Sunday, July 31, 2011

Behind the blog: Bookshelves edition part 2

Welcome to week two! This week is one of my favourite shelves. It's a little eclectic but houses some of my fondest literary memories. 

On this shelf I have my graphic novels and mangas, my nintendo DS games and console, Sci-fi, horror and computer magazines (the computer mags are Tom's) and some of my children and YA novels. Littered around the books and book-like things are some souvenirs from overseas, drawing mannequins, my 21st key, a fishbowl full of matchboxes from around the world and a pewter cup marking my dad as rugby team champion for 6 years in a row.

Alice in Wonderland lunchbox and London Snow globe
Planet Hollywood Hong Kong and Caxton Brisbane matchboxes

A few issues of my favourite comic series
My 21st key and dad's Rugby cup

These shelves basically began as the place I dumped anything that didn't fit on the other ones and slowly it began to merge into the incarnation you see in the above pictures. As it moved from the shambles it originated as to the organised chaos it currently embodies it's become a favourite set of shelves both visually (I love the simple wood frame with the open back) and literary. When I'm in a reading funk I can always be sure that one of my graphic novels or kids books (one of my many Roald Dahls to be sure) will help me out of it.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

And the Winner is...

Congratulations Gabe (Gabriel Reads), Jason (Literature Frenzy) and Sophia (Sophia's Book Blog) you're the winners of my very first giveaway!

The winners were selected by allocating each of you the number aligned with you on the Google Docs spreadsheet and chosen thanks to the random number generator at

I'll be sending out emails to the winners shortly and should, for whatever reason, the winners decide not to accept the prize or not respond to my email within the alloted 48 hours I'll select a new winner using the same spreadsheet and random generator.

Thanks to everyone (all 11 of you!) who took part in my giveaway! For those of you who didn't win this time, hopefully I'll get a new giveaway soon for you to take another crack at!

Friday, July 29, 2011

Friday Fanart: Alice in Wonderland

Long before I read the Alice stories I had fallen head over heels right down the rabbit hole for the Disney production and many of the other versions that came and went on television and film. Later I discovered the books and fell even deeper for the magical tales. Even in the film adaptations, which lack the complexity and full-on whimsy of dear Mr Carroll's version, there is something that speaks so very clearly and wonderfully to children and remains so, long after childhood has faded away. There are a wealth of artworks on Deviantart that focus on the many incarnations of Alice and the occupants of Wonderland and I've selected some of the most creative, stunning and beautifully evocative images that grace the website. Please, please, please take a look a look at the original artwork via the links and take a look-see at the other wonderful work by the artists.

Alice and the Hatter by Somefield

Alice in Wonderland by Ulafish

Vintage Alice in Wonderland by Swiss Dutchess

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Review: Confessions of an English Opium Eater by Thomas De Quincey

 Confessions of an English Opium Eater
By Thomas De Quincey

Published: 1821

Synopsis (via Goodreads):
Describing the surreal hallucinations, insomnia and nightmarish visions, he experienced while consuming daily large amounts of laudanum, Thomas De Quincey's legendary account of the pleasures and pains of opium forged a link between artistic self-expression and addiction, and paved the way for later generations of literary drug-takers from Baudelaire to Burroughs.

I picked up this book one day while I was passing time in a bookstore because it was cheap and I was intrigued by the title. It's taken me a good year and a half to pull it down off my book and even then it was only the "Books I should have read by now" challenge that finally rekindled my interest in the short 100+ paged "confession".

I'd like to say I really enjoyed this one but unfortunately I really didn't. Theoretically it has everything I need, a non-fiction account of some deeply personal experience, insight into the life of someone caught in an addiction, an intelligent author and it's short. Unfortunately these aspects were only here in the vaguest forms and the writing style far out-weighed any positive glimmers there may have been hidden away under there.

I suppose there were two things that really bugged me about this book. First was the writing style. I'm always a bit iffy about reading texts from the 19th century because while some of my favourite books hail from that era all to often authors fall into that awkward and awful situation where they over-intellectualise and use 20 words where 5 would have done. De Quincey unfortunately fell into that category. His voice is beautiful and every now and then a quote of such perfection would dance across the page, but far too often it'd be clouded by buzz words (well as close to a buzz word as they had in in the 1800s) and intellectual self-promotion.

Not only did he use more words than necessary but he rambled on and off the path incessantly and it often became difficult to recognise why a particular anecdote was included in a text about a man and his drug addiction. The entire first fifty pages perfectly represent this issue. He states that he needs to establish a situation from his youth in order to best educate the reader as to how he became an addict. So for fifty-odd pages he tells of a troubled time in his youth when he ran away from school and lived (sort of) on the streets suffering from crippling hunger and the pains and illnesses that go with such a situation. When he moves on this past seems almost forgotten until he mentions that his dosage of opium increased when he began to suffer from stomach pains similar to those he felt when he was hungry as a teenager. That was it, that was as much of a link as there was between his troubled youth and his drug addiction at least that I could recognise within the convoluted writing.

This leads into criticism point two. I don't know the history of De Quincey and the nature of his drug addiction in the public sphere but the book read to me as though he was trying to clear his name after it'd been smeared by a link with drugs. Perhaps that is me reading too far into it but rather than really detail his drug taking experiences and the effects of the drug on him, which is what he stated the book was about in his introduction, he focused on the fact that he had taken far more than anyone else he'd ever known yet all the medical opinions of the side effects to mental and physical capacity had never troubled him, for the most part.

The beauty of books like Junkie by William S. Burroughs is that they provide insight into the life of a drug addict that you'd never come across in medical texts or psychology reports. It's dark, desperate and real. This was what I was expecting from this book but I received nothing of the sort. Towards the end De Quincey mentioned that after 18 or so years as an addict he had been clean for a few months so perhaps he didn't have the distance to objectively look at his position or perhaps he was too far away to provide those insights that Burroughs, Thompson and others provided when writing mid-addiction.

So I suppose to sum up my main critique is that while the focus of the story should have been fairly straight forward "I was a drug addict, this is what happened" it was far more convoluted, confusing and obtuse than that. And unfortunately the confusing language and lack of focus meant that the obvious brilliance that this man has is overshadowed and it becomes a chore to wade through in the hopes of a few well-tarnished gems. But they were there. From astute observations on the effects of drugs or alcohol on men (It is most absurdly said, in popular language, of any man, that he is disguised in liquor; for, on the contrary, most men are disguised by sobriety), to witty rebukes against men of Oxford (intelligent but coarse, clumsy and inelegant) and downright beautiful prose on the mazes that he meandered through under the haze of opium, they are all there under the the mess and confusion of De Quincey's story. I'll end this review with one of my favourite quotes from the books. It came towards the end where he spoke of the dreams that haunted him during the thickest part of his addiction and it's simplicity and evocative imagery is everything I had hoped for in this book but failed, for the most part, to receive.

I was the idol; I was the priest; I was worshipped; I was sacrificed. I fled from thr wrath of Brama through the forests of Asia: Vishnu hated me: Seeva laid wait for me. I came suddenly upon Isis and Osiris: I had done a deed, they said, when the ibis and crocodile trembled at. I was buried, for a thousand years, in stone coffins, with mummies and sphynxes, in narrow chambers at the heart of eternal pyramids. I was kissed with cancerous kisses, by crocodiles; and laid, confounded with all unutterable slimy things, amongst reeds and Nilotic mud.

My Rating: 2.5/5

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Giveaway Reminder

Just a reminder that my giveaway is only open for a couple more days. If you want the chance to win one of three fantastic books all you have to do is enter your details on a little form and cross your fingers and toes!

For entry requirements and the link to the giveaway form just take a look at the sidebar on the right, it's all there waiting for you!

Good luck!

Mini Review: Horror and the body, two books by Linda Badley

Film, Horror and the Body Fantastic
by Linda Badley

Published: 1995

What I thought: This book has been fantastically helpful with my study but zombies make up barely 1% of the content of it! Under the banner of horror Badley looks at zombies, monsters, serial killers, slashers and a myriad of other horror characters and examines them through a series of psychological lenses such as Kristeva's abject, Freud's uncanny and Foucault's clinical gaze. Each chapter focuses on another topic and area of horror film but they aren't disconnected, each chapter melts into the next superbly and makes for an interesting read even for someone who isn't a film academic.

My Rating: 5/5

Writing, Horror and the Body: The Fiction of Stephen King, Clive Barker, and Anne Rice
By Linda Badley

Published: 1996

What I thought: This book didn't really have any bearing on my studies, I picked it up because of the strength of Badley's original work. This book was equally interesting and detailed and moved the focus from horror film to horror literature. I don't think it would come as a surprise that Clive Barker's writing lends itself greatly to discussion in terms of the body and perhaps even Anne Rice, considering the sexualisation that vampires have encountered in fiction largely thanks to her novels. All three authors have several novels from across their writing careers (at time of publication) examined as to how the reflect or work with psychological and cultural theories on gender, body image and sexuality. An interesting read, academic but without the verbose and difficult language some theorists tend to favour.

My Rating: 4/5

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Top 10 Tuesday: Tackling the tough issues

Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created here at The Broke and the Bookish. This feature was created because we are particularly fond of lists here at The Broke and the Bookish. We'd love to share our lists with other bookish folks and would LOVE to see your top ten lists!

Pet Semetary by Stephen King
Tackling the loss of a child.

The Power of One by Bryce Courtenay
Tackling identify, independence and racism.

Candy by Luke Davies
Tackling love and drug addiction.

The Lives of Christopher Chant by Diana Wynne Jones
Tackling obligation and free-will.

The Dangerous Lives of Alter boys by Chris Fuhrman
Tackling love, life and parents at 13.

The Stand by Stephen King
Tackling good vs bad.

Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe
Tackling colonisation and cultural threats. 

Hell's Angels by Hunter S. Thompson.
Tackling preconceived notions and stereotypes.

American Gods by Neil Gaiman
Tackling belief and the modern world.

A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess
Tackling the complexities of personal freedom.

Monday, July 25, 2011

New Doctor Who trailer! New Doctor Who trailer! New Doctor Who trailer!

Monday Links

*My new favourite tumblr is Awesome People Reading. All your favourite authors, actors and others are shown reading books, magazines, scripts etc in a variety of locations and looking more than a little stunning and bookish. 

*I highly recommend Lorelai Vashti's amazing sensory blog experience Dress, Memory. Each Friday she uploads another picture and amazingly evocative tale of an experience in that outfit for our pleasure. Amazing.

*The Guardian Blog posted an interesting discussion post about authors and the books that won them accolades but perhaps weren't their best work. Personally I found the author of the post a little "I liked them before they were cool" and overly critical of some fantastic books but it was an interesting post, especially the comments. Thanks to Thomas Quinn for sharing the link on your blog!

*Speaking of Thomas Quinn, in an attempt to collate a top 100 books list a little less boring than the BBC list he's joined forces with Big Issue Scotland to find the ultimate top 100 books ever! For more info and to add your must-reads check out his blog and facebook page.

*Robert Pinsky wrote a piece for Slate about what should (and to an extent shouldn't) be in a book review drawing on the rather well-known and horrible review of Keat's Endymion by John Wilson Croker. Interesting read for all of us writing reviews on our blogs, do you think you stack up against Pinsky's 3 golden rules?

*In case you missed the announcement on Friday I have a giveaway on at the moment! Until next Friday you have the opportunity to win one of three books! Just check out the original post or sidebar for the rules and instructions and good luck!

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Behind the Blog: Bookshelves edition

I love bookshelves. They add so much character to a room and personally I don't think any room is complete without a set of them! So I thought that now that I've finished my favourite covers Sunday series I'd start posting a few images of my bookshelves (as I have quite a few) and tell you a bit about them. You may have noticed a few weeks ago I asked for advice on the blog, twitter and tumblr about how to organise my shelves so I'll give you guys a bit of an update of how that went as I go.

So this first set of shelves is really just the one shelf. I have an entire side of my living room dedicated to my shelves and this one shelf was one that came ready assembled when we moved in to this house in February. It's just a little display shelf but I use it to store my book series boxsets and a bit of pop culture paraphernalia. In order to get all the image into the one picture at a decent zoom level I had to create a bit of a collage. It ain't perfect but it isn't half bad either!

So on this shelf I have my Frank McCourt boxset (Angela's Ashes, Tis and Teacher Man), my Kerouac boxset (On the Road, The Dhama Bums, The Town and the City, Lonesome Traveller, The Subterraneans and Pic), my Douglas Adams Hitchhiker's Guide boxset and my Black books DVD boxset. Alongside the collection is a three-spouted Alice in Wonderland teapot from Tokyo Disneyland, an English mailbox money-box courtesy of my mum's last trip overseas and a framed picture of my sister and I as little kiddle-winks. Above the shelf is the production poster for the Christopher Salmon animated film of Neil Gaiman's The Price (In Production) which I received for sponsoring the project on kickstarter. 

I only recently hung this picture above my shelf as before it sat propped against the wall in my bedroom but I'm really glad I moved it to this location. Not only does it fill a gap that desperately needed filling but it really completes the space and stamps in fairly large letters who I am and what kind of reader I am. At least that's how it seems to me!

Stay tuned next Sunday for part 2 of my bookshelf peek, which will be the small set of shelves below this one that I fondly refer to as the purveyor of geekdom.

Friday, July 22, 2011

The "I Hit 100" giveaway!

Sound the alarms, or the trumpets or...I don't know do something loud and obnoxious! I have no idea how it's happened but I've hit the 100 follower mark! 103 to be precise! How about that?

So to thank you all for bearing with me while I tried to find my feet in the blogging world I've organised a wee little giveaway for you to enter. Now since I'm a struggling uni student it's a rather humble giveaway and comes direct from my bookshelf but I think the titles I've chosen are pretty amazing and they're all in brand new condition so all in all, not too shabby!

What are the books I'm planning to hand over to you, dear readers? Well they're three books from three of my absolute favourite authors and lucky for you happen to be books that Tom and I had duplicates of when we consolidated our libraries earlier this year.

1. The Bedroom Secrets of the Master Chefs by Irvine Welsh
If you've read my reviews for Trainspotting and it's sequel Porno you'll know this author is a favourite of mine. This particular book is deliciously dark and humorous and filled with Welsh's strong and interesting Scottish characters and commentary on aspects of current society and popular culture.

2. Let the Right One In by John Ajvide Lindqvist
An absolutely stunning tale of youth, love, relationships and vampires. Everything Twilight isn't and should have been. Stunning characters, superb settings and an outstanding story - a favourite of mine, I read it in one night, refusing to put it down!

3. Freakangels (volume one) by Warren Ellis and Paul Duffield
If you want to read me wax lyrical about the amazing-ness of this series you can read my review post (read: love letter) here. This is the first volume of one of Warren Ellis' longest running graphic novel series and an amazing mix of dystopia, relationships, shockingly good writing and mind-boggling illustrations.

So now you know the prizes, I guess I should lay down the guidelines. It's pretty simple.
-Open to all followers of Nylon Admiral, old and new.
-Open from now(22/7/2011) until next midnight Friday (29/7/2011) -my time (Brisbane, Australia)
-Each book goes to a separate entrant, I want to share the love around as much as possible!
-To enter all you have to do is fill in this form!

The rules are as follows:
-One entry per person, and you must be a follower of this blog. (Yes you can become a follower in order to enter the contest)
-Anyone wishing to enter the contest has to fill out the form attached to this post.
-You must provide your email in the form, but rest assured I won't be passing it on to anyone else and unless I use it to contact you about winning a prize I'll delete it once the contest is over.
-In the form make sure you list the books from 1 (first choice) to 3 (third choice) so I know which one you covet!
-The winners will be picked via a random generator and contacted via email within 48 hours of the contest ending.
-Once the emails have been sent out I'll give you 48 hours to respond, if I don't hear from you I'll send another email and wait another 24 hours. If I don't hear from you after that the prize will be allocated to another entry.
-I'll do my best to mail out the books to the lucky winners as quickly as possible, but please remember that there will be delays if you're in a different country to me.

Ok so I think that about covers it. This is the first google form I've created so if anything seems to be faulty or not working please let me know and I'll do what I can to fix it. You've got until the 29th of July to enter so spread the word (or don't if you want to keep the odds in your favour!) and good luck!

Fanart Friday: Khal and Khaleesi from 'A Game of Thrones'

Just two pictures this week, but my god are they good! Both feature the strong and indestructible Khal Drogo and his young and beautiful wife Daenerys, mother of dragons. When I started this series these two quickly rose up the ranks of favourite characters. At first glance Drogo seems impenetrable and harsh and Dany seems young, naive and timid. As the first book continues they both develop and form two interesting and compelling characters thanks to the bond that forms between them. I think these two pictures perfectly represent the ying and yang of their relationship, don't you agree? As always I have to thank the marvelous artists for letting me feature their work and implore all of you to click through the links under the images. The link attached to the title will take you back to the deviant page for each image and the link attached to the artist's names will take you to their personal website. 

Khal -Khaleesi by Mako-Fufu

Khal Drogo and Daenerys Targar by Ilias Kyriazis

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Unbound: A Writer Meets Reader Project

So thanks to the fabulous Stephen Fry I was sent via his twitter to the website Unbound. In it's most basic form Unbound is a website where authors (some well-known others brand-spankin' new) pitch their novel ideas and readers provide them, through personal donations, the opportunities to kickstart their project. According to the Unbound team this places the power back in the hands of the readers and authors and fosters a greater relationship between the two. Rather than have me explain anymore of this second hand I'm going to suggest you press play on the video below, where the Unbound team tell you in much more detail all the wonderful little details of this website in a nifty little cartoon.

I don't know about you guys but I think this seems like a charming little idea that I'm going to be keeping my eye on over time. Can you imagine how great it would be to have your name in a Stephen King, Neil Gaiman or J.K Rowling book as a vital contributor?! Now I'm not suggesting an author of quite that distinction will be making use of this website, but Terry Jones of Monty Python fame has just had a project successfully supported on the site so I think it is fair to say that this is a project that means business!

Anyway, I thought this was an interesting concept and I wanted to share it with all of you, especially because you're all the bookish type who I know would love the idea of supporting authors in this way! So check out the website and get a bit of a better idea of what they're trying to do and take a look at their tumblr blog while you're at it!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Review: A Clash of Kings by George R.R. Martin

A Clash of Kings
 (A Song of Ice and Fire #2)

By George R.R. Martin

Published in: 1998

Synopsis (via Goodreads): The Seven Kingdoms are divided by revolt and blood feud; beyond their Northern borders, the men of the Night Watch fight the coming of a great cold and the walking corpses that travel with it; on the other side of the ocean, the last of the Kingdom's deposed ruling house mourns her horseclan husband and rears the dragonets she hatched from his funeral pyre. This is character-driven fantasy—we see most events through the eyes of the sons and daughters of the Stark family, the once and future Kings of the North, whose father's judicial murder started the war. Martin avoids the cosy cheeriness of many epic fantasies in favour of a sense of the squalor and grandeur of high medieval life; there is passion here, and misery and charm

The bookstores around my place are still desperately low in stock of this series so rather than wait for the stock levels to rise I turned to a friend to borrow his copy. After waiting a fortnight I finally had the book in my hands and I devoured it in a day and a half! I couldn't help it! I meant to let it linger so that I wouldn't have to wait till I next saw my friend to borrow the next book in the series, but alas it was too tempting and delicious and I gobbled it all up. Before I truly get into the review I juts want to warn anyone who hasn't read the series yet that there will be spoilers from book one in this review. So if you plan to start the series at some point, sooner or later, and don't wish to hear any major plot points from the first book then turn back now! If you keep reading, well, don't say I didn't warn you!

Book two takes off immediately where book one left us. A year has now passed since King Robert made his way to Winterfell to make Ned his hand and in the time since much of the seven kingdoms have fallen to endless war, savage raids and crippling hunger. The peace and prosperity that blossomed (however weakly or deceptively) under Robert died with him, and the hope of reuniting past allegiances died with the murder of Ned Stark. Rob, now 15 and King of the North, continues to lead his men into battle against the Lannisters while Robert's brothers Stannis and Renly both put forth claims for the iron throne and butt heads. Discord and chaos rules the lands and in this murky atmosphere it is all too easy for sworn allegiances to crumble and for smaller houses to desire the power and strength of the Starks, Lannisters and Baratheons for themselves.

I'm so glad the second book maintained the level of awesomeness set in A Game of Thrones! Once the establishment of the characters and age old grudges had been well and truly taken care of in book one Martin was able to really raise the pace and amp up the action sequences. The fragmented story format that Martin uses to tell the story through the perspective of several characters scattered across the kingdoms means that you have a constant build of tension and action within each chapter before being left with a cliffhanger that has you desperate for the next chapter of that character to come along. Then you fall headlong into the next chapter and the build and flow and that cliffhanger! It makes for a very consistent and desirable build of tension and character arcs.

I mentioned in my review of A Game of Thrones that one of the most interesting parts of the novel was the pervasive air of deception and secrets, and if anything that has doubled in this book. The secrets are no longer contained within the Red Keep, instead the air of dis-ease has spread to the furthest reaches, and allegiances and oaths of fealty many centuries old are crumbling as men and women strive for their own slice in the pie that is Westeros. Added to this is an increase in magic across the realm. Long believed to be lost with the first men and the children of the forest it seems that Daenerys and her three new dragons are rekindling powers long thought extinct. I'm interested to see how this develops in the later books when Dany gets closer to Westeros and attempts to take the Iron Throne for herself.

There is one thing I really want to address, and that is the comments being made in reviews on sites like Goodreads about the quality of Martin's writing. Many seem to hold the opinion that Martin is a strong storyteller, but a poor writer. I completely and wholeheartedly disagree. When I'm reading the books I don't see any clumsy writing, there is no awkward or unnecessary exposition and I certainly don't think it lacks profundity. For me to agree with any of those points I would have had to be jerked out of the story as a result of some form of sloppy writing, but not once did my attention waver as I read the book. In fact the only thing that stopped me from sitting and reading it non-stop was a need to eat and to get enough sleep to be able to work the next day. Throughout the two books I've read so far Martin has demonstrated an incredible ability to weave sub-plots, build characters and pace an epic and almost exhaustively huge narrative. His writing is rich with metaphor and symbolism, and like J.K. Rowling every sentence seems to be awash with subtext, signals and signs. The dialogue between characters is genuine and interesting, and the structure of the chapters (as mentioned above and in my review of A Game of Thrones) is a well-developed method of delivering the information on the multiple sub-stories without muddying the narrative.

As for the claims that George R.R. Martin is the American Tolkein, well it's too soon to tell. There are books I love that I, sadly, know will never stand the test of time, and until several more decades have passed how can we truly know whether Martin will join the godly ranks of Tolkein? In terms of quality I do think Martin is a superb writer and a fantastic storyteller, and perhaps best of all is that when I read these books I don't feel like I'm reading a poor replication of Tolkein's masterful fantasy tomes. So perhaps he will one day ascend to sit up high with Tolkein and have fantasy authors strive to be heralded as the 'Australian Martin', or the 'French Martin' or the 'Swedish Martin'. If his books continue in the same vein that they currently have, I have no doubt that he deserves such accolades and I'll probably start crying 'Martin for king' along with the others.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Top Ten Tuesday: Books every teen should read

Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created here at The Broke and the Bookish. This feature was created because we are particularly fond of lists here at The Broke and the Bookish. We'd love to share our lists with other bookish folks and would LOVE to see your top ten lists!

I think this is a fantastic topic this week! Reading is such an important part of my life and as such I love to give recommendations where ever I can! I think your teenage years are important in determining your future reading habits. It may not be true in every case, but I think if you have a well rounded reading experience as a teenager you'll be more open to reading when you're older. So my main piece of advice would be to taste a bit of everything, try not to pigeon hole your tastes all in one genre (although that isn't necessarily a bad thing) and push yourself to read things from different times, cultures and perspectives. Reading is amazing, and the earlier you realise that the better!

1. Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling
- To broaden the imagination

2. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
- To see real bravery in action
3. Maus by Art Spiegelman
- Because graphic novels can be incredible experiences too

4. His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman
-To teach you to ask questions and seek answers

5. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak 
- To teach empathy and sympathy and that tears are OK

6. The Chrestomanci series by Diana Wynne Jones
-To open your eyes to other worlds and ways
7. Carrie by Stephen King
- Because high school can be a bitch

8. The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkein
-To see where fantasy was established and obsessions born

9. Anything by William Shakespeare
-Because they're bloodier, lustier and ruder than anything else in publication

10. The Slaughterhouse 5 - Kurt Vonnegut
-Because no other tale of WW2 compares

Monday, July 18, 2011

Monday Links- Harry Potter edition!

My blog feed is overflowing with posts dedicated to The Boy Who Lives at the moment, I love it! I saw the film last Wednesday when it came out in Australia but since I've decided not to post a review (at least at the moment) I thought I'd link you to some amazing reviews and discussion posts I've come across on the blogs and news sites. Link up your own in the comments if you want to share your Harry love around!

*The Youtube clip above is of the Potter Puppet Pals and they're pretty fabulous. I picked this one since it was pretty Snape heavy, and Snape was by far the best part of Deathly Hallows.2. They have quite a few floating around on Youtube so if you've got a bit of spare time, check them out!

*Thomas Quinn posted his thoughts on the altered ending in the movie on his blog, Thomas Quinn.

*Honey (Sniff books, not drugs), Brodie (Eleusinian Mysteries), Liz (Planet Print) and Sonya (The Story Queen) have teamed up and dedicated an entire week to all things Potter on their blogs. They have giveaways, reviews, personal memories and creative pieces, all of which are fantastic and will help keep Harry Potter alive for a little bit longer now that the movie is out.

*Andra over at Unabridged Andra has dedicated a post to Harry Potter and the impact it had on her growing up. A sweet and moving post that you all should read.

*This was the first 'review' I read of the latest film but my favourite geek/nerd/fanboy Paul Verhoeven. It perfectly summed up what this final film means to me, a girl who grew up with HP and really psyched me up for the final film. Give it a read here.

*Now for a little shameless self-promotion. My Tumblr, Nylon Admiral Illustrated, has been a little Potter heavy these last few weeks with gifs, quotes and pics so why not give it a look-see?

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Review: Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?
By Philip K. Dick

Published: 1968

Synopsis (via Goodreads): World War Terminus had left the Earth devastated. Through its ruins, bounty hunter Rick Deckard stalked, in search of the renegade replicants who were his prey. When he wasn't `retiring' them with his laser weapon, he dreamed of owning a live animal -- the ultimate status symbol in a world all but bereft of animal life. Then Rick got his chance: the assignment to kill six Nexus-6 targets, for a huge reward. But in Deckard's world things were never that simple, and his assignment quickly turned into a nightmare kaleidoscope of subterfuge and deceit -- and the threat of death for the hunter rather than the hunted...

Philip K. Dick is the perfect science fiction writer for people like me. I love science fiction as a genre, but when it gets super-sciencey describing the mechanical components of the doozer-watsit and the functionality of the howza-minx I usually have more than a little trouble visualising it in my head. Philip K. Dick, on the other hand, writes science fiction that focuses more on the characters and the events of the novel with the science taking a backseat, making it perfect for people who are new to the genre, or like me have a pathetic mind for visualising scientific doo-dads. (and remembering what they're called!)

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? is a sophisticated and complex tale of reality, free will, identity, paranoia and reality. Set against a desolate and damaged Earth PKD questions and investigates those themes by following the protagonist Rick Deckard through an exhausting day of his life as a bounty hunter for the San Fransisco Police Department. Set with the task of hunting down and "retiring" escaped androids that have returned to Earth from the new settlements Rick goes through a bit of an existential crisis. The androids have become so well made that the only way to determine that someone is an 'it' and not a (s)he is to administer the Voight-Kampff Empathy test which has been known to misread and Rick struggles with this idea greatly, as well as the necessity of retiring androids that simply seem to be searching for a more fulfilling life.

While Rick seemed to have trouble retiring androids I really can't say I would have had the same problem. The androids lack of empathy is really quite horrible, and when combined with the fact that the story is told from a human perspective (and therefore contains a bit of bias) it's really hard to feel anything for them. In a world where animals are held with the greatest regard (since many are now extinct or endangered) and the humans fuse their emotions and empathy together through an 'empathy box' the androids selfishness and lack of empathy and regard for life stands out sharply against the humans they're trying to blend in amongst.

A prime example of this is the sub-plot surrounded John Isidore, a 'special' who is unable to emigrate to Mars because he failed the IQ test. When we first meet him in the book he's suffering from an all-consuming loneliness that not even the empathy box can help. He lives alone in an apartment block built to house over 1000 people, in a suburb almost completely deserted of human life. He's mocked endlessly at work for being a 'chickenhead' and as a means of escape he throws himself into Mercerism, the religion tied to the empathy box, where you fuse with everyone else using the box and take part in Mercer's endless climb up a hill. From the start the reader is set up to care for him and feel almost protective over this innocent and almost child-like man.

Because of the isolation of his apartment building it turns out to be the refuge of three fleeing androids and almost from the start they take advantage of Isidore and trample over his emotions. Because of their superior intellect they constantly talk down to him or as though he can't understand them and they don't bother to hide the fact that they're androids because they think he's too stupid to actually understand or ever do anything about it. In one of the most upsetting scenes in the book John finds a spider in the hallway which is incredible as wild animals are extremely rare in this dystopian world. When he takes his treasured find in to the others they wonder why it has 8 legs and "surely it could live with four," so they decide to cut off the legs and force it with a flaming match to walk on it's remaining legs. They show no concern at Isidore's distraught reaction but perhaps most disturbing of all is that they aren't particularly interested in finding out if it can walk with only four legs, in fact they seem rather bored by the whole thing, they simply do it because they can.

The androids are important to the story and it is the juxtaposition between them and the humans that paves the way for many of the themes, but at the core it is a story about Rick. He's the protagonist for a reason, his battle about killing androids is only one symptom of the greater existential crisis he's going through. He struggles to understand his wife who seems content to sit in a 6 hour depression rather than dial a button and have a synthetic emotion replace it. He envies and despises his neighbour for owning a rare and authentic pet horse. He has no trouble killing male androids, relishes it even, but shows empathy towards certain female andys. He values empathy and unity highly but avoids fusing with everyone else on the empathy box. He seems empty and constantly hunting for something to fill that void. It makes for an incredibly interesting protagonist, and also a fairly unpredictable one.

The story is a slow-burner. It starts off slow, feeding you a few words that gain importance later (Mercerism, Andy) and introducing you to the depressive lows that both John Isidore and Rick Deckard live amongst. As the day progresses the pace quickens and builds and more details emerge until suddenly you reach a crescendo of plot and character and action and... well I'll let you get there yourselves. It's a great story, quick (my edition was 194 pages) and chock full of big characters, interesting action and meaningful messages. A must-read.

My Rating: 4.5/5

Friday, July 15, 2011

Fanart Friday: A Clockwork Orange

Welcome to another week of Fanart Friday! I'm sure I've raved about A Clockwork Orange once or twice on this blog, but in case you've missed my previous posts full of praise I'll recap. This book is one of my absolute favourites and probably one of my most recommended. The protagonist (antagonist?) Alex is one of the most amazingly crafted characters I've ever had the pleasure of reading, he's complex and interesting and highly addictive. (if you've read the book I'm sure you'll understand!) The best thing about the book though? That'd be Nadsat, Anthony Burgess' insanely creative and down-right awesome language that mixes Cockney English with Russian and a couple of other things. In case those three sentences aren't enough to convince you this book is a bit of wickedly goodness that you must get hold of, perhaps these art pieces inspired by the book and the Kubrick film adaptation will. As always I highly recommend clicking through the links under each image because these delightful artworks are only the tip of their creative icebergs. 

By Chris Kuchta
By Rusty Shakelford

'The Clockwork Marauders' by Maeuschen27
'Total Drama Clockwork Orange' by 3hu8

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Review: Dolores Claiborne by Stephen King

Dolores Claiborne
By Stephen King

published: 1992

Synopsis (via goodreads): For thirty years, folks on Little Tall Island have been waiting to find out just what happened on the eerie dark day Dolores Claiborne's husband died--the day of the total eclipse. Now, the police want to know what happened yesterday when her rich, bedridden employer died suddenly in her care. With no choice but to talk, Dolores gives her compelling confession...of the strange and terrible links forged by hidden intimacies...of the fierceness of a mother's love and its dreadful consequences...of the silent rage that can turn a woman's heart to hate.

When I was studying literature at uni I used to debate (read: argue) with classmates about authors like Stephen King. Their argument was basically that since he has made lots of money from his books, they can’t possibly be of any substantial quality. I’m not going to go on about the stupidity of that kind of thinking, but I wish I’d had a copy of this book with me at the time because I wouldn’t have needed any words to refute their claim, this book would have said it all for me.

Delores Claiborne was a book I came to knowing nothing about it. I hadn’t seen the film, I hadn’t read reviews or articles on the book and the back cover barely gave any information into the story. I picked it up at a sale purely because it was a Stephen King book and I’ve always had a good relationship with his books. I loved going in to the book that way because I feel like I came out the other side with so much more.

I've always loved Stephen King's ability to create real people in his books, not just characters, and Dolores Claiborne is perhaps the most successful of his books in this regard. Narrated in a stream of consciousness ramblings the story is told in the colloquial voice of 65 year old Dolores Claiborne and the success of it really does hinge on the whether King can successful adapt his writing to that voice. There is no clear beginning, middle or end, instead it weaves back and forward through her life focusing on one thing then skipping forward twenty years, or scurrying back to a childhood memory.

This narration is Dolores' sworn statement at the Little Tall Island police station where she is trying to prove that she did no kill her elderly employer Vera Donovan. In order to prove that she couldn't possibly have been responsible she has to tell the full story of the two women's relationship, and the events that lead to her murdering her husband twenty-odd years earlier. While there had been whisperings that the death of her husband was of her doing, she'd covered the 'accident' well and it is only during this interview that she lifts the lid of the sordid and dark tin of memories that she's kept hidden for all these years.

Because the narration is in a stream of conscious style it is very unique in terms of voice. While she's recounting some of the most awkward, upsetting or terrifying experiences of her life it remains quite conversational. She pokes fun at her age or at herself when recounting a moment of stupidity that happened 30 years earlier and she frequently interrupts her story to ask the police officers if they remember ol' so-and-so, or if they're keeping up, or if she can perhaps have a swig from the Jim Beam bottle she knows is hidden in the detective's desk drawer. The language is light and dotted with delightful little colloquialisms that are unique to people of that age, from that era and from that part of the world.

Dolores' voice is so rich and warm and nuanced that I kept forgetting that I was reading a book by a man who would have been pretty young at the time of writing. There is no hint of King in the book at all, instead there is a sassy, quick-witted woman with no capacity for nonsense or stupidity who sweeps you up with her unfortunate life story. Like I said before, this book is one of the most successful, in my opinion, examples of King creating people not characters and it's probably one of the most experimental for many of the same reasons. It differs greatly from most King books in terms of style and content but it retains that inimitable ability to create characters that walk right off the page, sit down next to you and tell the story to you first hand.

I'm not going to talk about the story at all because I'd like to give you guys the opportunity to come to this book with as clean a slate as I did because I really think it had something to do with why I enjoyed this book so much. All I will say is that this book does a great job of showcasing the difference between outside and inside views as Dolores calls them. As Dolores begins to recount some aspect of the past she'll usually mention what the people on the tiny island thought or gossiped about on the subject, before peeling back the layers and giving you a far more detailed and complex issue than you'd ever guess from an outside perspective. I'll also add that the 'surprise' towards the end of the book really did surprise me, I never saw it coming but it pulled the entire story together and gave such an amazing feeling of completion.

Overall I was really happy that I found this book and I'll now have to look for Gerald's Game which is this book's companion piece (the two women are linked very briefly during a solar eclipse) and I assume is written in a similar style. While I really enjoyed it I doubt I'll be reading it a second time, I think part of the appeal of this book is learning everything as you go along and I'm just not sure it'd be worth a second read. That said I'd definitely recommend this book to everyone to read, especially if you're one of those Stephen King skeptics I dealt with at uni!

My Rating: 3.5/5

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Harry Potter Countdown: An end of an era and a challenge!

Each Wednesday until Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows part 2 comes out I'm going to dedicate a post to an aspect of the series. Anyone who wants to join in is welcome, just let me know in the comments!

Today's topic is: Writer's Choice!

So here we are at the final Harry Potter Countdown post and the day (at time of posting) I get to watch the final installation of the epic and beloved Harry Potter series. I wanted to do something a little special for this post and have it specifically tie in with the conclusion we are all so soon to see, and I think I may have found a topic to do it justice.

See, I really enjoyed most of the final book but that horrible final chapter really put a dampener on it for me. I always say that I'll skip it when I next read the book, but it doesn't seem right to finish with an entire chapter still sitting there waiting to be read so I read it and then feel like tearing out my hair. So since the conclusion of the film is looming which signals the end of my childhood, I thought I'd concentrate on the beginning of their adult life too, and write a 5 years later bio for some of my favourite characters. I should make it clear here that these are all works of my imagination and while I've taken some facts (like Quidditch team names) from the Harry Potter series or the other book released about the series, most of it is complete fabrication on my part.


Harry Potter:
Harry still has people turn around and stare whenever he walks past them on the street, but nowadays it's rarely because of his role in saving the world from Voldemort. The story ran rampant across the Wizarding Press Network for a solid six months before it began to calm down, but once it petered out Harry seemed to have access to a life of solitude and normality that he was quite unused to. In a bid to escape the Quick-Quills of looming reporters Harry spent the first year after Voldemort's death travelling the world, the more hidden and secluded from European news the better. Ginny accompanied his for the first month during her summer holidays, but it quickly became evident that their holiday styles clashed dramatically. Seven years of fighting dark magic and dastardly villains made lying on a beach for 6 hours rather difficult, and after one month and countless petty arguments they decided to take a break until Harry made his way back to England in 10 months time.

After a year avoiding all but the most obscure and old-fashioned of magic communities Harry craved the one part of magical life that had come to him easier than breathing. After two months of intensive training back in England Harry was signed up to the junior side of the Caerphilly Catapults (Wales) where he quickly proved he was more than just "the boy who lived". At around the same time that he started playing for the Catapults Ginny began training with the Holyhead Harpies (Wales) and they decided to rekindle their faltering relationship. It continued shakily for another year until Harry was offered the opportunity to captain the Toyohashi Tengu (Japan) on an unprecedented pay level. Their distance, even with their magical transportation options, proved too much and 2 and a half years after Voldemort's defeat they decided to end it for good.

At this point in time Harry is still captain of the Tengu, but after a stupendous turn as seeker in the Quidditch World Cup playing for England there are at least 10 different teams from across the globe trying to encourage him to switch to their teams. There is no news yet on whether he'll move on somewhere new but with the strength of the Australasian branch of Quidditch growing each year there is every possibility that he'll stay where he is, or at the very least move to a team within this region.

He has spoken several times with press about his future plans after retirement. It seems a coaching or commentating job is low on his career aspirations and he's considering a move into the Aurors (which happily takes new recruits up to the age of 30) among other varied positions.

 The Weasley Family:
The death of Fred shook the entire Weasley family, but they wouldn't be the family we know and love so dearly if they didn't bounce back with their usual strength and resilience. In the chaos that reigned over the Ministry after Voldemort's final demise Arthur decided to end that chapter of his life and move on to something that'd make him happier and keep better hours. With the help of George as a silent partner, Arthur opened his very own muggle emporium in Diagon Alley (while the properties were still nice and cheap) where he spends his days extolling the cleverness of muggles to his customers as he attempts to sell muggle artifacts and operate an artifact repair shop in the back room. The gold isn't pouring in, but with the destruction of Voldemort people seem more open to quirky muggle items so as well as keeping afloat he even managed to spring for a holiday to Australia with Molly to visit her distant family members?

Molly struggled with the death of Fred but she was kept busy with the arrival of Remus and Tonk's son Teddy for her to care for. Andromeda, still struck with grief over the passing of her husband and daughter, didn't feel up to the responsibility of caring for him alone, so she moved into a cottage built 300m from the Burrow. The two women have helped each other greatly through their grief and have showered more love and attention on young Teddy than he could ever require. United through grief and a shared motherhood, the two women are inseparable and proving to be more than a little trouble for Arthur.

George kept Weasley Wizard Weezes open in Diagon Alley, which he runs with Lee Gordon, but held off on opening a second store in Hogsmeade until last year. For the first year or two after Fred's death friends and family of George thought that the spark seemed to have left George's eyes, and it's true  that he didn't create any new or unique jokes or tricks in that time, but a reconnection with Angelina Johnson brought the sparkle back. They're currently engaged and have just bought a house together in Godrick's Hollow.

Bill, Charlie, Ginny, and Percy all remain happy and healthy and moving upwards in their careers. Though they've all spread across the country for work or new families there is a standing invitation for Weasley family dinner every Sunday and more often than not they all make it back for it each week. 

Neville Longbottom:
The transformation Neville went through in his final year at Hogwarts went unnoticed by no-one and while many expected him to move on to a ministry role as an Auror or to take on a role as a professor, he instead decided to train as a herbologist, dedicating his efforts towards hybrid plants which could potentially cure or aid previously incurable maladies. Currently he is working for the herbology department attached to St Mungo's and is working on a natural antidote to aid werewolf victims' (like Bill) scars.

After an impromptu reunion of the DA last year Neville decided to open a DA style defence class as a form of rehabilitation for St Mungo's inhabitants. His natural leadership and understanding of the difficulty of successfully learning the spells and charms has made him a brilliant teacher and he's considering opening up classes for the general public on one or two other nights in the week. Since there is no current threat of dark magic the lessons are more for fun and variety but Neville maintains that constant vigilance is key to survival, and what's fun now may save your life down the track.

In his spare time Neville kicks back in his flat near the hospital with his flatmate Luna and occasionally takes in a show by the latest witch or wizard band doing the rounds.

Luna Lovegood:
Aside from living with Neville and helping out with his classes now and again Luna is working alongside her father on the Quibbler. After the decimation of their house Xenophillius opted to move to larger premises with a separate little cottage for himself attached to the back. Luna joined him on her first year out from Hogwarts and has shown a proficiency for writing insightful and delightful articles on a variety of topics, raising the Quibbler even higher in the esteem of the wizarding public. The Quibbler has taken on a new direction sparked by the popularity of the tell-all Harry Potter story so many years ago. While there are still a fair few articles dedicated to Dinkelwitz and Shrunder-roots the magazine the mission statement of the magazine is to never let a tyrant like Voldemort harness the press again, the truth will be told and no amount of threats will change that.

Hermione Granger (and a little Ron thrown in for good measure):

The first thing Hermione did when the dust settled and Voldemort's death was verified was head to Australia and search for her parents. Using her exceptional witchcraft she managed to track them down to a small town in rural South Australia and return all their previous memories to them. Ron had elected to stay with his family while they dealt with Fred's death, and after two months spent touring Australia with her parents Hermione raced back to London and into Ron's arms. Hermione went back to school to finish her seventh year and after a fair bit of cajoling she managed to convince Ron to finish his education with her. Together they were elected head boy and girl and Ron was elected captain on the truncated Quidditch season (even with magic the pitch took awhile to recover). These two honours, combined with the three 'Outstanding Sevice Awards' he now had in the trophy room, meant that once and for all he could finally step out of his brother's shadows!

After school Hermione went on to work in both the international relations (where she stood as a silent ambassador for the UN- only the UN Secretary knew of her role) and muggle relations departments where she cohesively organised a more logical and smooth structure of roles. She's become an integral asset to the Ministry, and while friends and colleagues have suggested that she set her sights at the top job she assures them she's happy in the area she's in. Her work in the Ministry keeps her close to Ron, who is still in training to be an Auror, and together they travel to and from their tiny little flat (though Hermione has remedied that problem slightly-thank god) in the centre of London. Apart from their usual silly arguments, the most popular being who came on to whom (always started by Ron), their relationship is almost sickeningly strong, but I suppose surviving the Dark Lord together will do that!


I had hoped to get a few more bios done (Hagrid was to come next) I've run out of time and I'll have to leave it as is. If you want to take part in this final week and are hunting for something to do then consider writing a couple of bios for your favourite characters! Feel free to tell me if you feel like one of the characters should be doing something different with their lives, I know that a few of my careers fly in the face of what J.K has said they end up doing during interviews. Ultimately I just picked careers that seemed right to me, careers that matched their personalities and hobbies and skills. I also made it only 5 years because I didn't really want to have to think about families (the original final chapter ruined that for me) but if you decide to write your own bios don't feel like you have to comply with that! Talk about what they're doing as 100 year olds (do they still catch up regularly?) or what they do directly after the conflict with Voldemort, or anything really! I'd love to hear your personal insights into what lays in store for these wonderful and familiar characters.

Finally, a big thanks to everyone who has taken part in the Harry Potter Countdown or has read and commented on these posts. They've been a delight to write each week and I'm a little sad that this marks the end of them. If you have any ideas of another series or theme I should use for a similar post challenge/feature let me know because I'll definitely have a massive void to fill in the coming weeks!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Top Ten Tuesday: Authors I'd love to meet

Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created here at The Broke and the Bookish. This feature was created because we are particularly fond of lists here at The Broke and the Bookish. We'd love to share our lists with other bookish folks and would LOVE to see your top ten lists!

Last year when I worked at the Brisbane Writer's Festival I was granted the great honour to work in the Author's green room. While I topped up sandwiches, chocolate biscuits and the coffee pots I was encouraged to mingle with the authors and their publishing contacts. I may have been working 12 hour days and coming home to 6+ hours working on a graphic novel I was writing for a class but I felt like I'd died and gone to heaven! Jostein Gaarder (Sophie's World), Val McDermid (Trick of the Dark), Jake Adelstein (Tokyo Vice), Mian Mian (Panda Sex), Ace Bourke (Christian the Lion), Simon Winchester (Atlantic:A Biography of the ocean), John Birmingham (He Died With a Felafel in His Hand), Chris Womersley (Bereft), Joe Bageant (Rainbow Pie) were all there (plus so many more!), although I didn't get to talk to them all, sadly. I felt like I imagine people feel around actors and musicians- my heart was racing, I struggled to speak and I felt like throwing myself at their feet and shrieking "I'm not worthy! I'm not worthy!"

Even though I've come close to some fantastic authors I've never had the chance to meet my "big 10". These are authors that constantly inspire and amaze me with their creativity and are like gods in my mind. Some I'll never get the chance to meet since they've passed away, but all 10 are the authors who have impacted on my life the most and could never be replaced. In no particular order I'd like to introduce you to the faces and names of the Top 10 authors I'd love to meet!

Hunter S. Thompson

William Shakespeare

J.K. Rowling

Irvine Welsh

Roald Dahl

Diana Wynne Jones

Douglas Adams

Kurt Vonnegut

Neil Gaiman

Warren Ellis

Monday, July 11, 2011

Monday Links

*Rachel Toor wrote an article for The Chronicle of Higher Education about the best ways to go about the tricky situation of editing a friend's manuscript, though I think the advice could probably be used in all tricky areas of a friendship.

*A friend of mine tweeted this article/blog about the creepiest abandoned towns across the globe. It makes for some interesting reading and sparked off quite a few dystopian story ideas for yours truly.

*George R.R. Martin's Not a Blog makes for some great reading. 

*The inimitable Warren Ellis has a new project out! SVK is "Franz Kafka's Bourne Identity," and it is delivered in a format never before attempted which pushes the boundaries of comic book storytelling. The website describes the graphic novella as being about "looking - an investigation into perception, storytelling and optical experimentation." In addition to the regular story there is an invisible ink used that adds depth and layers when the reader scans the pages with the complimentary torch. I can't wait, I think it'll be an incredible experience and I'm fervently awaiting my copy in the mail. Their first run have sold out but you can sign up for the second release at their website, or just head over there to check it out in some more detail.

*A friend of a friend is creating a book of photographs for her university honours project which beautifully encapsulates the new love between her and her boyfriend. Her pictures are honest, visceral and completely stunning and she's displaying many of them on her Tumblr blog, Love and Vulnerability. Take a peek and I can guarantee you'll quickly become enamoured with the subjects.

*New Torchwood starts soon! In honour of it's impending awesomeness I present you with a Youtube clip of John Barrowman (Captain Jack Harkness) dancing to Beyonce's Single Ladies. I'm not going to lie. It's pretty fantastic.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Fallen superheroes

I came across this artist on the Society 6 website and just had to share his work with you all. Known as Boneface, this artist has created an extraordinary series of pictures that show the infallible, superior superheroes we all know and love looking a little worse for wear. 

Friday, July 8, 2011

Fanart Friday: A Series of Unfortunate Events

When my sister was about 9 she won a competition and was presented the first three books in this series. She was quickly enamoured by the charming and witty tales of the Baudelaire siblings, and urged the rest of us to give the books ago. They really were quite fantastic, not only was the writing funny, engaging and addictive but the physical books, with their uneven, thick pages and beautiful hard covers, were a wonderful addition to our family bookcase too. I can barely remember the film that came out based on the books (I think perhaps it was book 1 and 2 combined?) but there are many details of the wonderful siblings, their eccentric friends and their adventures that are still emblazoned in my mind. Here are just a couple of pictures that I thought picked up the essence of the wonderful series, as usual I think you should all click through the links to get a nice and big view of the fantastic artwork and take a look through the artist's other work while you're there.

A Series of Unfortunate Events by Keithsith

Count Olaf By Freakshow6

A Very Unfortunate Portrait by Rose-Colligan

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Discussion: Classic/Monster Hybrid Fever...will it last?

Hot on the heels of the vampire revival thanks to Twilight was the monster/classic hybrid genre kickstarted by Pride and Prejudice and Zombies author Seth Grahame-Smith. For those of you who perhaps have been living under a rock or ignore that side of the book store, PPZ took Jane Austen's classic Pride and Prejudice and threw in a bunch of zombies. OK, so it's a little more sophisticated than that, but that gives you the basic gist of it.

I think the book did far better than anyone expected it was possible for it to do, and as a result more of these hybrid texts have sprung up all over the place. Sense and Sensibility was merged with sea-monsters, Abraham Lincoln became a vampire hunter, Anna Karenina was really an android and War of the Worlds now comes with more blood, guts and zombies. The quality between the titles seems to vary greatly when you read the blurbs and reader reviews on GoodReads, but I guess that can be expected when people attempt to churn out books quick enough to stay on top of the trends.

So what I really want to discuss is whether this is a genuine genre or just a bit of a gimmick?

I read PPZ last month and thought it was pretty good. I'm not exactly what you'd call an Austen fan so it was the inclusion of zombies (and the positive reviews I'd heard) that finally pushed me to finally try and complete this book. I thought that Grahame-Smith managed to weave his zombie bits into the original text really well without sacrificing Jane Austen's famous prose, and while it felt gimmicky at times I thought it actually added an extra layer of depth to the characters and the central message of the novel.

I enjoyed it and it did get me to read a book that otherwise probably would have remained unread until my death but I didn't enjoy it enough to run out and buy any of the other hybrid texts. I guess it was a bit of an experiment in creativity and hybridity but it doesn't really feel like a genre that "has legs" if you know what I mean. I think it beautifully exemplifies life in the 2000s and the "vintage revival" that has been going on in clothing, architecture and interior design lately but I don't think it's got enough variation or room to evolve to last more than a couple of years. I mean what are they going to do, simply rewrite every classic work in existence? I simply can't see how they could keep this current trend of books new and fresh and original.

That said I don't want to knock the authors. After reading PPZ I really appreciated how much work Grahame-Smith must have put into making sure his writing matched Austen's and that the zombie segments didn't stick out like a sore thumb. I'm sure many of the other authors went through similar trials to make sure that their writing blended with whichever classic author they were emulating and for that I respect them greatly. I just hope none of these authors put too much of their energy into this one basket because I think it's already beginning to wane and is unlikely to be revived once it nears death.

What about you though? Have you read (m)any of these hybrid texts? If you have what did you think? If you haven't, will you get around to it or are you avoiding them? Will the last the test of time or will they shrink out of existence in a few years time? I know PPZ has a film adaptation in the works but will that be enough to keep it alive as a genre or will it merely prop it up for a few extra months/years?


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...