Thursday, November 15, 2018

Alrightreads: Old New Borrowed Blue

I've wanted to read more Gene Wolfe for ages, but committing to another dense tetralogy I might not be sufficiently invested in has been putting me off. Better to go with a themed smorgasbord.

Gene Wolfe, Storeys from the Old Hotel

1967-88 (collected 1988) / Ebook / 331 pages / USA


I prefer my Gene Wolfe brief, concentrated and to the point, even if that point is often elusive and more about atmosphere and justifying a pun title. Most of these tales, specifically chosen for their obscurity, are less than 10 pages in length, making this the perfect no-overlap companion to the longer shorts of The Island of Doctor Death and Other Stories and Other Stories. There's even a fourth doctor/death/island permutation as the author continues to stubbornly mine that seam and still finds gold.

Faves: 'Slaves of Silver,' 'Westwind,' 'To the Dark Tower Came,' 'A Solar Labyrinth,' 'On the Train.'

Worsties: 'Continuing Westward,' 'The Packerhaus Method,' 'A Criminal Proceeding,' 'The Choice of the Black Goddess.'

Gene Wolfe, The Urth of the New Sun

1987 / Audiobook / 372 pages / USA


This was the last book I read in a year when I read a few too many books, but it was oddly one I had absolutely no memory of. Particularly strange, since I made it sound incredibly appealing.

Listening again, I can see how it blurred into the rest, but it might be my favourite of the series just for being more exotic. Twice through and I still don't really understand what's going on. I should stick to junior sci-fi.

Gene Wolfe, A Borrowed Man

2015 / Audiobook / 304 pages / USA


I'm all for a good convoluted excuse to blend genres, but this future noir is only appealing in style rather than substance, and not very appealing at that.

The premise of cloned authors being loaned out in a post-book society is too bizarre to be credible, and since only literate nerds are going to be reading this in the first place, it doesn't need the patronising explanations to excuse the corny in-character narration, in case we thought Gene can't write.

Gene Wolfe, On Blue's Waters

1999 / Audiobook / 384 pages / USA


I'm sure it has its devotees, but this wasn't my sort of thing at all, so I'm glad I didn't commit to the entire Book of the Short Sun as planned.

As a sci-fi fan, I appreciated the strange new worlds, new life and new civilisations, but downgrading from a spaceship modelled on a boat to an actual boat, and bringing in actual mythological creatures (or the Clarkeian next best thing) was too much standard fantasy for me, dismembered cyborgs excepted. The chronicler's a lot less likeable than Severian too, which is some achievement considering the other guy tortured people for a living.

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Alrightreads: Rural Gothic

Green and unpleasant lands.

William Blake, Songs of Innocence and of Experience Shewing the Two Contrary States of the Human Soul

1789/94 (collected 1794) / Ebook / 56 pages / UK


I was too innocent and inexperienced to really appreciate Blake's classic double album when required to study it for A-level, but he still left more of an impression than any of the poets I studied at university, Milton aside. Maybe it was the pretty pictures.

I get it now. Admittedly, some of the Songs of Innocence are overly infantile, dependent and Bible-thumping, but others paint mournfully nostalgic scenes before Experience comes stomping in with the weight of years. It's the fearful symmetry that makes it.

Sarban, Ringstones

1951 / Ebook / 139 pages / UK


A latecomer to the Machen/Blackwood tradition of folk horror before the '70s brought its infatuation with techno-henges, this slow-burning novella is filled with pleasant Northumberland scenery, encyclopaedic digressions and ominous foreboding.

It's quite rare for these nerdy folkloric tales to be female-led, but with its oblivious and inept protagonist and bridled women pulling chariots, it's not exactly a step forward.

Thomas Tryon, Harvest Home

1973 / Ebook / 401 pages / USA


More Twin Peaks than an American Wicker Man, this pastoral soap opera takes its sweet time getting to the horror and a point. If you're daydreaming of a rustic escape, you might not mind that as much as I did.

Manly Wade Wellman, What Dreams May Come

1983 / Ebook / 175 pages / USA


I haven't read any of Wellman's other John Thunstone stories, and the fairly generic occult investigator hasn't charmed me into seeking out more.

A distinctly retro tale by this point, I preferred to imagine it was the novelisation to the non-existent '70s BBC serial I'd rather be watching, shot on low quality film stock with a Dudley Simpson soundtrack.

Andrew Michael Hurley, Devil's Day

2017 / Ebook / 368 pages / UK


That's more like it. Hurley's popular debut novel was a superb Gothic revival fringed by a bleak coastline, but this follow-up ventures deeper into the unforgiving landscape and is one of the scariest books I've read in memory.

A Devil isn't required to explain the various atrocities and general grim hopelessness, but the option's there if you prefer the comfort of laying the blame on the Owd Feller to the alternative. Full of nature and seasonal symbolism to keep lapsed English lit students happy, while crying.

Monday, November 5, 2018

Alrightreads: Me

My childhood dream that I was always too lazy to realise has come true. I'm finally a published... photographer?

The author of a book on Coastal World Heritage Sites asked permission to use one of my photos of South Korea's Jeju Island. That was nice, she could have just stolen it like the BBC and everyone else.

I've reproduced the extract without such permission:

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Scraping the barrel: reviewing bog roll, hamsters, etc.

Dave's dooyoo stats

Reviews: 1,750 (Frankingsteins) + 136 (Brains)

Timeline: 27 June 2000 – 5 January 2011

Word count: ~1,035,000 archived (+ 275,000 lost or I didn't bother to save, so imagine how bad those must have been)

Earnings for all that: Maybe £1,300–£1,500, most of that in the year after graduation when I cranked out a £50–£150/month production line before getting steady employment. It helped.

Dave's dooyoo archive

Music reviews (Ab-Am | An-Az | Ba-Bi | Bl-Bu | C | D | E-H | I-J | K-M | N-Y | Offspring | Korn)
TV reviews (Sci-fi | Comedy | Kids)
Film reviews (Juvenile)
Book reviews
Game reviews
Internet/shopping reviews (Top 10 websites 2003 | 2004)
Edinburgh Fringe reviews
Misc. reviews (that's this page you're on now, idiot) [Classic Dave c.2004]

Bringing an end to my obsessive-compulsive filing of my old consumer reviews from a dead website that should have been allowed to rest in peace, here's what I thought about groceries, theme parks and other miscellany on the rare occasions I ventured outside my comfort zone or house.

Written for aged 15–24.

Monday, October 29, 2018

Old school music reviews: N-Y

It turns out my alphabetical archive is a bit top-heavy. Here are the rest of the album reviews I wrote at school and university, without a slightly older me to fill in the gaps any more. If only I'd delayed getting a real job for another year, I might have made it to Z. Or possibly starved to death.

Reviews of albums from bands in the second half of the alphabet written for from 2001–2007. Offspring reviews sold separately.

Saturday, October 27, 2018

Old school music reviews: K-M

I wrote my last 50p album review at the start of 2009 (I got as far as 'Ma-'), tailing off due to a combination of reliable employment meeting my needs and unreliable to non-existent home internet. I always thought I might carry on and complete the alphabet one day, but then I started my copywriting career where I basically do the same thing, only writing repetitive descriptions about blockout blinds rather than Blind Guardian. And for slightly better pay. Not quite as enjoyable though. But now it's too late.

Reviews of albums from bands beginning with K, L and M written for (RIP) from 2001–2009. My angsty teenage Korn reviews were too toxic and have been quarantined in their own post.

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Old school music reviews: I-J

A teenager's enthusiastic, inconsistent, interminable track-by-track odyssey through Iron Maiden, many of those tracks covered multiple times on various compilations, live albums and DVDs of those same live albums. Plus a handful of other bands.

Reviews of albums from bands beginning with I & J written for from 2003–2008.

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Old school music reviews: E-H

The bloated and enthusiastic teenage reviews are intruding ever more on the concise adult summaries. Good. Fifteen-year-old Dave may be a bit of an idiot, but he generally has better taste. Stop listening to single-one-hour-long-song albums and stick some Green Day on.

Reviews of albums from bands beginning with E, F, G and H, written for from 2001–2008.

Sunday, October 21, 2018

Old school music reviews: D

I had a job by this point in '08, which meant there wasn't as much free time to explore strange curios from the past and it was easier to earn my bus fare churning formulaically about the CD-Rs in my big box. The alphabetical adventure is picking up pace.

Reviews of albums from bands beginning with D, written for from 2001–2008.

Friday, October 19, 2018

Old school music reviews: C

Ten-years-ago Dave stubbornly persists with the entire Cannibal Corpse discography, assuming it must get better or at least have a different song at some point. I was getting lazier now, not bothering with the pun titles any more, barely exceeding the minimum word count and sticking to the repetitive metal I was bored with because I knew the context and the terminology, so didn't have to learn and experience interesting new things.

Meanwhile, teenage Dave underrates the Cure's masterpiece, preferring his goths to squawk unintelligible vampire poetry, and student Dave enters a crazy world. Reviews of albums from bands beginning with C, written for from 2004–2008.