Saturday, 27 July 2019

Book #55

Why I Am So Clever by Friedrich Nietzsche

Self-celebrating and self-mocking autobiographical writings from Ecce Homo, the last work iconoclastic German philosopher Nietzsche wrote before his descent into madness.

What a blast of self-awareness and ego from Nietzsche here. If I had half of the man’s knowledge, I’d be living a very good life.

Broken into three sections on why Nietzsche is so wise, so clever, and why he writes such good books, this collection reads almost like a diatribe on how Nietzsche is so bloody cool. It’s quite self-aggrandising, and good tickle of his own ego, but impressive nonetheless. The man is unbelievably intelligent, yet this became old quite quickly.

It’s quite a slog to get through his words, and I can’t pretend to have grasped it all. Still, it’s a worthwhile read, and an interesting look into the brain of this sharp man.

Friday, 26 July 2019

Book #54

Still Life With Woodpecker by Tom Robbins

Still Life with Woodpecker is a sort of a love story that takes place inside a pack of Camel cigarettes. It reveals the purpose of the moon, explains the difference between criminals and outlaws, examines the conflict between social activism and romantic individualism, and paints a portrait of contemporary society that includes powerful Arabs, exiled royalty, and pregnant cheerleaders. It also deals with the problem of redheads. 

I loved and hated this book all at once. At times gorgeous and engaging, at others confusing and mind-numbing, I am truly at loss as to how I can clearly put my feelings into words.

Robbins tells the tale of a princess who meets an outlaw. He tells this piecemeal, with other elements bookending the love story. The other elements include Robbins himself making cameo appearances purely to complain about his typewriter, and pontification about matters of the heart, the moon, or humankind. The tale was great, the bookends were not.

He’s an engaging writer, and I loved the way he wrote. His metaphorical prose allowed me to make considerations from directions I’d never come from before, his plot devices raised many a smile, and his humour was electric.

I had many an issue with Robbins’ constant descriptions of our female protagonist’s nether regions. He tried to reach such a poetic apex that it just came off creepy and strange. One moment I was appreciating her for her vitality and urge to explore, the next I was eyeballs into her vulva. It’s the curse of the male writer.

Yeah, it was nice. It was just okay peppered with glorious moments. I can understand why this is hyped by romantics, but it’s just not anywhere near the masterpiece I was expecting.

Sunday, 21 July 2019

Book #53

The Frogs by Aristophanes

This riotous play from ancient Greece's greatest comic dramatist blends fancy dress, earthy slapstick and political debate.

An interesting play, which would have been made more interesting had I sufficient knowledge of the characters from Greek mythology whom Aristophanes was casting in this calamitous journey to Hades.

The comical slapstick was jovial enough, the dialogue and references to the audience surreal. I just wasn’t as engaged as I should be, and I can confidently justify that with my ignorance of background and references.

Another addition to the Little Black Classics range which I couldn’t fully enjoy simply due to lack of intelligence. Onwards. 

Friday, 19 July 2019

Book #52

The Valley of Fear by Arthur Conan Doyle

Doyle's final novel featuring the beloved sleuth, Sherlock Holmes, brings the detective and his friend to a country manor where they are preceded by either a murder or a suicide. A secretive organization lies culprit and an infiltration of it is in order.

For quite a long time, I have been sporadically working my way through The Complete Works of Sherlock Holmes. I have recently come to a section of the works which is comprised mainly of short stories, and it’s these I’ve been devouring of late. I was looking forward to a longer tale in The Valley of Fear, and yet have come away somewhat disappointed.

Although the Holmes standard elements are all there - mystery, deception, and questionable relationships leading to an ultimate impressive deduction of fact - Doyle felt the need here to provide, in the second part of the novel, the history of the victim, and details of how the eventual crime came to pass. I felt the lack of Holmes and Watson, mourned the loss of investigative plot, and struggled immensely with this rather intrusive long saga of the life of a man I had ceased to care for as soon as his secret was revealed.

I enjoy the structure I’m usually given in these stories, and I was jarred by this odd addition. It lacked engagement and purpose, and truly did nothing to add to the original mystery. I shall continue on my complete works quest, and hope I don’t run into any more lengthy, insipid insertions such as this.

Wednesday, 10 July 2019

Book #51

HOPE Engine by Andrew Lynch

A world on the brink of war, absent parents, and no friends sounds like a disaster unless all you ever wanted was to live inside your virtual reality pod. 
Meet Severo, a fresh-eyed graduate, as he joins the ranks of new players in the HOPE engine, but quickly finds out that everything isn’t as advertised. An unnatural enemy is rising, more glitch than feature, that not even the highest level players can stop. A noob like Severo doesn’t stand a chance! Right?But with his starter village in the enemy’s warpath, he better figure something out! Before that, he needs to learn that NPCs are sentient, friends are needed, and food in fantasy games sucks! Oh yeah, and pick a class! 
As if all that wasn’t enough to worry about, outside of the VR pod, real life is starting to have its own technical difficulties.

Deep in a strange dystopian future, wars have been won with video games. People climb into virtual reality pods and lose themselves in a digital fantasy world. Be who you wanna be, kill who you wanna kill, meet other players from all over the globe - hey, the game translates language - and level up to become the greatest of your class.

Lynch builds an excellent world here, one which will be entirely familiar to gamers. He minutely describes the mechanics of the game; stats, loot, levelling, melee, minions, village crafting, NPCs - the lot. Lynch knows his stuff here, and immerses us flawlessly into the fantasy gameplay.

I found the plot itself to be slightly confusing and jarring. There were lots of interesting elements introduced and only partially explored, with Lynch seeming to prefer paying attention to the intricacies of battle and the mechanics of the game. This meant there was a lack of care in developing characters and relationships, and I felt I needed a little more guidance through the plot.

The twist in the tale was incredibly clever, but explored fairly loosely. It could be that Lynch is saving his explanations for the sequel, but there definitely could have been some more detail and foreshadowing around this, as it felt a bit shoehorned.

With that being said, I enjoyed the read, and was intrigued by Lynch’s originality. An excellent read for gamers. 

Tuesday, 2 July 2019

Book #50

The Gunslinger by Stephen King

In the first book of this brilliant series, Stephen King introduces readers to one of his most enigmatic heroes, Roland of Gilead, The Last Gunslinger. He is a haunting figure, a loner on a spellbinding journey into good and evil. In his desolate world, which frighteningly mirrors our own, Roland pursues The Man in Black, encounters an alluring woman named Alice, and begins a friendship with the Kid from Earth called Jake.

What a struggle.

Too vague in places, too patronising in others, I am at a loss to understand the manic hysteria over this book. King’s writing is as dry as his desert setting; nothing is given to incentivise reading on, engagement is brittle, and his characters woeful - each woman a fuckable object, each man an enemy. Please.

I am gobsmacked at how poor this was. People were messaging me to talk about it, so excited to see I was reading it for the first time. There was nothing here to hold on to, it was awful.

A few people have told me they slogged their way through this one only to be rewarded with a wonderful tale in further instalments. Not fucking happening; I’ve had enough of cigarette rolling, pontificating, shoot-em-up cowboys.

The gunslinger, indeed.