Archive for March, 2013

The Mating Season – PG Wodehouse

Posted in Books on March 23, 2013 by thecognitivekey

This is probably the best Wooster/Jeeves story there is. It is run close by a couple of others, and I think it may even better the Blandings Castle stories, though they tower over most Wooster tales.

I was looking at the publication date, 1949, first in Penguin in 1957, when I noticed that there was the notice about all characters being imaginary and having no relation to any living person, unusual I thought, normally that sort of thing is taken for granted with Wodehouse. And then the significance hit me. 1949, just after the war. Wodehouse did not have a good war and was investigated afterwards as a traitor. His main protagonist was the MP Duff Cooper. In this story Gussie Fink-Nottle had been encouraged by Claude ‘ Catsmeat’ Pirbright to wade in the fountain at Trafalgar Square looking for newts. He was of course arrested and taken before the bench where he was given 14 days. He gave a false name – Alfred Duff Cooper. Wodehouse getting his own back.

This tale is so well written. No character is there without reason, they all have a part to play. Already within the first three chapters the major and many minor players have been introduced and placed ready to play out their roles in the tale. Not a word is wasted. I said I’d take my time over this book just to enjoy the skill of Wodehouse as he makes the English language dance to his comic tune. This book should be compulsory reading in all schools. One point though, schools might want to take the junior edition as one of the characters describes another as a ‘piefaced young bastard’. I don’t recall any other book containing such strong language. A great book.


Use Of Weapons – Iain M Banks

Posted in Books on March 18, 2013 by thecognitivekey

Having enjoyed The Player Of Games I felt the need to get straight into another. This is a later one. It’s good. It has two threads that run through it, one running forward in time, the other running backward until they have drawn the complete picture. Some of the description is rather too graphic for what I need, maybe age is starting to tell. I found the forward thread far stronger than the backward thread which maybe unbalanced things as I wanted to get back to the stronger theme and rushed through the weaker. Probably a fault in my reading. Not really enough of the Culture for me, too much of the hero who never managed to gain my sympathy…I only cheered for him because he represented the Culture.

The Player of Games – Iain M Banks

Posted in Books on March 18, 2013 by thecognitivekey

I am re-reading this book. It is a few years since I first read it but I recall it as enthralling at the time. I hope it has retained its charm. It’ll be nice to read something good after the recent couple of duffers.

This is an earlyish Culture novel. All the better for it. It has all the charm and novelty of the Culture without the latter violence and brute force. It flows very well. One of my favourite Culture novels, much better than the recent ones. Banks could write without resorting to violent vulgarity. Certainly it’s on my I’ll have to read it again list.

Broadmoor Revealed: Victorian Crime and the Lunatic Asylum – Mark Stevens

Posted in Books on March 6, 2013 by thecognitivekey

This is a selection of short stories about noted inmates of Broadmoor from Victorian times. There is a very long introduction which gives a potted history of Broadmoor before we get to the individual cases themselves. So far I have read just one of these case histories. Did I learn anything of the person committed to Broadmoor for firing pistols at Queen Victoria? No – this was a potted history which told me very little. I think I learned more from the Introduction. Maybe the later stories will prove to be more enlightening. I hope so.

Well I have got to the end. I did wonder as I read it if the author was a professional writer or just a self-publisher. I am not sure, but to be honest I haven’t the interest to find out. The author is an archivist who has access to the Broadmoor archives. If this is a sample then I don’t think they are worth keeping. The book read rather like a sampler for another bigger, better book to come. It teased, just enough information to almost interest and then it stopped. I didn’t really learn anything about either Victorian crime or the Lunatic Asylum. I have far better books on the topics from my degree course. It was a shame as it promised so much…but then the Introduction was pretty lengthy – more interest was paid to the crimes and escapes than the everyday life in Broadmoor. I have this book on my Kindle…it’ll be one of the first to go when I am short of space, no dammit, I’ll delete it now.

Monstrous Regiment – Terry Pratchett

Posted in Books on March 3, 2013 by thecognitivekey

Most of the time Terry Pratchett hits the mark, sometimes he misses completely, this one is just off target. It started slowly and was a real drag for the first half of the book. The plot was thin (peasant girls joining the army dressed as boys) and I didn’t care about the characters. Sam Vimes makes sporadic appearances, quite why it needed a character of his presence in this plot I still don’t know. It was all very predictive which was a shame as it had been recommended as one of Pratchett’s finest. Things improved for the second half, not greatly, but just enough to encourage me to finish the book. The ending was lame and apparent from the early pages.

This book isn’t typical of the Discworld series as it’s missing the charm and character of the place, it feels a laboured effort, lacking a light touch. Some of his books I can read over again, this isn’t one of those, it won’t be staying long on my shelves.