Tag Archives: review

My review of Christopher Brookmyre’s ‘Places in the Darkness’…

I have been a fan of Christopher Brookmyre for a long time ever since I first picked up a second hand copy of ‘A Big Boy Did It and Ran Away’ all the way to present day and his latest, ‘Places in the Darkness’. I have read and enjoyed every book, hunting around to find a copy of ‘Boiling A Frog’ and then seeking out each that has come since, usually from my public library. He has actually become one of my favourite authors and I look forward to each new release.

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Most recently I reread ‘Pandaemonium’, a tale where a class of Scottish school kids run into actual demons and carnage ensues. It’s a tremendous read and genuinely graphic as there are significant losses on both sides. But it is also very funny and quite touching, and I thoroughly enjoyed myself. His latest is quite a step away from the usual, being as it is science-fiction, and not either a comedy book or a straighter edged detective novel.

“Places in the Darkness’ is set on a station in orbit that is supposed to be the breeding ground for humanity’s first venture out into the stars but of course things are not that simple. I won’t go into the specifics of the plot except to say that it combines Brookmyre’s trademark wit, his experience with writing detective stories featuring a hardboiled detective, in this case Nicki Fixx, and her straight-laced superior, Alice Blake, who fits more easily into the science-fiction part of the narrative.

As should be expected there has been a string of murders in the supposed utopia but ‘Places in the Darkness’ is not really a detective story. Its social commentary, as all good sci-fi is. Those on the station are trapped in a cycle of low-wages which forces everyone to have two jobs, usually one of which pays better than the other. The seedier one, of course, encouraging an underworld where anything can be obtained for the right price which is exactly how those in power like things. The sci-fi elements of the story concern the influence of technology on our lives as well as the control that those who develop said tech have over us, all of which is very ‘Black Mirror’, and I love it.

I thoroughly enjoyed ‘Places in the Darkness’ and it was nice to see an author whose career I have followed doing something different, while bringing along all that he had learned from their career as a comedy writer. It appears that Brookmyre’s next novel will now return to the seedy world of Jack Parlabane, his signature character, and I will be looking forward to that too, but should Brookmyre choose to return to the world of Nicki Fixx and Alice Blake, I will enjoy whatever happens next. I heartily recommend that you give ‘Places in the Darkness’ a go, I thoroughly enjoyed it. Cheers!

 

 

My self-published nove;, ‘Only an atheist can help God save the world’, now has FOURTEEN reader reviews with an average of 4.6 stars and is available from all electronic retailers including Amazon UK here: http://tinyurl.com/pgjd68z. The sequel, ‘Jesus Returns: here he comes again’, is also out now: https://tinyurl.com/yce6bvtg. Check out my other “Rambling” blogs posts for articles on being an indie author, comics, politics, and reviews of books and movies! Lastly, follow me on Twitter @onlyanatheist1. Cheers!

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My review of Everything Everything in concert in Manchester…

Last Friday my wife and I saw Everything Everything in concert at the Apollo theatre in Manchester and they were superb! When we moved back to the UK after living in Canada for a few years, one of the discoveries we made was BBC Radio 6 Music, which is now our station. I love the grumps of Shaun Keaveny in the morning as a contrast to more upbeat breakfast show presenters, I usually have the radio tuned to this station throughout the day, and Craig Charles’ Saturday evening ‘Funk and Soul’ show is superb. If you want somewhere to start, that is where I would suggest and I really hope that you do for it’s an excellent station.

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Through this station I have discovered many new wonderful acts including Courtney Barnett (who we will be seeing in May), First Aid Kit (who I hope to see later in the year) and Honeyblood (I have no idea when they’ll be on tour, but I hope soon!). I discovered Everything Everything when they released ‘Distant Past’, the excellent lead single from their ‘Get To Heaven’ album and 6 Music gave it significant play.

Get To Heaven

Now, this is certainly not the sort of song I would usually love, being mostly a listener to rock, but I heard it a few times and it really grabbed me. ‘Regret’ and ‘Spring/Sun/Winter/Dread’ came out soon after and I was hooked. Honestly, their music is just so good that I began to look out for it and for their next release. They are put into the indie category but I’m not sure that is what I would call them. I’m actually not sure exactly what category I would put them into, for their music is very funky with lyrics that you wouldn’t get anywhere else. Honestly, Basement Jaxx is another band I would compare them to, though I’ve no idea whether they would agree with that.

When they released the next album, ‘A Fever Dream’, ‘Can’t Stop’ was the lead single and I was immediately hooked. It’s an absolutely perfect little pop song that I was singing for weeks and loving. The album is very good, especially ‘Run the Numbers’, ‘Night of the Long Knives’ and ‘Desire’. Who else but these guys would use the lyric “I’m just a knuckle-dragger with the knuckle-dragger grin’? No-one that I’m aware of.

Fever Dream

So, the gig. The band came out all dressed in blue jackets except the lead singer, Jonathan Higgs, who was sporting an orange one. It made a nice contrast and he really stood out while prancing around the stage and belting out his falsetto voice. And it was one hell of a show! They put on an impressive performance in which I saw what I imagine Queen were like during their prime. Or maybe Muse, not that I’ve seen them live either. The venue was packed, my wife and I were hemmed in with nowhere to go, but I didn’t care. The crowd were bouncing, belting out every word and having a blast, as was I!

 

Many songs stood-out, especially ‘Desire’, ‘Can’t Stop’ and ‘Cough Cough’. And in the gig, I saw an act on the precipice of becoming huge, a band who doubtless delight at festivals and who I see now moving into the phase of their career when they can fill stadia across the country. I really hope that’s what happens, they deserve it.

The gig ended with ‘Distant Past’, my in to the them, followed by the haunting ‘No Reptiles’, which features the lyric ‘like a fat child in a pushchair’ and as we left the venue and headed back to the station, this was what I was singing while all around us fans were yelling out whichever song had stuck with them. I’ve rarely seen a crowd so obviously engaged and I will looking forward to their next album and awaiting the next chance I get to see them live. Bravo!

 

‘Only an atheist can help God save the world’ now has FOURTEEN reader reviews with an average of 4.6 stars and is available from all electronic retailers including Amazon UK here: http://tinyurl.com/pgjd68z. The sequel, ‘Jesus Returns: here he comes again’, is also out now: https://tinyurl.com/yce6bvtg. Check out my other “Rambling” blogs posts for articles on being an indie author, comics, politics, and reviews of books and movies! Lastly, follow me on Twitter @onlyanatheist1. Cheers!

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My thoughts on the release of Jesus Returns, a book becoming a trilogy, and having fans…

So, ‘Jesus Returns! Here he comes again…’ is finally out! The long-delayed sequel to ‘Only an atheist can help God save the world’, and a book that I did not actually expect to write, has been released to the world and it’s a nice, yet funny feeling. I wasn’t going to write this book as I’m not fond of sequels unless they are absolutely justified. Some of my favourite writers (I’m looking at you, Neil Gaiman) have only written stand-alone novels, with the occasional little aside back into a world, and so I wasn’t going to continue the saga of God, His angels and the humans who end up being roped into helping them.

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But then I got sick and the idea for the novel came to me in a fever dream and that was that. Seriously, that is exactly what happened! Once the idea was in my head I had to start writing it so that I could meet the main character, enjoy writing him and see where his story went. That’s just how this whole writing works for me, once I have the idea I have to get it down and go with it, whether it’s a flash fiction piece, a short story, a novel or a whole trilogy of books! So I did and I’m glad that I did.

And now the initial book has become a trilogy and that’s where I intend to conclude matters. In the first, God came to Earth and worked with an atheist named Jeffrey to save the world. In the second it is the turn of Jesus to step in his father’s footsteps and work with Jeffrey’s wife, Melissa, in the service of saving mankind. The third will focus on Jesus’ child, Lillith, and the alliance that she will forms with the Lord of Hell. As for the rest of the plot, well I haven’t that out yet figured but I have started it and so I intend to continue until it is done, provided I can find the time.

And time is the obvious issue. I started writing Jesus Returns a few years ago, I concluded the story and edited it and then life, as it does, got in the way. Its release was delayed due to several factors. First, the speed at which my wife and editor gets through it which is not very quickly at all (I don’t have the money to hire anyone else!). Second, the amount of work that she gave me to do to get it to the standard that it needed to be before I would be happy letting others reading it. That took a while but each and every change improved the novel and it was worth the effort (as it always is when she reads it!). Third, we moved across the country, putting everything on hold until we had settled in. But now it is out and I am glad!

As any author, independent or otherwise can tell you, finally finishing and releasing your book is a really interesting feeling that is both scary and exciting. When friends started asking me when the next book would be out, I was suddenly aware that people were waiting on me and that they were excited for the sequel. That was new and it also adds pressure for I hope they like it! It also makes me feel like what I am doing is worthwhile for if people are looking forward to my next novel then they must’ve enjoyed the last. However, awaiting their verdict is a stressful time and now comes the waiting!

As an independent author it’s hard to know how to gauge success. Selling the first copy of your book feels like a small victory. Getting your first review (if it’s positive) is huge! Reaching ten copies sold is a significant step when you don’t have the backing of an agent or a publishing company. Finishing a sequel feels and putting it out there is also an enjoyable thing. But finding out that friends and family have also become fans of your work is really something nice and truly special! Here’s hoping they like Jesus Returns and will be back for Lucifer and Liliith, as soon as I can get it done that is. Cheers!

P.S. I’ll be going back on some of the podcasts on which I’ve been before and I’m really looking forward to it! Shouldn’t be long so look out for it!

 

‘Only an atheist can help God save the world’ now has FOURTEEN reader reviews with an average of 4.6 stars and is available from all electronic retailers including Amazon UK here: http://tinyurl.com/pgjd68z. The sequel, ‘Jesus Returns: here he comes again’, is also out now: https://tinyurl.com/yce6bvtg. Check out my other “Rambling” blogs posts for articles on being an indie author, comics, politics, and reviews of books and movies! Lastly, follow me on Twitter @onlyanatheist1. Cheers!

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My review of Martin William’s ‘Parliament Ltd’…

I have a strong interest in politics and I enjoy reading well researched and informative books so Martin Williams ‘Parliament Ltd: A Journey to the Dark Heart of British Politics’ sits very well alongside books that I have previously enjoyed including George Monbiots ‘Captive State’ (review here: http://tinyurl.com/zevxd7g) and Paul Mason’s ‘Postcapitalism’ (review here: http://tinyurl.com/grg36v8) as well as James Rickard’s ‘The Death of Money’ (review here: http://tinyurl.com/y9zfj6tf) and I would recommend that you hunt out and read both. In ‘Parliament Ltd’, Williams sets out to investigate the financial affairs of MPs, who they work for (besides us) and how much they are paid to do so. It examines the arguments both for and against MPs having second jobs and also looks into the influence that these might have on the way that MPs vote. It is an indictment of our political system that Martin had to invest time and money to research this information which should be freely available for public consumption and this only adds to the feeling that politicians have something to hide.

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‘Parliament Ltd’ makes it clear that, even if Parliament cannot be expressly accused of corruption (despite the best efforts of the author to find some!), the way in which MPs are allowed to work second jobs fosters the perception that they might be less than honest especially when allowed to speak on matters that directly affect those who employ them. It also states that a great many MPs, whom the author spoke to, have an entitled attitude that prevents change from occurring in a system so desperately in need of this change. MPs even seem to be resentful of what limited has improved since the expenses scandal (you’d think they’d want to stop that happening again!) and are resistant to anything that might prevent them from being seen in this light. They can claim for meals they might need following a vote in an evening, even if their residence is around the corner, clearly annoyed the writer and costing the public money that really needn’t be spent and this is only one of the ways in which we subsidise their living (Parliamentary canteens and bars are insane for this!).

 

Parliament Ltd is a thoroughly enjoyable read, a book that covers a dense subject in an accessible and enjoyable way with a light (though sometimes also angry) tone that facilitates a rapid read. It is well researched and I would recommend it to anyone with an interest in politics and how our political system got to the point that it currently stands at with trust in the system and MPs continuing at a low ebb. It also makes the case that change is still desperately needed but without pressure from within the system to push thing this is unlikely to happen. I suspect that another crisis such as the expenses scandal or the collapse of our two major political parties would need to occur for anything to actually come of this and I guess we shall see.

 

 

‘Only an atheist can help God save the world’ now has TWELVE reader reviews with an average of 4.4 stars and is available from all electronic retailers including Amazon UK here: http://tinyurl.com/pgjd68z. The sequel, ‘Jesus Returns: here he comes again’, will be out soon! Also check out my other “Rambling” blogs posts for articles on being an indie author, comics, politics, and reviews of books and movies! Finally, follow me on Twitter @onlyanatheist1. Cheers!

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My review of Edgar Wright’s ‘Baby Driver’…

I have been a fan of the work of Edgar Wright for a long time. Spaced is one of my favourite TV shows and my wife and I revisit it often. I love the ‘Cornetto trilogy’, that is Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz and The World’s End, and I thought that Shaun of the Dead was an absolute classic when I saw it in the cinema. Twice. All three are immensely funny and rewatchable and, although my initial impression of ‘Scott Pilgrim Vs. the World’ wasn’t all that good, on rewatching I have come to love it and now consider it a favourite. All of these movies have thematic and stylistic similarities including Wright’s fondness for fast-cut editing and the choice of an excellent sound track. Which brings us nicely to his latest, ‘Baby Driver’, a movie that is literally about a guy called ‘Baby’ who drives a getaway car. So, onto the review!

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I think it is obvious upon watching ‘Baby Driver’ that it is entirely an Edgar Wright movie. Every frame of the movie has his stamp on it, every little stylistic choice seems his from the soundtrack which keeps the movie hopping along to each choice of camera angle or direction that the movie take. All of the actors involved seem to be having tremendous fun from Ansel Elgort’s ‘Baby’ to his love interest ‘Debora’ played by Lily James. Jamie Foxx does crazy very well with ‘Bats’ and Kevin Spacey brings a nice turn as Baby’s boss ‘Doc’. John Hamm also enjoys playing ‘Buddy’ the husband to Eliza Gonzalez’s ‘Darling’. And yes these are clearly code names to maintain distance from each other. At times the dialogue of the movie verges on the cheesy, which also seems intentional, playing up the kind of movies to which this film plays homage.

 

One thing that took both my wife and I a little by surprise was the tonal shift from the first to the second half of the movie. The first seems like a musical, albeit one involving bank robberies and car chases, and is very fun and entertaining with matters playing out according to the beat, Baby meets his love interest and a couple of heists go well with Baby’s spectacular driving keeping things smooth. In the second the seriousness of things is stepped up, with several bad choices leading to a dash to the end and the inevitable confrontations that come. And of course a number of the cast meet an ignoble fate, as you would expect from an Edgar Wright movie. The ending was also interesting, not going where I expected it to and veering away many of the cliché’s that could’ve been settled on.

 

Baby Driver is Edgar Wright’s take on a Fast and Furious movie where the action is fantastic, the cars are driven insanely well yet unlike those tired movies this one is awesome. It reminded me of ‘Heat’, very high praise indeed, as well as ‘Reservoir Dogs’ with the soundtrack being so integral to the action. It is well worth seeing in the cinema on a large screen and I am thoroughly looking forward to revisiting it once it is out on DVD as I think it will reward multiple viewings. I shall also be eagerly awaiting the director’s next release, as ever. I can’t wait!

 

‘Only an atheist can help God save the world’ now has TWELVE reader reviews with an average of 4.4 stars and is available from all electronic retailers including Amazon UK here: http://tinyurl.com/pgjd68z. The sequel, ‘Jesus Returns: here he comes again’, will be out soon! Also check out my other “Rambling” blogs posts for articles on being an indie author, comics, politics, and reviews of books and movies! Finally, follow me on Twitter @onlyanatheist1. Cheers!

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My review of James Rickards ‘The Death of Money’…

As a writer of science-fiction stories, along with atheist comedies, I have a keen interest in the shape of the future and in the changes that appear to be coming to our world very soon. Things like the creation of Artificial Intelligence (A.I.), the loss of jobs due to automation and driverless cars that are being rapidly developed and thus the need for a Universal Basic Income (UBI) to offset the loss of these jobs, as well as the impact of humans on our world interests me. I read books like Paul Mason’s ‘Postcapitalism’ (review here: http://tinyurl.com/grg36v8) to inform me of what is to come and how I can incorporate it into my writings but also because I have a genuine interest in this subject and ‘The Death of Money: the coming collapse of the international monetary system’ by James Rickards fits squarely into that category.

This book details some of the events that the author thinks are likely to occur and that will shape our world and society during the coming decades, most notably a collapse of the US dollar, but Rickards also covers many other topics including the rise of China, along with the expected fall of that country’s economy, the use of gold by Central banks, and the manipulation of the markets by terrorists among other things. One of the implications that intrigued me most was the way in which countries like the US manipulate their own interest rates to pass inflation onto other nations, something that strikes me as deceptive but, given the number of ways that the US maintains its dominance of the world, this is actually pretty tame. And given that we have been living in a period of exceptionally low interest rates, combined with quantitative easing on a massive scale, also not the biggest issue we face.

 

This book was published in 2014 and the signs that Rickards thesis is correct continue to mount. Recently, several Chinese companies were downgraded by Moody’s leading to fears of a slowdown in the world’s second largest economy (https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/may/24/china-credit-rating-downgraded-moodys-debt). The UK housing bubble and economy looks set to collapse should we actually go through with the whole Brexit debacle. And the effect of having Donald Trump as US president, and all of the insanity that appears on a daily basis, are yet to really be seen and felt. I was convinced before reading this book that we were heading for a financial meltdown and now I am even more certain that this will happen in the near future.

 

Rickards wonders how much longer the dollar will be the reserve currency, not long by the sounds of it, and then the impact on the US will surely be felt. I’m also very curious to see what the resultant fallout will be with the author airing a cautious note in the last few pages about the possibility of America turning into a fascist state with its militarised police, surveillance mechanisms and easily controllable road network. The UK is comparable to the US is a great many ways but personally I am grateful that we have not followed them in adding SWAT teams, drones and APCs to our police forces. And with Donald Trump now in the White House that possibility seems ever more realistic.

 

My feeling is that we are indeed heading for a financial meltdown and that the world that needs to follow it, one where neo-liberalism is no longer the driving force of our economy, AI runs much of our world, UBI is implemented along with shorter weeks, and we put the emphasis on sustainability in a finite world is one possible outcome. Unfortunately, there are other, far more scary outcomes too and there seems to be no way of knowing exactly where we are heading. We shall just have to see. Cheers!

 

‘Only an atheist can help God save the world’ now has TWELVE reader reviews with an average of 4.4 stars and is available from all electronic retailers including Amazon UK here: http://tinyurl.com/pgjd68z. The sequel, ‘Jesus Returns: here he comes again’, will be out soon! Also check out my other “Rambling” blogs posts for articles on being an indie author, comics, politics, and reviews of books and movies! Finally, follow me on Twitter @onlyanatheist1. Cheers!

My review of Paul Dempsey’s recent London gig…

A few nights ago my wife and I saw Paul Dempsey in concert and I have to say that it was the best gig I have seen in years and probably one of the best that I have ever attended. Yes, it really was that good. For those of you not in the know, Dempsey is the lead singer of Something for Kate’, a band from Australia who I have been a fan of for many years ever since first listening to ‘The Official Fiction’ and enjoying it. It is the opinion of this reviewer that SfK are a band, unlike a long list of others whom I have previously enjoyed, that has only gotten better as the years have passed and they have made more music. ‘Desert Lights’ was a favourite of mine for many years, it is excellent and it was only replaced in my affections by the subsequent album, ‘Leave Your Soul to Science’, though that one took more listens for me to warm to. And since then the latest has been in my regular rotation of albums.

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In addition to his work with SfK, Dempsey has also been building himself a solo career. He released  a collection of acoustic covers in 2013 with ‘Shotgun Karaoke that was then followed by ‘Everything is True’ in 2014 and standout tracks include ‘Fast Friends’, ‘Theme from Nice Guy’ and ‘Ramona Was a Waitress’. In 2017 came ‘Strange Loop’ (cover above), the superb latest album, and one that has been on hard rotation on both my wife and my mp3 players, as well as on our home stereo. Our favourites from this album include the title track, ‘Morningless’, ‘Hey History (Don’t Go Changing)’ and ‘Volunteers’. When we heard that he would be extending his European tour with a date added in London and one in Dublin we were first in line to grab the tickets.

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My wife and I have seen some gigs over the years that were excellent but only a few. Powderfinger, another Aussie rock staple, at the Birmingham Academy was truly something special partly due to the fact that they usually fill stadia back in Oz and we were in the second row and partly down to Bernard Fanning and the band being consummate performers. That gig was incredible and I am hopefully that Fanning will return to the UK at some point during his impressive solo career. Red Sky July are always excellent (my review here: https://tinyurl.com/lpak4vx) and another standout was Ben Folds. Seeing SfK is a dream that I have had for many years now, though I have always been realistic that this probably won’t happen, but Paul Dempsey provided the next best thing by playing an impressive one hour and forty five minute set that spanned all of his solo work and a few well-known SfK songs.

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Dempsey played the gig without any backing so it was just him and a guitar on stage. And he absolutely stormed it, giving an impressive performance while visibly being tired from his time on the road. Standout tracks of the night included ‘Strange Loop’ and ‘Morningless’ (at least for me, anyway) and the SfK classics ‘Déjà vu’ and ‘Monsters’. I wasn’t even sure that Dempsey would even play any SfK songs but ‘Déjà vu’ really brought the house down and I am ever more hopeful that he might bring the band back for a European tour in the near future. My wife and I will happily see Dempsey again any chance we get, hopefully soon, and interestingly enough neither of us have wanted to stop listening to his solo albums following the excellent gig. And if SfK do come London I just need them to play ‘Deep Sea Divers’, one of the most achingly beautiful songs I’ve ever heard, then I truly will be happy. Here’s hoping!

 

‘Only an atheist can help God save the world’ now has TWELVE reader reviews with an average of 4.4 stars and is available from all electronic retailers including Amazon UK here: http://tinyurl.com/pgjd68z. The sequel, ‘Jesus Returns: here he comes again’, will be out soon! Also check out my other “Rambling” blogs posts for articles on being an indie author, comics, politics, and reviews of books and movies! Finally, follow me on Twitter @onlyanatheist1. Cheers!

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