book review

Jerusalem, Ambition and the Power of Ideas

Jerusalem, Ambition and the Power of Ideas

It’s taken me three and a half months, but I finally finished Alan Moore’s magnum opus Jerusalem.  Made of a number of interlinked short stories set in Northampton, it tells the history of the town as well as the nature of life, death and time itself. It is ridiculously broad in its scope while remaining funny and down to earth, with a serious message about the abuse of the working class. The entire second book occurs whilst a child is choking on a sweet. Each chapter, especially in the last book, uses its own style. There’s an epic poem, a play, a Joycean wordplay chapter. In short, it is a hugely ambitious work that in my opinion succeeds wholeheartedly.

Continue reading →

Posted by David in Art from Others, books, 0 comments
George Saunders and Normalisation

George Saunders and Normalisation

In these days of increasing insanity in the world of politics, I find myself thinking more and more about the fiction of George Saunders. He understands that humans will adapt to any situation, however bizarre and will build their identities around it, even if that situation is horrifying. Many of his characters rebel against the situations, or come to the realisation that, like Brexit or Trump, this is not normal. Since I read Tenth of December last year, the beautifully crafted short stories have become more and more relevant to the modern age. We seem to be living the surreal sci-fi world that Saunders created.

Spoilers ahead
Continue reading →

Posted by David in Art from Others, books, 0 comments
Optimism, empathy and The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet

Optimism, empathy and The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet

Science fiction is an escape from our mundane reality to another shinier, brighter alternate world. There’s a whole universe of unusual aliens to discover. It reflects the times it was written and what the hopes were, or extrapolates based on available data. As well as providing an escape, it can also show us a way forward at the moment.. We go halfway around the universe only to discover ourselves.
Continue reading →

Posted by David in Art from Others, books, 0 comments
Always more to learn: Thoughts on ‘Wonderbook’

Always more to learn: Thoughts on ‘Wonderbook’

I’ve finished reading Wonderbook: The Illustrated Guide to Creating Imaginative Fiction by Jeff Vandermeer. It’s a great read, full of useful information and exercises. Mostly, it is a nuts and bolts guide to stories and their various elements, characters, plotting, but the way it presented and the advice it gives about the imagination make it truly unique.

There’s a whole industry of books that tell you how to write. This one isn’t aimed at the absolute beginner, but at those who are already writing fiction. The best advice for a beginner is to write often and write lots, whereas this focuses more on the structure and building blocks of stories. Generally, I find this construction work to be more useful in the second or third draft, when you are polishing the writing. The book is filled with extensive ideas help optimise drafts, from varying character’s perspectives to the role of settings. These are really useful as references when you need to change a story that isn’t working. Although you can read the book straight through, I found these lists to be more useful as guides to refer to later. The wealth of resources in this guide is staggering. In addition, there are pieces from well established fantasy writers throughout that offer different perspectives, as well as a whole host of online articles.
Continue reading →

Posted by David in Art from Others, books, 0 comments
The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell

The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell

I’ve been a fan of David Mitchell since reading Cloud Atlas in my early twenties. Since then, I have enjoyed almost everything he has written, so I was excited to finally get round to The Bone Clocks. I’ve somehow never tackled it, possibly because at 500 pages it’s quite a time investment.

One of the strengths of his fiction is the unexpected, which The Bone Clocks has in spades. It’s similar in structure to Cloud Atlas or Ghostwritten, where every chapter has a new character and new perspective. What he does incredibly well within this framework is disrupt the standard narrative. The first chapter, dealing with Holly Sykes, has a sudden interruption from a strange character, from a different realm entirely. Suddenly the story is dangerous and we have lurched in a weird new place. The effect is one of disorientation as we think we know where the story is going, but then it is terrifyingly derailed. The character speaks in an information dump, which becomes overwhelming as there are too many unknown terms that we do not understand. Of course, everything is becomes clearer later, but the reader does not expect the interruption.

Continue reading →

Posted by David in Art from Others, books, 2 comments
The Cement Garden by Ian McEwan- Book Review

The Cement Garden by Ian McEwan- Book Review

I picked this short novella up recently and devoured it in about a day. Having previously read some of Ian McEwan’s later novels such as Saturday & On Chesil Beach, I wasn’t expecting such a violent and horrible little story. It deals with four children left abandoned in their house when both their parents die, and the unpleasantness that follows their isolation.
Continue reading →

Posted by David in books, 1 comment