Lies of Locke Lamora Read Along – Part One

Usually I review Asian films but this is the first weekend discussion of The Lies of Locke Lamora read along which was organise by Little Red Reviewer amongst others and I’ve always wanted to read the book so now is the perfect time to do it.

 

1. If this is your first time reading The Lies of Locke Lamora, what do you think of it so far?  If this is a re-read for you, how does the book stand up to rereading?

This is the first time that I have read it and so far I am enjoying it. At first there was a lot of back story and world building but when I got through that and into the meat of the long-con events started to pick up.

2. At last count, I found three time lines:  Locke as as a 20-something adult, Locke meeting Father Chains for the first time, and Locke as a younger child in Shades Hill. How are you doing with the Flashback within a flashback style of introducing characters and the world?

No problem on this front. Years of watching films has armed me well for zombie invasions, dramatic court room speeches and flashbacks within flashbacks with a flash-forward to add some spice. At no point was I confused which is a sign of the brilliant crafting that has taken place. I’m also very curious about some of the characters that have been set up who have yet to make an appearance.

3. Speaking of the world, what do you think of Camorr and Lynch’s world building?

From what I’ve read of the book I am enjoying the world that has been created – specifically the way alchemy is used in nature and architecture and the way that the populace of Camorr are inhabiting these intriguing buildings made from “Elder glass”. The word “elder” immediately makes me think Lovecraft and Cthuhu mythos so I’m hooked.

4. Father Chains and the death offering. . .  quite the code of honor for thieves, isn’t it? What kind of person do you think Chains is going to mold Locke into? 

I suspect that Father Chains is trying to craft Locke into something more than a gentleman thief. Perhaps a super gentleman thief. That poor answer reflects the fact that I have little idea of the direction that his character is heading.
5. It’s been a while since I read this, and I’d forgotten how much of the beginning of the book is pure set up, for the characters, the plot, and the world. Generally speaking, do you prefer set up and world building done this way, or do you prefer to be thrown into the deep end with what’s happening?

I’m not too picky but I like getting thrown into events and discovering the world as the action rolls along. It allows me to work things out on the run.

6. If you’ve already started attempting to pick the pockets of your family members (or even thought about it!) raise your hand.

I would try pickpocketing but I’m too busy watching films. Anyway if watching unhealthy amounts of films and anime has taught me anything it’s that pickpockets are dealt with harshly in Japan.

Jane Eyre

Jane Eyre (Mia Wasikowska) Review HeaderQuite possibly one of the best literary adaptations in recent years, the film has captured what I imagined when I read Charlotte Brontё’s classic novel. The film is so atmospheric and well-acted I have to call it one of the best films this year.

After fleeing Thornfield Hall, Jane Eyre (Mia Wasikowska) is lost on the moors as the weather turns from brooding and foggy to full-on rainstorm. She stumbles to the door of a young clergyman named St John Rivers (Jamie Bell) who takes her in and with his sisters cares for Jane. While recovering Jane thinks back to the events that have lead her to St John’s house, her childhood with a cruel aunt (Sally Hawkins), her stay at a harsh school and her employment with the mysterious, cruel and cold Edward Rochester (Michael Fassbender) which led to her current predicament.

Jane Eyre (Mia Wasikowska) Takes a Turn in the Garden Continue reading “Jane Eyre”

Kim Newman’s Nightmare Movies: Horror on Screen Since the 1960’s

Kim Newman's Nightmare MoviesThe cover has the quote:

‘Encyclopaedic, insightful and entertaining – no bookshelf should be without Newman’s frighteningly readable Nightmare Movies

The quote comes from film critic Mark Kermode (his opinion is always right – according to him at least). Actually I tend to agree with Mr. Kermode about almost everything  including this book because it is an insightful, detailed and well written look at the horror genre covering just about everything and is a must purchase for anyone interested in horror or films in general.

Nightmare Movies is in its third edition and has been updated for 2011. It offers erudite and entertaining cult film criticism from Night of the Living Dead to the recent remake of The Crazies. It takes in every cult film genre going adding context and depth. There are so many films over the 500+ page book that I’ll cherry-pick some for examples:

The Indian Summer of the British Horror Film

The Beast Must Die

Psycho Movies or: ‘I Didn’t Raise My Girl to be a Severed Head.’

Halloween

Cannibal Zombie Gut-Crunchers – Italian Style!

Zombi 2

At First Just Ghostly

Wicked City

He doesn’t just cover films but also includes novels, short-stories and TV drama like Supernatural. Kim Newman has clearly watched everything good and bad thus his writing shows experience and knowledge. When he analyses auteurs, trends, careers, gender and race politics, technical and thematic touches, and the influence of porn and indie or major studio output you can trust his opinion.

His writing is hugely enjoyable and detailed enough that you get a sense of history (and occasional spoilers) and he manages to remain witty, shaping chapters and paragraphs logically but with verbal flair using great imagery and humour (even the lists that frequently appear). One simple example is,

“Most disaster movies are bloated caricatures of Night of the Living Dead, floundering in their titanic budgets.”

As a fan of Japanese and Far Eastern cinema I was pleased to see films from the region were also included in the book in the analysis of genres and not just a short chapter. For example he includes anime like Hellsing and Blood: The Last Vampire as well as B-Movies like Vampire Girl vs. Frankenstein Girl in a wider discussion about vampires. Titles from Japan, South Korea and Hong Kong are explored in greater depth in his chapter focussed on ghosts and he gives a detailed account of the J-horror boom and the Ringu franchise. There are a variety of films from different years including Evil Dead Trap, A Tale of Two Sisters and A Chinese Ghost Story which which just adds further to the sense of Newman’s expertise although I would have liked an analysis of an auteur or two.

As for the pictures – there are many in two sections and they are pretty good (bloody creepy) although they are in black and white.

What I really enjoyed about the book is it brought back memories of why I like these films, why they caught my imagination. The main draw is the fact that this book is really useful and informative. I now have no desire to see Thundercrack! (not that I ever did) on the one hand and on the other his analysis of various auteurs has left me intrigued about DePalma’s 1966 Murder a la Mod. I no longer want to view the earliest output of David Cronenberg because his descriptions are adequate enough but something like Larry Cohen’s The Stuff warrants a viewing.

In this modern age of film viewing with legal so many platforms and sources for films I have so much content to watch and choice as to how I watch it but don’t get the chance to see everything so a book like this is both a gift.

For more information, look up Newman’s site or you can purchase it from Amazon

Scary Manga for Christmas

Christmas is coming and along with the festive cheer it is also a time for ghost stories. At least in Britain it is. Usually this means short stories by Charles Dickens and M.R. James. This got me thinking… When was the last time you were scared by a short story… or more specifically, manga?

Me? Never. I tend to read manga for humour – Welcome to the NHK/Excel Saga – or sci-fi action – Pluto/King of Thorns. I have read a lot of supernatural manga such as Claymore, Buso Renkin and Tsukihime and found them bland (apologies to anyone offended) so I have come to dismiss the medium in terms of scares… which is why I have been caught off guard by two recent reads – Biomega and Zashiki Onna. I just have to recommend them.

Biomega – Tsutomu Nihei

The N5S virus has swept across the Earth turning people into Zombies. Zoichi Kanoe is a synthetic human and agent of Toa Heavy Industries looking for a girl with the power to alter the virus. He rides into the city of 9JO on a motorcycle with built in AI named Fuyu only to encounter zombies and rivals also looking for the girl.

A Picture from the Manga, Biomega.

This is a bleak look at the future. The city and its architecture are very disturbing and labyrinthine. There is a lack of symmetry in the buildings and the spaces are all cramped and dark, cluttered with detritus and shadows. When spaces do open up, when you can see into the distance, what you get are post-industrial Escher nightmares stretching off into infinity – humanity created a hellish modernity for itself before the zombies showed up.

Tsutomu Nihei uses dense and dark imagery that imbues the settings with a disturbing quality which reflects upon the zombies. These walkers are genuinely chilling to look at, the human form bearing enough history from their past lives to make them individual but the disease distorting them physically. Seeing them in groups is just as unsettling.

The plot doesn’t give much away until it’s ready. Like Zoichi, we are venturing into this hell and discovering things at his pace. I found it very atmospheric and chilling. Reading this at night by the light of a small lamp across the room I felt a chilling physical and emotional response.

Zashiki Onna – Minetaro Mochizuki

Picture from the manga Zashiki Onna

College kid Hiroshi is living a relatively normal life, working a part time job, romancing a high-school girl and living alone in an apartment. One night he hears somebody banging a neighbour’s door and shouting. The knocking continues for a while but the neighbour isn’t in and Hiroshi wants to get some sleep so he goes outside. What greets him is a thin, tall bedraggled woman with torn, dirty clothes, messy hair. Bottom line: she’s disturbing. She sees him. So starts their ‘relationship’.

The manga goes from normal to chilling to absolutely deranged. What at first seems like a very realistic portrayal of stalking goes seriously off the rails into the psychological horror alley and then into the realm of the urban legend.

Japanese horror films have long since me primed for suspicion whenever a girl with Zashiki Onnaloooong hair pops up but at points I felt sorry for the poor woman. I believed in the characters and even if their actions weren’t totally believable I still found myself gritting my teeth at the creepiness, grinning with glee at the lunacy and crying out: 

“RUN HIROSHI! RUN!”

“DON’T DO IT HIROSHI! YOU FOOL!”

All without feeling the slightest bit of self-consciousness. Hell, I’m not embarrassed to admit it because I enjoyed the manga. Track it down if you can!

World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie Apocalypse

World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie ApocalypseMax Brooks

Have you ever played a game like ‘What if…?’ You start with a scenario and then each person spins a different take on the original scenario until you cover all eventualities? This is what the book, World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie Apocalypse does.

Would you be safe behind a locked door? Nope. If a zombie knows you’re there, he’ll get his friends to force it open.

Would you be safe behind a locked door made of reinforced steel? Nope. They’ll find a window.

Would you be safe behind a locked door made of reinforced steel that was the only entrance to a bunker? Only as long as your supplies last.

Things look grim for humanity in this fine addition to the horror genre. It is to the credit of Max Brooks (son of Mel Brooks) that this is a convincing look at just what would happen to contemporary societies around the world if a zombie apocalypse ever did occur.

 

World War Z Cover
A Collection of Chilling Tales

Continue reading “World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie Apocalypse”