Archive for marathon

IMAJICA By Clive Barker – Reviewed

Posted in Reviews, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 10, 2010 by stanleyriiks

Wow, this is a big epic. I mean huge. 1136 densely packed pages. It’s a marathon of a novel. It feels long. It took me six solid weeks of reading to finish it, and by the time I had I was exhausted and numb.

I understand that Barker and his publishers want to give the readers value for money, but this would have worked so well as two novels. The first would chart the plots and conspiracies surrounding Gentle, his former girlfriend Judith, her husband, the assassin he’s employed to kill her, and the mysterious world of the other four dominions. It would follow the story of their travelling through the wondrous worlds of the other dominions, as they attempt to discover what the Reconciliation is and their part in it. Would have been a good book at about 500 pages.

Book two would have seen the return to the Fifth Dominion, Earth, by those involved, and their attempts and machinations to Reconcile all of the Dominions, struggling to stay alive and one step ahead of the mysterious and dangerous Maestro of Yzordderrex, and discovering how the equally dangerous and mysterious Goddesses fit into things.

Instead we get two books for the price or one, and who can argue with that? Well, I can. (Some later editions were split in two!)

Reading any novel should be fun. It should be exciting, entertaining, and with an epic it should be even more so. More involving, more moving, more of everything.

Except here it’s not. Don’t get me wrong, I love epics. The Lord of the Rings trilogy, Peter Hamilton’s Night’s Dawn trilogy, the Dune Saga… I like to read collections and trilogies in one go, so the depth of this novel doesn’t terrify me at all, I was actually looking forward to it. But it felt like a marathon, and one I wasn’t prepared for. It took longer than expected, it felt longer than it was, it was damn hard work, and I was already prepared for a lengthy read.

The book is not unenjoyable, it’s just that it’s inability to keep you entertained at a sufficient level means that half way through you feel as though you have finished and should be rewarded with a nice ending. And that’s what you get, the book clearly ends and loses energy before getting its second wind and then the book continues and the second half just feels like a very long, drawn out epilogue that never ends.

So is it rubbish? No, the characters, particularly for an epic of this length, are barely more than cardboard cut-outs, and the plot is simple enough, but its the telling of the story, the complexity and depth of the five dominions that really keep you reading, (ok, the only thing that keep you reading). Just about entertaining enough, or perhaps that’s just stubborn determination that kept me reading till the end despite it feeling like a chore.

If you haven’t read Weaveworld try that one instead, the same depth but for a third of the time and effort.

Probably the weakest Barker novel I’ve read so far. A hard slog, and unfortunately not really worth it.

Free Books

Posted in Life..., Reviews, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 8, 2009 by stanleyriiks

The main reason I got into reviewing in the first place was to get free books. It worked a treat! In the mid- to late-nineties I was getting about three books a week. Most I managed to read, but some are still on my bookshelves now.

I love books. And I love getting free books. I love getting books in the post, it’s like a mini-christmas every time one arrives. What could possibly be better? Ok, may be Lego!

In the past two weeks four books have arrived for me to review. Which is a shame because I’ve been having a rest from the power-reading I’ve been doing lately and I took a time-out to read Four Past Midnight By Stephen King (short review coming soon!).

I did enjoy my brief period of restful reading, I watched more TV than I have done in a while and I’ve even had time to get a little bored (which is the sign of an active mind according to some expert).

When I used to get free books in the old days it was mostly the big publishers who sent them. Always through a magazine of one form or another, I never approached the publishers directly. I wrote reviews for Black Tears Magazine, the British Science Fiction Association Newsletter, Comics International, and a load more I can’t even remember.

Now I’m the Reviews Editor for Morpheus Tales Magazine, and from the next issue we’ll be producing a Reviews Supplement, so plenty of space for me to share my opinions!

But now it seems to be the small-press publishers who send the books, Elastic Press, Swimming Kangaroo Books, Comet Press… If you get the chance check them out, they all offer stuff that puts the big guys to shame, inventive, well-written and imaginative. The small-press is the cutting edge of genre fiction.

So, the marathon that was the King collection is over and the power reading is back in action! Bring on the books!

First up, the Blood Red Sphere By Lawrence Barker.

Power Reading

Posted in Life..., Reviews, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 13, 2009 by stanleyriiks

Since almost the beginning of this year, I’ve been, what I like to think of as, power reading. Taking the advice of Stephen King, not personally I’m afraid, but from his book On Writing, I’ve been reading as much as possible. Power reading, basically ever spare minute has been involved in reading, a spare moment at work, during the adverts of tv programmes (which I’ve cut back on), I’ve also started listening to audiobooks, so that H G Wells and Andre Norton tell me tales as I walk to work and wait for the opening credits at the cinema.

I haven’t played with my xbox since January.

I haven’t played with my girlfriend since May. She’s a damn sight harder not to play with than my xbox!

Every spare moment has been absorbed with reading.

It’s got to the point where my life is no longer split up into minutes, hours, days and weeks, but pages. While I run my bath I think I have time for twelve pages, between adverts is a two page stretch. Time is now counted in pages. Which of course becomes a little difficult when changing books, so it may well be time to demand that publishers don’t try to cram too many words onto a page and try to work between them to come up with the perfect number, with the perfect font size and just stick to that for every book. Harmonisation of words to a page is my new cause!

Anyways, this power reading over the last few months has become something of an obsession as I try to work through my quite considerable collection of books. I’ve managed to buy very few books this year, only about twenty, which isn’t too bad for me. But it still means I have about a thousand to go. Yikes!

Now, since the power reading marathon started I think I’ve managed to do a book in an average of three days. I can’t remember taking longer than four days to read a book this year. I have tried to stick to books of between three and four hundred pages. When power reading I find it’s more of a sprint to the end, so longer novels can get a bit sticky.

But this weekend I’m going to Copenhagen, to suffer the delights of Trivoli and another Scandinavian Capital City (last weekend away in July was to Stockholm). I know, poor me. My girlf loves all that is Scandinavian, and I can’t refuse a holiday opportunity, so on Friday off we go. But last Wednesday this left me with a dilemma. Do I start a nice short book and rush through it before we leave, or pick a huge book that will take me over the weekend. I pack light, and when I say light I mean minimal. We’ll be there for three nights, so I need three t-shirts, three pairs of underwear, three pairs of socks, a camera and charger, ipod and charger, phone and charger, toiletries (consisting of mini mouthwash, mini toothpaste, toothbrush, mini shower gel), and what I wear on the flight: jeans, t-shirt, waterproof jacket, sunglasses, trainers, socks and pants. I will take a small rucksack and it will be half filled, at most. So there is only room for one solitary book. Hence the dilemma.

I could probably have read a book in between, but I thought I’d use this opportunity to have a bit of a slow down, to take a break from the breakneck reading. So I chose an epic, a collection of novels, by the aforementioned King. Four Past Midnight, the paperback version obviously, to minimise weight in my rucksack. So I’m taking a break and having a rest, and will be intent on enjoying Copenhagen over the weekend, and once I get back and I’ve finished the epic collection of Mr King, I’ll be back on course for some more power reading, at least until I go to Berlin in October. Such a hard life!