Review of Gone Girl (book) by Gillian Murphy (SPOLIER KLAXON)

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Before we begin let me just explicitly say THIS IS A SPOILER WARNING. If you have any interest in reading Gone Girl then read this later because, this review is going to spoiler the hell out of the story. You have been warned.

Synopsis

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On a warm summer morning in North Carthage, Missouri, it is Nick and Amy Dunne’s fifth wedding anniversary. One problem though Amy has disappeared and there are signs of a struggle.

Nick quickly becomes the number one suspect. He is the husband. He is bonking a 23 year old student of his and he is telling lots of petty small lies.

As it turns out though Nick is innocent. Amy is pulling the ultimate of long cons. Royally vexed at her husband for his philandering and other stuff (a lot of it very petty). She has carefully planned out how to fake death and has dropped Nick in the proverbial.

In the third act though things go truly bonkers. Nick knowing his wife’s supreme self-conceited nature begins giving interviews coded to get her to come back to him. Amy is at first just enjoys his suffering but then after being robbed she reaches out to a clingy ex-boyfriend Desi. Desi happily puts her up in his secluded beach house. Amy quickly realises she is now essentially in prison so she kills Desi frames him for rape and kidnap and returns to her husband determined to resurrect their marriage.

The story then ends with Amy using Nick’s sperm to get pregnant and thus blackmailing him into supporting her story and staying together in the ‘perfect’ marriage.

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Review

I’m going to start off with a couple of pieces of huge praise for Gone Girl. Gone Girl is 578 pages long I ploughed through it in maybe six hours of reading. I enjoyed it. I don’t tear through books like that if they aren’t good/fun.

I will temper this praise however, by saying that I knew before reading that there was a huge plot twist. I had an inclining what it was and so wanting to know the ‘answer’ to the plot was obviously a huge magnet to my attention. Had this incipient plot twist not been ever present then I would have probably took more time.

My second piece of praise is for the way the Amy character is written. The book is told through alternating monologues between Amy and Nick The first section of Amy’s diary entries, the fake ones, are written in such a way that at first I was like OMG this is soooo fake. It is soooo over the top and cliche ridden. I don’t really believe in this character except as a parody/comedy on modern dating.

This of course though is the point. The diaries are a fake. In fact they essentially a fake within a fake because, Amy is doctoring old diary entries to create a fake persona and frame Nick but these diary entries themselves were written the voice of another fake persona’s rather than Amy’s ‘true’ voice from part two onwards.

When Amy’s story catches up to Nick’s in the timeline then the switch into her authentic voice reads beautifully and fits in perfectly with the earlier diary entries.

Additionally, the self-absorption of Amy’s character is brilliantly written. At some point Nick says to his twin sister that Amy will believe his apologies and come back because, she truly and completely believes in her own perfection. This is true and comes across in the writing and it is this and only this that allows me to accept the high wire act that is built upon in the final third.

The Nick character however isn’t as well written as Amy. Dare I say that some of this is because, a female writer struggles to convincingly write a male character. Some of this is also because, Nick is a pretty pathetic character and Murphy’s characterisation of him never seems to fit.

Sometimes he is pathetic sneaking around to read old magazine stories he writes. Sometimes he is an alpha-male. Sometimes he is a beta-male. Sometime he is clever. Sometimes he comes across as an idiot.

In particular the ‘relationship’ between Nick and his dementia ridden Father is never believable. It reads likes someone wanting to comment on the sort of male-female dynamics the Guardian obsess over but it just never rings true to real life and it never adds anything to the plot.

Murphy uses it to stick a toe in the water of suggesting Nick is misogynistic but it is never ever taken far enough. Even when Nick is talking about the shape of Amy’s skull at the start of the novel I never believe this is a character ‘strong’ enough to murder another human being. For the plot of Gone Girl to really work the Nick character needs to have more menace.

Overall, I would recommend Gone Girl. In its format and tone is reminiscent of Ian McEwan’s Enduring Love save that it is more exciting and has a slightly more believable plot. Gone Girl is definitely worth a read and it is currently really cheap on amazon.

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Review of The Triangle : A Year On The Ground With New York’s Blood’s and Crips by Kevin Deutsch

Plot Synopsis

The Linden Triangle: Linden Avenue and Linden Place, Hempstead, Long Island. At this blighted intersection, seemingly forgotten by the middle and upper class communities that surround it, the dream of suburban comfort and safety has devolved into a nightmare of flying bullets and bloodshed. Here, a war between the Bloods and Crips has torn a once-peaceful neighborhood apart.The book tells the true story of one year in the life of a suburban village-turned-war-zone.

Review

I’ve written in the past that expectation can ruin a book/film and this is certainly the case with Kevin Deutsch’s ‘The Triangle’. I got this for Christmas after reading and really enjoying an extract online months and months before its December release date.

Essentially, what the extract promised to me was another book like David Simon’s (creator of The Wire) ‘Homocide : A Year On The Killing Streets’ i.e.  Gripping, true to life drama that completely engrosses me. These are high standards that 99,9% of books will struggle to live up to but the extract on the internet had really grabbed me and caught my attention.

What we get instead is David Simon super super super light. Kevin Deutsch explains in an afterward the lengths he went to get accurate reporting from the triangle and it is all very commendable. Essentially, he hung around the Triangle and chatted to the drug dealers.

This effort doesn’t translate to the narrative though. None of the characters are ever really fleshed out in anyway. It seems that Deutsch took everything he was told at face value and as such I never feel that I know even the names of 95% of the characters. Members of the Crips or the Bloods hit each other and different members hit back but the writing struggles to make it clear who each character is.

More problematic though is that narrative doesn’t feel realistic or believable. One of the main characters is killed with a bullet to the head at  point blank range after being spotted by the rival gang. This character has been in hiding for a few days and hasn’t been talking to anyone.

Deutsch chooses to write up his death as if he was talking to the dead man moments before his murder. He writes as if he knew his thoughts. How this is possible I do not know but when you are reading a true to life crime thriller the disconnect is jarring.

This event happens perhaps 80% of the way into the novel and the way it is told just checks me out. Already the writing has felt superficial and now it takes on all the substance of candyfloss in the wind.

The best I can say for ‘The Triangle : A Year On The Ground With New York’s Bloods and Crips’ us that it is a quick read. The worst I can say is that it is completely forgettable and without impact. This book aims to be The Wire or Homocide : A Year on the Killing Streets and fails completely.

One word Avoid.

Review : Half a King by Joe Abercrombie

Plot Synopsis (off goodreads because once again I’m lazy)

“I swore an oath to avenge the death of my father. I may be half a man, but I swore a whole oath.”

Prince Yarvi has vowed to regain a throne he never wanted. But first he must survive cruelty, chains, and the bitter waters of the Shattered Sea. And he must do it all with only one good hand.

The deceived will become the deceiver.

 Review – My problems with Half A King

It’s a bit odd to be reviewing Half A King because, this book isn’t aimed at me it is aimed at a young adult audience. I knew this before I read Half A King of course but didn’t give it much thought. I have really enjoyed Joe Abercrombie’s books and it was off that experience that I picked up his latest story.

When it comes to reviewing the book however I find myself in a cleft stick. How much should my opinion be changed by the fact that the book is aimed towards 10-14 years olds. Even when I started writing this paragraph my thought was that I should make a hefty allowance for this. However, I have changed my mind as I write. So here it is.

It think it was JK Rowling who said that to write for children you need to have a very clear idea of what it was to be like at that age. I’m not sure that Joe Abercrombie does or at least he has underestimated children and sold himself short with Half A King.

Robin Hobb’s words in her goodreads review get to the heart of my point. Hobbs writes that Half A King had “exceptionally tight focus on the protagonist” that she liked. 

I agree with her and I have no problem with a tight POV. After all I think my Harry Potter love is probably clear from my reference to JK Rowling and Harry Potter also has a tight POV focus.

What Abercrombie does in Half A King though is to allow that tightness to restrict the world building. There are hints to the world at large. For example, Yarvi’s mother is a fiscal genius but slavery seems to play its part in her success. Whilst there is a monotheism v paganism cultural war going on that is only hinted at.

Since Yarvi’s character is so book smart and clever from his time studying to become an advisor to Kings and Queens it would have been great to see Abercrombie clash Yarvi’s “book” knowledge against reality where the hoof meets the grass. Particularly in light of the hinted upon slavery. This wouldn’t need to be done by beating the reader over the head with the point. I would have just liked to have been given a broader snapshot of the world as a whole.

Ultimately, the lack of ambition in Half A King prevents a very good readable novel from being a young adult classic. The best children/young adult books stretch their readers in a way that I don’t think Half A King ever quite manages.

Abercrombie seems to have reigned himself in when he was writing Half A King when instead, to write for young adults, he should have been letting his imagination soar.

What Half A King did well

After those critical comments I feel I must temper things somewhat by saying I did enjoy Half  A King a lot. I breezed through it in less than a couple of nights of reading and I only do this when I’m enjoying a book.

Particularly, great was the depth to the characters. Everyone has real flaws and real positives. Whether they are a hero or a villian. There were no Mary Sue’s here which is more than can be said for other books.

Despite, being the protagonist Yarvi’s can be a ruthless unsentimental b***ard and the book does shy away from this. Such touches have always been Abercrombie’s biggest strength as a storyteller and their presence keeps the grimdark feel of his earlier works going strong even with the lack of r-rated material.

Conclusion

If you’re an Abercrombie fan looking for a fix or a someone who enjoys “young adult” fiction then give Half A King a go. It’s very good. With a bit more ambition though it could have been great.

 

Things to look forward to in 2014

With 2014 just starting off I thought I would take this opportunity take a look at the TV, films and books coming out in the next twelve months that I am really looking forward to.

Harry Dresden is back

It was almost 12 months ago exactly that I first started to read Jim Butcher’s fantastic Dresden Files. So engrossed was I in the world of the Chicago wizard that I raced through all 14 books in about three weeks.

Its fair to say that I am looking forward to the next book Skin Game. I would be excited for a new Dresden book regardless but the plot details we have sound (and I don’t use this word lightly) awesome.

The plot details are as follows according to Jim Butcher’s site

Harry Dresden, Chicago’s only professional wizard, is about to have a very bad day….

Because as Winter Knight to the Queen of Air and Darkness, Harry never knows what the scheming Mab might want him to do. Usually, it’s something awful.

He doesn’t know the half of it….

Mab has just traded Harry’s skills to pay off one of her debts. And now he must help a group of supernatural villains—led by one of Harry’s most dreaded and despised enemies, Nicodemus Archleone—to break into the highest-security vault in town so that they can then access the highest-security vault in the Nevernever.

It’s a smash-and-grab job to recover the literal Holy Grail from the vaults of the greatest treasure hoard in the supernatural world—which belongs to the one and only Hades, Lord of the freaking Underworld and generally unpleasant character. Worse, Dresden suspects that there is another game afoot that no one is talking about. And he’s dead certain that Nicodemus has no intention of allowing any of his crew to survive the experience. Especially Harry.

Dresden’s always been tricky, but he’s going to have to up his backstabbing game to survive this mess—assuming his own allies don’t end up killing him before his enemies get the chance….

Yep, I will be reading this the moment it comes out.

Interesting Sci-fi movies

The last few years have included a lot of really dumb and bad sci-fi movies like Transformers and Looper. 2014 looks like it might be something of a sea-change as post-inception and cloud atlas film makers attempt for expansive and interesting science fiction movies.

The Wachowski Siblings have got ‘Jupiter Ascending’ out this year. I’ve really enjoyed their previous work (The Matrix Trilogy, Cloud Atlas) and the Jupiter Ascending trailer looks interesting.

Along with Jupiter Ascending is ‘Transcendence’ directed by Wally Pfister of Batman fame and Christopher Nolan’s ‘Interstellar‘ and the new X-Men. It could be a banner year for sci-fi films despite the upcoming new Transformer Blockbuster.

Archer Season 5

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If you’ve read me review of the book ‘How to Archer’ you will know I’m a huge Archer fan. The new series should be hilarious. Although my comic con spies tell me that the cast and writers are promising something different from previous seasons. I’ve got Kenny Loggins on speed dial cos they might be about to enter the DANGERZONE.

Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History

Carlin’s Hardcore History is easily the best podcast/history related program that is going. So well researched and large are his episodes that they are essentially audiobooks. He still manages around five a year however which is pretty good. The next one cannot come soon enough.

The World Cup

I’m a big football fan. The World Cup is a once every four year opportunity to watch lots of high quality football. Please don’t humiliate us England.

Lastly more posts on this blog.

Welcome (some entirely non-essential instructions about reading this blog)

The writer. I'll let you decide whether I'm Harry Potter or Daniel Radcliffe

The writer. I’ll let you decide whether I’m Harry Potter or Daniel Radcliffe

You know writing an interesting welcome page isn’t the easiest thing in the world to do so why don’t you just imagine that this blog is filled with all the things that you find most interesting on the internet (excluding boobs).

Provided that the things you find most interesting are reviews of films, books and the occasional post about sports then this is the place you. If you aren’t interested in any of those things though you should read this blog anyway because, it will make you richer, more intelligent and more attractive*.

If the above doesn’t convince you to read you may wish to consult a doctor about your sanity. If you have done this and the doctor has affirmed you are sane though but are in need of some more specifics about what is actually going to be posted then here it is.

You can expect a steadyish diet of blockbuster movie reviews (these may or may not be mostly superhero related don’t blame me blame Hollywood), the goodreads widget should give you some clue about what books I am going to be reviewing. And finally I am going to be posting up a reread of the Discworld series and a rewatch of the Farscape series in the near future i.e. when I get over my mild Mario Kart 8 addiction or more likely smash my controller in frustration at being beaten by seven year old kids again. Damn you red shell!

This is going to hurt!

This is going to hurt!

*Some parts of the above text may be lies. Not the kind of lies that send you to hell, but lies nonetheless.