Archive for middle of the road

DOWN UNDER By Bill Bryson – Reviewed

Posted in Reviews, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 25, 2011 by stanleyriiks

I bought this book just before going to Australia myself and never got round to reading it. I have to say that although it’s an interesting account of Bryson’s travels around Oz, and his amusing anecdotes offer a little insight into the country, I didn’t really miss much.

It’s an interesting book rather than fascinating. Amusing rather than funny.

The problem is exactly what drives people to read Bryson’s books, their very ordinariness. His adventures (using the term loosely) around Australia were almost as exciting as mine. The places he visited similarly to mine, although I didn’t get to the outback or Perth, I definitely saw more of Melbourne than he did, and my brief trip to Sydney seemed to encompass more than his.

The insights aren’t anything special either. You only have to talk to a couple of Australian and visit their cities to see the issues they have with the Aborigines.

Australia is an interesting and very new and empty country, and you get that idea from Bryson’s book. His travels around the country offer an insight if you haven’t ever been, but it’s much more fun to explore yourself. You’ll likely come to similar conclusions.

Where Bryson’s book does excel is his research. There are some fascinating histories in here amidst the middle-of-the-road traveller’s adventures. He seems to spend every evening in a bar having a beer, a traditional Aussie past-time perhaps, but hardly exciting for the reader.

Down Under isn’t a massive success, nor is it a massive failure. It’s difficult to get excited about the book either way. I neither feel compelled to read another of his book, nor bothered to remember not to.

Unlike a guidebook you don’t feel the sense of exciting of discovery, and Bryson’s mild excitement isn’t really enough to make you want to discover more.

May be this is one of his off books, and may be they’re all like this. I just can’t be bothered to find out.

DYING WORDS By Shaun Hutson – Reviewed

Posted in Reviews, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 6, 2010 by stanleyriiks

I like Shaun Hutson. His books are invariably entertaining. Mindless violence, action-packed, thrill-a-minute page-turners, Hutson provides a Hollywood Blockbuster of a novel.

Dying Words, whilst not his best work, is still a good solid read, and offers some nice insight into Hutson’s mind as we see two writers, one a grossly successful horror writer, the other an intellectual biographer, both are prime suspects in a murder. Then another body turns up. Then another. Detective Inspector Birch has no clues, the murders were committed in closed rooms, flats or houses, all locked from the inside. But as Birch digs deeper he starts to find out secrets that no one wants uncovered…

What starts off as a simple crime novel, ends with a fantastic twist that unfortunately doesn’t come as much of a surprise. It wouldn’t have been believable at all if it had, but the lead-up is pretty clear.

Although the book lets down with the lack of surprise, it’s still a Hutson book, rip-roaring action throughout, and unflinching in every sense. Hutson peers into the nooks and crannies other writers are afraid to even think of, and that’s what we want.

Shaun Hutson churns out his books with such regularity that it’s hard for the average reader to keep up, in which case if you haven’t read one of his novels there are better ones out there, but for the passionate fan or collector then this will fit nicely on your shelf with the rest of Huston’s novels.

It’s a shame that I’ve recently read a similarly themed book by Paul Kane, which does the whole crime/horror novel with a little more skill and panache, and after that I’m afraid that Hutson doesn’t quite measure up.

Of course Hutson still delivers his trade-mark in-your-face style and plenty of action, the first few chapters alone are brilliant. But Dying Words doesn’t work as well of other books of a similar kind, and Hutson has produced better. Not his best and not his worst, and who wants to read middle-of-the-road anyway?

VAMPYRRHIC By Simon Clark – Reviewed

Posted in Reviews, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 18, 2010 by stanleyriiks

I quite enjoyed this. It’s not normally my kind of thing, it’s a gentle, old-skool horror novel.

The premise is excellent, Thor (from Norse mythology) made a pact with a family a thousand years ago and gave them a vampire army to destroy all of Christendom. Unfortunately the family didn’t stick to the plan, and now, a thousand years later, David Leppington has returned to the family home to find that he is the last of the line, and expected to take control of the vampire army on its unending march to domination of the Christian world.

That would have been a great book. Unfortunately what we get is this great idea as the back-story. The main plot concerns David Leppington returning to his hometown, the town of Leppington, named after his family, and discovering the legend of Thor’s vampire army from his uncle, and then attempting to destroy the army before they begin their attack.

The first two thirds of the book set up the story as we are gradually given more information about the legend and the town. The story slowly and gently unravels, the vampires begin to escape and attack the human population of Leppington, but it isn’t until the uncle blows a hole in the bars imprisoning the creatures that the action kicks up a notch and David and his new-found friends, must fight for their lives.

Clark is a writer of such potential, as shown by the premise. But here he’s missed a massive opportunity. The book we’re given is in no way as exciting, entertaining or as passionate as it could have been. It seems this is a much more traditional, staid, and middle-of-the-road novel, playing safe rather than provoking any kind of emotion.

The writing isn’t Clark at his best either, his characters are all weak, limp-wristed, wet-wipes. Nothing there to incite any feeling.

Still, being the wrong book, a massive missed opportunity, a complete failure in potential, this still isn’t such a bad book. It certainly doesn’t have much going for it; but it’s a good little standard horror novel, similar to what Richard Laymon used to churn out endlessly.

Typical low-impact horror.


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