Category Archives: Entertainment

BINKY? PRATCHETT’S HOURGLASS IS EMPTY… BUGGER

Terry Pratchett enjoying a Guinness at honorar...
Terry Pratchett enjoying a Guinness at honorary degree ceremony at Trinity College Dublin. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A man with a big scythe and mounted on an impossibly white steed arrived to pick up the soul of one Sir Terry Pratchett, aged 66 today. Pratchett, for those who’ve lived in a literary black hole for the last thirty years or so, was the genius behind the Discworld novels and all the history, back story and associated paraphernalia with the fantasy land he’d created.

I was introduced to Discworld by a handful of friends at school who latched on to them a little earlier than I did – Indy and Richard were the main guilty parties if I remember correctly. From reading The Colour of Magic I was hooked.

Annoyingly Terry Pratchett was a hugely prodigious author, chucking out a couple of books a year which made collecting his works quite pricey. On the other hand, they were almost without exception work paying for. Some of my favourite reads of all time flowed from his wonderfully creative mind, including Good Omens which he co-wrote with Neil Gaiman.

What made his work stand out, to me, was the way he wrote rather than what he wrote. The fantasy world he created was as good as any other which flowed from the pens and keyboards of many an author but his humorous style was second to none. With a bevy of pop culture references in his novels (annotated guides appeared on the internet many years ago which I downloaded, printed and promptly lost while at university), there was an extra layer to the stories which gave them an extra level of re-readability.

What I truly appreciated about him, though, was his eagerness to engage with his readers. Along with Douglas Adams, Terry Pratchett took to the internet with aplomb in its earlier days as a publicly accessible network and regularly posted on alt.fan.pratchett, a newsgroup on the old usenet system. I remember him asking questions about the physics surrounding someone randomly teleporting from one place to another, and the input from respondents was used in (I think) The Last Continent.

He regularly did signing tours and would sign anything and everything he was given… with a different quote in each. I attended two signings in one day in Leeds many years ago, between which I think he signed about 15 books I had. Each one annotated “Best Wishes”, “More Best Wishes”, “Son of Best Wishes” and so on. He added drawings and stamps to his repertoire as the years went on.

And then he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.

One of the most active and creative literary minds of our generation was being eaten away from within. A more cruel punishment for a person I cannot imagine. Yet, despite this, he ploughed on. He still had stories to tell and no damn debilitating mental condition was going to stop him.

Utilising copious notes and voice recognition software to allow him to keep track of the plots while writing as quickly as possible, and with the aid of friends and family, his output slowed but did not stop. Did he need to write more to pay the mortgage? No. He wrote because he was good at it, enjoyed it an – most importantly – other people got happiness from something he did. And also to piss off the Alzheimer’s, a condition he called an “embuggerance”.

And now that creative mind has ceased to function. News was released some months ago that his daughter Rhianna would take over the Discworld when her father passed, and on her capable (trust me, I’ve read some of her stuff) shoulders that responsibility now lies.

Thank you, PTerry (sic). Thank you for seventy-plus novels of laughs. Thank you for being one of many people who engendered in me a genuine love for the written word and how beautifully it can be crafted.

Enjoy that final ride on Binky. Such a brilliant moniker that we named our last dog after him. I just wish your hourglass had been that bit bigger.

A Just Giving page donating to the Research Institute for the Care of Older People (RICE) has been set up in his memory: https://www.justgiving.com/Terry-Pratchett/

Review: Bible of Butchery – Cannibal Corpse The Official Biography

Bible of Butchery - Cannibal Corpse The Official Biography
Bible of Butchery – Cannibal Corpse The Official Biography by Joel McIver
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Not a bad read and as decent a history of the band as you’re likely to find.

Based on interviews with the band done quite recently and released to tie in with the new “A Skeletal Domain” album, “Bible of Butchery” makes for a good companion tome. Its weak point is there’s really nothing new or massively revelatory within its pages.

There’s a potted band history and a first-person biography of each member, plus a selection of song lyrics some of which are briefly annotated. In addition, there’s a longer interview section towards the end with more up-to-date questions which covers the bands’ individual touring memories and the like.

Chris Barnes’ time in the band is, of course, mentioned and the terms of his departure aren’t exactly skimmed over. While it’s a part of the current members’ history I’m sure they’re glad is in the past, it would have been good to have had something more details from around that time – and the cherry on top would of course have been to hear Chris’s side of the story. I’m sure there are reasons for that being missing (not least of which is whether Chris wants to talk about it or not), but if there was the ideal place for it to be published then this was it.

The presentation is top notch – Brian J Ames should take a bow – and there are plenty of photos scattered around the blood-trimmed pages to really flesh it out.

I enjoyed reading it, but I think the fact that the band are so damn nice and there’s been relatively (and surprisingly!) little controversy in Cannibal Corpse’s 25 years, the overall story isn’t as full of ups, downs, twists and so forth that could make it more interesting.

For the completist and the mad fan, there’s probably not another book that comes close to covering the band’s history and for this reason I’d recommend it. That and the great artwork.

View all my reviews

Review: Armageddon Outta Here

Armageddon Outta Here
Armageddon Outta Here by Derek Landy
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A great collection, though some completists will likely already have about half of the material already. What’s left, though, is typically excellent.

A handful of short stories which introduce new characters – some of whom have already made appearances in the novels – and a couple which tie in with major plot threads.

Cream of the crop is one which sits nicely on its own, and doesn’t have any real attachment to any of the existing storylines – Get Thee Behind Me, Bubba Moon. Probably the creepiest story I’ve ever read by Landy.

Some may see it as a way of extending the now-finished Skulduggery series (the final book was published this month), but there’s enough original content in here to make it worth the purchase/library loan.

View all my reviews

Console Wars: Sega, Nintendo, and the Battle that Defined a Generation

Console Wars: Sega, Nintendo, and the Battle that Defined a Generation
Console Wars: Sega, Nintendo, and the Battle that Defined a Generation by Blake J. Harris
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Console Wars is John Grisham for nerds. Predominantly coming over as a “good guy vs the big bad corporation” story, and filled with industry insider detail it’s a surprisingly easy read.

The Sega / Nintendo generation was one I was part of chronologically, but not actually involved in. We had an Atari VCS which led the charge in home consoles before (partly down to wonders such as the E.T. game) crashing spectacularly and taking the whole concept of the “home arcade” with it. By that time, we’d moved onto computers (a Sinclair ZX-81 followed by an Amstrad, then Amiga and onto PCs), which was more common in the UK as opposed to the console-friendly US where Nintendo went on to corner the market.

Until Sega came along.

Console Wars is that story. The battle for market dominance between Mario and Sonic, bracketed by the demise of Atari and the rise of Sony. There are tons of little facts and background stories in here without it coming across as a book of nerd trivia. It’s about the story and the characters first and foremost.

At 558 pages it’s no lightweight, but it’s also not a coffee table book. This is written to be read, not just glanced through occasionally.

If you’re looking for a gift for the geek in your life that’ll get them off the internet for a while yet still keep them quiet, this will almost certainly go down well.

View all my reviews

Film review: The Unbeatables

120px-film-strip2Been ages since I did a review, but seeing as I got in to see this one as a free preview I kind of feel obligated to return the favour and rattle off a few words. Little Mister and I nabbed free tickets to see it at the Showcase and had a nice morning together!

The Unbeatables

“Show us your cross, father!”

Plot-in-a-nutshell: Bad guy becomes megastar and buys out his old village, only the old foosball table has other ideas…

Released in Latin America during World Cup year, this has probably made its money back already – simply because attaching a football to anything over there pretty much guarantees a sale. From what I gathered from the producer credits at the start, it’s an Argentinian film and not originally in English, but the cast used for “our” version are very good and the dub is – on the whole – well done. I’m pretty sure a fair few of the jokes have been tweaked for a British audience, which shows a bit of extra thought from the film-makers.

Despite a couple of the lines falling rather flat – jokes that just don’t work – the vast majority is good to excellent with some really sneaky throwaway lines which will tickle the funny bones of football fans. Talking of bones, sci-fi film geeks will appreciate the pre-opening credits sequence…

The story is nothing special in terms of kids’ films, in that there’s a poor, downtrodden good guy up against an all-powerful baddie. There’s a girl who needs to be “got”, a village to be saved, and so on. But there aren’t any original stories any more. It’s how you dress them up that’s important and The Unbeatables does a good job. The animation is superb with a good mixture of humour, slapstick and wonderful imagination. In terms of looks I’d say it’s close to Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs but with more realistic (i.e. less cartoony) texturing.

What was more important was that Little Mister enjoyed it. He’s six and not the biggest football fan in the world (though he did sit through a few of the World Cup games with daddy this year!), but when I asked him for his favourite bit when we left the cinema, he said he couldn’t pick one as he’d enjoyed the whole thing! The general reaction in the cinema was positive, from what I could hear, with adults chuckling to some of the dialogue and children laughing out loud at the visuals.

Overall, very glad we went and the concrete test is that had we paid for tickets I’d have been every bit as happy. Good stuff and well done to the film-makers. It’s good to see that it’s not just the big boys who can make quality CGI animated features.