Arthur Machen - The White People and Other Weird Stories
Machen has been hovering around my attention for a long time now but as I've been so busy I didn't think I had the head space for him. Recently a gap in my schedule decided for me though that the time was right and what a treat it turned out to be.
Now, I realised long ago that my heart was in the pulps but I do like to occasionally stray into other waters as the tides takes me and of late I've been thoroughly enjoying some older work whist taking the opportunities afforded me by both free time and good weather for some outdoor reading.
There are moments of sublime beauty here, particularly the little title piece which is a perfect realisation of , entirely fictitious, Welsh folktales as filtered through the diary of a young girl who may or may not be experiencing the world they report first hand.
Alongside this are several stories relating similar sorts of Welsh related folkloric horror and some, for me less successful, World War One inspired tales.
Machen was obviously a devotee of the stories of his childhood but he was obviously not afraid of bringing these tales up to date as he does on The Terror. Truthfully though, this was the story I found least satisfying.
What let things down though (particularly on The Terror) were the notes by S.T. Joshi. Machen uses Welsh place names throughout which Joshi seems committed to attributing to actual places. Now, I grew up near (and still live close to) many of the places he claims are the ones mentioned and they just do not fit the descriptions given in the stories. For instance, Llantrisant which, in 'The Great Return' Machen describes as 'the little town by the sea [...]' is certainly not the one Joshi claims it to be due to the simple fact that it is nowhere near the sea. Indeed the nearest sea to the town is on the other side of Cardiff (the capital city). This was only one of several claims that drove me to distraction but equally it must be said that there were many notes that I found both interesting and essential.
The notes aside though this was a wonderful and resonant read for me as a Welsh man reading these tales sat under a tree on the Welsh coast.
Beautiful, lyrical and inspirational.
Paul Magrs - Doctor Who: Sick Buildings
The 10th Doctor & Martha head for Tiermann's World to warn the inhabitants about the approaching Voracious Craw which intends to eat the planet - which is pretty voracious. Once there he meets the egotistical and bonkersProfessor Tiermann and his wife and son along with a whole menagerie of household appliance robots all controlled by the equally bonkers computer in the basement called the Domovoi.
This really wasn't one of the better Who books. It wasn't badly written and the basic concept was ok but it just didn't fly. I really can't put my finger on what it was that was wrong - if there even was anything - it just didn't grab me and I found myself quite looking forward to finishing it.
Paul Magrs - Doctor Who: Hornet's Nest ep 1: The Stuff of Nightmares
This is the first of 5 of these Hornet's Nest stories that mark the first time Tom Baker has been talked into re-donning the scarf since he regenerated.
The story is pretty slight but good fun. It features Captain Mike Yates answering an ad in the paper that seems to have been placed there especially to catch his attention. He answers , travels to a remote cottage and discovers the Doctor living there with a crotchety old housekeeper and a menagerie of stuffed animals that have a tendency to spring to life and attack.
The Doctor then relates the story of the Hornets that inhabit the brains of these ex-animals and of his first encounter with them. The rest of the series deals with subsequent dealings.
It's fab to hear Baker again. He's on top form delivering some rapier lines of dialogue. When the mind controlled taxidermist accuses him of being crackers the Doctor replies "Marvellous isn't it!" in his huge booming voice. I was giggling for a mile (I was listening in my car).
Captain Yates is a good surprise too. Richard Franklyn has a great voice for these audio plays.
Like I said the storyline is a little light and most of it involves the Doctor telling Captain Mike the story so far. Two other characters appear - and they only briefly - and all the tension is built through Baker's wonderful voice and some good music.
The prospect of another 4 of these is a nice thought and I've already loaded the second onto my little blue mp3 player.
Paul Magrs – Never The Bride
Magrs (pronounced Mars) is a Doctor Who writer (amongst other things) and it really shows. This whole book has a lightness and playfulness about it that made it compulsive reading with ideas straight out of the ‘Who’ grab-bag.
The (not a) Bride of the title is named Brenda and she is the owner of a B&B in Whitby and along with her neighbour, junk shop proprietor Effie, she investigates strange goings on in her strange little town.
Brenda’s true identity becomes evident very early on in the proceedings and she is slowly revealed to have been ‘guided’ to Whitby to become the guardian of the place against the portal of Hell opened there.
Magrs makes use of War of the Worlds, Most Haunted (the most shameful thing ever to appear on UK television) and Whitby’s most famous ever visitor. All are fabulously interwoven into Brenda’s world.
I thought this was a joyful read. Full of good, old fashioned, unadulterated fun. Apparently there are several more of these that I shall be tracking down forthwith.
Paul Magrs - Something Borrowed
This is the second in the continuing adventures of Brenda and Effie as they guard Whitby against nefarious goings on.
As with the previous book in the series there are several short tales embedded within the longer story. In this instance though they serve to provide more insight into Brenda's past and present. We are introduced to one of her ex beaus - a monster hunting Cambridge don and Sheila Manchu - wife of a certain aged (and now deceased) oriental criminal mastermind. These two play central roles in the unfolding menace of an ancient alien bamboo god called Goomba who so desperately wants to go home he's putting everyone under a spell.
As with the first it was a good fun read although it was considerably less gung-ho than it's predecessor.
I have 3 more upstairs and I'm very much looking forward to hitting them.
George Mann - The Affinity Bridge: A Newbury & Hobbes Investigation
Inside it's beautiful cover lies a rather nifty little romp featuring gentleman investigator Sir Maurice Newbury along with his new assistant Miss Veronica Hobbes and his close friend Chief Inspector Sir Charles Bainbridge. In this first novel in the series Newbury sets his sights on unravelling the cause of a mysterious airship crash. Around this main strand there are a number of intriguing subplots (the zombies particularly) that are left maddeningly undeveloped as they fade from view over the course of the book. One can only imagine that they'll play a stronger part in later books in the series - although not it seems in book 2.
Mann has a lively and engaging style that is a joy to read. The world he has created is plausible with the new technologies still, for the most part, emerging and finding acceptance amongst the inhabitants. This small concession gives the storyworld a solidity that can be lost in those books that rush to fill the world with new techno marvels. The characters follow fairly established tropes but this is genre writing they're kinda meant to and besides they are fleshed out nicely and soon find their own identities within the story.
The Affinity Bridge is fast, fun and frivolous with a real 'Boy's Own' playfulness. Full of spiffingly brave and honest chaps (and a chapess) that battle doggedly against all manner of dastardly foes for the glory of her Britannic Majesty. It's great fun and like all good pulp writing utterly compulsive.
George Mann - The Osiris Ritual: A Newbury & Hobbes Investigation
The second of his Newbury & Hobbes Steampunk mysteries. I thought the first (The Affinity Bridge) was a fun, if a little flawed, romp through a fog-ridden london that mixed zombies, robots and airships into an entertaining neo-victorian thriller. It's recommended for those looking for a more than satisfyingly pulp steampunk fix.
this second one wasn't as good as it's predecessor. The plot was a little rushed and lacked grandeur and scope but mostly i think he sacrificed too much of the world-building that was so well done in the first. I heartily approved of how naturalistic he allows the newly emerging technology to feel but half the joy (for me at least) of this sort of genre fiction lies in how the author interweaves technology and the subsequent cultural and societal changes into the narrative. i felt like i didn't learn anything new about the universe he's created and without that it may as well have been set (to an extent) in our own victorian era.
That said though, Mann has an engaging style and the book was a fun, fast-paced read with a third volume still to come.
George Mann - The Immorality Engine: A Newbury & Hobbes Investigation
This is the third of Mann's Newbury and Hobbes books and, judging by the way it ends, not the last.
Newbury's drug use has escalated over the time between books and it opens with him an opium addled mess. The erstwhile Miss Veronica Hobbes and Chief Inspector Bainbridge find him and set him back on track in order to help them with a puzzling new case. Someone has been leaving dead duplicates around the place. These investigations soon begin to incorporate both the shady Bastion Society and also the very refuge where Veronica's sister is being treated for her visions.
As the investigation proceeds events start to tumble over each other and intertwine in a not altogether satisfying way. The characters seem at odds with their own personalities and often behave like cliches. Newbury's addictions, in full swing at the opening, are managed with almost ridiculous ease throughout the rest of the book and Veronica has become almost superheroic.
This volume was lacking the spark that made the other books in the series so much fun. It felt more than a little overblown. Towards the end it really started to come together and I enjoyed the final ride. I could definitely go another set of these in the future though.
George Mann - Doctor Who: Paradox Lost
Mann is the author of the Newbury & Hobbes steampunk series. Those are a fun bit of sci-fi romping and he's pretty much continued with that idea here.
The Doctor, Amy & Rory arrive in future London just in time to see an android dragged from the Thames. The android delivers a stark warning to the Doctor of events from 1910. Off he goes leaving Amy & Rory to search for the androids owner a Professor researching time travel. The two find the Prof (dead) along with the android - timey whimey stuff - and escape into the past to avoid the nasty Squall creatures.
The Doctor meanwhile teams up with an aged secret agent called Professor Angelchrist to battle the Squall. The Doctor is in full on invention mode and Angelchrist is an intriguing creation especially when paired with the android Arven.
As suspected this was an entertaining romp that straddled the gap between steampunk and the Doctor.
George Mann - Warhammer 40k: Helion Rain
Another Black Library audiobook, this time detailing the Raven Guard trying to dispatch an invading Tyranid Swarm.
Mann is the author of a few cracking pulpy steampunk books so it was interesting to see what he would do with space marines. It wasn't awful by a long shot but to be perfectly honest it wasn't too good either. I suppose the main problem with it was that it was a little cliched. It used all the same sort of overblown phrasing that usually appears - 'stentorian gaze', that sort of thing. I find it all a little forced and more than a little hackneyed. He'll be 'girding his loins' next.
Still it was big and violent and silly with lots of action and it helped make the drive back from dropping a friend off the other night a lot less arduous.
Gabriel Garcia Marquez - No One Writes to the Colonel
About 20 pages or so in I realised that I'd already this little novelette a few years back. It tells of the Colonel and his ailing wife and their day to day struggle to put food on the table. The death of their son has left them destitute with only his potential prize winning fighting cock to pin all their hopes upon providing they can keep it fed and alive long enough for it to fight.
It's a sad and gripping little book that tells of pride and survival and poverty and politics and friendship and hope and humanity.
Alan Martin & Rufus Dayglo - Tank Girl: The Royal Escape
It's been a long while since I've read any Tank Girl. I love the old Deadline stuff and I still have my copy of the collection here. I also have the Alan Grant one (Apocalypse) and The Gifting here but I've yet to read them.
I got this one from the library last week and gave it a read. To be perfectly honest it's a mess. The fun was gone and the story was just piffle really.
I've never heard of the artist before but apparently he's done work for 2000AD. His art was pretty solid. Very reminiscent of Jamie Hewlett but I wonder if that's deliberate for this project. The colour palette was very limited, lots of green and red with occasional splashes of yellow and orange.
At this particular moment I'm thinking this is pretty much a dead product / concept / comic.
Richard Mattheson - I am Legend
I've wanted to read this novel for years. For those that don't know, it was filmed as 'The Omega Man' starring, that well known humanitarian, Charlton Heston. The basic premise of this book is that the worlds population has been turned into vampires (zombies in the movie) with the exception of one, lone, increasingly deranged / lonely / drunk man. Unlike the movies' sanitised 'military man searching for a cure' premise the book's is a tale of an everyman trapped not only inside the walls of his, fortress like, home where he sits and drinks himself unconscious every night raging against his memories and desires, but also of a man trapped by his own fears and ignorance. With this truly unique take on the vampire genre Mattheson takes us on a ride that is compelling and thrilling, culminating in a finale that's as unexpected as it is breathtaking.
Paul McAuley – Doctor Who Novellas: Eye of the Tyger
I really like Eighth Doctor books / stories as there was only ever the one official appearance writers have carte-blanche to play with the character. They’ve give him a variety of personalities but here he is a slightly arrogant but deeply caring and adventurous Doctor determinedly trying to rescue and cure a man who has, due to his own hubris, been infected by a nano-virus that is turning him into an tiger-man.
On their way to a future hospital for the cure they are sidetracked by a huge colony ship trapped on the edge of a black hole. There, the Doctor finds a rebellion to stop, the tiger finds love to make and the colonists some new planets.
It was bright, breezy and readable with little real meat but I enjoyed this one.
James McGee - Ratcatcher
Bow Street Runner Matthew Hawkwood is to all intents and purposes a Sharpe clone. McGee has even given him a backstory as a 'chosen man' at Talavera. I read up on this and he said that it was important but this importance rings a little false in the final pages of the novel and really could have taken a variety of other forms.
The story was solid enough though with Hawkwood assigned to trace the whereabouts of a stolen dispatch case containing plans for a secret weapon of which I'll say no more apart from there is some factual evidence towards this device having been attempted at the time - who'd have thunk it?
The book takes us on a whistle-stop tour of London at the beginning of the 19th century, in particular down the many inhospitable back streets where Hawkwood's ex-Sergeant, Harper - oops! sorry - ex-Sergeant Jago rules the roost.
It was an OK read. It cost bugger all from Lidls and passed a couple of hours in a hassle free manner.
Aaron McGruder - The Boondocks: Because I Know You Don't Read The Newspaper
I'd read most of the strips that make up this anthology online a year or so ago but it was good to see they stood up well to a re-read.
It's a solid compilation of the first couple of years worth of newspaper strips and is full of slick characterisation that you just slip right into. The art is beautiful and it's good to see how much they kept of his design when they transferred it to TV.
There's and extra character in these books. A white girl called Cindy who begins the book being a friend to Jazmine but soon transitions into an annoyance for Huey. The mains are all as expected with Huey very much taking centre stage for most stories.
Originally published in 1999 it is getting a little old now but happily it isn't even slightly dated.
ps - the first series of the cartoon is amongst the funniest and best written TV it's ever been my pleasure to watch. Do yourself a favour and hunt it down post haste.
Joe McKinney - Dead City
A half-decent zombie book is a real rarity so it was a real pleasure to come across this first in a trilogy completely by accident.
McKinney apparently is a cop so the prime character in this boom comes as no surprise and there are several long moments of fairly pointless detours into copworld but on the whole this is a fairly enjoyable little first night of infection romp as the hero cop attempts to get home to his wife and kid.
There's a fair bit of schmaltz and no real depth to what plot there is but it is an entertaining enough way to pass a couple of hours.
Joe McKinney - Apocalypse of the Dead
This is the 2nd in McKinney's trilogy of zombie novels. Whereas the first was a fairly simple survival story about a Houston cop trying to get home this one is on a much larger scale.
The infection has spread and spread fast. Pretty much overnight the US has fallen to the hordes. The story follows several groups of people, a very cool retired US Marshal along with the other residents of his old peoples home and an escaped con he's stuck with. A party bus full of rich kids and porn stars, an immune redneck and the doctor trying to synthesize a cure, a party of escapees from the original outbreak led by an insane cop and finally 'The Family', a group of religious nuts led by the very mad Jasper Sewell.
The story tracks all the groups journeys across the country until they arrive at the grasslands camp that The Family have set up and are running. It seems like a haven but it's not long before Jasper's mania becomes noticeable and everything goes profoundly wrong.
I really enjoyed this book. Zombie novels are generally fairly crappy affairs but this one had a bit of scope and a vision that raised it's head up. There were chunks of it that I just didn't like - some of The Family stuff and Jasper in particular was just too far fetched - but on the whole it seemed like a nice run.
McKinney has a very personable writing style and I'm looking forward to tackling the third one.
Iain McLaughlin – Doctor Who Novellas: Blood & Hope
This is the first time the Fifth Doctor has appeared in this series which does surprise me somewhat. He, Peri and Erimen visit the Wild West only to immediately become separated with the Doctor helping out the Union army whilst Peri and the black Egyptian Erimen are trapped behind Confederate lines with a ‘crazy evil’ colonel.
The book is all told through letter extracts which, due partly to the relatively short book length, didn’t become tiresome. That the book was also quite engagingly written also helped obviously.
Probably more so than any other Telos novella this read like an episode of the TV show (except for the killing at the end) and I enjoyed it very much.
Brad Meltzer & Ed Benes - JLA: The Tornado's Path
I got this out of the Library earlier today as I'd scored a copy of the JLA: Lightning Saga GN which follows on directly from this story. Well, to be perfectly honest it follows on from the last page of this story when Trident is discovered to be from the 30th Century.
I've read this book before a couple of years ago and it's ok. It's never going to be the best JLA, Grant Morrison has got those accolades pretty much sewn up, but it's solid enough. It loses focus now and again but Meltzer has a solid grip on the characters and keeps up a nice pace.
The art i big and bold. Very much rooted in the Jim Lee / Todd McFalrane super-artists styles of the early nineties but nice enough. Some of the poses he puts the female characters in are beyond suspect - the Black Canary stabby splash page springs to mind - but on the whole I quite liked it.
Which is pretty much how I felt of the book as a whole.
Brad Meltzer & Geoff Johns (+ lots of artists) - JLA: The Lightning Saga
This, I think is the launch of the current re-invention of the Legion. It is, to all intents and purposes a return to the old original series. There are some strange tweaks here and there - like Wildfire having Red Tornado's body - but it's pretty faithful apart from that.
The writing is split into alternating chapters between the two writers. It dies show a little but it's the spilt of the artists that's most jarring. Most of it is pretty solid but Dale Eaglesham on chapter 4 really isn't up to it. Stiff ugly and characterless. Like a considerably less talented Curt Swan.
The story seemed a little bit pointless but I'm sure at some point down the line I'll pick up something else that'll help me assemble the pieces. I know Karate Kid is all through 52 so Final Crisis seems the direction to head.
An interesting diversion. Nothing more.
Gabriel Mesta - The Martian War
Mesta, or Kevin J Anderson as he's better known, here takes HG Wells and plunges him into the world of his very own fiction. He is plucked from obscurity and given a new role of utmost responsibility as an agent of a secret department with the British government.
Anderson attempts to weave a complex plot whereby Wells is brought into contact with Griffin (The Invisible Man) and Professor Cavor's miraculous Cavorite and informed of the imminent extraterrestrial invasion before being catapulted to the moon on a mission to liberate the Selenites from the invading martians. Whilst a concurrent story details the adventures of Dr. Moreau, and the non-fictional Percival Lowell, and their search to understand a captive martian.
Having never tried any of Anderson's work before I was intrigued both by the premise and the author but truthfully neither lived up to my expectations. The book was almost entirely lacking in drama or pathos - I ended the novel truly not caring about any of the characters - and Anderson's writing is inconsistent with the pace of the book varying wildly throughout and is intermitently either dragging you along through overlong passages or is leaving you blinking in it's wake as it races along hardly giving you time to appreciate the view.
The main problem for the book however is that it plays the same game as Alan Moore & Kevin O'Neil's League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen Volume 2 and comes out of it as very much the loser. If it comes down to a choice then you should always go with Moore but if you're just of a mood for a mildly entertaining spin through Wells' worlds then you may find something of interest here.
Mike Mignola & John Byrne - Hellboy vol.1: Seed of Destruction
The first collection of Hellboy stories and it is cracker. I've actually read more of the Hellboy spin-offs than I have the actual books. I've even seen more Hellboy films than I have read the books.; It's nice then to finally get to grips with one of them especially as I have book 2 waiting in the wings also.
The art, as you'd imagine, is beautiful and full of shade and nuance. From the off both Hellboy and Rasputin are both forceful and dynamic on the page. I'm not a big fan of the whole Lovecraft pantheon type stuff but here, kept to a minimum, it works well.
The story is an origin tale that gives away very little with regard to H's origin. It has a nicely Gothic setting and things aren't quite what they seem.
Lots of fun to read and I wholeheartedly intend to catch up on the ones I don't have.
Mike Mignola & John Byrne - Hellboy vol. 2: Wake the Devil
Absolutely fantastic from start to finish. This second volume utterly surpassed the first volume.
The plot relating to the re-awakening nazi followers of Rasputin and the vampire they are attempting to restore. Hellboy arrives and with much punching and wrestling he brings an end to their scheming.
Considering this is still the very early days (in terms of volumes obviously. I know it's been around for years) of Hellboy it's remakable just how deeply rendered the backstory already is. It's cool to see mentions of things that even I know will go on to become significant aspects of the mythos - such as Sir Edward Grey.
Fabulously written and sumptuously drawn. An absolute joy.
Mike Mignola & Ben Steinbeck - Witchfinder: In the Service of Angels
At this point I've not read much Hellboy, one GN, two BPRD GNs and a novel, but the ones I had read I really dug, Sure it gets a bit Lovecraft in places but I can forgive that if the rest is up to scratch. Witchfinder is a spin-off featuring Victorian occult detective to the Queen Sir Edward Grey.
The story deals with Grey investigating a series of deaths that are linioed with a bag of bonesfound on an archeological expedition. The investigation leads Grey and his new found friends through a deliciously grimey and inhospitable London full of violent and raggedy people and strange occultist and religious groups. The story's competent enough for an evenings read, I think I'm always going to prefer Mignola as an artist as opposed to as a writer.
The art by Steinbeck is very nice when it comes to scenery but he seems to struggle occasionally with the people, I do mean occasionally though.
In all it was all good outlandish fun. Lovecraft as reimagined by Hammer studios.
Mike Mignola & others - B.P.R.D.: Hollow Earth and Other Stories
I'd already read one of the later BPRD books so I was intrigued to check out this original one. It turns out to be an anthology book of five (maybe six) short tales.
The first, 'Hollow Earth', is a nice introduction to Johann Krauss - the disembodied astral projection in a rubber suit. The story sees him and the team rescuing Liz (the firestarter) from a subterranean monster type thingy waving a staff / sword doohickey similar to the one in the Witchfinder book I mentioned in an earlier post. It's a fine intro to the team - taking some other origin story sideroads along the way - and proved to be excellent fun.
The Lobster Johnson story - again his first - was also a bit of fun but was there ever a more naffly named character.
The only real low point came with the final story about the boats, drums & sharks which apart from being fairly mawkish had some of the ugliest art I've seen in a long long time.
I'm slowly building up my exposure to Hellboy and his assorted spin-offs. So far I'm very favourably impressed.
Frank Miller - Sin City vol 1: The Hard Goodbye
It's been ages since I read this and I'd forgotten just how good it was. The entire book is Marv's quest to avenge Goldie. It's beautifully noir in both text and imagery and Marv is exquisitely realised. His mix of barbarism and deep understanding of his own nature is a joy to behold.
With Miller the art is always going to be something special but here it's utterly wondrous. The scene in the rain after Marv's escaped from Kevin the Cannibal and the cops is beautiful. I just don't even understand how you would go about drawing something like that. Marv's face in the panel on page 134 is defined by the rain as opposed to it raining on him.
I've read a few of these Sin City collections but obviously not enough. Hopefully the library will get some more in.
Walter M. Miller jr - A Canticle for Leibowitz
This classic three act post apocalypse novel has been sat on my bookshelf waiting it's turn for a good while now. I was pleased to finally have both the time and the inclination to get around to it as it turned out to be a fantastic read.
It tells the story of the monks of Saint Leibowitz, a pre-war technician who had hid various scientific books, charts and scraps from the vengeful mobs that rose up after the war.
The three sections depict a 'mediaeval' setting where Leibowitz is a candidate for sainthood, an 'enlightenment' era where science is once more being re-invented and a final supra-modern era of spaceflight and nuclear weaponry. Each of these sections centre around the actions of the monks of the abbey of Saint Leibowitz and their quest to keep the knowledge safe and alive. In addition there is the knowledgeable and very long lived hermit who in many ways is responsible for much that happens.
It was a beautiful and poetic piece of work that held me absolutely rapt throughout. The use of the Catholic church and it's rather depressing allusion to cyclic history was a simply amazing trip throughout.
Peter Milligan - Hellblazer: Hooked
This is the first of Milligan's run on this title that I've read. I've never been much of a fan - some of his Shade stuff was fun but on the whole his writing leaves me cold.
I'm distinctly unimpressed by his take on Constantine. Instead of the rogueish but comitted anarchist we have here what is generally known as a complete prick. He's just utterly unlikeable. Constantine is protrayed as in love but jilted so he sends her wine laced with a love potion which is ridiculously out of character.
There's a demon (left over from a previous book) roaming around, who JC also fucks over with the love potion and who subsequently off the love interest by which time I'd stopped caring. Therre's another girl (the potioneer) who eventually ends up in a zombie induced coma much to the chagrin of her psycho gangster dad.
Garth Ennis wrote all this stuff years ago and way, way better. Only a couple of years ago Mike Carey did it better too. This is just weak.
The art in the first half is by 2 guys I've never heard of called Guiseppe Camuncoli & Stefano Landini. It's quite nice if a bit cartoony.
The 2nd half is drawn by Simon Bisely. It's been a while since I saw anything new by him (Heavy Metal Dredd being the last) and this is OK but he typically does JC like some giant musclebound type which is simply wrong.
On the whole this was poor bordering on piss poor or maybe even so far as 'pretty shit really'.
Denise Mina & Antonio Fuso - A Sickness in the Family
Mina was the writer of a couple of Hellblazer arcs a little while back which I have here but have no memory of reading which doesn't bode well for this. 'A Sickness...' concerns life and death in a dysfunctional Scottish family.
The book is good if a little silly in parts. There's a nice amount of twists and turns and the ending is open. The art gives one part away too early in the game but that's a small quibble. On the whole very enjoyable and I think I should head over to the shelf and drag out those Hellblazer volumes.
Hope Mirrlees - Lud-In-The-Mist
This turned out to be a proper windbag of a novel. Endlessly impressed by it's own intelligence without ever really putting that intelligence to work in a meaningful way. By the halfway point i found myself referring to it as Lud-In-The-Mud as a result of the effort involved in wading through the sticky morass of the authors prose. I think there was a pretty nifty little tale in there somewhere but her writing style was distinctly lacking in any sort of wit or melody and as such it never ceased being an effort to keep my attention on the page.
A. E. Moorat - Queen Victoria: Demon Hunter
Yes this was every bit as ridiculous as the name implies.
The story concerns the young Queen's ascent to the throne and the discovery that there was an age old demonic conspiracy against her and that she was unwittingly on the wrong side.
For the first two thirds of the book I was quite enjoying it. It had some nice set pieces, it played fast and loose with Victoria's life story and in Maggie Brown (the royal protector) it had a funny and engaging character. About two thirds in though I lost all impetus to read it and the last bit became a bit of a chore. I don't think it was the books fault, it pretty much ended as it began. I just lost interest in it.
I did finally finish it some two weeks later and it certainly wasn't awful. Mindless, cliched and fairly inconsequential yes. But not awful.
Michael Moorcock - The Final Programme
You can pretty much always rely on Mr Moorcock to fire an LSD bomb into your eyes.
I’ve read quite a few Moorcock books over the years and they’ve been predominantly bonkers. I remember the 'Dancers at the End of Time’ series particularly addling my teenage brain. I’d never had the opportunity to read the Jerry Cornelius books until now though. I kinda knew this story as I really love the movie adaptation of it but, unsurprisingly, the book is way stranger.
Cornelius is a dandy adrift amidst a collapsing society. His intellect and his need for people keep him centre place within a society falling into entropy. Into this life walks Miss Brunner who needs information collected by Cornelius’ father and hoarded by his drug addled brother. The quest for this information and the subsequent use she puts it to leads Jerry into a revelation as to his nature and a new existence.
Michael Moorcock - A Cure For Cancer
Now that was every bit as bonkers as the first book in the series but with added weird on top.
Jerry Cornelius no longer appears to be the androgynous superbeing Cornelius Brunner that he became at the end of The Final Programme. Instead he is Jerry once more except he’s ebony black with white hair.
Throughout the novel he is an agency of change; an anarchic harlequin forcing change on an unready / unwilling world. At all points he is challenged by Bishop Beasley and his attempts to return the world from its chaotic state.
This really is a product of its time. This sort of psychedelic narrative can be a real chore and I love it as much as I hate it. For Moorcock however it perfectly reflects the unorthodox narrative he wishes to tell.
Michael Moorcock - The Warlord of the Air
Fantastic. It's been a while since i enjoyed anything quite so much. Barstable (the protagonist) is a slightly dim man with a moral compass that points straight ahead. Moorcock takes him on a journey to the heart of his misconceptions regarding the steam-driven 'utopia' he has found himself in in a way that is realistic, believable and wonderously fantastical.
Michael Moorcock - The Land Leviathan
The second in his oswald bastable steampunk series was, whilst not being the airship and anarchist laden romp of the first (The Warlord of the Air), still a fine way to spend the day. This one spent more time on world building than on plot development which made for a nice gear change but i'm hoping the third will be a combination of the two.
Alan Moore - Unearthing
This was an utterly astounding audiobook read by the man himself with music from a variety of experimental musicians including Justin Broadrick, Stuart Braithwaite & Mike Patton.
The story or let's say narrative concerns the biography of friend and fellow comic writer Steve Moore. It is an examination of both man and place and the very personal forms of magick that these things conjure up.
Steve Moore it transpires has liverd in the same house his entire life. The house is situated on Shooters Hill in London and in typical Alan Moore fashion this location becomes as central to the narrative as Steve Moore is.
As a biography it's a fairly mundane tale of a life defined by a series of obsessions - sci-fi, arcana, writing - that would, in lesser hands, be a fairly tedious read. In Alan Moore's hands however (and with the beautifully subtle background music) it becomes a lyrical and evocative dance through passion and loss, obsession and loneliness, creativity and magick.
Alan Moore & Jacen Burrows - The Courtyard
Garth Ennis’ introduction opens with the line, ‘Him and his bloody Cthulu!’ which is as apt a sum up of this book as I ever could have thought up.
The Courtyard is the place wherein our protagonist (a nasty little functioning sociopath working for the FBI) is led whilst trailing the murderer of two people. His investigation leads him to a rock club where act and audience are speaking in Lovecraftian word salad. Thinking that the reasons his murderer and the three that preceded him are connected is a drug called Aklo bought from this club. In truth the drug is in actual fact a language that taps into other /elder perspectives that open his mind to the, I suppose, demon realms.
It was all a bit thin really. 48 pages was nowhere near enough and the whole thing felt both bogged down in the word-salad and distinctly light on plot and development.
Alan Moore & Kevin O'Neill - The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: Century 1910
I have, on the shelf next to me, the next volume of this which has been a long time coming. So, I thought I’d give this one a crack again just to refresh the memory.
Mina, Quatermain & Orlando are joined by Carnacki and Raffles as they investigate the occult underworld they suspect of trying to bring forth the Moonchild (whatever that is).
Nemo’s daughter Janni meanwhile has run away to London where the patrons of the depraved little dive where she finds work eventually attack her in the most vile manner leading her to summon the Nautilus, of which she is now the captain, and exact her revenge.
I like this book a lot. It’s blatantly only a third of a story and I much prefer to read my books fully formed so this was slightly frustrating. The next volume is going to be the same but fuck it, some LOEG is better than no LOEG.
Alan Moore & Kevin O'Neill - The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: Century 1969
This was excellent. It’s been a long time coming but well worth the wait.
Our three heroes wash up on the coast of England courtesy of a much older and mellower Janni and the Nautilus. Making their way to London they begin once more to investigate Oliver Hado and his Moonchild.
Swinging London was always going to fire up Mr. Moore and what we get is a massive mash-up of the era with Haddo jumping from body to body and trying to find his way into the lead singer of the Stones analogue, The Purple Orchestra.
The three are looser and more in touch with each other but Mina is struggling to incorporate herself and as such has leapt into the requisite personality with almost unseemly alacrity.
Once more the story leaves us hanging. This time on a monstrous cliffhanger and it’ll probably be several years before the final part. I can hardly wait.
Alan Moore & Kevin O'Neill - Nemo: Heart of Ice
A very unexpected surprise when this appeared. I'd heard that they were going to do these spin-offs but I wasn't expecting one to turn up this soon.
What we have is a missing tale of the second Captain Nemo and her attempt to traverse Antarctica in the footsteps of her father. In pursuit of her and her crew is a trio of American adventurers in the employ of Charles Foster Kane and Ayesha (the Queen from 'She'). On their disastrous journey they discover various Lovecraftian locations and creatures.
It's a fairly slight (by Moore's terms) little romp but one that adds layers to the character of Janni (Nemo) and very nicely bridges the gap between the vengeful Janni of the first volume of 'Century' and the mellower mature one that turned up later.
I've loved all the League stories and this one was no exception.
Alan Moore & Kevin O'Neill - Nemo: The Roses of Berlin
This is the second League of Extraordinary Gentleman spinoff books to feature the exploits of everyone's favourite sub aquatic pirate goes off to Germany to rescue her daughter and her son in law, the air pirate Robur.
The book mixes in The Great Dictator, Metropolis, Cabinet of Doctor Cagliari, She and more to great effect. I've got to say though that if it wasn't for the majesty of Jess Nevins and his explanatory website - http://jessnevins.com/annotations/rosesofberlin.html - much of it would have been incomprehensible to me as it was written in German and I don't currently have a friendly German to hand..
It's a quest book (of sorts) and as such is a little thin on plot but what there is is typical Moore and there is plenty of distraction in the always beautiful art from O'Neill who as ever brings the most absurd worlds to life in stunning, awe inspiring and eye popping glory.
Not the best of them but still wonderful.
Alan Moore & Jacen Burrows - Neonomicon
I read the first little book here, The Courtyard, a little while ago. It was an OK little Lovecraftian spin that really didn't go anywhere. Well now it's the prequel to a much longer piece wherein the FBI take notice of the devotees of old Howard's ideas and subsequently participate in the end of the world.
It's not Moore at his most deep and devious; it's more than a little pulp and the story is both salacious and unpleasant. I'm not a Lovecraftian - I will give him a go one day - and so bits of this were lost on me but it wasn't a bad read.
Alan Moore & Facundo Percio - Fashion Beast
This is an old Alan Moore based on an idea he'd worked on with Malcolm McLaren way back when. It tells of a self obsessed cloakroom attendant named Doll who finds herself hired as the feature model at the world most prestigious fashion house. As the world falls apart outside she discovers that life inside the fashion house to be wholly dysfunctional.
It's an entirely of sort of thing that didn't really grab me to the point most of Moore's things do but it's lack of anything to grab onto may be a fairly good reason as to why it never saw the light of day until now. It seemed empty, almost vacuous even. The ending is heavy handed and the pacing was uneven but an intriguing read nonetheless.
Alan Moore - 25,000 Years of Erotic Freedom
This is a reproduced essay written by Moore on his current non Lovecraftian obsession - pornography.
It's an interesting little read that is entirely and obviously Moore and feels like it fell straight out of the pages of Dodgem Logic. The really odd thing about it are the remarkably prudish illustrations. For an article that is championing the decline in quality of pornography it's remarkably coy about showing almost anything that could be considered actually pornographic.
A light but enjoyable article that is more polemic than argument but was possible better suited to be a magazine article rather than a book in its own right.
Stuart Moore & Tyler Kirkham - New Avengers / Transformers
As good as the artist on this piece of woefulness was you are never going to make a transformer look like anything other than a cheap plastic toy.
I like that I missed being part of the transformer generation. My little brother had them and I always thought of them as the most ridiculous excuse for a toy. The robot bit was cool, the being able to change bit was cool too (apart from the useless giant gun) but it all looked so cheap and nasty.
Anyway the story has baddie robots using as Doc Doom (naffest villain ever) invented prism to start a war between Latveria and a neighbouring country. The Avengers (Cap, Spidey, Luke Cage, Wolverine, Iron Man, Ms Marvel & Falcon) go in. Spidey is captured and used to boost their energies in ways barely explained and utterly nonsensical before the goodie robots turn up and everything stumbles to an end with a tedious inevitability.
Mark Morris - Doctor Who: Forever Autumn
A Halloween adventure for the Doctor and Martha set in a New England town (shades of Stephen King perhaps) that pits them against an alien race called the Hervoken. These tree like aliens use magic-like technology and fear to power their crashed ship.
As is the case with all these BBC books it was a pretty fluffy read very much based on the the tone of the TV series. The characterisation was spot on but thge plot was nothing to really recommend.
Grant Morrison & J.G. Jones - Marvel Boy
This one is Morrison let loose on an old Marvel character that he can redo in his own way. The result is a fairly straight forward sci-fi supe character.
Noh-varr (groan) is a Kree warrior whose dimension ship crashes on Earth where the crew are wiped out by a crazy trillionaire in an (early) Iron Man suit by the name of Midas.
Noh-Varr (still groaning) is understandingly pissed off at this and proceeds to carve a giant ‘Fuck you!’ into New York before dedicating himself to turning Earth into the new Kree planet. He doesn’t get much opportunity as he is soon tackling a living sentient corporation as well as Midas and his hunter / killer daughter.
It’s a groovy little book that fairly romps along. It’s very much Grant’s standard superhero mode but as his standard mode is light years ahead of most others best then that’s something I can be pretty happy about.
Dean Motter - Electropolis: Infernal Machine
Motter is the guy who invented Mister X which being a Hernandez brothers fan means I've come across his work before. This time though he's illustrating it himself which means no Jaime or Gilbert to make my eyes go 'ooh purty'.
Motter is a solid artist and some of it is lovely to look at but he's not really doing a great deal for me. Story wise it's a bit of a jumble. A pulp detective story that exists in a metallic future world and concerns the investigations of a robotic gumshoe as he looks into the 'suicide' of his ex-owner / partner. There's also a side story detailing the search for an astrolabe that does something or other but to be honest I soon tuned out all the blah and just thumbed it to the end as I'd bought the damn thing from a shop too far away to take it back to.