Friday 25 February 2011

The Iron Heel - Jack London

Published: 1907
Price: Kindle Version can be got for Free, Print Version is £6.76 : Here

Well, this is an example of what free E-books can do. I would never have read this book normally but when I saw it on Amazon for free I thought I may as well give it a whirl. I actually read it on my lunch breaks at work by using Kindle for Iphone, the one thing I have learned here is that the Iphone really is rubbish for reading books!! However, if you don't have a kindle but would like to read books like this then go get one of the free "Kindle For" products as they do work!

The Iron Heel is believed to be one earliest forms of modern dystopia and it does paint a bleak future for the “normal” people of the twentieth century. However, unlike other dystopian novels such as “1984” this one paints rampant capitalism as the great evil that corrupts society.

The novel is based upon a Manuscript which is hidden away during an attempted revolution, before being found centuries later. The Manuscript is introduced and interspersed with footnotes of a scholar who is reviewing the manuscript centuries in the future.  This scholar is present during the great “brotherhood” which shows that in the end a successful revolution against the horrors detailed will occur and create a better society.

The manuscript is written through the eyes of a woman (Avis) detailing the lives of herself and her husband (Ernest). It follows her conversion to his socialist views as he shows her the realities of the poverty and horrors of the working classes. It then follows the fall of democracy as the great capitalists use their influence and power to usurp election results, leading on to the new capitalist oligarchy weakening a revolution before it can begin by splitting the labour movement in two with bribery. It then detailed the failure of the revolution that does occur, before ending mid-sentence as Avis and Ernest prepare to fight a 2nd revolution which the scholar from the future has already informed us will also fail.

Overall, I have to admit I enjoyed the book hugely. The political speeches and discussions made by Ernest are brilliantly written and explained. I also liked the way that even in 1907 Jack London foresaw a war centred on Germany’s attempt at empire around the same time that WW1 really did begin. The one let down I did have is that you don’t actually find out how the oligarchy fell in the end. I would have enjoyed reading the actual success of overthrowing the dictatorship and creating their glorious future.

Since reading the book I have looked back on the true state of society back then and I admit that I can imagine it happening had the US Government not decided themselves to break up the great capitalistic trusts which are the main vehicles for the oligarchy in this novel.

I have also found myself being more mellowed to the overall case of socialism and I can see why the labour movement was so important back in the earlier parts of the twentieth century. I am now telling me wife that we should lead a revolution against the evil bankrupt financial market driven society and create a glorious socialistic republic. I think we should call it the United Socialist Scottish Republic or the USSR for short!

In all seriousness, if you like dystopian or political novels then I can’t recommend this book enough. However it can be very dry due to it's subject matter, so you have been warned! It is amazing how a book from more than 100 years ago can still make sense politically now as it did back then.

Tuesday 22 February 2011

Top Ten Tuesday: Book to Movie Adaptations

Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created at The Broke and the Bookish and i have decided to join in. This is mainly because I know that lists are usually a sure fire way to get some of my more opinionated readers posting!

Anyway, this week's Top Ten is Top Ten Movie Adaptations.

Now, I was trying to decide if should class this as being top ten in how well they stuck to the book or just top ten in pure entertainment factor or in some other factor.

So in the end I decided that it would be the Top 10 Book to Movie Adaptations that I enjoyed both the book and the movie.

1. The Lord of the Rings Trilogy - J.R Tolkien
I don't think I really need to explain this one, but the quality, dedication and work that went into these three films is superb.

2. The Stand - Stephen King
This is actually a Mini Series so I am cheating a little bit but I loved both the Book and Mini Series hugely so wanted to mention it.

3. The Harry Potter dynasty - J.K. Rowling
These films are just good light natured fun, much like the books.

4. Jurassic Park - Michael Crichton
The book is amazing and the movie really brought Dinosaurs back into cinematic glory. I think the only other films that excited more when I saw the trailers were the Lord of the Rings movies.

5. Sherlock Holmes - Arthur Conan Doyle
I actually love nearly every Sherlock Holmes movie and series created but I found the Robert Downey Jr. movie particularly superb. I felt it captured the smugness, arrogance and abilities of Sherlock Holmes well in a very enjoyable romp!

6. The Grinch - Dr. Seuss
I couldn't imagine what this film would be like When I first heard about it. However, they managed to add to the basis of the story and create a funny and enjoyable film.

7. Interview with a Vampire - Ann Rice
I was quite young when I saw this movie but it impressed me enough to go read the book after watching it.

8. The Da Vinci Code - Dan Brown
Great Acting by Tom Hanks here and I always love a good Thriller Movie, especially one based on a book I enjoyed.

9. Dracula - Bram Stoker
This is the 1992 movie with Gary Oldman which I actually found rather creepy.

10.Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory - Roald Dahl
The original one with Gene Wilder as I have to admit that I wasn't to fond of the Johnny Depp version. The film was full of magic and bright colours just like the Roald Dahl books.

So which book to movie adaptions do you love? Did we agree on any of them? Let me know what you think!


Monday 21 February 2011

E-Books Vs Dead Tree Media

I think that all of you need a break from my hugely in-depth and informative discussions on the "superb" books I have recently read. Therefore, I feel like having a little chat about the methods by which I actually read books.

I will admit now that I own a Kindle and am a tiny bit of a techno-geek, and therefore you would rightly assume that on the whole, I prefer using E-books to those manufactured by killing poor innocent trees. However, I do still have to use paper books on occasion and therefore I am going to detail to you all my reasons why.
Firstly, let me go over what I love about using E-books;
  1. Storage: I can own & store hundreds of books without having to find a large area of space amongst my daughter's toys. My daughter also sometimes enjoys eating paper, so not providing her with an easy lunch buffet of a fully stocked bookshelf is rather helpful to both my book collection and her bowels.
  2. Portability: When I go on holiday now I don't need to fill half the suitcase up with books. I can fit my entire holiday reading experience in my hand-luggage.
  3. Free E-Books: I love the fact that there are thousands of public domain books out there that I can read for free. These range from the classics to trashy, pulpy, military sci-fi. However, they are all free and they provide me with a chance to own & read novels that I normally would not have read. As a note, to my wife, yes Victorian Era Sci-Fi novels are still classics!! How can you not think the novels by Jules Verne or HG Wells are classics?
  4. Instant Gratification: When I see a book on the internet that I really want to read, there is no longer any waiting for it to be delivered. I can get my reading pleasure straight away and can do it from anywhere via Wi-Fi or a 3G Network.
As I said previously however, I do still utilise Dead Tree Media and the reasons for this are now detailed below;
  1. Libraries: With libraries I can get pretty much any book I could ever wish for on loan with just a small fee to get it delivered to my local library if it isn't already in stock. I do want to note here that some Libraries have started allowing people to loan E-books although mine doesn't, so until then I will continue to use it for printed media.
  2. Availability: Whilst some books are E-book only, there are a lot more novels that have never been released in an Electronic format. Dead Tree Media still has a much greater range of novels for reading. For example, the glory that is Christopher Pike is not really available in Electronic formats. It would be a sad day if someone forced themselves away from reading this literary genius just because they won't use Dead Tree Media.
  3. Price: Due to various issues with publishers which are covered all over the interweb, E-books for the latest novels can cost more than the paperback and hardback equivalents. Whilst I love the ease of use of an E-book, price will still win with me most of the time as I am a cheap bastard.
  4. Location: I love the fact that I can read my Dead Tree Media in the bath, and if I drop it then it just needs to be dried off. I suspect my E-reader wouldn't survive such an event.
There are plenty of other reasons why people might like E-books over Dead Tree Media and vice-versa. For example, my wife is a nutty pro Dead Tree Media fan and has her own strange reasons for this, such as the wonderful smell of books etc. As you can tell however, I like to try and maintain a middle ground here and understand that both currently have their advantages and disadvantages. In the end I can see most of the reasons I still use paper books being whittled away, but until then I will use both as required.

I would like to hear your thoughts on this so please post some comments regarding the E-Book vs Dead Tree Media debate.

Sunday 20 February 2011

The Dig - Alan Dean Foster

Published : 1995
Current Cost: Looks to be out of print now but Amazon do have various 2nd Hand copies for 1p and some rather expensive new copies as per link - The Dig

Well I had promised one of my more avid readers that I would review another Christopher Pike book but I must apologise to her as I got distracted by “The Dig” by Alan Dean Foster instead.

Anyway, “The Dig” is a novelisation of an old PC Game that was created by LucasArts. I would like to say that I have never played the game so I can’t tell you if it follows the storyline of the game or not.

In regards to the Author, Alan Dean Foster in my opinion is a good writer. He has written books based on numerous movies, including the Alien series. I have enjoyed many of these books and some of his original work in the past so I went into this book thinking that writing a book based on a computer game should have been nothing special for him. 

And indeed, the writing is well composed; however some aspects of the story suffer due to it being based upon an adventure game. There are multiple examples of a series of events occurring as follows; an object is found, kept, and used. Everything the characters find seems to end up being critical to the plot at some point, therefore you end up reading through the book trying to work out yourself how to “solve” puzzles.

But let me get onto the story plot itself, it starts out like a pretty standard asteroid on collision course with Earth story. As you can imagine therefore, at first I found it rather boring as I have seen & read this type of thing many times before. This boredom though changed to irritation as one of the characters was introduced. Believe it or not, for some reason in this novel, some bright spark decided that one of the small 5 person crew going out to save the world had to include a journalist! I mean come on! Our lives are at stake here and one of the limited places is going to a journalist!!! The only thing that could be crazier would have been for NASA to send a group of haphazard oil drillers to the asteroid but that would just be too far-fetched........

Besides this, the characters involved in the mission did seem to make sense, although I found the main character rather lacking. I assume that this would have been the character controlled by a player in the PC Game which may explain why he seems rather un-developed as a personality.

The story does begin improves as the crew quickly solves the asteroid problem, although the journalist being involved in a Space Walk after they solve it is even more crazier than her being there in the first place!  After this however, they end up being transported to some alien world. This is where the majority of the novel takes place, with the crew trying to solve a variety of tasks and challenges in an attempt to return back to Earth.

Whilst I enjoyed what the story had become, I was hugely disappointed by the ending. Never have I read such a mushy, happily-ever-after ending to a book! Basically, as you read through the book, you realise there is a problem that an alien race has being trying to solve for millennia. However, once the humans in the story realize this problem, it is solved pretty much straight-away in a most unconvincing and unsatisfying manner. And to top it all, to make the ending perfectly happy, even the dead are brought back to life...  I think the original writer of the game, assuming this is how it ended must have watched far too many Star Trek Episodes with their annoying “Reset” button plotlines.

Overall, I did enjoy parts of the novel, but I just feel that a good story was let down and it could have been so much more

Friday 11 February 2011

Whisper of Death - Christopher Pike

Published: 1991
Current Cost: Looks to be out of print now but Amazon do have various 2nd Hand copies for 1p as per link - Whisper of Death

 Okay, I have to admit that I was a big Christopher Pike fan as a young teenager and it was his books that really got me interested in reading. My sister was reading Point Horror novels but I thought I was being "older" by reading Christopher Pike novels.

I decided to read this novel after I entered my thirties and wanted to read a Christopher Pike book so that it would bring back some of my fonder memories of my youth.

Anyway, onto the book itself and I have to admit whilst these type of books used to take me a couple of weeks to read it only took my 4 hours to read this. It felt more like a novella than a full novel but of course this is aimed at the younger reader and not someone of my more mature years.

The first quarter of the story itself seemed to be all about setting up how the main character and her boyfriend got together and fell in love. I have to admit that I found this section a little bit of a struggle to read as it was rather dull and I found the premise of these two people "loving" each other after only 2-3 dates rather irritating.

After this however it did pick up a bit, as we basically end up with these two love birds and three other teenagers finding themselves all alone when everyone else in the world seems to vanish into thin air. The group of characters are pretty stereotypical;
1. The rather annoying main female character (Like the irritating Bella from the Twilight series)
2. The good looking, loving boyfriend
3. The fat, geeky smart kid who is a "nice" guy
4. The kid who is a wanna-be bad guy
5. The good looking popular girl
Nothing new or innovative in that list of characters and I have to admit the only one I felt anything for was the fat geeky kid and thats probably because I remember being the fat geeky kid :-p

Anyway, these guys meet up they begin to realise that they all have something in common although none of them seem to want to admit what that is. Of course, soon they start dieing and the truth slowly comes out before a rather whacked out ending that didn't really feel like it closed out much.

Overall, I can't say I was that impressed, the middle seemed okay but the beginning and the ending just didn't do much for me. In the end though I will probably still try and find some more Christopher Pike books so I can just laugh at what I used to think were the best books in the world.

A New Blog!!

I won't have anyone reading this yet, and may never have anyone reading it but I may as well say hello to the world!

Basically I am going to use this blog to mainly talk about the exciting world of the books I read. However, I will warn you now that I will sometimes rant on about other wonderful things in the world if I so feel!

Anyway, I hope those of you who may accidently stumble upon this blog may find it amusing, but also hope you may even decide to read some books based on what I say here.