Archive for classic

ON HER MAJESTY’S SECRET SERVICE By Ian Fleming – Reviewed

Posted in Reviews, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 20, 2018 by stanleyriiks

Bond is after Blofeld again, and heads to the Alps in his search after procuring some information from a very helpful Corsican gangster, whose daughter falls for our hero. But as Bond enters the strange lair of the master criminal he soon realises that he is as much a prisoner as the rest of the group, and then comes to the conclusion that another master crime is about to be perpetrated.

Can Bond escape the clutches of Blofeld? Can he discover the master criminal’s plans and thwart them? Will he find love and happiness?

Fleming gives us a bit more insight into the character of Bond, who, at the start of the book is fed-up and thinking of quitting the service. His interest in sparked by a girl, and over the course of the book he falls in love. Has the womanising spy finally been tamed?

Fleming is moving with the times, his classic pulp fictions no longer enough for a modern audience, he adds an element of realism to his character. For the modern reader we have the use of biological weapons, a rather too modern reality, to contend with.

Even more than before this Bond book is a modern thriller, seeing plenty of action and car chases, that become the hallmark of the Bond films.

Fleming ramps up the pace of the book towards a shocking climax.

Brilliant Bond at his best.

THE BIG SLEEP BY Raymond Chandler – Reviewed

Posted in Reviews, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 3, 2016 by stanleyriiks

Chandler’s classic novel introduced us to Philip Marlow, a no nonsense ex-soldier turner Private Investigator, who is called to the home of the Sternwoods, a rich family living the highlife in LA.

Although the mission Marlow is given by the ailing old patriarch is to resolve a case of blackmail, he rapidly becomes involved in a series of murders, and must wade through the seedy underbelly of the city to find out what he needs to know.

This all seems very familiar, probably because it’s been copied to death, and has influenced pretty much every crime novel and movie ever since it was published.

Marlowe is the quintessential gum-shoe. What more can you say about a novel that inspired a genre?

Well, how about the Sternwoods are about as lifelike as the Kardashians, rich cardboard cut-outs, the dying old wheelchair-bound man is the most life-like and likeable, his daughters are a pair of spoilt rich sluts, alternatively using their money or their bodies to get what they want.

Marlowe, our hero (of a sort), doesn’t fare much better, although I suppose we have to give Chandler the credit for creating the stereotype. I guess I expected more, a bit of attitude, a bit of flair, a down at heel, hard on his luck James Bond type (you can clearly see where Marlowe inspired Bond). What you get is a man following his nose into trouble, with little wit, energy or intelligence.

And the plot hobbles along, following the barest morsel of investigation to a weak and ultimately unsatisfying ending.

It seems Chandler’s novel hasn’t fared as well as the pulp heroes before it, or the superheroes and Bond-villains who followed. May be the realism of Marlowe is what made him great and has made him age just as badly.

Chandler’s unique style isn’t noticeable present here either.

Perhaps the film version is better?

Disappointingly pedestrian.

BILLY LYNN’S HALFTIME WALK By Ben Fountain – Reviewed

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 14, 2015 by stanleyriiks

On the cover it says this is the Catch 22 of the Iraq War, and it probably is. Ever since that seminal book was written every book on war that uses humour is compared to it. But Catch 22 is a classic for a reason, it’s an amazingly written book that twists and turns and makes a strange kind of sense, it encapsulates the danger, the struggle and the terror of being a soldier.

Does Billy Lynn’s story do the same? To a certain extent, yes, it does.

Billy Lynn and his squad are heroes. On a break from fighting after a much publicised mission, the military trots the soldiers across the country to drum up support. The book tells the story of their final stop, at a Dallas Cowboy’s game. Dealing with the stress of their last mission, recorded for all to see by a journalist, the loss of their comrades, meeting with the dignitaries and millionaires of the Cowboy’s management and fanship, trying to broker a deal with a Hollywood producer who wants to tell their story, coming to terms with heading back into a warzone, and falling in love, this isn’t just a story about war. It feels a little like a coming of age story for young (19 year old) Billy Lynn, and his story is quite incredible, as he joined the army after beating up his sister’s boyfriend who dumped her after a car crash.

Poignant, intelligent, well written, with humour, insight, and subtlety, this is a story of manhood, war, love, family and honour. A remarkable story, and yes, very probably the Catch 22 of the Iraq war. Touching and brilliant.

GOLDFINGER By Ian Fleming – Reviewed

Posted in Reviews, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 4, 2011 by stanleyriiks

After the wasted introduction we get down to the nitty gritty of a classic Bond story, as our hero meets up with a man at an airport who needs his help. Bond is happy to help out when he finds the problem is to do with a card cheat.

Solving the problems only takes a few hours, but Bond gets to meet the eponymous Goldfinger, who is doing the cheating.

Bond’s encounters with Goldfinger continue as M sends him on a fact-finding mission for the Bank of England who suspect Goldfinger is smuggling gold of the country.

Eventually Bond falls foul in his dealing with Goldfinger, because of a girl, and is enlisted into his team, transported to the US and becomes secretary in the villian’s plan to steal all the gold in Fort Knox.

This is classic Bond territory, the card games, the women, the cars, the villain. The only problem is the lack of danger. More so than the previous novels we know that Bond will win, he is able to out-smart Goldfinger at their every encounter, despite the tension and the stakes getting higher each time. Goldfinger is a clever villain, one of the richest Bond has encountered, and yet his weakness, his failure to kill Bond, is silly.

Oddjob is a scary individual, but the final showdown between the Korean and Bond is woefully inadequate. In fact the climax is weak and too simply dealt with after the excellent build up.

An inadequate introduction starts this book off poorly, and doesn’t do the book justice. Despite the fact this is not the best of the Bond books, it still manages to entertain, feeling much like a more modern pulp thriller.

It’s hard to look at the Bond book with anything other than rose-tinted glasses. Bond is an integral cultural icon, and the Fleming books started it all, but this is not the best of the Bond novels.