Friday 22 July 2016

Reviews - Bleakwarrior, Sparrow Falling & Zen in the art of writing

3 reviews

In no particular order

Zen in the Art of Writing
By Ray Bradbury

Zen in the Art of Writing: Essays on…

Bradbury is instantly recognisable of course and a book of essays from him, his thoughts on the craft, of much interest. However it is a bit of a mixed bag, as the essays have been written over a long period of time and there is quite a lot of repetition. When he's good he's very very good, but often he's mediocre. At the end of the book are a set of poems, which was a little unexpected.

Essays like - 'How to keep and feed a muse" and "On the shoulders of giants" were of most interest. I could see that if you were a big fan, getting an insight on how he developed the ideas that became Dandelion Wine, or Fahrenheit 451 would also be great reads, but I was less interested in them.

Overall - a so-so book about writing, one for the fans

Sparrow Falling by Gaie Sebold

Sparrow Falling by Gaie Sebold

Make no mistake you need to have read the first book to get the most from this, the second in the series. However, although there is no precis of the former I was soon back into the swing of Sebold's Dickensian steam and gas London. This is more a function of being back with instantly recognisable characters like fox-spirit Liu, the brilliant Ma Pether and, of course, Evvie Sparrow herself.

In this installment the plot revolves around the school and an unsavory sort called Stug. When Evvie suspects Stug of doing something wicked with the children of families he houses as a slum landlord she becomes embroiled in the workings of the Fair Folk.

There is plenty here to enjoy, I wish Sebold had done more with the flying machine (although I'm guessing she's setting that up for next time) and the plot charges you along without you really noticing. Until the last few pages are gripped and released.

Overall - Thoroughly entertaining steampunk

Bleakwarriror by Alistair Rennie

BleakWarrior by Alistair Rennie

"The Folly of Brawl is a tower of disproportionate girth, besmirched at the base with festering lichens and nettled clumps" - so starts one of the most idiosyncratic books I've read for a while. Bleakwarriror is a metaphysical romp disguised as swords and  sorcery disguised as a metaphysical romp.

The Bleakwarrior of the title is a meta-warrior - a 'physical expression of natural states that serve no purpose beyond their immediate function.'  a wandering masterless killer seeking his purpose. Each dense chapter is stuffed full of memorable characters (all the meta-warrirors are great, it's a real shame when some of them kill others because some deserve larger parts) and along the way he is helped or hindered (mostly hindered) by others of his kind.

This is foot to the metal, balls-out, foaming at the mouth prose and yet at the same time lush dense verbiage that deserves to be fondled and savoured. How Rennie achieves such a dichotomy is beyond me. This is not for the squeamish or prudish - there is much gratuitous violence and even more gratuitous sex. It is also a book that you need to put your brain in another gear before reading - but what a pleasure it is once you are on the same plane.

This is like Hunt Emerson meets Gormenghast. Very much in the weird and very much a book that defies quick review.

So please make your way to the nearest convenient source of books and purchase a copy

If you are still not convinced read this great review which does it more justice than I ever could.

Overall - Highly recommended but treat with approrpiate care, it's not an easy book but it is a good one

Dear Writer Friends - an open letter

Hand writing So Many Things in To Do List with red marker isolated on white.

This post was prompted from the recent NewCon birthday bash - I queued and got a book signed - but felt guilty that I didn't get other books and also get them signed. Even from people I'd consider friends, and would love to support...

Dear Writer Friends,

I'd like to support you by buying your books. By reading each and every one of them. By recommending them to others from a position of knowledge. By pressing them on friends and family and other readers as presents. I would blurb them if I was more famous (or even slightly famous). I would mention them in interviews as 'books that have influenced my writing'. Or in answer to the oft-asked question - 'what are you reading right now? What do you think we should be reading?'.

I would write long reviews on all the right websites and blogs, and in all the right magazines and papers. I would do all of this and more, if I could.

I'm sure you'd do the same for me, right? This whole book business works best if we support each other. But I'm sure that, like me, there are reasons you can't. We both know that we have our book to write, we have a commission for a short story that has a pressing deadline, we have a blog post to write to promote our own work.

That we need to watch TV as a method of procrastinating and that procrastination is very much part of our process.That we need to read books on how to write books (my personal addiction). That we need to read books about interesting subjects we may write a sentence about in our next work. That we need to read books by writers we admire greatly and wish to emulate, who are mostly dead.

We both need to prepare for interviews; or do interviews. Prepare for a panel, prepare for an article. That we are mid short story, or novellette, novella or novel. That the very thing we could use to help each other is in short supply. Our words and the time to use them.

It's very much not that we don't want to.

Today I could have helped a writer friend. Today I wrote a blog post about not having time to help writer friends .

I know you'll understand as you'll have read this knowing that you could have written the exact same letter to me.

Maybe next time you are selling a book I'll buy it and ask you to sign it.

Maybe next time...

Wednesday 6 July 2016

Review - Silence Rides Alone by Charles Millsted

Silence Rides Alone by Charles Millsted

In the 70's & early 80's there were always Westerns on TV, along with repeats and old B&W movies, especially Laurel & Hardy. But I grew up watching a variety of Westerns, including Bonanza, Maverick and an endless repeat of John Wayne, John Ford and other western films. Later I graduated to Clint Eastwood and the Spaghetti Westerns and films like Unforgiven.

Millsted's book is more in the vein of my earlier viewing and therefore a nice nostalgic read. The book opens with the Nussbaums doing what many have done before, going west in a covered wagon. When the wagon is attacked our eponymous hero arrives on the scene to help Manny Nussbaum find out who and why his family were attacked.

Silence has his own grief from past tragedy and when their investigations cross there is hell to pay.

Millsted does well to build the characters quickly, with a memorable supporting cast including a military intelligence officer confined to a wheelchair and a gunman in the Lee Van Cleef mould called Van Hook. Corrupted officials, ranch owners and their daughters, saloon whores etc. The plot whizzes along gathering steam until the final very memorable showdown.

This has everything you want from a western, and I highly recommend it

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