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Doom of London (Review) PDF Print E-mail
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Sunday, 18 February 2018 22:02

eah, I gotta love Project Gutenberg. Now that I have a Brompton bike, I can commute by train and bus pretty much every day of the week. And this means I get a lot more reading done. So, sure, sometimes I slip a paperback into my bag. But sometimes I’m between books without a clear desire for anything. Happened this time. So I downloaded The Doom of London, which was part of three-short-story set.

So this short story (set in Victorian London) follows a man and his weather. The man, our narrator, is a clerk for a gentleman of business. And the weather, well, it’s London. All that coal burned for heat and energy, resulting in those heavy London fogs. And these aren’t too bad, the storyteller tells us, except for the foreshadowing hints that sometimes moisture can weigh down the fog, compressing it, squeezing the air out. And I’m sure you can see where this is going.

At one point in the story, an abrasive Yankee salesman tries to get past our brave and stalwart clerk to get to his master, attempting to sell him the rights to some sort of breathing machine (a steampunk, cogwheel CPAP machine, perhaps?). Of course, hoping that the storyteller will change his mind, he leaves it on the shelf (for reconsideration). And this proves very fortuitous, of course.

So the fog comes and spreads. The clerk in his building-central office doesn’t notice anything until he pops in on his employer to find him sprawled out dead on the floor before an open window filled with the gray-bellied blankness of fog. Then the gasses nearly get him and he falls back into his central room, gasping, head swimming. But his air is running out. What do to? Of course, that infernal Yank’s device!

For those who don’t think the Victorians could rival us for horror, you need to check this out. Imagine smothered London, virtually all of its inhabitants dead. The storyteller makes his way along quiet streets, stepping over fallen horses, men and women, alone in this gray charnal house. Eventually he reaches the underground (with it’s idling steam engine) where the final desperate commuters are fighting for seating in a train packed with bodies. Yes, that was certainly nightmare fuel. Pluckily, he manages to revive the driver and get the train moving (though there is an animalistic struggle for the device on the running boards of the locomotive as it hurtles through the last of the tunnel-gloom, desperate for fresh air and sunlight.

So, yes, a good little story that ends abruptly (what happens after all this?). Anyway, here’s the novel it was contained in – you’ll find it midway through (Chapter VII). Well worth a read if you like your macabre cut bitesized. You’ll choke in delight over this one.


Last Updated on Tuesday, 20 February 2018 18:36
Yowamushi Pedal (1-3) (Review) PDF Print E-mail
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Sunday, 14 January 2018 00:00

kay, seen the show. And now, for Christmas, my wife bought me the Manga (first three volumes) of Yowamushi Pedal.

So for those who are old, manga are Japanese comic books. They are read in Japanese fashion, right to left, which takes some getting used to. And for those who might scoff at me reviewing “kiddy comic books”, I’ll point out that Manga is big business in Japan. The top seller (One Piece) pushed over 12 million copies over the counters last year. And when you scroll down the list, you realize that we are talking about millions and millions and millions. Serious scratch.

But outside of that, the art is dynamic and the stories compelling (as opposed to some of the suburban rot I see at booksellers these days). The art is very stylized, very visual, filled with motion and excitement and action. You can see it below.

But we’re reviewing a series here, not selling the idea of Mango. So Yowamushi Pedal is about Sakamichi Onoda, a highschool kid who is a total nerd, who rides his bike to Akiba to get toys and crap at least once a week – it’s a 27 mile trip each way and he does it on a mommie bike (which is what it sounds like, a heavy gearless bike with a basket and fenders). What he thinks he’s doing to riding to get his comics. What he is actually doing is training.

Of course, his amazing riding abilities (specifically his high uphill cadence) has come to the notice of the new members of the high school bike (i.e. racing) club. And hence Okoda finds the friendships he thought anime and manga would bring him but actually in the form of cycling comradery. Each event (his first one-on-one race, the “Welcome day” race) extends over many issues – as a friend pointed out (truthfully) it can take three issues/episodes to cover the last 500 meters of a race (what with all the soul-searching and backstory that comes up). And that’s fine, just as it is fine that Onoda is always behind, always struggling to catch up, and always showing that he’s got more spunk in his nerdy body than anyone else. The fact that he smiles when he rides, he loves racing with his friends, and he’s willing to sacrifice for them endears him even more to us. He’s quite a guy, and he goes on quite a ride.

A great story for anyone who likes two wheels (or just action and conflict). Now that I’ve polished off the first three, I need to get more. Dang!

Anyway, look for it.


Last Updated on Sunday, 14 January 2018 20:08
Specters Anonymous (Review) PDF Print E-mail
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Sunday, 07 January 2018 00:00

ometimes authors and readers just don’t couple up. Not sure why. But it happened here for me. My sister gave me Specters Anonymous for a birthday present during a complicated period of my life (with carpel tunnel surgery and a damn sling and all that). But I got the book and read it and it didn’t click for me.

So Ralph starts the book dead. He’s a ghost. And ghosts, like humans, have weaknesses. For them, sunlight and bright illumination is like alcohol to them. Some of them can sip and be satisfied. Others need help. So in the basement of a little church, the ghosts with issues meet for a Twelve Step program to overcome their problems with haunting and sunny-substance abuse.

And it’s an interesting premise. I would have liked to understand it further, what gets said at the meetings, who the other ghosts are, but that all seems ancillary. We’re told that Cal is a hard-ass driver in the meeting, that he’s scary and powerful and not-to-be-crossed. But that’s told, not shown. All the other ghosts get mentions but are given no proper introductions. As this is the first book of a twelve part series, I’d have liked the situation and circumstances to be more “fleshed out” (pun intended). Like I said, it was a very interesting concept that I wanted to know more of.

It’s a story with investigations and detective work and gum-shoeing and all that. And Fergus, the heavy, throws rocks (a tosser) and is appropriately threatening. But things just never quite materialize in the book. I’d say that if you like detective novels or tales with a different slant on life, you might try it. Not my cup of tea, I’m afraid.


Artemis (Review) PDF Print E-mail
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Sunday, 31 December 2017 00:00

he new one by Andy Weir of The Martian fame, a story of a crazy wild-girl living on a mundane suburban moon base. Which, as I write this, I see the irony the author was going for. And I like it.

So Jasmine Bashara has been wild in the past. She’s gotten into trouble with the Dudley Doright station security chief. She’s slept around and even burned her welder-father’s shop down. So let’s just say that their relationship is distant and cold. Now working as a porter (moving cargos from ships to destinations), she’s got plans to go big. Her small-time smuggling gig is getting her the ears of the right (or wrong) people and she’s open to pulling a get-rich-quick captor to get all she wants in one go.

But you know it’s not simple or straightforward, right? Otherwise you wouldn’t have books, you’d have pamphlets.

Overall, I liked the characters and the setting. Weir does capture a lot of what a hanging-on-to-existence settlement might be like. He’s got the moon down pretty well (through the picture on the cover surprised me in that it’s not (geographically) the moon that floats in our sky (it looks ‘moonish’, but that’s it)). Jazz’s dialog is fun and like as she chatters her way through her endeavors. The other characters (her father, the cop Rudy, her Earth-side pen-pal Kelvin) are all interesting and dimensional. So yes, a fun read. Not as deep and compelling as his earlier book – I’m not sure what was missing here but yeah, close but not quite.

And I know how these things work – almost happened to me with Fire and Bronze. There is a bit where she’s pulling the classic “how did you know he was shot” bit, where someone is tricked to reveal more than they should know. However, I blinked and looked back a page. No, Jazz, you actually said it yourself. I can see it in the text. So, woops, minor point there. And the end was a little frenetic and rushed, as if the main character was in the boss level of a video game (or the book was being written with a movie in mind). Just sayin’.

But really, it’s still a good book. If you want to learn all about the moon (and how it might be used) check out Artemis. Good fun on a cold lifeless rock.


Last Updated on Saturday, 23 December 2017 11:04

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