August 1st, 2004

Black Books: Manny

Nooo... Bad puns shouldn't become films!

At least not films with Johnny Vegas and MacKenzie Crook.

"Blakes Junction 7".

A short where the crew of the Liberator stock up for supplies at a motorway service station. But MacKenzie Crook as a video-game playing Servelan and Johnny Vegas as a somewhat portly Blake?

Help! My brain is exploding!
  • Current Music
    Good News - Randy Newman - Guilty: 30 Years of Randy Newman

A Sunday evening "Barbeque Season" Review - "The Grand Tour"

Patricia Wrede and Caroline Stevermer's Sorcery and Cecelia is a delightful read, mixing Georgette Heyer-style Regency romance with a plot involving mystery, magic and derring do, all wrapped up in the correspondance between two cousins. It's been a good few years since we first met Cecy and Kate, and at last Wrede and Stevermer are ready to take us back to their world of magic, adventure and romance.

Starting right where Sorcery and Cecelia left off, The Grand Tour is a tale of happy ever after, or at least of life after the bells and flowers...

Now that Cecilia and Kate have married James and Thomas, they're off around Europe on honeymoon, exploring the cities and the antiquities, experiencing life in the wake of the Napoleonic wars, and shopping. Oh, and getting mixed up in matters magical. Someone is stealing royal regalia from across Europe, and someone else appears to be conducting arcane rituals in strange places. From Paris to Rome (via the Alps, Milan and Venice) our happy honeymooners stumble into trouble. Acting as Welllington's unofficial agents, it's up to them to save the day - and Europe - from a diabolical scheme.

In a similar vein to Sorcery and Cecelia, The Grand Tour uses a commonplace book and a piece of testimony to tell the story. It's not quite as effective a technique as the letters of the earlier volume - Cecy's testimony is a little dry, with Kate's commonplace book containing the little touches that added so much life to the first novel, and often the two tales retell the same events from different viewpoints. Building on their earlier works, Wrede and Stevermer also use the story to expound on the basis of the scientific magic in a world exploring the benefits of the Age of Reason.

A fun, light read, promising more to come.
  • Current Music
    The Afro-Celt Sound System - Volume 2: Release - Release It

Another Sunday night "Barbeque Season" review: The Da Vinci Code.

OK, I admit it. I'm a sucker for Templar mysteries and all things Rennes-Le-Chateau. That's not to mean that I believe every word of all the conspiracy theories (my personal beliefs are a lot closer to the underlying conspiracy in Eco's Focault's Pendulum than anything else). So perhaps it's not surprising that friends recommended me Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code.

I wasn't impressed. Underneath the metaphysical trappings of an author who's discovered the stories of the Priory of Sion and decided that they're a truth that needs to shake the Catholic powers-that-be lies a run-of-the-mill technothriller, reminiscent of the myriad of Clancies and Cusslers that, err, grace the airport bookshop shelves. It's probably a good thing that I was reading it on a transatlantic flight with bad movies, otherwise I'd probably have watched the films instead of reading a second rate thriller.

The Da Vinci Code is certainly not the ground-breaking novel that its die-hard fans make it out to be - if anything it's just retreading ground from The Holy Blood and The Holy Grail and Katherine Kurtz and Deborah Turner Harris' The Adept fantasies. There's more semiotics and codebreaking in any one of Eco's novels (or even Jasper Fforde's comedic literary fantasies), while 1970's BBC documentaries told more about the Priory of Sion and the art of Da Vinci than Brown's novel. There's also so much missing here: no mention of Rennes-Le-Chateau, Bannockburn or the paintings of Poussin. It's a half-baked work that promises much more than it delivers.

Not recommended at all. And my sympathy goes out to the caretakers of Rosslyn Chapel...

(and why does the geek in me keep typing "The Priory of Psion")
  • Current Music
    The Magnetic Fields - Get Lost - The Desperate Things You Made Me Do

Yet another Sunday evening "Barbeque Season" review: "Undead and Unwed"

Laurell K. Hamilton has a lot to answer for, bringing on the world a plague of tortured vampire hunter romances (many from writers who should realise that a bandwagon is something to be avoided). Thank goodness for writer like Charaline Harris and Mary Janice Davidson who have added their own spin to the vampire romance sub-genre. In fact Mary Janice Davidson's Undead and Unwed takes it in a whole new direction: vampire chick-lit.

Betsy Taylor is your typical chick-lit herorine. She's 30 or so, stuck in a dead end job and single - with a thing for designer shoes. Then one day it all changes. She loses her job and gets run over. That's not the end of her problems. She's undead and her step-mother has stolen all her shoes. Oh, and she seems to be the Vampire Queen of prophecy. Not really what you want to happen when all you really want is a new set of Prada pumps. Especially when one vampire clan has decided you're their champion in a war against an interloper with a thing for the Gothic.

Normally you'd expect this to be the beginning of a tale of angst and desperation, mixed in with animalistic sex. However it's the basis for a witty and clever novel, that mixes two genres and comes up with something more than a little different. Oh, and a touch of animalistic sex.

Not deep literature, but highly enjoyable all the same, Davidson delivers an amusing light read that's ideal for the tube, with a sequel just around the corner.
  • Current Music
    dj GT - Voices - Voices Of Trance 2003