Archive for narration

THE FURTHER ADVENTURES OF SHERLOCK HOLMES: SÉANCE FOR A VAMPIRE By Fred Saberhagen – Reviewed

Posted in Reviews, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 17, 2012 by stanleyriiks

What could be better? The world’s greatest detective and vampires. In fact, better than just your average vampire, Dracula himself.

The story starts in 1765 at a pirate hanging, told to us by Prince Dracula himself, in the prologue.

The story proper starts with the irascible Dr Watson’s narration as he and the great detective are requested to attend a séance where a wealthy family’s eldest daughter has previously been conjured. Their daughter died weeks ago of drowning while out with her fiancé and sister.

So far so good.

Saberhagen has Watson’s style down pretty good, and the story rolls along in the traditional style. But somewhere towards the middle of the book things begin to go awry.

The book switches narrator between Watson and Dracula, which far from adding to the story, is jarring and confusing. There is some overlap between the stories being told, and there is the constant “I, Dracula take over the story” every time there is a change, which grates. At times both narrators use the third person to describe themselves, adding to the confusion.

Holmes is a facsimile, a mere name, without any of the characteristic genius, the clever detection, or humour of the original. Dracula, although an aristocrat, was never a gentleman. Beneath his suave exterior lies the rotting heart of monster. Even at his best he is a creepy and chilly individual. Not so here, Dracula rivals Watson for pompous Victorian etiquette.

Despite the ruinous use of two of my favourite characters, I persevered to the end, only to find one of the weakest climaxes in the history of the novel, and everything tied up so easily it hardly felt worth the effort, without any ingenuity or integrity.

Although I have savaged, quite comprehensively, this book, I still found myself enjoying some small parts of it. It is after all, Dracula and Holmes, even if they are poor copies.

This could have been such a brilliant book, perhaps my expectations were too high, or perhaps this book doesn’t deserve the name of Holmes associated with it. I might try another in the series to check, but this definitely does not live up to the originals.

THE WASP FACTORY By Iain Banks – Reviewed

Posted in Reviews, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 21, 2010 by stanleyriiks

Oh my god! Fans of Watership Down should not read this book. In fact, fans of cute bunny rabbits, or pets of most kinds, should not read this book. It is damaging. It is brutal and twisted and absolutely marvellous.

The listverse has this book listed in their top ten most disturbing novels, and remarkably, I think they may be right.

Entering the world of Frank, a teenager who lives with his father on a small isle in Scotland, and who entertains himself by killing things, taking revenge, getting drunk and dealing with his crazy brother who has escaped from a mental hospital and is heading home. Frank also has some issues because his penis was bitten off when he was three years old while his youngest and now dead (murdered by Frank) brother was born. Frank is about seventeen, and has been a killer for about ten years.

The Wasp Factory of the title is another of Frank’s torture devices, where he puts in a wasp and kills it in some unique way, burning them to death, spiking them, and all manner of other imaginative ways. Each way telling him the future like some kind of murderous divining machine (Jigsaw would have been proud).

As we delve further into Frank’s thoughts, dreams, and history, through his first person narration, the twisted reality continues to unravel. This is truly an insight into a diseased and disturbed mind, but what makes it even worse is that Frank is a sociopath, not believing he is doing anything wrong. Quite frightening really, especially as he sees his brother’s nefarious activities in a much different light. Burning rabbits good, burning dogs bad; obviously.

Deviously clever, ridiculously evil, and remarkably disturbing. This is the type of fun that makes you feel immensely guilty for enjoying it. It should definitely carry a mental health warning.

THE SKY ROAD By Ken MacLeod – Reviewed

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

THE SKY ROAD By Ken MacLeod

Lately I’ve been spending a lot of time reading, trying to get through the huge stockpile of books I’ve managed to build up over the last twenty years. I’ve told myself I can’t buy any new books until I’ve made a dent in the three huge bookcases full I already have. I have a list ready of new books I want to buy: Drood, The Umblemished, Patient Zero… The list goes on. And on.

As Stephen King, and nearly every other successful writer, says: If you want to be a writer, you have to read a lot and write a lot. OK, so at the moment it’s a bit easier to do the former than the latter. I’m watching almost no TV, the house is a mess cos I’m not doing any chores (any excuse!), and I’m only watching about one film a week instead of one a day! Every spare minute seems to be taken up with reading, and I’ve been on a bit of a roll. In the last three months not one book has taken more than four days to read.

And then I come to The Sky Road.

This isn’t a book that can be read quickly. Unlike most modern novels it actually takes a bit of concentration, but when you put in the effort you do feel you’ve achieved something.

Set against the background of a post-apocalypse world, the people of the future are building a spaceship, their vehicle to travel The Sky Road of the title. Society consists of two very separate peoples, the Tinkers, a strange set of individuals who travel round the country and live free of care, but also use that strange technology called computers. No one else in normal society uses computers, afraid that they might be infected by the dark power.

When one of the normal citizens, Clovis Colha Gree, the narrator of half the book, meets and falls in love with a beautiful Tinker, he sets himself on a path of change and discovery he never could have imagined.

Interwoven with this is the story of the Deliverer, the person responsible for the almost-end-of-the-world that set humanity back on its chosen path.

Redolent with leftist politics and with MacLeod’s writing tight and concise, and filled with ideas, this book is a bit of a struggle to begin with. There’s so much in the densely packed pages that you need to concentrate a little more than you average SF novel.

King should take note of MacLeod’s use of adverbs; he’s a bit of a master and really shows what can be achieved with their careful use. It just goes to show that every writer has their own way of using language and we have to find the one we are most comfortable with.

At its heart this is a love-story and a tale of discovery. The backwards and forwards of the narration can be a bit herky-jerky and I felt the Deliverer’s story was a bit more exciting that the post-apocalyptic vision of Earth, but ultimately MacLeod delivers once again in his own unique style.

This doesn’t have the more futuristic setting of his other books, and I preferred The Cassini Division, but it made me look up Kazakhstan (where some of the book is set) on wiki and it actual made me think, something very few books (or anything else for that matter!) can do.

MacLeod is a strange but fascinating writer whose books compel you to continue reading and The Sky Road is no exception.