Book Review: The Children Of Húrin

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I got to cross another of the 30 books that I want to read by the time I turn 30 off my list, which puts me within spitting distance of the half way mark. This time it was with J.R.R and Christopher Tolkien’s Children of Húrin. Originally forming part of Tolkien’s Silmarillion and deals with some of the events of the first age of Middle Earth.

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From the get go I must point out that this book is really only for the Tolkien completists out there, as it adds absolutely nothing to the stories of Bilbo and Frodo and their quests for dragon gold and property destruction respectively. It shows the rise of the world of men and how they are shaped by dealings with elves and dwarves as well as the malignant influence of the evil being Morgoth and the constant fear of his servants burrows into the hearts of men, shaping their actions and deeds.

If you were expecting a novel, this book is recounted more as an oral history of the Children of Húrin rather than a first person narrative. Most notably it focuses on Húrin’s son Túrin, and the story follows the boy from late childhood spent in the care of the elves to manhood in the company of outlaws (paralleling the life of Aragorn in the lord of the rings trilogy) right throughout the the course of his life. As a story set during the early days of Middle earth it is ok, however it really is reliant on a lot of knowledge of what has gone before and after, so if you haven’t read the Hobbit, The Lord of The Rings, Unfinished Tales, The Silmarillion, Beren and Luthien, The Adventures of Tom Bombadil, and the 12 volume History of Middle Earth series, you may find yourself a little confused at times.

That being said the illustrations by Alan Lee were superb and really added something special to the feel of the work. But I don’t think it was enough to save it from itself.

 

Book Review: Adrian Mole The Prostrate Years.

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I’d read most of the Adrian Mole books already, so I knew I would get around to this one at some point, so when I made the list of books I wanted to read before I was 30 this one seemed like an ideal candidate for the list, as I had enjoyed its predecessors, and it was actually a book that I wanted to read.

If you’ve never read any of The Adrian Mole Diaries, I suggest you do, as they’re all brilliant, and this final volume of the series is no different. This book follows the deterioration of Adrian’s marriage, career, health, and family life, all as Adrian creeps ever closer to middle age, and the dreaded 40.

Sue Townsend has managed to paint an all too real look at life through the eyes, thoughts and ascribances of her protagonist. Just the way that Adrian goes through life is so real, and so tragic in its mundaneness that is just British and also massively terrifying. At the age of 39 and a quarter, Adrian is saddled with 3 children from 3 different women, a series of crippling debts, the wife who both resents and pities him simultaneously and a strong willed 5 year old with some bizarre fixations, all whilst dealing with the hell that must be living next door to his parents, not to mention a good whack of prostate cancer just for good measure. We see how Adrian deals with all this with the help of his friends.

One of the things I love about this series is that Sue Townsend sets the books in the real world. For example, Adrian’s financier half brother Brett, works in the City at the time of the 2008 financial crash, and lines that might under other circumstances be throw away text, are really cringe worthy, a good example being that Brett convinced Adrian to cash out his insurance policy and invest it in an Icelandic bank.

This is one of the high points of the whole series and for me highlights a great sadness at the fact that no more Mole will be forthcoming, owing to the writes untimely passing. But this was such a fun read, even if it did start to worry me, that I’m seeing one or two similarities  between myself and the erstwhile Mr Mole.

Film Review: The Last Jedi

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I’ll say it straight up now, I loved this film. I’ve heard a lot of negativity about it, but by goodness I loved it. I found the plot engaging and I started to see the characters of Rey and Finn become more rounded as individuals, which was a fantastic thing to see, as it was one of my main criticisms of The Force Awakens was that Rey was a pretty one dimensional character, so I’m glad this was rectified during this film.

Luke skywalker comes across as a bit of a little bitch, but that was to be expected, the whole thing adds a whole extra layer to the Star Wars universe and I was left rather satisfied, with a few questions, but that’s the beauty of knowing that there’ll be a sequel.

Overall 4.5 out of 5.

Book Review: Turn Of The Screw

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This one now marks off the 10th book from my list of 30 books that I want to read before I’m dead, that is to say 30 years old. Now this book was more of recommendation than something that I had an overwhelming desire to read throughout my life, but I gave it a go anyway.

It was a pretty quick moving story, all about the reaction to irrationality and unnamed dread, but I must admit that it really wasn’t my cup of tea, horror and suspense isn’t generally my bag, and in this case it wasn’t either. It wasn’t poorly written, but it just didn’t grab a hold of me the way that I had hoped for, and probably won’t be reading anything else by Henry James in the future.

Book Review: A Princess Of Mars

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A little while ago I came up with a list of books that I wanted to read before the time I become ancient (30) first on the list was A Princess of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs, a prolific American writer most well know as the creator of Tarzan. A princess of Mars is the first novel to feature his second most well known creation John Carter of Mars.

The novel itself is fairly short and is a prime example of the general pulp science fiction that was popularised in early twentieth century America and without giving away the plot does stick rather closely to the formula for pulp, of man from Earth winds up on alien planet, fights and then joins with the natives, rescues a princess and then saves the day. As an early example of the sort of pulp (originally serialised in 1912) that was floating about the market place in those days you can forgive it for seeming a little done to death over 100 years later, because you realise it was one of the first to do it.

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The writing style feels a little disjointed as it is written in the form of memoir, so Edgar Rice Burroughs has written it in the manner of memoir penned by Captain John Carter, who has a tendency to go off on tangents mid explanation, which does spoil the narrative, however I feel this may have been a conscious choice by Burroughs, as it lends a certain verisimilitude to the work, and it shows that only a really great writer would be able to write from the point of view of an amateur, that is to say terrible, writer.

My only main criticism is that whilst the world of Barsoom is a rich and vibrant world the secondary characters ring a little flat, and whilst the protagonist and his circle are explored the villains of the piece such as Tal Hajus and Sarkoja are lacking in any real depth and seem to be there mainly as plot accelerators more than as real characters.

Overall it was an enjoyable distraction I would give it a 3.5 out of 5 and pick up some the other books that make up the Barsoom series to find out the fates of Deja Thoris and John Carter of Mars.

Look out for more reviews coming soon. 

30 Before Thirty (Comics & Graphic Novels)

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I’m going to be thirty in just over 2 years and at this moment in time I’m OK with that (how I feel about it in 10 minuets is up for debate) but one of the things that I realised is that there are a fair few things I still want to accomplish whilst the career and social goals are somewhat out of my control things like films I want to see, albums I want to listen to and books I want to read are very much in my control, especially as I have 25 months to accomplish it. Here is a list of the Comics and Graphic Novels that I would like to have read by the time I’m thirty.

Grant Morrison’s 18 Days

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Camelot 3000

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Miracle Man: A Dream Of Flying

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All Star Superman 

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Preacher: Gone To Texas

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The Crow

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Sandman Preludes and Nocturnes

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Alan Moore’s: Saga of The Swamp Thing

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Marvel 1602

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Saga: Volume 1

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 The Order: Die Mensch Machine

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The Complete Scarlet Traces 

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Button Man

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Ronin 

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Superman: Whatever Happened To The Man Of Tomorrow 

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The Infinity Gauntlet 

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Amazing Spider-man: Kravens Last Hunt

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Promethea Book 1 

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Jack Kirby’s Fourth World Omnibus 

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Multiversity 

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Son Of Superman 

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Hellblazer: Original Sins 

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The Authority: Relentless 

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Hellboy: Seed Of Destruction 

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Doctor Who: Emperor Of The Daleks

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Death: The High Cost Of Living  

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JSA The Liberty Files 

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Alice In Sunderland 

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Daredevil Yellow

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The Tragical Comedy or Comical Tragedy of Mr. Punch

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How many of these do you think I’ll get done before July 21st 2019?

30 Before I’m Thirty (Books)

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I’m going to be thirty in just over 2 years and at this moment in time I’m OK with that (how I feel about it in 10 minuets is up for debate) but one of the things that I realised is that there are a fair few things I still want to accomplish whilst the career and social goals are somewhat out of my control things like films I want to see, albums I want to listen to and books I want to read are very much in my control, especially as I have 25 months to accomplish it. Here is a list of the books that I would like to have read by the time I’m thirty.

A Princess of Mars- Edgar Rice Burroughs 

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War and Peace- Leo Tolstoy 

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Ulysses- James Joyce 

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The Iliad- Homer

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Journey To The Centre of the Earth- Jules Verne 

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Frank Sinatra Has A Cold- Gay Talese 

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Three Men In A Boat (To Say Nothing Of The Dog)- Jerome K Jerome

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The Time Machine- H.G Wells

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Lolita- Vladimir Nabokov

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Animal Farm- George Orwell

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The Last Of The Mohicans – James Fenimore Cooper

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The Man Who Would Be King- Rudyard Kipling 

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Treasure Island- Robert Louis Stevenson 

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Stardust- Neil Gaiman

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A Connecticut Yankee In King Arthur’s Court- Mark Twain

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Adrian Mole: The Prostrate Years- Sue Townsend 

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The Fight-Norman Mailer 

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The Turn Of The Screw-Henry James

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The Stand- Stephen King

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Notes Of A Dirty Old Man- Charles Bukowski 

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Children Of Hurin- J.R.R Tolkein 

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Idylls Of The King- Alfred Tennyson

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Confessions of an English Opium Eater-Thomas de Quincey

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Little Women- Louisa May Alcott 

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A Little History Of The World- E.H Gombrich 

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The Mysterious Affair At Styles- Agatha Christie 

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Who Censored Roger Rabbit- Gary K Wolf

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Zen And The Art Of Motor Cycle Maintenance-  Robert M. Pirsig

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The Day Of The Triffids- John Wyndham 

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Winds of Winter- George R.R. Martin (Because surely this’ll be finished before the TV series)

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How many of these do you think I’ll get done before July 21st 2019?

 

 

 

 

Vintage Throwback: Mister Miracle#1

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I’ve been collecting comics for the best part of two decades now and one of the mainstays of that collection was the Giffen, Dematteis run of Justice League. About a year ago I finally completed that entire run, and picked up some of the sister titles that went along with it, like Blue Beetle, Booster Gold, Huntress, Martian Manhunter and Mister Miracle.

The second volume of Mister Miracle spun out of the Justice League International series at the beginning of 1989 and was written by one half of the JLI writing team JM Dematteis with art for issue #1 being provided by Ian Gibson.

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Mister Miracle (Volume 2) #1

The story goes into the history of the character Mister Miracle and this particular issue serves well as a jumping on point for new readers, it tells the origin of Mister Miracle (aka Scott Free), of how he was the son of Highfather ruler of the New Gods, who was traded to Darkseid, ruler of Apokolips in order to prevent a war, of how he escaped that hell hole with his wife Big Barda and escaped to Earth where he then became an escape artist, before joining the Justice League and then eventually settling in the suburbs.

And that is where this story picks up, with Scott Free trying to reconcile his personal life with his life as a superhero, it opens with he and his wife, and his assistant Oberon (a surly Dwarf) moving into a new home in Bailey, New Hampshire. Its interesting to see the newly wed dynamics play out, setting up a new home can be bad enough, without adding super heroics and villain attacks into the bargain. So seeing the problems that setting up a new business and making good impressions with the nosy neighbours brings up whilst coupled with maintaining a secret identity and running from the (para)demons of your past is a delightful premise.

JM Dematteis’ writing is its usual flawless prose, my olny criticism is that trying to fit in every detail of Mister Miracle’s past life and exploits into three pages of exposition was maybe not the best way to proceed, but I understand that there is a fine line between giving the readers the info on a character that was probably needed a bit more in the 1980’s, I mean it isn’t like today where you could just look up their fictional biography on wikipedia. The early villain reveal was a nice touch and didn’t detract anything from the final page cliff hanger that we were left with.

The Art is typical of the late 80’s/ early 90’s especailly at DC, there were a lot of line and colour was used quite liberally to good effect, Mr Gibson certainly knew his stuff when it came to pencils and managed to portray a whole range of emotion.

As a first issue, it really sets the tone for the rest of the series, that its going to be fun and hopefully wont take itself to seriously, and will use the rich backstory of the characters but wont be overly reliant on them, and will be able to stand on its own two feet and be its own thing, and hopefully wouldn’t be stuck in the shadow of the original Jack Kirby Series.

This post is part of a series that will review various things that may not necessarily be new. It’ll look at comics, films, books, audio dramas, band’s, CD’s, clothes and TV shoes from yesteryear, partly to fill you in on some gems you may not know about, but mostly because it gives me filler for days when I’m feeling lazy or hungover, or for when the creative muse has left me in its entirety. 

In Defence Of The Phantom Menace

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I’m going to get a lot of flack for this but please hear me out on this. Today I purchased a copy of Rogue One on DVD, but instead of popping it in the DVD player I decided to do the whole Star Wars saga, not including the cartoons and godawful Ewok movies. As this years Star Wars Day (May the Fourth get it) falls on election day (where I will be working harder than Jabba The Hutt’s roll on deodorant) on went the Phantom Menace and even before I got off the start menu, I was thinking how much I hate Jar Jar Binks.

And that was the problem, I was judging the whole film on this one annoying character. The story is actually pretty interesting, an unseen faction pursuing a political agenda through a war, which makes it sort of like House Of Cards in space, and this helps to flesh out the Star Wars universe. At times it does seem like BBC Parliament is covering the Galactic Senate, but again that goes a long way towards fleshing out the scope of this universe.

The action and effects serve in typical sci-fi style but my major qualm is that this supposedly takes place some 30 years before A New Hope, but the ships and weapons look more advanced and a lot sleeker, I know this is down to the advances in CGI and film technology, but from my point of view it would be like seeing a mobile phone in a film set in the 1960’s so that does tick me off a little, but is something I can live with. The pod race sequence is something that I have fond memories of from my childhood, not to mention the battle scene/ space battle/ light sabre three duel at the end.

Now on to the characters, we get a young Obi-Wan and his mentor Qui-Gon Jinn (played by able actors Ewan McGreggor and Liam Neeson respectively) who each portray a Jedi Knight acting as ambassador’s and later bodyguards and whilst their characterisation is a little 2 dimensional, you don’t really need to know more, because the films focus is on little Anakin Skywalker and Natalie Portman’s Queen Amidala. One missed opportunity however was Darth Maul, this bad dude could fight, and looked mean as all hell and whilst Ray Park’s fighting prowess really was put to good use, it just seems such a waste to have killed him off in the way he was (I can see why he was reincarnated in various spin off media).

But then it just comes back to Jar Jar Binks (and in fairness every other Gungan) from the voice and speech patterns to the overall clumsiness, to the just plain being stupid, Jar Jar is someone that you are automatically going to dislike, you are going to hate him and really just love to do it. Which makes it a little bit of a fitting end that you can pretty much lay every bad thing in the Star Wars universe at his feet thanks to his creating the Empire and all.

Whilst it is definitely the week point of the saga as a whole it still holds up as a film, I just think that it had to live up to the original trilogy and that was why it was judged so harshly, how could anything live up to those three films, and this is why I think the new films have it somewhat easier, as after the prequel trilogy the bar was set relatively low, thus giving the new films the appearance of excellence.

Book Review: Harry Potter And The Cursed Child

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Until about a week ago I had never read any of JK Rowlings  Harry Potter books, I’d seen the films, but I had never bothered with the books. I don’t really know what spurned me on to pick up the entire series but I did, and in less than a week I had managed to read all seven novels which I thoroughly enjoyed, there is such a depth that you don’t get with the films and it really expands the whole mythos of the Boy Who Lived. So after I put down my copy of the Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows, I almost immediately picked up my new copy of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child (pausing only to refresh my drink).

Straight up I have to say it isn’t a novel its a script. Many other reviewers (especially on amazon) seem to not understand that its a script for a play not, a novel. Being a script does mean a few things however, firstly, that you lack the depth of a novel, not that the script is lacking in depth of character, but just that you could tell that were it a novel it would be a lot longer, which brings me to the second point, that I managed to get through the thing in about three hours, again this is down to it being a script, not a novel.

So the story starts nineteen years after the battle of Hogwarts and the death of He Who Must Not Be Named, and focuses on the unlikely duo of Harry Potters second son Albus and his best friend, Draco Malfoy’s son, Scorpius. Both kids are misfits who are both haunted by the legacies of their fathers, and both are content to just sit back and coast through school with their heads down. For Albus Hogwarts is not the magical place that feels like home that it was for his father, its a cold and unforgiving environment where his actions will always be judged on his fathers.

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Its really a story about children trying to gain the love of their fathers and that pretty much is what sets this whole story into motion, is that Albus and Scorpius are trying to pay for the sins of their fathers. Its an interesting story about why the past should really be laid to rest, and shows that those that don’t learn from history are doomed to relive it over and over again.

The writing is a little hard to gauge, mainly because its a screenplay, but there are parts where it feels like its bad fan fiction rather than official canon, especially as it seems that everybody in Harry Potter world is married to the person they were dating in high school, (a horrific thought if applied to the real world), but other parts do feel as though J.K Rowling had a hand in them, for instance the main positions of power (Minister of Magic and Hogwarts Head) being filled by female characters.

Whilst it isn’t a patch on the original novels it is an enjoyable enough read and a nice revisitation  to the world of Hogwarts and the Ministry Of Magic, but I wouldn’t hold my breath for a film adaptation any time soon, but if you do have a hour of three to kill why not give it ago, if only to see how some of your favourite characters age.