David Stevens

Posts Tagged ‘review’

Sad

In Uncategorized on February 16, 2018 at 10:55 am

People complain on the internet (it’s true! they do! I’ve seen them). And some of the things they complain about is that a reboot of remake or refashioning of some beloved thing will ruin the beloved thing. And then they are mocked (it’s true! I’ve seen that as well! the mocking of people!) by others, and told that the beloved thing is not being touched at all, etc. It is still there – see! You big silly.

And then it happens to you, dear reader.

I suppose I should have known when my son and I gave up an episode or two in, but no warning bells were ringing. We were busy. We’d get back to it. There were lawns to be mowed, a dog to be castrated, all the stuff.

And I did get back to it. I watched the whole thing, right to the end.

I have to confess, dear reader. I was bored.

I so very much looked forward to American Gods, the TV extravaganza. I have read the books several times. I have read Anansi Boys. I read Shadow Moon’s adventures in short fiction. I enjoyed them all. AG sits on a very special shelf of mine (stop laughing!) where I keep my favourite books, old dependables that I have gone back to time and time again (leave me alone!).

But I found the show tedious.

When it was being developed for HBO, in my ignorance I thought, ok, it is just time. And then they rejected it, and I thought, how do they do that? If there are bits they don’t like, just change them.

And then that other mob picked it up, and I saw.

Did Bryan Fuller really leave as showrunner or whatever they call those people, because they wouldn’t pay for more CGI? Because more CGI is no answer.

I found the extra bits with the dead wife to be so much padding, and very repetitive. The pacing was off. The balance between The Story and the interludes was wrong. We were told one American Jesus was a “wetback” (not my term), and then later, we were shown it in detail, just in case we didn’t get it. And it is so heavy handed.

I wondered afterwards, how quickly I would go back to the book? I feel no rush. Perhaps the refashioning has spoiled something for me. Perhaps a beloved object has been tarnished. I don’t know. But I think I will understand a little better, the next time other people complain.

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Not particularly interesting

In Uncategorized on February 12, 2018 at 10:17 pm

My story, “Store in a dark place”, is “not particularly interesting“, so why the hell would you not want to read it? Check it out in Space and Time magazine.

(And they told me not to go into advertising …)

The Maggot People

In Uncategorized on April 12, 2015 at 7:27 pm

Imagine if Dan Brown had the gumption to really whack us with a truly bizarre confection of a conspiracy about the Catholic Church, instead of that wimpy pile he served up. If you are going to show us an imaginary dark world hidden by a conspiracy of the ages, have a real red hot go at it, really show us something. And imagine if he had even a little of the writing style of an Anthony Burgess. Or if Richard Dawkins stopped mincing his words and got down to brass tacks about what it would be like if we really really really were gene and meme driven machines – no mucking about, I’m talking about the whole clock work driven thing, the brass gears turning while we lurch about humming old advertising jingles, show us Dickie. And if Sam Harris painted us a picture of what a lack of free will really was, us watching in horror from inside our shells while everything happens all around us, spectators with no role to play. Christopher Hitchens, if he – well he’s dead – OR IS HE? I mean guys, tell us what you really think. Be audacious, for goodness sake, audacity is everything, give it to us big and blown up. If you are going to go for it, then go for it. Go bizarre. Use your imagination. Don’t let us die wondering. Show us a world freezing at the big reveal. Have a set. And write decently.

I’m not clever enough to write book reviews, but this is what I have to say about The Maggot People by Henning Koch. Audacious, bizarre, scary, well written. Great title! I’m packing my bags to return home after a year working in Europe. 80% of my books are staying here, but this one is coming with me.

Review of “My Life as a Lizard”

In Uncategorized on March 30, 2014 at 7:34 pm

There is a generous review of “My Life as a Lizard“, at Apex. Reading the review, I had a moment of “yeah, that’s what I meant,” and I am very grateful that someone read the story and took the time to be so thoughtful and articulate about it. Made my day.

Review of “Avoiding Gagarin”

In publications on March 15, 2014 at 2:31 pm

A generous short review of my story “Avoiding Gagarin” appears at Tangent, and I am grateful it does not say bad things!

Book Review: Sad Jingo by Ron Dionne

In Uncategorized on June 1, 2013 at 9:28 am

(Having mentioned Ron Dionne in my first post, here is a review of his novel SAD JINGO I previously posted elsewhere)

We know why the children who read Harry Potter identify with the main wizard.  Wouldn’t it be wonderful if there was magic in the world?  And if there was, of course I would be one of the magicians.  Even if I couldn’t be Harry (though secretly, why wouldn’t I be?  why shouldn’t I be?) I wouldn’t be a muggle.  Once upon a time, I could watch zombie films and apocalypses until the mutant cows came home (1).  Omega Man, Mad Max 2, The Terminator, Afternoon Tea of the Dead, and always, I’d be identifying with those swift survivors, the ones who scurry just ahead of the blood thirsty hordes.

But what is the truth?  Almost to a one, even if there was a secret world, the millions of children reading HP would have no access to it.  They would be ordinary.  Just like they are now.  At best, at the very best, they would be the failures of Lev Grossman’s The Magicians, who took their one shot and flunked out of the secret exam, and even had the fact that they tried wiped from their minds.(2)

Without even a whiff of the fantastic (3), Ron Dionne has in “Sad Jingo” written a novel about magic.  The magic of the real world, of the fantasies in our head.  The longings that leave us all muggles, staring in through windows at the other worlds of which we can never be a part.

Jingo is sad.  Something is broken, and does not allow him to put together the pieces that let us get through the day.  He makes magical guesses and throws disparate parts together, in a sort of lottery of hope that they’ll stick and he can make his way in the world.  Like all lotteries, the winner is someone else on TV holding an oversized cheque, which Jingo does not get to see at all, spending the night in the Tombs instead.  Others around him, like Chinee Chester, with his music and different girl every night, seem to win all the time.

Different though he is, not all of his everyday longings are so far from ours.  Trying not to stare at the nubile, breathtaking Nina.  All the things he cannot have.  The thing he wants the most though, is to play jazz.  And here, Jingo is like the daydreamer in all of us.  Jingo does not want to learn music.  He does not want to practice music.  He does not want to be able to read music.  “I gotta feel it, not read it.  For it to sound good.”  Jingo wants to be magic.  He just wants to play music, and not just that,  he wants to play like Thelonious Monk.  He wants the gods to fill him, only in this way, and but for a little while.  Is that so unreasonable?

Of course it is.   His cousin Harold knows what is going on.  Its “like you know something the world doesn’t and it requires special action.” It has to be special, nothing so mundane as practising more or learning to read music.  That’s too obvious, or not obvious enough in the cracked window through which Jingo views the world. “I like playing piano” he writes to Dianna.  “But I am not good because I have no one to play for.”  Of course.

Surrounding Jingo are those who want to live off the magic.  Some like Harold refuse to compromise, but know their place – “I’m a behind-the-scenes kind of guy”.  Others, the agent Rasmussen, and Howard’s business partners, may have been touched by the magic once, but now, more or less bitter, have nowhere else to go.  This is the only way they know to make a living.  And then there is Joy Chant, ageing singer, an actual artiste, who speaks the truth:  “Even those of us that get somewhere, Jingo, we hurt inside wishing we could get somewhere further”.  There is always another inner circle – “Wish I could belt one out like Tina Turner or Aretha now and then.  Or could improvise like Betty Carter”.  The magic is always just out of reach, for everyone.

Dianna terrifies me.  Her brokenness is not at the level of functionality.  Unlike Jingo, she knows what is going on, but she is scary in her desperation.  I am sure that I am not the only person blogging here who has half a novel or two tucked away somewhere.  That is how I came across Ron’s blog in the first place, where he makes insightful comments on the ultra-marathon of the persistent unpublished, and the new publishing paradigm.  Dianne’s making a fair living, good enough that she just can’t throw it away to risk everything on her dreams.  Then success, on a massive scale.  Again, Ron shows us those making their living from hovering close to the magic, the agents, promoters, and Mikkelsen, the bizarre 600 pound interviewer for Vanity Fair.  But the scary bit:

“scurrying about full of dreams and plots and characters and dialogue and settings, piecing them together, stopping when inspiration struck to write something down in her little notebooks, feeling charmed, feeling that one day she would make it, making it being having something officially hers on paper bound in bookstores where people could pay for it and take it home and read it … How certain she’d been that it would happen one day.  How long she’d felt that certainty.  And then how the certainty had fallen away.  And how in its place had grown the certainty of years of drudgery…”.

AHHH!!  Too close to the bone, Ron.  What, other people have little notebooks too?

Ron Dionne has shown me a world of New York jazz clubs that I will never know, and a world of literary success that I’d at least like to have a sticky beak at (I don’t need to win a big lottery prize, a little one will do).  This is a successful book about failure, about the consequences of dreaming.  His characters follow their dreams, and sometimes, someone else’s.  In many cases, they shouldn’t have.  I look forward to “Sad Jingo’s” successor.

Its cheap!  Buy it, download it, and read it for yourself.

Sad Jingo by Ron Dionne

(1) “corpses gathering outside a farmhouse, moaning and tripping over their feet, wearing the tattered uniforms of their forgotten lives: he’d loved such films when he was a boy, not understanding how true they really were.  What were the living dead, Wolgast thought, but a metaphor for the misbegotten march of middle age?”  The Passage by Justin Cronin, p 174 *sob*

(2)  These days, I don’t even identify with the survivor who is killed off early in the film.  I identify with the bleached skulls crushed so easily beneath the metallic feet of the stripped back T-100s, or with the anonymous basketball court dead of Contagion.

(3) I leave to one side the “Black Robes” magic of using words to put a world inside someone else’s head.