described in detail. As a result, the book is somewhat slow-moving, and I didn’t find myself drawn propulsively through as I did with the earlier books.

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