Archive for new york

ONE CLICK: Jeff Bezos and the rise of amazon.com By Richard L. Brandt – Reviewed

Posted in Reviews, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 30, 2012 by stanleyriiks

I buy 99.9% of my books through amazon, and have done for many years. Most of my friends and family use amazon for most of their book purchases. It’s amazing to think that such a huge and pervasive company is less than twenty years old.

This short book charts the history of amazon and its founded Jeff Bezos, from his work for a hedge-fund in New York to his starting the company with two programmers in a house in Seattle, and his determination and optimism that his company would be the biggest in the world by doing one simple thing: giving the customers a good service.

At two hundred pages the book doesn’t have room to go into a mass of detail, it charts the company’s rapid rise amid the dot-com bubble, its brief profit to appease investors and its massive investments in future growth and expansion which see profits shrink every year, despite vast sales. Investors in amazon have had a rough time, despite it being the biggest online retailer in the world.

Brandt doesn’t offer much insight, and a Bloomberg Game Changers Special gives you almost as much information, but the book is interesting. Brandt’s crisp journalistic style makes for easy reading, but as the Kindle and ebooks begin to revolutionise the publishing industry, amazon’s major competitor’s in books fall by the wayside, and as the company continues to plough new fields, you can’t help but think the story is far from over.

An interesting book, but without the personal insight into Bezos or the financial and business management insight into the company.

THE STRAIN By Guillermo Del Toro and Chuck Hogan – Reviewed

Posted in Reviews, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 8, 2010 by stanleyriiks

Mmmm… A modern re-telling of the Dracula story, moved to New York, and with vampirism a mutating virus, turning its victims into blood-sucking fiends with proboscis-like extra tongues that act like blood-seeking whips.

For all its modern-twists, this is a basic vampire story in which the Master plots his domination of the new world, and travels on a plane which is the centre of the story for about half the book. The build up is very well done, but feels like the first part of a trilogy, as the plane lands dark, no lights, no power. When investigators go in to see what’s going on they find the entire plane is dead, including all the passengers. The CDC (Centre for Disease Control) is called in and the investigation begins with Dr Ephraim Goodweather in charge, that is until he is set-up by the Master’s mysterious human aids, and the entire planeful of bodies goes missing from the morgue, returning home to kill their families.

Some parts of the book work well, the build-up with the plane is intense and completely feasible. The second half of the book, as a rodent-killer traces the vampires to the World Trade Centre ruins, and our heroes suddenly become much better as handling the deadly undead, and the vampires act more like rodents or zombies than traditional vampires, and things start to get a bit stretched. Even more so when our unlikely squad of heroes head down into the vampire’s nest and kill most of them with a light-bomb, and almost everything goes back to normal. A rather weak ending.

For all its clichés, and reinventions, it’s still a fairly exciting book to read. With such a lack of originality in vampire fiction, this still rates as one of the better modern takes on the evil breed in many years, despite it feeling a little like a remake.

Not quite up there with Anno Dracula, possibly the best vampire novel since Dracula, but The Strain holds a lot of promise, despite its problems, and I certainly look forward to the second and third instalments to see where this will go.

DIFFERENT SKINS By Gary McMahon – Reviewed

Posted in Morpheus Tales Magazine, Reviews, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 27, 2009 by stanleyriiks

I wrote this review a few weeks ago. I think it’s a good review, and it will be published in the first edition of the Morpheus Tales Review Supplement. Before putting it up here I wondered how the space and distant I’ve had since reading the book had changed my opinion. Actually, it hasn’t. I think that Different Skins is an amazing book, both the stories are moving and emotion-evoking. You can’t help but be sucked into the worlds that McMahon creates, the stories actually touch you emotionally and intellectually. That’s what I look for in my life, I don’t just want to read a book, I want to experience it. That what happens with Different Skins. I cannot recommend this book enough. Go do yourself a favour and buy this book:

http://www.screamingdreams.com

This is one of those books that it is a pleasure to hold. It feels nice. It looks stunning, the cover and back cover by Vincent Chong are exquisite. Even the interior looks and feels nice, it feels like you’re holding a good quality book in your hands. It feels very similar to the limited editions from Blood Letting Press, except in paperback.

OK, so it doesn’t particularly matter what the book feels like, it’s the content that really matters. Right? But my point is that it does matter, holding a book that feels nice just adds to the pleasure. And this book can be judged on its beautifully subtle and disturbing cover.

Introductions are normally a waste of time unless they’re by the author, Tim Lebbon’s intro doesn’t stray too far from this. But he does mention that he read McMahon’s stories as a writer would. I completely agree with him on this, although I probably read as a writer differently to Mr. Lebbon. McMahon’s stories, two novellas in this collection, are packed with ideas and details and phrases that I wish I’d written, that I want to use in one of my stories. There are just so many “I wish I’d thought of that” moments!

The first story, Even The Dead Die, is a ghost story set in a London occupied by the dead, and it’s so rich and powerful that it made me feel like a teenager again, discovering my first horror story. Every page sparkles with ideas and brilliance, it’s like reading the very best of Neil Gaiman or Clive Barker. McMahon’s London is dark and nasty and brutal, but it’s also perversely beautiful. And so is his first story, dark, rich, tragic, powerfully and perversely beautiful.

The second story really shows the breadth of McMahon’s skill. In The Skin is a very different story, a personal tale of loss and neglect, a story of life. The story of Dan, who goes on a business trip to New York and upon his return, finds that his son is not quite the same, that his wife is slightly different. His family is not who they were before he left. The second story in the collection is as different as it possibly can be, this is a much more personal tale, without the glitter and glamour, the brilliance or the ideas of the first story. And yet it touches you more deeply, more subtly than the first story. Its horror is all the more real for its understated openness and its horrible sense of loss. My favourite story of the collection was Even The Dead Die, then I read In The Skin and had to change my mind.

OK, so the services of a proof-reader wouldn’t go amiss (although the typos have been spotted and will be fixed for the next print run), and there is no Charing Cross Road Station, but what you get when you buy this book is something much more than you will expect.

Despite its length and cost, it’s a 120 page book for the price of an epic novel at £7.99, that quality I mentioned earlier makes reading this book worth more than any price you can put on it. I was shaken putting this book down, mentally and emotionally shaken. Reading the first story made me feel alive, reading the second made me feel empty. It is that power that I search for as a reader. It is the quality of the production and the contents of this amazing collection which pushes it beyond insubstantial things like money, it’s like the Lord of the Rings, Anansi Boys, The Thief of Always, Weaveworld… reading this book is an epic experience that will touch you in ways that few experiences can.

I recommend Different Skins wholeheartedly and unreservedly, and will be seeking out much more of Gary McMahon’s work.

Fighting (2009)

Posted in Reviews, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 18, 2009 by stanleyriiks

Oh dear. Oh dear oh dear oh dear.

Pants.

This “Rocky for the myspace generation” is the biggest pile of pap I’ve seen in ages. I should have been alerted to the danger of watching this when I realised I was the only person in the entire cinema on a Saturday.

The story follows a two-bit hustler (Terence Howard going through the motions) who discovers a street kid, Shawn (Channing Tatum), who can fight, and basically takes him to the top of the street-fighting pile. There are four fights, the first of which is won by using a nearby water fountain, the second fight is ended by Shawn’s friend kicking his opponent and another friend being shot in the ear. Finally, the third fight arrives, and Shawn get seriously beat up before he eventually wins. The final fight is with an actual professional fighter, a mixed-martial artist and former medal-winning wrestler, and former team-mate of Shawny.

So, not only are we expected to believe that this dumb kid can fight his way to the top of New York’s bare-knuckle fighting championship in only three fights, but we’re also expected to believe that a professional fighter with his entire career at stake will take on a high-school rival in a fight on a rooftop. Also, anyone who’s seen The Ultimate Fighter will know that these guys are athletes and they train hard, yet Shawn does two minute of shadow boxing and a couple of push-ups on the subway and he’s ready to take on the best!

They also throw in a love-interest in the gorgeous form of Zulay Henao to tempt in more viewers. The only thing of any substance in the film, although the love-interest thread shows up the serious acting deficiencies of our lead (Tatum).

The best bit of the film, like trying to find a diamond in an Alaska-sized heap of shite, is the relationship that  develops between the young street kids, and not nearly enough time is given to this.

It’s not only the ridiculous story-line that doesn’t work. The fight-scenes are disjointed and ineffective, neither brutal enough nor exciting. In these days of the Ultimate Fighting Championships we need a gloss and slickness to our violence that is just lacking here. How can a film called Fighting, about fighting, be so bad at depicting fighting?

At one point in the film Shawn is all bruised in the morning and then miraculously healed in the evening. This just another reason to hate this film.

Rubbish of the lowest order, avoidlike the plague. Not even worth renting the dvd.