I don’t watch many films. I tend to prefer books to films. But every now and again I feel just have to watch some movies – and catch up with some of the big films of the last couple of years.
To give you some idea of how up to date I tend to be both of the movies I watched this past weekend are already into sequel-land, and in one case multiple sequel-land, before I’ve even watched the first.
The two films I chose to watch were Saw and The Hostel – yes both part ones.
Saw surprised me a great deal. I found this to be far from the gory moronic horror I expected. This was a good film – seriously good, and very creepy.
The Hostel however was all I expected, however. Effectively a film of two halves, the first a teen/college sex comedy before flipping into a non-supernatural gory horror flick. The gore is done reasonably with good use of well-timed cutaways and splatter. The problem this film had for me though was that the first part had left me not caring whether any of the lead characters survived.
Back to books – I’ve read far more than watched.
First few all from PS Publishing
Eric Brown’s Starship Summer is simply wonderful. It’s a science fiction novella that joins a group of characters at a point in their lives, follows them for a while and then ends, leaving them to carry on with their lives - my favourite kind of story. Okay, there is something momentous going on an they are near the epicentre, an alien first contact situation
The City Beyond Play (Philip Jose Farmer and Danny Adams) is a fantasy adventure-let wrapped in science fiction clothing with a crime chase thrown in. Lightweight but entertaining.
Ellison Wonderland is the classic Harlan Ellison short story collection from nearly half a century ago represented for the 21st Century. And from reading this set I can definitely understand how Ellison gained such a reputation as a great of the short form of sf. Even fifty years has not made these tales stale.
Ramsey Campbell’s Grin of the Dark is the latest horror novel from one of Britain’s best horror writers, and sees film researcher Simon Lester (no relation, would be difficult as he’s fictional and this is a pseudonym) descending into the mad world of anarchic silent film comic Tubby Thackeray. Creepy.
The final PS Publishing book on my recent pile was Zoran Zivkovic’s 12 Collections and the Teashop – and it is quite simply one of the best books I have read in years. These thirteen short tales are unnerving, creepy, unsettling, and just plain odd. This is a totally different kind of fiction that many Western Eyes will have encountered. And it’s absolutely brilliant.
Paul Kane’s Daylton Quayle Rides Out (from Pendragon Press - http://www.pendragonpress.net/) is just plain insane. Two deeply surreal, bad pun packed high-action Sherlock Holmes parodies – with so many film and horror references thrown in it’s untrue. Mad - and I loved it.
Moving on I come to Stephen Baxter’s H-Bomb Girl from Faber and Faber (http://www.faber.co.uk/). This is a young adult science fiction piece set in Liverpool during the Cuban Missile Crisis – with the decision of a teenage girl holding the key (literally) to many possible future. Interesting, reasonably entertaining but only a stop gap between his weightier adult titles.
Next up a couple of short story collections from British small press publisher Elastic Press - http://www.elasticpress.com/.
Firstly Tony Richards’s set Going Back. Many of the stories in hear sound like science fiction. They are not though, for Richards unnerves – it’s his gift. Each of these tales gives you something you just don’t want, and there is no way on Earth I would want to trade places with any of these people. Great set.
Like Richards’ set, Robert Neilson’s That’s Entertainment sounds like science fiction, but in this case you get exactly what it sounds like. This is a collection of sf – mostly of alternate reality shorts with some plucking on the heartstrings and some comedy thrown in. Another good book from Elastic Press.
Justin D’Ath’s Pool (from Ford Street Publishing - http://www.fordstreetpublishing.com/) is another young adult story – one set in small town Australia. This gentle fantasy is quite enchanting and a complete change of pace from most of the books I read. It’s the kind of book I might buy as a present for a young teen daughter of one friend or another – except that I have no friends with said daughter. Interesting though.
Brian Aldiss’s Harm (Gerald Duckworth & Co Ltd - http://ducknet.co.uk/) is possibly the darkest book Aldiss has ever produced, and one of the best. IT tells two tales featuring the same lead character in two different worlds – the first as a prisoner accused of terrorism in a very right-wing future England, the other as a member of a failing colony on another world. Totally gripping.
The next book I picked up for entirely the wrong reason I have to say. After all my ranting about celebrity culture gone mad I bought a book that’s co-written by an actress in Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Yes I know, but in my defence I know Amber Benson (Tara) has more strings to her bow than just looking good on camera (which she does in my opinion).
This novella, The Seven Whistlers (with co-author Christopher Golden) reads very much like a Stephen King story. It sets up the same kind of locale, the same kind of characters and the same kind of unsettling mythic beastie. And for once it even makes me feel that it should be longer. I find many books to be overly long. For once I wanted this to be twice as long so that the characters and their interactions could be fully developed before the demons tear them to pieces. Good but could have been much more. (Subterranean Press - http://www.subterraneanpress.com/)
Kevin J. Anderson’s Metal Swarm is book six in the author’s Saga of the Seven Suns – a truly mammoth series – epic on a galaxy-wide background with more alien races and worlds than you could shake a stick at. His volume is good but has the definite felling of being a set up book for the last title. The first five of this series have been superb. This isn’t superb, just good. But if the setup parts mean that I am about to get a truly great final book then I will forgive the author. . (Simon and Schuster - http://www.simonsays.co.uk/)
The last of the set is Mike Resnick’s World Behind the Door. This is totally unlike Resnick’s normal fiction. Far from the author’s more normal high space opera, this is whimsical fantasy – an Alice in Wonderland style tale featuring the artist Salvador Dali. Brilliantly mad. (Watson-Guptill Publications - http://www.watsonguptill.com/)IEL