Thursday, 15 September 2011


Although I talk about 40k a lot, this blog wasn’t going to be solely about that topic.  To this end, I’ve decided to fling various Recommendations at your faces every now and then.  And, last time I checked, the time is approximately ‘Now’.

These recommendations are a little bit of whatever, really.  From films, television, anime, music, books, whatever I like that I’d like other people to have a look (or listen) at too.  Feel free to ignore these if you’re only here for tales of embarrassing 40k-related shortfalls and unnecessary hyperbole.  On the other hand, if you do try out the recommendations, let me know!  Some interesting conversations can be had regardless of whether or not you liked them.  So, with all that prelude out of the way, let’s start with: Some Book Recommendations!

Three of them, all by the same author.  More of an author recommendation, I suppose.

Michael Marshall Smith

He is probably my favourite fiction writer currently and he specialised in two fields.  He does Sci-Fi as Michael Marshall Smith and modern-day crime writing as just Michael Marshall.  His crime stuff is good, don’t get me wrong, but (in my opinion at least) it’s not a patch on his more fantastical stories.  I highly advise you seek him out if you’re into slightly oddball scifi.  The three books I want to talk about are Only Forward, Spares, and What You Make It.

Only Forward was his debut novel and was my introduction into his writing.  It’s about a guy called Stark, and it’s easiest to think of him as a sort of detective, although he doesn’t really have a job as such.  It’s very much got a Scifi Noir feel to it and is genuinely hilarious in many places, sad in others and very creepy elsewhere.  It has a bit of abrupt turn from comedy to horror, but it works.  I won’t be summarising the plot or anything, because that would be counterproductive.  I loved it when I first read it, and it hasn’t lost any of its charm now.  The whole thing is delivered first-person, but in a very conversational style which I found fun and interesting.  He pulls a couple of nice little tricks with perspective that I really enjoyed, although I can definitely see why it wouldn’t gel with some of his readers.  I only have one problem with it.  The ending feels rushed and anticlimactic.  You’re going on at a good and quick pace throughout the book, with things building and building and then, bam, it’s over.  It’s standard novel length, I think (about 300-350 pages) but the end happens in about 2 pages.  There’s no real denouement.  It’s a bit jarring and feels underdeveloped and a little too tidy.  Don’t let that discourage you.  Really; don’t.  the book’s fantastic and that’s the only complaint of any substance I can give.

Spares was his second novel and it has a lot over Only Forward, although I do prefer the debut.  It follows many of the same tropes as Only Forward (big detective guy as main character, talking appliances, sudden shifts into the metaphysical) but is definitely its own story.  Again, its very funny, with a large number of touching moments and sad reflections and occasional dabblings with horrific imagery.  The big detective guy this time has more of the generic crime thriller name of Jack Randall, but don’t hold that against him.  He’s a complete drunken, drug-addled mess.  This brings me to one of the strengths and simultaneously one of the weakness of Spares for me.  Because the book is written from an exclusively first person perspective, when Randall starts tripping (and he does, often) things get weird and when he’s in The Gap (you’ll have to read the book to find out what that is), it can sometimes feel like he’s ramming random words together.  Nevertheless, it’s a small point.  I feel it shares a similar problem with Only Forward regarding the end.  It’s an improvement on the first book, but it doesn’t properly fix things in my opinion.  I still think the endings are the weakest part of his books, just because they’re too sudden and feel too slapdash.  Awesome book though.  Highly recommended, possibly even more so than Only Forward.

What You Make It differs from the previous two books because it’s a collection of short stories rather than a novel.  As with most short story compilations, you’ll get some that you (hopefully) like and some that (probably) won’t.  All are well-written, but apart from that, they don’t have too much in common with one another.  One of the things they do share though, is tone.  This is a dark collection of stories.  I read through them all a few years ago, and can agree that it a very good book and would advise others read it too.  But I won’t read it again.  There is very little joy to be had (at least during my read through; your mileage may vary) and it left me feeling drained and a little depressed.  Again, that sounds bad, but I do heartily recommend you pick it up.  It really is very good.  .  I will warn you: one of the stories here made me feel stunned and sick to my stomach.  It was the biggest reaction I’ve had to a story for some time, possible ever.  I won’t tell you which one; I don’t want to spoil it for you.

Anyway, that’s my Recommendation for the week. 

Hope you enjoy it!

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