Fearful Symmetry

Film. Books. Comics. TV. Music.

Posts Tagged ‘Book

Backroom Boys by Francis Spufford

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Backroom Boys

Recently finished Backroom Boys and was a bit disappointed in it to be honest since its been portrayed as the best book on technology in recent years. Admittedly, for the most part, it’s an easy read and there is quite a lot of interest in it – especially the story of the rise of mobile phones – but instead of looking at the hard-core techy bits it mostly dances around the peripheries of its stories looking at the sociological and economic aspects. This is probably why it’s been so highly rated by none-technologists… it’s technology-lite.

When I was a kid I had a poster of Concord on my wall and I always thought it’s one of the sadder aspects of the new century that such an engineering wonder is no longer flying. Spufford’s book has a chapter on Concord… but instead of looking at why is was so ground-breaking in the first place, or the reasons it was stopped from flying so quickly, Spufford concentrates on some economic jiggery-pokery that allowed it to keep going in the 80s. Interesting in itself but I can’t help feeling it’s not the real story.

Written by Fearful Symmetry

July 24, 2009 at 10:07 am

Complicity by Iain Banks

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Book...

Book...

I first read Complicity in a day. The narrative locks you in from the opening words – in the second person, ‘you do this, you do that’, making you complicit in the action – and does not let you go all the way through the intense plot until the final downbeat paragraphs.

Cameron Colley is a hack journalist who tries to emulate his hero Hunter S Thompsom, if not in writing success then at least in narcotics consumption. He’s just cocked up his big chance at writing the big story. But now he has a hope of redemption. An anonymous ‘Deep Throat’ has been contacting him giving him clues to an apparently unconnected series of gruesome murders that point the way to the fact that the victims were all part of a conspiracy to create a shady arms deal. However as the investigation continues Cameron ends up having to confront issues arising from his own family history.

Banks underscores the action with a long scream of anger against the right wing establishments that allow such arms deals to go ahead, even to be encouraged. Although there’s been a lot of water under the bridge since it was written, these issues are still relevant, if not more so when considering examples like the references to the first Gulf War. Read the rest of this entry »

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July 17, 2009 at 10:42 am

Overtaken by Alexei Sayle

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Oh dear. A Christmas present I’ve just got around to reading, Overtaken by Alexei Sayle turned out to be a bit of a disappointment.

Kelvin, a property developer enjoys a good life with his five friends all in their early thirties. They go on holiday together, go to all the right clubs, plays, comedy shows, restaurants and other entertainments in and around Lancashire. But Kelvin’s self-satisfied life is smashed apart when his friends are all killed in a car crash. The driver of the truck that mowed them down shows no remorse so Kelvin plans to teach him some feelings. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Fearful Symmetry

July 15, 2009 at 10:42 am

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The Restraint Of Beasts by Magnus Mills

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Fenced in

Fenced in

There are very few books that make me laugh out loud. A smirk, a smile, a snort; yes. But a proper, full-on proper laugh… that’s very rare. The Restraint Of Beasts is one of them. I’d say it’s shot with a bullet right into the top ten of my favourite books of all time.

It’s also a book, that if you have any aspirations of writing anything yourself you should approach with care because it is simply quite brilliant, without being immediately obvious why. Simply brilliant and brilliantly simple, its minimal plotting and prose builds up to something both complex and subtle.

The novel’s narrator works for a fencing company. He’s put in charge of Tam and Ritichie, to long-haired work-shy Scottish labourers and sent down south to put up some high-tensile fences in the middle of nowhere. The foreman ‘hero’ is caught between his two idle employees and their endless fag breaks and the demands of his own demented efficiency-mad boss, Donald, back at head office giving impossible orders and docking wages for incomprehensible reasons. And then things take a swerve into darker and increasingly surreal territory with a number of odd deaths and then the later involvement of the Hall brothers, rival local fencers and butchers… There’s a touch of The League Of Gentlemen to the whole proceedings along with more than a bit of Kafka. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Fearful Symmetry

July 14, 2009 at 10:16 am

Matter by Iain M. Banks

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Mind over matter

Mind over matter

Matter is big; big on length, big on scope, big on plot and, for the most part, the action takes place on really big Big Dumb Objects. Heavily anticipated, it was the first Culture novel for a long while. If you are previously unaware of Banks’ work, he alternates between science-fiction and non-sf fiction as Iain M. and just Iain, and within his science-fiction work he just about alternates Culture novels – set in a the same post-scarcity/anarchic society – and other novels with different backgrounds. The Culture is a utopia and narrative conflict is provided where it rubs up against other less or just differently-enlightened societies.

Although definitely science-fiction, Matter’s plot begins in a setting with many fantasy tropes. A standard-model fantasy king is killed during battle. Only prince Ferbin sees that his father has in fact been murdered and he flees for his life with only a loyal servant for company, whilst his brother Oramen is set up as a puppet ruler by his father’s murderers.

However these events do not take place on a faux fantasy alternate Earth but are in fact happening on just a single layer of a very much science-fictional ‘Shell world’, Sursamen – a vast mega-structure consisting of world’s nested within worlds, like a Russian doll of planets. Naturally there’s a sleeping god at the very center. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Fearful Symmetry

July 13, 2009 at 11:11 am

Batman – Harley Quinn

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Batman - Harley Quinn

Batman - Harley Quinn

Somehow I recently became obsessed with the character Harley Quinn. For those that don’t know, she’s the Joker’s girlfriend. You know, the Joker from Batman. Didn’t know he had a girlfriend? Well he does now.

Visually distinctive in her red and black motley or jester suit with white face-paint and panda eye make-up, Harley Quinn was created for Batman: The Animated Series. Something that passed me by at the time, I have been able to catch up with via the magic of YouTube. Though she was at first only in the animated series she eventually moved over into the Batman comic proper.

Now I’ve never been a huge Batman fan but always found the mentalist villains to be of interest, especially in the comic, where they can be a lot darker than the ever could in the films, campy tv show or even the cartoon series. (Though the cartoon series definitely has charms of its own as is much better then either the films or earlier tv show).

Having an interest in the Joker naturally leads onto his girlfriend and what a character she is. A wise-cracking fool she wants to be a femme fatal but always falls short, usually over a banana skin. Locked into a love-hate relationship with the Joker that has very sinister undercurrents you can’t help feeling sorry for her. She comes over as forties heroine, gutsy but klutsy and with a self-deprecating awareness about herself – which reminded me of Katherine Hepburn in Bringing Up Baby. Some of the cartoon episodes are really excellent especially the origin story ‘Mad Love’ (Harley was originally Joker’s shrink) and the innuendo-filled ‘Harley and Ivy’ where she teams up with the vampish Posion Ivy. Read the rest of this entry »

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July 9, 2009 at 11:37 pm

Mu Mu – All hail the KLF!

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I’ve now moved this article to my new blog… please click here

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July 7, 2009 at 10:31 am